Fic: Glee: Twenty-three Firsts (Kurt/Blaine, NC-17) - A Near Misses Story 1/5
This story is a direct continuation of the main fic, starting the morning that story leaves off (in late February 2014) and continuing until early May. The topics it covers could have been another two hundred thousand words, but instead of writing every little step along the way, I wrote twenty-three distinct firsts in this 'verse, from seeing friends to talking about certain topics. Some are very short, while others are quite long. As separate as the scenes can be, they all are meant to fit together to tell a bigger story with a clear overarching arc for Kurt and Blaine.
I have broken up this story into five (long) sections, it is entirely finished, and I shall be posting one a day for five days. Please don't be grumpy about that; like with the big fic, I think the reading experience works better to have pauses between sections. I'd want to read it that way. :)
This story would not exist without stoney321, who listened to me and said useful things as I broke the big beats with her in California in October and who has read my drafts more than once since and has said even more useful things, nor would it exist without all of you who have supported my writing in this fandom in general and this 'verse in specific. Thank you. <3
Title: "Twenty-three Firsts" 1/5 [on the AO3]
Author: flaming muse
Rating: NC-17 overall
Word count: 9,600 this part, 54,000 overall
Summary: Friends, places, and conversations: twenty-three firsts for Kurt and Blaine. A Near Misses story.
Spoilers: all of Near Misses, which includes elements of canon through 3x22 ("Goodbye")
Notes: set just after Near Misses (and assumes "Facebook Official")
Disclaimers: The characters belong to various corporate Powers That Be. I make absolutely no profit from playing with them.
Distribution: Please ask.
Feedback is lovely!
" - which is totally wrong for her complexion, but Rachel insists it is the perfect dress for her NYADA recital because the drama and elegance of the flare of the skirt matches that of the song," Kurt continued. "Drama and elegance? All it needs is a poodle on it, and she'd look like she should be on Happy Days. But sometimes she gets it in her head that she knows best, even though it ought to be clear to her by now that she should be listening to me when it comes to anything to do with fashion." He tipped his head thoughtfully. "And probably the rest of her life, too."
"Absolutely," Blaine agreed, his chin resting on his hand as he watched Kurt gesture with his fork over his unfinished plate of cafeteria curry. Blaine's own plate was nearly empty of its pizza and fries, because as soon as they'd picked up their trays Kurt had received his first imperiously demanding text from Rachel about the news of them dating they'd just broken over Facebook, and by the time the sixth in a row had rolled in Kurt had snapped back to something like his usual self instead of the softer, wider-eyed boy he'd been earlier; he'd rolled his eyes, shut off his text notifications, and had started to catch Blaine up on the latest news while Blaine listened and ate his own lunch.
It had been a wonderful morning of staying in bed and then taking the heart-lifting and surprisingly real step of officially announcing their new relationship, and Blaine was happy to be wrapped up in the scents of Kurt's borrowed grooming products and the familiar rise and fall of his voice as he talked across the table. It was like something both comfortable and totally new all at once. They'd eaten together countless times before, but he'd never felt quite like this, like a sticky little table bracketed by two plastic chairs could be the most perfect place to be on the planet because his boyfriend was there with him.
It was kind of amazing, really.
Blaine ducked his head and grinned down at his plate, his eyes still on Kurt.
"Here, let me show you." Kurt dug into his jacket pocket where it was draped over his chair. "I'm obviously right, but I want you to see for yourself."
"Okay." Blaine picked up one of his last remaining fries and popped it into his mouth, chewing slowly while Kurt's attention was diverted. Even the french fries were better today. The whole world was better. All because of Kurt, all because he was dating Kurt. It was pretty cool.
He glanced over Kurt's shoulder and saw a familiar face turning in their direction across the dining hall. Tina broke into a huge smile when she spotted them, but when he lifted a hand in reply she shook her head and gestured excitedly between the two of them.
Blaine nodded even as his stomach flipped with a burst of nerves; she must have seen the Facebook update. She was the first friend they'd seen since it went out; Rachel's endless texts didn't count, since she was too busy berating Kurt for not calling her to give much other commentary about their actual status. Blaine was aware that Kurt's friends might not be so accepting once the news had sunk in. He'd put Kurt through the wringer, after all, and they were protective of him. Rightly so; Kurt was incredible, and he deserved someone who would treat him well and be kind to his heart. Blaine had done the exact opposite, even if he hadn't known it at the time.
They might not be as forgiving toward him as Kurt seemed to be.
Tina's smile just grew even larger, though, and to Blaine's relief and pleasure she gave him an approving thumbs-up before pointing back to Kurt, like she was trying to encourage Blaine's attention back to him.
Blaine raised his eyebrows and flicked his hand in invitation to join them, but she shook her head without hesitation. She mimed typing on her phone as she mouthed, "Text me later."
He nodded again in a promise, and she waved happily before turning away toward the food line. Mystified by and grateful for the positivity of her response, Blaine spun the salt shaker in small circles and watched her go.
"Here. Look," Kurt said, oblivious to Blaine's silent conversation. He slid his phone across the table. There was a picture on the screen of Rachel in a full-skirted, knee-length orangey-pink dress with a peter pan collar. The silhouette wasn't entirely unflattering, but the color was doing her no favors at all. Kurt raised his eyebrows. "Well?"
"If she were on roller skates, she'd look like a car hop," Blaine told him honestly.
"Thank you," Kurt said with some satisfaction. "I am glad but not surprised that you see that." He smiled over at Blaine and took another bite of his lunch. "And of course she doesn't want to listen, even when I found her some other options in that very same store. She's sure she knows better."
The indignation in Kurt's voice made Blaine smile that much more, because he loved that Kurt was so passionate about things. He threw himself into everything, now somehow including Blaine. He loved that he was included in Kurt's heart like that, that he hadn't messed things up but had made things better. "She has strong opinions," Blaine said. "It's part of the reason you love her."
