Chapter 1: Chapter One
Kurt and Blaine met at night, when it was too dark to see faces and quiet enough to memorize voices.
It started with Kurt walking home because he didn't have enough money for a cab and he was just buzzed enough that he was feeling spiteful about everything under the sun—or moon, in this case. Alcohol never did wonders for Kurt and some nights he wondered why he bothered drinking. This was one of those nights.
He was passing some of the empty warehouses a few blocks away from home sweet home when a clanking metal sound got his attention. Immediately alert, he checked his phone (turned on and silent) and his pepper spray (ready at hand and never been used), and his flashlight. Then he started to shuffle forward and took care to say in the lowest and loudest tone possible, “Hello—?”
His shoe bumped into something hard and he glanced down to see a can. A spray paint can.
Kurt fumbled for his phone, but a figure darted in the shadows on top of the warehouses, moving, moving, gone. Except not because a voice answered Kurt, a voice that sounded both terrified and exhilarated.
“From your friendly neighborhood street artist!”
Kurt was left standing in the dark with an abandoned spray paint can. He listened for any more stirrings in the blanketed silence that followed, but all he could hear was the thudding of his heart. The adrenaline was still pumping through his veins and the alcohol gave him enough liquid courage (or so he thought at the time) that Kurt found himself scaling the warehouses, trying to find where the mysterious street artist had been standing before. In the end, he held up his cell phone to serve as a meager source of light in order to see a bold red cartoon figure with a top hat and saucy wink, square teeth bared in a mischievous grin.
“Oh, it's you again,” Kurt muttered under his breath, but his lips quirked into a smile despite himself.
He snapped a few pictures with his phone, making sure to focus on the signature left behind by the man who had yelled back so cheerfully:
But earlier that day:
It wasn't that Kurt hated Starbucks; it was just that Starbucks was ridiculously overpriced.
But coffee was coffee, and Kurt was in a rush. He had no time to drive to the nearest and less hyped Peet's Coffee, so he ordered as quickly as he could, deciding to get a skinny mocha for himself and two orders of white chocolate mocha for Lauren and Sugar who were opening the store today. He listened to the strains of pop music playing, shifting the bag on his shoulder because it always felt unusually heavy early in the morning. It was a weekday, but early so that there weren't gaggles of teenage girls indulging in dessert coffees that they drank for fun because they hadn't yet learned that life. Was. Work.
So business-type people hemmed and hawed in front of and behind Kurt, and when his order was finally called, he came forward with relief written all over his face and evacuated the facility as soon as he could get a proper grip on the tray with all three drinks.
He sped through one red light for a small thrill and waited patiently at the others. By the time he arrived at Timeless, he could see that Lauren was setting up various displays inside of the store and Sugar was tinkering away at the cashier.
The bell above the door tinkled as he entered the store—his store. “Hello ladies,” he said gravely, his tone a contrast to his eyes which sparkled with amusement.
“Kuuuuuuurt!” Sugar cooed at him, snagging his arm and pulling him to the counter. “Kurt, I found these shirts in a thrift store yesterday and they only cost five bucks total. Five. Bucks. Only. Aren't they cute? They'll sell, don't you think?”
Kurt handed her a coffee, grimacing slightly as he scanned the shirts. “Sugar, you're very sweet, but you really didn't need to.”
Her reply was shrill and excited. “Oh, but I had to!” She winked and traipsed away to the back.
He stared after her, and then turned to Lauren who shrugged and reached for her own coffee. “I've tried explaining to her that the point of having a salary is so that you can spend the money for yourself, not on your work,” Kurt joked half-heartedly, and Lauren's normally bored and/or apathetic expression broadened into a smirk.
“Well,” she drawled, “what's on the schedule today, Hummel?”
“Same as usual.” He waved an airy hand, circling the racks on the store and inspecting the occasional jacket or scarf. “You ladies run this place as smoothly as the Gershwin Theatre and I find the products to pull in customers and hopefully your next pay raise, if all goes well.”
