Blaine asks for the first time in the miniscule kitchen of their new apartment. It's barely a kitchen at all, more like the bare necessities crammed into ten square feet of linoleum in the corner of their studio. Kurt can see their bed from here, the mattress still bare as they unpack.
It's late, and Kurt's exhausted. He's been hauling his stuff uptown all afternoon, after an early shift at the diner and having to deal with Rachel's teary goodbyes. He'll miss her, histrionics and all, and the closet they shared for their first year in New York. Blaine had gotten to the city last night with nothing more than a suitcase and a backpack, claiming he wanted to start from scratch. Kurt had choked up a little when he said that, right in the middle of Port Authority.
"Marry me," Blaine murmurs against this mouth now, his arm strong around Kurt's waist, pressing him into the edge of the counter.
Kurt kisses him, deep and slow and loving, thankful. "Not yet," he says quietly and he leans his forehead against Blaine's.
Blaine nods, disappointed but trusting, so trusting.
He asks again the night Kurt gets his letter of acceptance to Parsons, a little over a year later. Blaine is getting home from a late class and Kurt beats him to the apartment by mere minutes, standing in the middle of their single room, still in his waiter's uniform, his bag at his feet. He's holding the opened letter in one hand and the rest of the mail in the other. He's crying, quiet, smiling.
Blaine takes him to bed and kisses the tear tracks down his cheeks, over his chin, along his throat. Smiles against Kurt's skin when Kurt chokes out a wet laugh then a gasp, his fingers going tighter in Blaine's hair. Kurt likes to pull it when they fuck, stroke it when they watch TV, play with it idly when he's drawing. Blaine's been growing it out for him.
"Marry me?" he says later, this time against Kurt's chest as they're both catching their breath, the sheets tangled around their ankles, the studio dark around them but for the light of the city coming through the windows. They never bothered with curtains. Blaine moves his hand to place it on top of Kurt's heart, feels it pound a rhythm against this palm.
Kurt's hand tangles in his hair and Blaine closes his eyes hopefully, holding his breath despite himself.
"Not yet," Kurt murmurs. But he's smiling, Blaine can hear it in his voice, and Blaine nods, something stuck in his throat as he exhales.
Courage, he tells himself.
His dad and Carole's new house in DC is amazing, small but stately, with enough guest rooms for everyone and a big enough yard to have them all over for the Fourth of July the following year. Carole is fussing over everyone and Burt is bursting with pride at having his whole family in his home again. Kurt can't stop smiling.
He watches Rachel herd Carole back inside to the kitchen to show her the kugel she's brought for the picnic, and Finn’s occupying all of Burt's attention over by the barbecue. This leave Kurt and Blaine sitting on the steps of the deck with baby Alice, bouncing happily on her Uncle Kurt's knee after a tired Rachel gratefully handed her over. Blaine, bare feet in the grass and sunglasses pushed up into his mess of curls, is watching them like his heart might actually be exploding in his chest.
"You're happy," Kurt says, grinning into Alice's baby-soft hair when the six month old leans back against his chest, fascinated with her own toes.
"This place is amazing," Blaine says like it explains everything. Maybe it does. He offers his finger to Alice, who takes it and pulls it into her mouth greedily. Blaine's smile goes supernova and Kurt melts a little more, for reasons that have nothing to do with being back with his dad or his niece's fat little limbs or the blistering July heat.
"Hm?" Blaine replies, looking back up at Kurt, the sun bringing out a smattering of freckles across his cheeks. He's aged, matured from the bright-eyed boy Kurt fell in love with to this joyful man Kurt falls in love with all over again, every morning, every night.
"Never stop asking," Kurt says, stealing Blaine's finger from Alice to link their fingers together, bringing their tangled hands up to his mouth to kiss Blaine's knuckles.
He sees Blaine's breath hitch and his eyes go a little watery when he catches on, but he's smiling when he shakes his head and says, "I won't."
They're back in Ohio for Christmas the last year of Blaine's undergrad. The invitation to spend the holidays at Blaine's parents had been a literal one, on expensive card stock with gilded lettering, but it was addressed to both Blaine and Kurt, which Kurt considered a small victory.
School breaks for Kurt on the 22nd and Blaine has his last exam the next day, and the next morning, the morning of Christmas eve, they're cabbing to the airport with their bags and a whole extra suitcase of gifts, hoping to make up for not having been back west since they left in the first place.
Cooper gets them at the airport, wearing sunglasses and holding up a piece of paper that says MR & MR BLAINEY in big Sharpie block letters. Blaine laughs and gets pulled into a tight hug and Cooper holds his brother for a long, quiet minute before pushing him off and pulling Kurt into an equally crushing hug.
The drive from Dayton takes a couple hours in traffic and they listen to Cooper chat about LA and industry parties and his hot new girlfriend. Kurt dozes off in the backseat and wakes up a little later to quieter murmurs, mostly Blaine's voice, Cooper's answering hums. He thinks he hears his name here and there, and recognizes the fondness in Blaine's tone, the smile in Cooper's. He keeps his eyes closed and lets himself drift off again. When he wakes up again the sky has gone a little darker and they're pulling into the Andersons' driveway.
Cooper is out of the car and popping the trunk to get their stuff and Blaine is looking at Kurt over his seat, watching him wake up. "How you feeling?"
"Better," Kurt yawns, stretching. It's been a long semester.
"Let's go inside," Blaine says, and Kurt thinks he recognizes both excitement and fear in his voice.
"Hey." He stops Blaine with a hand on his sleeve. He leans in and kisses him, a sweet press of lip, a mindless tuck of Blaine's hair behind his ear. "I love you."
