Disclaimers: Glee is a creation of Ryan Murphy, Brad Falchuk and Ian Brennan; its characters belong to 20th Century Fox Television and associates. Begin Again was written by Taylor Swift.
Thanks: To my beta and best friend Teka Lynn.
A/N: The basic idea for this story was born almost immediately after seeing Adam on screen for the first time, but the concept evolved with time and new canon. Then EiraCannaid posted this brilliant fanvid (on YouTube: watch?v=7tTqJS7am2I) and I couldn't resist incorporating the song into my story.
Warning: NOT Blaine-friendly.
The young man on the stage was crying. There was a song flowing out of his lips, more music than lyrics, the words drowning in the tearful lament. No riffs, no runs, no wails, no belting, just the simple melody, quiet but not tranquil, painful like an open wound. The tears ran down freely, shamelessly, and no gesture was made to dry or hide them.
There was no one in the audience to see them anyway.
He paced the stage like a caged beast, his eyes tightly shut. Only the ghost light was on, and unflattering shadows danced across his face as he moved into and out of the dark corners, accentuating tired lines that didn't belong in the young visage. No matter his weariness and distress, though, he wouldn't let go of his breath control. Each note had to be delivered with utmost care, nurtured with feeling and seemingly endless streams of air, rich with haunting overtones. Although he never raised his voice beyond a mezzo piano, the sound filled the empty auditorium with strength and clarity.
His feet instinctively led him to the front of the stage, almost to the edge of the access walkway, as the song neared its end. A little ritardando as he repeated the last line, consonants becoming crisper, the last note a murmured question rather than a sonorous statement, and it was over.
He endured the heavy silence for a few seconds before finally opening his eyes... to the sudden realization that he was not entirely alone.
Another man stood on the steps of the aisle between the seats, right in the middle of the auditorium. He was... not smiling. His mouth twitched faintly like he wanted but didn't dare to. He took a deep breath as he stared at the man on the stage, as if someone had just pulled him from under water. His eyes seemed rueful and cloudy in the dim room.
For a moment they just looked at each other, perfectly still.
Then the second man lowered his head and turned around, climbing up the steps towards the exit.
That seemed to get the man on the stage out of his trance. "Adam!"
Adam stopped, his whole body taut to the point of quivering. Very slowly, he turned back to face the stage. The next second, all the air in his lungs was squeezed out of him and he stumbled back as a solid body collided against his chest and strong arms tightened around his waist.
"Hey, Kurt," he whispered.
Kurt returned the greeting by burying his face against Adam's neck and holding on for dear life.
# # # # #
"I thought I'd never see you again," Kurt murmured.
"Well. That was the plan."
"That wasn't what I wanted."
Sitting on one of the auditorium seats, Adam turned slightly to the young man at his left, one eyebrow arched high.
"Yes, I know," Kurt huffed. "That's what I said I wanted."
"In those exact words," Adam reminded him.
"You actually said, 'I don't think we should see each other again. Ever.'"
"You said 'ever'. Little pause, which I took for a full stop, but might have been a comma, then... 'ever'."
"And anyway, I doubt it makes that much of a difference if it was meant to be a full stop or a comma, because... 'ever'. That one was very clear."
"I didn't mean for you to drop out of school, take your things and ran back to England!"
"I didn't run back to England. I flew. Planes. Marvelous inventions."
"Sorry. I shouldn't joke about this. I can see you're upset. "
"Upset?! You have no idea how awful I felt when I found out."
"And I'm really sorry. You were not supposed to find out. Frankly, I didn't think you'd notice I was gone."
Kurt gasped. "How can you even say something like that?!"
"You said 'ever'!" Adam replied defensively. "I reckoned you'd be making a conscious effort to avoid me, so when you didn't stumble upon me in the hallways, you'd take that as a sign that your efforts were being successful. And then the semester would end, and you'd assume I had finished school and moved on."
"That... makes sense," Kurt conceded with much reluctance.
"So how did you find out I was gone?" Adam risked a smile. "You looked for me?"
The smile faded. "Oh. Okay."
"Kayla came to talk to me on Friday. She suggested I rejoin the Apples now instead of next semester. You told them why I was taking a break from the group?"
Adam frowned. "Just Kayla. I told the others you were worried about your finals, but she didn't buy it and came after me, badgering me for the truth until I spilled it out." He sighed. "I'm really sorry, Kurt. What did she say to you?"
"Well, she told me that if you were the reason I left, then I could rejoin right away and take part in the meeting next week at Lennox's place to go over the plans for the Fall program. Because, 'Holy mother of hell, Kurt, haven't you heard? Crawford has dropped out and gone back to fucking Essex!'"
"That's a perfect impression of Kayla," Adam remarked, both impressed and amused. "I wouldn't do it in front of her if I were you."
"What the hell were you thinking, Adam? You don't drop out two weeks before graduation!"
"I can't say there was much thinking involved, to be honest."
"You're missing your final exams."
"I missed some, yeah. Came back today just in time for my Speech IV performance exam. The topic was Accents and Dialects, easily one of my favorite courses ever, so I reckon I at least managed to save that grade. And I have what's left of the week. But there were papers I was supposed to finish and probably won't have time to."
"Maybe they'll let you make up for it?"
Adam shrugged. "A few of the professors might. I reckon I'll be doing a lot of groveling for the next two days."
"Will you be able to graduate this semester?"
"That remains to be seen. Odds aren't good, though. I may have to pay for my little breakdown with an extension of my time at NYADA."
"Adam, I'm so, so sorry."
"It's not your fault."
"Oh, I think we both know that's not true."
"Well, I think that if you think you're at fault for any of this, then you're entirely wrong."
"You left because of me."
"I left because I made the decision to leave. You didn't tell me to go. You only asked me to keep my distance, and I could have tried to do that while still being here. That's probably what most sane people with a bit of backbone would have done anyway."
"But I was overwhelmed. You'd think I'd be used by now by the faculty's lack of support for the Apples, and by all the jeering from our dear schoolmates, but when our Spring Festival was canceled..."
"I know. We worked so hard on that."
"And we were going to be bloody fantastic, even if I say so myself. We put everything we had into it, and to have it all go down the drain just the day before..."
"I'd never seen you so upset," Kurt murmured.
"And things just seemed to go downhill from there. Eliezer and Martina were talking about leaving the group. Professor Hagemans pointed at me in class as the perfect example of actors who are doomed to a life of guest starring roles in subpar procedural TV series. I went to eleven auditions, got eleven rejections, six of them with unflattering remarks about some aspect of my body, and in two of them I was asked to leave before I even got to read for the part."
Kurt reached out and placed his hand on Adam's arm, trying to comfort him.
"And I kept consoling myself by thinking, 'Well, at least I have Kurt.'"
Flinching, Kurt withdrew his hand.
"And then I didn't have you anymore," Adam went on with a humorless smile. "You decided to give Blaine another chance." He shrugged. "And I was okay with it. Well, not okay, obviously, but... I always knew it was a possibility. And I had convinced myself that if you chose to break up with me, I wouldn't really lose you, because we'd still be friends. I mean, you were still friends with Blaine even after he cheated on you, so..."
Kurt looked away, wringing his hands nervously.