Lauren raised an eyebrow at him. “You ever want to change things up sometimes?”
“No,” Kurt said too quickly. “Not at all. Timeless is doing fine.”
“What about you?”
Kurt Hummel didn't do heart-to-heart talks this early in the morning, especially not in the middle of his own store which he had built up from the ground (metaphorically speaking, of course) with one of his coworkers who was usually more concerned with food than with other people's personal lives.
So he smiled at Lauren—oh, how disarming a smile could be—and said very firmly, “I'm doing fine too.”
Timeless was a vintage clothing shop.
Kurt used the term “vintage” loosely. The Kurt Hummel from high school turned his nose up at clothes that were less than genuine (even if he bought knock-offs more often than he would like to admit), but he had grown up and realized that money didn't grow on trees, and to top it all off, making his own livelihood was difficult enough that he realized his expensive taste wasn't helping matters. It went further than that, though. There was a time when he had refused to settle for anything that fell short of his standards because Kurt knew that he mattered. You didn't settle because you needed to shoot for the best. You were worth it. Kurt was worth it.
And he still was worth it. It was just that Kurt also learned to settle.
He found himself on his knees in the back room of his store, sorting through endless piles and bundles of clothes that he found in various trips around the area. He could buy dozens of T-shirts for paltry sums and then rework them, resell them. He looked for clothes that stood out, clothes with unusual stitching, clothes with bold patterns and funky decorations. He took these clothes and called them “vintage” for suckers who didn't know any better—but he made sure each shirt was unique and passable, so that had to count for something.
It wasn't just clothes either. There were shoes with ridiculous heels, necklaces with over-sized pendants, and even a gorilla costume that was more of a photo opportunity than a sale item. Kurt also frequented Etsy, selling ribbons and bows that he made with extra fabric and beads that he got at good prices from the dollar store owners who knew him by name. More often than not, he felt like a scavenger, searching for the occasional cocktail dress or flared jeans that he could adjust and personalize.
It was strange how people learned to settle for less, and yet here he was. He was on his knees, helping his store thrive, and he felt absolutely restless.
It was around noon when Lauren was about to take off to get lunch for them. Kurt volunteered instead, opting to walk toward a nearby deli that sold sandwiches and wraps he approved of. “I need the exercise anyway,” he said almost apologetically, but Lauren waved him off and Sugar gleefully told him to buy a soda for her.
It was true that Kurt needed to exercise more, but the lunch run was also an excuse to pass by the Wall.
The Wall was a bland expanse of gray that stretched nearly the entire length of the street two blocks away that he turned onto in order to reach the deli. The Wall would have been boring in of itself except that nearly every inch of it was covered in graffiti.
There were bubble letters, block letters, crooked letters. Kurt couldn't read most of the words that were spray-painted on the Wall, some of them painted with more skill than others, but there was something almost wholesome about it all. The sheer amount of color that burst in his vision, bold tints and shades that spread like flowers on an otherwise plain surface. The words and colors changed every now and then, but every day without fail, the Wall would be noisy and colorful and simply wonderful to Kurt. He knew that the police occasionally patrolled the area, hoping to catch one of the culprits at work, but the cops still had better things to do with their time and most graffiti artists seemed to be careful people.
Today was no exception. Kurt walked slowly past, eyes dancing over the bloated letters that didn't always make sense, when one work caught his eye. Squeezed between a lemon yellow display and a rainbow one was a funny little character.
It was stick-like and painted in black. It had a round head with little round eyes and a “X” for its mouth as if it didn't have words to say. Two little curly hairs (at least, Kurt thought they were hairs) sprouted from its head like antennae and its elongated line of a body was stretched until it split into two legs with round feet. Stick arms sprouted from the middle of its body and one arm clutched the string of a bright red balloon. The character seemed to look out at Kurt, wordless and puzzled-looking, like a bizarre animal watching a human watching it.
