Disclaimer: I'm just playing in the sandbox. If you recognize it from elsewhere, I don't own it.
Rating: R
Ships: Klaine
Spoilers: none
Timeline: 2016, Kurt and Blaine never met in high school
Warnings: language, sexual content
Author's Note: This story was originally posted on my Tumblr (arainymonday) in smaller parts, but here's the whole story for you. It was adapted from this prompt on kurt_blaine (kurt-blaine. livejournal 6639. html ?thread=39397871#t39397871). If you're curious, this will eventually be part of a verse that I'll be writing in occasionally. You can also download the PDF (a-rainy-monday. livejournal 91970. html) for easier reading. Enjoy the story!


WAR OF THE WORDS

Blaine clicked the 'Create Post' button and breathed a deep sigh. Posting new reviews online always made him nervous. He worried about typos and erroneous literary interpretation, the number of reblogs and likes, the kinds of comments or anonymous hate his latest book review could generate. But this review he thought was insightful and his love of the book shone through without gushing.

"We're on in half an hour," Tina called from the living room. "You should put on some stage makeup so you don't look shiny on camera."

"Yeah, okay. I'll be in there in a minute."

Blaine still couldn't believe they'd been invited to sit on a livestream panel about popular fiction. It all stemmed from the rant a fed-up and tipsy Tina had posted on their book reviewing Tumblr about the Notable Books Council ignoring the hidden gems of the literary world and "kissing the asses of pretentious, elitist authors who think a sentence isn't complete without two semi-colons, a four syllable word, and a big 'fuck you' to the reader with an average IQ." To date, it had over 10,000 notes and their followers frequently called it their 'manifesto.'

In some ways, "Fuck you, Notable Books Council" was their manifesto. Blaine and Tina mostly blogged about trade paperbacks found in bargain bins at the bookstore down the street from their tiny Brooklyn apartment. At first, they'd chosen those books because they couldn't afford anything else, but as they read the cast offs of the literary world, they discovered true wonders never on the bestsellers lists. Thus began the impassioned attempt of two literature students to share underrated novels with the world. They called it:


RIVER
(n.): in printing, a vertical channel of white space on the page

BESIDE A BURNING SEA
Author: John Shors
Publisher: NAL Trade
Pages: 368
Publication Date: 9/2/2008
Genre: Historical Fiction

Beside a Burning Sea is the story of nine people who survive the sinking of the United States hospital ship Benevolenceduring World War II. Each chapter follows one of the eighteen days the survivors are stranded on an uninhabited island in the Solomon Islands. While trying to stay alive by finding food and shelter, the survivors are also under threat of Japanese invasion of the island. And worst of all, there is a traitor in their midst.

The heart of this story is the character relationships. These are tales of love in its many different forms – falling, rediscovering, and obsessive – between lovers, husbands and wives, brothers and sisters, parents and children. The characters are archetypes easy to love and hate. Not surprisingly, my favorite character was Akira, the Japanese patient/prisoner who is conflicted in his loyalties.

Ultimately, Beside a Burning Sea is a book about personal experiences with war. It could have been set during any war and the action would have played out the same. The characters in any war are identical, regardless of time period. The officers, nurses, children, traitors, and enemies remain the same, though the countries at war change.

The historical details in this book are scarce because the characters are isolated on an uninhabited island, but the parts that are chronicled through flashbacks and characterization are grounded in fact. There was some liberty taken with the "rumors" about German concentration camps and the atomic bomb, but otherwise I think this is a much more solid historical fiction than the author's first novel Beneath a Marble Sky.

Each chapter in this book was preceded by a haiku. I don't claim to be an expert on Japanese poetry, but I found these haikus to be stunning poems. Without a doubt, these little gems are my favorite parts of the book. I spent as much time pondering the haikus as I did the war message in the book.

Posted by Blaine Anderson
29 April 2016 | 732 replies


literati-kurt said:
Tragedy! again
Mawkish and predictable
Read this book, do not


Kurt chortled at his own poetic joke and switched off his cell phone. He loved it when the amateurs at River handed him material on a silver platter. In some ways, he almost felt guilty single-handedly stemming the literary proletariat revolution Sewer tried and failed to stir up.

"Another drink, sir?"

With a fleeting smile, Kurt accepted another flute of champagne from the passing waiter. He turned in a semi-circle to take in the rooftop party where Literati and Glitterati rubbed elbows and promptly ducked behind a potted tree to avoid James Patterson. The mere thought of shaking hands with the creator of such drivel sent shudders up his spine.

"Why are we hiding behind a tree?" Rachel hissed.

"Patterson."

She made a choking sound in the back of her throat. "You have to promise me, Kurt, that if I ever write a chapter less than a page in length, you'll threaten to Find and Replace all of my synonyms with the word with 'said.'"

Sometimes Kurt couldn't believe they'd made it so far with their blog, and other moments reminded him how great he and Rachel were together. Their names were Tumblr famous, and as their sharp insights impressed their professors at Columbia, they were becoming staples at these high class university events. What had started as a tiny review column in The Blue and White had turned into a sensational blog with over three thousand followers. They called it:


LITERATI
"If literature isn't everything, it's not worth a single hour of someone's trouble." —Jean-Paul Sartre

THE NANNY DIARIES
Authors: Emma McLaughlin and Nicola Kraus
Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin
Pages: 320
Publication Date: 02/06/2007
Genre: Mainstream Fiction

McLaughlin and Kraus ignore family and class experts to tell us just how horrible rich people really are to their children.

Nan is a college student in need of a part time job. Figuring that taking care of a child should be pretty easy, she goes in search of a family needing a nanny. Because they are rich, and therefore terrible people, family X is all too happy to hire her to raise their son Grayer. Nan witnesses a long string of selfish parents, neglect, abandonment, extramarital affairs, and borderline emotional abuse – a series of events that could only be made mundane by the erratic pacing of this novel. Through half-explained time jumps, several months pass in which Nan and Grayer bond. But Mrs. X ultimately decides that Nan is a worse mother-substitute than she, herself, is a mother, and so Nan is unceremoniously fired. Proving once again that poor people are superior to rich people in every way, Nan concludes the novel with dignity and some words of advice stolen from Dr. Phil.

A book with only one saving grace – Julia Robert's performance on the audio.

Posted by Kurt Hummel
2 May 2016 | 833 replies


river-blaine said: Reading a book you know you'll hate for the sole purpose of writing a scathing review. Does anyone else smell "ivy"?

literati-kurt said: As opposed to the reek of magic marker on the neon signs you make to protest legislature cutting funding to your state school?


Blaine hiked the leather strap of his satchel higher on his shoulder as he handed in his exam to Dr. Brewer, and with a forced smile, excused himself forever from the presence of the single most pretentious teacher at Brooklyn College. Scratch that, the entire CUNY system. Ever since Blaine had written his first paper on the religious imagery in American Gods, she'd had it out for him. Apparently, fantasy fiction did not qualify as literature. And anyone who slighted Neil Gaiman was a mortal enemy of Blaine's.

With his final finished, he trotted across campus to the quad where he and Tina always ate lunch. She had a Microbiology final, so she would probably take every precious second to check over her answers. While he waited for her, Blaine decided to check their blog to see how the livestream had gone over with their followers. He followed a few of the discussion threads, scrolled through their 'river book reviews' tag, grinned at the gifs they'd created, and laughed uproariously at the:


midastongue said: Are they together together? Because Blaintina is so freaking adorable.


But the little red box with '823' inside it called to him. They couldn't answer all the asks sent in to their blog, but they tried to answer some whenever they had a few minutes. Blaine clicked on the messages icon and began scanning.


brokenbookspine asked: Blaine and Tina, are you two dating? After watching your livestream, we're all shipping you.

river-blaine said: Tina and I have been friends since we met in our first literature class three years ago. She's my best friend in the whole world, and I like to think that I'm hers. We're not dating. Tina is a woman, and I'm gay. If the stars ever re-align and Tina decides she's actually Tony, I'll get back to you.


