Blaine smiles and waves at Rachel’s train along with the rest of his friends as it pulls away, like them wishing her happiness and success, but there’s a part of him - a selfish, insecure, relieved part of him - that’s overjoyed because Kurt’s standing there on the platform beside him instead of sitting on the train to New York beside her.
He’s not proud of this part of him, but it’s there. It’s the same part of him that made him pull away before Kurt even got a letter saying he was leaving. It’s the same part of him that has been having trouble keeping it together all week as Kurt has smiled his way to graduation and the end of their high school days together. It’s the same part of him that’s murmured in the depths of his heart that he’s not good enough, not strong enough, not exceptional enough for them to be able to make it in a long term relationship.
It’s the part of him that’s now chanting in a silent, awful, grateful whisper in the back of his head, It’s not Kurt, it’s not Kurt, it’s not Kurt.
Blaine wants everything in the world for Kurt. He wants Kurt to achieve all of his dreams, and he knows Kurt’s incredible enough that he should. He doesn’t want Kurt ever to be disappointed or rejected. He doesn’t.
He just doesn’t want Kurt to leave him behind, either.
As he watches Finn run down the platform alongside the train, Blaine is so relieved that he’s not right there with him. He can feel the phantom beat of the pavement against his feet, the sting of imagined tears in his eyes as he watches Kurt through the window as he pulls away. Blaine can understand how Finn could choose to let someone as special as Rachel or Kurt go instead of holding them back, because the last thing he’d ever want to be is a weight holding down someone who should be flying, but he’s glad beyond reason that he didn’t have to make that choice. He doesn’t know if he could ever have been strong enough to do it.
The train picks up speed and disappears down the tracks, and Finn slows to a walk, then stops, staring after it with his back to his friends. His shoulders slump, but he doesn’t turn around. Blaine’s throat closes with the knowledge of what Finn must feel - how gutted and alone - and with the gratitude that he doesn’t have to experience it firsthand, too.
Next to Blaine, Kurt makes a soft, sympathetic sound. “This is hardly a dream wedding day for either of them,” he murmurs before walking down the platform, head high and hands in his pockets. When he reaches Finn he puts his palm on his brother’s back and speaks quietly to him. Finn nods back once, twice, before taking a deep breath and shaking his head. He pats Kurt’s shoulder and turns around, his expression resolved if sad as they walk back to the group together.
They look subdued but strong as they stride side-by-side down the platform. They look like they’re both seeing their dreams disappear before their eyes but don’t want to show just how much it hurts.
Blaine knees are weak with the fact that he isn’t the one walking back to their friends with Finn while Kurt gets further away every second. He wishes he didn’t feel happy that Kurt’s coming closer with each step. He wishes he only felt sad for Kurt. But he does feel happy. He can’t help it. He always wants Kurt to be walking toward him instead of away.
When Kurt and Finn get close enough that Finn’s drawing breath to speak, out of nowhere Brittany cheers and tosses a bagful of white confetti at them. It covers the whole group in an explosion of bright paper snow, and it startles a laugh out of Kurt before his eyes snap with concern to Finn’s face. Finn blinks hard, like he’s trying to keep back tears, and then he laughs, too.
“Thank you,” he tells Brittany as they all chuckle and brush themselves off.
“Everything’s better with confetti,” she replies. “And dinosaurs. And marshmallow fluff, but Lord Tubbington ate the last container of it.”
“And friends,” Finn says with a brave smile, and Blaine’s chant of not Kurt, not Kurt starts up once more, because he knows just how it feels to have to paste on that smile when his heart is bleeding and right now he doesn’t have to.
There’s a lot of hugging all around after that accompanied by chatter about plans for the day and the summer, but finally as the group starts to break apart Blaine finds himself beside Kurt where he belongs. Kurt’s smile is strained as he lets go of Mercedes, but it loosens a little when he sees Blaine, like if the day is hard with so many goodbyes Blaine is still easy.
That makes Blaine smile, too; he wants to be easy for Kurt. “What would you say to some coffee?” he asks, reaching up to pluck out a bit of confetti that has dared to rest in Kurt’s otherwise perfect hair.
“I would say yes,” Kurt says in a voice lightened by relief.
They make their promises to be at Artie’s party on Saturday night, disentangle themselves from a few more hugs, and walk away side-by-side toward the parking lot. Kurt lets out a sigh when they get into Blaine’s car and shut the doors, and Blaine finally reaches for his hand.
“Are you okay?” he asks, even though he knows the answer has to be no.
“Give me a few minutes,” Kurt says softly. “I am. I will be.”
“Okay.” Blaine squeezes his hand and then starts the car and drives them toward the Lima Bean. In the rearview mirror, he sees Finn heading to his own car in his wedding suit, Puck by his side instead of Rachel, and thinks yet again not Kurt, not Kurt.
