The weather was crazy. Someone up there had to have mixed up the cards in their calendar because 93 degrees in New York on an early June evening was not what anyone would consider normal. The city radiated heat like an oven and Kurt cursed under his breath, feeling his shirt stick to his sweaty back as he walked the short distance for the usual Sunday evening get-together with his two best friends. At least the theater hadn't needed him to come today. He didn't even want to think how unbearable the heat must have been earlier.
He reached the door to their favorite coffee bar and sighed with relief as the air conditioning hit him. Cool, not freezing – one more reason to like the place; besides the fact that it was within walking distance from his apartment, and it served both excellent coffee and quality liquors. This last part was quite important, considering the diversity of their drinking habits.
As soon as he moved towards their usual table, a loud whoop greeted him, making other patrons look at him curiously. The barista didn't even blink, perfectly used to Sebastian's antics after three years of their meetings here.
"Only twenty five minutes late today, baby doll, not bad!"The tall, thin man sprawled comfortably in a plushy chair raised his glass of whiskey – always whiskey, only the best the bar had – and grinned widely.
Kurt rolled his eyes. "Shut up, Seb. I had an idea, I had to take notes."
"Another one? I hope you don't run out of room in that lovely head of yours one day, what with all your ideas. The usual?" Sebastian got up and stretched, revealing a strip of flat belly under his navy t-shirt. Kurt shook his head.
"Not with the weather; I'll have a frappe. Where's Coop?" A half-full cup of black drip coffee stood abandoned on the table, so the last of their trio must have been here at some point.
Sebastian gestured to the bar's side door, already walking backwards towards the counter. It was his turn to buy drinks tonight.
"He got a call from his brother. Made a face like he was constipated and fled to do his pacing outside."
As if summoned, a handsome man with a phone pressed to his ear passed by the glass door, turned around and walked in the opposite direction, talking and gesticulating wildly all along. Kurt settled into the oversized armchair they always left for him and focused on cooling his brain after the short walk.
He had just taken the first sip of his coffee when Cooper stormed back in, his hair messy – from running his fingers through, Kurt knew – and his blue eyes shooting firebolts.
"Seb, I need a drink." He dropped to his chair and pushed his coffee away with disgust. "Wait, make it double."
Sebastian whooped and stood up gracefully again. "Finally one of you will drink with me. Vodka with coke again or can I tempt you into a finer liquor for once?"
Cooper's head thumped against the table and stayed like this until a glass with a generous amount of amber liquid was pushed into his hand. Only then did he look up and gulp half of the whiskey in one go, before exploding in a violent coughing fit.
Sebastian shook his head but didn't comment until Cooper could talk again.
"So tell us, dear friend, what has your feathers ruffled? Daddy dearest again?"
Kurt winced. They both knew that even at 30, Cooper's relationship with his father was strained at best, so usually they kept away from the subject. But Seb's usual perceptiveness didn't fail him. Coop's face flushed with anger.
"Yeah." He drank the rest of the whiskey, sans coughing this time. "He caught Blaine with a boy – I don't know all the details, but apparently it wasn't very PG – and served him one of his patented daddy speeches. Kid didn't want to tell me everything he said, but I can imagine it was bad; he was pretty upset. They fought, and Blaine called to beg me to let him come stay with me for the summer. I had no choice but to agree."
Kurt felt the familiar surge of anger that always caught him when he heard about homophobic jerks; one look at Sebastian told him that he did too. At 28, they'd both learned a long time ago not to let the haters get to them, but it didn't mean they'd forgotten how it had hurt when they were teenagers. Kurt could only imagine how much worse it was when it came from your own family. He touched Cooper's arm, a comforting gesture.
"Well but that's good, right? I mean, your brother will surely be better off here with you than back in Ohio with your father." He didn't understand why Cooper seemed so upset with this development.
"He will, but I have literally no time for him – with the promotion coming through next week, the new responsibilities, not to mention the audit we're starting in July, I'll be working late into the night most days. Hell, I can't even pick him up from the airport tomorrow because I have a meeting I can't get out of. I can't let him run around New York by himself, can I? He's never been here before. He'll get run over by a cab, kidnapped, mugged, or seduced by some creeper. And he can't sit locked up in my apartment all summer. He'll need someone to show him the city, teach him the safety rules, keep him company –"
Sebastian caught on first, raising his hands in a defensive gesture as soon as Cooper paused to take a breath.
