Blaine's big sister Robyn plays the cello, and his big brother Willard plays the trumpet. Their parents want each of them to play an instrument for at least a couple of years, so when Blaine is nine years old, he chooses the piano. They have a beautiful rosewood Steinway in their living room that Blaine's mom used to play before she went into real estate. His parents hire him a teacher - the son of one of his mom's friends - who is doing a degree in classical piano at the Lutheran University. His name is Julian Bell, and he is twenty years old.
Unlike Robyn and Will, Blaine has actually always loved to sing and tinker with instruments. He has already got his notes and his basic techniques down from playing with his mom, so Julian starts him out with some easy sonatinas, and they work their way up from there.
Julian teaches Blaine for two hours every Wednesday afternoon, for one year and seven months. Blaine ends up spending a lot of this time sitting next to Julian on the piano stool, watching him while he's demonstrating different chords, speaking softly and touching the Steinway with a tender sort of reverence.
During this time, Blaine notices a lot of things. Julian parts his hair to one side and he always wears button-up shirts. He rolls up his sleeves neatly to his elbows at the beginning of each lesson. He has freckles on the back of his hands that turn smaller and less distinct on the paler skin of his underarms. He holds his breath when he plays the difficult parts, and he always smiles to himself as he lifts his hands from the keys after the last note.
For the first six months, they don't talk about anything but playing the piano, so Blaine knows next to nothing about him, except that Julian will run a hand through his hair or clap him on the shoulder when he is particularly impressed with something, and that he always seems really happy in this quiet sort of way, and that he is easier to talk to than any other grown-up that Blaine has ever met. That he gets this tight, warm feeling in his chest every time he makes Julian smile.
Soon, what Blaine wants most in the world is for Julian to be impressed with him.
He makes sure to be ahead of what Julian has made him practice at home. Katie, his little sister, and her friend Melissa sometimes sit in on him practicing, keeping their promise of being really quiet while he goes through Bach's Prelude in C Major, Beethoven's G Minor Sonata, and Mozart's Fantasy in D Minor - with his sleeves carefully folded up to his elbows.
“Wow, Blaine,” Julian says, visibly impressed, “in a few years, you'll be teaching me.”
They start exchanging a few words after the lessons. Julian is a modern classical man himself, he confesses.
“But don't tell my teachers that,” he laughs.
Blaine starts listening avidly to the neoclassical composers, although he doesn't really get it. His mom is so happy, when she finds him listening to Prokofiev, she buys him several CD compilations and a whole stack of sheet music.
Blaine has been making up music ever since he started on the piano. After Julian has been teaching him for a year, six months and three weeks, Blaine plays him a small, four sheet sonatina that he has written himself. He is so nervous that his hands are shaking, but afterward Julian looks at him in a way that makes his heart thump hard and happy.
“You wrote that all by yourself?”
Blaine nods, still nervous, his voice gone.
“Noone helped you at all?”
A low whistle.
Blaine is so pleased he could laugh out loud. He can feel the joy bubbling in his chest. He hands Julian the sheet paper, crumbling it a little in his tight grip.
“It's yours. I wrote it for you.” He had been afraid to say it before he knew if Julian liked it.
He tries his best not to be giddy and childish about it, but something must shine through his attempt at imitating Julian's even temper - because Julian doesn't stop smiling, but it suddenly looks a little wistful, and for the rest of the lesson he seems preoccupied, stopping in the middle of scale runs to gaze out the window.
When the lesson ends he gathers up his sheet music, hesitating a little before he takes the four sheets covered with Blaine's carefully penciled in notes. He puts a hand on Blaine's shoulder.
“You're a great kid, Blaine. Thank you so much for this.”
Something about the way he says it makes Blaine feel suddenly insecure.
Julian calls his parents the following Monday to tell them that Blaine is really too good for two hours of private tutoring once every week. He asks to get Blaine on the phone, and he says goodbye and good luck in a cheerful voice that sounds a little forced. Blaine doesn't say anything at all.
His parents are so pleased. They put him in advanced classes, and he can tell that they are silently disappointed when he loses interest within the first month, and fails to live up to the potential that Julian saw in him.
At thirteen, Blaine has done piano lessons, tap dancing, football, soccer, choir, tennis and theater. He and Katie go to church camp for a week every Christmas break, and every summer they go to sports camp for two months out of their vacation. In summer, they go to Washington. It's their dad's old camp, and Robyn and Will went there, too, before they got too old.
It's Blaine's fifth time going. That year turns out to be the rainiest summer in Washington in 30 years. It is the year that he and Jake become best friends.
Jacob Choi has always been a part of Blaine's age group, but Blaine never really noticed him before. They've rarely been in the same activities, and Blaine has always hung out with the Mercer brothers and their whole group of friends, meeting up with Katie's group whenever the girls and the guys got together.
But because of all the rain, some of the outdoor activities get canceled. The soccer field is flooded, and the team ends up playing a lot of hackysack in the common rooms. It turns out that Jacob, who is an average midfield player, is a champion at juggling hackysacks. That's how Blaine first notices him. He asks Jake if he'll teach him, and Jake spends the rest of the day showing him different tricks, patiently slowing down and demonstrating every move as many times as it takes for Blaine to get it right.