He read over the answer several times to make sure it didn't come across as offensive or anything could be read into it that he didn't intend (although that was difficult to judge) and hit the 'Publish' button. He scrolled through several more questions until he landed on one halfway down the page.


atlassucked asked: Your book reviews are written very differently from most which makes me think you don't plan to become professional book critics. You seem to care more about the symbolism and feelings you had while reading than straight plot summary and technical critique. What are you studying at college? And what are your plans after you graduate?

river-blaine said: We started this blog to share our love of reading. We figured if you wanted a plot summary, you'd read the book jacket or go to Wikipedia. We write about how the book made us feel and what it made us think because that's why we enjoy reading so much.

I'm majoring in History with a minor in English Literature, and Tina is majoring in History with a minor in Women's Studies. We're both aspiring writers working on short stories and novels.

literati-kurt said: Good luck on your Twilight/Harry Potter crossover fanfiction. Watch your content, though. I hear is enforcing their TOS and your gratuitous self-insert three-way love scene with Cedric and Edward might get it deleted.

river-blaine said: How would you know about 's TOS or even that there is a if you didn't read fanfic? BAZINGA!

literati-kurt said: Sorry? I don't speak Klingon.

river-blaine said: Or watch quality television.


"Bazinga."

Rachel looked up over her laptop with a stern glare full of judgment. Without comment, her eyes flicked back down to the document she'd been furiously typing for days. He shrugged and clicked back in to his own story submission. If Rachel didn't understand the reference either, he wouldn't worry about it. In the back of his mind, he knew Real Housewives of Atlanta didn't really count as "quality television," but he pretended to watch PBS just like everyone else, so he figured he was covered.

"Are you almost ready to switch again?" Rachel asked.

Kurt had read and reread her short story submission for the AWP Writers' Conference more times than he could count, and she had done the same for him. They'd come to an understanding years ago. They were competition, but without allies, neither stood a chance of making it through the Columbia writing program. Together, they were unstoppable. Their blog, column in The Blue and White, and invites to the literati events on campus proved that.

"Last time," Kurt answered. "The submissions and applications are due tomorrow."

Unlike some of their classmates at Columbia, Kurt and Rachel couldn't afford the registration fees for every writing conference, educational trip, or the Ivy League lifestyle. The average annual income in Lima, Ohio barely covered one year's tuition at Columbia. They relied on saintly parents who scrimped on everything they could, scholarships, loans, and part-time jobs more than any of their friends knew. And as their senior year neared its end, they had begun gearing themselves up for the MFA program in the fall.

They spent most of the night studiously revising and editing, and then decided against sleep and walked their packets over to the Dean's office. She would decide which two students received the travel scholarship to present at the conference in Boston.

"It has to be us," Kurt said confidently. "We're the only two undergrads going directly into the MFA program, we're famous Internet book reviewers, and the favorites of all our professors. We're presenting at that conference and starting off our fabulous careers as graduate students the right way."

Three weeks later, the Dean delivered the bad news as gently as she could:

"As you know, Columbia traditionally has two presentation slots for our MFA students. We had decided to award those slots to you, Mr. Hummel and Ms. Berry. However, this year, the conference committee has allotted us only one slot due to additional author participation. I am sincerely sorry about this mix up."

Kurt and Rachel stared at her agog, accepted the letters she handed across her desk, and scurried out of the office in stunned silence. They stared at the sealed envelopes for several minutes before Rachel spoke.

"No matter what these say, we'll be supportive and happy for each other."

Kurt nodded. "I'll go first?"

Rachel pressed her lips into a thin line and breathed a fortifying breath as the huge smile broke over Kurt's face. True to her word, she put on a brave face, gave him a huge hug, paid for a celebratory dinner, and saved her disappointed tears for later.

"Just … don't tell me if Audrey Niffenegger is there," she said. "And have an amazing time, Kurt. You deserve it."

Kurt hugged her tightly again. "Will you help me with my presentation?"

"Absolutely."


LITERATI
"If literature isn't everything, it's not worth a single hour of someone's trouble." —Jean-Paul Sartre

AWP Annual Conference

If any of you are going to be at the Association of Writers & Writing Programs annual conference in Boston, be sure to come by Alden Hall at 11am on Thursday for my presentation on how social media has changed the reading culture. Literati and Columbia University are sponsoring a special luncheon session afterwards for any followers of the blog, so make sure to check that option on your registration forms.

Posted by Kurt Hummel
16 June 2016 | 444 replies


literati-rachel said: As someone who has heard the presentation, I can promise it's not something you want to miss.

river-tina said: Good luck on your first presentation, Kurt! I'm sorry I can't be there. It's a topic I'm definitely interested in discussing :)


Even living three blocks away from the Brooklyn College station, Blaine nearly missed the train to Penn station. He stowed his carryon as the train pulled away and crashed into his seat with chest heaving and perspiration clinging to his forehead. Without Tina in the apartment for the summer, he tended to get caught up in his writing. Yesterday, he'd mysteriously lost seven hours and the sunset. As it was, he'd left his protagonist in mid-sentence, and that didn't sit right with him. He couldn't exactly solve the problem at the moment, so he dug out the paperback he'd found shoved deep in the bargain bin.

So far, The Vespertine left a lot to be desired. Tina probably should have read and reviewed this book, but she'd already left for her summer abroad before he'd found it. He didn't mind reading books about women and girls, but he didn't understand the teenage variety at all.

The transfer to the train departing for Boston went smoothly, and Blaine found a comfortable couple of seats where he could relax and read for the four hour ride north. He returned to the mysterious mind of a seventeen-year-old girl in the pages of his book.

The train filled up steadily. Years of riding the New York City subway had trained Blaine to glance up from his book every few seconds and stay aware of his surroundings. His eyes flicked up and down for the tenth time, but the man stepping into the compartment drew a second, longer stare from Blaine. He was tall and broad-shouldered, dressed in fashionable clothes that showed off his toned arms and slender waist. Piercing blue eyes framed behind rectangular black-framed glasses traveled around the compartment and landed on Blaine.

Blaine straightened his posture, but quickly dropped his eyes before his leering turned disturbing. A minute later, however, a pair of denim-clad legs appeared in the top of his vision. He glanced up to find the man perched on the bench opposite him with a pleasant grin on his lips and a carryon suitcase resting next to him.

"Hello," the man said. His high voice surprised Blaine, but he found it pleasant. "I hope you don't mind if I sit here."

"Not at all."

Blaine watched surreptitiously over the top of his book as the other man stowed his luggage and settled into his seat. His heart flopped over in his chest when he pulled out a Kindle, crossed his legs neatly, and scrolled to his book. He caught Blaine staring and offered another enticing smile. He gestured with the Kindle.

"I always feel like a traitor reading on this thing, especially when there's such a beautiful option right in front of me."

Blaine realized he was gaping like an idiot a second too late, but he couldn't help but read into the statement. "I always feel like a Luddite without an e-reader. It makes me seem like some old fashioned traditionalist."

"Well, you do look pretty wholesome," the stranger observed. He took the statement as an opportunity to let his eyes wander down Blaine's body. "I, myself, have been blessed with a more obviously controversial appearance."

Blaine leaned forward and whispered conspiratorially, "I'm really controversial."

The other man rocked back in his seat, clearly pleased. With a playful look, he challenged, "You have just over four hours to convince me of that."

"And if I can?" Blaine asked. "What do I get for my efforts?"

"Hmm." The man tapped his chin and pretended to consider. "I'll let you buy me dinner at a restaurant of my choosing tomorrow night."

Blaine's eyebrows arched high, and he laughed at the stranger's candor and confidence. Said just this side of playful, the attitude fitted him perfectly, because of course everyone in the world should be falling all over themselves to give this man exactly what he wanted.