The balloon had a name on it like all of the other graffiti pieces. Kurt squinted, trying to read the black letters. “Curly Q,” he read.
The little stick man was...cute. For lack of a better word. It was strangely childish and playful in the midst of loud color, a simplistic sketch that seemed lost in its own world. He stood and looked at it for a long moment, noting its blank eyes and needle-thin fingers. Wondered about the artist behind the art, about eyes widened or narrowed with creative intensity, lips pursed, fingers tapping. About the clandestine affair of Man and Art.
But: “You're getting sentimental, Kurt Hummel,” he said to himself, and the words came out like a long sigh.
He moved past the Wall and Curly Q's curious art shifted to the back of his mind.
(Kurt remembered when he used to lie on his bed and pretend to be dead. He would fold his hands and close his eyes, trying to channel peace and stillness. Sometimes he would even have a flower.
Most times, he fell asleep.)
Ten years ago, Kurt Hummel entered high school and promptly decided that he hated everything about it on the very first day.
He hated his classes, filled with sleepers and gum-chewers. He hated many of his teachers who rarely looked as if they enjoyed being there. He hated the cafeteria with its greasy aura and mindless chatter. He hated the boys' locker rooms where one aimless gaze could mean death—in the metaphorical sense, at least.
But mostly he hated how he was resigned to another four years of crossing off days in the calendar, waiting until he could leave for somewhere bigger and better—a place that still only existed in abstract form, a castle in the clouds, but he was going to get there one way or another.
“Welcome to McKinley, fresh meat!”
Somehow he was going to get there, Kurt wiped slushy from his face, wincing from the cold and cruel hoots of laughter that echoed in the hallways.
It was then when he saw her. Or more specifically, he saw her ridiculously colorful knee socks and her big nose. It was Rachel Berry from his Literature and Writing class who didn't care much for John Steinback but went absolutely teary-eyed over Romeo and Juliet. It was Rachel Berry who talked a mile a minute and stared ahead as if there wasn't anything worth looking back on. Rachel Berry who wore blouses and sweaters that would look cute on little girls and adorable on old ladies, but appeared absolutely abominable on teenagers.
(A small note: she had no friends. Kurt had no friends. By default, they should be gathering up all of the losers in McKinley and forming some sort of loser circle that would ultimately make a triumphant victory of sorts. Except this was high school in real life and that kind of drama didn't happen.)
She was someone with tunnel vision, the kind of person his father had warned him about when he was teaching Kurt how to change a tire.
“It's not just about driving, Kurt.” Burt Hummel leaned on the car and touched the brim of his hat pointedly. “It's life. People with tunnel vision—well, they're gonna miss out on a lot if they don't change. They're not thinking about others, so they're not gonna think about themselves in the end.”
It was more than that, though. Rachel Berry had ambition.
Even more than that, she sang.
Kurt Hummel looked at the sign-up sheet for glee club. He never once considered joining when Sandy Ryerson had been director, but now he was gone. (Removed like a bad tooth, a dead battery.) Rachel Berry who had been one of the few students to sign up, the gold star sticker winking faintly at Kurt as if it were beckoning him.
But my voice. My voice. My voice is.
So he brooded in his room, sorting his scarves by color, and watched Rachel Berry sing on YouTube. He wondered what her audition song was. He wondered if it would be from a musical.
A musical like Les Miserables.
She had covered two songs from Les Miserables on her channel. He skipped “On My Own” because he didn't want to admit that it gave him a sharp pain, as most songs did, because it was a song sung by a woman to a man. Because it was a girl song and he never hesitated in singing girl songs, but today he was tired and he still smelled faintly of cherry slushy and his heart hurt because he had an inkling (no, stronger than an inkling; much stronger) that he wouldn't change the pronouns. He wouldn't want to.
He listened quietly, hands stilling, as Rachel's voice filled his room.