They're junior campers this year, which means that their whole age group is in one large cabin. Lights out is at ten, but nobody's ready to sleep by then. The counselors patrol the cabins, but most of the time they don't bother to come inside, so a lot of the boys crawl into one bed so that they can whisper or read magazines, or send texts to the girls on the other side of the lake.
Jake has brought an awesome, retro Game Boy, and it gets a lot of attention the first week. All the boys line up to have a go at Super Mario Brothers, jostling to look over the shoulder of whoever is playing. But then Liam comes back from a group trip to Longview with a stack of second-hand Hustler magazines, and everyone forgets about the Game Boy.
Blaine is lying in his bed with the magazine that Liam has graciously given him, trying to make out the pictures in the half-dark, when he notices a faint green light filtering out from underneath Jake's blanket two bunks away.
“Hey,” he whispers, “Jacob, can I borrow your Game Boy? You can borrow my magazine.”
Jake's head pops out from underneath the blanket.
“I don't need the magazine, but, we could play against each other?”
From then on, Jake and Blaine play endless tournaments together, just the two of them, lying side by side in Jake's bottom bunk, underneath the blanket so the counselors won't see the light from the screen.
When the weather permits it, all the campers have half an hour of obligatory swimming in the adjoining lake. Jacob is a junior state champion swimmer. Usually the counselors let him do laps on his own, but this year he spends a lot of time teaching Blaine how to do the butterfly. By the shore the lake is shadowed by trees that lean out over the water. Jake, who is a skinny kid, sometimes freezes so much that he gets blue around the lips, but he never wants to get out of the water, chattering his teeth and laughing at the same time.
Eventually one of the counselors finds a Hustler magazine that someone forgot to hide away. Liam has to go to the camp director's office while she calls his parents, and the nightly cabin checks get a lot stricter. Dodging the ten o'clock lights out becomes a strategic challenge.
Blaine is in Jake's bed, and they're both so wrapped up in Blaine's death match with the boss of level five that they don't hear the door opening and the counselor coming into the cabin. It is Jake who catches a glimpse of his flashlight, and immediately grabs the Game Boy and turns it off. Blaine is about to protest, but then he hears the footsteps and sees the light, too.
The silence seems to simmer with tension as the counselor makes his way down the row of beds.
Blaine squeezes closer to Jake, his heart going a mile a minute. Jake's damp, hot hand slides into his, and they lie quietly while the counselor’s footsteps retreat. Jake's fingers are a little callused from archery practice. In the quiet beneath the blankets, Blaine is all too aware of his own breathing speeding up. He almost can't hear the door closing again for the blood pounding in his ears.
For a long moment, he and Jake lie close together, breathing, before the room erupts in relieved giggling and people whispering, several boys getting out of beds and tip-toeing back to their own. Jake lets go of Blaine's hand and Blaine reluctantly slides out from the blankets, making his way back to his bunk.
They don't talk about it, but the next time Blaine joins Jake for a game, he slides a little closer than he would have before. When it's Blaine's turn to play, Jake rests his chin on Blaine's shoulder and tangles their legs together as he watches.
The camp does a musical skit show at the end of every season, where the senior and junior campers get a chance to poke a fun at the counselors and other kids. It's kind of a big deal, something that the younger kids talk about weeks before.
Blaine auditions with 'Everybody Wants to Be a Cat,' complete with a little tap sequence that he choreographed himself. They give him the lead role even though he's not even a senior yet. It's the first time that's ever happened. When he tells Jake, full of wonder, Jake just says: “I get it, though, of course you should have the lead. You're the best one here.”
It's the biggest compliment anyone has ever given him. Somehow, the show becomes all about Jake, from then on. About Jake liking it.
On the opening night Blaine feels giddy and shaky - so happy he can't contain it one moment, and the next he's scared senseless. Because the girls are there to watch the show, everyone is watching, and he is playing the lead - and all he can think of is Jake in the third row, clapping and smiling up at him when the cast comes out to bow for the second time - and how, when he looks at him, Blaine feels like the whole world is going to burst at the seams, like it's just all too much to contain.
The show marks the end of the season. The sun comes out on the last day of camp. Everyone helps clean out the cabins and pack all the equipment up for next year. Allison, Lacey and Sarah have all made their brothers give Blaine their email addresses. The juniors have their group photo taken, and Blaine makes sure to stand next to Jacob.
“Hey,” Katie says, when they join up to go home, “we'll be back next year. Don't be sad.”
One of the staff is going to take Blaine and Katie to the airport and get them on their plane. They're walking out to his car when Jake comes running after them.
He hands Blaine a note, looking a little shy. Blaine unfolds it, and it's Jake's address and phone number.
“It's our home phone. You know, so we can talk. On the phone.”
Jake is fidgeting with the hem of his faded t-shirt. Blaine steps in and hugs him.
He can't stop thinking about that on his way home, reliving that moment: The late summer sun in his eyes, the smell of hot asphalt and pine trees, and Jacob's heart beating hard and fast against his.