"I know." Kurt poked another piece of chicken with the tines of his fork. "But it can be inconvenient." He took back his phone and started flicking through the pictures. "Especially when her opinions are in direct conflict with mine. There's no comparison with what I picked for her."
"Mmm," Blaine said, content to smile and listen.
From around Kurt's arm, he could see Tina finding a seat well away from theirs, and if he felt bad about excluding her, there was something heart-flutteringly special about her approving of and respecting the intimacy of the two of them together at a table of their own.
They were a couple now. They got to be their own little unit, a wall around the two of them that set them just a touch apart from everyone else instead of being each on his own. He'd never really had that; Sebastian had run hot and cold on whether they were a Warbler power couple or two separate entities in public, as it suited him, but Kurt seemed to have taken to their new relationship like he was born to it, leading them to a two-person table without commentary, making the Facebook invitation, even smoothing Blaine's hair with proprietary fingers before they'd left his room.
Kurt might have been turned around inside the way he said he was, but he still didn't seem to be hesitating; he seemed to be moving forward in the same sure way he ran the rest of his life, and at least some of Blaine's nerves about doing things wrong had to flee in the face of it.
They both might feel turned around, but it felt like they were facing the right direction together now.
Blaine contentedly watched Tina get settled while Kurt searched for a particular photo. She snuck a glance over her shoulder at them, and she giggled when she saw she'd been caught by Blaine. She made a shooing motion toward Kurt again.
Blaine grinned at her, more happy than he could contain that Kurt was his now, his more than anyone else's besides Kurt's family. This relationship was really his - to enjoy, to mess up - and they weren't hiding it or holding back.
It was just what he wanted. It was just what they both wanted, he thought.
And Tina, at least, was excited for them.
Blaine didn't have anything special to do in the Keynotes performance that afternoon besides sing his part and remember the simple choreography. He didn't have a lead, a solo line, or an interesting harmony. He didn't even have an extra twirl or funny move in this particular set.
Yet every time he glanced over at the wall Kurt was leaning against, Kurt was watching him, a proud smile on his face. Every time they finished a song, Kurt was clapping enthusiastically and not looking away from him for a second.
Kurt might love music, but there was no doubt that he was there first and foremost for Blaine.
Blaine was enough of a professional to know that he couldn't only sing to one person in a group performance like this one, so he kept his attention moving and his expression appropriate for a public show. Even so, he knew there was nothing wrong with singing for one person, not when that person was there not because he had to be but because he wanted to be.
From his place in the backing semi-circle and from the depths of his wondering heart, Blaine spun and smiled and sang every note for Kurt.
3. Rachel and Tina
Kurt rushed through the coffee shop doors two days later, brushing a light dusting of snow off of his hair as he scanned the room for his friends. He found that Rachel and Tina had staked out a grouping of deep chairs in the corner, their bags on the third to save it for him from predatory coffee drinkers, and he pulled off his soft leather gloves as he approached.
"What's the emergency?" he asked. "I had to brush off my TA after class to get here. Is it about the dress?" He sank into the chair after his friends cleared it for him. "I told you, Rachel, I have options for you."
"There's nothing wrong with my dress," Rachel said, lifting her chin.
"There's everything wrong with your dress," he told her, setting down his bag and unfastening his coat.
"Just because you - "
"Rachel," Tina interrupted firmly.
Rachel drew in a short breath and folded her hands in her lap. "This isn't about the dress," she said to Kurt.
"Okay," he said, though he was more than a little disappointed, honestly. He hated for her to make such a huge mis-step when he could help her. "So what's going on? What's the coffee emergency."
"It's a boyfriend emergency," Rachel said.
Kurt snapped his head toward Tina. "Something's wrong with you and Mike?" he asked, his heart in his throat. They seemed so good together, so stable and in love. They'd been together for years. It was awful to think that it might not last.
"No, it's not - " Tina started.
Leaning toward him, Rachel talked right over her. "Kurt! You have a boyfriend! And you haven't told us all about it! This is an emergency!"
Kurt couldn't find his words for a moment; he'd come prepared to support one of his friends in a time of crisis, and instead he had been brought here under false pretenses to be chastened about not having rushed to their sides immediately?
"I told you," he insisted, taken aback.
"Facebook doesn't count. Texts do not count," Rachel said. "And you've been dodging my phone calls."
He smoothed out the fringe of his scarf. "I've been busy."
She sat up sharply, pointing her finger at him. "And this is what we want to hear about!" she cried. "You being busy with Blaine! And-slash-or getting busy!"
"You don't have to share details," Tina insisted with a quelling look at Rachel as Kurt froze at the very idea of sharing such personal information. He'd always talked with them about their love lives, but he was really not sure that he had it in him to reciprocate.
"Yes, you do!" Rachel said.
"No, you don't," Tina said even more sternly. She tilted her head and smiled at him. "Unless you want to."
"Blaine isn't the only thing keeping me busy," Kurt said, though his voice wasn't as strong as he would have liked it to be. They had eaten every meal together since Saturday morning and had studied together in the Union the previous night until the wee hours of the morning had broken them apart.
Rachel's eyebrows rose even further. "Kurt Hummel, you know you have things to tell us. Now, tell."
Kurt cleared his throat and looked around for any sort of escape. Even if he could manage to get out of the coffee shop without Rachel jumping on his back like some sort of lunatic, high-pitched howler monkey she'd certainly stalk him day and night until he gave her at least some of what she wanted. There was no way out of it apart from going into witness protection.
Besides, he realized as the shock of the assault began to wear off, it wasn't the worst idea in the world to be able to talk a little about what had happened. He did have a lot of emotions swirling around inside of himself, and he knew as he looked at their eager faces that Rachel and Tina would be supportive. Maybe he could let some of it out in a measured and controlled way.