“I dreamed a dream in time gone by...”
When hope was high
And life worth living
I dreamed that love would never die
I dreamed that God would be forgiving...
When the song ended, he scrolled down to look at the comments. There were few, but the few that existed were shockingly offensive. They were probably from the jocks and Cheerios from school, the people who hated the Rachel Berrys of the world. People who hated the Kurt Hummels too, and as he read on (“no wunder ur adopted berry u screech lik a hag”), he thought that it would be better if he didn't join the newly formed glee club. No sense in involving himself with more targets like Rachel Berry. Never mind that they might share incredibly similar tastes in music. Never mind that she was a phenomenal singer for all the confidence she said. Never mind that sometimes he saw a lurking sadness in her eyes often mirrored in his own.
Never mind any of that because he was alone at McKinley and he wasn't going to pretend otherwise.
Others could emphasize, but no one would understand.
It was as simple as that.
Once, he imagined having a conversation with Rachel Berry in his mind. It was a different Rachel Berry, less manic and more calm. A more world-weary Rachel Berry, older and creased like a forgotten piece of paper. Actually, he didn't know if he had imagined or dreamed. Perhaps both.
“You are not alone, Kurt,” she said. More world-weary, but still so optimistic. It was sickening.
“Yes, I am.”
“No, you aren't—”
“Oh, I suppose you like to think otherwise because you have your ego and talent as lifelong companions,” he snapped then.
There was a flicker of dry amusement on her face. “I am talented,” she replied, “and I always believed that I was a star, and I am. But what I didn't know was that there are so many more stars in the world and I'm just one. I was so insignificant that I wanted to die because what did I have besides my voice? I was nothing without my voice.”
“But you made it.” He knew that, for some reason. The woman in front of him was successful—had been, at the very least.
“You don't know that yet."
“But you did.”
“But I learned. I learned that I could be special in a different way. I had experiences. I had people I loved. Making it didn't matter as much because even if I lost my voice, I would still have something.”
Kurt's voice wavered. “I'm not like you.”
“We're more alike than you think.”
Chapter 2: Chapter Two
It started, as all good things should, with a cat.
First, to clear things up, Kurt did not name her McQueen or Gaga or Marie Antoinette. The cat was female, that much was certain, but he held the squirming bundle of orange fur and decidedly did not call her “Marigold.” Except he did.
Later he would say it was because she was round and her fur was ridiculously bright and her big round eyes stared up at him so sweetly, so pitifully, that he had taken her into his arms without thinking too hard about the fact that the sleeves of his white blazer (no, he hadn't watched Saturday Night Fever the weekend before, shut up) were dirtied in the process. But he didn't have a heart of stone and the cat had been pathetically desolate, peeking at him from behind a trash can and completely unresisting. He was charmed, to say the least.
So Marigold came to stay with him in the apartment he called home, and now he was rather glad pets were allowed even if he still thought the Golden Retriever in the next apartment was too loud. And having a cat turned out to be marginally easier than he'd expected. The shedding was regrettable, but Marigold did her duty at the litter box and was, for all intents and purposes, a rather silent cat. She pawed Kurt whenever her bowl was empty and scratched at his bedroom door to be let in, but she was neat and quiet. However, she was a little too fond of escaping outside, usually by squeezing her way through the front door as Kurt entered and left his home. Though she always found her way back, he suddenly realized that he would be devastated if something happened to her or if she somehow got stuck in a tree.
Then there was the business of registration, neutering, and putting a chip in Marigold, but Kurt was a man of fashion, and Alexander McQueen forbid that he let his cat prance around without a single accessory. It would also assure him on a greater level to see physical evidence of his ownership on Marigold.
He took a break from vintage-hunting one day and went to PetPals, which was where he had been getting the chicken and brown rice formula that Marigold was particularly fond of.
Kurt blinked and looked up from a cage containing a fat gray hamster named King Lear, of all things. Oh, hello, he thought as a new face approached his way.