"Worth your efforts?" The stranger arched an eyebrow as if daring Blaine to say no.

Blaine barely kept himself from saying "Fuck, yes." He let his book fall closed and held out his hand to the stranger. His skin looked so soft, but felt oddly familiar: the slightly flat finger pads from excessive typing, the deep callus on the middle finger of his right hand from gripping pencils tightly, a few paper cuts from compiling manuscripts.

The stranger was a writer. Blaine knew it in his gut. A genuine grin spread over his mouth.

"I'm Blaine."

The stranger's smile faltered and fell. "Blaine … Anderson?"

Blaine gently extracted his hand from the stranger, now suspicious. "How do you know who I am?"

The stranger murmured something about Boston. He frowned deeply at Blaine, and his posture shifted. His body language – rigid spine, elbows drawn in, chin raised – screamed at Blaine to just leave him the hell alone already.

"Kurt Hummel," the stranger said finally. "I'd say 'pleasure to meet you' except I don't think it is for either of us."

Blaine stared agog. Kurt Hummel, his pretentious and waspish nemesis, was sitting across from him. On a four hour train ride to Boston. After they'd flirted and agreed to a date. Because he fit the picture of Blaine's fantasy man.

God, the universe was cruel.


Kurt knew perfectly well that four hours was four hours, and yet the train ride to Boston felt so much longer. The cold tension in the air between himself and Blaine had them fidgeting and glaring the entire journey. He couldn't believe he'd flirted with Blaine Anderson and asked him on a date. And, God, why did Blaine freaking Anderson have to be so adorable with his curls and his highwaters and his metal frame glasses that wouldn't stay up on his nose?

"You know, your optometrist can tighten those," Kurt said coldly.

Because every time Blaine made a jerky motion to push them back up, he scrunched his nose a little, and it was the most endearing gesture Kurt had ever seen, and he did not need Blaine Anderson, his populist nemesis, endearing himself to Kurt.

"I know. I don't bother, though. I really only wear them at night and when I travel, and since it's both …."

That was a shame, in Kurt's opinion, because Blaine looked fantastic in glasses. He sniffed and turned back to his book. He needed to stop contemplating Blaine Anderson's looks. What really mattered was his taste in literature – or, more precisely, – his lack thereof. Sure, the body sitting in front of him appealed to his baser instincts, but the mind within that body did nothing but draw out his sharp tongue.

"What are you reading?" Kurt flashed an irritated glare at Blaine. "What? You interrupted me to talk about glasses. I'm just curious whether you're reading Faulkner or Austen, and if you're arrogant enough to declaim them as overrated sentimentalists of their eras."

Kurt's eyes bulged. "Oh my God. You're supposed to be getting a degree in English Literature, and you're calling Faulkner a sentimentalist? If that doesn't damn the public university system, I don't know what does."

"Precisely why you'd say it," Blaine fired back. "Isn't that the method those prestigious Ivys teach you to take – be a contrarian to stand out?"

"Contrarian means to deliberately take an opposing viewpoint. It's not synonymous with 'wrong'. If your university's library needs a donation to buy a dictionary, I'll gladly write a check."

"What is it with you and always calling CUNY poor? It's not."

"Underfunded public institutions are incapable of academically or socially preparing their students for the next level of their education, which results in exceptional students wallowing in a cesspool of troglodytes and then drowning in an ocean of their better equipped peers when they're finally given the chance to show their true potential."

"Wow. You're really sticking to the water metaphors there, but to switch to the avian …. Overfunded private schools inadequately prepare their students emotionally and socially for the real world that awaits them beyond their gilded cage so that when they do slip through the bars, their clipped wings keep them from experiencing the wonders of freedom."

Both men breathed heavily as they stared each other down, as if they'd run a marathon instead of spat debate points at each other.

"Will you tell me what book you're reading?" Blaine huffed.

"No."

Blaine snatched at the Kindle, which Kurt had not expected. He fumbled the e-reader, and it tipped over directly into Blaine's palms. His eyes widened dramatically as he scanned the words on the screen. Kurt snatched it back, but too late.

"Oh my God!" Blaine cried. The few heads not turned in their direction swiveled now. "That's Beside a Burning Sea! You said it was 'mawkish and predictable', but you're over two hundred pages in and not tossing it aside as a 'tragedy'."

"For the record," Kurt snapped. "Those descriptors were not directed at the book. They described your review."

They sat in petulant silence for the remaining three and a half hours to Boston, much to the delight of everyone sharing their train car. They refused to so much as look at each other. Kurt kept his nose buried in his Kindle, though he seemed not to turn the page very often. Blaine texted furiously on his phone. Or so Kurt thought until he received a text from Rachel.

(10:52)
Why are you reading that terrible book they recommended on River!?

Kurt hastily logged onto Tumblr on his phone.


RIVER
(n.): in printing, a vertical channel of white space on the page

A Moment of Reflection

I'm on my way to Boston for the AWP conference, and I'm sitting across from Kurt Hummel of Literati no less. We've been discussing how book reviews inform readers. I assume you're following this blog because you're in search of excellent reading material. I'm curious which books have Tina and I convinced you to read that you would have otherwise skipped?

Looking back on my reviews, I think I'm most proud of Beside a Burning Sea because it convinced even Kurt Hummel to put aside his Proust and Vonnegut for a few days to enjoy an engaging book with an actual plot. In fact, he's so into the story that he got quite irritated when I interrupted his reading to ask a question. I'm sure some of you are confused, because Kurt responded with a pretty contemptuous review a few weeks ago, but in Kurt's precise words: 'Those descriptors were not directed at the book.' Success!

Head over to Literati in a few days for what I'm sure will be a glowing review.

Posted by Blaine Anderson
27 June 2016 | 1238 replies


The next two weeks went amazingly well for Blaine. After coming back from the conference, his supervisor at the library asked him to work several extra shifts because so many of the student assistants had gone home for the summer, which meant he had to rely less on his college fund. Tina returned home from Europe so he didn't have to survive on frozen dinners and pudding cups anymore – she had take-out numbers memorized, so they went back to their usual restaurant rotation. All in all, the summer before senior year looked like the best yet.

And then the post happened.


LITERATI
"If literature isn't everything, it's not worth a single hour of someone's trouble." —Jean-Paul Sartre

Hypocrisy

(n). a pretense of having a virtuous character, moral, belief or principles that one does not really possess. Used in a sentence: "The co-owner of anti-private university blog River attended an all-boys preparatory high school AND Columbia University."

And unlike the unsubstantiated claims and fabricated quotes casting aspersions on my reading material, there is evidence to prove these reports.

Posted by Kurt Hummel
12 July 2016 | 2937 replies


sassy-warbler said: Umm … this is totally why you friended me on Facebook, isn't it? Not cool.

three-six said: Oh, hey. Thanks for giving a random stranger on the Internet a picture of me with my ex-boyfriend. That's going over great right now.

threesix said: Then *he* must not realize where your username comes from.

sassy-warbler said: GUYS! Focus, God. Do you think Blaine will hate me forever now?


Tina held her palms up as she approached Blaine. He clutched his phone so tightly his arm shook. Trent had texted him immediately to apologize and explain he'd been duped. Yes, Blaine was angry about his friend being used because of this rivalry between himself and Kurt. But the pictures …. The pictures hit him like a punch in the chest.

"Don't do anything stupid that you'll regret later," she advised.

He had every intention of following her advice, and yet somehow still ended up searching out Kurt's name in the phonebook, taking the subway to the Upper West Side, and pounding on the door until a high male voice called:

"Yes, okay! Jesus. You'll get a tip whether you have my Pad Thai here in precisely thirty minutes or not."

When the door swung open, Kurt's irritation dropped into concern as he held up his palms and took a step backwards. It gave Blaine the perfect opportunity to invite himself in. Apparently, Kurt wanted to say something about this, but stopped himself. Yes, Kurt was overall bigger than Blaine, but he'd been told he could be frightening when his patience snapped.

