“You’re whining, Blaine.”
“I’m not whining!” Blaine says.
Okay, his pitch there was a little whiny. At least Kurt sounds fond and not pissed off. Blaine’s dad basically told him to shut up in the most passive-aggressive way possible.
“It’s not the biggest hardship ever,” Kurt says. “You’re getting a free trip to Chicago. It’s not even winter! Though if it was winter you could wear that scarf I got you for Christmas. That scarf is—“
“Gorgeous, I know, and I do wear it,” Blaine cuts him off. “But I want to go to school in New York, Kurt. I want to be near you.”
“I hope you said those things in their actual order of importance,” Kurt says. “We’ve talked about this.”
“Oh, stop pretending like you won’t kill me if I go anywhere other than New York,” Blaine scoffs.
“I won’t kill you,” Kurt says. “I’ll just never speak to you again.”
“I might as well be dead then,” Blaine says, and Kurt actually laughs at him.
“I can’t believe you’re being more dramatic than me,” Kurt says. “Hope you put some of that into the NYADA audition, honey.”
“I nailed that audition,” Blaine says, with more confidence than he feels. He’s terrified of how he did at that audition. If he doesn’t get into NYADA he’ll have to go to…one of the eight other New York-based performing arts schools he applied to.
“I know you did,” Kurt says, his voice honey warm.
God, Blaine doesn’t know how he’s going to survive the next couple months until Kurt comes home for the summer. He knows he saw him in December, but it’s been three months and he feels like he’s going to crawl out of his skin.
“I guess I can deal with Chicago,” Blaine concedes. “But I wanted to visit you over spring break, and instead I have to wait even longer, and it pisses me off that Dad’s making me go because he wants me to consider other options—“
“Which is his job as a parent,” Kurt says. “He wants you to do due diligence. And you did get into University of Chicago, Smarty-pants.”
Blaine flushes. “Only because he made me apply.”
Kurt sighs. “Just think of it this way – by this time next year, you won’t have to do anything your dad tells you to do, because you’ll be on your own, and—“
“—not in Chicago,” Blaine says. “I’ll be with you, and I’ll be kissing you every single day and sleeping in your bed and – not sleeping, and—”
Kurt snorts. “You do know how to talk dirty. Sadly, I have to go to class now. You’re going to be fine! Bring me back some…what is the sports team there? The White Socks? Bring me back some white socks.”
“You never wear white socks,” Blaine says, voice dull. “Your socks always match the undertones of your other accessories.”
“Well, at least I wear socks,” Kurt says, teasing, and then adds, softly: “I love you.”
“I love you too,” Blaine says, a little breathless, and waits until Kurt hangs up to put down his phone and resume packing.
It is possible Blaine is being a little ridiculous about this. He has nothing against Chicago. He went once when he was a really little kid with Cooper and it was fun, even if he doesn’t remember much because Cooper was a giant annoying camera whore and only took pictures of himself.
Of course, his dad isn’t taking off time to go with him to do college visits, because why would he do that? He has more important business to take care of. So instead he’s sending Blaine to stay at some fancy hotel downtown, and he’s arranged a campus tour and a meeting with an admissions person and fixed him up with a contact of his at a local PR firm who’s supposed to show him around town. All this feels like Blaine’s being babysat, and he is eighteen years old and so tired of this. Lima is all well and good and he loves the remaining members of New Directions, but he wanted to spend this break in New York. Yes, he visited once before in the fall, but he needs it like air. He needs it like he needs Kurt.
New York is his new direction and Kurt is his anchor. His whole senior year has felt like one long stretch of aimless wandering.
The plane ride on Thursday is uneventful – he does his Calculus homework and reads some of the Judy Garland biography Kurt gave him for his birthday (Judy’s life was so hard!). When the plane lands he drags his little suitcase down the aisle and into the airport.
His phone buzzes the second he turns it on, two messages.
One from Kurt: I miss you, baby. Show Chicago what they’ll be missing.
One from his dad: Chester is waiting for you at baggage claim.
Chester. Blaine sighs. It doesn’t take him long to find the grumpy-looking guy in a rumpled black suit and tie holding up a sign that says Blaine Anderson.
When Blaine holds out his hand and says, “Chester? I’m Blaine,” Chester just stares at his hand, gestures to the bag and says, “That all you got?”
Blaine retracts his hand and says, “Yes, sir.”
He thinks he sees Chester smirk as he takes the bag from Blaine before he can protest.
On the way to the hotel, they listen to classic rock on the radio and Blaine gets a text from Santana: Hummel tells me you’re being a pussy. Stop being a pussy.
Blaine: I am not being a – I’m not even going to type that word.
Santana: I can think of other words too Blanderson. You afraid to be by yourself in the big city? I hear Boystown is pretty sweet.
Santana: And by pretty sweet I mean they would like your pretty sweet…
Blaine: You’re awful.
Santana: You love me! Not the way you love Hummel tho, thank God.
Blaine’s phone rings in his hand. It’s his father.
“Hello, sir,” Blaine says.
“You got in okay, I see.”
“I’m on my way to the hotel,” Blaine says. “Thank you for arranging this.”
There’s a pause on the other end of the line.
“Just…think about it, Blaine,” his father says. “I know you like New York—“
“I love New York,” Blaine says, unable to help himself.
“You love Kurt,” his father says, and Blaine digs his fingernails into the leather seat of the limo to keep himself from saying something smart. “I understand that. Don’t be stupid about this, son. University of Chicago is an excellent school. Penny Hartz is a lovely woman – she’s young and involved in all the city has to offer, and—“
“Okay, Dad,” Blaine says. “I get it. Thank you.”
He can hear his dad sigh. “All right then. I’ll call you tomorrow.”
He hangs up without another word.
“We’re here,” Chester says unceremoniously from the front seat. When Blaine fumbles for his wallet he says, “Pre-paid, bud. I’ll get your bag.”
Blaine climbs out of the back seat and stares up at the towering hotel. It’s ostentatious and yet somehow screams the sort of money you don’t talk about. Kind of like his dad.
As Chester pulls away from the curb, leaving Blaine with his little suitcase, Blaine texts back to Kurt: I miss you so much it hurts.
The Fairmont Hotel is nice, Blaine has to admit. His dad travels a lot, so he knows all the best places to stay. He doesn’t even want to know how much his dad shelled out for this trip. He’s sure it would have been way cheaper for him to take off a day or two and drive up with Blaine and stay in a Holiday Inn. It’s not like Blaine would have minded less deluxe accommodations.
As if she’s psychic, Santana calls the second Blaine’s settled in his room, trying to find a comfortable spot on his huge white bed.
“So when are we hanging out?” she asks without even saying hello.
“I just got in, Santana,” Blaine says.
Is there a rule that the more expensive a hotel, the less forgiving the beds are?
“I bet you’re staying somewhere swanky,” Santana says. “Let me guess – The Fairmont.”
Blaine blinks. “How did you—“
“I asked Kurt, idiot,” Santana says. “Also he gave me your flight arrival time, and I just followed you inside, and you checked in on Foursquare. Open the door.”
