Spoilers: Up to 2.22
Warnings: Homophobia, mentions bullying.
Disclaimer: RIB and FOX own everything ever.
Beta and dispenser of Samcedes wisdom: rdm_ation on LJ
Blaine had a system for making and keeping friends, and the only problem with his system was Kurt Hummel. Since coming to Dalton and being able to meet people without worrying that they were planning on introducing his back to a Kick Me sign, he had implemented this system along with his personal makeover into a confident, popular, friendly young man. It was beautiful in its simplicity: with each person, he found a niche.
Everyone had something they were enthusiastic about but didn’t feel like the people around them really got. Blaine got these things. He got David’s investment in playing the piano, and Thad’s obsession with top 40s music, and – after several sleepless nights with a guidebook – he got Trent’s love affair with Myst. From these solid foundations friendships were born, fights weathered, distances bridged.
And then there was Kurt. Blaine had started out with a ready-made niche there. Kurt needed a gay mentor, so Blaine had done his best to... well, sing, dance, and bluff his way through being one.
But now they were boyfriends, which meant that being a gay mentor was sort of cheating and some kind of conflict of interest; also Kurt didn’t need a mentor of late. Which was fine. Blaine just needed a new niche.
The first time he and Kurt went out with Mercedes, she had almost fallen asleep on her plate when the subject turned to Vogue. Poor Kurt, he had thought. Trapped in Lima, Ohio without one single person who understands the art of fashion. So, naturally, he decided now that he would be Kurt’s fashionable friend.
This did not work out.
“So,” Kurt said as he flipped through a rack of half-off sweaters, “what exactly are we shopping for? Any particular occasion I should be aware of?” He plucked one sweater out and examined it before holding it up for Blaine’s appraisal.
Blaine, who had seen the exact moment Kurt dismissed it, made a face and shook his head. “Too dark,” he muttered, “it’d wash you out” and Kurt smiled at him and put it back.
“Oh,” Mercedes said, “You know. Just... summer fun. I want to look too hot to stop when we go out partying, is all.”
“Ah, yes.” Kurt rolled his eyes. “All of the glamorous parties we’ve received invitations to. Personally I can’t keep up with my RSVPs, between that one soirée my stepbrother might throw and the remote possibility that the Warblers could do something despite their assorted high-powered internships.”
“Kurt,” Blaine said, “do you want a party? I’ll give you a party.”
“Boys.” Mercedes snapped her fingers. “The party-planning committee can meet later. Now help me look fabulous!”
“As you wish,” Kurt said, linking their arms.
“I’m thinking real funky, too,” Mercedes continued, tugging Kurt to the back of the store, where the accessories waited. “I want to out-groove myself.”
“And we’re starting with hats. You know me too well.”
“I know how good I look in hats,” Mercedes corrected, picking up a pink beret. “And I know we’ll never get anywhere until you buy a hat, so yeah.”
“Oh, no,” Kurt said, stealing the beret. “You have plenty of these already – try a tam o’shanter. I’ve been wanting to see you in one.”
“Do they have any electric green? I want to pop.”
“You always pop.” Kurt produced one in a blinding shade of turquoise striped with lavender. “Try this.”
“Hm.” Mercedes complied, but looked dubiously into the nearest mirror.
“It’s perfect,” Kurt insisted. “With your Roxy shirt, the turquoise one?”
“You’d look gorgeous,” Blaine said loyally. This was technically true, though lilac wasn’t in this summer and he hoped they hadn’t both forgotten that vital fact.
“Trust me,” Kurt said.
Mercedes grinned. “But I’d need something to go with it.”
“New shoes,” Blaine agreed, knowing a done deal when he drove one home.
“Well... okay,” Mercedes said.
“Yes!” Kurt high-fived Blaine, then jumped and gasped. Blaine might have a little too; Quinn had materialized between them out of nowhere. “Quinn! Wear a bell or something, god!”
“Sorry, I didn’t realize you three had claimed exclusive rights to the mall. I’ll shop somewhere else next time,” Quinn snapped. “I just wanted a hat.” She grabbed a pink baseball cap Blaine was willing to bet she wouldn’t actually wear, shot Mercedes a comparatively genuine smile, and stalked away.
Mercedes shook her head. “God love that girl, I do not understand her.”
Blaine found a form-fitting sweater in his size outside of the kid section, which was always a plus. He grabbed it and wandered to the shoes, where Kurt and his new aviator’s cap were presiding over Mercedes’s hunt for the finishing touch to her outfit.
“Too flashy,” Kurt said to a pair of shining silver sneakers.
“I like flashy.”
“Well, not the right kind of flashy. Blaine?”
“Way too Wizard of Oz,” Blaine agreed.
They gave him identically quizzical looks before realization dawned. “Oh,” Kurt said. “Like in Wicked,” Mercedes said.
“Um, right.” No one reads anymore. Or no one had nannies to read to them anymore. Whichever.
“Ooh, damn,” Mercedes said, jumping up and seizing upon a pair of high tops. “These ones, Kurt!”
“Oh, my. They’re perfect. Try them on, try them on!”
They were nearly perfect, Blaine had to admit. They were very Mercedes, and they were turquoise, which would match her shirt, plus some gold, which she could definitely rock. It was just that the gold and turquoise were patterned in plaid.
Mercedes beamed and struck a pose in true Vogue fashion.
Kurt clapped. “Oh, Mercedes,” he gushed, as though in a calculated attempt to break Blaine’s resolve. He was criminally cute when gushing.
