It starts at the bachelor party.
Actually, it starts before that.
When Finn answers the phone with a groan, he doesn't know what exactly he was expecting, but it definitely wasn't an unfamiliar dude saying, "Wow, is this Kurt's stepbrother or have I reached the home for zombies who failed to book a walk-on role on the Walking Dead spin-off?"
"--Hurh?" says Finn. He looks at the alarm clock on his bedside table. The numbers glare an angry 5:34 A.M. at him.
"Finn, what the fuck," Caty mumbles, sounding mostly asleep, from under a pillow.
Finn still feels mostly asleep, too.
"Okay, let's try this again. Hi, Cooper Anderson." It's the smooth, charming tone that does it before the name does; Finn remembers that tone from three hours of constant talking in a "master class" in high school that he took intense notes during.
"Hi," Finn says slowly.
"Oh, good; there's a start. You're Kurt's best man, right?"
"Uh, right. Yeah."
"Somebody had better be in the hospital," Caty is groaning at the same time, and then the pillow lifts and she's staring at him, hair wild and her eyes bleary but worried. "Oh, god, nobody's in the hospital, are they?"
"Everything's fine," Finn tells her, sitting up and reluctantly stripping the blankets away from himself. Man, it's cold out here. "You can go back to sleep." He leans down and kisses her forehead, and she pulls the pillow back over her head so fast that she nearly clocks him in the face with it. He lowers his voice and creeps out of the bedroom.
When Finn pulls the door shut behind himself, Waffles twitches in his little bed, tags jingling, then gets up and trots over.
"Ten-four, big guy; still here."
"Everything is okay, right?" Waffles's toenails click on the linoleum; he whuffles and pushes his cold nose into Finn's shin as Finn switches on the lamp and settles in at the kitchen island.
"Never better; thanks so much for asking! Listen, I was out tonight at the Ivy with ScarJo and JerRen before heading to a classic Hollywood bash, and it occurred to me -- you and me, we've got some planning to do."
Finn frowns, absently ruffling Waffles's fur and playing with his floppy ears. "You mean for the wedding?"
"For the wedding," Cooper laughs. "Don't be ridiculous; for the bachelor party."
Finn blinks at Waffles. "Kurt said there wasn't gonna be a bachelor party."
"Of course Kurt would say that; it's not his job to plan it. It's ours."
"He got scary-intense about it," he says. "He said a lot of stuff about antique rituals and too many cosmos and how nobody is pulling a Hangover and losing a groom. He and Blaine really don't want bachelor parties."
"Frank, Frank Frank Frank Frank Frank," says Cooper. It's too early for this; Finn is too tired for this. Did Blaine's brother just call him Frank like six times in a row? "They were just saying that to try to save us some work! Come on. Are we really going to let our only baby brothers get hitched without even the tiniest hint of tame debauchery?"
"I mean, you could throw one for Blaine," he points out dubiously. "I seriously think Kurt might kill me a little if I did."
"That's the genius of it," Cooper answers. "Kurt was right; the traditional bachelor/bachelorette party is an antiquated dinosaur. So we update the model. They're both guys and they apparently hang out with all the same boring people anyway -- I'm thinking a small, intimate gathering of their closest friends, a few days before the wedding; we rent out one of those swanky karaoke booths, with the privacy and the tiny sandwiches, and we let them doo-wop to their little hearts' content. What do you say?"
It's actually a persuasive argument, Finn thinks as he looks out at the snow slowly falling in the backyard. Kurt and Blaine have sounded really stressed the last couple times they've talked; maybe something like this, where they don't have to plan anything and can just chill with all their friends, would be a good thing.
"They do love karaoke and tiny sandwiches," he admits.
"Excellent," Cooper crows, somehow excited and cool at the same time.
"A small one," Finn says. "Guys and girls, with the food and the singing and stuff."
"You got it," Cooper says. "Listen, I'll be in New York next week -- I'm auditioning for the new hot grizzled detective on Law and Order: Crime and Punishment and Justice -- so leave everything to me. I'll book it; don't worry your pretty little head about it. This is gonna be a night to remember."
"Wait, maybe w--" says Finn, and Cooper hangs up.
"A bachelor party?" Caty's voice asks, and Finn starts and turns to find her leaning in the bedroom doorway, draped in quilts. "I thought the guys didn't want them."
"Blaine's brother said we could do a whole together-party karaoke thing," Finn says, getting up. "You know, low-key. Classy."
"Your brother is going to kill you," Caty says, tilting her chin up for a kiss.
Finn pauses a second for thought. Caty opens her eyes again. "As long as there aren't any strippers jumping out of cakes, I think it'll probably be okay," he says.
Two months later, Finn stares at a giant clump of frosting slowly dripping down a half-naked dude's torso.
"Okay, where are my grooms at?" the guy calls, swiveling his hips (and wow, those shorts leave nothing to the imagination) and grinning as he steps out of what's left of the gigantic cake. Pretty much everybody begins catcalling and clapping and pointing at Kurt and Blaine. The booth is a solid wall of sound and a riot of motion -- except for Kurt, who's sitting at the place of honor with Blaine and has turned his patented serial killer stare on Finn.
Beside him, Blaine looks a little wary, but he's laughing and chorusing 'ohhhh!' with one of his college buddies. Cameras are flashing.
Tina and Sugar start to chant, "Lap dance!"
Finn is pretty sure he has now seen how he is going to die.
Everything turns around about an hour into the night.