"Okay. Obviously, I touched a nerve –"

"You violated my privacy," Blaine thundered. "You lied to my friend and used him. Possibly, you also violated federal law by looking into my college transcripts. And for what? For revenge because of some stupid blog posts? That's really low, Kurt."

Kurt's defenses rose the longer the lecture went on. By the time Blaine had finished, he had his arms wrapped around his torso and a permanent sneer on his upper lip.

"I don't know why you're getting so bent out of shape. All I did was ask around about you. That's not a crime. And this 'stupid blog post' is revealing the truth that you're not some hero of the people like you claim. You did the same thing to me."

"Except I didn't sneak around and steal personal photos from Facebook."

"No, you just stole my Kindle out of my hands and snooped through my personal library," Kurt yelled back.

Blaine didn't know when it had happened, but they'd moved closer throughout the fight, and he found Kurt standing directly in front of him. They were nearly eye level with Kurt in his bare feet, and they still moved closer, crowding each other as they shouted.

"The fact is," Blaine spat, "I went to private school to escape because I had no other options. I was a stupid teenager, and I pretended to be someone I wasn't because I was scared. But when I grew up, I made the choice to find myself. This is who I found. But you, you still haven't grown up. You're hiding among the social circles you envy, but it's all smoke and mirrors. You're not one of them, and you never will be."

Kurt looked startled and furious that Blaine saw through his façade. Blaine had hidden among the same social circles for long enough to spot another outsider.

"The fact is," Kurt mocked, "you're still pretending. You left Dalton and Columbia to 'find yourself' except you didn't. Everything you say you are is nothing more than the antithesis of what you pretended to be. You can't stand here and tell me that a literature student reads Khalid Hosseini or Ian McEwan or Barbara Kingsolver and finds no beautiful prose or moving passages or inspiring thoughts. I don't believe that you pass up the books that challenge you to think and feel new things in favor of a bargain priced paperback with a paper thin plot that you finish and forget about in a day."

Now Blaine's expression matched Kurt's. Agitated that his rival had gotten inside his head, he scrambled for any way to deflect.

"Just admit it," Blaine pressed. "You think Faulkner is pretentious, Proust is boring, and Vonnegut is incoherent. Caviar and champagne parties are exhausting, copyright law is discussed to death, and your creative writing program is sucking the life out of you. You like reading out of the bargain bin because you can't resist a book that's been as neglected and underrated as you've felt your whole life. You know that books are just like people: it's their flaws that give them character."

With only a hairsbreadth of space between them, the two men stared each other down. Who broke the stalemate first, Blaine didn't know. He only knew Kurt's lips against his, hungry and seeking, and a strong muscled body under his roving hands.


Kurt woke slowly with his brain struggling to put together the puzzle pieces of sensation. A full two minutes passed before he became aware he was naked in his bed, wrapped around his nemesis, and humming contentedly in the back of his throat.

"God, that was amazing," he murmured.

A faraway happy chuckle followed his words. "Oh God, was it ever."

Kurt exhaled deeply and settled down into the contrasting coolness of the sheets and flushed skin all around him. A hand worked through his messy morning hair. Morning. Because after their shower they'd fallen into a dead sleep all night. No one had sated Kurt that well in a very, very long time. So at least Blaine had one thing going for him: he was fantastic in bed.

Wait.

Blaine.

Shit.

Kurt scrambled up from his very comfortable human pillow and put a few inches between their naked bodies. He smoothed the sheet over his lap while he regarded Blaine's blurry face. Where the hell were his glasses when he needed them? Blaine narrowed his eyes – or squinted, maybe, if he'd lost his contacts – as he sat up too.

"Obviously this was hate sex," Kurt said shortly.

"Obviously. I had an itch, and you scratched it. That's all. You didn't get inside my head at all, so don't think you did."

"And you were completely wrong about me."

The two men stared at each other for several minutes and fought their eyes' desire to flick down to lips. Fingers twitched and clutched at the rumpled sheets. Their standoff crumbled in less time than it had last night. Hands flew to jaws and necks, lips met desperately, and Blaine ended up on his back with Kurt pinning him to the mattress. They tussled for control, flipping over until they came to the edge of the bed, and Kurt pulled what he needed from the nightstand while Blaine teased with his tongue.

"Are you sure you can take it? I was pretty enthusiastic last night."

"What's this?" Blaine asked pointedly. "Is Kurt Hummel's frigid bitch façade cracking? You sound genuinely concerned about me, Kurt."

"Turn over."

Blaine rolled onto his stomach and spread his legs for Kurt, who stretched out over him. With his little bit of height and weight advantage, he completely covered Blaine without feeling like he would squash the smaller man.

"Concerned I'll see you show actual emotion if you let me face you?" Blaine sassed.

The hitch in his voice betrayed him somewhat, as his words accompanied Kurt pushing into him. God, fuck. He felt so good. He should really give it to Blaine and make his ass ache for days as a reminder of how good Kurt made him feel. He meant to, but his body betrayed him. He thrust slowly and deeply, chest to back and arms wrapped around Blaine with their hands entwined beneath him.

"The only thing I feel for you is rage," Kurt panted into Blaine's ear. He pressed light kisses to the back of Blaine's neck and along his jaw. "I can't even look at you without thinking about prose replete with sentimentality and genre fiction expositing readers to death. I would die of embarrassment to be seen at one of your 'book clubs'."

Blaine twisted his neck around to meet Kurt's mouth in a long kiss broken by gasps and sighs and moans. The growing pool of heat in Kurt's spine urged him to go faster, deeper, harder, and he tightened his arms around Blaine as he changed the pace.

"I would become physically ill if I ever went to one of your cocktail parties where you criticize the world and bemoan the sorry state of American literature without ever adding anything of value to it or offering constructive suggestions to repair the fictitious damage you've imagined."

"I might invite you sometime. Seeing you that uncomfortable would make my day." Kurt dug his knees into the mattress for leverage and thrust harder. He was so, so close. "Are you getting enough friction like this? I'm gonna come soon."

"Yeah. I am too. God, you feel so good." Blaine writhed beneath him, dropped his forehead onto the mattress, and kissed over their joined hands. "And I would go just to spout off about the interminable pacing of Audrey Niffenegger's novels and the blandness of Norman Mailer to embarrass you. I'd go on and on about how much I love Dan Brown's thrillers."

"I'd call your bluff, but you proved yesterday that even wholesome, boy-next-door gays have enough sass in them to give me a run for my money." Kurt kissed the dip between his shoulder blades. "I'm so close. What do you need?"

"Tell me I'm right. Admit you pretend to like at least half the books you read because you think it will impress the literati."

"If you tell me I'm right. Most of the books you scrape from the bottom of the bargain bin ended up there for a reason and aren't worth the paper they were printed on." Kurt whined low in his throat. "Please. Tell me what you need."

"How many books have you read based on my reviews?"

"How many books have you read based on my reviews?"

"On three?"

They counted together and said in unison, "All of them."

Blaine cried out as he spilled between his body and sheets, and Kurt tried to hold out, but Blaine's muscles clenching around him pushed him over the edge too. They lay tangled together, fingers tingling with sleep beneath Blaine's chest, until Kurt went soft and slipped out, then Blaine twisted around in his arms and blinked up at him.

"All of them, huh?"

The sparkle in his eye made Kurt's heart flop over in his chest. Kurt ducked his head and claimed Blaine's lips in a deep kiss.


A shadow fell over the small metal table where Rachel sat drinking espresso and reading Atlas Shrugged for the fifth time. She glanced up and adjusted her perfect Gucci knockoff sunglasses down the bridge of her nose. A pretty Asian woman in hipster chic clothes smiled at her.

"Rachel Berry? I'm Tina Cohen-Chang."

"Spy!" Rachel cried.