Blaine squared his shoulders. His was an ugly task, but what kind of fashion friend would he be if he failed now? They would thank him for it in years to come. “Guys,” he said, “they’re plaid.”
“I know,” Kurt said.
“The hat is striped.”
“I know,” Mercedes said.
“You can’t wear stripes with plaid.”
“Blaine!” Kurt’s eyebrows were already approaching the danger zone. “Look at her!”
“But – she looks incredible, but –”
“Precisely! The rules of fashion are here to help us look incredible. When they don’t help, we break them. This isn’t abstract plaid and hypothetical stripes on someone, in some form. It’s this plaid and these stripes, on Mercedes, in this form.”
“Fashion has more guidelines than actual rules,” Mercedes said kindly.
“Thank you! Yes!”
“Oh,” Blaine said meekly.
Kurt kissed his cheek. “You’ll get there,” he said, and swept off. “Come on,” he called back, “before she starts second-guessing. We’d be here forever.”
Mercedes bent to box the shoes back up, snickering.
“I could tell him you just quoted a fantasy action film at him and got him to agree with it,” Blaine said.
Mercedes smacked his arm. “You hush.” She dimpled becomingly. “You’ll get there.”
So. Apparently he wasn’t the fashion friend. Maybe this wasn’t the end of the world; maybe Mercedes got fashion better, but he read a lot more Vogue, and anyway, he and Kurt had a lot more in common than fashion. For example, they both knew how to rebuild an engine. Not many kids their age who weren’t complete fanatics could fine-tune a V8 and repair a break system. Blaine might not particularly enjoy cars, but surely he had a monopoly on this. He could be Kurt’s auto mechanic friend.
This did not work out.
Kurt’s schedule at Hummel Tires & Lube was erratic at best. He helped out as needed, or when he and his dad wanted to spend time together, or when he wanted money. Occasionally he babysat Finn as his stepbrother made torturously slow progress in learning how not to blow the garage up. All in all, it was difficult to predict when he would be at the shop without asking him directly. For Blaine.
Not, apparently, for Noah Puckerman. Blaine would struggle to balance three cups of coffee with a cell phone, texting to figure out where his boyfriend was; Puck would saunter into the shop as though driven by some infallible instinct, like a homing pigeon, led right to Kurt. He always acted surprised to see Kurt, too, even though he wasn’t allowed in the garage without Kurt’s supervision, so he had to think he’d find him there.
Blaine tried to comfort himself with the knowledge that Puck must try this all the time when Kurt wasn’t there, as well; since, however, he never saw that, it didn’t help much.
Blaine walked into the garage with his now-habitual three coffees; if none of Kurt’s friends were orbiting around him, his dad would sneak some before handing it off to one of the guys.
Puck stood lolling against a tool bench, looking badass. Of course.
“Hello, Puck,” Blaine said cheerily. He did like Puck. It was just... the car thing. But that wasn’t going to come between him and a friend of Kurt’s.
“What up, Dalton?” Puck high-fived him. Blaine dropped his cell phone reciprocating and was scrambling to retrieve it when Kurt appeared.
“Blaine, you’re here!” He scampered over, beaming, and Blaine dropped his cell phone again but got to hug Kurt, so that was okay.
“Hi,” he said. “How are you?”
“Since you saw me six hours ago? I’m holding up.” Kurt leaned in and kissed his cheek, then rubbed noses for good measure. “How about you?”
Which was a more loaded question; of the two of them, Blaine was the one likely to have had an altercation at home since he’d seen Kurt yesterday evening. But – “I’m fine,” Blaine said. This was true. His dad had been in bed by the time he got home last night, and gone for work by the time Blaine woke up in the morning.
“Dudes,” Puck said. “If I wanted to watch tiny cute people make googly eyes at each other, I’d put on a Disney cartoon. Let’s mess with some cars.”
“Quintessential Puckerman,” Kurt sighed. “Not happy unless he’s taking something apart.”
Mr. Hummel, who had just walked in, snorted at the sight of them. “If they didn’t have those child labor laws,” he said, “I could run this place on the boys you drag in, Kurt.”
“Finn was your idea,” Kurt protested.
“Hi, Mr. Hummel,” said Blaine, in his very best grown-up voice.
“Hey, kid,” he answered, and then pointed an accusing finger Kurt’s way. “Finn might have been my idea, but he’s your fault, introducing me to Carole and all.” He mussed Kurt’s hair.
“Let’s not dwell on that,” Kurt said very brightly.
“Puck was probably Finn’s idea,” Blaine said with a wide smile.
“Well,” Kurt admitted, “no. Puck was mine. We started talking about cars and I did invite him over a week or so after the Barbravention.”
“I don’t think I wanna know,” Mr. Hummel said, and wandered away.
Blaine was slightly dashed but rallied quickly; there was no point spoiling the mood for everyone. It was just, he thought petulantly, that he’d thought Puck was more Finn’s friend.
“Let’s go, brosefs,” Puck insisted.
Blaine, as he did when in doubt, smiled.
The car belonged to an old customer who the Hummels were fairly sure wouldn’t sue, and so it was Kurt’s to work on with whichever of his friends he saw fit. Mr. Clark was apparently complaining of clunking over bumps and porpoising once the bumps were past. Blaine compared the symptoms to his mental list, cross-referenced with causes, and came up with –
“So it’s those dildos in the back, huh?” said Puck.
“Oh my god,” said Kurt, and turned away with a hand over his mouth.
“The shocks...?” Blaine said.
“Maybe you meant doodads,” Blaine suggested.
“Nah, they pretty much look like dildos.”
“I... hadn’t thought of them that way. Huh.”