Finn gets it now; every complaint Kurt has made -- ever since they got a little older and a little less starstruck -- about Cooper Anderson's selfishness and inability to hear what other people are saying if it doesn't match what he wants to do. He's been like this all through the rehearsal dinner and now tonight. Finn still doesn't even know how he found what has to be New York City's only (maybe?? actually, Finn's not sure; New York is the kind of place that might have more than one) combination karaoke bar/gay strip club, but they're here and this is happening.
Kurt and Blaine politely put up with the initial lap dance (Finn is, like, 80% sure that Blaine is drunk, judging by the way he'd looked like he was trying not to laugh hysterically the whole time), and Kurt managed to get out of the next couple by grabbing Blaine's hand and pulling him up to sing. They did something that was clearly from a musical and Finn didn't recognize even after all this time with Kurt as his brother and the years he'd dated Rachel Berry, and then hauled a bunch of the girls from McKinley and a few of their theatre friends up for "Lady Marmalade," and it's while a weird mix of people are singing "Magic Man" by Heart that Finn overhears the first conversation that changes the course of the evening for him.
He doesn't mean to eavesdrop; it's just that most of the McKinley girls are on stage, Caty's sleeping off a headache back at the hotel, Mike's deep in conversation with a pink-haired girl, and Sam and Mercedes are seeing each other for the first time in years and are totally flirting at one of the small tables in the corner. Finn met most of Kurt and Blaine's other friends when he has come to New York to visit over the years, but he doesn't know any of them that well and he's gauging where to jump in when he hears it.
"Honestly, I can't think of a better idea for a party for them," someone is saying. "I mean, you hand either of them a mic and a stage and it's just--" The guy laughs, but in a fond, good way; Finn's pretty sure that's the friend who they dog-sit for sometimes.
"Right?" Cooper says. He showed up wearing a suit that Finn thinks probably cost more than half his annual salary, and he's still wearing sunglasses even though they're inside and it's nine o'clock at night. "It's perfect. Just stepping up and taking on the best man-ly duties for my little bro and his boy." Except it's not anywhere near as innocent and modest of a statement as the words make it sound; it's arrogant, and it's really proud of himself, and it's totally implying that Finn is a sucky best man who contributed nothing.
Finn is a great best man; he's totally helped with wedding planning stuff whenever he could from Colorado (and, okay, maybe it wasn't always his thing, but he tried), and he listened to Kurt, and he wound up helping book this place (though he definitely regrets not googling it after Cooper told him the name, and not questioning why the name was the Ram Rod), and he didn't just show up four days before the wedding and start trying to stick his nose in everywhere, like Cooper did.
He glares at his rum and coke and knocks back the rest of it, and looks around for their designated waiter -- who is, it turns out, gyrating over Kurt's friend Lanie right now, as she claps and hoots with laughter and mimes touching his sparkly gold butt. There's another waiter in here somewhere, but he's also dancing, and Finn would like to survive the night and he thinks the way to do it will probably be avoiding the staff so that Kurt doesn't think this was his idea.
Finn puts his empty glass down and heads out toward the actual bar. As he goes, he hears Cooper behind him: "Excuse me, garçon! I've got a groom here with an unacceptably empty lap!"
"Coop, you really don't have to--" Blaine's voice says, and then he squawks and somebody starts playing "Tell Me Something Good" while cheers go up.
The second overheard conversation that changes everything happens while Finn is on his way back from the bathroom, hours later.
Cooper has continued being a douchebag and setting Finn's teeth on edge every time he's within earshot, but otherwise, it's a great party; Finn's kind of drunk and Kurt and Blaine's friends are weird but fun, and he sang some Journey with Rachel and Tina, and it's awesome having a mini New Directions reunion. Kurt and Blaine have been looking like they're happy, too; right now, Blaine is perched on the edge of the stage, waving his cell phone like it's a lighter at a rock concert, as Mercedes sings the crap out of a Lady Gaga song, and Kurt--
Finn can hear Kurt's voice somewhere in the chaos, but doesn't immediately see him. "--at his problem is," he's saying. He sounds the way he sounds when he's drunk, voice higher. "Is he really that uncomfortable ordering a drink from a half-naked man? I thought we were over this."
"I don't think you're giving Finn enough credit," Rachel's voice says, and Finn starts. They're talking about him? Kurt thinks he has a problem with the fact that there are dude strippers here? Finn doesn't care about that; it's just dancing, and he lived with Sam "White Chocolate," "really bad at keeping a shirt on" Evans for a year in high school.
(Sam is, right now, comparing body rolls with one of the waiter-dancers.)
"My man," Cooper is saying, off to Finn's left, and he holds up a neat wad of bills between two fingers; the red-headed dancer plucks it from his hand and follows Cooper's point over toward Blaine. Cooper raises his drink to his mouth, and then he smiles smugly at Finn.
Later, Finn will realize that this was not one of his finest decision-making moments.
But in the moment, corralling the dancer who Sam has been talking to, tucking a bunch of singles into the waistband of his glittery underwear, and sending him at Kurt with a vodka shot and a smile seems like a great idea.
"I'm going to die," Kurt says the next morning. "I'm going to come back to life just long enough to haunt you and then I'm going to die again." He's been facedown in the pillows for as long as he's been awake.
"You're not gonna die," says Finn, but given the fact that he personally tossed his cookies in the hotel bathroom 15 minutes ago, he doesn't know how reassuring he actually sounds.
"Oh my god," he moans. "Who throws a bachelor party the night before the wedding? Who does that?"
Kurt lifts his head at that, blinking owlishly but glaring at him.