He dropped his hands to the arms of the chair and said, "I need a coffee first." Rachel shot him a suspicious look and seemed ready to argue. "I promise I am not trying to escape."
"I saw you thinking about it," she replied.
Rachel narrowed her eyes. "Maybe you should leave the scarf as a reassurance that you'll come back. I know you won't abandon it."
Kurt clutched at his second favorite cashmere scarf; there was no way he was letting it out of his reach. "You are insane," he told her as he stood up, and then he spun on his heel and headed toward the counter, his scarf flaring around him.
He took the few minutes it required to order and receive his drink to try to pull himself together. Rachel and Tina knew about his wonderful and horrible first encounter with Blaine, they knew about the cold shoulder treatment Kurt had given him afterwards, they knew about their friendship and connection as it grew, and Tina, at least, had more than an inkling how desperately he'd been trying to shield himself from hurt when Blaine had decided to date Peter. So he didn't have to fill in all of those details for them, which was something of a relief, because he wanted to tell as few of the difficult parts of the story as he possibly could while still getting some of this giddy confusion out of his chest.
He was definitely giddy, and he was at least marginally confused.
Blaine was just... amazing. Kurt had been aware of that since Blaine had taken his hand on the dance floor, an appreciation that had grown over the months they'd become closer, but Blaine was somehow even more amazing now that they were dating. He was sweet, he was kind, he was attentive, and he was really incredibly hot now that Kurt let himself admit it. He looked at Kurt like he was a dream come true, and Kurt wanted to be for him.
It was just hard to know what that meant. Kurt was an expert at watching old Hollywood romances bloom on screen, but he had no experience with dating someone he cared about. It was a little overwhelming to be doing it in the flesh.
He wasn't complaining, obviously, but it was still overwhelming. And the flesh part was the more straightforward side of things, because at least there he knew what he was supposed to be doing, even if it meant so much more with Blaine than it had with anyone else. At least in Blaine's arms Kurt felt like he was doing things right. It was when Blaine looked at him like he was the answer to his hopes that Kurt got nervous.
He knew he was a unique person with taste, talent, and strength, but it was one thing to be sure of that in himself and another suddenly to be in possession of a boyfriend who seemed to agree with him about it.
Again, he wasn't complaining. He was grabbing on with both hands and not letting go. This was just all so new, and it had gone so badly for so long that he had these moments when he wasn't sure how it could actually be happening.
But, he thought, turning his head to try to hide some of the smile that threatened to overtake his face, it was happening. He had a boyfriend. And he had friends who wanted to talk about it with him the way he'd always talked with them about their love lives.
Maybe Rachel wasn't quite so crazy to have called this emergency coffee gathering after all.
Accepting his latte from the barista, Kurt turned back toward his friends with an excited spring in his step.
Tina must have used the little break to speak to Rachel, because they were both sitting with expressions of interest and support but no longer with the manic gleam that had lit Rachel's eyes a few minutes before. Kurt had no illusions that it was gone for good, but if she could keep it under control for a little while the whole conversation would go a lot better.
"So Blaine and I are dating," he said as he sat. He sounded a little breathy, but at least he didn't laugh with the joy bubbling up inside of him.
Tina beamed at him. "Are you happy, Kurt?"
"What happened?" Rachel asked.
"Yes," he told Tina before taking a sip of his coffee to center himself to answer Rachel's question. He knew they wouldn't like this part. He lifted his chin. "I went to the Alliance dance on Friday."
"Oh, Kurt," Rachel said with a sigh, leaning back in her chair.
"Just to dance," he told her. "I needed to blow off some steam."
"As long as that's all you were going to blow," she muttered, and Kurt felt his cheeks flush hot with a combination of mortification and anger, because he was looking for friendship, not judgment. It was his life.
"Maybe this isn't a good idea after all," he said, reaching for his bag.
"No," Tina said, reaching out to touch his arm. "Don't. Rachel is going to control herself, or she will be the one leaving." She looked over at Rachel and raised her eyebrows, daring her to argue.
"Fine," Rachel said after a moment. "Sorry. I just feel strongly that based on his history Kurt should have known better than to - "
"Rachel," Tina warned.
Rachel crossed her arms over her chest. "Okay."
Much of Kurt's joy at sharing his feelings had faded during this little exchange, and he decided not to draw it out. "Anyway," he said, "Blaine was there, we had a huge fight outside, and he told me he had feelings for me."
"i knew it!" Rachel said, pointing at him again. "I knew you were attracted to him!"
Kurt rolled his eyes and tried not to get too defensive. He was going to have to live through this with her at some point. "Given that I'd already slept with him, that's hardly a huge mental leap."
"So you told him you felt that way about him, too?" Tina asked, gently nudging the conversation onwards.
"No," Kurt admitted and looked down at his coffee for a moment. "But he was drunk, and I... couldn't trust he meant it."
Tina made a soft sound of sympathy. "But you do now?"
Kurt thought of the way Blaine had looked at him that morning at breakfast, his eyes so gentle and fond across the table. He thought of the way Blaine had kissed him last night the second they'd stopped in his dorm room before dinner, his winter-cold hands on Kurt's face and his mouth desperate on Kurt's for a long, hungry moment before he'd relaxed all at once, brushed his smiling lips along Kurt's cheek, and let him go to get the book they'd come to find. He thought of the flowers on his windowsill and the new picture of the two of them up above his desk, sitting on a park bench on their first day out together as a couple. His own face was shining in that picture, but Blaine's was even more filled with wonder and happiness.
"I do," he said quietly. He tried to keep his smile in, but he couldn't quite manage, and his friends' faces lit up in response. It felt wonderful to see them so thrilled for him, especially about something romantic. He'd never had it before, and it made him feel even more loved by them, too.
"I knew you two would be perfect together," Rachel said, clapping her hands. "I'm so happy!"
"I'm glad you're taking this as such a personal accomplishment," Kurt drawled.