“Let’s just fix the car,” Kurt muttered, beating a retreat in search of a creeper (the other kind).
“We need to check the screws and bolts first thing,” Blaine recited. “It’s possible the only problem is with them, and we could save time, money, and effort simply by tightening them. We should also make sure the rubber mounting bushings aren’t just worn and in need of replacement.”
Puck shook his head. “One of these days I’m gonna have you read my Mario guides and just, like – tell me what to do when I get stuck. Do you have one of those photographic memories? Hey, question for you. If you have a photographic memory and you take a memory video of a girl - or a guy, whatever - while you’re having sex, is that still wrong? Like could they get mad at you if it’s just in your head?”
“That’s – a real moral quandary,” Blaine managed to choke out.
“Puckerman,” Kurt said, “no.”
“Down, boy.” Kurt grimaced at Blaine. “Sorry. We can’t take him anywhere. Puck! You get under the car and work off some excess energy.”
Puck, mumbling something about valid ethical questions and how Lauren would have answered him if she’d been there and he was totally asking her later, laid himself out on the creeper and disappeared under the car.
As soon as he was out of sight, Kurt muffled helpless laughter against Blaine’s shoulder. Blaine, in whose experience Kurt was a lot more at ease with doing “stuff” than he was with people doing something so horrific as talk about “stuff,” was just glad his boyfriend wasn't traumatized. This was exactly why he didn’t get Puck’s friendship with Kurt. Exactly part of why, anyway.
Puck trundled back out, brow furrowed, wrench in hand. “Polly Pocket was right about the screws and stuff,” he said. “I mean, everything looks fine now that I tightened them up.”
“Okay, first off,” Kurt said, “why are you frowning if they look fine? And more importantly, call Blaine ‘Polly Pocket’ one more time and I will throw you out.”
“Aw, man. I don’t mean the girly thing. He’s just so tiny, and it’s that literacy crap –”
“– yeah, that, so it fits.” Puck looked Blaine over. “Bite-size Boyfriend? Half-pint of Handsome? Throw one out here, Anderson.”
“I feel uncomfortable with this conversation,” said Blaine, who was still on a Kurt-defending-me high and also thought Bite-size Boyfriend might actually make a cute doll. Trent would buy it.
“Puck. The car.”
“Oh, yeah.” Puck shrugged. “I dunno. It’s fine. It just doesn’t feel right.”
“Okay, car whisperer, move over.” Kurt took the wrench and flashlight and disappeared in turn.
“Bitty Boytoy,” Puck said. Blaine stared at him. Unperturbed, Puck continued, ”Hey, can I try to pick you up with one hand?”
“This is going to cause me physical pain to say out loud,” Kurt said, reemerging, “but... you’re right. Everything looks fine, it’s just that I don’t like it for some reason. I hate to take it apart, because it’ll cost Mr. Clark more...”
“Let’s test it,” Blaine suggested.
“I’ll get the keys.”
The car drove fine, even over the pothole behind the garage. Blaine looked over at Kurt, who was in the passenger’s seat, and shrugged. “It feels fine to me,” he said.
Kurt shook his head. “Maybe I’m being silly...”
“Nah, I get you,” Puck said, sticking his head between them from his seat in the back.
“But it drives absolutely normally,” Blaine said, “and we did fix the screws. There shouldn’t be anything wrong.”
Kurt made a doubtful noise. Puck snorted. “Look, Tinker Tot, cars just do shit sometimes, even though they shouldn’t. Manuals only go so far.” He poked Kurt’s shoulder. “I know a test for this.”
“Great. Tell me, and I’ll perform it.”
“What? Why can’t I drive?”
“You’re going to go inside and think about what you’ve done. I’m serious, Puck, no girl names.”
“My knight,” Blaine said.
Puck snapped his fingers. “Pocket Prince! Got it.” And, off Kurt’s expression, “I’m going, I’m going. So what you do is, you...”
The test worked. Kurt found an empty stretch of parking lot, accelerated to fifteen miles an hour, and abruptly hit the breaks. The car stopped, and rocked in place for a few seconds, rolling gently forward and back as though they were on the water.
Kurt beamed. “Say it.”
“I was wrong, you were right,” Blaine conceded.
Kurt kissed his cheek. “You may reward me later.”
This amused and pleased Blaine. The high-five Puck and Kurt shared did not, particularly.
Fixing the car wasn’t complicated, although it was going to cost Mr. Clark a pretty penny; and it meant they got to elevate the car, which was always fun.
Nor did Blaine’s current burning jealousy toward Puck prevent him from seeing Puck’s point about the shocks once Kurt was expelling the air from a new one. Not that they really looked all that phallic, but when Kurt had to go and pump them like that, well.
Fortunately for Blaine’s lower half – or unfortunately, depending on one’s perspective, but after all they were in public – Quinn walked in just then, which recalled his surroundings to him aggressively. “Quinn!” he said brightly, crossing his legs. “Hi! What’s up?”
He did not merit acknowledgment. “Kurt,” she said with a honey-sweet smile. “It’s been too long!”
“It’s been days,” said Kurt with an even sweeter one. “What do you want from me desperately enough to be caught dead here?”
Puck clapped Blaine on the shoulder. “Don’t even try until the bitch-off is over, bro. Trust me.”
“My breaks are whining almost as loudly as Rachel,” Quinn said, “and I happened to be passing by, so I thought I’d see if any of my friends were in and willing to help a lady in distress.” She beamed around, as though at a crowd.
“How disappointing for you, then,” Kurt sniped, but stood up. “Where did you park?” He handed the shock to Blaine on his way by. “You can finish this one - once I get back,” he said, and batted his eyes a little.