“You need any help?” the PetPal employee asked with a gentle lilt in his voice. He was wearing an olive green polo shirt with a name tag that read “Blaine,” and he had a head of near-shellacked dark hair. Kurt could all but see his reflection on that shiny surface. The man's face was handsome enough, with gleaming eyes, long lashes, flawless skin...
I would kill to have skin like that.
“Sir?” Blaine prompted uncertainly. Kurt shook himself out of his daze; no good to be staring at a potentially straight man.
“Yes, yes, um... I'm looking for a cat collar.”
“Oh, well.” Face brightening, Blaine led Kurt over to an aisle with various collars, harnesses, and leashes. “Shopping for your cat, I see. Cat or kitten?”
“Cat. She's around two years old.”
“Most of these collars are pretty easy to get out of if your cat gets stuck somewhere outside,” Blaine explained, gesturing with his hands. “So just pick a design that you like and you should be all set.”
There were a lot of patterns. Kurt chewed on his lower lip absently, but kept an eye on Blaine.
Nothing. Blaine wasn't even looking at him.
Try, try again. Kurt shifted imperceptibly towards the extremely good-looking employee. “What do you recommend?”
“What do I recommend?” Blaine tilted his head, scanning the items, and then reached out for a black one with noticeable gingham bows. “Personally? I really, really like anything with ribbons or bows. This is a good one for an adult cat. Or—here.” He handed the black one to Kurt and pulled off several colored ones with plastic or fabric bows on the sides. “These are better for kittens because they're easier to slip out of.”
To be frank, Kurt didn't have the world's greatest gaydar. He had made the occasional faux pas once or twice in the past, and he wasn't looking for a repeat performance. But as he watched Blaine return a pink collar to the rack, intent on the task, he had a hunch.
“Bow tie man, aren't you?”
Startled, Blaine dropped a collar. “Sorry?”
Kurt held up the gingham bow collar, waving it pointedly. “I just have a feeling that you're a bow tie fan,” he smirked, mentally stroking his hair back at the way Blaine sheepishly tucked his hands into his pants pockets.
“Got me there,” Blaine admitted, sounding more amused than anything else. “I'm guilty of ordering Brooks Brothers ties at least once a month whenever I have the money stored up. Otherwise I,” here he paused, looked around furtively for dramatic effect, and whispered, “go hunting on Etsy.”
“Funny,” Kurt said, “because I make bow ties on Etsy.”
“During my free time. I actually have a clothing store around here, and I look around thrift stores for inspiration.”
“That's great,” Blaine replied sincerely. “Wait, wait, let me guess... Timeless!”
Kurt smiled and echoed, “Got me there.”
They talked for a while longer about clothes and somehow the conversation went back to pets. Kurt spent a full minute waxing eloquent about the time Marigold had brought a dead bird back to the apartment (“She offered up the head like a sacrifice, what was I supposed to do?”) and Blaine laughed a full-body kind of laugh with crinkled eyes and shaking shoulders. “I'd have loved to see that,” he said, still chuckling quietly.
In the end, there was no way of asking Blaine if he was gay because you didn't ask people if they're gay, of course not. Kurt paid for the black collar with gingham bows and a glittering gold one as well. He watched as Blaine printed out the receipt, but alas, the charming PetPals employee did not scrawl anything else on it (like his number) and merely handed Kurt his purchases with a smile and obligatory, “Thank you and please come again.”
Disappointed, Kurt made for the door with its tinkling bell, but Blaine called out at that moment, “Excuse me, what's your name?”
He paused. “Kurt,” he said, slightly breathless. “Kurt Hummel.”
Blaine's eyes did some sort of twinkly thing that made Kurt's knees wobble just a bit. “Blaine Anderson. Nice meeting you, Kurt. Hope I'll be seeing you around.”