"Was he sweet?" Tina asked as she leaned in toward him. "What did he do to convince you?"
"Yes, Kurt, we want to hear everything," Rachel said. "We're your best friends. You're supposed to tell us. You should have told us days ago."
Kurt couldn't recount the whole story, not when it was still so fresh and raw in his heart that he couldn't quite believe it, though he expected to get a lot of mileage out of it once it had sunk in, but he really did want to share with someone how incredible Blaine was. "It would be a lot easier to tell you anything if you stopped interjecting,' he pointed out.
Rachel gestured him on with a gracious sweep of her hand.
He cleared his throat and said with another delighted smile he couldn't hold back, "He brought me flowers."
Rachel clapped again, and Tina said, "Are they beautiful?"
Kurt laughed and shook his head. "No, they're awful. They're the cheapest, ugliest bouquet I've ever seen... and they're perfect." He looked at them helplessly, just too overwhelmed to say more.
"Oh, Kurt," Rachel said softly, pushing herself out of her chair and wrapping him up in a hug.
"I know. It's stupid," he said against her shoulder, squeezing her back for a moment.
"No," Tina told him with a gentle smile. "That's love."
Kurt's heart skipped a beat. He tried not to get caught by the memory of Blaine saying he loved him, since he certainly hadn't even hinted at it again. That much could have been the alcohol, and Kurt's own feelings for other boys had never been wise or timely. "I - "
"Shh, too soon," Rachel said to Tina. She settled herself back into her seat. "So he brought you horrible flowers. What else?"
"We went out for the day," Kurt said, holding onto his coffee to steady himself. There was a dab of foam on the edge of the lid, and he wiped it off with his thumb. "All over the city. And that was perfect, too." He laughed again, thrilled and a little mortified by the intensity of his reaction to the memory of how absolutely flawless the whole day together had been. He felt like he was going to float up out of his chair.
Tina leaned forward and rubbed her hand on his knee, her expression as full of joy as he'd ever seen it. "We're so happy for you."
"I don't - " He shook his head. "I'm still waiting to wake up, I think," he admitted.
"Oh, please, if you were dreaming those flowers would have been impeccable," Rachel told him.
He tipped his head in acknowledgement of her surprisingly valid point. He might need to remember that one when he was questioning if this all was real. "You're right. He's just been a dream. I mean, he's still Blaine. He still likes mustard on his french fries and got into an argument with me just this morning about the unique talents of Kelly Rowland. Like she seriously outshines Beyoncé." He smiled down at his cup and then back up at them, willing them to understand. "But that's why it's so good. Because it's him."
Tina and Rachel exchanged a little look, and Tina said, "That's how I feel about Mike."
"And that's why I broke up with Jean-Claude," Rachel added, her smile soft as she watched him.
Kurt nodded. It was a strange new perspective for him, to have them connect their feelings with his. He'd been privy to the ups and downs of their relationships for years, but he'd never been fully included. He'd never been able to be, because until now he hadn't been able to share his own experiences back.
"A good relationship makes everything about the two of you that much better," Tina said. "I think you guys will be great together."
It might have been nice to bask in that bit of approval and support, but of course Rachel had to chime in, "Obviously they will be great together. I've been telling you that for months."
"Rachel," Tina said with a laugh.
"I have!" Rachel insisted. "I know, I know, there was baggage." She rolled her eyes, like it had been a minor thing instead of an enduring ache deep in Kurt's heart since the fall. "But I was right."
"Am I supposed to be thanking you?" Kurt asked her dryly.
"You should," she said, crossing her legs and taking a sip of her drink. "I've been trying to give you the push you so obviously needed. And I was right."
That was all of the crowing Kurt could take. The ground beneath this new relationship felt as steady as a rock beneath his booted feet, but he knew it was still paper thin with a lot of scars left on both sides. It wasn't obvious. It wasn't easy. It was fragile, and as good as it felt Kurt knew it had never been a given that they'd even get this far. He could feel his newly liberated heart beating with joy in his chest, but he couldn't take it for granted. He couldn't just get used to having his growing feelings so exposed and on view for everyone to see and critique, even his dear friends. He certainly couldn't let her take credit for the huge leap both he and Blaine had dared to take toward each other without any guarantees. It made him feel raw, like layers were peeled away, like he'd been out in the sun too long or exfoliated too vigorously with his favorite sugar scrub, and he had to push back. "Pardon me if I'm rarely eager to take advice from someone who thinks dusky peach is somehow on trend instead of just unflattering."
Rachel's eyes narrowed at the bite in his voice. "Not all of us are slaves to trends, Kurt."
"Not all of us refuse to listen to people with more knowledge and taste, Rachel." He brushed a piece of lint off of his thigh. "But if you want to look like some sort of demented diner waitress, that's your decision. I can't save you from yourself."
"Hey, we're supposed to be here celebrating Kurt's news," Tina reminded them. "This is a no-bickering coffee."
"Can we make it a no-gloating one, too?" Kurt asked.
"You're right, Tina," Rachel said grandly and set down her coffee on the low wooden table between them. "It's your turn to pour out your heart, Kurt. You've listened to us enough over the years. We are here for you."
Kurt found he wasn't as taken by the idea of sharing his inner feelings as he had been a few minutes ago. "I had no idea girl talk was so draining when you're the one talking," he said, not to mention exposing. These were his friends, not the jeers of the locker room or the pity of his former crushes, but it still didn't sit well in his heart to let it all out in the air. It was something else he'd have to learn to get used to.
"That's why when it's bad news there's usually ice cream," Tina told him with an encouraging pat on his hand. "Or chocolate. The sugar rush helps."
"I don't buy into that myth," Rachel said. "I mean, I've never needed to eat to talk about my feelings."