"... And maybe me, a little bit," Finn concedes. Kurt lays back down again, face first. "Listen, I know you're hurting, but you've gotta get up." He shuffles over to the bed and sort of sits (but mostly falls into a sitting position) down. Kurt makes a muffled sound of protest at the bed bouncing. "I've got Aleve and a glass of water and I ordered some coffee and greasy food from room service."
He pushes himself up on his elbows, then onto his knees. "Finn Hudson, you had me at Aleve." He looks -- really bad; simultaneously puffy and way too pale, his eyes bloodshot. He's swaying a little bit. But he's up, which Finn counts as a win. Finn hands him three Aleve and a giant glass of water. Kurt swallows all three pills at once and then drains the entire glass in one long drink.
"Okay," he says, setting the glass down on the bedside table with a decisive clink, and then he pushes himself onto his feet.
His knees immediately go out from under him, and Finn has to lunge to grab him. They fall back onto the bed together. Kurt is silent for a second. "I have never been," he says slowly, "this hungover, in my entire life."
"I have," Finn admits, and they admire the ceiling together. Kurt's phone buzzes and he blindly reaches out for it. He reads the text and then snorts. "What?" asks Finn.
Kurt holds it out to him.
i'd say im going to die but i'm p sure im already dead
lets get married and then sleep for a week xoxo
It buzzes one more time; Blaine's name pops up again.
i love you so mulch, i can't wait to marry you
Kurt pulls the phone back to read that last, new text, and his whole face softens. He taps out an impressively fast response, then shoves the phone at Finn, squares his shoulders, and rolls onto his feet. "Why did you let me lie in bed that long?"
"Dude," Finn says, wounded, "I've been trying to get you up for 45 minutes."
He ignores him, scooping up the big bag that Finn had thought contained clothes until Kurt told him that it was his moisturizing products and haircare supplies. "For the record, don't think I didn't notice you and Cooper using Blaine and me as pawns in a deeply uncomfortable 20-minute game of dueling lap dances last night," he says, picking up a fluffy towel and using it to point at him. "We're going to discuss the bizarre Freudian overtones of that later."
Finn pays a sudden lot of attention to the phone in his hands. Kurt scoffs and quietly shuts the bathroom door.
The conversation with Blaine is still open. Kurt replied: i love you too! i'm counting the hours til seeing you and til we're together in a dark soundless room. starting my regimen but text finn if you need painkillers and/or breakfast. you can't die on me now blaine warbler, it's too late to back out xx
Finn smiles quietly at the names on the screen and sets the phone down on the bedside table. He's styling his hair in the mirror over the dresser when room service brings the cart. The shower has finally stopped running, so Finn takes a covered plate over to the bathroom door and says, "Food's here."
"On what planet do you think I would stop in the middle of getting ready for the most important day of my life?" asks Kurt's muffled voice.
"The ... one where you're hungry and you can eat while you're doing stuff?" Finn suggests, after a long second.
The door opens with a cloud of steam and something that smells amazing. Kurt's in a giant fluffy bathrobe with some kind of weird green stuff caked on his face. He accepts the plate with a mostly-gracious 'thank you' and shuts the door again.
Finn has exchanged a couple texts with Caty and wolfed half his plate of bacon and eggs, starting to feel slightly more human, when there's another knock at the door. He blinks and is not expecting Cooper Anderson to be standing there, cool as a cucumber in a full-on tuxedo with perfect hair, but that's what greets him.
"Whuh," Finn says around a mouthful of scrambled eggs and toast, suddenly very aware of the fact that he's wearing basketball shorts and a Buckeyes T-shirt. "What's up?"
"Good morning," Cooper says, strolling in like he owns the place, and oh, god, ow, loud voice, loud, loud.
Finn frantically hisses through his teeth at him, waving in the universal signal for 'dude, lower your voice, this is Hangover City.' Cooper apparently missed out on that particular cue, because he doesn't get any quieter. "Nice digs," he says, taking in the hotel room with carefully-shut curtains that has got to be identical to Blaine's. "We received your kind offer of breakfast and I told Blaine I'd come make sure that his beau was still in the world of the living. Ooh, toast." He grabs a slice off the room service cart and takes a bite.
"Still living," Kurt says, glaring around the now-open bathroom door. "Too loud."
"It's nice to see you too, Kurt," Cooper booms, apparently oblivious.
Kurt's squinchy face, at the volume, is how Finn feels. "We're not all one big happy family yet," Kurt says, "so I feel good about my decision to say get out, Cooper."
"Definitely alive," Cooper says. "I'll see you gentlemen later. Good talk!"
"Wow," Finn says to the closed door after Cooper has left with his stolen toast. He's saying it to the door and only the door, since Kurt has vanished back into the bathroom.
When someone knocks sharply on the door again, Finn reaches for it and flings it open -- and finds himself staring at three startled women.
"Good morning!" Rachel chirps, the first to recover. It's been weird being around Rachel for such concentrated amounts of time, this last week. But it's been good, too. It might not have worked out between them, but Finn still really likes her, as a person, and likes talking to her and spending time with her, and they hadn't exactly done a whole lot of that over the last few years, before Kurt and Blaine getting married pulled them back together. He's in love with Caty (he thinks he might marry Caty) and knows he and Rachel are never gonna be in the same place again, but he'll always love Rachel Berry.
From her smiles -- and the matter-of-fact talk she insisted they have about avoiding awkwardness when Kurt first told them about the engagement -- he figures she feels the same.