He calls Jake after two days. His dad has a cordless phone in his study, so Blaine camps out in the corner between the wall and the couch, slowly untangling a thread from the tassels of the sofa as he and Jake talk for ninety-seven minutes.
For the next several months, they call each other regularly. They talk for hours at a time. The static on the line from Thousand Oaks to Seattle is a faint background whisper as they talk about all sorts of things: their families, their friends, how they'll be seniors next year, and then the year after they can be junior counselors. How, maybe, if they both save up their allowance, they can split it for a plane ticket in the spring.
Katie gets jealous after a while.
“We could have gone in the pool before dinner, if Blaine hadn't been on the phone with his stupid boyfriend for two hours,” she complains when their mom tells her that they can't go swimming on a full stomach.
Blaine goes cold all over, staring down at his quiche and salad.
“Kathryn, please,” their mom says sharply, before talking a deep breath. “Don't talk like that,” she finishes, in a more restrained voice.
“Sorry, Mom.” Even Katie looks a little shocked.
It's March when Jake tells him. “Dad doesn't want me coming back for senior year. They say it's a waste of money. They're sending me to a swim camp, instead.” Neither of them say anything for a long time, but they don't hang up. Blaine stares at the seconds ticking away on his father's clock while he listens to Jacob breathing on the other end of the line.
Senior year is the last year of camp. It is supposed to be the celebratory year. Joe and Nick Mercer magnanimously decide to forgive Blaine for being a killjoy last year, and let him rejoin the group, and it's not an awful summer. It's a good enough summer, he supposes.
There's this guy at Blaine's new high school. His name is Ricky. Blaine has never talked to him, but all the students at East Rapids High know who Ricky is, even the freshmen.
Blaine joined a bunch of school activities straight away. One of them is the school choir. They have rehearsals in the gym, and a lot of the time Ricky will be down at the other end of the room, doing these weird and otherworldly stretches by the bars, alone.
One afternoon, the choir is practicing a rendition of “Shower the People,” and in between the power notes Blaine keeps getting distracted by the noise of the floor creaking. Out of the corner of his eyes he sees that Ricky is dancing, turning and jumping on bare feet, in a tempo set to music in his headphones. After a while, their director notices as well.
Everyone stops singing. Down the other end of the gym, Ricky does a series of graceful and complicated spins, oblivious.
Ricky finally turns around and sees everybody watching him. He pulls his headphones down around his neck, breathing hard. Even from this distance, Blaine can see his face changing, closing off from the free, focused expression he wore while he was dancing.
“Keep it down,” the teacher says gruffly.
"Sure, of course.” He might as well have told the teacher fuck you, by the tone of his voice. He strides out to the bar to put on his shoes, and while the director starts them up on the bridge once more, they hear the door slam hard as Ricky leaves the gym.
The director lifts his eyebrows, and a few of the other kids titter before going back to singing. Blaine keeps forgetting the lyrics for the rest of the lesson.
Everybody knows who Ricky is. He's not like anyone else in school. He wears tight jeans and knee high leather boots and wrap around cardigans. He ties his hair back with scarves or bandanas. Sometimes he wears make-up, a little bit of black around his eyes, dark nail polish. Blaine thinks he's beautiful. But he's not going to tell anyone that.
Ricky is bullied a lot.
Everyone at school stares at him, but Blaine has noticed that Ricky himself never seems to see anyone. It's like he's put himself in this bubble where the whole school is his, and noone else matters.
The choir performs “Shower the People,” along with “Heal the World” for spring assembly. Afterward Mrs Jameson, the performing arts teacher, takes the stage. “And now, one of our senior students wishes to perform something for us.”
There's a murmur of voices in the audience as a piece of classical music starts playing from the loudspeakers.
Blaine and the rest of the choir have resumed their seats in front row, so Blaine has a clear view of Ricky Abrams when he steps onto the stage. He looks tense down to the way his toes are curled in against the floor. Next to Blaine, Jason leans away to whisper something to Sandra.
On the stage, Ricky takes a deep breath and starts dancing.
Blaine has been singing in choirs and performing in musicals since he was little. He can recognize the feeling of transformation that he also gets when he walks onto a stage in the way that Ricky relaxes as soon as his feet slide into the first position. Ricky is dancing like someone who knows every bone and muscle in his body, and what each of them can do. Blaine wishes he could be like that - so in control, and so sure. He is happy about being in the choir, but he has no illusion that they sound like anything but a high school choir. Ricky dancing is like nothing he's ever seen.
He is on the edge of his seat, so caught up in Ricky dancing that he flinches when he suddenly feels a few drops of water sprinkling down on him, and looks up just in time to see a McDonald's cup sail over his head. It lands with near perfect precision right next to Ricky, splashing him with soda.
There's scattered laughter across the crowd, a few gasps. The teacher standing by the wall frowns and casts a searching glance across the rows of students, but he doesn't move. Blaine sits, stunned.
Ricky just keeps dancing. Blaine doesn't see him hesitate for a moment.
There is strength and precision in his every step. He gracefully avoids the spreading puddle of liquid on the floor, as if it's not even there. The moment the music stops, he walks off the stage without acknowledging the crowd.