"Calm down." Tina took the chair opposite Rachel's, immune to the sputtering and protestations streaming out of Rachel's mouth. "You're hardly going to review that book again. Although, frankly, I have no idea how you could stand to read it once."

Rachel crossed her arms over her chest and glared.

"But I'm not here to debate the merits of boring literature versus prose with actual spirit in the words." Rachel's glare turned into a glower. "I'm here because I'm concerned about Blaine and Kurt. If we don't do something, and fast, both of our blogs are going to see followers jumping ship like we're James Fray post-The Smoking Gun."

Rachel breathed out deeply, marked her place deliberately, and reverently placed Atlas Shrugged on the table. "I'm listening."

Tina slid her phone over the table, and Rachel scrolled through the screenshots.


bookwhoremoremore said: When did Literati turn into Perez Hilton? Since when do they post personal photos meant to embarrass and ridicule? I don't think we should be 'liking' this post.

hoggywartyhogwarts said: Does anyone have pictures of Kurt in high school? I think you should post them if you do.

keymash-sdkfjl said: I kind of want to say 'You started it, Blaine'. But then again …. idek. Anyone else get the uncomfortable feeling we're straying into cyberbullying territory?

nemoswhale said: Both of these blogs have gone off the rails lately. Maybe Rachel and Tina should take over for awhile and give Kurt and Blaine time to calm down.


"Our followers are nervous and not pleased with us. And to top it off, Blaine left last night, didn't come home, and isn't answering his phone."

Rachel glanced up. "Kurt locked himself in his room. I didn't see him last night or this morning. Tina, I want you to know how uncharacteristic that post was of Kurt. He's never the vindictive type. Even in high school, he always let those kinds of things roll off his back. Something has really gotten to him."

Tina stowed her phone back in her purse and regarded Rachel with a knowing look. "I have a theory."

Rachel leaned forward eagerly. She loved a story with intrigue.

"Blaine told me about meeting Kurt on the train to Boston. Something about his version of events seemed … off. So I went to your blog. Not just my dash where I usually read your inacc – ah, your reviews – but your actual blog. I finally saw a picture of Kurt."

"And?"

"And …. Let's just say that Blaine has a type."

"Wait!" Rachel fished out her phone and scrolled. "Look at this text."

(17:43)
Going silent. Ridiculously hot guy beckoning me with his smouldering bedroom eyes.

"I knew it!" Tina shouted triumphantly. "They didn't recognize each other, they flirted, the sexual tension built, and then … BAM! They exchanged names and realized they're rivals."

"So whose apartment do we lock them in until they work it out? I vote for yours because I'm at a really crucial point in my novel. But on the other hand, I don't think I can trick Kurt into deigning to go to Brooklyn."

Tina rolled her eyes. "Actually, I had a more subtle plan in mind …."


The camera facing the two perpendicular love seats blinked its red eye at the "book club" livestreaming their meeting. The counter on the laptop said over a thousand viewers had logged in already, and surely they would gif this to death. It was, after all, the first on-screen meeting of two rival book blogs.

Blaine and Tina sat on the left and Kurt and Rachel on the right. They each had a brick-sized novel lying in their laps. Rachel and Tina had chosen The Swan Thieves by Elizabeth Kostova as their "crossover" novel and a livestream as a means to shove Kurt and Blaine into the same room. Now all they had to do was wait for the sparks to fly.

The format they had decided on was four reviews with rebuttals and discussion between each review.

Kurt, the first up by virtue of a coin toss in favor of Literati and Rachel deferring to him, concluded his review:

"The book is far too long for a mystery, and the pacing is too slow to be considered suspense. If you're looking for a similar thrilling literary adventure like Kostova's first book, The Historian, you won't find it here."

"And now for the disc –" Rachel began.

"Are you kidding with that assessment?" Blaine demanded. "Why are your reviews always so scathing? It's like no book can ever measure up to your vaulted standards. I know for a fact you couldn't put The Swan Thieves down, but now you're giving it a middling review?"

"And it put you to sleep every time you tried to read it, so why do you care that I'm not singing its praises?"

"Because you always do that. You've reviewed some stunning books, but they're lost in the plethora of blandness on your blog because you refuse to give a good book the review it deserves."

"And your reviews are always so glowing," Kurt countered, "like there's no such thing as bad literature. But there is, Blaine, and it's infuriating that you're bringing down the quality of your blog because you refuse to give a bad book the review it deserves."

An almost smile played in the corner of Blaine's mouth, and Kurt looked supremely pleased with himself. A long silence preceded Tina's next question.

"Wait. Kurt, how do you know the book put Blaine to sleep? He hasn't given his review yet."

"Yeah. And how do you know Kurt couldn't put it down, Blaine?" Rachel asked.

The sly sideways look Blaine and Kurt shared would be become a very popular gif in the coming days.


brokenbookspine said: Holy shit. Did you SEE that look? It's not just their opinions that are bumping.

riverati-klaine said: Just in case my followers are curious about the name change. WATCH THIS! I dare you to not ship it.

keymash-sdkfjl said: Oh. So not cyberbullying at all. Just a whole lotta UST. Good. Yes.

nemoswhale said: Unf.

riverati-klaine said: Accurate.


Blaine loved his job at the library for one very specific reason: reading. His entire workplace was his bookshelf, and he could lose himself in fictional worlds between checking out patrons. He stashed more books under the Circulation counter to read later than he put on the shelving cart. But the college library only stocked so many novels, and he read enough nonfiction for his classes. Luckily, the bookstore down the street had just dumped another batch of books into their bargain bin.


RIVER
(n.): in printing, a vertical channel of white space on the page

THE TRUE MEANING OF SMEKDAY
Author: Adam Rex
Publisher: Hyperion
Pages: 423
Publication Date: 10/27/2007
Genre: Science Fiction

A funnier book I have never read. While most humorous books flounder and drown in their own jokes after the first few chapters, The True Meaning of Smekday keeps the hilarity coming without fail.

Eleven-year-old Gratuity "Tip" Tucci writes a school essay (and then rewrites it after her first one receives a C+) about her experience after the Boov made first contact with humans and conquered Earth. Five months after Smekday – formerly called Christmas, renamed for the Boovish Captain Smek – all humans are being relocated to the state of Florida. Tip decides to drive rather than take the rocketpods and encounters a fugitive alien called (a boy Boov) at a convenience store.

Because they need each other, Tip and team up and go on a road trip from Pennsylvania to Florida, where they discover they might have become friends along the way and that the Boov have changed their mind and sent the humans to Arizona. On the second leg of their trip, they discover a second race of aliens, Nimrogs, have also come to Earth and make interesting friends like Chief Shouting Bear (real name, Frank Jose) who has the spacecraft that crashed in Roswell in 1947. The fate of Earth depends on Tip, , and a cat called Pig.

The humor in The True Meaning of Smekday comes largely from language. The Boov, and therefore , speak idiosyncratic English. Between the poor grammar, lack of idioms, and literal understanding of metaphor, the conversations between Tip and are laugh out loud hilarious. The writing style is very conversational, and Tip is refreshingly sarcastic without sounding too mature for an eleven-year-old.

There is plenty more than humor in this book. The storyline is highly engaging and quintessentially first contact science fiction. Once I started reading, I couldn't put this book down. The writing is fast-paced and vivid. Even the absurd technology and chaotic action sequences are easy to imagine.

There is plenty of social commentary within the humor. Boov and Gorg history more than superficially resembles human history. The Boov and humans have both experienced the negative side of colonization and relocation of indigenous peoples, and yet history repeats itself for both species in The True Meaning of Smekday. Environmentalism, invasive media, and the dangers of post-modern society are also discussed.

Plenty of weighty issues are humorously addressed between the human characters as well, particularly race relations with Tip, who is biracial, and Native American Frank. The map of Arizona (The United State of America) is equally funny and profound with cities such as Xanadu, The Shire, AARPtopia, Plan B, the Hempshire of Flags Staff, and Mesa of Latter Day Saints.