Kurt hoped so, too. He settled for a perfunctory nod, not trusting himself to smile because it would probably turn out creepy and please please please stick your tongue down my throat and could you hold my hand and take me to dinner after that?
It was only as Kurt left PetPals that he pondered on how Blaine's voice struck a familiar chord. He was certain that he had heard it before in some distant or recent past. Maybe it sounded similar to one of his classmates from high school? Or maybe from a song—wait, what if Blaine was a musician? Mentally scanning his memories, Kurt had to sigh out a “no” to all of his theories.
Wait. Wait just one minute.
“From your friendly neighborhood street artist!”
Kurt stood perfectly still in the middle of the sidewalk, and then covered his face. “Oh, god.”
Kurt Hummel was a baby-cheeked high school sophomore when he came out to his father. It was a tumultuous year, to say the least. In an effort to escape some of the bullying, he tried out as a kicker for the football team. As it turned out, he was a pretty damn good kicker, and if Burt Hummel was a little prouder of him because of that, who was Kurt to say no to the masses? So he joined up despite the fact that quite a few of the members treated him more or less the same, although the name-calling and locker-slamming toned down because the team couldn't afford to lose Kurt because they were losing. There were a few other silver linings, like the fact that Finn Hudson was on the team and was friendly enough to Kurt. Sort of.
“Isn't he dating Quinn?” Mercedes queried when he casually asked about Finn.
“Oh yes,” he sighed in response. “Quinn Fabray.”
“I always thought they look kind of miserable together.”
Kurt pounced because hey, it wasn't home-wrecking if they weren't married, right? “Really?”
“Now what are you thinking about, white boy?”
He and Mercedes had developed a camaraderie over a more aesthetic appreciation for fashion. It helped that she liked music as much as he did, and more often than not, she would coax him into karaoke night at one of their houses. What didn't help was that she had auditioned for glee club, although from what Kurt could tell, they only had four members and couldn't exactly afford to be picky. Along with Mercedes and Rachel, they had freshmen Asian Goth Girl and Wheelchair Boy, who were Tina and Artie respectively.
“You should join, Kurt,” Mercedes urged, nudging his shoulder with her own. He shifted back so that they weren't touching. “I mean, Berry's already trying to be the star of the New Directions—”
“The what now?”
“The New Directions. That's our name after Mr. Schue—”
“That is one unfortunate name,” he muttered under his breath.
“It'll be fun.”
“You just said that Rachel Berry was taking over. I am not going to leap out of the frying pan and into the fire.”
“What's the frying pan?”
Kurt thought about dreams. He thought about Broadway, about little girls desperately trying to prove themselves, about how he was still waiting for his voice to deepen, about the traces of dirt and other sludge on his Marc Jacobs jacket (which was a knock-off, but that wasn't the point). He thought of how he watched Finn during football practice, only to avert his gaze whenever Coach Tanaka barked out another insult to motivate the players. He thought of his father who finally stopped double-taking whenever Kurt watched “America's Next Top Model” and smiled wearily at the sequined leggings that Kurt finished making the weekend before.
Then he thought of finally standing on a stage, all by himself, and singing as high and as low as he could sing. Fearless and without a care in the world.
His heart was seized with longing and fear.
“I can't,” he told Mercedes, who was clearly dissatisfied with his answer but didn't push. Then she scooted closer, although slowly as if being coy. “What are you doing?”
She looked at him, pressing her lips together nervously. Then he got it.
He didn't know what to say because it was like a dog falling for a cat—not my type, really not my type. It couldn't happen, it couldn't happen at all, and yet he would be lying if he said he didn't consider it for a moment because wouldn't his father be pleased, happy even? Wouldn't Burt Hummel be proud to see his son get a girlfriend to go with the football player image? Wouldn't McKinley give him an easier time if he conformed to the image of the heterosexual teenager boy?
But that was a despicable thing to do, and he would never forgive himself if he hurt a girl's feelings by lying. “Mercedes... I'm gay.”