Blaine goes into his parents' house with a lighter step after that, accepting a hug from his father the way he had accepted Cooper's, with careful hope then thankful relief. Donna Anderson kisses Kurt on both cheeks and pats his shoulder awkwardly, but Kurt knows she tries. He smiles back. It's easy; she has Blaine's eyes.
That night at dinner, Cooper gladly monopolizes the conversation as Kurt watches Blaine next to him, present but barely, gone quiet in a way Kurt hasn't seen since high school, when Blaine would show up at their house late at night, empty-handed, and ask Kurt's dad if he could spend the night on their couch. Kurt takes his hand under the table and squeezes it. Blaine offers him a smile, real but several watts dimmer than his usual one.
After dinner, Kurt helps Donna clear the table as Blaine and Cooper are beckoned to the living room by their dad for some business or another, which has Blaine grumbling and rolling his eyes. Kurt kisses him silent and smacks his ass as they part ways, leaving Blaine to follow his brother out smothering a grin as Cooper throws an arm over his shoulder.
Kurt helps load the dishwasher and offers to dry the dishes they have to clean by hand. He finds a dishtowel under the sink and starts drying the crystal and the silver Donna hands him.
"You boys all settled in New York?"
"Yes ma'am. We're still in the same apartment, as you know. It's small but it works for us. We're so busy anyway, with work and school."
"I bet," Donna says, tone light but careful. She looks so much like Blaine when she's mulling things over. Kurt sees his opening.
"You and your husband should visit us this year. Blaine would love that. He's always pointing out things he knows his father would like, or restaurants he says you'd love. He doesn't want to ask, but I will. Come see him. He graduates in June and he... he misses you."
Donna rests both hands, sudsy up to her delicate wrists, on the lip of the sink, then nods gently, sniffling. "Sorry, the soap..." she tries to dismiss, but Kurt hands her the dishtowel and she dries her hands then her cheeks before pulling Kurt down into a real hug.
"Thank you, Kurt," she says wetly against his neck, a hand rubbing his back the way moms always do. He closes his eyes and nods, clinging back.
Blaine seems drained but happy enough when they retire to Blaine's old room for the night. Kurt closes the door behind them quietly and eyes the old fencing trophies, the singing competition plaques gathering dust against the dark wallpaper.
"Oh the things these walls have seen," he says teasingly, walking over to sit on the edge of the bed next to Blaine, who's rubbing at his face tiredly.
Blaine snickers, shoulders leaning into Kurt's. "Yes I'm sure they were impressed with my awesome sixteen year old moves."
"Yeah, well, I was," Kurt smiles, and pulls Blaine's face into a long kiss. Blaine breathes through it, the tension easing out of his shoulders. Blaine tucks his face in Kurt's neck, exhaling loudly. Kurt rubs at his back, the way Blaine's mom rubbed his.
Kurt makes him brush his teeth and strip to his boxers and put on a shirt he finds in Blaine's old dresser. He changes into his own pajamas and slips into bed next to him, leaning over to turn off the lamp on the nightstand.
Blaine reaches for him and Kurt settles again him, Blaine's chest warm and familiar against his back.
"Just occurred to me, we've never actually slept together in this bed," he says in the thick dark. It never gets this dark in their apartment.
"Thanks for coming here with me," Blaine murmurs against the back of Kurt's neck.
Kurt hooks his foot over Blaine's and squeezes Blaine's arm around his waist with his own. "Always. We're a team, remember?"
"Go team," Blaine smiles and Kurt laughs, pulling Blaine closer by the arm.
Blaine wakes up disoriented, feeling years in the past for a second before he rolls over and sees Kurt sitting at the end of the bed, watching him. His Kurt, grown-up Kurt, with the broad shoulders and the confident angle of his jaw and the smile that's just for Blaine in the morning.
"Hey," Blaine rasps, smiling, then clears his throat and sits up, scratching at his overnight scruff. Kurt is still in his pajamas but has obviously been up for a while, eyes clear and intent. There's a mug of something steaming on the nightstand, on Kurt's side.
"Ask me again," Kurt says in lieu of the usual morning greeting.
Blaine squints at him for a second, then reaches for his glasses on the nightstand. "Ask you what?" he asks when things come into focus and he can see the minutiae of Kurt's expression.
Kurt crawls over and sits closer, facing him, taking his prickly face in his hands. "Ask me again."
Blaine's heart leaps when he realizes what Kurt is asking, but he tamps it down with cautious optimism. "Like this?" he chuckles, delaying the inevitable just to be better able to brace himself. "With morning breath and my old Dalton gym shirt and Cooper snoring next door?"
"Like this," Kurt says, determined, smiling. "Right here, right now. On Christmas morning, in your parents' house, with morning breath and morning hair and morning... wood. Ask me, Blaine," he snickers, nudging at him.
Blaine groans out a laugh and adjusts himself in his sweats. He sits up straighter and grabs Kurt's hand, squeezing it the way Kurt had squeezed his the night before, at dinner.
"Marry me, Kurt. Please. Marry me. If only because I'll never stop asking."
Kurt breathes out shakily, smile gone serious but still in his eyes. "You can stop asking. I was always going to marry you, Blaine. I'm... sorry I made you wait this long."
Blaine huffs out a trembling laugh and pulls Kurt into his lap and kisses him, really kisses him, fuck morning breath. As for his morning hair, Kurt is happily digging his fingers in it, pulling Blaine closer. Blaine is just about to ask if the door is locked when a loud knock sounds through it.
"Keep it PG in there!" Cooper yells from the hallway.
"Fuck off, Coop!" Blaine yells, twisting them over so Kurt is under him in the messed up sheets.
And Kurt is looking up at him like he hung the moon, like the first time Blaine ever kissed him, in a long-ago study hall.