"Don't look at me, I work just as much as you do. If he needs a lawyer, I can help, but otherwise you're out of luck. Try sweet cheeks here, he's the one with weird work time."
Coop nodded and turned the pleading look at Kurt, whose eyes grew wide.
"Wait, what? No, come on – I may mostly work from home but it doesn't mean I have loads of free time. Besides, I'm not a babysitter, what I would do with a kid?"
Cooper turned on the puppy eyes. Damn him, he knew perfectly well how to soften Kurt.
"But he's no baby, he's seventeen, Kurt. Eighteen in August. He just needs some company every now and then during the week, and someone to show him how to safely navigate the city. Oh, and a ride from the airport tomorrow."
"I will love you forever and ever. I will do your taxes for the rest of your life. I will –"
Kurt sighed. He knew he'd regret this, but the truth was, he'd do almost anything for his friends, and it wasn't even that much. He'd just have to reorganize his schedule a little and curb his artistic (read: chaotic) attitude for the days when he'd be showing the city to the boy.
"Okay. I'll do it, okay."
Cooper jumped up from his chair and pulled Kurt up for a hug. "You're the best, Kurt. Thank you! And you won't get bored, I promise, Blaine is –"
Kurt didn't hear what Blaine was like because right then he was glomped from behind, Sebastian's enthusiastic voice loud in his ear. "Group hug!"
Kurt stood in the Arrivals at the airport with a large cup of extra strong coffee, feeling cranky and still half-asleep. He had already cursed himself – in English, French and bad Spanish, for good measure – for being too soft to refuse Cooper's request. In the two hours he'd been awake, he'd also cursed his iPhone for blaring the alarm at him at eight a.m., the heat that was already building towards unbearable, the cab driver for singing loudly with the radio, and the plane from Columbus for being fifteen minutes late. Most of the elaborate invectives had been muttered under his breath, of course. Kurt Hummel might have been a picture of bitchiness in the morning, but he still had class.
He hated mornings. He was a typical night bird, the extent of which he discovered once he'd started working from home as a theater costume designer, and realized how much more creative and productive he was at night. He firmly believed that his fast career rise had been mostly due to the fact that he'd allowed his brain to work on its natural schedule. For years now, Kurt had been spending his nights designing and sewing, rarely going to bed before five a.m. and usually getting up around noon. His employers – the theater on Broadway that had virtually bought him away from his previous workplace – were more than happy to accommodate his needs and only had him work with actors in the afternoons and evenings.
The need to pick Blaine up at ten in the morning meant that Kurt had gotten less than three hours of sleep. And too little sleep always turned him into a snappy, glaring creature, with a tendency for his brain to wander away without permission.
Right now, waiting for the Columbus passengers to appear, Kurt was pretty certain that this day could only get worse. With his luck, Coop's younger brother would turn out to be a loud, whiny, demanding brat, with no respect for other people's space and time, and annoying habits to boot. God, what if he listened to some awful music? Or, even worse, dressed in a way that would make Kurt ashamed to be seen with him? There had to be a reason Cooper had never invited Blaine to come to New York before, and hardly even talked about him.
In fact, the only picture of the younger Anderson brother Kurt had ever seen was a small printout of a 12-year-old boy with daisies woven into his curly black hair. He looked nice enough, but that was over five years ago. Now, Kurt rather expected to see a gangly teenager with wild curls and acne. Cooper hadn't been much help either. He hadn't visited his family home for over three years, and when asked about his brother's appearance, he'd shrugged.
"You've seen the picture in my apartment. Add a couple of years."
Very helpful, indeed.
Kurt would just drop the boy off at Coop's apartment, which was only a block from his own, and return home to get some more sleep. The city tour could wait until the weather and the hour were more acceptable.
The doors opened and passengers began to file out, but Kurt couldn't see anyone matching the picture in his head. Ten minutes later, he was still waiting. Suddenly, there was a pleasant male voice by Kurt's side.