“Okay,” Blaine said, dry-mouthed.
Quinn sighed. “Whenever you’re ready.”
“Just because you can’t hold onto a guy for longer than five minutes,” Kurt said, and they exited bickering.
“That was bracing,” Puck commented, and then fist-pumped congratulations to himself. “Totally scoring some new verbage off your squeeze, Pocket Prince.”
Well, that was fine. So Blaine could learn all the car manuals and DIY car-fixing guides from online that he wanted, but would never share in the spiritual bond that connected his boyfriend to automobiles and Noah Puckerman, whom Blaine suspected of being a Transformer.
Life went on, and Blaine had a lot more in common with Kurt than fashion and cars. Two consecutive failures were making him nervous, but then he thought of music. Admittedly he was more into Katy Perry and P!nk than Kurt was, but they both loved Gaga and Britney, and Blaine could easily brush up on some Broadway. He would be Kurt’s musical friend.
This did not work out.
The thing was, he knew he was beaten before he even walked into the room.
“They’re upstairs,” Finn said with a shake of his head indicating his lack of faith in Blaine’s sanity should he choose to join “them”; Blaine thanked him and started up anyway. Sanity was not his strong point when it came to Kurt.
He could hear them arguing from the foot of the stairs, and paused when he heard Rachel’s voice. Right, he thought. Oh.
He had managed to blank on her, completely and spectacularly. This was it, he realized, trudging up the stairs. He was done. He couldn’t win a Broadway-off with Rachel to save his life; he doubted his ability to hold his own even in a Madonna-off.
I could beat her at P!nk, he thought, and then remembered that this was beside the point, as the way to Kurt’s soul was Judy Garland, not Ms Alecia Beth Moore.
He sighed, hummed a few recently-memorized bars of “The Impossible Dream,” (“to fight the unbeatable foe”), and opened Kurt’s bedroom door.
Kurt and Rachel were inches apart, identical fingers in each other’s impassioned faces, yelling.
“Hi, guys,” he said loudly.
They turned on him simultaneously. It was a discomforting moment.
“Webber or Sondheim?” Rachel snapped.
Blaine raised his eyebrows. “I could hear you guys downstairs. Through a closed door.”
“Blaine,” Kurt warned.
“Sondheim,” Blaine said promptly; he might not know and love Broadway the way they did, but he knew his boyfriend.
“Why?” Rachel said.
Blaine was pretty sure he’d had this nightmare last night. However, in said nightmare he hadn’t already given music up as a lost cause. It was sort of liberating to have let go. “Because,” he said, “Kurt likes him best.”
He had expected disappointment. Instead, Kurt looked dewey-eyed and touched. “Oh, Blaine,” he said, and crossed the room to kiss him firmly on the mouth.
“That’s cheating!” Rachel said. “He doesn’t count if his opinion is one you’re seducing out of him, you – you siren!”
“Excuse me? Did you just call me an ancient Greek slut?'
“Well, they lured men to their death with music; you’re luring one to the death of his taste in music. It’s practically the same thing.”
“Fine. Descend to personal attacks; your case certainly doesn’t hold up on its own merit.”
“How dare you! I’ll say it again: Andrew Lloyd Webber inspires adoration. Sondheim inspires admiration. Admiration is not the currency of Broadway! The musical is an emotional art form and the ability to tell a story that is emotionally engaging and exciting, with, yes, songs you can hum – that is the mark of a truly great musical creator!”
“Oh-ho, really, Rachel. Sondheim asks a little thought of his audience, so there’s no emotional connection? If having to use their brains shuts down their hearts, it’s the audience’s fault, not Sondheim’s.”
“You write for the audience there is, not some fictitious group of people with nothing better to do than sit down and decode your lyrics, some of which are literally unintelligible without a written transcript.”
“Don’t get me started on lyrics!”
“Setting clichés and colloquialisms to music does not automatically equal brilliance.”
“Elevating the commonplace is exactly what art is –”
“Evita,” Rachel fired off, eyes sparking.
Kurt drew himself back; this was apparently a near-mortal blow to his position. He rallied, however, and returned with, “Love Never Dies.”
Rachel gasped. “That was low.”
“Is Evita that one with Madonna and Antonio Banderas?” Blaine said.
They both faced him. He could feel the intensity being aimed at him like physical heat.
“Oh, honey,” Kurt said.
“Blaine.” Rachel looked on the verge of tears. “Are you telling us you’ve never seen Evita?”
“Well - I did when I was little,” he said, backing up slightly, “but I don’t really remember.”
“Patti LuPone played the original Eva,” Kurt said gently.
It did click, at that – “Oh!” he said. “I didn’t realize the movie was the same thing as the play. I have a record of that somewhere! I thought it was supposed to be kind of bad, though?”
“Rachel,” Kurt said, “go kick Finn off the TV while I find my DVD.”
“Blaine,” Rachel said, and patted his arm sympathetically on her way past. “Your life is about to change.”
Blaine, once she was out, meandered over to Kurt, who was unearthing his DVD from a shelf full of them near his vanity.
“Evita,” Kurt was muttering to himself, “she would resort to that. It’s the complete opposite of everything she was talking about. It’s cerebral, lyrically complex – and it’s as dark as a Sondheim play, none of the romantic fluff that she claims is Andrew Lloyd Webber’s strength.”
“I thought you loved Andrew Lloyd Webber too,” Blaine said plaintively. He had never felt so lost.