Blaine notices that his own hands are in fists by his sides. He almost feels like he could cry.
There's a prolonged moment of silence. Then someone starts clapping, and it spreads slowly, hesitantly. Blaine elbows Jason until he joins in, but the ovation is short and perfunctory, and soon everyone is on their feet, headed for the exit.
The next day in school, Blaine happens to be by his locker when Ricky enters the hallway. Defiance is written in his every movement as he walks down the hallway, stealthily ignoring the catcalls and the slowly spreading, mocking applause started by some of the varsity players.
Jimmy, one of his teammates from soccer, notices Blaine watching. Jimmy's eyes follow Ricky down the hall. “Poor guy, huh?” he says offhandedly.
Ricky, back straight, head high, disappears around the corner.
”Yeah,” Blaine says, after a beat, turning towards his locker “Poor guy.”
Ricky graduates that year and goes on to join the Anaheim Ballet Summer Intensive on a full scholarship. Blaine never works up the nerve to talk to him.
He starts dating Carrie in the early summer of his freshman year. They meet on the debate team and agree to date after a fierce debate on health insurance vs. free healthcare that has the rest of the team up on their feet and applauding by the end. He thinks that she's pretty awesome, after that, and he kind of likes making out with her - she's really good at it, and when he kisses her ear she does this breathless little giggle that he finds very charming.
He is wildly infatuated with her brain, the way she can run him around in circles on most topics. This is the first time that he's wanted to date a girl, and he feels kind of relieved and surprised at the same time. He wants it to work.
People keep telling him how adorable they are together, and he can't figure out how to respond to that. Mostly, they walk hand in hand down the hallway, sit together for lunch, and meet up on Wednesdays to watch The Daily Show and make out afterward.
They break up when she confesses that she's fallen in love with Joey Kostopoulos. Blaine's heartbroken for about eight days. But, in the end, almost nothing changes between them. Except that they don't hold hands in the hallway, and they don't make out after The Daily Show, anymore.
Alex J. Petersen
At the beginning of his sophomore year, Blaine has a shelf for his sports trophies above his desk. He has a diploma from the debate team hanging over his bed, along with a framed picture of him and Sienna Lambert as Rolf and Liesl in the school production of The Sound of Music.
During summer break he's been thinking a lot about Ricky and Jacob and Julian, and what he felt for Carrie Brickle.
He went out to Triunfo Creek Park alone and spent his days mountain biking with his iPod blasting music into his ears. He stopped when his calf muscles started trembling. He lay back in the dry grass, gasping, and in the silence he thought about Ricky Abrams dancing, brave and sure and beautiful.
He's trying to figure it out. He doesn't talk to anyone about it, but underneath his bed, in a shoebox, he has a couple of issues of Out magazine, and a small collection of gay themed movies that he bought online.
There is nowhere to go with those kinds of questions in his town, but he finds out that there's a gay-straight alliance youth choir in the Santa Monica Community Center. It's a forty minute drive from Westlake Village, so he has to ask to borrow a car.
“Another choir?” his dad asks when Blaine proposes it at dinner one night.
Blaine swallows nervously. “I like to sing.”
His father takes drink of water, and Blaine waits, his hands carefully folded in his lap so he won't fiddle with his knife and fork.
“And your other extracurricular activities?”
“Soccer is Wednesdays and Sunday evenings, the school choir is Mondays, debate team is Tuesdays. This is Friday.”
“Will you still have time to do your homework?”
“I'll make sure it doesn't interfere with my grades,” Blaine says, breathing out.
The first time he goes there, he stands outside the center on the other side of the road for 20 minutes before going in. It gets easier after that. There are 16 girls and seven guys in the choir. Blaine's the youngest one there. He sings tenor along with Darryl, Kenji and Josh.
Alex sings bass. After six weeks, Blaine is pretty sure that he is not just imagining it when he catches Alex looking at him from the other side of the stage.
Eventually, during a break, Alex stops himself from ranting about Rufus Wainwright, and casts a furtive glance at the others standing a few feet away before saying, “By the way, do you, like, want to hang out sometime?” and when Blaine hesitates for a second, he adds in a rush: “You are gay, right?”
Alex is not smooth, but that doesn't matter so much to Blaine. Alex is goofy and kind, and really good-looking.
It takes them three dates and half of Beautiful Thing, sitting together on Alex's couch, before Alex leans in and kisses him. Blaine's heart is dancing around in his chest.
He skips the debate team every Tuesday afternoon to drive to Santa Monica and spend three hours alone with Alex in his house while his mom is still at work. They mess around. A lot. Alex kisses him eagerly and slips a hand up under his shirt to stroke over his sides. Sometimes all Blaine can do is lie there and gasp, and want so much that he doesn't know what to do with himself. He goes bright red the first time Alex pulls him on top so their hips are nestled against each other and moving in tight little thrusts while they kiss.
He never figures out whether someone's seen him at the youth center or how it happens, but this is around the time when the rumors start at school.
He and Katie are doing their homework, sitting cross-legged on the thick living room carpet with the coffee table and a pile of mini marshmallows between them. Katie, who is in freshman year, looks up from her homework. “Blaine... are you gay?”