"But then you said we should not remain friends. And that you were leaving the Apples as well. You needed a clean break so you and Blaine could rebuild your relationship."
"I never meant to hurt you."
Adam smiled, a true smile this time. "I know that. I understood your position. You had to ease his mind, and yours too. In fact..." He chuckled self-consciously. "I suspect I just came out of this admiring you even more."
Kurt shook his head, as if to deny there was any valor to his actions.
But Adam would have none of that. "It's never easy, committing to someone, making sacrifices. Especially when you've been hurt before. But you made a choice and stood by it. Crossed the bridge and burnt it down. It was a very brave thing to do."
"God, what is wrong with you?!" Kurt huffed. "You're not supposed to think highly of me when I walk all over you! Stop!"
"Did you walk all over me?"
"There are no villains here, Kurt. I knew what I was walking into. I knew the risks. I took them because I thought you were worthy. And I wasn't wrong about that." Adam shrugged. "You were never cruel. Even when you told me you didn't want to see me again, I could tell you still cared about me on some level. If my charms failed to get you to fall hopelessly in love with me, that is hardly your fault."
Kurt's eyes glistened with unshed tears. "Oh, Adam... That's not..."
"I'm not saying I was like, you know, 'Yay, he dumped me, but he did it so nicely that it doesn't hurt at all!' I'm not that zen. I wasn't mad at you, but I was... really, really sad. And with everything else going on... Well, at that moment, I couldn't help the feeling that it really sucked to be me."
Kurt raised his hand towards Adam's, but changed his mind and let it fall on his own lap again.
"So," Adam went on, showing no sign that he had noticed Kurt's gesture, "that was a Friday. I spent Saturday walking around Central Park, telling myself that all I needed to heal my aching heart was a bit of fresh air and exercise. When it got dark, I went back to my flat and baked a hundred cookies, but couldn't bring myself to eat any. Sunday morning I woke up before the sun, contemplating the thought of coming to school the next day. I felt so damn wretched, hopeless and Kurtless, and it was like I couldn't breathe anymore. So I emailed my goodbye and apologies to the Apples, packed my stuff, and went back to Essex."
"You didn't stay there, though."
Adam smirked. "Apparently not."
"What did you do over there?"
"Oh, I wept like a baby on my mother's lap for about a week. Then we watched Love, Actually together, because I thought all the loveliness and cuteness and Christmasiness would make me feel better, but instead the movie only seemed to drive the point home that not everyone gets quite the happy ending they hope for."
Kurt bit down on his lower lip.
"Then finally Mum made me dry my tears and gave me a couple of serious sessions of tough love. Told me to make use of my sensitivity for something creative and not let it cripple me. Said I can't run away from my life every time my heart is broken because life is heartbreaking. And that if I ever come to a point when I stop allowing myself to love and be hurt, then I won't be really living anymore."
"Sounds like something my dad would say. Minus the accent."
Adam smiled. "After that, she sent me to get a haircut and a professional shave, saying that just because I'm showing signs of a severe case of puppy dog eyes doesn't mean I should go around looking like something that belongs in a kennel."
Kurt let out a timid giggle.
"And then," Adam went on, "she drove me to the airport and put me on the first flight back to New York."
"I think I like your mom."
Adam grinned. "I'm sure she'd adore you."
"Didn't she tell you to never come near boys with baggage again?"
"Everyone has baggage, Kurt. I carry shitloads of it myself wherever I go. Or else I might have braved this storm a little better."
"I'm so, so sorry."
"Again, it wasn't your fault."
"I should never have said I didn't want to see you again."
"Why not? It made sense. You asked for a clean break, so you could restart things with Blaine without any ghosts hovering over your relationship. I understood."
"But I didn't want any of that!"
Adam blinked, surprised, and turned his head to look more closely at Kurt's face.
Kurt closed his eyes, letting out a long, dejected sigh. "I didn't want to stop hanging out with you. I didn't want to leave the Apples. I let Blaine convince me to give you up, and give them up, when that was the last thing I wanted."
"I thought I had to. I thought we had to, Blaine and I. You know, cut all ties to the past, make sacrifices, like you said, to prove that each other's happiness was our priority, for real this time." Kurt shook his head. "It sounded so very romantic, but... I kind of like having my own life, you know? My own friends. Is that selfish of me?"
"I can hardly claim to have a disinterested opinion on the matter, but... I'd say it's pretty healthy of you."
"I wanted his promise to never again see the boys who had come between us in the past. So I thought I had to offer him a promise of equal value. Does that make sense?"
"I..." Adam rested his head on his palm, his elbow propped on the arm of the seat. "I suppose it does," he said sadly.
"I thought it made sense," Kurt countered. "I believed it for long enough to actually say goodbye to you. And then, pretty much the second you left, I started regretting it. I came this close to actually running after you and taking it all back."
"I see. I guess that explains it."
"Well... I couldn't help but notice..."
"You're talking to me."
"Oh. Yes. Yes, I am."
"Right now, you are talking to me."
Kurt lowered his head to hide his blushing. "Yeah, I noticed."
"And earlier... you actually hugged me."
Kurt raised his hands to his burning cheeks. "I did."
"And, okay, I guess I wasn't supposed to be here. I mean, I heard a voice in the auditorium when I was passing by, but I didn't realize it was you until I came inside. I should have left then. I shouldn't have stayed hearing you sing, because I could tell that performance was not meant for anyone's eyes or ears. And when you stopped singing and the spell you always cast upon me when you sing was broken, I tried to leave. I really did. I turned away. I climbed up about five steps up the aisle. And I swear to you, Kurt, I would have climbed all the way up, if you hadn't called my name."
"I believe you."
"You called my name. Loudly. It's not like you need to yell in this room to be heard, but you did anyway. So all I can deduce from this is that you really wanted me to hear you."
"I... didn't want you to leave again."
"Yes, well, you could have, you know, asked me to stay. Just a polite 'Please wait a moment' or 'Please stay' or 'Please don't go before we talk'... or even a non-polite 'Stop running away from your life, you bloody ninny!' Any of those would have done the trick. You didn't need to run up to me and physically hold me to the spot. Not that I'm complaining. Because I'm really, really not."
Kurt hid face behind his hands. "I missed you, okay?"
Adam grinned from ear to ear. "I'm not gonna lie, that is very good to hear. But..."
"Well, I think you need to tell me where you're drawing the line now."
"What do you mean?" asked Kurt, turning to gaze at Adam.
"Kurt, I missed you too. Clearly. You said you regret saying goodbye to me, so I'm hoping this means we don't have to avoid each other anymore. And I definitely hope you'll remain with the Apples, even if I fail to graduate and end up sticking around, because they truly adore you and you shouldn't have to deprive yourself of the pleasure and insanity of their company."
Kurt smiled fondly.
"But you also made a promise to Blaine," Adam reminded him.
"Right." Kurt turned serious. "About that..."
"I'm just saying, Kurt, that you'll have to figure out what you want, and settle things with him, and then tell me where exactly I'd fit in your life, if at all, and where the boundaries lie. Because while I'd love for us to be friends, I really don't want to cause trouble for you and Blaine."
"There isn't a 'me and Blaine' anymore."