The book includes several black-and-white illustrations depicted as photographs taken with Tip's Polaroid camera. There are also charming comic strips drawn by which explain Boovish and Gorg history in succinct panels.

Although this book is a young adult title, I highly recommend it to any fan of science fiction. This book is a perfect example of what the genre should be: entertaining and thought-provoking.

Posted by Blaine Anderson
2 September 2016 | 3427 replies


literati-kurt said:

THE VERY HUNGRY CATERPILLAR
Author: Eric Carle
Publisher: Philomel Books
Pages: 32
Genre: Creative Nonfiction

Carle chronicles the harrowing metamorphosis of a caterpillar into a butterfly from the perspective of the anthropomorphized sun.

The very hungry caterpillar hatches one Sunday morning, and although his voracious appetite consumes his very existence, he manages to wait until Monday to eat a perfectly round, hole punch-sized tunnel through an apple. The brain power of caterpillars must be miniscule, because despite crippling starvation, he does not consider eating the rest of the apple. Rather, he waits until Tuesday to eat an identically miniscule portion of two pears. Whether Carle promotes wastefulness of natural resources, obesity, and cosmetic surgery or not, the question remains. Ignoring all scientific facts about caterpillars, in precisely one week, the very hungry caterpillar forms a cocoon and becomes a butterfly.

A charming picture book replete with scientific and logical fallacies.


Kurt's phone vibrating with an incoming text distracted him from reading the hilarious and cutting replies to his reply. He grinned even wider when he saw Blaine's name pop up in his messages.

(11:32)
Not amused.

(11:32)
Oh, come on. It was a little bit funny. And that's what you get for reviewing a YA book.

(11:34)
What's funny is your typo in line 6.

(11:37)
What typo?
(11:42)
Seriously, where is it?
(11:48)
WHERE IS THE TYPO, BLAINE!?


Rachel and Tina sat in the corner of their new favorite meeting place – a café adjacent to a record store that played old jazz on a crackling gramophone during lunch – with their sandwiches and frustrations on the table between them.

"How could our plan have not worked?" Rachel vented. "We've had them in the same room about six different times, and all it has accomplished is giving them more time to take digs at each other. It's been two months, Tina. We're at Defcon 1 here."

"It's worse than you know." Tina took a deep breath. "I think Blaine has a boyfriend now."

The vegan cucumber and humus sandwich fell from Rachel's hands and spilled its contents over the plate. She gaped furiously at her co-conspirator. Tina nodded sadly.

"He's been going out a couple times a week. Sometimes he'll come back with playbills, as in Playbill playbills, or flowers or, one time, a stuffed dog. Whenever I work a night shift at the library, I always find too many dishes in the sink when I come home, and Blaine has no cooking skills whatsoever. And he's dreamy-eyed all the time." Tina sighed deeply. "Blaine is a one man kind of man. I think Operation Klaine is a bust."

Rachel groaned and flopped backwards melodramatically in her chair. "How could this happen? While I admit we'd hit a plateau, we were making such great progress. They're not so vicious when they attack each other anymore."

Tina nodded quickly. "Some of it even made Blaine laugh."

"Exactly! We were just at the point when they realized their bickering is actually pent-up sexual tension, which would have culminated in boyloving, and we could have gotten back to acting like professional bloggers instead of twelve-year-old schoolyard rivals."

Tina mulled over their dilemma while she chewed on her turkey club. Rachel continued rambling and ranting with overwrought sighs between rapid-fire, self-indulgent nightmare scenarios in which they lost their popularity and clout and were reduced to writing bland, follow-the-format young adult novel series under a collective pseudonym to keep their electricity on.

"Obviously just putting them in the same room wasn't enough," Rachel lamented. "I should have talked up Blaine, and you should have talked up Kurt."

Tina cocked an eyebrow at the other woman. "Why can't we do that now?"

"But Blaine has a boyfriend."

"Yes, but ... Blaine hasn't introduced me to this guy yet. He hasn't even mentioned him. Which means he worried about not getting the best friend seal of approval. If, in the meantime, I give my seal of approval to someone else …."

Rachel's face lit up. "We may be able to salvage this thing yet!"

The jazz streaming from the record store paused for a moment while the proprietor changed the record. When the slow music started up again, Rachel closed her eyes and swayed with it for a moment.

"I have to include a scene like this in my novel," she said. "I didn't realize until today how similar to jazz music my characters are." She stopped swaying and opened her eyes. "Tina, why did you come to me with this plan? You never insult me or Kurt even though you obviously disagree with our reviews. You always send encouraging messages to us when we post about some big life event. It doesn't seem very … you."

"When someone I care about is being stupid and standing in their own way, I'll do what I have to to help them see what they're denying themselves. Blaine obviously likes Kurt. He just needs a little nudge to see it. What about you? Why are you going along with my plan?"

Rachel averted her eyes to the checkered tablecloth and frowned deeply. "All the wrong reasons. As usual. But I like your rationale. I'm co-opting it."

Tina laughed loudly. "I can see why you love literature so much. You're like a character who walked off the page."

"Am I going to find a version of myself when I read your book one day?"

"Would you deign to read my horror fiction?"

Rachel shuddered, and her face contorted into a familiar haughtiness, but then relaxed into a pleasant grin. "I would be honored to read it."


RIVER
(n.): in printing, a vertical channel of white space on the page

Zombies Vs. Unicorns
Holly Black and Justine Larbalestier, editors
Sept. 2010, McElderry (432 p.), $16.99, ISBN: 978-1-4169-8953-0

This collection of twelve short stories begins strong with an over-the-top Smackdown-style prologue that perfectly sets the tongue-in-cheek tone of the book. Between stories, editors Holly Black and Justine Larbalestier engage in some of the funniest author commentary to ever make it to press as they debate the merits of zombies vs. unicorns. Young adult heavyweights such as Meg Cabot, Libba Bray, and Carrie Ryan spar in a battle royal (with Garth Nix staying neutral in his unicorn/zombie contribution) as the selections alternate between zombie and unicorn tales. The solid, subtle social commentary served up with humor in "Children of the Revolution" by Maureen Johnson, Scott Westerfeld's post-Apocalyptic coming-of-age "Inoculata," and the unlikely heroes in "Purity Test" by Naomi Novik represent the best in the collection, but there are no duds here. There is some strong language and sexual situations, including same sex, inter-species, and bestiality. Every supernatural fiction fan will find true gems in this collection.

Posted by Tina Cohen-Chang and Rachel Berry
5 October 2016 | 2982 replies


brokenbookspine said: Wait. So Tina and Rachel are reviewing books together?

nemoswhale said: Sounds like Tina's usual book, but Rachel's review style.

riverati-klaine said: djkjdksfsdlkfj IT'S ONLY A MATTER OF TIME NOW!


Kurt's fingers paused over the keys as he considered whether 'avarice' was too strong a word in this particular situation. He settled back into the pillows cushioning his headboard and his eyes flicked up to Blaine where he lay stretched out on his stomach diagonally across Kurt's bed reading on the Kindle that had been his birthday present from Kurt last month. He wore only a tiny pair of hot pants that drove Kurt crazy.

"Your ass looks amazing from this angle."

Blaine peered over his shoulder with a mischievous light sparkling in his hazel eyes. He arched his hips up and wiggled his butt around. Kurt laughed and used his big toe to poke him in the thigh where their legs entwined on the bed.

"Stop it. I told you I want to finish this chapter."

"I'm not the one who stopped writing to comment on asses."

Kurt pointedly turned back to his novel. He decided avarice would work in this context, but if the story took an unexpected twist later, he would need to be cautious of repetition. Blaine would probably call him paranoid. A little repetition never signaled the death knell of a story.