"You've never needed any help at all to talk about them," Kurt agreed, but he managed to keep it under his breath. He really didn't want to start a fight; he just needed to get out of the spotlight a little, and just thinking that made him stop in shock because it was such a foreign thought. Out of the spotlight?
It was true, though. He didn't need a big light to shine on him - on them, now, on Blaine and him together - because it was about them. It was private. He was going to share things with his friends, because that was what friends did, but he'd always imagined he'd share everything with them, and he realized that he didn't want to. He didn't need to. He was more than happy to make them jealous with Blaine's gentlemanly ways or to commiserate about the way rehearsal schedules for two performers could make getting together difficult. Some things, though, like the sweet light in Blaine's eyes and the breathy moan he made when Kurt kissed just under his jaw, those things were all Kurt's own.
And that's why they were so special, because for once something of another person was his.
"You look really happy," Tina said gently, and Kurt realized that he was sitting there smiling at nothing.
He bit his lip, tried not to show just how fast his heart was pounding, and said, "I am."
Rachel shot him a smug look, but she didn't say 'I told you so," so he counted it as a win.
"Why, Mr. Anderson," Kurt said, his cheeks pink with cold from their unplanned walk across campus and his eyes flashing with something that made Blaine feel suddenly very warm, indeed. He reached out to sweep a few flakes of snow off of Blaine's sleeve. "You left it in your dorm room of all places? If I didn't know you so well, I'd think there wasn't any sheet music at all."
Blaine laughed as he fumbled the key in the lock, but the flirtatious tilt to Kurt's head made him think the idea of pressing Kurt back against the door once it was closed might not be too much too soon. Though he probably ought to get the sheet music first or else he was going to forget it again, and he really did need it.
But after he got it, there definitely should be some kissing, because Kurt was, as always, very, very kissable and touchable, and Blaine would be stupid not to take advantage of it.
Blaine flung open the door and let Kurt precede him into the room, but his dreams of at least a little ravishing were dashed by the figure of Rob sitting cross-legged on his bed in a t-shirt and sweatpants, a huge pair of headphones on his head and connected to his laptop on the mattress in front of him.
"Oh," Blaine said, letting the door swing shut. Somehow he'd totally overlooked the fact that the room might not be empty.
Rob clicked on the trackpad and slid off his headphones. "Hey." He looked at Kurt with interest.
"Kurt, this is my roommate, Rob," Blaine said, his instincts kicking in. "Rob, this is - "
"Kurt," Rob said with a nod. "Yep. We met before." He shrugged. "You're the boyfriend now?"
Kurt's eyebrows raised, but he didn't otherwise flinch. "I am," he said, too calm, like he might be preparing for a verbal blow.
Blaine held his breath and wondered how this was going to go. Rob had been very accepting about him being gay, but it was one thing to have a gay roommate who went to parties and another to have a gay roommate with a boyfriend he'd almost been kissing right in the doorway, even if Rob probably hadn't noticed that part.
"Cool," Rob said. He went to put his headphones back on; he paused with them almost to his ears. "Hey, are you thirsty? We've got drinks."
"I'm not," Kurt replied. "But thank you."
"Cool. Help yourself, any time." Rob smiled at him and went back to whatever it is he was watching.
His pulse thundering in his veins, Blaine scooped up his sheet music from his desk and felt a heady thrill a little like he'd just brought Kurt home to meet his parents, only it had gone well.
5. Review Meeting
Kurt adjusted his grip on the large plastic bin in his arms and tried to use one of its bottom corners to turn the lever handle of the door that led into their rehearsal space. He managed to open it on the third try, and he bumped his elbow against the door and knocked his bag off of his shoulder as he pushed through the doorway. It was just the kind of day he was having; it had started with him spilling coffee on his sleeve at breakfast and forcing him to rush back to change his shirt before his first class, and it would undoubtedly end with the hall bathroom flooding his dorm and a family of ducks taking up residence on his bookcase.
"Great," he muttered at the minor jolt of pain in his arm, but any further complaint was forestalled by finding the lights on inside of the room. He had expected to be at the meeting first, like he almost always was. Had someone else been using the space?
"Kurt!" Blaine said, and Kurt's sour mood couldn't quite resist the sight of his boyfriend hurrying toward him. His spirits lifted like a balloon floating up into the sky. "Let me help."
"What are you doing here?" Kurt asked with a smile he couldn't hold back. He handed over the big bin to Blaine and got his heavy book bag back onto his shoulder. "I thought you were going to be running across campus to make the meeting on time."
"My class let out early, so I ran across campus to get here early instead to help you set up." Blaine smiled back at him, and the warmth in it left Kurt a little breathless. He wasn't used to someone being so happy to see him. He wasn't used to being so happy to see someone else, just to see Blaine's face after a day without him, without there being the pain of rejection beneath it. It felt both wonderful and disconcerting, like the world was a tiny bit off from what he had always known, but not necessarily in a bad way. "Where do you want this?" Blaine hefted the box.
"Oh, just out of the way somewhere," Kurt said, blinking back into himself with a jerk. This wasn't the time or place to get lost in his feelings, even if Blaine looked like a dream in that sweater. "I have to take it back to the costume shop when we're done here." He'd brought his work back to his room the night before to escape the fumes from the set painters that had seeped into his part of the building; avoiding the headache that had been starting to build behind his eyes it had been worth all of the hauling.
"Are these the hats?" Blaine set the bin down by the wall and opened the lid so that he could peer inside. "Wow. You weren't kidding."
"They're hideous." Kurt didn't get any closer; he'd spent way too long checking and reattaching spangles and bugle beads to the fluorescent headpieces for the mid-semester dance recital, and he felt like the colors were burned into his retinas.
Blaine straightened back up. "They really are." And then just like that, like it was the most obvious thing to do, he walked over to Kurt across the tattered grey, tape-stained rug in the dark little box of a rehearsal space and pulled him in for a hug.