Adam's response to that was utter silence. Even his face, always so expressive, became unreadable.
"Tibideaux decided to hold auditions for new applicants here this year instead of traveling the whole country to meet them. So Blaine came to New York, and I gave him a tour of the school, and he even sat in a few of my classes. And after his audition we met at the cafeteria, and that's when Kayla showed up and told me you were gone, had been gone for a week already, and you were never coming back."
Adam nodded, but his face remained blank.
"And I was upset. I was really, really upset. I felt absolutely awful, thinking I had totally derailed your education, your career, your life. I wondered if I should try to call you or email you, but then I was freaking out because, god, what could I possibly say to fix this?"
Adam opened his mouth to say something, but closed it a moment later without uttering a word.
"Blaine tried to comfort me, said it wasn't my fault. That you're a grown man, and you're the only one to blame if you decided to drop out."
"And that contacting you was the last thing I should do, as it'd only make things far worse."
A little frown darkened Adam's brow.
"Because if you had wanted to talk to me, you wouldn't have left without saying goodbye, so I shouldn't bother."
Adam rolled his eyes, pressing his lips into a thin line.
"And then he said..." Kurt gulped. "He said maybe it was for the best. You know. That you had left."
Adam slumped millimetrically into his seat.
"But best for whom, really?" asked Kurt, his palms upwards. "Certainly not for you, what with your whole life upturned. And certainly not for me, because... because..."
Adam gazed at Kurt out of the corner of his eye.
Kurt took a deep breath, and let it out in a gush of stuttering words. "Because I missed you. Okay? Because when I said we should never see each other again, I knew that wouldn't be feasible. We went to the same school, and it's a pretty large building, but not so big that we could avoid each other forever. And New York might be huge and crowded, but it's a tiny world for people who share similar interests because too often they'll converge on the same points and events. We were bound to come across each other at some point, I was sure of that. And I guess... I was counting on that."
A soft smile curved Adam's lips.
"But I didn't tell Blaine any of that," Kurt admitted. "It would have hurt his feelings, and I didn't want that. I had done enough damage to yours; I should try to spare someone in this mess. But later that night I was checking your Facebook to see if there were any updates since you had left, and he caught me. Not that I was hiding what I was doing, but still Blaine reacted like he had found me in flagrante delicto. Anyway, there were no updates, and I got worried, and I started wondering out loud about where you might be, how you were feeling, whether you had any plans, if there was anyone looking out for you, and whether you'd be able to keep on following Days of Our Lives, because I know people post some storylines online, but I'm not sure you can watch the entire show from England. And I wondered if there was something I could do to help you at least with that."
Adam's smile broadened, his eyes crinkling.
"Until Blaine told me to shut up."
A scowl erased all signs of happiness from Adam's face.
"He didn't tell me to shut up, exactly," amended Kurt, noticing Adam's dark expression. "He wasn't rude about it. His precise words were 'The way you keep talking about this guy makes me uncomfortable and unsure of our relationship.' And he kept looking at me with those wounded puppy eyes of his that always make me feel like Cruella De Vil. He said he understood my concern. Actually, he said he was 'inspired by how moral and compassionate' I am. His words. But that we'd agreed to put the past behind us, so the right thing for me to do, for the both of us, was not to talk about you anymore. Just the way he never talks about Sebastian, this guy with whom he was a little friendlier than he should have, and just the way he never talks about the guy he cheated on me with, because he says they don't matter, none of them meant anything to him, the same way you never meant anything to me."
Adam took a deep breath, and held it in, unable to exhale.
"But you meant something to me," Kurt admitted. "You meant a lot. And you still do."
Adam's breath came out in a ragged sigh.
"And I can't imagine a time when I won't want to talk about you. About how you recruited me to the Apples, and how that was the first time I was told I was wanted and needed in a group instead of me having to convince the group to let me in. About how you and the Apples sang Baby Got Back to me, and it was so joyous and playful and unpretentious and perfect, because that was exactly what I was looking for, fun people to be friends with. About how you spent the next weeks showering me with compliments every time we met, and how you wouldn't let go until I accepted them. About how you'd ask for my opinion on all sorts of things, from mash-up ideas to risotto recipes to international politics to the existence of flying saucers to whether Miss Marple and Joan Watson would get along if they had to work together. And about how you'd then listen to whatever I had to say as if it really mattered, even when it was clear that I had no idea what I was talking about, or even when you disagreed with every word coming out of my mouth. All the little things you did that made me feel truly appreciated, and now I was never supposed to mention them again?"
There was a sharp gleam of sadness and concern in Adam's eyes.
"And then there're all the things about you that just..." Kurt huffed. "Is it that hard to understand that when I meet interesting people I want to talk about them? Sometimes Blaine likes to talk about Rush Limbaugh. Nothing good, of course, but still, does it make any sense to you to have a rule forbidding me to talk about you when it's okay to talk about Rush Limbaugh? Well, guess what, I don't want to talk about Rush Limbaugh. I'd much rather talk about your beanies. And I don't even like beanies, but you like them, and they look good on you, and it's cute when you take them off and your hair gets all messy, which is another thing I usually hate, but not on you. And then there's that accent of yours, and all the other accents you can pull off, and all those times we watched Downton Abbey on mute and made up the lines and did the accents, and how perfect is your Mrs. Hughes, and now I can't tell anyone about any of that? And if someone asks me who gave me that amazing recipe for orange oatmeal cookies, I'm supposed to lie and say I found it online? I like talking about you! About your weird musical taste that shouldn't make you a good show choir director but somehow does. About your fascination with sea creatures, even though you don't have and never had an aquarium. About how you'd always open the door for me, and pull my chair out and help me in, and how nice that is because you don't do it to be the alpha gay, but because you're just that nice to everybody. About your smile, with all its crinkles, and the dimples, and about your beautiful eyes, your big hands, your arms, your arse..."
A tiny smirk curved Adam's lips.
"I mean, your ass," Kurt corrected himself quickly. Then, even more flustered, "No, I meant... Of course I don't go around talking about your ass to people! I just... I mean..."
Adam bit his lower lip to contain a fit of giggles.
Kurt closed his eyes and hid his face behind his hands. "Okay, maybe there's wisdom in telling me to quit talking about you."
Adam threw his head back, laughing like a little kid.
"Shut up," Kurt groaned.
"I didn't say a thing."
"Fine, then I'll shut up."
"No, no, please," said Adam soothingly. "Go on."
Kurt sent him a sideways glare. "You just want to hear me say nice things about you."
"Well, I don't mind that, I admit. But no, I mean what happened between you and Blaine. He asked you not to mention me anymore. How did you respond to that?"
"I..." Kurt's shoulders drooped as he stared helplessly at his hands. "I said, 'Fine.'"
"Hey, I'm just glad my arse made you pause."
"Shut up!" Kurt hissed, his smile dulling the edge of his sharp words.
"Besides, from what you already told me, the story doesn't end there, so... what happened next?"
"Well, we spent the rest of the day pretending you didn't exist and that everything was picture perfect. That was Friday."
"I think that was the day I watched Love, Actually. Not sure. Last week was a bit of a blur, to be honest."