She looks away, fidgeting with the pen in her hand. “I don't mind if you are, just, some girl at school said she thought you might be.”
That's how he finds out that people are talking.
He laughs at first, because he doesn't know how else to react. But then Katie stretches out her leg under the table to tug at the fabric of his pants with her bare toes, and he just nods.
“Do you have a boyfriend?”
He hesitates. ”Sort of.”
He and Alex have never called each other that, and somehow Blaine doesn't really feel like they are.
Katie smiles. “You're my favorite big brother, you know.”
She's grown ridiculously pretty the last couple of years, especially when she smiles.
“In this state, at least,” she adds with a laugh, playing it safe since Will's at Georgetown.
The guys from the debate team have been short with him ever since he quit without explanation. Jimmy and Trey from soccer try to set him up with Trey's sister and get annoyed when he refuses. He starts noticing that some of the jocks are looking at him kind of hostile.
He doesn't mind too much. He's always really happy when he's at Alex's place. Jacob Choi made his heart clench up, but mostly Alex just makes him laugh a lot. They don't talk much. They play computer games and jam on Alex's guitars and watch TV. Alex has a massive couch. Blaine can lie stretched out on his back on it with no problem. Alex slides his shirt up and kisses his belly, slides an awkward hand into his trousers, and Blaine doesn't want to think about anything else but the two of them, right there on the couch with MTV on mute.
He tries not to think about how the hostility at school slowly progresses from someone sticking used gum on his locker, to trash dumped on his car, to someone spitting him on the neck as he walks through the crowd in the hallway.
The thing is, he kind of knows who they are, the instigators: Seniors Jared and Pete, and sometimes three or four of the guys from football who're probably thrilled to get a chance to give someone from the soccer team crap, since there's a not entirely friendly competition going on between them. But that's not what hurts him the most.
It's like everybody else don't even see it happening. Like they don't care. He's never felt so alone before in his life.
He knows that Katie must hear about some of it, but she doesn't say anything until he involuntarily flinches away from being touched, one day, when she pounces on him in the hall. His reaction makes the smile fall off her face. She lets go of him.
“Blaine, please tell Mom and Dad,” she says in a low voice.
Blaine thinks of Ricky Abrams walking down the hall with his head held high. “No, I just have to stick it out, until they forget about me.”
He sticks it out until the day someone throws a gym shoe at him while he is walking across the yard on his way to choir practice. It hits him right in the mouth. His breath is knocked out of him, and he's on his knees all of a sudden. Somewhere there's a couple of guys hooting, but he can't tell where.
Just keep dancing, he thinks grimly to himself, trying to get back on his feet. But then he sees blood dripping on the ground in fat splotches.
He checks clean for concussion, but his lip needs two stitches.
“Oh,” the school nurse says, “I'm sure it was just an accident.”
The principal says the same thing.
It makes him so angry. He's been teased once in a while - like everyone else - for being an overachiever, being on the debate team, or in the choir, or that one embarrassing time when his music teacher insisted that he performed his homework composition for the entire class. But no one has ever really given him a hard time about anything, because he's never done anything wrong. And he still hasn't.
“I haven't done anything wrong,” he says to his parents, feeling like a child, when he has to explain the stitches that evening.
“But I don't understand, why are they bullying you all of a sudden?”
Across the table, Katie's eyes are shining with tears. Blaine can't look at any of them, so he looks down at his open hands on the table. They're a little scratched from where he braced himself on the pavement.
“I think... Because... Because I'm gay.” His voice breaks a little. The whole situation is excruciating. They never talk about these kinds of things.
“Oh, sweetie.” His mom reaches across the table and covers his hand with her own. The last time he cried in front of her, he was nine years old.
That night, his parents come into his room just as he is going to bed. His father is carrying a fat manila folder. His mother is smiling gently. They sit him down, and his mother puts a hand on his knee and says: “Your dad and I have been talking and we think we have a solution.”
It turns out that they had been discussing putting him and Katie in private schools next year. They'd already been gathering information and estimating the costs, ever since his mother got a promotion two months back.
“The Westlake schools aren't bad, but we think you kids deserve better,” his mother says.
They have brought material on a couple of schools that have expansive harassment policies and ask him to look it over.
As they stand to leave, his dad hesitates before touching him briefly on the shoulder. “We don't have a problem with this. It's okay, Blaine. You know that, don't you?”
It doesn't feel okay. Blaine nods anyway.
He tells Alex the next Tuesday. He waits until he is standing outside Alex's door, ready to leave. Alex's lips are red and a little swollen. He smoothed down Blaine's hair with his fingers, laughing, before he let Blaine get out the door. He's just about to close it when Blaine says: “So. I'm going to go... to another school. In Ohio.”
Alex stops himself mid-movement. “What? When?”
Alex looks stricken.“Why didn't you tell me before?”
Blaine doesn't quite know the answer to that, himself.
“I guess was trying to forget about it,” he says eventually.
He shifts on his feet, uncomfortable. He feels hopelessly clueless. He hadn't thought that Alex would care so much. But Alex is biting his lips, and then he steps out on the cold concrete in his socks to pull Blaine into a tight embrace.