"Excuse me – I think you may be waiting for me."
Kurt was pretty sure he wasn't, but he'd learned long ago never to say no to pick-up attempts without at least checking if the man was worth it. The rule had given him a few terrible dates, quite a lot of fantastic sex, and once, a short relationship. So even annoyed and impatient, he looked towards the voice. And blinked, surprised.
This was definitely one of the times he'd regret saying no. The man standing before him was shorter and clearly younger than him, maybe around 22, but stunningly attractive, with a handsome face and warm eyes. His dark hair was carefully styled back and he was wearing a bowtie with his black polo shirt. That alone was enough to make Kurt's pulse quicken slightly. He answered the small smile on the stranger's face with his own.
"Thank you, gorgeous, but I'm actually waiting for someone. You can leave me your number though, I'll call you."
Confusion flashed through the man's features, making him suddenly look younger.
"Um, no, I mean... You are Mr. Hummel, aren't you? My brother sent me your picture last night. I'm Blaine Anderson."
Kurt felt all color drain from his face. So this was Coop's baby brother?
"Oh. Oh fuck, um – Dammit, I'm sorry. Let's start over, okay?" He offered his hand to the man – boy, he corrected himself – with his signature charming smile. "Hi, nice to meet you. Please don't call me Mr. Hummel, okay? It's Kurt."
Some of the nerves melted away from Blaine's lovely eyes – they were completely different from Cooper's, golden like that crushed velvet Kurt had used the last bits of the other day. He took Kurt's extended hand and shook it shortly.
"Hi. Thank you for picking me up. I hope I'm not a problem. I told Coop I can just take a cab but he didn't want to hear it."
Handsome and polite? That didn't happen often.
"It's okay. Cooper wants me to take you to his apartment, so we'll go get a cab now. I hope he left you something to eat – he may not be back until late. If not, there are plenty of takeout menus stuck to the fridge."
Blaine nodded. "I'll be fine. I'm used to taking care of myself."
It was quiet, and Kurt felt his empathy wake up from its slumber and perk its ears. He knew loneliness – he'd studied it all too well, all the sad shades of it, when he first came to New York. And he had no doubt that this was what he heard in Blaine's voice. Now that the awkward beginning of their meeting was over, Kurt took a moment to really look at the boy. It was kind of his thing – while Sebastian was brilliant at noticing details and drawing conclusions, Kurt excelled in reading emotions from people's faces, gestures and behavior. It only took him seconds to take note of the dark shadows under the boy's slightly reddened eyes, his slumped posture, the way his smile only touched his lips. Kurt felt himself soften towards his temporary charge, which was a feat, considering his morning crankiness. Still, he was surprised when he heard his mouth act before his brain did.
"Tell you what, Blaine. You could wait for Coop at my place instead, so that you don't have to sit in his empty, most likely messy apartment alone – unless you'd rather go there, I mean. But I'm pretty sure he didn't have time to call the cleaning lady between last night and now."
The golden eyes flashed with surprise. "But… I don't want to intrude."
Kurt shrugged. "You won't," and started walking towards the exit.
When Blaine reached his side again, with a guitar case over his shoulder and dragging a big suitcase, Kurt added. "I can easily make lunch for two instead of one, and when I go to the theater later, you can stay and do – I don't know, whatever."
"A Broadway theater?" The curiosity in the boy's voice was a pleasant surprise, and Kurt nodded, holding the door to let Blaine pass with his baggage. "I love Broadway! What are you going to see?"
Enthusiastic about theater, too? How come Cooper never said anything about having such a treasure for a brother? Kurt smiled; he pointed at a free cab, and they started towards it.
"Nothing, I work there – designing costumes. I have fittings this afternoon. You could come with me if you wanted."
Blaine stopped dead in the middle of the sidewalk, opening and closing his mouth in clear astonishment until Kurt pulled him towards the waiting cab. They got in and started towards his apartment before Blaine spoke.
"I'm sorry, it's just... a bit of a shock. I've hoped to see a Broadway theater while I'm here, but I've never expected to get inside one or actually see a play! I'd love to go, Mr. – um, Kurt. If it's not a problem, that is."