Kurt looked at him like he’d changed the subject from McQueen to a new outlet mall in Westerville, so completely unrelated was his inane statement. “I do love him,” he said. “I revere him. He’s a genius.”
”Oh.” Blaine turned this over. It refused to make sense. ”So... your point with Rachel was that...”
Kurt huffed. “Rachel implied that he was better than Sondheim, the poor misguided girl. I couldn’t let that pass.” He unearthed Evita from the back of his collection. “Here we go!” He leaned in close to Blaine and whispered, “I secretly like Andrew Lloyd Webber a little bit more.” He started for the door, continuing, “But Sondheim is objectively better; that is just a fact.”
Blaine hurried after him. “So you just spent however long shouting passionately in Rachel’s face –”
“Of the two of us, only one has kissed Rachel Berry,” Kurt said, sing-song.
“ – and you were doing it because she said someone you both love is better than someone else you both love, and love less than the person she said is better?”
“Oh, really. There’s so much more to it than that.”
Blaine really didn’t understand the “more.”
They were at the “Waltz for Eva and Che” when Kurt’s phone started buzzing. Rachel, whose lap Finn had long since fallen asleep on, paused the movie with a deadly glare. Kurt picked up.
“Quinn,” he said. “To what do I owe the repeated honor?”
Blaine didn’t hear much of the conversation; he was emotionally incapacitated by the respective plights of Eva, Che, Juan, and the people of Argentina. Also the splendor of “Rainbow High.” Rachel had been in tears since “High Flying, Adored” and he was going to follow suit at this rate.
Kurt stroked Blaine’s hair while he talked and finally said, “I have to go tend to my boyfriend; we’re watching Evita and I think Madonna has dealt him a serious blow.” He hung up and reported, “We’re coordinating child-watching schedules” before kissing Blaine’s temple. “How are you holding up?”
“It’s just so sad,” Blaine managed. “I don’t see how anyone can get out of this happily.”
“I know. Come here.”
“If you’re finished,” Rachel said, and pressed play as Blaine scooted over to take shelter in Kurt’s arms.
“I’m just saying.” Kurt looked over Blaine’s head at Rachel. “We’re all perfectly capable of responding emotionally to an intellectual piece of work; we’re doing it right now.”
“A piece of work by Andrew Lloyd Webber.”
“Oh for god’s sake. You can’t be arguing that Evita is representative of his oeuvre.”
Blaine snuggled into Kurt’s side and paid attention to the musical, which he understood better.
Blaine was getting into rather more dire straits now. Three failures was a record. But still, he and Kurt had more in common – deeper things, if he cared to scratch the surface. They were, for instance, both natural caretakers.
Kurt had grown up without a mother; Blaine had grown up with an absentee mother. Kurt took care of his dad and, lately, Finn; Blaine was practically Peter Pan to the Warblers’ Lost Boys. He had once babysat Thad for a week when his parents were out of town and it turned out that Thad couldn’t even use a microwave. He could definitely relate to Kurt on this level.
This did not work out.
“A giraffe!” said Stacy.
“Yes! Gosh, you’re a back-reading genius.” Blaine smoothed her shirt down and drummed his fingers along her spine. “Hang on, let me think of a good one.”
“Do a lion,” Kurt suggested from the floor beside his bed. “Everyone loves a lion.” He held a shirt up from the pile of Finn’s he was sorting through and shook his head.
“Now I can’t,” Blaine said. “She heard you.”
“I’ll pretend I didn’t,” Stacy said quickly.
“Oh, look, Sam,” Kurt said. “Your sister is trying to pull the wool over my seventeen-year-old boyfriend’s eyes and succeeding.”
“Hey, guys.” Sam slouched into the room, looking tired and greasy. “How’s it going?”
“We’re all fine,” Kurt said blithely as Stevie and Stacy bent the laws of physics in their quest to cross the room at the speed of light and attach themselves to Sam’s arms. “Go take a shower, I want you to try these clothes. They’re a few years old and I don’t trust Finn’s eye.”
“Uh, that’s okay,” Sam said, flushing. “We should get back to – we should get back.”
“Oh, no, you’re staying for dinner. I already asked Carole and my dad.”
“Sammyyyyyyyy,” said Stacie, who’d had a very long day between a haircut and no new clothes even though Stevie got some of Kurt’s, which had been almost too much for her to stand.
“Don’t start, Stace.”
“Sammy,” echoed Kurt with what Blaine could see might, from Sam’s perspective, be an infuriating kind of equanimity. “You’re in no state to take two hungry, tired kids back to a tiny hotel room and babysit them for three hours.”
“It’s not babysitting,” Sam said, and was not exactly snapping but was nearer to it than Blaine had ever heard him. “They’re my siblings.”
“All right,” Kurt said, “taking care of two kids you’re related to, but who are still hungry and tired.”
“I could sing a P!nk song,” Blaine said. “If it would make anyone feel better.”
“Thank you,” said Kurt in a way that meant no.
“That’s okay,” said Sam.
“Yes!” said Stevie and Stacy simultaneously. “Blaine does the best music videos,” Stevie said. “His face is funny,” Stacy elaborated.
“Actually,” Kurt said, “why don’t you do that. While Sam takes his shower.”
Sam slumped some more. “Sure,” he said. “Okay, guys, we’re staying for dinner.”
Kurt, as was his wont, softened visibly once he’d gotten his way. “You’ll feel much better.”
Sam forced a smile. “I know.”
“Come on, guys, let’s get our P!nk on.” Blaine grabbed Stacy, Stevie, and his guitar, headed for Finn’s more destruction-friendly room. He tried not to take along the feeling that they were leaving Mommy and Daddy to talk.