Blaine feels faint. “I—“
“Open the door, Blanderson!” he hears Santana shout outside his door. “Or I’ll tell your neighbors all about how you like your boyfriend to—“
He swings the door open to reveal Santana, slinky and gorgeous as ever in a black mini-skirt and red sweater. She looks incredibly pleased with herself.
“Word of advice,” she tells him. “Never run for office.”
“Get inside,” Blaine orders.
Santana takes her time sidling in, high heeled boots clicking on the tile in the entryway. He closes the door behind her and nearly loses his balance when she catches him up in a tight, fierce hug.
“It’s been so long, small stuff!” she says. “Have I seen you since last summer?”
Blaine’s pretty sure Santana hasn’t been back to Lima since she left for Columbia College Chicago last August. He forgets sometimes because she texts him constantly – mostly graphic accounts of her various sexual encounters – and leaves disparaging messages on his Facebook wall like if I wore that sweater I’d have to apologize to everyone who saw it, Bowtie McGee.
Basically, though, when Santana left Ohio she didn’t even linger long enough to watch her bridges burn.
“I wasn’t expecting you to stalk me,” Blaine complains. “You could’ve just told me, Santana.”
“If I’d asked you would have said you were too tired or some b.s.,” Santana says, sitting down on his bed and bouncing a little. “So I just didn’t give you a chance to say no.”
“I am really tired,” Blaine says, settling down next to her.
“You are also really small,” Santana says, “but that doesn’t stop you from being really annoying.”
Blaine gives up, and gifts her with his best smile. “I’ve missed you.”
She straightens his bowtie. “How could you miss me when I’ve been kicking your ass so shamefully at Draw Something?”
“Your drawings don’t look like anything,” Blaine says. “They all look like penises.”
“That’s because they all are penises,” Santana says. “Why are you questioning me? I go to arts school.”
“Not for drawing,” Blaine says, sounding sullen.
“You’re just sad because you’re not getting laid on the regular,” Santana says, pinching his cheek. “I know that look, Horny.”
Blaine covers his burning face with his hands. “I am not talking to you about this.”
His phone chooses that inopportune moment to buzz on his bed. Santana snatches it up before he can even react.
“’I thought you liked it when it hurt’? Kinky, Hummel. Nicely done,” she advises his phone, then smirks at him. “Seriously, never run for office. You have way too many secrets.”
“Kurt and I are not exactly a secret,” Blaine says.
“And neither is your particular brand of sexual deviancy, apparently,” Santana says as his phone buzzes again, her eyes widening. “Oooh, that’s hot. Fuck! I should have known, you two being separated for almost a year – of course you’ve mastered the art of sexting. I can’t handle this kind of shit from you two, though. It’s not Easter yet and I don’t want to think about bunny fucking.”
Blaine grabs his phone off the bed and chucks it into his suitcase. “Stop being a nosy bitch then.”
Santana raises her eyebrows. “You really are upset. Come on, baby, tell me what’s got your designer boxer briefs in a twist. Or are you into panties? You seem like you could be—”
“I just miss him,” Blaine blurts out. “I mean – yes, I miss the sex, but I miss everything else more. I miss him being in my life, and it’s not the same, the long distance thing. I want to be in New York right now and I don’t give a shit about University of Chicago, there is no way I am going to some school that far way, I can’t—“
“Okay, okay, gayest little munchkin,” Santana says, rubbing Blaine’s back. “You need to take a breath.”
Blaine takes in a shaky inhale. Santana’s hand actually feels kind of nice.
Oh God, he is so hard up.
“I wish I could produce Kurt from my purse, though you’re really more purse-sized,” Santana says. “I do, however, have this.”
She digs into her giant bag and produces a bottle of tequila with a flourish. Her mouth curves up at the corners.
“Let’s get you stupid drunk, jailbait.”
“The thing is,” Blaine says, very certainly. “The thing. Is.”
“Yes?” Santana queries from where she’s lying on the floor next to the bed. Blaine has no earthly idea how she got down there or what she’s doing.
“I’m kind of afraid,” Blaine confesses, “that if I don’t get to New York soon, Kurt is going to have sex with my brother.”
“I would have sex with your brother, and I don’t even like dudes,” Santana says, voice slightly muffled from whatever she’s doing down there. “Your brother is hot stuff.”
“You’re not helping,” Blaine slurs. “But – like – they hang out, Santana! Cooper’s doing theater now because he’s decided theater’s retro cool, or something, and Kurt goes to his shows, and it’s…I don’t like it.”
Santana’s head pops up. “I thought your brother was straight.”
“Yeah, but,” Blaine says, “Kurt is really beautiful.”
Santana snorts. “Has anyone ever told you that your family is fucked up, Anderson? Because they are.”
“I don’t really think,” Blaine says, reaching blindly for the tequila bottle on the bedside table and taking a swallow. He’s not sure when they decided not to use glasses anymore, but he thinks it was an excellent idea. “I don’t really think – I mean, I’m not going to college in New York to keep Kurt from cheating on me. That would be crazy.”
Santana climbs back onto the bed. Her hair is messy and all over the place and Blaine wants to touch it, but he also has a feeling that might be a bad idea. Not like the tequila. The tequila was a great idea.
“Look, I get that Kurt is, like, the palest twink that launched a thousand ships or whatever,” Santana says. “I mean, if I was going to try out my strap-on with a dude who’d actually appreciate it, I’d definitely consider Hummel.”
Blaine’s mind whites out a little from that mental image. He lies back on the bed and tries to think of un-arousing things, like Cooper.
“But my point is that Kurt loves you,” Santana says, arching an eyebrow. “For whatever fucking reason, because you are pathetic and tiny. My guess is you probably give really good head.”
“I do,” Blaine says, nodding emphatically. “I give great head.”
Santana laughs so hard Blaine has to pat her on the back to keep her from choking.
Once she’s stopped gasping, she wraps her arms around Blaine and pulls him into a lying-down hug that’s actually kind of awesome.
“I’ve missed you, half-pint,” Santana says. “You are always and forever my favorite drunk.”
Blaine snuggles into her side. He can hear Kurt, in his head, saying: I miss you, baby. He thinks about the way Kurt says baby, the way it sounds like something new, every time, like a word nobody’s ever said before.
The tequila was a terrible idea.
Blaine wakes up wrapped around Santana like a monkey, his throat dry and nasty-tasting and his head pounding. The room phone is ringing, a shrill, mocking sound.
He grasps for the receiver and pulls it out of the cradle, drops it, picks it up and whispers, “’Lo?”
“Mr. Anderson?” Blaine hears.
Blaine almost says Mr. Anderson is my father.
“This is your 8 am wake-up call,” the clipped voice on the other end of the line says. “Your father wanted us to remind you that your meeting with Penny Hartz is at 9:30 am and that you should dress nicely.”
Blaine is instantly awake and filled with rage.
“Thank you,” he tells the anonymous voice, and hangs up.