He can feel Alex taking deep, shaky breaths against him, and he realizes that there are probably a lot of things that he never knew about him.
They hug for a long time. Blaine's cold and he's sure that Alex must be too, but he doesn't want to say anything to make them break apart.
A week later, he leaves for Dalton Academy in Westerville, Ohio.
His parents hug him and tell him to be good and to do well. Katie holds on to him for the longest time, and when she finally pulls away she is crying.
Blaine is home from Dalton for summer break.
It's been a year and a half since he came out to the entire student body at Dalton Academy and a year and five months since Wes and David headhunted him for the Warblers, insisting that he was exactly the kind of guy they needed in the group.
He is still in the choir. He plays soccer with the Dalton Academy Eagles. He still struggles with chemistry and physics. He no longer flinches when people shout his name across the hall or playfully punch him in the shoulder when they think he's being stupid.
He's been on five dates with three different guys, and when he came back from them, the other guys at school actually wanted to hear how it went (which varied from pretty good to catastrophic, but hey).
Now, he is standing at domestic arrivals in LAX, twirling his car keys around his index finger, waiting for Kurt Hummel to arrive from Ohio.
It's been nine months since Kurt Hummel transferred to Dalton. He came into the Warblers and auditioned for a solo with a show tune. He makes inappropriate jokes. He sometimes throws hissy fits that he has to make awkward apologies for afterward. He makes Blaine say stupid things sometimes, but only because Blaine is struggling to express ideas that he's never been able to discuss with anyone, before.
He's been making Blaine come home with him most weekends, and has forced him to learn how to cook Kurumi-ae and how to change the oil on his car. He hums softly under his breath when he's concentrating on something.
Right before summer break, Kurt went on two dates with Benjamin Whyte, and Blaine very secretly hated it. It's been dawning on him that maybe his feelings for Kurt aren't quite as fraternally friendly as he wanted them to be.
The plane's arrival is announced on the speakers, and soon people start milling out into the terminal lobby. Blaine spots Kurt long before Kurt sees him.
Noone who's just spent six hours crammed into a domestic airplane should be able to look as neat and unruffled as Kurt does. Among all the suited businessmen and brightly dressed tourists he looks lost and alien - and startlingly handsome - in his cherry blossom shirt and checkered trousers. He is carrying one suitcase and trailing a trolley after him that Blaine guesses he must have paid some pretty heavy overweight fees for.
Kurt's eyes actually drift over him twice without recognition. Once they finally lock eyes across the lobby, Kurt mouth falls open, obviously surprised.
Blaine looks down at himself, and realizes why. His two uniform jackets and two pairs of trousers and five white shirts are hanging pressed and ready for next school year in his closet. He pretty much hasn't been out of the house all week, lazing around with Katie and her friends, so he is in his flip flops and board shorts, and his old choir shirt that has a tear by the collar.
He had been so preoccupied with getting to the airport in time, and worrying about finding his way and navigating the freeway traffic, that he'd completely forgotten to change clothes. He runs a hand through his hair - he was in the pool this morning and he didn't fix his hair, after. He tries to straighten it out a little, but it's too late to be embarrassed now.
Kurt walks over, and Blaine pulls him into an embrace. His clothes and skin are still cool from the airplane AC.
“Hey,” he says, giggling softly in Blaine's ear before pulling away. Blaine can almost hear the 100 sarcastic comments regarding his clothes that Kurt is tactfully repressing.
He pulls at the hem of the faded t-shirt and looks pointedly at him. “No comment? None at all?”
Kurt is smirking, but he mimes zipping his lips shut, and doesn't say a word.
When they talked about the possibility of Kurt visiting during break, Kurt confessed that he hadn't been out of Ohio since he was twelve – so once they're in the car, Blaine lets him look his fill while he gets them away from airport traffic and back on the freeway. Kurt's eyes are bright in the California sun as he leans this way and that, trying to see everything on their way.
Blaine keeps stealing glances. It feels so surreal to see Kurt here, away from Dalton. It's not even that Blaine hasn't had any of his Ohio friends visit before. David had flown out, earlier in the summer. But Blaine doesn't have a growing crush on David, so maybe that's why it seems so different.
He feels a little uncomfortable about Kurt's open-mouthed expression as they pull into the driveway. He has spent so many weekends at Kurt's family's house that he knows about the leaky faucet in the downstairs bathroom, the draft from the upstairs windows, and the damp, concrete basement where Burt and Carole are keeping the last unopened boxes from the move. Suddenly his own family's three-car garage, the neatly-coiffed front lawn with its palm trees, and the wide terracotta stairs leading up to the arched double doors seem pompous and excessive. He cringes a little in his car seat.
But Kurt just slides him an amused look.
“Ooh. Very 90210,” he says with a crooked smile, and Blaine laughs.
Katie and her friends are in the kitchen, listening to Katy Perry and making an unfathomable amount of sandwiches. Blaine introduces Kurt to everyone, and Katie shakes his hand with a bright, almost scarily pleased smile. Blaine cringes a little. If he had known that Katie would actually end up meeting Kurt, maybe he wouldn't have gushed about him on the phone so much.