But that doesn't mean that she's really the person he wants to be around while super hungover. "Oh man, Rachel," he groans, and he feels a little better when he sees Lanie wincing behind her, and Mercedes clutching at her head. They're all in pajamas, suitcases and garment bags in hand. "Your voice is a jackhammer."
"Sorry, I'm sorry," Rachel stage-whispers, pulling her little pink suitcase as the girls come in. "I've been informed that I need to enunciate more quietly this morning."
"Is he freaking yet or what?" Mercedes asks.
"I think he's too hungover to freak," says Finn frankly.
"There will be no freaking," Kurt says through the bathroom door.
Finn isn't totally sure how exactly he wound up in the hotel room with the bridesmaid dresses and the hair and makeup artists and the Broadway singalongs, but it's actually nice. The girls are really happy that there's breakfast and everyone is so giddy that it's working against the hangover effects; the mimosas that Rachel orders probably don't hurt, either. Kurt comes out of the bathroom with most of his suit on and does a couple twirls for effect as the girls ooh and ahh and pile on him for hugs. Lanie has tears in her eyes, though Finn has seen her cry four times despite only having met her three times, so that might not be a huge deal.
"You look awesome," Finn tells him, and Kurt looks at him for several seconds before leaning in and hugging him tightly.
The photographer starts coming in and out, taking candids as Kurt puts the finishing (kind of obsessive, Finn thinks, and he's not the only one who thinks that) touches on his hair, Rachel and Mercedes sitting in their blue dresses and teasing him while the makeup artist finishes with Lanie. The photographer takes a ton of pictures of Finn helping Kurt put his suit jacket on and straighten his tie, and then they all take a million more photos together. Burt comes in toward the end, as the photographer heads for the other hotel room, and he claps Finn on the back and then he and Kurt hug really hard.
"How you doin', bud?" Burt asks when they step back.
"My heart is trying to crawl out of my throat and I think the florist might have delivered the wrong arrangements for the reception, but otherwise, I'm fantastic," Kurt says all in a rush. He sounds a little wobbly.
"Kurt, why don't you talk to your dad for a minute, and we'll meet you downstairs?" Mercedes asks, taking Finn's arm to tug him toward the door.
"Yeah, we'll see you downstairs; we've still got tons of time," Finn says, even if it isn't totally true, and he knows it was the right thing when Kurt shoots them a deeply grateful look.
Mom is waiting out in the hall. She smiles at the girls as they pass on the way to the elevator, and she grabs Finn in a fierce hug. "Look at you, handsome," she says, smoothing his dress uniform jacket's lapel.
He smiles. "You look really pretty, Mom." She does; she squeezes his arm. "Are you waiting?"
"I figured I'd give them a few minutes," she confirms. "Before I get my last unmarried-hug in. How they doing?"
"Blaine is fine; they were texting so much that Rachel took Kurt's phone." Mom laughs. "Kurt's -- psyched. Maybe kinda nervous."
"Everyone is, at this point," his mom says, and then the door opens. Kurt and Burt's eyes are red-rimmed and Burt is swiping at his face, but Kurt lights up and goes right into Mom's arms when he sees her.
"Hi Carole," he says, bent over and his voice muffled by her shoulder.
"Oh honey, you look gorgeous. Blaine's not gonna know what hit him." Kurt lifts his head and smiles, watery, and Mom squeezes him again. "I am just so happy for you; for both of you."
"Thank you," he says, and they all stand there for a minute, Burt with his hand on Finn's shoulder, before Mom lets Kurt go and claps her hands together.
"Now, come on," she says, cheerfully brisk. "Let's go get you married!"
They meet up with the rest of their half of the wedding party downstairs, and they all fidget together in the stairwell, listening to the muffled sound of classical music and waiting for the sign that Blaine is in place. Kurt is wringing his hands; they're shaking.
"Dude, are you okay?" Finn mutters.
"Never better," Kurt says, blinking rapidly. They stand together like that, a family drawn up around Kurt, until they get the high sign from the hotel coordinator. The woman opens the door to the gardens and Lanie steps out first with her bouquet in her hands. They're standing back around the corner to remain hidden; Rachel and Mercedes make Kurt laugh by kissing his cheeks at the same time, and then Mercedes is gone, then Rachel.
Finn squeezes Kurt's shoulder one more time, straightens his jacket, and follows the bridesmaids when his mom gives his shoulder a shove.
It's a really nice day; a little humid, but otherwise awesome for an outside wedding. Finn walks up the grassy aisle between rows of white folding chairs. Mr. and Mrs. Anderson are still settling into the front row; from what Kurt has said, and what Finn has seen of them in the last few days, it's a huge deal that they agreed to walk down the aisle with Blaine.
Finn sees so many people he recognizes, among the guests; Sam and Sugar and Mike all together, Uncle Herbert and Aunt Viv (who are technically Finn's aunt and uncle but have always treated Kurt like he's their real nephew), Blaine's grandma from the rehearsal dinner, tons of familiar hungover-looking faces from last night. They're all standing, turned around to face the back, and all smiling. Caty is wearing an outrageously huge hat (there are a lot of those among the guests) and bright red lipstick, and she winks and snaps a picture with her phone as he passes.
Finn concentrates hard on what they learned in the rehearsal. Left - bring feet together; right - bring feet together; left - bring feet together; right - bring feet together...