“God, why,” Santana says beside him. She sounds just as wrecked as he feels. “Why is this happening?”
“My dad,” Blaine says. “I have to be at some lame meeting at 9:30.”
“What time is it now?” Santana says. “Do you need a lot of time to powder your nose or something?”
Blaine swallows and feels his stomach roll. He probably could use some time to clean up, wash off the airplane and possibly vomit.
“Why did you bring alcohol?” Blaine says. “Kurt is right, you are the worst influence.”
Santana’s mascara is crusted around her eyes, but she’s still beautiful and terrifying when she smiles. “I’d corrupt you any day of the week, honeybunch.”
“I didn’t say anything embarrassing last night, did I?” Blaine asks.
Chester shows up to take Blaine to the meeting at precisely 9:10. He looks Santana up and down and grins.
“Don’t even think it, driver man,” Santana snaps. “I am not fucking him and you are not fucking me.”
Chester’s face falls. Blaine feels slightly validated, though he doesn’t know why.
Santana accompanies him to the advertising agency, though it’s all of a ten minute drive and doesn’t bring her any closer to school. She cuddles up next to him and inhales. “You gays always smell so good.”
“I thought you were one of us gays,” Blaine says. “Or so your last seven or eight really vivid emails would attest.”
“You know what I mean,” Santana says. “You are the best kind of gay, Anderson. I mean, you’re a bit on the weepy side, but that’s understandable. You’re too sweet for this world. It goes with the territory.”
“Are you happy, Santana?” Blaine asks, because it’s the question he’s been meaning to ask her all along, and they’re pulling up in front of a tall glass building that reeks of self-importance and marketing. Just like his dad.
Her face shutters closed. “Sure. I’m fine.”
“But are you—“
“I do okay,” Santana says, and tilts his chin up with one finger. “I’m okay, doll.”
It’s the closest Santana ever gets to real endearments. He knows her insults are endearments too, but secretly Blaine likes it best when Santana treats him like he’s her moll.
“This is it,” Chester calls from the front, and Santana leans in and kisses Blaine on the mouth. She tastes like bubblegum lip-gloss with the tang of tequila.
“He was watching in the rearview,” she whispers in his ear as they separate, and then: “You’ll be okay too, you know.”
“Thank you,” Blaine says. He means for their wild night, and the advice, and the metaphorical bucket of ice water she tossed over his head. Santana is a much better wake-up call than any hotel could ever provide.
“Anytime, pretty boy,” Santana says, and is gone in a cloud of spicy perfume, sucked up into the city.
“Oh my God, just look at you,” Penny says, smiling the biggest smile Blaine has ever seen.
Penny talks in exclamation points and gestures a lot. She’s beautiful and brunette and curvy, but in an entirely different way than Santana. More teen comedy movie cheerleader, less horror movie cheerleader.
“You are the most adorable thing,” Penny says. “I just want to eat you! You look so much like your father! But so much more cheerful. Your father is a very serious man.”
Seriously annoying, Blaine thinks, but instead he says, “He’s more into business. I’m more into the arts.”
“Like what kind of arts?” Penny says. “You have painter’s hands, you know.” She takes his hands and holds them up, inspecting them. “Ugh, I love them. I love your hands. You could be a hand model, I bet. You could be a regular model too, except you’re kind of—“
“I’m fun-sized,” Blaine says, and Penny throws her head back and laughs.
“You are so presh,” she says, and leads him into her glass-enclosed office. “Here, sit down. Let’s talk Chicago. Your dad said you’re thinking about New York too.”
God, I think about New York so much, Blaine thinks. “I – I’m pretty sure I want to go to New York, actually. I’m interested in musical theater, and New York is—“
“New York is everything,” Penny exclaims. “Absolutely everything! I get it. I love Chicago, but it’s not New York. Do you have friends there? Because New York is a big place, and—“
“I – yes,” Blaine says, trying to read Penny. She doesn’t seem like she’d be – oh, what the hell. “My – my boyfriend is in New York. He goes to NYADA.”
“I knew it!” Penny crows. “My gaydar is impeccable. It’s one of my talents. I didn’t want to just ask because that would be rude, but you have to understand that gay men are my favorite people in the world. I basically am one.”
Blaine covers his surprise with a cough.
“Do you have pictures of your boyfriend?” Penny says. “Oh my God, I bet he’s adorbs like you!”
Blaine scrolls through his phone gallery and finds one Kurt sent him recently that Rachel took, reclining on the bed in his dorm room in his tightest jeans and a long sweater with a sly look on his face, the one that Blaine always translates to, If you were here on this bed we wouldn’t have time to take pictures.
He hands the phone to Penny. She squeals when she sees the picture.
“He is so gorge! Ah-mah-zing. Does he sing? Dance? Act? I bet he does all three, doesn’t he. He’s got triple threat written all over him.”
Blaine nods, feeling overwhelmed. “He’s good at everything. He designs clothes, he plans weddings, he – he’s perfect. We’ve been dating since I was a sophomore and he was a junior, and…he’s just wonderful. I – I miss him.”
Penny’s looking a little teary-eyed. “Oh, Blaine. Why am I even trying to sell you on Chicago? That’s what your father said,sell him on Chicago, but how can I do that if it means you’ll be separated from your true love?”
Blaine could very well ask the same question, but her phone rings on her desk then. She wipes away a tear before answering, “Penny Hartz, how can I—oh, Martin, I have those specs for you. They’re on the server, under the – can I call you back? I’m in a meeting, it’s—“
Her phone starts blinking on another line, and she sighs, pressing a button and saying, “I’m in a meeting, can this – oh, I’m sorry Mr. Peters, yes, I do have the copy for that, it’s just – I’ll send it down, give me – yes, I understand the meeting is this morning…”
Blaine hears his phone buzz on Penny’s desk and discreetly reaches across it to take it back. He’s glad when he does. It’s a text from Kurt that says: I keep thinking about that thing you do with your tongue. You know which one.
He flushes and stuffs his phone into his pocket.
“Oh, Blaine, I’m so sorry!” Penny says, dropping the phone into its slot. She flaps her hands. “This is ridiculous, I thought I’d have more – Max!”
“More Max?” Blaine asks.
A dark-haired, slightly chubby guy wearing jeans and a t-shirt that says You’re an Idiot and carrying a grocery bag comes into the office and drops the bag with no ceremony on top of Penny’s piles of papers.
“You will not believe what happened,” Max says. His accent is pure Chicago, all the vowels flattened out. “Dave fired me.Again. He made me take my severance in sandwiches.”
“He gave you severance?” Penny asks.
Blaine is so behind in this conversation already.
“He’s a great friend and a great roommate but he’s a terrible boss and I hate him,” Max says. “Can we do lunch? I don’t want to eat the sandwiches. I have steak sandwich trauma now.”
“That should help with your diet at least,” Penny says brightly.
“Are you saying I’m chubby?” Max says. “I’m not chubby!”