"It's funny, I remember thinking of Jamie and Aurélia that night, and how they fell in love even though they didn't speak the same language. They got a happy ending."
"Yeah, but both learned each other's language to make it work," Adam pointed out.
"Yeah," said Kurt with a sigh. "That's what I remembered next."
"I take it communication with Blaine became complicated?"
"Well, not as hard as that. We just stuck to safe topics. Like the weather in New York, his audition, the differences between New York pizza and Ohio pizza, how we'd both love to meet Ellen DeGeneres, and how Sam made him realize bowties made him look uptight and pretentious."
Adam glanced at Kurt's neck and at the silver satin bowtie he was wearing. "That was a safe topic?"
"Oh, he rushed to add that I looked great with bowties, that they suit me perfectly."
"Probably not meant that way, but still..."
"What did you say?"
Adam's gaze as he looked at Kurt seemed full of sadness. "You were really determined not to rock the boat, weren't you?"
"Yes. And I think so was he, in his own way. But, you know, apparently ignoring the elements doesn't insure a smooth trip." Kurt brushed some nonexistent lint off his jeans. "Thankfully, we didn't talk much that night anyway. We went to bed early. Never before did I truly appreciate the efficiency of sex in precluding conversation."
Adam nodded, his expression guarded.
Kurt noticed it, and winced. "I'm sorry, I shouldn't have said that."
"Kurt, when you told me you had chosen him, I knew it wasn't to play checkers. You were back together. It's hardly surprising that you slept with him."
"Still, I shouldn't rub it in your face."
"You're not. Unless you start drawing comparisons and telling me how much better in bed he is."
Kurt snorted. "Trust me, I won't."
Adam arched an eyebrow, the beginnings of a smug smirk curving his mouth. "Really?"
"Shut up," muttered Kurt, blushing.
"What?" asked Adam with fake innocence. "I'm not saying anything!"
"It's not that he was bad. I just wasn't really in the mood."
Adam became very serious again. "Then why did you do it?"
"How could I not? We had just gotten back together. It was... expected."
"If I had told him I just wanted to sleep, he'd have read something into it. He'd have asked me why, he'd have questioned me, and I don't know if I could have given him any answers without either lying or mentioning the things we had just promised never to mention again. It was just easier to... to go with it, you know?"
Adam kept staring at Kurt, the level of alarm in his eyes growing with each second.
"No, it... it was fine," Kurt assured him. "It wasn't bad. It wasn't coerced. It wasn't... you know... unpleasant. It was fine. I just really wanted to get it done quickly so I could take a shower and sleep."
The statement seemed to do little to soothe Adam's spirits, but he accepted it with a tiny nod of his head.
"The irony, of course, is that after that I couldn't sleep. And I had no Ambien left."
"I thought you had stopped taking it."
"I had! Which is why I had none left. One of Santana's one-night-stands stole what was left in the last bottle – along with Rachel's green peignoir and our corkscrew – and I never bothered to get more. So I was wide awake, for hours and hours and hours, trying not to toss in the bed so I wouldn't wake up Blaine. I thought of getting Bruce out, but then Blaine might be offended if I chose to snuggle with my boyfriend arm pillow instead of him."
"Aw, come on, how could anyone resent Bruce? He's so comfy!"
"I mean it," Adam insisted earnestly. "I missed him terribly these past few days."
"You could have gotten one online. I'm sure they deliver in England."
"It wouldn't have smelled the same." Then, Adam looked away. "My turn to apologize. I shouldn't have said that."
"It's okay," Kurt murmured, his cheeks a little pinker than before.
A moment of awkward silence followed.
"So." Adam cleared his throat. "You couldn't sleep at all?"
"I dozed off for about an hour, a little before sunset. I was alone when I woke up."
"You mean alone in bed or in the loft?"
"In bed. Rachel had already gone to her yoga class, but Santana was still sleeping, and Blaine was in the kitchen having breakfast with Sam."
"Sam? He came with Blaine to New York?"
"No, he was in Lima. They were Skyping while having breakfast."
"So you joined them?"
"I said hi. And made myself a croque-madame. Then I sat at the table beside Blaine and ate. Mostly they were talking about universe reboots in superhero comics, which isn't a subject I'm very familiar with. I suggested a few alternatives to spandex for superhero uniforms and wondered about the merits of short capes versus long capes, and primary colors versus the basic black. But they thought I was making fun of them."
Kurt shook his head. "I take fashion very seriously. I thought at least Blaine understood that."
Adam looked down at himself, at his simple clothes and the sneakers he wore practically every day, and deflated a little. "I hadn't realized that when you first asked me out," he admitted. "And when I did, I couldn't understand why you had asked me out at all."
"Well..." Kurt shrugged, smiling coyly. "I didn't ask your clothes out, did I?"
"You did ask them off eventually."
"Sorry, sorry, sorry." The older man didn't appear all that apologetic, though. "Some cues are just too hard to resist."
Kurt made a valiant effort to look affronted, but couldn't help a smile as he saw Adam's eyebrows arching and twisting over his playful eyes. "I'm trying to tell you a story, Mr. Crawford. Stop distracting me."
Adam pretended to zip his mouth shut.
"Anyway," Kurt continued. "When they logged off, Blaine started telling me about some of the things he and Sam had been up to recently. Duets they sang, Glee Club stuff, Student Counsel stuff, their superheroes club stuff, and lots of other stuff, all of them involving lots and lots of Sam being really amazing and funny and epic."
"Were they ever an item?"
"You know what? I don't even know. As far as I know, Sam's straight. Some of our mutual friends have heavily hinted about some sort of threesome involving Sam, Blaine and Phil Collins, but god only knows what that's supposed to mean, and Blaine insists he and Sam are just 'best bros'. And that's why, I assume, he's allowed to gush nonstop about Sam while I can't even mention your name: because you and I actually dated."
"But it bothered you," said Adam matter-of-factly. "His gushing about Sam."
"It did, but... not for the reasons you're thinking. I wasn't jealous, I was... confused. Because he kept talking about Sam like I didn't know him. Like he had just met this really great guy who became his best friend, so he was listing all his good attributes to convince me of how awesome Sam is. Except I know Sam. I knew Sam before Blaine did. I've known Sam since before I knew Blaine! There's also the tiny detail of Sam living in my house. We shared a bathroom for nine months. And he was always forgetting to lock the door, so twice I walked on him coming out of the shower. So, yeah, I know Sam. I've already seen him naked!" Kurt shook his head in exasperation. "And the way Blaine was singing Sam's praises to me sounded so weird and ludicrous that I just blurted that out, just like that."
"What do you mean? Blurted what out?"
"I told Blaine, 'I saw Sam naked.'"
"I know, I don't know what came over me. I guess my brain wasn't entirely awake yet."
"And how did Blaine react?"
"That's the oddest part. When I realized what I had said, I braced myself for, I don't know, some accusation that I had cheated on him."
"But instead he got this dreamy look in his face and said, 'My god, isn't he gorgeous? I don't know why he has so many body issues. I told him time and again he's the sexiest man I've ever seen.'"
Adam gasped. "He did not."
Kurt shrugged. "He was just talking about the times they showered together in the locker room."