Kurt laughed. He'd forgotten how much fun it was to see it all for the first time, when New York was all fresh and astounding. It felt nice to remember that wide-eyed delight, experience it again through this boy's reactions. Maybe showing him the highlights of the city wouldn't be a boring chore, after all.
"Of course it's not a problem, as long as you can be quiet and non-distractive. You can sit in the rehearsal, too."
"Really? Wow. Thank you!"
The rest of the ride passed in silence as Blaine took in the vast, crowded city they were driving through, his eyes huge and fascinated. In many ways, he reminded Kurt of himself when he'd first arrived in New York, excited and hopeful for good things to happen here. He was barely a year older than Blaine then. That seemed so long ago.
Blaine stole another glance at Kurt as they were waiting for the elevator. He didn't want to be rude, but he had a hard time keeping himself from staring. Kurt was just… wow. Insanely attractive, for one. Blaine saw it in the picture Cooper sent him, but it was nothing compared to what the man looked like in reality, with his graceful movements and expressive face. Not to mention, the picture didn't show Kurt's legs that were –
Um, okay. Enough.
Besides, it wasn't even the physical appeal that fascinated Blaine most. If he wasn't gravely mistaken, the man standing beside him was living proof that you could be openly gay and find your place in the world – have friends, flirt with people, have a career. Theoretically, Blaine knew this was possible. But with everything he so often heard from his father, and the scars that he saw in the mirror every day as a reminder of what a big part of society thought about people like him – it was hard to really believe, sometimes. And assuming Kurt really was gay, he seemed like a poster boy for the It Gets Better campaign.
Blaine really needed the hope, especially after the hell of the previous day.
Having his father walk in on him with his boyfriend's hand in his pants was bad enough. Even after years of being barely tolerated, he wasn't ready for the stream of insults yelled at him in his living room. Nathan fled as fast as he could, leaving Blaine alone to bear his father's rage. There was a moment he was sure the man would actually hit him, but no. Finally, he must have run out of breath or curses, because he took whatever it was he'd come home for in the middle of his workday, and left. Blaine shut himself in his room where he curled on the bed to try and calm the violent shaking.
But then the call from Nathan came. And he wasn't calling to make sure Blaine was okay – he wanted to tell him that while he really liked him, he wasn't ready to be a part of such drama, so it was best for them to break up.
This was when Blaine called Cooper. It was an impulse; desperately reaching out to the brother he hadn't talked to for over a year. Blaine didn't even remember all the things he said, rambling mess that he was; he just knew that he begged for a place to stay, away from his parents' home. It was only when he opened an email from Coop with his flight details fifteen minutes later, that he felt the ground settle a bit beneath him.
There was a way out. It was temporary, but he'd take whatever he could get.
Kurt's quiet voice shook him out of his thoughts now.
"Blaine? Hey, everything alright?"
He nodded and followed the man to the elevator. As soon as they were in, however, Kurt spoke again.
"Okay, I can see something's bothering you. Spill. If you want to, I mean."
Blaine shrugged; he could say it was nothing, but something in Kurt's earnest face made him open his mouth and spit it out.
"Are… are you gay?" Kurt looked at him as if he asked if water was wet, his right brow arched, and Blaine blushed. "Okay, sorry, I just didn't want to assume. And… Cooper knows?"
The man snorted in amusement. "Of course he does. He didn't tell you?"
"I didn't even know that Cooper was accepting towards –"
"Are you kidding?" Kurt's tone was still light, but Blaine didn't miss the flash of concerned disbelief on his face. "Both of his two best friends are gay. He even went through a week-long queer phase himself two years ago. He was so obnoxious about it that Sebastian got fed up and kissed him, which cured Coop pretty quickly. I still maintain that it may have turned out differently if I had kissed him instead. Seb's kisses are like a conquering army, you need to be prepared to appreciate them."
A wink followed and Blaine couldn't stop a smile spreading on his face. Kurt made him feel so comfortable in spite of the new circumstances. He was just so damn nice.
Kurt tilted his head. "You and Cooper aren't too close then?"
There was a very interesting spot on the floor all of a sudden. "Not really. I hardly know him anymore."