Blaine had introduced him to a lot of bad habits, like this insane NaNoWriMo thing. Three months ago, Kurt would have gone on a tirade with red cheeks, protruding veins, and bitchy insults had anyone suggested he write 50,000 words in a month with a flippant, "It's just a rough draft. You'll rewrite the shitty parts later." And yet, here he was furiously typing drivel to meet his daily word count.

Except it wasn't drivel at all. In fact, Kurt thought it might be his best work yet. Without bemoaning every – single – word typed onto the screen, whole paragraphs and speeches flowed from his brain to his fingers. His characters sounded natural, his narration was active, and his descriptions were more vivid. But most importantly, in twenty days he'd written double the amount of plot he'd managed in the two years he'd been working on the novel. Of course, it would still need plenty of revision. But in the next ten days, it would also be complete.

"Funny line?"

The manic grin turned into a surprised O. "Umm, no. Just, once again, silently berating you for talking me into doing this thing. I had a particularly colorful comment pop into my head."

"Oh, really?"

"Yes. I would tell you – I would – except I'm hoping for sex later."

Blaine threw him a playful look and shimmied around on the bed. He left the Kindle and Kurt's computer on the nightstand and slid into Kurt's lap. "Is that so? Because … I happen to think you didn't have any snappy insult in your head at all. I think you were thinking that NaNoWriMo is the best thing that has ever happened to your novel."

"No."

"No? No, you're right." Blaine rocked his hips down, and Kurt's head fell back onto the pillows. "Why would you ever want to finish a novel? It would be much better for your writing career if your characters never completed their journey." He found a steady rhythm that had Kurt sighing and squirming under him. "Not to mention that the middle is the best part. No one ever got bored or dejected writing the middle of a story, so it's probably a good idea you've been writing that piece for over a year. Besides, everyone hates a good ending."

Kurt's eyes flew open when Blaine disappeared from his lap. It took his brain a minute to catch up and process Blaine laying on the pillows beside him with the Kindle opened to his bookmarked page. His eyes flicked across the page like he didn't have an obvious bulge in those ridiculously sexy hot pants.

"Blaine," he whined.

"Hmm?"

"Blaine Anderson, get back over here and finish what you started." Blaine lifted an eyebrow pointedly, and Kurt gaped at him. He growled low in his throat. "Fine. NaNoWriMo was a great idea, and I'm really glad you talked me into it using a clever mixture of incessant badgering and withholding sex."

"And …?"

Kurt glared, but Blaine met his gaze levelly. He knew from experience that he could pretend to bitch and sulk for days without dampening Blaine's mood at all. He also knew genuine bitching and sulking made Blaine instantly apologetic and supportive. Damn him.

"And … if the progress of my writing is commented upon, I will, without reservation, mention my participation in NaNoWriMo."

A wide grin split Blaine's face, and he rolled back into Kurt's lap. Kurt's irritation melted away under the sunniness of Blaine's disposition. How could he stay sullen when he'd made Blaine so happy? He tipped his head up for the kisses Blaine dropped over his face.

"Blaine?"

"Hmm?" Blaine mumbled into the skin behind Kurt's ear.

"How many stories have you finished?"

"Umm … six novels and a dozen short stories?"

Kurt chewed on his bottom lip before asking the question that had been niggling at his brain for the past several weeks. "And none of them have been published?"

Blaine froze and sat back on his heels with his eyes focused on the throw pillow to the left of Kurt's head. He rubbed his thumbs over Blaine's hip bones in what he hoped came across as gentle and supportive despite the critical slant to the question.

"No," Blaine said in a small voice. "I … I haven't submitted them. Or showed them to anyone."

Kurt suspected as much. He'd tried to read a paragraph over Blaine's shoulder once, and the speed at which the laptop cover had been slammed closed and Blaine's outrage afterwards had sent up red flags. He wasn't surprised, really. He knew scores of aspiring writers standing in the way of their own dreams.

If Blaine could help Kurt find the courage to finish a novel, then surely Kurt could help Blaine find the confidence to submit one to an agent. He had a sneaky, sexy plan and everything.

November 17, 2016

(20:45)
This text hereby entitles Blaine Anderson to standing 69 when he submits his first novel manuscript to an agent and also certifies that Kurt Hummel most certainly is strong enough. (I really can. Today at the gym, I squatted more than what you weigh, so let's get a move on with these manuscripts, honey!)

December 14, 2016

(11:23)
I hope you're feeling strong today.

(11:27)
Oh my God, yes! I have been waiting so long for this. Every time I've seen you since I sent that I've wanted to flip you upside down and eat you out.

"… the fuck?"

Tina's shriek drew Blaine out of his bedroom. He hadn't realized she'd come home, and he had already started to wonder how quickly he could convince her to leave. If he had his way, Kurt would be over in a few minutes, and they had very, very important plans. When he slid into the kitchen, he found Tina scrolling through her phone. No, her phone had a black case; his had a gray case.

Oh.

Shit.

She spun to face him, eyes wide and jaw slack. She gestured with his phone and gaped at him. He saw the moment when all the pieces of the puzzle slotted into place, but the stuttered explanation died on his lips as her gaping turning into grinning.

"The Broadway shows … the gourmet meals … the flowers … the heart-eyes …. It's been Kurt this whole time?"

Blaine scratched at the back of his neck and turned away to hide his blush. Tina grabbed his free hand and pulled him over to the couch. This was one thing Blaine didn't like about having a woman as a best friend. He loved talking about hot guys and musicals and literature with her, but he could do without discussing the minute details of his love life.

"Yeah, so … Kurt. I, uh, I don't hate him." A shy smile pulled up the corners of his mouth, and his voice went lighter. "I actually really, really care about him. Don't get me wrong, he has terrible taste in books – and television, by the way, so horrible – but … he's a really great person. He's smart and sexy and so feisty and … he cares about other people. He cares about me. He challenges me to be a better version of myself."

Tina listened with a barely contained smile caught between her teeth and her socked feet kicking in delight. "Wow. You have been waiting forever to say all that, haven't you?"

"… Yes. Oh my God, Tina. YES!"

So maybe having woman as a best friend wasn't so terrible. He didn't think any of the guys would have been okay with his teenage-esque giddiness. He let out a sigh of happiness and collapsed into the fluffy cushions.

"Why didn't you tell me? How does Kurt feel? Are you boyfriends or avoiding labels? Is he really strong enough –?"

"It's a little complicated," Blaine rushed to say. "We're online rivals, and we gained a lot of followers because of that. We wanted time to figure out what we mean to each other before we had everyone we know plus five thousand people asking about these things. We've taken a couple months for ourselves, and we've decided that we really care about each other … and that it's serious."

Tina squealed happily behind her fists. "Blaine, I am so happy for you!" She threw her arms around him and squeezed tightly. "But wait. What happens to our blogs now? I can see it all over your face, Blaine. You're so besotted. It must kill you to make snarky comments about him."

He shrugged. "Not really. The things I post now, they're never about Kurt. They're about the person he pretends to be. And he does the same thing to me. It's like we're making fun of these caricatures we present ourselves as. But that's not who we are, and we both know it. We've talked about it, and … we really like the banter. It means we can see through each other's disguises, and no one else can do that. It makes us more special to each other."

A hasty knocking on the door drew their attention. Tina let out another giddy laugh.

"Umm. That'll be Kurt. I'll excuse myself for a few hours. I have a co-conspirator on the Upper West Side to gossip with anyway. Have fun, Blaine." Tina jammed her feet into her shoes and turned seriously to Blaine. "And remember … letting all the blood rush to your head can have serious medical consequences."

Kurt looked taken aback when Tina answered the door, but she skipped past him with a wave and a lascivious wink. Blaine shook his head at her antics and pulled his boyfriend inside the apartment. Kurt started to speak, but just gestured in the general direction of Tina's exit and turned to Blaine with a question in his eyes.

"Yeah, she knows, and if I'm not mistaken she's going to tell Rachel right now."