The lack of adoring freshmen to come running with glasses of cool water was disorienting when Blaine let himself forget that he wasn’t at Dalton. But he had, as his nanny had so liked to remind him, a perfectly good pair of legs himself. Once Kurt had taken the kids downstairs to get cleaned up for dinner, Blaine took his perfectly good pair of legs and his dry throat to the bathroom.
Sam was picking at a shirt at least a size too small, staring into the mirror. “Hey, Blaine.”
“Oh, hey. Sorry, I didn’t realize you were still in here.”
“It’s cool. Between Kurt and Finn, I don’t remember the last time I took a shower without having a conversation.” He turned sideways. “Do I look like a human donut in this?”
“Huh,” said Blaine. “No.” He turned his attention firmly to his glass and leaned over to fill it. Still – “Definitely not,” he added.
Sam kept twisting in a hopeless search for love handles. He apparently found something to disapprove of, as he poked his side and muttered “oh hell to the no” before worming his way out of the shirt.
“Hey, so… Sam. I’m sorry,” Blaine said. “If we were too presumptuous. We shouldn’t have told the kids they were staying for dinner without asking you first.”
“Probably not,” Sam said, choosing another shirt. “That’s not really my problem, though. I just… don’t like being managed, you know?”
“Sure,” said Blaine, and then, “Actually… ah. What? I don’t want to do it again, is all, and I think…”
“It’s not you, it’s Kurt.” Sam tugged on the sleeves of the new shirt. They were too short, and in more dire news there was a faded picture of Spider-Man on the chest. The torso fit, at least. “I spend all day managing my schoolwork and the bullies, and my job, and the kids, and my parents when they’re tired out, and schedules so you guys and Quinn can see the kids and they won’t go insane stuck with me all the time – I manage everything, you know? And then Kurt walks in and treats me like I’m the kid, like he can just take over.”
“I didn’t know you felt that way,” Blaine said. “I’m sure Kurt would stop if he knew it was really bothering you.” Pretty sure. “Do you want me to tell him?”
“No,” said Sam. He ruffled his hair in a sad attempt to dry it. “I can’t explain it, just – don’t tell him, okay?”
This was a lot harder even than the time Wes’s girlfriend had cheated on him and he’d lain in bed for three days listening to country music, and only an impromptu performance of Carrie Underwood’s “Before (S)he Cheats” had saved him.
“I’m confused. But I know – I know Kurt wants to help.”
“That’s cool.” Sam patted his shoulder on the way out. “He is.”
“So confused,” Blaine murmured.
Kurt caught his arm on the way toward the dining room, where they were eating tonight for sheer number of participants. “You know,” he said, “as a point of interest – the ventilation system in this house is pretty old.”
“Oh?” Blaine tried to remember Kurt expressing an interest in architecture. He would have yet another area of interest to excel in, angelic and perfect as he was.
“Mm-hm. If both vents are open, you can hear every word from the upstairs bathroom in the downstairs. And vise-versa, in case it ever comes up.”
“After my mom died,” Kurt said, “my Great-Aunt Mildred was the only person who really kept treating me like a little kid. When she came to stay I wasn’t allowed to take care of the house, or the food, or my dad. She even did my laundry. God, she shrank so many priceless items. She was completely drunk the entire time.” He sighed. “Anyway, I just really needed to – be in control. So I could feel safe. She was the only one who didn’t get that. I still kind of hate her.” He shook his head and took Blaine’s hand. “Let’s go be kids,” he proposed. “Seventeen-year-old boyfriends, one of whom is in a bit of trouble for inviting four guests over for dinner at the last second.”
“Okay,” said Blaine, and thought, Help.
Quinn was the Evans’ ride, and since it was common knowledge that she had as much interest in seeing Finn as in naked skydiving, they gathered on the Hummels’ front lawn to wait for her. Then Stacy insisted on playing tag, and by the time it was over Quinn was presented with a laughing, panting pile of them in the lawn. “Really?” She gave Sam a hand up and started dusting Stacy off. “Act your age, you three,” she teased.
“We are,” Kurt said. Blaine started humming “Perfect Day” in solidarity. “You are the ideal man,” Kurt whispered worshipfully.
“Bye, guys,” Sam said. “Thanks for – thanks.”
“You’re welcome,” said Kurt in his best always-right tone.
“I probably don’t want to know,” Quinn said, hauling Stevie off Blaine’s stomach. “Let’s go, guys. Bye Kurt, Blaine.”
Sam gave him a manly-understanding sort of nod on the way to the car. Blaine, who did not in fact understand, nodded back.
Kurt leaned against his shoulder. “Do you have time for a movie before you go home?”
“If I am wildly reckless and stay out past midnight.”
“Let’s. I think if we play something musical enough, everyone will give up and stop checking on us.”
Kurt crinkled his nose and Blaine’s heart mushed like warm butter. “I do occasionally scheme.”
“Kurt? I still don’t… get it. The thing with Sam and your mom and Aunt Mildred and people being managed like kids.”
Kurt touched his hair. “I hope you never do,” he said, and kissed him.
Blaine was, admittedly, getting desperate. Desperation was not the state in which to be while he resorted to plumbing ever-deeper emotional depths. So he wasn’t in the best frame of mind to find a picture of his grandmother staring at him from the wall at the top of the staircase after one of his mom’s fits of redecorating.
She had died when he was six. He didn’t really remember her all that clearly; only that she had called him “ni” or “apo” and he had believed her name was actually “Lola” for the longest time. She had let him climb trees in her backyard no matter how fancy his clothes were and occasionally smacked him when he was naughty even though his parents didn’t want her to.