His parents, who are oblivious most of the time, did make sure to have a bed made up for Kurt in Willard's old room, even though Katie's friends are sleeping on mattresses in hers. Blaine helps him up the stairs with the two suitcases.
Afterward, he takes him on a tour of the house. When they reach the living room, Kurt walks straight over to the Steinway. Blaine holds his breath while Kurt reaches down, skimming his fingers lightly over a couple of keys. He's told Kurt about his short career as a classical pianist - one time when they were alone in Burt's auto shop fixing a tire - and he's told him about Julian Bell.
Kurt reaches up to brush his hair out of his eyes.
“Julian.” His voice is soft and pensive.
They stare at each other for a long moment.
It took a while (and, embarrassingly, Kurt reminding him) for Blaine to realize that they're actually the same age. Since Blaine dropped his botched attempt at being a mentor, they've kissed twice. Once, chastely, for a stupid repeat game of spin the bottle, and once, this time both illegally tipsy, in the backyard of Sam Evans' house. Back then, they had both agreed that the kiss had been a mistake. Lately, Blaine hasn't felt so sure about that.
“Anyway... That way's the atrium. Most useless room ever.” Blaine points, needing to break the tension.
The atrium is sweltering. It looks out onto the backyard pool. Kurt stares longingly out the windows.
“Gosh, I haven't gone swimming since Speedos were actually considered acceptable swimwear.”
“Really? I love swimming.”
“Me too, but the public pool wasn't exactly the friendliest of settings.” He pulls a face, and Blaine gets where he's coming from. Kurt has told him about his childhood, too.
They're in the middle of a California heatwave. In the sun, the temperature is in the hundreds.
“Hey, let's go swimming right now,” Blaine says, pleased to be able to offer this.
Kurt seems a little hesitant - like maybe he doesn't think it's the awesome idea that Blaine does - but he agrees. Blaine finds him a swimsuit and shows him where to change.
When Kurt emerges from the house, Blaine is sitting by the pool with his feet in the water. It becomes suddenly very clear to Blaine that he maybe hadn't thought this through. They don't have gym together at Dalton, and Kurt looks shy and insecure as he steps out onto the tiles in bare feet, Blaine's swim trunks and a t-shirt.
“Hi,” he says, needlessly.
“Hi,” Blaine echoes, trying hard for casual, while Kurt walks over to deposit his t-shirt on one of the lounge chairs lined up on the patio.
Kurt looks a little bugeyed.
Blaine already stripped out of his shirt, and now he feels ridiculously self-conscious about his body, the sprinkling of hair across his chest and trailing down below his belly button that Kurt seems weirdly fixated on.
Kurt on the other hand, is smooth and white and slender. He is more athletic looking than Blaine would have expected, although it shouldn't've come as a surprise since Kurt has been doing 5k runs every morning with the Dalton track team. No tan lines, no chest hair - he is pink and pale all over.
“You're going to need some waterproof sunscreen,” Blaine says awkwardly. Kurt looks down at himself and then back up. Blaine can see an uneven blush spreading across the pale skin of his chest.
He curses himself, once again, for being epically clueless.
Thankfully, the moment passes when Katie and her friends join them a few minutes later. This is how Blaine's been spending most of the last weeks: swimming, basking in the sun, and playing beach ball volley with Katie's friend Twila, who has a wicked serve.
Kurt slides cautiously into the water at first, but soon he is talking and laughing along with everybody else.
Blaine's aware that he keeps looking at Kurt's lips like a dork, but he loves the way Kurt smiles - the way it looks like he hasn't been used to it for a while, like he's a little surprised every time someone teases it out of him.
It's Katie's turn to set the tables for dinner before their parents come home, so when the sun starts setting the girls disappear inside.
Kurt is floating in one corner of the pool, clutching a boogie board across his chest and looking up at the sky. Blaine can't resist doing a couple of laps of the butterfly. When he finishes, grabbing the ledge with one hand and wiping his face with the other, he sees that Kurt is watching him from across the pool.
“Is there anything you're not good at?”
Blaine wants to protest, because there're so many things that he's not good at – this thing between them being right at the top of the list. He opens is mouth to say something, but then he catches Kurt's eye, and realizes that Kurt knows that, because Kurt knows him.
The sky is turning a warm pink, and the temperature has dropped so that the pool water with its stored heat seems almost warmer than the air.
Blaine swims over to grab hold of the other side of the boogie board. The sound of the water lapping up against their bodies is quiet and calming. Kurt's toes are brushing up against his under the water.
“Your parents are so laid back. I can't believe they just let you and Katie have all these people over.”
Kurt told him about what happened that time that Blaine spent the night in his bed and Burt found him there the next morning.
“Your parents let me come over almost every weekend,” Blaine interjects, “and mine aren't that laid back, either... They did make up a bed for you in Will's old room.” He cracks a smile. Kurt catches his drift and blushes a little.
“Actually, my dad gave me The Speech in the car on the way to the airport,” he admits.
It sets off a slow warm roll in Blaine's stomach. “But he knows we're just friends,” he protests weakly, “anyway, you're seeing someone...”