“Oh, I’m so rude!” Penny says, eyes falling on Blaine. “Max, this is Blaine Anderson. He’s visiting from Ohio.”
“Right on, dude,” Max says, flicking his eyes up and down. “What firm do you represent? Straight outta Cleveland?”
“I – no,” Blaine stutters. “I’m in high school.”
“He’s visiting colleges, dummy,” Penny says. “His dad runs an arm of the company in Columbus. He was just telling me about his beautiful boyfriend who goes to school in New York.”
Some sort of recognition flickers across Max’s face, though Blaine doesn’t know what it means. Max is kind of cute, in a stubbly, I-don’t-care-how-I-look way. His eyes are a very pretty blue-grey. What? Blaine’s allowed to notice these things.
“I don’t know, man,” Max says. “New York is too gay for me. Like…it’s just really gay, you know?”
Blaine doesn’t quite understand how or why this would be a problem for him, but Penny saves him by cutting in and saying, “Maxie, can you maybe take Blaine out for lunch? I’m super-swamped right now and I can’t give him the attention he deserves. Plus you’ve got lots of time on your hands now, and the limo—“
“The limo smells like steak sandwiches,” Max says. “We might need to fumigate that bitch.”
Blaine isn’t sure he likes the direction this is going. He feels like he’s being handed off like an illicit package.
“If you’re busy I can show myself around—“
“No, bro, it’s cool!” Max says. “You need a friend, I need a friend. And I need some pizza, right? I bet you need some pizza.”
Blaine still feels kind of ill from last night, but it seems rude to turn down pizza. Especially in Chicago, where it’s part of the experience. Or something.
“This is so great,” Penny says. “Max knows lots about the city, especially the gay parts, which are super-relevant to you, Blaine!”
“And by the gay parts, she’s not talking about Boystown,” Max says. “You need to know that upfront, okay? Being gay in Chicago is not about the obvious. Unless you like obvious. I mean, you are wearing a bowtie.”
“Don’t be mean, beffie,” Penny says. “Be gentle to Blaine. He’s new here, and super-young.”
Wait, Blaine thinks.
“Chicago is not a gentle city, my gentle new friend,” Max says, patting Blaine on the shoulder.
Wait, Blaine thinks.
“You have to be tough about it,” Max says. “You have to take that bull by the horns.”
Wait, Blaine thinks.
“Did you see what I did there?” Max says. “Bull? Chicago? Bull?”
“Nicely done,” Penny says. “One for the ages.”
“Now you’re being mean,” Max says, pouting.
Wait, Blaine thinks. Max is gay?
Max is definitely gay.
“I’m not trying to brag,” Max says, gesturing around the interior of the limo, “but this backseat has seen a lot of hot homo action. A lot.”
“Um,” Blaine says.
“This is the first stop on your very gay tour of Chicago,” Max says. “Gayest limo in all of Chicago, right here.”
He pulls out into traffic without signaling. Blaine’s not sure why he has to sit in the back when there’s plenty of room in the front seat, but he suspects Max just likes pretending he’s driving Miss Daisy.
“You’d be surprised how much ass you can get by having a sweet ride. If I could teach you one gay lesson – wait, are you a virgin?”
Blaine curls his hands into fists in his lap. “I – what?”
“You do know what being a virgin means when you’re gay, right?” Max continues. “You get to, like, skip bases. Or the bases are different. Do you get me?”
“I’m not a virgin,” Blaine says. “I have a boyfriend.”
“You have a college boyfriend in New York,” Max says. “Every underage gay boy has a ‘boyfriend in New York.’ If I’d known I was gay in high school, I’m sure I would have invented a boyfriend in New York.”
“Kurt is my real boyfriend!” Blaine says, indignant. “I have pictures.”
Max wriggles his eyebrows. “I bet you do.”
“No – I mean – hold on.” Blaine fumbles for his phone. He doesn’t know why this is suddenly so important, but doesn’t like the way Max is smirking at him. He dials Kurt’s number.
“Hi, baby,” Kurt answers, sounding a little out of breath. “I’m on the treadmill, can I call you back?”
“You’re on the treadmill?” Blaine says.
“Don’t act so surprised,” Kurt huffs. “I work out sometimes.”
“I work you out sometimes,” Blaine can’t help saying, and he hears Max snort up front.
“Not nearly enough,” Kurt says, and Blaine thinks he can detect a naughty hint in his tone. “How’s Chicago?”
“Well, I’m in a limo right now,” Blaine says. “And I’m not sure where we’re going.”
“I don’t know where we’re going either,” Max calls out. “I almost never do.”
“That sounds a little alarming,” Kurt says. “Who is driving this limo? You know what I told you about talking to strangers, Blaine. I know you like being friendly to everyone, but—“
“Max is not a stranger,” Blaine says. “Well – I mean, I just met him. But he’s a friend of Penny’s. Who’s a friend of my dad’s.”
“So he’s a friend of your dad’s?” Kurt asks, and Blaine nearly laughs.
“Are you talking to your mom?” Max says. “I still don’t believe in this New York boyfriend, Blainers.”
Blaine bristles at the nickname. “Kurt, I need you to do me a favor,” he says.
“I’ll do you all kinds of favors,” Kurt says, and the naughty was definitely more than a hint that time.
“Max doesn’t believe my boyfriend is real,” Blaine says. “Can you talk to him?”
“Only if he pulls over,” Kurt says. “I don’t know if it’s hands-free or whatever in Chicago but I worry about your safety.”
“Hey, driver,” Blaine says. “Pull over please so you can talk to my boyfriend.”
Max jerks the wheel to the right and runs the limo up on the curb in an approximation of parking, then gestures for the phone.
“Here he is,” Blaine tells Kurt. “I love you.”
“I love you too, sweetheart,” Kurt says.
Blaine’s stomach flips. Every. Single. Time.
He hands the phone to Max, who says, “What up, New York boyfriend! How’s it hangin’ over in Gotham City?”
Blaine can’t hear what Kurt’s saying, so it’s a little nerve-wracking when Max says, “Whoa! Wow. Okay. I just met Blaine, I don’t need to know that.”
Blaine leans forward but can only hear the garbled static of Kurt’s voice as Max nods and says a series of mmmhmms andyeahs and right, rights. After a minute he says, “Nice to meet you, Kurt. Here, I’ll let you talk dirty to your lover boy again. He’s pretty cute when he blushes.”
Blaine of course blushes as he takes the phone back and says, “Hi.”
“I like him,” Kurt says. “Don’t make out with him, please.”
“I would never—“
“That was a joke,” Kurt says. “Just like how I’m not going to make out with your brother, Blaine.”
Blaine nearly drops the phone. Santana works fast.
“I – I didn’t really—“
“Seriously,” Kurt says. “Cooper is beautiful but he’s kind of a tool, and also I love you and you’re beautiful – you’re even more beautiful and you’re mine, okay, so stop being dumb. I like to think I’m dating the smarter of the Anderson brothers.”
“Yes, sir,” Blaine says, feeling appropriately chastised and also like he really wishes he could kiss Kurt right now.