Blaine is standing up in front of the justice of the peace, Cooper at his side, and Tina, his Warbler buddy, and his friend Suzanne all lined up across from Rachel, Mercedes, and Lanie. Blaine has his hands clasped neatly in front of himself and he's smiling from ear to ear. Finn doesn't turn around to look but can tell the exact moment when Kurt has come around the corner on Burt and Mom's arms, because Blaine's whole expression shifts, his smile dropping away. He tilts his head and watches Kurt, his face soft and shining and his smile slowly making a comeback.
By the time Finn has reached his mark (Rachel reaches out and yanks him into the proper place) and turned around, Kurt and Blaine are full-on beaming at each other, obviously unable to stop staring. Finn's face feels like it might split with the force of the grin that he can't stop, and his mom and Burt look so happy.
They stop just in front, and Mom kisses Kurt on the cheek and tugs Blaine into a quick one-armed hug. While she's doing that, Burt has Kurt in a bear-hug and is saying something that Finn can't hear, muffled by Kurt's shoulder. He shakes Blaine's hand next, hard and emphatic, and then he and Mom head to the front row together. Finn pats Kurt's elbow and smiles at him; Kurt smiles back, looking a little overwhelmed, and then Blaine whispers, "Hey" and Kurt's attention is gone.
"You look -- wow, Kurt," he's saying in a low murmur, his eyes shining, as they clutch each others' hands and all the guests sit down.
Finn can't see Kurt's face, just the back of his head, but he can hear him. "Look at you; my very own Cary Grant." Even Finn knows who that is, and that it's a good comparison; Finn has never seen Blaine's hair all swoopy like that.
Blaine makes That Face again, the one like he's so happy it hurts, and then the justice of the peace is saying, "On behalf of Blaine and Kurt, and the Andersons and the Hummels, thank you for being here on this beautiful day." As she goes on, Finn tunes out a little. Watching everyone smile is kind of addictive, and his part isn't til later. He looks over Blaine's shoulder and finds Cooper watching the two of them, his smile looking more contained than some of the others (Tina is already dabbing at her eyes with tissues that she's pulling out of her bouquet), but no less genuine. It's actually the most real-looking that Finn has ever seen the guy. Finn smiles and settles in.
It's a pretty quick wedding, without all the churchy stuff Finn is used to. The justice of the peace is a middle-aged lady with kickass dreads who's also their neighbor, so she tells a funny story about meeting them while Blaine carried boxes and Kurt sat on the steps and "supervised" with a clipboard. She goes on to talk about how as great as they are as neighbors ("even with the noise," she adds, and the guests roar while Blaine, red-faced and laughing, tries to peel Kurt's hands off his own face; "I'm talking about the singing, what are all of you thinking?" Deedee demands), they're even better partners.
By the time she's done talking about love and how right they are for each other, Finn can see more than a few people crying; Lanie and Rachel are sharing a tissue behind him, Aunt Viv is fanning her face with her hat, and Mom is patting Burt's arm as he wipes his eyes.
"So without further ado -- the rings, please," Deedee says. Finn starts and reaches into the tiny pocket inside his jacket. He closes his fingers around the smooth, cool ring and hands it to Kurt, who's looking a little red around the eyes but is holding it together better than some of the people who'd joined Santana's absentee 'When Is Hummel Going to Start Bawling Like a Fat Kid Whose Cake Got Stolen' betting pool Facebook group had predicted. Kurt smiles a thanks at Finn and turns back around.
"You guys know what these symbolize," Deedee says. "Love and fidelity and a lifelong commitment, til death do you part." They're both nodding and she looks out at all of their family and friends. "Kurt and Blaine wrote their own vows, so I'm gonna turn this over to them."
"Kurt," says Blaine, after a deep inhale, "we've been together through so much, for nine years. And I wouldn't change a second of it, even the hard parts, because it's meant that I've gotten to be with you. You're still my teenage dream." Kurt does something with his face that Finn can't see, and Blaine shakily smiles back, still looking right into his eyes. "And I knew, Kurt, I knew when we were 16, that you were it for me." He's starting to sound choked up, blinking quickly a couple of times; Finn and everybody else who'd predicted that Blaine would lose it first are gonna clean up in the pool.
"You're the best man I know." (Kurt audibly sniffs.) "I promise, I'll take care of you when you need me, and I'll never watch The Bachelorette without you and I'll always tell you the truth when you ask if what you're wearing is too much, even though, oh my god, it never is." (Kurt hiccups a laugh again.) "I'm going to love you for the rest of my life, and I can't wait to share it with you."
Kurt murmurs something too quiet even for Finn to hear and Blaine smiles at him, lifting his hand and slipping the ring on his finger. They hold on tight, though Blaine pulls one of his hands loose so he can pluck a handkerchief out of his sleeve and use it to flick at the tears under his eyes, then give it to Kurt.
"Blaine Francis Anderson," Kurt starts, sounding kind of breathy but otherwise solid. "I promise, when we're old and gray and fabulous, we're going to irritate everyone else in the home with all of our stories about our amazing high school sweethearts and how in love we still are."
Blaine laughs, watery.
"You're brilliant and kind and so good; you're the best man I know, too. And I am still so proud to be with you." Blaine's face crumples around his huge smile and he makes a quiet noise that's half a laugh and half a sob, and makes 'gimme gimme' hands at Kurt (to soft laughter from the guests) so he'll pass the handkerchief back. "I love you," Kurt says, shaking their clasped hands a little bit with his vehemence. "I'm always going to love you. I promise I'll respect you and I won't laugh when you try to cook, and I'll leave you at least a quarter of the shelf space in the bathroom."