"Since when are Rachel and Tina gossip buddies?"

Blaine shrugged. "I don't know, but I think maybe they've been rooting for us before they even knew there was an us?"

"Odd. And you're okay with this? Going public?"

"Of course. Are you?"

"Definitely. Now I can take you to cocktail parties on campus as my plus one."

Blaine groaned. "No, Kurt. Come on …."

"Hey! I joined your book club."

"That was Tina and Rachel's book club!"

"You made me read a graphic novel last week. A graphic novel, Blaine. That counts as one of your book clubs." Kurt edged close to Blaine and tipped his chin up for a light kiss. "So … break out your bowties, honey, because you're coming to a Columbia MFA cocktail party. But first …." He easily lifted Blaine up, and he wrapped his legs around Kurt's strong torso. "Your reward for being brave enough to send your amazing novel to an agent."


Kurt shivered as he unwound the scarf from around his neck and handed over his coat to the check. Beside him, Blaine smoothed down his hair and straightened his bowtie. The party in the Dean's high-rise apartment had been underway for some time now, and they slipped into the sophisticated living room without being noticed. Kurt took two flutes of champagne from a passing waiter.

"I don't know anyone here," Blaine said anxiously.

"You know me. And Rachel is around here somewhere. I'll introduce you to my friends."

He looped his arm through Blaine's and steered them into the center of the room. Kurt always thought Blaine must have had social skills bred into him at private school, and it turned out he wasn't wrong. He chatted amiably with anyone and everyone about any topic of their choosing. If they didn't have a topic, he effortlessly provided a neutral one. He was a natural at small talk and charm.

Blaine's whole easy demeanor hit a sour note with Kurt.

This wasn't his boyfriend. His boyfriend only read books marked with thick black marker on their spines to note them as bargain books. His boyfriend took out his daily frustrations on punching bags. His boyfriend hated everything the people in this room stood for.

The longer they stayed at the party, the less sociable Kurt felt. But as he turned quiet and sullen, Blaine had to do even more of the talking, which only made Kurt's surliness grow. Rachel joined their conversation with some students from their poetry class and nudged him hard in the ribs and motioned for him to smile. He shot her a dirty look.

"The question of the night," Cameron said. He paused dramatically. Kurt wanted to kick him. "Who is the cleverest writer of all time?"

From the corner of his eye, Kurt saw Blaine hitch a pleasant smile onto his lips and prepare to give some pretend answer that he thought would make Kurt look good. But Kurt couldn't stand it anymore. He wanted his Blaine back. Immediately. He jumped in with an answer sure to raise Blaine's hackles.

"Oscar Wilde, of course."

Blaine lifted a brow, and Kurt nodded infinitesimally.

"Actually, honey, I'm more inclined to say Lemony Snicket."

Silence. Mouths worked, but produced no words. Kurt gnawed on the inside of his cheek to keep his laughter and smiles at bay. He and Blaine exchanged sly, mischievous looks. Electricity crackled between them.

"I'm sorry. Blaine, did you just say Lemony Snicket is cleverer than Oscar Wilde?" Johanna asked.

"Yes. There's nothing wrong with liking the classics, but there is something inherently wrong about saying a man who lived in another century remains the cleverest person to have ever lived when we've discovered so much in the fields of science and technology and our social norms have evolved to such an extent that the man himself would call us clever."

"You think Oscar Wilde would find us clever? I doubt that."

"I don't," Blaine argued. "I think Oscar Wilde would look at Kurt and me, and our relationship that has no pretenses and isn't secret from the world, and would look at all of you not batting an eyelash at it, and he would say we're very clever to have figured out that love is love." He ruined a perfectly impressive significant pause by adding, "And then he would recommend we all read A Series of Unfortunate Events."

Kurt turned away and let a joyful chuckle bubble forth as his classmates' indignation exploded in a cacophony of shouts. Blaine looked exceedingly pleased with himself the rest of the night, and Kurt couldn't have been happier for it.

"You just couldn't help yourself, could you?"

"I really couldn't. Not after you gave me permission," Blaine said.

They turned around the buffet table and found themselves in the middle of a conversation with the Dean. Carmen Tibideaux was a legendary writer with a whole room full of awards and accolades, but no honor as great as the one she currently held: U.S. Poet Laureate.

"Dean Tibideaux," Kurt said breathlessly. "Thank you for inviting us tonight. You have a very beautiful home."

Her eyes landed on Blaine over the top of her spectacles. "I don't believe we've been introduced."

"This is my boyfriend, Blaine. He's studying History at Brooklyn College, but he's also a writer. Blaine, this is Carmen Tibideaux, Dean of the writing program and one-third of my thesis review board."

"It's a pleasure to meet you, Ms. Tibideaux."

"Dr. Scott –" She gestured to the balding professor in conversation with her " – isn't happy with the reading list currently distributed to incoming freshmen and would like to add more modern novels. What modern novel would you gentlemen say has contributed most to your understanding of your place in the world?"

Kurt's eyes went perfectly round. Carmen Tibideaux wanted his opinion on modern literature. He knew the right answer – Graham Greene, Salman Rushdie, Norman Mailer – and could have answered this question correctly as a freshman. But his eyes flicked sideways to Blaine. The right answer was not always the true answer.

"Any of Kazuo Ishiguro's novels," Kurt said. "Specifically, though, I would recommend Never Let Me Go."

Dean Tibideaux's eyebrows arched. "Surprising choice. I applaud you for not giving a safe answer, Mr. Hummel. If you're equally brave with your thesis, the review board might not want to set our hair on fire when you defend your novel in two years."

Dean Tibideaux left them by the buffet line and went in search of other students to intimidate and interrogate. Kurt exhaled deeply and leaned heavily against the wall.

"I can't believe I just did that. I recommended a science fiction novel to Carmen Tibidieaux as required reading for all incoming freshmen. That's academic suicide."

"Except it's not, apparently, because you impressed her. And me. I'm really proud of you, Kurt."

Blaine took his boyfriend's hand and tugged him off the wall. He wrapped his arm around Kurt's waist, and Kurt leaned on his shoulder.

"And … to prove how proud of you I really am, when we get back to your apartment, I'm going to do something shocking."

"Oh?"

"Uh huh. I'm going to post a review of a book I didn't like."

Kurt stopped dead. "Wait. Wait, wait, wait. Are you serious? You, Blaine Anderson, are going to own up to the fact that there are books in this world you've read and disliked?"

"I am. You've inspired me, Kurt. I'm going to own my literary preferences, and not just in the abstract way that I don't like elitist writers."

"Then, lead on, Mr. Anderson, and let's find out what you're like when you're disliking something."

"Polite, I hope."

"Oh, but of course. The world would stop spinning if Blaine Anderson were impolite."

"The whole world. Really?"

"Well …." Kurt leaned down and pressed a kiss to Blaine's lips. "My world, anyway. You've sort of swooped in on your bargain book cart and changed the way I look at the world. I'd hate to think of not having the real you around."

Blaine hummed in the back of his throat. "That's not a possibility you have to consider."

"No?"

"No."

Kurt huddled close to Blaine on the walk home. Their breath misted in front of them as they leaned in for a kiss around unbreakable smiles.

"I've been thinking. Maybe I can clear off a shelf on my bookcase for your chain store reprints and paperbacks emblazoned with 'Just Reduced!' stickers covering the titles," Kurt said.

"And I could make some room for your overpriced hardbacks with their perfect dust jackets and unbroken spines that display no character whatsoever. It'll be a burden to find space for books the size of cinderblocks, but maybe if we get rid of the bathroom sink …."

"Oh no. Not the bathroom sink. I'd never be able to stay the night."

"That would be a shame."

"It really would."

"Maybe the kitchen cabinets. Tina and I don't know how to cook anyway."

"We may be all right after all," Kurt decided.

"Finally something we agree on."