“Oooh, I like that,” Kurt says. “We’ll have to do that some more. Bye bye, honey. Talking on the phone while running is the worst.”
“Bye, Kurt,” Blaine says, and waits until Kurt hangs up to put down his phone.
“Awwwwwwwwwww,” he hears Max say. They’re bumping down the road again. Someone honks behind them. “You’re so cute I kind of threw up in my mouth right then.”
“So you believe me now?” Blaine asks.
“Well, he told me you’re kind of subby and insecure and sweet and romantic, and that you have a scar above your hip that you got falling off a bike when you were little,” Max says. “Don’t worry, I’m not going to check. I’m choosing to believe you.”
“He told you what?” Blaine exclaims.
“Okay, he didn’t tell me any of that stuff except about the scar,” Max says. “But I know the rest is true. You’re wearing a bowtie, dude. Like, unironically.”
“See, insecure!” Max says. “You should be less insecure, because let me tell you, if you’re cool enough to land a real New York boyfriend while you’re still in high school, then you…must be pretty cool.”
Blaine puffs up at that.
Max screeches to a halt in front a big glass office building, throwing Blaine forward. “Welcome to our next stop.”
“Is this the headquarters of some…gay organization? Or publication?” Blaine asks once he rights himself.
“Hell, no,” Max says. “My BFF Brad works here. He’s got a real job. He’s going to take us out to lunch.”
Blaine doesn’t know why Max was acting like this isn’t part of the Gay Tour of Chicago, because Brad is…Brad is the gayest straight man Blaine has ever met. He’s tall and slim with a shiny bald head and a wide smile that makes Blaine want to smile too. He’s wearing a snappy suit and he has a pocket square.
“Oh my good gravy, you are wearing a bowtie,” Brad exclaims when Max introduces them. He actually reaches out to touch it, as if he doesn’t believe it’s real. “Where did you come from?”
“Ohio,” Blaine says. “I go to school in Lima.”
“You are one dapper motherfucker for Ohio,” Brad says. “No offense.”
Blaine blinks. “I – take that as a compliment.”
“As well you should, young sir,” Brad says, and then punches Max in the shoulder. “Dude, you didn’t tell me you were bringing a friend!”
“He’s not that kind of friend,” Max says.
“Well, duh,” Brad says. “He’s kind of young for you, Max. Plus you and Grant—“
“Can we not talk about Grant?” Max interrupts. “I know you love to talk about Grant, but—“
“Grant picked out this vest for me,” Brad says, brushing his hands over the nicely tailored soft gray number he’s wearing. “He has the best taste.”
“Of course he does,” Max says, grinning. “He’s dating me.”
“I like the vest,” Blaine offers. “Is it Brooks Brothers? It looks like their fall collection, or maybe the new Armani—“
“Well, well, well,” Brad says, and slings his arm around Blaine’s shoulders. “Aren’t you delightful! You’re like – oh my God! Max! He’s like mini-Grant!”
Max narrows his eyes. “Brad, what part of not talking about Grant do you not understand? Are you—”
“But seriously, it’s uncanny,” Brad says. “Dapper dresser, sweet good looks. Are they related? Does Grant have relatives?”
“Of course Grant has – I am not even going to answer that,” Max says. “You’ll probably try to go hunt down his mom or something, you psycho.”
“Grant is really awesome,” Brad tells Blaine. “You should ask to meet Grant. He makes Max all fumbly and nervous and he gets all red and—“
“I understand,” Blaine says, thinking of the way he feels when Kurt gives him one of his slow once-overs that always make Blaine feel like he’s naked. (To be fair, sometimes he is naked.)
“Let’s get pizza at Pizano’s,” Max says. “Or are you still gluten-free, because that is some b.s. Jane has you on, man.”
“I have broken free of my gluten-free prison,” Brad says, pumping his fist. “I tested negative for Celiac’s and positive for hotness and Jane let me off the hook, bro!”
“I won’t introduce you to Jane,” Max tells Blaine. “Jane is scary.”
“Aw, but Jane would love Blaine,” Brad says. “Listen to how musical and beautiful their names are together!”
“Speaking of musical,” Max says, “I think we’re on for Penny’s karaoke thing with her mom tonight.”
Brad smacks his forehead. “Dammit! I totally spaced. I have to prepare. What do you think, Naughty by Nature or La Bouche?”
“She’s making me give Blaine a gay tour of Chicago,” Max says. “I don’t think I’m qualified.”
“Did you show him your limo?” Brad says. “Because that’s pretty gay.”
“Wait,” Blaine says. “Did you say karaoke?”
The last time Blaine sang karaoke he was in New York. It was November and the leaves on the trees in Central Park were changing, green to golden red and brown. He and Kurt walked through the park with their gloved hands intertwined, Kurt chattering on about his classes and the song he was going to sing at their winter exhibition and oh my God, Blaine, their costume department! You would die.
Blaine was happy to be there in that moment with Kurt, so happy, but he also felt the tiniest bit raw. This was Kurt’s life, now – New York with all these people wearing black cut to fit them just right, and the buildings that ate up the sky, and the glowing lights of Broadway there, just there, close but out of reach, and Kurt’s tiny dorm room housing his roommate Fritz with the bi-level mohawk and the German edge to his words when he said, Oh, so you are the boyfriend.
The boyfriend. This was Blaine everywhere he went in New York: Kurt, yes, Kurt talks about you all the time! Ohio, right? You are just as cute as he says. Blaine felt like a doll, passed around and admired but mute.
On Saturday night Rachel bounced into Kurt’s room demanding they go to this bar she’d heard about. It’s totally legal for us, they’re all ages but they’ll probably serve us liquor, you know how it is here. We can sing! The last part was the incentive, the opportunity to sing, not the alcohol, because that’s the kind of college students Kurt and Rachel were.
Blaine was tired—he’d spent the previous week too wired to sleep, and Kurt had been touring with him non-stop since he arrived, like he thought he had to show Blaine all of New York City in three days. You don’t have to convince me, he wanted to say. I love you. Truthfully he didn’t want to go out, but he could see the gleam in Kurt’s eyes. He knew there was no telling him no, so he put on his best blazer over his best sweater and his best bowtie and went.
They crammed into a corner booth in this scratched up wood-paneled piano bar with two of Rachel’s friends, Liza and Tallulah. Blaine could not for the life of him figure out why all other NYADA students seemed to be named after gay icons. There was a girl on Kurt’s floor who called herself Madonna without even a hint of irony.
You have to sing, Kurt, you have to sing, Tallulah said, poking Kurt in the arm, and Kurt slid his hand into Blaine’s and squeezed. Blaine leaned in and whispered, Yeah, Kurt, you should sing. You know I love when you sing.
You first, Kurt whispered back, and oh, that was not what Blaine expected him to say.
Which is how he ended up standing in front a room full of drunk strangers singing Sam Cooke’s “Bring It on Home to Me.” Thinking back, a song about infidelity was maybe not the best tune to sing to his currently long-distance boyfriend, but Kurt didn’t seem to mind.