'Wow,' Blaine mouths, still looking caught somewhere between wanting to laugh and wanting to cry. Now Finn can feel his throat tightening and eyes prickling. He used to live with Kurt; he knows how big a deal that promise is.
"You're the love of my life, Blaine. I'm going to protect you and be there for you until socks and sandals come back into style." Strong: "Which they will never." His voice takes a sudden turn for the shaky and low when he finishes, "I'm never saying goodbye to you." He must do something with his face, because Blaine nods emphatically (and keeps nodding) and Kurt slides the ring on his finger.
"Well, would you look at that," says Deedee, as Blaine reaches up and pats Kurt's face dry with the handkerchief. "I'm delighted to tell you that, by the power vested in me by the state of New York, you're husbands." Someone (it's his mom, Finn knows its his mom) puts their fingers in their mouth and lets out an earsplitting whistle; everyone else starts to cheer. Kurt and Blaine stop beaming at each other (well, Blaine is beaming; Finn assumes Kurt is, too) long enough to look at her. "Yes, kiss!"
The kiss looks nothing like the chaste one they'd had at the rehearsal; the one that Blaine said Kurt has been making him practice for weeks. They lunge and fumble for each other and grab on tight, Blaine with fistfuls of Kurt's jacket and Kurt with his hands cupping Blaine's face. They don't even really look like they're kissing. It's mostly like they're pressing their mouths together and clinging to each other. The guests go nuts for them. Finn hollers for all he's worth, clapping til his hands hurt.
They break apart, foreheads resting together and eyes closed. Blaine says something that Finn can't hear over the sheer amount of noise that the crowd is making, but he doesn't have to hear it; it's obvious what he's saying. They kiss again, softer this time, and then seem to realize just how many people are screaming for them. They turn to face the seats, holding hands and leaning against each other, and Blaine is laughing as Kurt smiles with all of his teeth and gives one of his funny Miss America waves.
Finn's internal truce with Cooper lasts through the family photos and most of the wedding party photos, right up until they're doing a big group shot in front of a big flowering bush and Finn can hear Cooper hitting on Lanie, talking up how he's going to have the entire room eating out of his hand with his speech at the reception and ending with, "I hope you're ready to bring it, Frank."
"Finn," Finn says; "it's Finn."
"Whatever," Cooper says cheerfully.
"Okay, can I get a shot of just the grooms and the best men, please?" calls the photographer, and everyone else slides out of the way, chattering. "Guys, if you two would hold hands -- yes, nice, thank you, and best men, you can step in closer." Finn slings his arm across Kurt's shoulders. Cooper immediately does the same to Blaine, hard enough that he hooks him by the neck and Blaine makes a noise that sounds an awful lot like, "Urk--"
"Uh. That'll be an interesting candid," says the photographer.
"Cooper, what the hell?" asks Blaine, violently shrugging his arm off.
"Just broing it up; following Finland here's lead."
"Seriously?" Finn asks.
Kurt turns around, ignoring the photographer's plea for everyone to turn around and smile, and says, "That's it. I was willing to let the great lapdance-off of 2019 go, but this will not stand." Blaine has turned around, too, and he looks less than amused, glancing between Kurt, Cooper, and Finn. "If you two keep treating this like it's a contract sport--"
"Contact sport," Finn mutters, but that only makes Kurt madder.
"--we're going to fire you both and tell Rachel Berry that she's the joint best man. She will replace you in a hot second. She still has the tux from that genderswapped production of Chicago that she played Billy Flynn in last year."
"She probably brought that tux," Blaine points out. "You seriously need to stop it." Finn is gratified to see that most of Blaine's irritated look is pointed at Cooper. "You guys gave me competing pep talks last night when I said I had cold feet. I was wearing cropped pants; I literally had cold feet."
"Blainey, I'm just trying to be the best best man I can be," Cooper says. "Which is a great one."
"No," says Blaine, "you're not. You're performing for an audience and you're making everything all about you, as usual, and I'm sick of it. Now shut up and smile for the camera."
Finn knows he's not the only one who's watching Cooper warily as he stands up at the wedding party's table.
The food is like the most amazing stuff Finn has ever tasted in his life, and they're all sharing a bottle of champagne, and he has a two-person buffer between himself and Cooper and he's been telling Lanie, Suzanne, and Wes old McKinley war stories with the New Directions girls, Kurt, and Blaine, so -- awkwardness from the picture incident notwithstanding -- things have been awesome up til this point.
Blaine looks up at his brother, looking doubtful and a little preemptively hurt, and Kurt leans into his side and kisses his cheek, drawing a faint smile out of him. With the amount of self-interest he's shown all week, and the captive audience he's got right now as everybody quiets down -- well, Finn doesn't know what Cooper's about to do.
Mercedes apparently agrees. "Oh god," she mutters from her seat to Finn's left.
"Hi, if I could have your attention, please? Thank you so much," Cooper says, and the last few buzzing voices quiet down. "Hi." He turns a bright smile on the guests, and Finn is never going to swing that way, but even he can admit that that's a killer smile. "I had a speech planned, but I'm gonna go ahead and mix things up with some ad-libbing here. For anyone who hasn't recognized me, I'm Cooper Anderson, and yes, I was the headless corpse on that episode of CSI."
Kurt's expression takes on a fixed look; Blaine exhales a deep breath.