He doesn't mean for his voice to go up at the end of that sentence, making it sound like a question, but. Kurt's hands are wrapped around the edge of the board on either side of him, almost like an embrace, and their faces are maybe a foot apart - and somehow the moment seems pregnant with possibilities.
“Who, Benjamin?” Kurt shrugs, grimacing, “no... Way too much tweed.”
It is quiet except for the distant sound of traffic. Katie and her friends can faintly be heard inside the house. Blaine and Kurt stare at each other.
There's a short, sweet moment of hesitation before they both lean forward. The board squeaks a little. Blaine has goosebumps. Kurt's right hand hovers over the skin on his arm, tickling against the raised hairs.
And then they're kissing.
It's soft and chaste. Kurt smells like summer skin and, faintly, like chlorine. They part after a second. Blaine can feel Kurt's breath skating over his face, and when he opens his eyes, Kurt is right there, eyes wide open, eyelashes dark from the water.
“I have the biggest crush on you,” Blaine blurts out, more honest than he has dared to be in a long time.
“I know. I mean--” Kurt's eyes widen; he blushes so easily. “Me too.”
This time he is not the only one blushing, though. Blaine is just about to say something more, but then he hears a car pulling into the driveway and Katie calls his name from inside the house. Dinner will be ready in 30 minutes and his parents will disapprove if they're not properly dressed to sit down at the table by then.
He pulls away with regret. “We need to get ready for dinner.”
Kurt blinks. Twice. “Oh. Okay.”
They don't speak, and they hardly look at each other while they quickly towel off and pull their t-shirts over their heads. There's a silent promise that they won't speak about this before they have the time and the privacy to do so.
They are on the stairs before Blaine has a moment of mild panic. He is looking at the back of Kurt's neck, long and graceful, a few licks of damp hair clinging to his skin. And suddenly he realizes that this time it's different, this time they are definitely moving beyond the safe, friendly zone that they've so carefully maintained ever since Kurt had his heart broken a little at the very start of their friendship.
He grabs Kurt’s hand briefly in the hallway before they can go to their separate rooms to shower and get dressed.
He doesn't really know what to say, and he can hear his father right downstairs in the hallway, complaining to someone on the phone, but Kurt seems to get it, giving his hand a squeeze before turning away.
Blaine has 20 minutes to get ready for dinner, and he certainly doesn't want to make Kurt wait alone with his family. But he is also a teenager, and he just kissed the boy he is in love with for the third – but really, first - time. He takes a little longer in the shower than he meant to.
When he finally comes down the stairs, Kurt has been seated between his Mom and Dad, and he's looking a little wild-eyed. Katie is in the middle of some obscure story about competition hairdressing. Blaine can tell that she's been working hard to deflect the attention from Kurt. He shoots her a grateful look as he sits down as close to Kurt as possible.
Dinner takes forever, and Blaine cringes in sympathy as Kurt tries to navigate his parents' extensive interrogation.
Katie and her friends, being either obnoxious or (more likely) oblivious, drag them off for a six round Singstar tournament after they've finished with desert. It is fun though, and he and Kurt keep catching each others' eyes across the rest of the group in a way that makes Blaine skip notes and lose points. Blaine and Katie are competing for first place against Melissa and Twila when he notices that Kurt is nodding off in the sofa, and guiltily realizes that he'd forgotten about the time zone difference.
He walks him to Will's room, which feels kind of silly, since it's three doors down from his own. Kurt looks drowsy and confused. Blaine wants to reach out and brush his hair out of his eyes, but he's still anxious.
The door closes softly. Blaine stands still outside it until the sound of his mom or dad moving through the house downstairs startles him into walking away.
Two hours later, Blaine is lying on his back in his bed with the blankets kicked away, when there is a quiet knock on the door. He makes his way through the room in darkness.
Kurt is standing in the hallway in a pair of soft looking yoga pants and and a gray, torn-neck sweatshirt. He doesn't look so sleepy anymore.
“You know what, I don't think we're going to screw it up,” he says without preamble.
It takes Blaine a moment to mentally rewind to a conversation they had in a coffee shop, six months ago, and then revisited lying on the cool, damp grass in Sam's backyard a couple of months later.
“Can I come in?”
Blaine's throat is dry and his pulse is going a thousand miles a minute. He wets his lips, and then he sees Kurt following the movement with his eyes, sees him blink slowly before looking back up.
It sends a quick wave of heat rushing through his chest and all the way down to his stomach, and God. Blaine's pretty much never been more nervous, but it's good. It's such a good thing, and no, they won't screw this up. He trusts Kurt on this, because Kurt is one of the people in the world who knows him best.
Blaine reaches out and puts a hand on Kurt's neck, pulling him in. Kurt tastes like toothpaste and his tongue is slick and sweet and tentative against Blaine's. They're both breathing shakily, and Blaine is hyperaware of Kurt's hand resting lightly on his hip. He spreads his fingers in Kurt's hair, letting them slide back to fist loosely in the hair at the nape of his neck. Kurt makes a tiny, soft little sound against his lips at that, and Blaine has to stop the kiss. He presses his forehead against Kurt's while he catches his breath.
And then he lets go completely, and steps aside, to let Kurt into his room.