A warm hand on his shoulder made him look up. "He's a good guy. A workaholic and a bit of a slob, but trust me, he's great."
The elevator stopped and Blaine nodded. "Thank you." Kurt's words and his reassuring smile were enough to lessen his worries.
Kurt's apartment turned out to be cozy and neat. A wall had been knocked down between the living room and the kitchen, creating a comfortable space with plenty of light streaming in through large, bare windows. Wide window seats seemed perfect to curl up on with a book.
"Seasonal depression prevention." Kurt said simply when he noticed Blaine's amazed expression. "When you mostly work nights and sleep through half of daytime, every bit of light counts, especially in winter. Juice or coffee?" He was already setting up the coffee maker. "I need more caffeine."
"Coffee please. I didn't sleep much last night." He admitted to his own surprise.
Thankfully, Kurt didn't comment or inquire.
"That makes two of us," he muttered. "How do you take it?"
Kurt shot him an intrigued look. "So is it a coincidence that you and your brother's coffee orders are the same?"
Blaine felt himself blush. It was quite personal – and a bit silly – but he'd already opened up a little about Coop, so... why not?
"Not really. More like a memento. When Cooper last visited, I was still too young to drink coffee, but I remembered how he took it. Later, whenever I really missed him, I made myself his coffee, until I just started to drink it every day. I know, it's stupid. But… he used to be my hero, you know? Before he pulled away from me."
For a brief moment his voice trembled slightly, and he was grateful when Kurt pretended he didn't notice anything.
"It's not stupid," he said, handing Blaine a spring green cup full of the steaming, aromatic liquid. "Have you ever drank it any other way, though?"
"It's worth trying. To figure it out for yourself – maybe you're more of a cappuccino guy? Or latte?" Kurt raised his own cup and drank deeply, the bliss on his face almost indecent.
Blaine took a sip of his coffee. It was delicious.
After a moment of silence Kurt looked at him thoughtfully.
"So feel free to tell me if you don't want to talk about it, but I heard that your parents aren't exactly supportive of your sexuality."
Blaine snorted humorlessly. That was one way to put it.
"How about school?"
Blaine shook his head. "Oh, no, school is great. I'm at Dalton Academy – it's a private school, with a zero tolerance bullying policy. I'm safe to be myself there."
Kurt smiled. He had a beautiful smile. "Good. Does your boyfriend go there too?"
It felt like a punch to the solar plexus; he should probably start getting used to talking about that, but he wasn't there yet. And it wasn't even that Nathan was that special to him – they'd dated barely over two months and if someone asked Blaine if he was in love with the guy, he wouldn't know what to say. But Nathan was Blaine's first boyfriend, and that in itself made him special. The words hurt as he pushed them through his clenched throat.
"Ex-boyfriend now. But yes. He does."
A small oh escaped Kurt's lips before he said, quietly, "I'm sorry."
It wasn't, but Kurt had nothing to do with it. Blaine was just grateful that he didn't say that his boyfriend didn't deserve him then, or any such nonsense adults liked to say in these situations. Rationally, he knew it was true, but he was far from ready to hear it from a virtual stranger. He changed the topic.
"How was it for you? In high school?"
Kurt leaned against the counter and sipped his coffee again.
"I had full support at home, but school was hell. I grew up not far from you, actually. Lima. I couldn't wait to graduate and get away from there. And I did, first chance I got. In my case, the saying that your life begins in college was true. Still, I wish I'd had an option of a school with a no tolerance policy; it could have saved me loads of… issues. Does it actually work?"
Before long, Blaine was telling Kurt all about Dalton and the Warblers, his voice animated and enthusiastic. And when they discovered that they shared the experience of being in Glee clubs and found out about their mutual love of music, the conversation flew easy and engaging until they suddenly realized that lunch hour had come and gone, and it was almost time to go to the theater.
Helping Kurt make quick pasta, Blaine realized with an amazed smile that here, in the most unlikely way he'd believe possible, he'd met the first adult who actually listened to him, treated him like an equal, and truly understood his experience. It felt wonderful; liberating. He hoped it wouldn't be his first and last day spent with Kurt, but just in case it was, he planned to enjoy it the best he could.