It took Kurt's brain a moment to overcome his surprise, but his body knew exactly what to do. He got his arms around Blaine's back, closed his eyes, and breathed him in.
"Hi," Blaine said, the smile in his voice sending shivers up Kurt's spine.
"Hi," Kurt whispered his reply. Blaine had just hugged him. It was okay, but they were in the theater, and he just wasn't used to -
"I've missed you today," Blaine said, just as easily letting him go and stepping back. "We're having dinner after this, right?"
Kurt nodded, the room tilting around him. A little dizzy, he let his bag slide off of his shoulder and set it over by the bin of hats. He began to unbutton his coat.
"Great," Blaine said. "I am in a curly fry mood."
"When aren't you?" Kurt asked, and Blaine just laughed in reply. Kurt drew in a slow breath and tried to focus back on the work at hand. He couldn't let himself get too distracted. "Wait a minute. Where are all of the chairs?" He looked around the room again. The handful of old, paint-spattered, uncomfortable plastic chairs that had been there last week were, in fact, nowhere to be found. "I thought the point of having our own studio was that people wouldn't take things." He sighed and pressed his fingertips to the bridge of his nose. "No, I've been doing theater long enough that I should really know better. Okay." He headed for the door.
"Where are you going?" Blaine asked, trailing after him in confusion.
"To get chairs." Kurt pushed through the door and stalked across the hallway to the little practice room there. Inside were two empty guitar stands, an upright piano, a microphone with its dangling cord hooked up to nothing, and nearly a dozen wooden chairs. "Here we are."
"But these aren't our chairs," Blaine said as Kurt began to stack them.
"They are now."
"But - "
"The performing arts is all about being generous with others, Blaine. Most of the time that means sharing our talents; sometimes it means sharing our furniture." Kurt hefted a stack of three chairs and raised his eyebrows pointedly until Blaine hurried out of the doorway and went to open the door to their room. "Thank you."
To his credit, Blaine was over his unfortunate bout of conscience by the time Kurt had set the chairs down, and he was back in a flash with the rest they needed. Blaine's face lit up in the most warming way when Kurt smiled his gratitude. They were just getting the seats arranged in a circle in the center of the room when the door gradually inched open.
Kurt watched with interest as a head slowly began to appear in the gap.
"Fuck it," Angelica said as soon as she peered inside and saw him looking. She stomped into the room, glaring at them both.
"What's wrong?" Blaine asked.
"You've ruined my day," she told them both.
"But we haven't done anything," Blaine said with some confusion.
She pointed at him and said, "Exactly. Day ruined."
"But - " Blaine began.
"Ruined." Angelica dumped her bag on the floor.
"Give her a minute," Kurt told Blaine, moving another chair into place. "She's working up to it. She can be almost as dramatic as Rachel in her own way."
"Hey, wow," she said, then stopped herself. She put her hands on her hips and thought for a moment. "No, that's fair."
"Sorry," Blaine said with a laugh. "Please go on."
Kurt chuckled to himself and turned to the next chair. They were much nicer than the old plastic ones, sturdier and more attractive; he wondered if there was any way to keep them. There probably wasn't unless he wanted to bolt them to the floor or something, and even then some savvy tech crew member would just go get a wrench.
"You ruined my day, because I was hoping to catch you two in some sort of sexy lip-lock," she said to Blaine, "or maybe find you ravishing Kurt on the floor."
"Excuse me?" Kurt said, narrowing his eyes as a chill went through his blood.
"Oh, don't get all wound up," she told him. "You're pretty, but I've seen this guy's arms, so I'm more interested in sneaking a peek in his direction." She nodded toward Blaine and threw her coat over a chair.
"Kurt has nice arms," Blaine insisted.
"Not helping," Kurt snapped at him, drawing himself up straight. He hated that he couldn't even enjoy the compliment because of the company.
Angelica slung her arm around Blaine's shoulders and said with a shark-like smile, "Please, tell me more about seeing Kurt's lovely bare arms. Start from the beginning. Set the mood. Were there candles?"
Blaine looked over at him with wide eyes, apparently a little slower than Kurt to see the danger beneath her words but quickly catching on. "Well, um - "
"We're not a carnival sideshow for you to ogle," Kurt told her and turned the chair he had been arranging another inch to the left.
Angelica gave Blaine a squeeze. "No, you're two pretty boys who have finally gotten it together, and I'm hoping to take advantage of a few of the perks that come with it, because god knows the puppy dog moon eyes are going to be the death of me."
"This is not about you, Ang," Kurt said. He moved to the next chair.
"I thought everything was about me," she said, but she let go of Blaine. "Besides, you're like newlyweds. You're supposed to be fucking on every surface. You're seriously doing it wrong if you aren't."
"What we are or are not doing is our own business," Kurt told her.
"You are no fucking fun," she replied with a sigh. "Carpe diem, Kurt. No, wait, carpe phallum!"
Kurt clenched his jaw and said, "Yes, because it's so much classier in Latin." His skin felt tight, the muscles of his shoulders and back, too, and it reminded him of walking down the hallways in high school, when he had to be braced for a blow or a mocking comment, because he never knew where it would come from. Of course, now he knew exactly what the source would be, and there was no avoiding her, no matter that he knew she actually did like them.
"I'm a classy bitch," Angelica said. She started to dig around in her bag, and the moment dissolved enough that Kurt could take a slow breath. He didn't need to be tense. She was a friend, more or less. She wasn't trying to be cruel. She was just annoying. "And I'm a classy bitch with an updated set design for the show, so you love me."
"Let me see it, and I'll tell you if that's true," he said and tried to focus on what was important.
The rest of the core Review staff wandered in while Kurt was making suggestions about Angelica's sketches, and if he noticed a few curious looks being cast his way and a smiling high-five from Ethan to Blaine, the meeting itself started normally enough. Blaine had ended up sitting on the other side of the circle between Tina and Ethan, but apart from a little thrill that ran up the back of Kurt's neck when he met his eyes there wasn't anything different about how the group worked.