If you ever change your mind/About leaving, leaving me behind/Well baby, bring it to me, bring me your sweet lovin’/Bring it on home to me.
By the time he got to You know I’ll always be your slave, all he could see was Kurt, Kurt sitting at that table surrounded by girls, pale and riveted, hands clasped together, head tilted to one side, biting his lip. God, Kurt was just – Kurt was amazing. Blaine knew he was only 17 and he had many months until they’d be able to be together every day again, but he still felt it: that certainty, the rightness of it.
I’ll never say goodbye to you.
Kurt never did get to sing, because he dragged Blaine out of the club directly after, back to his empty dorm room, where he put a sock on the door and then slammed Blaine up against it. They had been having sex for the better part of a year, but not like this – Kurt so in control and strong and uninhibited, moaning loud and leaving light bruises everywhere on Blaine’s skin where he pressed just a bit too hard. Blaine let him in and kissed him until neither of them could breathe and held on so tightly he was sure he left marks of his own.
Before Kurt left him at the airport the next morning, he curled one hand around Blaine’s wrist and kissed his fingertips and said: I will see you soon.
Not soon enough, Blaine said, and Kurt produced a Sharpie from somewhere and wrote COURAGE across the back of his hand.
Blaine watched those letters fade for weeks, feeling Kurt slip farther and farther away until he was nothing but a sense memory, fingers in his hair and breath against his cheek, inside him always, whispering: soon, soon, soon.
The afternoon portion of their Very Gay Chicago Tour is a whirlwind. After their stellar pizza lunch, Max takes Blaine to his friend Alex’s boutique, Xela. The store is exactly the sort of place Kurt would appreciate, every display like something out of a fashion museum, colors blending and swirling. Alex pinches his cheeks and gives him a free shirt that Blaine’s pretty sure was made for a woman, but whatever. Fashion has no gender.
At the Art Institute of Chicago Max takes him on the full Ferris Bueller tour, though he gives him very little time to marvel at the Seurat. They stop for a snack at Dave’s steak sandwich truck, Steak Me Out Tonight (Max declares himself over my steak sandwich trauma, who can hold that kind of grudge?) and now they’re here at the karaoke bar, enjoying Friday Night Happy Hour, waiting for Grant.
Or – Blaine is, anyway. Max is somewhere probably freaking out.
What are you doing? Blaine’s phone reads. The letters are a little blurry. He squints. Unless you’re spending the evening jerking off in your hotel room I want to see you.
Are you sure you don’t still want to seeee me? Blaine texts back.
It’s possible Max has given him a couple drinks.
Ew, gross. I don’t want to see your dick, Anderson. We’ve been over this. Also, somebody’s been pre-gaming. It’s barely dinnertime!
“Dude, if Grant comes over here,” Max says, appearing from nowhere and squeezing Blaine’s shoulder, “tell him I’m indisposed, okay?”
“Where are you going?” Blaine asks. “Don’t leave me!”
“Relax, nerd, I’m not going to leave you. God, you’re needy,” Max says. “I’m going to get more drinks. Just – Grant is coming, and I don’t know when he’s getting here. I told him to find the table with the kid who looks like Beaver’s cuter cousin.”
Blaine chooses to take that as a compliment. He swirls his drink and tries to formulate a comeback, but when he looks up Max has already disappeared.
He texts to Santana: We can meet up later at the hotel. You don’t have to come here.
Embarrassed to be seen with me in public, Blainers? I took pictures last night, you know. I have a Facebook and I know how to use it.
“You must be Blaine.”
Blaine glances up to see a handsome dark-haired guy staring down at him with wide, understanding eyes and a friendly smile. He’s wearing a tailored black vest over a purple paisley tie, and his jacket is tossed effortlessly over his shoulder. He’s quite lovely, and not at all what Blaine expected.
“You must be Grant,” Blaine says.
“I am!” Grant holds out his hand to shake. His palm is cool when Blaine touches it. Grant seems generally cool. Not cold, but cool. Cucumber cool.
Blaine has had a lot of drinks.
“Max said you were visiting Chicago,” Grant says. “How do you like it so far?”
Blaine’s head is a muddy blur of steak sandwiches and Mary Cassatt and white hotel rooms and liquor. He says, “I like it a lot.”
“I hope Max has been treating you right,” Grant says, his mouth tipping up at one corner. His eyes crinkle when he smiles, oh God. “He can be a little…much.”
“You’re here!” Max shouts behind them, and Blaine watches the way Grant’s eyes brighten when they fall on Max.
I wish someone would look at me like that, Blaine thinks, and then – Wait.
Grant pulls Max into a hug, then kisses him lightly on the lips and tousles his hair. It’s such a sweet, familiar gesture. Blaine thinks of the way Kurt likes to run his fingers over Blaine’s cheek and down over his neck to trace his collarbone.
Max is looking a bit flushed when they separate.
“Dude, I’m glad you made it. I don’t know if I can handle another one of these mother-daughter karaoke-fests without legitimately vomiting.”
Grant shakes his head. “You should be less harsh on Penny. It’s not nice to talk that way about your exes.”
Blaine’s eyes widen. “You and Penny—“
“We did the nasty in college, yes,” Max says. “It was a confusing time. I still had bangs. A lot of gay men have ex-girlfriends, you know. Not all of us—“
“Rachel,” Blaine blurts out, and both Max and Grant raise they eyebrows. “Um – she wasn’t my girlfriend. But there was a time – there was alcohol involved.”
“Hence, college,” Max says. “Alcohol was always involved.”
“What up, table of gay!” Blaine hears, and hey, speak of the devil, there’s Penny, sweeping in wearing a cute green dress and heels. She’s trailed by a shorter, slightly older woman wearing glasses and a matching green dress.
“Hi, Penny and Dana,” Max and Grant say in unison.
“Blaine, I’m so sorry about earlier,” Penny says, patting him on the head. “You’d think I was important or something! I hope Max wasn’t awful to you. He is an actual tour guide sometimes, even though he knows nothing about Chicago.”
“I know plenty about Chicago,” Max says. “Like where to eat and where things were filmed. Just because I don’t know anyhistorical facts—“
“Speaking of historical facts, did you show him the apartment building where I used to live? The one where you nearly set the block on fire laying out candles on the stoop on Valentine’s Day?” Grant asks.
He’s looking at Max with such naked affection that Blaine wants to cry.
“Nobody can prove that,” Max says, averting his eyes. “I was never there.”
“I have pictures,” Penny whispers to Blaine.
“I was never there!” Max shouts.
“This is my mom, Dana Hartz,” Penny says, and Dana steps forward and takes Blaine’s hand and kisses it, knight-in-shining-armor style.
“Oh, you have such a gentle spirit,” Dana says, rubbing over Blaine’s pulse point in a way that makes his insides feel funny. “Like a fawn, or a turtle dove.”
“Mom, don’t molest Blaine,” Penny says. “He’s Mr. Anderson’s son.”