This wasn’t much to go on. It wasn’t even a route he particularly wanted to take. But it was his last idea, and Kurt deserved every single attempt Blaine had in him and more, so much more. So it was creepy and sad and desperate. Blaine would be Kurt’s friend who understood loss.
This, needless to say, did not work out.
Probably the single least romantic person to have tagging along after you and your boyfriend was his giant of a (periodically overprotective) brother, but Blaine genuinely enjoyed Finn’s company. Plus he wasn’t sure how romantic you were really supposed to get at parties; he’d messed up at the last one.
There would be no spin-the-bottle here, though. The Warblers outnumbered the New Directions and would exert a calming influence, being stable, upstanding young gentlemen whose behavior was always set to “best.”
“Is Wes…” Finn squinted. “Is he wearing Santana’s bra over his shirt?”
“No,” said Blaine automatically, and then looked. “Oh.”
“Yup,” said Kurt, who was slurring his consonants a bit.
Finn considered this. “Why is Wes wearing Santana’s bra over his shirt?”
“He could be experimenting,” Blaine hazarded. “In a safe environment where he won’t be judged.”
“He doesn’t know he’s wearing it,” Kurt said. “She hooked it on him when they were making out.”
“But,” said Blaine, and was interrupted by David falling into his arms.
“Marry me,” David said, and burst into tears.
“Oh! I win,” Kurt said, sounding much more delighted than was entirely fair. “I win! Two bets in one.”
David sank to his knees, buried his face in Blaine’s stomach, and locked his arms around Blaine’s waist. “Never leave me,” he sobbed.
“Um,” said Blaine, and patted his back.
“What bets did you just win? Did you bet that someone would propose to Blaine tonight?” Finn, who was in a protective place, pulled Kurt away from Blaine and under his own arm. “Were you going to propose? Because I don’t think that’s legal without both your parents’ permission until you’re eighteen, so just forget about it.”
Kurt swayed and allowed Finn to catch him and lock him in place. “That wouldn’t be legal even if we were both forty, in the great state of Ohio,” he said sourly. “Thanks so much. No, I bet that the Warblers would get drunk. And ages ago I bet David had a sad straight-boy crush on Blaine.”
“But he’s usually so much more even-handed than Wes and Thad,” Blaine said, rubbing circles on David’s heaving back.
“Suppressing,” Kurt said wisely, and tripped over the smooth floor without having made any attempt to move. Finn caught him. “Whoops!”
“You love Kurt more than us,” David wailed.
“David! My relationship with Kurt does not mean I love the Warblers any less.”
“Blaine was right,” Kurt said to Finn. “You are really – just so tall.”
“Okay, come on,” Finn said. “You take Kurt; I think he can walk if you’re careful.” He bent over and detached David from Blaine’s midriff in order to scoop him up. David snuffled and put his arms around Finn’s neck.
“Come on, Kurt,” Blaine said, wrapping an arm around him.
“And you are really short,” Kurt said. He looked speculatively between the two of them.
“Kurt, I love you, but don’t say whatever you’re thinking out loud,” Blaine warned as they made their way up the stairs. “You’d have to kill us all once you sober up.”
“Here,” said Finn, who had apparently found an unoccupied bedroom. Blaine felt vaguely that this should have been his job, but oh well. It was one of the better guest bedrooms at least.
Finn dumped David on the bed, where he moaned, curled up, and said, “Blaine, sing me a lullaby.”
Blaine carefully deposited Kurt on the floor, leaning against the bed. He and Finn joined him, one on either side. “A lullaby?”
“Mm,” said Kurt. “Sing the one from Lady and the Tramp.”
Blaine hummed a few bars, trying to remember the words. “I’ll sweep the stardust for you… That?”
“Everything is your natural key,” David mumbled.
“That one,” said Kurt.
“All the keys,” said David.
Finn sniggered. Blaine reached over Kurt to poke him. “Well, if you want to sing it…”
“Duet?” Finn said apologetically.
“I will accept that,” Blaine said, mollified.
“I don’t know the words, is the only thing.”
Finn complied. Blaine refused to feel silly as he began, “La la lu, la la lu…”
It was a short song. David was snoring by the halfway point.
Kurt lolled against the bed. “My mom sang lullabies,” he said. He didn’t even sound sad, just… empty. “That one.”
“I know,” Finn said, tugging him close.
“I, uh, I’m so – so sorry,” Blaine said. “I mean I kind of get it – my grandmother –”
Finn shook his head, running a hand through Kurt’s hair and resting it over his ear. He looked at Blaine. “There’s actually nothing you can say.”
Finn took pity. “You could hold his hand.”
“Okay.” Blaine did. Kurt’s fingers wove through his and tightened until they ached. Blaine squeezed back.
The door opened. “Oh,” said Quinn. “Sorry, I didn’t realize.” She hesitated. “Finn, Puck is looking for you.”
“Can you tell him I can’t come right now? Kurt kind of needs me.”
She nodded and closed the door.
“Hello, Blaine,” said Quinn, smiling, and gestured like a TV hostess to the booth across from her. “I’m so glad you could make it.”
“No problem,” said Blaine, who felt that her texted invitation, while polite, had left him little choice. There had been something menacing about it. Especially the perky “alone, please!” at the end. He sat down, too far now in enemy territory to back out. “It’s nice to see you again so soon.”
“Cut the crap,” she said, still smiling, and waved to the waiter for a refill on her water.