That was true, at least, until they got to talking about how they wanted to end the first half of the show.
"I still like the idea of a big group number," Tina said. "They really get the audience psyched up for more."
"The only problem will be how many people we have to leave out," Kurt said, looking at the list of performers and acts on the sheet in front of him. "The dancers won't have time to change costumes if we have them right before, and I don't think it makes sense to have them sashay out and have a whole bunch of singers sweep on. It would feel anticlimactic."
"We could end on the dancers," Christa suggested.
"We could cut the dancers," Angelica replied with a grin, and Christa amiably stuck her tongue out at her.
"We could move the dancers," Ethan said, looking at the performance list again.
Kurt held up a hand to forestall the argument that was sure to erupt around that idea. "We are not moving them. The first half of the show is solid, apart from the ending." He privately knew he was still willing to adjust the acts as necessary, but it didn't make any sense to tell any of them that.
"So let's not do a big number," Angelica said, tapping her pen thoughtfully on her notebook. "Let's do something else. Something breathtaking in a different way."
"You could sing an aria," Tina said.
"They won't come back for the second act if we end the first on opera, T," Angelica replied, but she sounded pleased by the suggestion.
"What about a more intimate musical number?" Ethan said. "Two or three people, something simple and strong. We have that music major... what's her name?"
"Amanda?" Ben said, one of the first comments he'd offered the whole meeting. Of course it was about the buxom blonde freshman, Kurt thought with an internal roll of his eyes. But then Ben wasn't a part of the Review because he knew anything about performing; he was there because he understood lighting better than anyone Kurt knew.
Ethan nodded. "Right. Maybe pair her up with someone, do like a medley of fun old time love songs or something. There have got to be plenty that fit within the theme."
"Oh, like Bing Crosby and Rosemary Clooney," Tina said with a dreamy sigh. "They could do a little tap, too."
"They were both more singers than dancers," Christa said.
"It doesn't matter," Tina said.
"Too bad Mike isn't here; that would be perfect for you two," Kurt told her.
"I'm not performing," she reminded him.
"Next year," he said with a grin, and she shook her head at him, grinning right back.
"One of the things I like about Amanda is that she can't dance," Angelica said, biting the cap of her pen.
Kurt looked back at the cast list on his phone, scrolling through the names again like someone new would appear. "We don't have to have dancing," he said. "They could just sing. Maybe Cole Porter."
"I like the idea of dancing, though," Tina said. "Just to give it that extra spark." She punctuated the last word with a perfect little flare of jazz hands.
As the group was laughing, Blaine said, "Kurt and I could do it."
Surprised, Kurt looked over at him sharply. "What?"
"Oh!" Tina said, clapping with excitement.
"We can both dance," Blaine continued, "and he can hit any note Rosemary could. I might have to stretch for Bing's low notes, but maybe we can transpose the key."
"Or pick good places to cut for a mash-up," Angelica said, nodding.
"This could be great," Tina said. "It would be unexpected but definitely fun!"
"The whole thing can be polished and elegant," Blaine said with growing enthusiasm as Kurt wondered what planet he had suddenly found himself on. Not that he didn't like to perform, and he certainly had excellent chemistry with Blaine, but - "Nothing too racy, nothing that people would get upset about."
Kurt could almost picture it, singing across the stage from Blaine, dressed to perfection, their eyes locked on each other, their voices rising together like a wonderful dream.
It would definitely be a show-stopper.
And yet hadn't he been thinking the other day about how he didn't want the spotlight on them?
"Nobody's going to get upset," Angelica said. "This is a theatrical review. If they don't like gays, they should be watching football or something."
"I watch football," Blaine told her, though he sounded more amused than offended.
"Yeah," Tina said with a laugh. "Way to stereotype, Ang."
"You know what I meant," Angelica said with a roll of her eyes.
"I think it would be nice," Christa said. "We could work out some really sweet choreography. Kind of romantic and stuff."
"I could almost get behind that," Angelica said, and Kurt's chest tightened a little.
Tina twisted toward Blaine. "How are you at leading? Or maybe it should be Kurt because he's taller?" She turned to Kurt. "Do you want to lead, Kurt?"
"I don't really care," Blaine added with an easy smile at him that Kurt could just not mirror.
Angelica hmmed to herself and tapped her pen against her mouth. "It'd be pretty either way."
Tina giggled and said, "It isn't only about that."
"It doesn't hurt," Christa said.
Ethan didn't look up from whatever he was doing on his phone. "Something for everyone."
"Kurt, maybe Mike can teach you his signature dip," Tina said. "It always makes my heart beat fast when he sweeps me into it, and I bet it would look great with you two."
With each additional comment, Kurt felt like the air was being sucked out of the room, taking his joy about the idea with it. He loved to perform, but this wasn't just performing. This was something else. This was something more invasive, more pointed.
And he didn't like how it felt at all.
"You could end on that," Christa said. "Freeze on a dramatic dip before the lights go down."
Angelica scribbled something on her notes and flipped to the next page. "Throw in a kiss, and it'll bring the house down," she said absently, like the idea didn't matter at all.
Ben slumped down in his chair and pulled out his phone. "I still think Amanda should sing."
"She can't dance," Christa reminded him. "Kurt and Blaine can."
Kurt finally found his voice. "No."
"Don't sell yourself short, Kurt. You can," Christa said with an encouraging smile. "I've seen you."
"Yes, I know we can, thank you," Kurt replied shortly, "but we aren't doing this."
The energy in the room turned from excitement to confusion as everyone looked at him, and he squared his shoulders.
"Why not?" Tina asked, her brows furrowing.
"It'd be awesome," Angelica said. "You guys could knock it out of the park, turn the whole love trope on its head."
"You said yourself you didn't want to do the obvious this time," Ethan said. "This isn't obvious."