Dana cocks her head to one side. “Really? But Mr. Anderson is such a predator animal, like a cheetah—“
Blaine has no idea how Penny’s mom knows his dad, but she’s definitely got his number.
Blaine’s phone starts buzzing then and keeps on buzzing.
“Dude, you need to get that,” Max says. “It’s probably your dad right now. He’s probably psychic. I don’t want to be held up on kidnapping charges.”
Blaine smothers a sigh and picks it up.
“Tell me where you are, Anderson,” Santana says. “I need to know. For science.”
“For science?” Blaine says, raising his voice. It’s starting to get very noisy in this bar.
“Just tell me where you are!” Santana says.
“It’s called Sakura,” Blaine says. “But seriously, Santana—“
“Shut up and let me rescue you, Anderson,” Santana says. “I like being your superhero, so just let it happen.”
His phone goes dead.
“Hey, Blaine,” Penny says, “didn’t you say you can sing?”
Santana arrives twenty minutes later wearing sparkly hot pants and a tank top, just in time to see Penny take the stage with her mom. They’re in the middle of a rather uncomfortable version of Alanis Morisette’s “You Oughta Know” (nobody wants to hear anybody’s mom sing would she go down on you in a theater, seriously) when Santana collapses into a chair next to him, leans in and says, “Who are these freaks?”
“Friends of my dad’s,” Blaine says, and downs the rest of his drink. He should probably be more concerned about the fact that he doesn’t know what’s in this one.
“Your dad is a weirdo,” Santana says. “Not that this is news.”
“Want a drink?” Blaine asks.
“I don’t know his dad, and if anyone asks, I was never here,” Max says, leaning across the table. “Hello. You’re very pretty for a girl.”
Santana preens. “Thanks, random dude.”
“This is Max,” Blaine says. “He’s been acting as my gay tour guide today.”
Santana wrinkles her nose. “Is that some kind of euphemism? Because he’s kind of old for you, Blaine.”
“I am not old!” Max says. “He is just really, really young.”
“He really is,” Santana says. “And annoyingly pure, right?”
“I am only a year younger than you, Santana,” Blaine says. “And I am not a virgin.”
“Honey, we know,” Santana says, slinging her arm around his shoulders, then tells Max, “His boyfriend is the toppiest twink you will ever met.”
“I know,” Max says. “We conversed over the phone.”
“I have to go,” Blaine says, suddenly, and shrugs out of Santana’s embrace. He gets to his feet perhaps a bit too quickly for how many very mixed drinks he’s had.
“Are my hot pants actually on fire, Anderson?” Santana asks. “Is this too much heat for you to handle?”
Penny and Dana are leaving the stage, and he makes a beeline for the DJ before he can change his mind.
“Woot woot!” he hears Santana call out, and some rowdy cheering from Max.
“Can I just sing?” Blaine says, leaning heavily on the side of the DJ booth. “I mean – I don’t need back-up, just gimme the mike.”
The DJ, a young Asian guy with multiple piercings in his ears and a floppy haircut that obscures one of his eyes, looks unimpressed with his derring-do, but he shrugs and says, “Sure, man, whatever,” and hangs him the microphone.
Blaine lurches onto the platform, and he’s up there before he realizes he doesn’t actually know what he wants to sing.
The bar is loud and he’s following a mother-daughter rendition of Alanis and honestly he doesn’t even care if anyone hears, he just needs to sing. He needs it like he needs New York and Kurt and open stages for the rest of his life, open stages anywhere they’re open to him, whether people listen or not.
Look at this stuff, isn’t it neat, he begins, a slowed-down, a capella version of a familiar song, and lets the song take him over. He closes his eyes and sees Kurt, standing across from him in his pretend Dalton uniform, mouth curling up at one corner as his eyes sparkled. Blaine knows he didn’t know then, not yet, not really, but maybe he did know, somewhere deep down inside of himself he hadn’t discovered yet.
He doesn’t realize the bar’s gotten quieter until he’s already into the first chorus, I wanna be where the people are, I wanna see, wanna see them dancin’—
Blaine opens his eyes. He swallows around the lump in his throat and keeps singing. He can see Santana, a few rows back holding her iPhone up. Penny is standing with her arm around her mom, eyes wet, and Brad has his arm around Max’s waist, gently swaying, while Grant holds Max’s hand.
This is the thing about Chicago: it’s great because most places can be great if you let them be. He’s sure he could find ways to enjoy and learn from this city, to make himself a part of it. He’s already got friends, and he could perform anywhere.
If you’re good enough, you create your audience wherever you go.
But without Kurt, Blaine has so many less reasons to sing. His father will never understand that.
He holds the last note for a long moment before letting it go.
The bar fills with applause, but Blaine can’t stay to enjoy it. He hands the mic to the DJ and takes the most direct path out the door, ignoring the way he can hear Santana and Max calling his name, Blaine, where are you going? Where are you going?
He takes a cab back to the Fairmont, rides in the elevator up to his floor, and collapses onto his bed with a soft sigh. He feels like his throat is closing up, and okay, maybe this is the other side of drinking, the side where he becomes maudlin and self-pitying and generally a pain in the ass.
His phone buzzes. He glances down, expecting some pissy text from Santana, but it keeps buzzing. The screen flashes: Kurt.
It’s got to be at least 1 am in New York. Blaine didn’t accidentally drunk-dial his boyfriend, did he? He’s not that intoxicated. He thinks he would have remembered.
Part of him doesn’t want to answer. He hates talking on the phone with Kurt when he’s sad, because it’s the time he needs him most. He’s afraid Kurt will hear it in his voice, the desperation, the why are you there when I want you here? He doesn’t want Kurt to feel guilty for doing what he should have, for leaving.
His phone stops buzzing, then a text message flashes across the screen.
Kurt: Pick up your phone. I really need to talk to you.
This time when his phone starts buzzing again, he answers it.
“Hello?” he says, feeling nervous.
He wonders if Kurt is angry about something, if somehow he knows Blaine’s been drunk the last two nights and with Santana, feeling sorry for himself and acting stupid.
“Oh, Blaine,” Kurt sighs into the phone. “Blaine, I – I’m sorry.”
Blaine sucks in a breath. “W-what?”
There’s a pause on the other end of the line, and God, Blaine hates pauses on the phone. He never knows how to read them, not like the way he can read every flicker of emotion that crosses Kurt’s face.
“Santana sent me the video,” Kurt says. “Of you singing tonight? I – I think maybe – I’m just so sorry, baby, I—“
“Wait, why are you sorry?” Blaine says. “You don’t need to be sorry.”
“I miss you,” Kurt says, all in a rush. “Do you have any idea how much I miss you?”
Blaine curls his fingers around the edge of the bedspread, folding it over. He wishes it was softer. “Of course I know – I miss you too—“
“I don’t think you do know,” Kurt says. “I think – I’ve been trying so hard not to influence your decision about schools. I mean, I know I’ve been doing a terrible job, but I – I wanted you to think about it, I really did. I feel like you never gave yourself a chance to consider your other options, and that’s not fair, because I had that chance. I could have gone anywhere, anywhere I’d gotten in, but the truth is – the truth is I can’t imagine another year without you.”