He can’t be proud of how he feels, but he has to swallow against the lump of relief in his throat. Kurt is there beside him in the car, pale and proud, subdued, clearly pulling himself together from the pain Blaine would never in a million years wish for him, but there nonetheless.
By the time they get to the Lima Bean, Kurt’s smile is easier, and he teases Blaine about his choice of baked goods (“Muffins are cake, Blaine; I don’t care if they have fruit in them.”) and steals a bite as soon as they’re seated. It is all so normal.
But Kurt’s smile drifts away as he looks at the shop around them, at the people around them, and Blaine wonders what Kurt sees in the comfortable environment of laughing regulars and displays of coffee beans and cups that he does not.
“Are you sure you’re okay?” Blaine asks again. “I mean, I know it’s hard, but - “
Kurt nods. “Yes,” he says. He takes in a slow breath and lets it out, looking back at Blaine. “I’m happy for her. Not about losing Finn, because I know she has to be broken apart by that, but she’s strong. She’s incredible. And I love her.”
“I know,” Blaine says, because he loves her, too, though it’s not the same as the way Kurt does. She’s Rachel.
“She’s like family to me,” Kurt continues, “even if it it’s not going to be official now. I’m happy she’s going to New York and getting to live her dreams.”
Kurt’s jaw is set, but because he’s a better person than Blaine there’s no disingenuity in his expression or his voice. He means what he’s saying. He has the biggest heart in the world.
Kurt’s mouth flattens like he’s trying to hold something in. After a moment, he tilts his head and says with a sad wobble of a smile, “I’m happy for her, Blaine, but I wanted to be happy for me, too.”
Blaine’s heart aches for him like an open wound, and he wishes it were all of his heart instead of there being a little part that won’t stop being relieved that Kurt isn’t rushing away from him, not today. “I know,” he says, reaching out for his hand and rubbing his thumb over Kurt’s knuckles, the most solid sympathy he can offer in public. “I’m sorry.”
Kurt’s fingers tighten around Blaine’s. “I thought she and I would be doing this together.”
“I thought somehow she’d get in even after the audition debacle, and we’d be doing this all together. I thought we’d bicker over closet space and who could figure out the subway faster. I thought we’d save every penny to have a theater night once a month. I always knew it was possible, but I guess I didn’t really think she’d go while I - ” Kurt shakes his head and laughs a little. “I mean, I already had plans for your trip out over the Columbus Day long weekend.”
Blaine leans forward in surprise and drops Kurt’s hand without thinking; this is news to him. “You did?” Kurt had been planning a trip they hadn’t even talked about? His heart leaps at the thought. Kurt has been thinking of him. Blaine loves when Kurt is thinking of him, thinking ahead. He loves that Kurt believes in them so strongly that Blaine can hold onto that even when the part of himself he can’t seem to stop is doubting.
“Well, I was still in the brainstorming stage, but there were a few definites.”
The color rises on Kurt’s cheeks, and there’s a wistfulness to his expression that makes Blaine second-guess whether he should have asked. He’s curious, but obviously the topic has to be upsetting.
Kurt doesn’t object, though. “The top of the Empire State Building. The Fashion Walk of Fame. Afternoon tea at the Ritz,” he says as Blaine nods along. “FAO Schwarz.”
“So I could dance on the huge keyboard on the floor?” Blaine asks with delight. He loves that scene in Big.
“If there actually is one, yes.” Kurt smiles back. “Otherwise, I thought you’d have fun looking at all of the well-dressed bears. Walking in Central Park, a night out on Broadway, a night in just the two of us. Bagels and coffee in bed for breakfast from whatever my favorite deli turned out to be. Reading the paper on a park bench. Shopping in Greenwich Village...” He trails off and looks down at his cup. “It seems silly now.”
“It sounds wonderful,” Blaine says. It sounds amazing, all of that time with Kurt doing special things in the city of their dreams.
“I just wanted you to love it.” Kurt meets Blaine’s eyes again. “I wanted you to love being there with me, so you’d want to go to school in New York, too. Not just for me, but for the city and us in it.”
“Kurt,” Blaine promises him, “you could be in Timbuktu and I’d want to be there with you.”
The corner of Kurt’s mouth twists a little. “Will you settle for Lima?” he asks with a bitter edge.
“I would. But you’re not staying in Lima forever.”
“I didn’t get in, Blaine,” Kurt tells him with a half-shrug that Blaine doesn’t believe for a minute. He knows just how much Kurt’s hurting. He can see it in every inch of how he’s holding himself, in every tight line in his face.
“Kurt - “
Kurt clutches at his cup and says, “I know it upsets you when I talk about leaving, and I'm sorry, because it's not you at all. You're what made this time so good. You're the best thing, the very best, Blaine, but I thought I was finally on my way out of here. I thought I was finally going to be able to chase my dreams. I thought I was finally free.” His eyes are turning watery, and he blinks the tears back with imperfect success. “And I’m not.”