"And I've always known Blaine doesn't find me particularly sexy."
Adam's eyes widened in shocked disbelief.
"It's complicated, okay?" said Kurt defensively. "To this day, I'm not sure what he's ever seen in me."
"Three words, Kurt," said Adam, raising his hand to count them off his fingers. "Young. Paul. Newman."
"Yeah, I'm pretty sure you are the only one who's ever seen thatin me."
"I seriously doubt that. You and Blaine were together for over a year, weren't you? Why would you even think he didn't find you attractive?"
"I don't know. It's just... we were best friends first, we were together all the time, and he knew I was interested in him, but he had made it clear he only wanted to be friends. And that's all we were, despite all my attempts to make it more. But then our choir's mascot canary died. And I was the one in charge of his care, so I was really upset and sang Blackbird as a eulogy to him. Please don't laugh."
"Why would I laugh?" murmured Adam gently.
"And just like that, Blaine had some sort of epiphany and we started dating. That's pretty much what he said: that when he saw me sing that song, he realized he had been looking for me forever. It was definitely not the first time he heard me sing, so I don't really know what about me singing to a dead canary suddenly made me attractive before his eyes."
"Maybe you let your vulnerability show?" suggested Adam. "That was what captivated Tibideaux, after all."
"Maybe," Kurt conceded. "But I'm not sure I like the idea that he only realized my appeal when I was sad and crying."
"But you were not sad and crying during all the time you spent together, were you?"
"No. Then again, for the next eight months, well, we'd make out and all, but he didn't seem particularly eager to go beyond that, you know? He kept talking about waiting for the right time..."
"...and the merits of masturbation."
Adam's lips twitched, but he said nothing.
"And then one day, he changed his tune. He started talking about being adventurous, and experiencing life... and instead of using words like 'adorable' and 'interesting' to describe me, he told me I was 'hot'." Kurt frowned. "Actually, no, he said my fantasy about having relations with Taylor Lautner on a dewy meadow of lilac was hot, so I'm not sure how much of a heat factor I was in that scenario."
"Wolf boy's got nothing on you."
Kurt nudged Adam with his elbow, a little smile lighting up his face for just a moment before disappearing again. "I didn't think much of it then. I mean, about the timing. But looking back now, I can't help wondering if it was just a coincidence that this change of tune came right after he met Sebastian."
"The guy Blaine was too friendly with?"
Kurt nodded. "One night Sebastian took us to a gay bar, and Blaine got drunk and spent most of the night dancing with him, until I got sick of it and physically dragged Blaine to dance with me. And when we were leaving, Blaine suddenly decided he and I should have our first time in the back of the car, right there in the parking lot."
"So much for waiting for the right time," Adam muttered.
"So I yelled at him, and he yelled at me, and we didn't talk to each other until the following night. Then we patched things up and... we went to his house."
Adam's gaze lowered to the floor, his eyebrows knitted together.
"I don't think he was thinking of Sebastian when we did it," said Kurt. "But I sometimes wonder if maybe he was... I don't know."
"Sublimating?" suggested Adam.
"I don't know," Kurt repeated. "At the time, it all seemed so magical. But after all we went through... and after this last weekend... I just really don't know anymore."
"Something else happened this weekend? Or was Blaine's comment about Sam's gorgeous body the final straw for you?"
Kurt snorted. "Nah. My camel's back was starting to bend, but it was far from breaking. Besides, I didn't even have time to react, because Santana woke up and got pissed at Blaine for eating her cereal."
"Oh, my. Poor, poor Blaine."
The two men exchanged a devilish grin.
"We went shopping after breakfast," said Kurt. "I should say that shopping for clothes in New York with Blaine was on my bucket list. I spent so much time envisioning the two of us strutting down the streets in a shopping spree that would put the classic Pretty Girl montage to shame. Because who needs gold credit cards when you have Kurt Hummel's fashion-smarts on your side?"
"Is Blaine a fashion enthusiast?"
"He's an enthusiast Vogue reader. As for his actual fashion style... well, it changed after we started dating. I know some of our friends thought I was the one who picked his clothes, but really, it wasn't like that. I did help with his makeover, advising him on colors, patterns and fabrics, much of which he already knew because, like I said, Vogue reader. But after being mostly constricted to a school uniform for over a year, I felt he had to find his own style, his own voice. Fashion without self-expression is just soulless mimicry. So I remained mostly silent while he developed his affinity for bowties, Capris and boat shoes. Really, if I had been the one telling him what to wear, I'd have demanded socks. I like socks."
Adam's fingers grabbed the fabric of his jeans at the knee and pulled it up, exposing his burgundy-gray argyle socks.
"Do you always match your socks to your beanies?" asked Kurt with a little gesture at the burgundy beanie covering part of the blond hair.
"When I can."
Kurt smiled approvingly.
"So you had fun shopping with Blaine on Saturday," said Adam, encouraging Kurt to resume the story. "Did you buy a lot of things?"
"No on the buying, and no on the fun."
"I wish. Blaine didn't like any of the things I tried on. He said no to every single one of my suggestions. He would quote from Vogue to me, and I'd be like, 'Honey, I've met the writer of that article. She made me carry her handbag, and I can tell you this, it was not faux leather.' So he accused me of using my internship to belittle his opinions."
"It's a delicate situation," Adam pointed out. "You've been working in that business, you've learned things, you have access to the gossip, you know more than he does now. That changes the balance between you two."
"I didn't mean to slight him. But every time I disagreed with him he would raise the same argument: I was being condescending, I wasn't taking his opinions in consideration, I wasn't treating him with the respect he deserved, and how did I expect us to have an equal, healthy relationship if I couldn't even show him some common courtesy?"
Adam cringed. "Sounds like things escalated fast."
"You have no idea. I spotted this pair of black and white dress shoes, and they were gorgeous. Way outside my price range, sadly, but I couldn't help staring and coveting, you know? And Blaine got all testy because the heels were three-inches high, and why would I even want to wear heels? Did I purposely want to make him feel short? How inconsiderate of me!"
"Oh, I had an ex that resented me for being taller, too," said Adam. "I never wore heels – well, except on stage – but he basically forbade me to wear vertical stripes, because he thought they made me look taller."
"Did you agree to that?"
"Well, it wasn't much of a sacrifice in my case. I had only two shirts like that, and neither had any sentimental value to me, so I just forgot them in the drawer for as long as the relationship lasted. Which wasn't long. We had a lot more incompatibilities than our height difference."
Kurt sighed. "Maybe I should've been more considerate of his insecurities. But it wasn't like I could buy those shoes, and it annoyed me that I couldn't even fantasize about them without putting his feelings first."
"So what did you say to him?"
Kurt's fingers combed his hair above his ears in an unusual gesture of distress.
"You didn't say anything," Adam realized.
"How could I? Every time I opened my mouth it seemed like I was putting my relationship with him in danger! I was getting so stressed out trying not to argue with him, at some point I just picked up a bunch of pants and hid in the fitting room. I didn't even try on any of them. I just looked in the mirror and took a deep breath, telling myself things would eventually fall into place and... get better." Kurt let his hands fall back to his lap. "Then I took him to Fazio's Cantina for lunch."