Blaine swallows. “I can’t either, Kurt.”
“No, but you don’t understand,” Kurt says. “I – if you’d decided this weekend that you love Chicago so much you have to go to school there, I would’ve – I would have figured out some way to be there with you next year. I don’t know how, exactly, but…I would have done it. I would have made that happen.”
Blaine’s stomach drops. He can’t mean…
“You would give up New York for me?” Blaine says, voice going high. “NYADA and Broadway and—“
“Yes,” Kurt says. “Because it doesn’t matter, really. Because there are places to perform everywhere, but you’re only in one place. And I want to be wherever you are.”
Blaine exhales. “Kurt.”
“New York is New York, and it’s great,” Kurt says, “but it’s not my dream city without you in it.”
Blaine is clutching his phone so tightly his hand is sweating. He wants to ride the cell phone waves to where Kurt is right now, to climb into his bed and wrap his arms around him and hold him close, to press his lips into the dip of Kurt’s throat and breathe him in.
“I love you,” Blaine says. “I love you so much, I – I don’t need a choice, I just – I need them to choose me. I need some school in New York to choose me.”
“Sweetheart, there is no way at least one of the schools you applied to won’t choose you,” Kurt says. “God, the way you looked on that stage tonight—and anyway, if they don’t, I’ll go down there personally and murder people until somebody says yes.”
Blaine laughs. “You’d do that for me?”
“Any day of the week,” Kurt says. “I’m a good Samaritan like that, and totally not self-interested in the matter.”
Blaine feels like he has wire uncurling from where it was twisted around his heart and lungs, and he can finally breathe again.
“Stay with me until I fall asleep?” Blaine says.
“Of course,” Kurt murmurs. “Anytime.”
Blaine wakes up in the morning to the room phone ringing with imprints from his cell phone on his cheek and a pounding headache. He reaches out for it and grunts into the phone in greeting.
“Mr. Anderson, this is your 9 am wake-up call,” the chipper voice says. “You have a meeting this morning at University of Chicago, followed by a campus tour and—“
Blaine drops the phone into the cradle, not even caring if he’s being rude. He has a collection of text messages on his cell, but he only checks the one from Kurt: I forgot to say it, but in case it’s not extremely obvious: I love you too, gorgeous.
Blaine smiles, then flicks through his contacts until he finds the numbers he entered last night and picks one.
“Oh my God,” Max croaks out when he picks up the phone. “What fresh hell is this?”
“Um, hello,” Blaine says. “This is Blaine Anderson. I was wondering if—“
“I hate you,” Max says. “It is way early on a Saturday morning and we are not good friends. I don’t even let my good friends get away with this kind of shit.”
Blaine draws back from the phone. “I – I’m sorry to wake you, but I need one more favor and then I’ll never bother you again, I swear.”
There is some rustling on the other end and muffled voices, and then Max says, “Grant says I have to be nice to you, so okay, fine. As long as you’re okay with owing me one forever.”
“Yes, of course,” Blaine says. “So, um – I kind of need a ride?”
A couple hours later, Max is shoving Blaine’s suitcase into the back of his limo. He’s wearing sweatpants and a ratty sweatshirt, stubbly with his hair uncombed. He looks like a bear who has just emerged from hibernation.
“I thought you had some fancy ride already,” Max says. “Did you just want to see my beautiful face again?”
Blaine smiles. “Well – yes, of course I did. And I’m sure my dad hired someone to take me to my interview this morning, but I’m not going to the interview, and I figured I could use some of your expert gay advice on the way to where I’m going.”
Max blinks at him, his eyes red-rimmed and bleary. “Well, my gay advice is the best gay advice. Where are you going?”
“The airport,” Blaine says, then adds, because he's always wanted to say it, "and step on it."
“…and that is why you never use water-based lube,” Max says, pulling the limo over to the curb at O’Hare. “Seriously, man. Terrible life decision.”
“Good to know,” Blaine says, wishing, not for the first time, that he could control how much he blushes.
“This looks like your stop,” Max says, putting the limo into park and turning around to look at him through the partition. “It’s been real, Blaine. You’re an okay dude, even if you do wear bowties and get up way too early in the morning.”
“Can I – can I ask you something?” Blaine says. “Something personal?”
Max stares at him. “Dude, we just talked for half an hour about lube. Clearly I don’t have a lot of personal lines.”
“It’s about Grant,” Blaine says.
Max’s eyes widen. “I—uh. Okay.”
“I – I don’t want you to take this the wrong way,” Blaine says. “It’s just – you two are very different, and I was wondering – how did you—“
“—land such a stone cold fox?” Max says, mouth widening into a grin. “I know, nobody gets it, it’s cool.”
Blaine waits. Max clears his throat.
“The thing is, Grant is awesome,” Max says, “but he’s not perfect, you know? And he may be super-hot and dress really well and speak like five different languages and have a job that’s legit, but there are things I do better than him. Like – I’m kickass at Scattegories, and I make awesome chili cheese fries, and I can tell you anything you might ever want to know about theouvre of John Hughes. But – okay, here’s the deal. A year ago we almost broke up, because I said I thought I might one day want kids—“
Blaine must look as shocked as he feels, because Max puts up his hand and says, “I know, I know, whatever, I’m a crazy person, but I thought I might want them, like I might be a decent dad someday when I’m ready for it, and Grant was all like,No I know I don’t want kids, I’ve already decided that, I’m the decider, blah blah blah. And so we took a break for a little while, and he went away to do architect stuff, and then one day I was sitting on the couch eating Cheetos and watching The Golden Girls and he knocked on my door and I let him in and we talked. It was really nice, and I told him I’d missed him so much, and he said he’d missed me, so much that he didn’t know how he’d live without me, and it was super-romantic and shit, and then he took my hand and he said, We can figure this out.”
Blaine doesn’t know if it’s his hangover or this whole whirlwind weekend or just his own sentimental tendencies, but he’s feeling a bit weepy.
“So now we’re back together, and the sex is cray, and I don’t know, exactly, what’s going to happen with us?” Max says. “Like I don’t know if we’ll have kids, but I know – and not to be all Zen Buddha feng shui but this is legit – you’ve got to be patient.”
Blaine takes in a deep breath and lets it out.
“I don’t know, dude, I know you’re like twelve or whatever,” Max says, arching an eyebrow. “But I think maybe you’ve already got that figured out.”
At the ticket counter, Blaine takes out his dad’s AmEx, for emergencies, Blaine, no silly things, and places it on the counter.
“I’d like to change my ticket, please,” Blaine says.
“Destination?” the woman behind the counter asks.
“New York City,” Blaine says.
“No, to New York and then back to Columbus,” Blaine says.
The woman types a few things into the computer and then looks up at him expectantly.
“Just a few days in New York this time around,” Blaine says. “But I’ll be back.”