“You didn’t get into NYADA this year, but you aren’t stuck,” Blaine says, leaning forward. This is important. This is so important. He might be selfishly happy that Kurt isn’t leaving just yet, but that’s only a short-term thing. Long-term, they’re going to achieve everything they want to. “It’s one no from one school for one year. You’re still going to leave. You can still go to NYADA if you want. You just might be a little delayed in your departure, that's all. Your trip isn’t canceled altogether.”
“Like a mechanical problem on a plane?” Kurt blinks at him thoughtfully.
Blaine nods. “Or bad weather.”
Kurt looks at him for a long moment before nodding back, some of the despair in his expression fading. “Okay. We’ll call it a weather delay.”
Kurt’s next breath is a little less watery. “It might look like a monsoon, but it can’t rain forever, right?”
“Right. And you know what?” Blaine asks, his spirits lifting on his own behalf.
“If it takes another year for your plane to leave, it means we’ll get to be on it together.” Blaine’s tentative smile grows wider as Kurt smiles back.
“You just want me to hold your hand during take-off,” Kurt says.
“I want you to hold my hand all the time,” Blaine replies. It might not be right, it might not be fair, but it’s still true.
“That could get awkward.”
“If anyone could make it work, we could,” Blaine says.
Kurt relaxes just a touch in his chair and says with fondness, “We could.”
Blaine relaxes, too, because as much as he’s hurting that Kurt’s so sad - and he really, really is - he thinks to himself that he gets to have this view for another year. He gets to see Kurt sitting across from him, beautifully poised, beautifully dressed, his eyes lit up just for him. And then they can do all of those amazing New York things.
He wishes he didn’t feel relieved. He wishes he didn’t feel like the earthquake had just stopped with his house still standing and with himself somehow on his feet. He wishes he didn’t feel like he’s just dodged a bullet that would have ripped out his heart and left him alive with a gaping hole in his chest. He wishes he didn’t feel like he’s avoided the minefield of Kurt realizing just how deeply insecure and scared Blaine was about them being apart.
But Blaine does feel all of those things on top of his pain on Kurt’s behalf. As much as he hates it, a part of him is so desperately happy that it isn’t Kurt on that train.
A shadow passes across Kurt’s face, and his expression dims. He fiddles with his cup for a minute or two, looks around the cafe once more, and then takes a deep breath, squares his shoulders, and gives Blaine a brave, determined, deliberate smile.
“When you’re finished with your coffee, let’s go shopping,” he says.
“Okay,” Blaine replies without a second’s hesitation, because shopping with Kurt is always a fun adventure, even when Blaine’s stuck carrying a million bags through turbulent Black Friday crowds at the mall. Besides, shopping makes Kurt happy, and more than anything Blaine wants that for him. He takes a big gulp of his drink. “What are you looking for?”
“A bow tie,” Kurt says. He has that wonderful gleam in his eyes that means he is formulating a plan. “Silver. No, gunmetal. Absolutely not shiny.”
“Do you have an outfit you want to wear it with?” Blaine asks. “Or are you building from the ground up?”
Kurt shakes his head. “Neither. It’s for you.”
That stops Blaine with his coffee halfway to his mouth. “What?”
“I’m buying the tie for you,” Kurt tells him.
“Why? I mean, you know I love bow ties, but - ”
“I do know that,” Kurt says with a laugh followed by another slow breath. “But it’s about more than that. It’s symbolic for me, too.” He tucks the toe of his boot against the back of Blaine’s calf beneath the table. “Because even though I just sent off one of my best friends to live the dream I want for myself that apparently I can’t have right now, I’m with here you. You.”
“Kurt,” Blaine whispers. He knows Kurt loves him, but he’s still left nearly speechless by the sentiment. He never expected Kurt to mirror his own feelings back to him. But then Kurt always does zig instead of zag.
His breath catches as Kurt continues with a gentle warmth that goes straight to Blaine’s heart, all of his heart, even the parts he’s not so proud of, “The sky might be filled with a lot of storm clouds right now, but you’re my silver lining, Blaine. My silver bow-tied lining.”
“I want to be,” Blaine replies. He promises.
Kurt smiles a little more. “You are.”
Blaine knows he will never be as good of a person as Kurt is. He’s never going to be as selfless or as strong. He’s never going to be rid of the part of him that is happy today that he’s not in Finn’s shoes, no matter how much he hates that Kurt’s hurt because of the reason he isn’t. Next to Kurt, Blaine’s never going to compare.
He’s going to have to work really hard to make this next year great for Kurt to be that silver lining for him.
Blaine just wishes, as he walks beside Kurt toward the door of the Lima Bean, that he weren’t quite so pleased to have the opportunity.