Adam frowned at that choice. "I've only been there a couple of times. The pasta is good, but between the loud music, the loud customers and the noise coming from the street, you can barely hear you own... Ah."
"Well, I suppose if everything else failed, you could always stick a couple of gnocchi in your ears."
"Oh, that'd have been a good idea. Why didn't I think of that? Unfortunately, I ordered penne. Damn those perforated noodles. Why should noodles have holes?"
"To better carry the sauce?"
"Yes, but how are they supposed to block undesirable sounds if they have holes? I should write a book. The Benefits of an Orifice-Free Noodle Diet to Your Love Life."
Adam burst out laughing.
"You have a strange sense of humor," Kurt noted.
"Me? It's your joke!"
"Yes, but people don't usually think I'm funny. Not deliberately funny, anyway."
"When you say 'people'...?"
Kurt closed his eyes, letting out a deep breath. "...I'm dismissing a lot of wonderful people in my life who do think I'm funny just because there's this one guy who doesn't. Which is stupid, and probably unfair, since Blaine did use to laugh at my jokes before we started dating." He turned to look at Adam. "Would you believe me if I told you I wasn't always like this?"
"A time when you weren't funny? No, I wouldn't."
Kurt smiled and shook his head. "I mean, a time when people would tell me I was too self-confident, to the point of arrogance?"
"What happened to that guy?"
"I don't know. I really don't. I remember when Finn... that was before our parents got married, and things were pretty bad between us... he told me not to make a spectacle of myself, told me to make an effort to blend in... and I wouldn't have any of it, you know? It was just unthinkable. I got mad, I froze him out, I yelled at him, I even kicked a chair. Six months later Blaine told me not to try so hard, told me I had to fit in and not to try to get noticed... and I nodded and apologized. I apologized. And sometimes I think since then I've never stopped apologizing for being myself and... it became a habit. And this isn't on Blaine. Or not entirely on him, anyway. Because I let it happen."
Adam gazed at him with sad eyes and a hesitant smile. "Not sure if I can imagine you kicking a chair. But I've seen you smite a couple of NYADA's demented cannibals with your self-confidence, and it was glorious."
"Stupid sycophants," Kurt muttered, blushing a little.
"You are amazing, Kurt. And I think you know you're amazing. You just... forget sometimes."
"Well. Thank you for reminding me."
"You are most welcome."
They just looked at each other for a quiet moment, enjoying the company.
"You still want to hear the rest of the story?" asked Kurt eventually.
"If you're still willing to tell me, yes."
"Doesn't it bother you to listen to me talk about him?"
"That's not what I'm listening. I'm listening to you talk about yourself. I happen to be very interested in that subject."
Kurt smiled gratefully. "Well, I made that lunch last as long as I could. Ate slowly. Penne by penne. I even had two desserts, one after the other. Blaine kept talking the whole time. I don't even know if he realized I wasn't really listening. I nodded and smiled and nodded some more, and apparently it was enough. We were supposed to shop some more after that, but we just walked down the streets, and he kept talking while I kept nodding and smiling. And when we got back home, we watched TV. I don't even know what we were watching. All I could think of was how badly I wished we had doors in the loft, so I could escape into my room, turn the lock, put my headphones on, and forget about everything."
"Did you still think things could work out between you two at that point?" asked Adam with sincere curiosity.
"I... Let's say I was finally clueing in to how hard it would be to make it work. And I started wondering if I would be able to change everything I had to change... and if I really wanted to change. If it was even worthy." Kurt closed his eyes tightly. "That night... I couldn't do it. Not again. So I went to bed while he was brushing his teeth, and when he came out of the bathroom I pretended to be already asleep."
"Did it work?"
"He tried to wake me up for sex, but..." Kurt shrugged. "What can I say? I guess I was sleeping like a log. Like a baby. Like the dead."
"The sleep of the just."
"Like a very just and very dead baby log. That's me."
"Kurt..." Adam hesitated, as if he wasn't sure he was allowed to say what he wanted to say. "You need to know... You always have the right to say no. To whomever you're with. No matter the circumstances."
Kurt wrapped his arms around his body. "It's complicated."
"It shouldn't be. It just... shouldn't." Adam gazed at the dejected look on Kurt's face, and sighed. "I'm sorry."
Kurt reached out to place his hand over Adam's. "It will be."
Adam raised his thumb to gently caress Kurt's pinkie. "And that was Saturday night."
"I stayed in bed while Blaine had Skype-breakfast with Sam again. Then I was supposed to meet Haley and D'Lon to prepare our presentation for our Intro to Performing Techniques final... which was Monday, by the way, so we were cutting it really close, but it was the only time all three of us were free, Sunday morning between ten and noon. And I had already told Blaine about this, but when he saw me getting dressed, he was like, 'When did you schedule this, Kurt? You knew I'd be here this weekend, Kurt, couldn't you have set another day to meet your friends? I understand that it's for class and not just a friendly gathering, Kurt, but this is the one weekend I can come until you go back to Lima for summer break, we won't see each other for all of two weeks after I'm gone! I know you have your internship, Kurt, and I get that your friends have jobs as well, but we promised to make each other our priority, remember? And I'm here, Kurt, but where are you?'"
"Please, please, please tell me this is when your poor camel's spine snapped for good."
"Oh, god!" Adam exclaimed. "I'm sorry. I don't even know the bloke, but... I haven't felt the urge to slap someone this badly since Sir Anthony left Edith at the altar."
"Poor Edith." Kurt petted Adam's hand. "And poor, poor camel of mine. I wasn't quite ready to give up."
"You skipped rehearsal to be with Blaine?" Adam couldn't pretend not to be horrified.
"Absolutely not! I took him with me. I thought it was a decent compromise."
"He was grouchy at first. But then he brightened up when we were rehearsing our scene and he got to offer his comments and suggestions and... well."
Adam tilted his head to one side than the other. "It can be helpful to have an outside view. As in constructive criticism."
"A lot of what he said was helpful," Kurt conceded.
"It wasn't all that helpful when he decided to show me how to play my role by taking my place and doing the scene with the others. Repeatedly. Until Haley pointed out that I needed to be the one performing at my final and I wouldn't get a grade by sending an understudy, so maybe Blaine should let them rehearse a little more with me."
"He took that well enough, though. He even apologized and said he was just too eager to start working with other NYADA students, since he'll be starting there next term."
"He seems really confident that he'll get in."
"Yeah, I don't think that endeared him much to D'Lon. He only got in at his third attempt, you know."
"What did Tibideaux tell Blaine about his audition?"
"I didn't get to watch it. He said she thought his song choice was 'audacious'."
"That could be either very good or very, very bad. What was the song?"
Kurt's shoulders stiffened. "Bring Him Home, from Le Miz."
Adam gasped. "Your song?"
"It's hardy my song," said Kurt with a frown.
"Oh, it is, for everyone who heard you sing at Midnight Madness." Adam arched an eyebrow. "Did Blaine know you sang that at Midnight Madness?"
Kurt clenched his jaw. "It's possible that that's where he got the idea to sing it at his audition."
"You know, I'm starting to sense a pattern there," said Adam slowly.