"It's not going to happen," Kurt said. He could see Blaine watching him with growing hurt in his eyes, and he was sorry that it upset Blaine for Kurt to reject his idea, but it was his job to keep things on track, no matter whose suggestion it was. This was a bad one. He could feel it in the twisting depths of his stomach and hear it in the ringing in his ears.
Blaine raised his chin and said, "We sound really good together, Kurt. And you know we could do it."
"I'm sure we could," Kurt said to him, only softening a little as he met Blaine's gaze. He looked away, around the room at the rest of them. "But we aren't singing a duet in the Review."
"Why not? Are you worried about him outshining you?" Angelica asked Kurt in obvious challenge.
"I don't know how you manage to stay on the Dean's List if that's the kind of flawed analysis you use in your classes," he snapped at her, derisive and not rising to the bait.
"I don't see any other reason why you would do it," she said, turning in her chair to face him directly. "It would be a good match of talent, it would be a great twist for the show, and with you guys dating now it'd probably be pretty fucking hot even if you never touch each other."
The light in her eyes made Kurt's skin crawl and his breath go short, and that was the whole reason the idea felt wrong right there. His relationship was not going to be on display like that. It barely existed at all, it was less than a week old, and now it was going to be entertainment? He bit out, "I said no."
"But - " Tina began more gently.
"No," Kurt said again. His personal life could not become part of the performance. It was unthinkable. "I am not doing that."
"Kurt - " Angelica said.
"That's my answer. This is my show, and I will not be singing with Blaine." Kurt looked down at his notes so that he didn't have to look at Blaine, who was watching him silently, his expression carefully blank.
"So it's getting late," Christa said after a few moments of awkward silence, and everyone moved at once from where they had seemed to be frozen in their chairs.
"I'll send out the notes to everyone tonight," Tina said, gathering her papers together and tucking her phone in her pocket.
"I'm going to work on the set design tomorrow, see if I can mock up one of those spinning light things and get together with Ben to see if he can work with it," Angelica said.
Ben nodded. "Make sure you leave room around the bulbs; those things get hot."
"Yeah, I got that the first time you told me," she replied.
"Anyone heading to Warren for dinner?" Ethan asked as he zipped up his coat.
"Me!" Tina said, bouncing toward him. "I have a study group in the quad at nine."
"I'm not even going to ask what you and Blaine are doing," Angelica said to Kurt. "But I bet it'll be fun with you having that kind of attitude."
He continued to pack up his things and didn't look at her. He knew she was annoyed and turning it on him, and he wasn't going to give her what she wanted.
Stuffing her own belongings in her bag with angry movements, Angelica turned toward Blaine as he walked over. "You know, he really should be in a better mood now that you two are hooking up."
Kurt drew in a sharp, angry breath, but before he could speak Blaine said in a level, pleasant tone, "It's time to drop it, Ang."
Angelica looked between the two of them, and some of the fight drained out of her. "Fine. But I still think the duet's a good idea."
"Thanks," Blaine said, and he slid his hands into the pockets of his coat as she picked up her bag and headed out with Tina and Ethan.
"Thank you," Kurt said to him quietly, telling himself to relax. He could handle a few taunts from her. "I'm used to her, but… thank you."
Blaine shrugged. "It was bothering you."
There was an undercurrent of judgment in his tone that didn't sit well in Kurt's chest. "You don't like people talking about you, either," he reminded Blaine and turned away to pick up his coat.
"I don't like people talking behind my back," Blaine said, following after him. "Angelica's doing it to our faces, and she's harmless. Well, not harmless, she's terrifying sometimes, but she means well. She's happy for us. Teasing is how she shows it."
Kurt knew it was never, ever that simple, but he didn't feel like talking about it anymore. It was time for dinner with just the two of them, and he didn't feel like spending his few precious hours together with Blaine rubbing salt in old wounds.
So he just nodded, got his bag over his shoulder, and picked up the bin of hats. "Hold the doors for me?" he asked.
Blaine glanced between his face and the box, but if he was going to argue about who should carry it he decided against it. He got the door instead.
It wasn't until the horrible hats were deposited in the costume office and Blaine could walk next to him as they made their way out of the building instead of rushing ahead to open the next set of fire doors that Blaine brought up the meeting again.
"I understand if you don't like my idea, but I thought you liked singing with me," he said quietly, his hands back in his pockets and his shoulders hunched in a way that made Kurt unsure if he should slide his own hand in the crook of Blaine's elbow or just give him his space.
"I do," Kurt assured him gently.
"Okay," Blaine said, but Kurt knew him well enough to know he wasn't convinced at all.
Kurt took the risk and reached out to tuck his hand through Blaine's arm. "I love singing with you. Of course I do. This has nothing to do with you, Blaine."
"Since it's about singing with me, it kind of feels like it does," Blaine said, still subdued.
"It isn't," Kurt insisted. "You are not the problem. It just isn't what I want the Review to be. It's not what we should be focused on. It's not about you. I promise. If you want to sing those songs with Amanda, you are more than welcome to. I'll be watching you admiringly from the wings."
Blaine looked over at him, searching his face for a moment as they walked, and then he settled his free hand over Kurt's. "Okay," he said again, but this time his body relaxed with the word. He smiled a little, and that meant that Kurt could relax, too.
"Good. And I know what will make you feel even better," Kurt told him, and he laughed a little shakily when Blaine's eyes dropped immediately to his mouth. His stomach did a flip, both at the attention and the promise in it. "Well - I meant curly fries, actually, but..."
Blaine's eyes lit up even more, and he bumped happily up against Kurt's side. "Curly fries first, absolutely," he said. "And then...?"
"And then we shall see where the night takes us," Kurt agreed and led him out of the building toward the Union.
~end part one~
Reminder: I am spoiler free! Please do not spoil me for anything upcoming beyond aired episodes of Glee. Thank you!