"And more importantly, I'm Blaine's brother." He lays his hand on Blaine's shoulder. "I've been accused of being a lot of things in my life: self-centered, arrogant, narcissistic -- too handsome for my own good." He strikes a dramatic pose and there are a few titters from the guests; Blaine's expression screams that he has no idea where this is going and doesn't know how to feel about it yet. "Most of them are probably true, which really tells you how amazing Blaine's relationship with Kurt is, if even I noticed how great it is."
The laughter is more appreciative this time. Finn sees Blaine slowly start to smile.
"Blainey here and I are a decade apart, so unfortunately, I'm lacking in childhood anecdotes to embarrass him with; by the time he was finally getting interesting, I was out of the house. And yes, before you ask, he has always worn the bowties and had an unnatural vendetta against socks." The thing about Cooper, Finn abruptly realizes, is that he's not much of an actor, but he has one setting that he does really well: charming. And he's pouring it on now, while seeming to mean what he's saying, and the entire tent is eating it up as Blaine and Kurt look on with varying degrees of astonishment.
"But my point is, I've really only gotten to know Blaine within the last few years, as an adult. And I'm sure this isn't news to anyone here, but he's an incredible adult. Smart, funny, obscenely talented -- I really missed out, all those years." He looks down and says that directly to Blaine, who smiles up at him incredulously. "Somebody has to be pretty damn special to be good enough for my brother. And that's Kurt.
"I've never seen a relationship like theirs. And I don't mean just because they do avocado mud masks together and sing along with the Golden Girls theme song every single time they start another episode -- which, they do, and let me tell you, that is incredibly unsettling to wake up to at seven in the morning when you're jetlagged." Kurt and Blaine are laughing along with everyone else now, Kurt with his arm around Blaine and Blaine leaning back against him. Finn grins and watches Cooper go.
"I mean how devoted they are to each other, and how the hell they managed to go from high school sweethearts to--" He gestures with his champagne glass, taking in the tent, the gardens, the fairy lights, and the tables filled with guests, "this. Blaine and Kurt are fantastic together, and they're going to keep being that way. This almost feels like a formality -- they've basically been married since they were kids. But now it's official, so, guys--" He looks down at them. "Congratulations. You deserve to be just as disgustingly happy as I know you make each other." He lifts his glass, and is immediately copied by most of the guests. Finn lifts his glass, too. "To Blaine and Kurt."
Everybody choruses the toast back as they drink. Blaine gets up and hugs Cooper; Cooper says, "Hug it out," and then something quieter. Blaine pulls back and holds Cooper's biceps for a second as they keep talking -- and then they both smile. "C'mon, Kurt; you're not getting out of this one," Cooper says over Blaine's shoulder, and he pulls Kurt up and into a hug, too.
Which means it's almost Finn's turn, which is a lot more intimidating now that it's actually about to happen. He takes a big drink of champagne while Kurt and Blaine keep talking to Cooper, the three of them settling back into their chairs, and then he stands. Kurt and Blaine look up at him expectantly; the dull buzz of conversation dies down again. Cooper shoots him a thumbs up that Finn is like 80% sure isn't supposed to be ironic or psych him out. Mom takes a picture, the flash bright, from her table.
"Hey," he says. "I'm Finn, Kurt's brother, and it is really awesome to be here. Cooper got the heartfelt stuff, so I'm gonna go for embarrassing." There is enthusiastically approving scattered applause; Blaine has his hand over his mouth, and Kurt looks a little wide-eyed.
"So I'm gonna talk about the time they broke up." There's an immediate reaction from people who already know this story; Tina, Suzanne, Lanie, and Mercedes clap, while Rachel says, "Yes, yes," laughing, and he can see Burt and Mom laughing, too, along with some other members of the audience. Blaine has covered his smile and half of his face with his hand and Kurt is steadily slinking down in his chair.
"For this toast, all you really need to know is that they dumped each other while they were fighting over Goldie Hawn's birth name."
"Not true!" Kurt protests over the general roar. He sounds and looks indignant but Finn can tell he's close to laughing. "Not true! Finn Hudson!"
"It is true! I was there!"
"We were all there, Kurt!" Rachel insists around Finn, cackling.
"Okay, so there was some other stuff behind it, but that was definitely what started it."
"He's right," Blaine says around his hand, and Kurt shakes his head, starting to smile a little bit.
"So Kurt called me, because I guess they were out at dinner here in New York while Blaine was visiting and the internet wasn't working or whatever, and told me to get on Wikipedia," he says. "And it took a while, since he had to spell her name for me and then tell me all the movies she'd been in when he figured out I had no idea who she was."
"No idea," Kurt says, clucking disapprovingly and clearly enjoying his part in this story now.
"The whole time, he's telling me that her real name is Jeanne. And," Finn looks down at him; "what was her real name?"
Kurt shoots him a level look.
"I forget; what was it, Kurt?" Blaine asks, elbow on the table and chin in his hand, obviously hiding a smile.
"Goldie Jeanne Hawn," he says sullenly. "It was a very easy mistake to make!"
"He wanted me to edit the Wikipedia page so he could be right," Finn says, to laughter.
"It was finals; I had a massive portfolio due and I hadn't slept or done my nightly skincare regimen in four days," he defends. "Why are you telling this story again?"
"They couldn't handle not talking to each other," Finn says to the rest of the tent. "They were both bugging me and Rachel in less than an hour; Kurt wanted to know if Blaine was okay and Blaine wanted to know if Kurt was okay. They got back together the next morning. That's the only time they've ever broken up, and I'm pretty sure that's the longest they've gone without talking since they met. That's how much they love each other." Blaine is nodding; Kurt is just looking up at him quietly now. "They couldn't make it a day.