Kurt sighed. "When he told me NYADA was his first choice college... we were broken up, and I feared he might have chosen it just to get near me again. But now I wonder. There are so many things I tried to achieve and failed, only to see him succeed at the exact same things. And I thought, hey, we just have a lot of things in common, we want the same stuff, and it only happens that he's better than me..."
"No, no need to say it." He squeezed Adam's hand gratefully. "I don't believe that anymore. And you know what? I was great at my Performing Techniques final. D'Lon was fabulous, Haley knocked it out of the park, and I? I was fan-fucking-tastic. I know it. And I'm just a freshman, which means I have a lot to learn, which means I'll get even better. That's why I'm here. Blaine's aspirations, whatever they are, are Blaine's problem, not mine. And if he tries to make them my problem, well, there's always Midnight Madness."
Adam was grinning from ear to ear.
"When we got home, Rachel was there," Kurt continued. "And I thought it'd be important for Blaine to know everything about NYADA, you know? All the classes, all the instructors, all the clubs and extracurricular activities, and all the intricate subtleties of the social dynamics and hierarchy inside the school. And who better to give him all the details than Ms. Rachel Barbra Berry?"
"That must have taken a while."
"All afternoon, actually."
Adam laughed. "Aren't you an evil bastard..."
"Oh, come on, he loved it."
"And so did she, I bet. What did you do during all that time?"
"Well, I had to be there and pretend to listen and make concurring noises from time to time..."
"More nodding and smiling?"
"Yeah. But I could tune them off and start putting my thoughts in order. And really ask myself the questions I should have asked before agreeing to get back together with Blaine. Like how far I was willing to go, how much more I was willing to sacrifice, and whether I felt I was getting as much as I was giving."
"It's a lot to think about while pretending to listen to a conversation."
"I also excused myself so I could take a very long bath. Blaine wanted to join me, but I told him the tub was too small for two people."
Adam's lips curved in a tiny smirk. "We made do."
"Yeah, well." Kurt's cheeks reddened as he smiled back. "He didn't have to know that, did he?"
Adam looked down at his hand under Kurt's and spread his fingers open. Kurt responded by entwining their fingers together.
"That night we went to Callbacks," said Kurt. "Sunday's not the best night for singing, the crowd is tougher, but I really wasn't up to it on Friday, what with learning you had left the States and everything. And I had promised Blaine that I'd take him there before he went back to Lima, so..."
"Did Rachel go too?"
"Sadly, no. She said she had to spare her voice for her singing exam the next day. Probably a good idea after talking non-stop for five hours. Santana was out somewhere, so it was just me and Blaine. He had a fake ID and thought it was hilarious that I've been in New York this long and haven't got one yet."
"You said you have bad memories regarding alcohol."
"Blaine didn't seem to remember that about me. Or maybe he didn't care. But, yes, really bad memories. Horrible memories from drinking it, appalling memories from seeing other people drunk. Maybe I'll feel different when I'm older, but... for now, I'm just not interested. But Blaine was keen on getting us 'buzzed'... that was the word he used. He went straight ahead and ordered us both Cosmos. Fortunately I managed to catch the barman's eye and mouthed 'virgin', and he got it."
"Blaine got the vodka and the triple sec, though?"
Kurt nodded. "And the buzz."
"He can hold a lot. But he gets overly emotional very fast."
"Sounds like a nice recipe for disaster," Adam muttered.
"He kept telling me how happy he was that we were back together," said Kurt, sighing. "Listing all the things we'd do when he came to live with me in the loft in September. How we'd redecorate my room... 'our room', he called it... and how we'd need more shelf space in the bathroom for his products. And how we'd go to NYADA everyday together, and have all our meals together, and study together, and of course go out at night together... He even asked if maybe I could talk Isabelle into getting him an internship at too."
"That doesn't sound creepy at all..."
"He also suggested we should start our own Glee Club at NYADA. A competition choir with the best talent in the school."
Adam rolled his eyes.
"Yeah, I thought you'd feel that way." Kurt smirked. "I told him I'd be going back to the Apples, but he said the Apples would probably disband now that you had left."
"Right. Over Kayla's dead body."
"That's what I told him. Between the Warblers and the New Directions, he's used to groups that revolve around one person, but that's not what the Apples are like. And then he laughed and started picking on the club's name."
"I tried to explain to him the real reason for the Apples' name, but then he reminded me we weren't supposed to be talking about you. Which, seriously? He was the one who brought you up!"
"Wait, how would you even know the real reason for the Apples' name?"
Kurt shrugged. "Kayla told me."
"Right," Adam huffed. "I should have known."
"Don't be mad at her. I kind of guessed it might have something to do with trying to protect the others from the faculty's scorn by having them focus on you. She just confirmed it."
"I could never be mad at Kayla. Especially because, knowing her, she only did it to improve your opinion of me. But it wasn't entirely noble, honestly. I very much love having a super cool group named after me."
"You didn't know the group would be that cool when you named it."
"Of course I did! Because I planned it all so only the really cool kids would want to join, while the uncool kids would think we're just a waste of time and space."
"I should warn you, then... Blaine also contemplated joining the Apples and... uh..."
"Fixing its dreadful reputation?"
Kurt winced sympathetically. "If he asks in, do you have to let him in?"
"I don't know, we've never refused anyone before, never had to kick anyone out. There were some who left, particularly in the very beginning, because they didn't care for the Apples' agenda." Adam winked at Kurt. "No point in worrying about it now. Let's wait and see what happens, shall we?"
Kurt nodded. "You're right. He might not be interested at all anymore, now that we're broken up for good."
"You haven't got to that part of the story yet," Adam reminded him.
"Oh, we're almost there. After his second Cosmo, he told me he wanted to sing something special for me, something to convey that new stage in our lives. Then he went up to Pascal and told him to take a break so he could play Make Believe It's Your First Time on the piano."
"The Carpenters?" Adam frowned. "Title aside, I'm not sure how those lyrics relate to your and Blaine's situation."
Kurt rolled his eyes. "It's Blaine," he said, as if that explained it all.
"How did you respond to that?"
"I... clapped. Thanked him when he came back to our table. Then I got up to sing something, too. But I asked Pascal to accompany me."
"What song did you pick?"
"Joni Mitchell's Both Sides, Now."
Adam opened his mouth to suck in as much air as possible, as if his life depended on that single breath. "Wow."
"I'm imagining... No, I can't imagine it." Adam stared at Kurt in a daze. "You have no idea how I wish I had been there to see that."
Kurt smiled. "I wish you had been there too. Blaine, on the other hand, wasn't very impressed."
Adam looked outraged. "Why the hell not?"
"He said he just doesn't get that song," said Kurt with a shrug.
"But you do."
Kurt looked up into Adam's blue eyes, surprised by the seriousness in them. "I do."
Adam raised their entwined hands to drop a light kiss on Kurt's knuckles. "Don't tell me you guys fought over Joni Mitchell."
"No," Kurt giggled. "Because some of the Apples showed up at that very moment. Lennox, Martina... She and Eliezer never left the club, by the way, you were concerned for no reason... Lennox, Martina, Sonomi and Charlie. They wanted to sing Sonomi's arrangement of Maxwell's Silver Hammer and asked me to join them."