“Uh,” said Blaine. “I’m… what crap am I supposed to…”
She waited until the waiter was gone before answering. “All of it. Have you ever heard the expression ‘don’t play a player’?” She spread her hands. Her nails were perfect and pale pink. A ring glinted on her left pinky. “Time out.”
“I am… so confused right now.”
She arched a beautifully plucked eyebrow.
“So I have a bit of a persona,” he said. “Everyone does.”
“No. Everyone doesn’t. Not like us.” She pursed her peach-glossed lips around her straw; a golden curl tumbled over her cheek. She swept it away. “What were you like before Dalton, Blaine Anderson?”
“I don’t understand what you want from me here.”
“Fine, I’ll answer the question for you. You were lonely. You were scared. No one ever gave you a chance to be anything else. You felt trapped and lost all at once. You felt like every single day was another horrible burden you had to carry because there was something wrong with you, and you forgot that it could feel any other way.”
Blaine shook his head. “Why are you doing this?”
“This? This is congratulations. You pulled off the transition. You are flawless.” She shook her head. “You’re better than me.”
“Wait. Are you –?”
“No. I changed my name, my body, and my personality. Not my orientation.” She smiled, small and sharp. “In fact, now I’m allowed to have an orientation, to like guys. Pretty girls are allowed to want things like that. It’s not disgusting or just unthinkable. Most guys would be grateful to have me after them, now.”
“Quinn… I don’t know what to say.”
“I didn’t come here to cry on your shoulder. I came to ask you how you do it.”
“How I do what exactly?”
“Kurt,” she said. Her voice clutched at him, desperate. “A relationship. How can you be… all this… and still love someone? How can you pull off an act that makes you worth their while, and still be real enough for them to love you back?”
Blaine clung to the table. The cheap material swept in a curve under his palms before biting into his fingers at the inner edge. “I got lucky,” he said. It dragged out of him, raw. “I was just lucky. I’m sorry.”
Quinn blinked, blue eyes swimming, brilliant. “I see.”
“I’m sorry,” he said again. “I’m honest with him. I mean, I try to be. Maybe that…”
Quinn laughed. She buried her face in her hand, as if she’d made a mildly embarrassing but charming mistake. “You’re honest with him.”
“I don’t know what to do.”
“Have dinner with me,” Blaine said. “That could be a thing to do. One thing. And then we’ll think of something else.”
“Blaine,” Kurt said when he opened the door, “it’s eleven o’clock at night.”
“You were waiting for me, though.”
Kurt huffed. “I did want to hear how dinner with Quinn went, I admit.” He stepped back to let Blaine in.
“Kurt,” Blaine said.
Kurt looked at him. “Oh, are you ready to tell me what’s been going through your head the last few weeks?”
“Oh.” Blaine flushed. “Oh. Yes. Actually.”
“Come on,” Kurt said generously, leading him into the darkened living room and sitting beside him on the couch.
“Kurt,” Blaine said, “I love you.”
“Okay. So.” He took a deep breath. “I don’t get fashion that I can’t learn from Vogue. I don’t get cars that I can’t learn from manuals and I don’t even like cars all that much. I love Patti LuPone, but I don’t get Broadway that I can’t learn from my aunt’s coffee table books. You’re better at taking care of people than I am. And I have… no idea what it’s like to lose a parent.” He dropped his head into his hands. “But at least I’m honest about it,” he mumbled. “Eventually.”
“Wow,” Kurt said. “That’s what all this has been about?”
“Well, you were absolutely right.” Kurt sighed. “We’ll have to break up.” Blaine, who was sitting still and knew Kurt was joking, felt everything inside him lurch.
“Yes,” Kurt said, sliding onto Blaine’s lap, facing him. His folded his legs, knees resting on either side of Blaine’s hips. He took Blaine’s hands and pulled them gently from his face. “I should have a boyfriend who… let’s see. Loves fashion as much as I do and can talk to me for hours about the cut of my sweater.” He kissed the top of Blaine’s head. “It would also be ideal if he knew his way around a car, just in case of emergencies.” He kissed Blaine’s forehead. “He would have to love music and be an incredible performer like myself. His specific taste should intersect with but not match mine.” He bent to kiss the tip of Blaine’s nose.
“Kurt,” Blaine said weakly.
“No, let me finish. I’m planning my dream man here. Where was I? Oh, all right, here’s one: If he could have a nurturing presence, be very supportive, but be somewhat less… take-charge about it than I am? I’d like that.” He kissed Blaine’s cheek. “It would also suit me just fine if he had every sympathy for my loss, but – unlike everyone else in my family – did not have the same pall cast over his own life.” He kissed Blaine’s other cheek.
“I’m an idiot,” Blaine said.
“I have one more qualifier.”
“What?” Blaine looked up eagerly, bracing himself for a quest, a niche to fill – he could do this one, he knew it –
“For my boyfriend to be absolutely perfect…”
“Well, none of the rest of that stuff even matters compared to this one. It’s the deal breaker.”
“I can do it,” Blaine vowed.
Kurt sighed, looping his arms around Blaine’s neck. “He’d have to be someone I trust utterly and love completely.” He leaned down and kissed Blaine on the mouth. “Now, where can I find a man like that?”
Blaine squeezed him. “I’m pretty trustworthy.”
“I have to agree. But – Blaine!” Kurt gasped, a hand flying to cover his mouth. “That could be you!”
“Now you’re just being mean.”
“I promise to make it up to you.”
“I just really want to get you,” Blaine mourned, trying to kiss him. Kurt was immensely too tall in this position for Blaine to reach.
“Blaine.” Kurt ruffled his hair, and bent back into kissing range. “You’ve got me.”