"I asked Kurt if he ever wondered what it would be like to break up for longer; try, you know, dating other people." Finn shakes his head. "He didn't even have to think about it." He's talking outward but still keeping an eye on Kurt and Blaine, and they're only looking at each other now. "They've known since they were 16 that they wanted to be together forever; I figured it out when we were 19, after they broke up over Goldie Hawn. Who was in Overboard, Death Becomes Her, and The First Wives Club." Kurt laughs along with everyone else, Blaine grinning behind him.
"Kurt and I officially became brothers at a wedding right after he met Blaine, and now I'm getting another brother out of the deal. Welcome to the family, Blaine." Blaine smiles back at him, pressing his hand over his heart. "Both of you guys couldn't be marrying a better man." Finn holds up his champagne glass. "To Kurt and Blaine."
Everyone toasts, and Kurt gets up and wraps him up in a tight hug. "Thank you," he says, for Finn's ears only.
"You're welcome. I'm sorry, about earlier and everything."
"We'll talk about it later," Kurt says, which Finn is pretty sure means he's forgiven. Blaine has risen from his chair, too, and Finn waves him in so he can get in on the hugging action, too.
"Seriously, I'm so excited you guys are married," he tells them, as he finally lowers his arms from around the two of them.
Somebody starts clinking their spoon against their champagne glass, and everybody under the tent takes it up, a few more enthusiastic guests chanting, "Kiss, kiss, kiss, kiss!"
"It's like we're trained monkeys," Kurt complains, but he's smiling and he's the one to pull Blaine in, and Finn laughs and claps along with the rest of the wedding party and the guests as the two of them stand beside him and kiss.
The speeches weren't a competition, he thinks, because that's not at all what the day is about. But if it was one, he would have won.
He thinks that until Burt gets up and says, "Listen, I never got real good at all this public speaking stuff, so my wife Carole wrote this with me; all the best parts were her idea," and then goes on to obliterate both Finn and Cooper's speeches.
The sun has set and the paper lanterns and fairy lights are on when Finn finishes his story and asks his mom, "Was that stupid?" They started out slow-dancing to a fancy jazzy song (while Kurt and Burt danced, laughing, and Blaine twirled Mrs. Anderson, and everybody coupled up around them), but then the band started playing Rihanna and he and Mom made the executive decision to keep doing what they were doing even though the music changed and there's a very happy, fairly drunk knot of 20-something guests moshing a few feet away, Blaine somewhere in the middle of it.
"Yep," his mom says frankly. "You ran away every time a male stripper came near you, Finn; no wonder Kurt thought you were having issues."
He sighs and almost steps on her toes, but she's insanely good at avoiding his feet. "--Sorry," he says. "Yeah, I know. I explained and apologized and everything, and he got it and said I was an idiot." (Kurt had also said that Finn was definitely the better best man here, pointing out that Finn had -- at least in the beginning -- actually listened to what Kurt wanted, he'd cured the hangover he'd caused, and he'd been there for support all along, but Finn is keeping that moment for himself; it was a really cool moment.)
"Mmm," says Mom, tactfully agreeing without quite agreeing.
"I just don't get what Cooper's whole deal was; I know Blaine said he makes everything about himself, but ... it's a wedding."
"I think Cooper might have been a little jealous," Mom says.
He frowns. "Of me?"
"I was thinking more that he's at his baby brother's wedding, but yeah, you too, Finn."
"But he's all ... famous and stuff."
"That doesn't mean he's not lonely," Mom says. "You know Blaine's family isn't like ours, and he and Blaine have a hard time connecting, and I don't get the impression he's seeing anyone or has a lot of friends."
That's because he's a jerk, Finn thinks, but doesn't say it out loud. "I guess that makes sense," he says. Kurt has wormed his way into the middle of the dancers now, and he and Blaine are doing something that is the exact opposite of the super classy first dance as husbands that they'd had a while ago, after the cake.
Finn really wants another slice of that cake.
"You boys have everything he doesn't. I'm not saying that excuses some of the things I've heard him say in the last few days," she says, kind of amused now; "but thinking about him as a man who's in his late thirties and is just starting to figure out that he's really screwed himself over makes him make a hell of a lot more sense to me."
"You're kind of a genius," Finn tells her, and she laughs.
"I did miss my calling when I went to work at the plant instead of becoming a shrink, didn't I?"
"Definitely," he says, grinning, and then he sees Caty and Cooper go spinning by together, laughing, Cooper wearing her broad-brimmed hat. Finn feels his whole face wrinkle with his deep frown. It's apparently a noticeable enough expression that Caty spots it. She dances back toward him, still shimmying opposite Cooper.
"Oh relax," Caty says. "If I could cheat on you with an Anderson brother, I definitely wouldn't pick this one."
"What?" says Cooper.
"What," says Finn.
"Blaine!" she calls, and he pops out of the group of furious dancers and hollers back, "Catyyy!"
"Caty!" Kurt yells, with a hop. "Caty! Come dance!"
"Excuse me, boys, Mrs. Hummel," says Caty, and she throws herself into two pairs of happily-drunk arms and cheers, "You're marrieeeeed!"
"We're going to have one crackerjack of a family dinner at Thanksgiving," Mom says. Finn is vaguely aware that she's smiling as she watches the three of them dance ridiculously together, but he has other fish to fry.
"Did she say she wanted to get with Blaine?" Finn asks, shellshocked.
His mom pats his shoulder, not unkindly. "Let it go, Finn. Let it go."