"And you could never resist the Beatles."
"Come on, that song is hilarious. And Sonomi's version is pure genius."
"Did the Callbacks crowd enjoy it? They can be so stuck-up sometimes..."
"Standing ovation, believe it or not."
"It was a lot of fun, really." Kurt snorted. "Until I got off the stage, that is."
"Why? What happened?"
"I guess Blaine didn't like to see me getting friendly with the Apples, even without you there."
"No. But when I got back to our table, there was another guy in my seat."
Adam's jaw dropped. "You're not serious."
Kurt responded with a tight, bitter grin.
"Oh my god... Did he really?"
"Dark long hair, goatee, Vince Camuto jacket over Rocawear polo. Blaine met him when he went to the bar to get his third Cosmo. Said his name was Wyatt. He actually seemed nice. Like, he asked for a chair from another table so I could sit with them, even though he had no idea who I was or why I kept standing there in front of them."
"Wait. Blaine didn't introduce you to him?"
"Sure he did. 'Kurt, this is Wyatt. Wyatt, this is Kurt.'"
"Not... 'Hey, Wyatt, this is my boyfriend Kurt'?"
"I guess it slipped his mind?"
Adam looked flabbergasted. "You didn't... you know... clarify the situation?"
"To be honest, I was a lot more curious than jealous. I wanted to see what Blaine would do, how far he'd go."
"He didn't do much. Wyatt did most of the talking, being friendly to me and totally flirty with Blaine. And Blaine wasn't quite flirting back, but... he wasn't discouraging the guy either, you know? He kept smiling and enjoying the flattery, acting all coy and sweet. And I was right there."
"Why, why, why?" Adam shook his head in dismay. "Why would he do that? Who in their right mind would..."
"Ah, but we're not talking about right minds, are we? We're talking about Blaine, and moreover we're talking about Blaine after three Cosmopolitans. He kept glancing at me. Brief, subtle glances. Wyatt would praise his Carpenters performance and his piano playing, and marvel at the shape of his hands, and Blaine would look at me for a second, like trying to measure my reactions, you know? It was like he was telling me, 'Hey, if you won't pay attention to me, I can easily find someone else who will.' Like I didn't know that already! From very painful experience!"
"God, Kurt... I don't even know what to say. I'm so sorry."
"It's okay," Kurt said softly. "In the end, it made it all much easier. Because even if I could somehow find a way to deal with all the other crap... I can't live my life like this, dammit. Worrying that every time he gets upset with me for whatever reason he might decide to find solace with some other guy. That's not love. It's not love and it's not what I want. Because there's got to be more to love than this." He looked ahead, his eyes not focusing on anything, his face relaxed. "It was time to face what should have been clear a long time ago. What Blaine and I had was irremediably broken, and it was burning me out to try to repair it. It had to end."
"You guys fought again, then."
"Not really. I said goodbye and left. Blaine tried to follow me, but I managed to lose him in the subway. When he got back to the loft, I had already moved all his stuff to the couch. I told him he could sleep there, but he had to leave in the morning and never speak to me again."
"And how did he take that?"
"Not well. I think he went through four out of five stages of grief overnight. He yelled at me, accusing me of not truly investing in our relationship. He kept yelling until Santana turned her full Lima Heights Adjacent venom against him and made him shut up. Then he tried to plead with me, promising he'd do better and everything would work out if only I gave him another chance. Then he cried for hours in Rachel's lap, wailing that I was the only one he could ever be happy with. He fell asleep around two in the morning, thank goodness. I kicked him out at six-thirty, because it was the first day of finals and I seriously needed some time to myself to get my head back in the game. He was saying that this is just another setback, that in time we'll be back together and stronger than ever, that we're soulmates and we'll always find our way back to each other no matter what, when I shut the door in his face."
"So, anger, bargain, depression and denial. No acceptance yet?"
"I don't know, I'm not taking his calls and I blocked him on all social media. But I'm there. I'm finally, finally there. I wish it hadn't taken me this long. I wish it hadn't taken me making the stupid mistake of this second attempt at a teenage dream that had already proved to be a nightmare. And I wish it hadn't taken me losing you. I didn't cry, you know, not once since I told him it was over. But today I came here, saw the empty stage and remembered when you sang Baby Got Back to me. And I just..." Kurt trailed off, swallowing a lump in his throat. "I don't think I ever told you how happy you made me feel."
Adam winked. "It's a cheerful song."
"Not just the song. Not just that day. Every day. Every time we talked. Every time you smiled at me. I found myself standing on that stage, thinking of all the things I never told you and couldn't tell you anymore because you were gone. And I remembered my dad. When he came to the city last Christmas and told me about the cancer. He told me to hold the people I love close to me, no matter what. And I knew he meant Blaine. But Dad's advice wasn't wrong, not really. In essence, he was right. I was the one who got it all wrong. I don't know when or why I started believing that it was my fault, that by not giving Blaine a second chance I wasn't trying hard enough, that I owed it to him and to myself to persevere despite all my instincts telling me to run away. And I don't know how I got so deep into this crazy guilt trip that I didn't even realize that... I just don't love him anymore." Kurt looked down at their joined hands and slowly pulled his away. "Dad was right. But I chose the wrong person to hold on to."
Adam frowned at his empty hand, his fingers closing around nothing. The silence dragged between them until he spoke again. "You know, I've just realized something."
"Today is Wednesday."
"It is," said Kurt, confused. "So?"
"So it is Wednesday, and that little café three blocks down always has those delicious cinnamon rolls on Wednesdays."
"Ah. Yeah. They're really good."
"Aren't they? And to think I almost resigned myself to a life without them." Adam stood up and offered Kurt his hand. "Mr. Hummel, would you give me the honor of accompanying me on a perilous journey through the streets of New York in a quest for some scrummy pastry and a nice cuppa?"
Kurt froze. "Adam, what are you doing?"
"I believe I am asking you out. Was that too subtle?"
"Are you crazy? That's not why I said... Adam, you can't ask me out."
Adam let his hand fall beside his body immediately. His smile faltered for a moment but he forced it back into place, even though the shine in his eyes was noticeably gone. "I see. I'm sorry. I shouldn't have presumed."
"What? No! You have nothing to apologize for! It's me, I'm the one who ruined everything. I had my chance with you and I blew it. I can't ask you to take me back."
"Then don't ask. I can do the asking. Actually, I believe I just did."
"But I hurt you."
"Well... yes. You did."
"Then just why the hell would you give me another chance?"
"And just why the hell not?" replied Adam with a shrug. "I've just heard you sing, and you still take my breath away. You still have baggage, but from what you've just told me, it sounds like it's finally getting lighter. And you still get all flustered when you think of my arse."
"Oh, god," Kurt mumbled, blushing all over.
"And it's still my choice whether to take a chance with my heart, and I still think you're worth the risk."
Kurt breathed in sharply, his eyes glistening.
Adam smiled. "I told you I couldn't compete with a fantasy, remember? But I'm looking at you now, and I'm not seeing a man stranded in a mirage anymore. Maybe now we can get a shot at something real? Maybe now, for the first time, what's past is past?" He offered Kurt his hand once more.
This time, Kurt took it.
And that's how they began again.