“Oh.” Now she leaned away from him, but mostly because she was leaning on her hand, thinking. “Well, I thought so anyway. It was worth a shot.” She brought her arm around his shoulder and squeezed comfortingly.
And that was that.
That evening after football practice, Kurt came out to his father.
“I know,” Burt said to his son, his face old but loving. “I've known since you were three.”
There was more to it. Kurt recalled something about a pair of sensible heels and a hug that banished all of the tension in his shoulders. There was crying because Kurt hadn't carried this around for that long, if you really had to compare, but it had been so burdensome and frightening in a place like Lima, Ohio and even more in a school like McKinley. Now two people knew and he felt as if he could take on the world no matter what because he was loved for who he was, and he wasn't alone.
“Men are poisonous,” Sugar was seething. She was folding shirts just the way Kurt liked them, the last thing she had to do before her shift was over. Lauren was puttering around with the cashier, but she glanced up at Sugar behind her pink-rimmed glasses and snorted.
“Just figuring that out, Sugar?”
“That's a yes, then.”
“What did Rory do this time?” Kurt cut in, his attention diverted from clothes on the circular rack he was arranging.
Sugar slapped the table with the folded shirts. “He lied to me!”
“About what?” Lauren drawled, propping her elbows on the counter. She seemed far more interested in Sugar's dramatic reactions than in the actual story itself. “Did he cheat on your skinny butt or something? Because that's no surprise.”
“Rory wouldn't cheat on me,” came the immediate protest.
“Okay, so you know how I threw a Valentine's Day party a couple of months ago? Well—”
Kurt stopped listening to Sugar after that. He'd heard enough about Rory, the winsome Irish exchange student, and how Sugar had been beguiled by his dreamy voice. Instead, he picked at the possibility that Blaine and Curly Q weren't one and the same. Their voices were strikingly similar, down to the timbre, but you could never be sure. He contemplated going back to PetPals and confronting Blaine, though Kurt didn't know what he would say. Graffiti was hardly a legal recreational hobby, but who was he to haul Blaine to the police station? Who was he to accuse Blaine when accusation wouldn't help anyone?
Maybe it was artistic curiosity. Why the name Curly Q? Why the funny stick figures? Why graffiti at all?
He was aware that he would be far less curious if he weren't so attracted to Blaine. But he was better at being subtle, and besides, there was no guarantee that Blaine was actually a street artist. Kurt would have to go on his instincts.
Then Sugar chose to interrupt his thoughts. “Kurt, you're a million miles away.”
He blinked himself back to reality. “What?”
Her gaze became mischievous. “Is it a boy?”
“I'll have you know that it's a man and I'm not one of your high school yuppies,” Kurt said loftily before he could have second thoughts. It was too late as Sugar stared at him, wide-eyed, and Lauren adjusted her glasses at him with a pointed look.
“Who?” Sugar demanded, dropping the blouse she was folding onto the ground. Kurt eyed it unhappily and she picked it up with an eye-roll. “Who? Who who who who whowhowho?”
“No one you would know.”
“Are you guys together yet?”
“You could use a little booty-tapping to loosen that face,” Lauren commented, holding her hands up innocuously when Kurt shot a glare at her. “I'm just saying.”
“We just met, and I was looking for a suitable collar for my cat. It's a little more complicated when you're in a homophobic world ready to squash you with a leather boot,” he sighed, sagging a bit.
Sugar pouted. “Aw.”
“He could have cancer, for all I know,” Kurt said gloomily. “Or he could have commitment issues.”
“He could be straight,” Sugar said rather sensibly, punctuating her words with a snap of her gum. “Or he could already have a boyfriend.”
Kurt considered this. “I think I'd rather he have cancer.”
“Kurt!” she gasped, eyes widening almost comically.
“It's called sarcasm, you ever heard of that?” Lauren shook her head.
It was all speculation. Kurt didn't know anything about Blaine, nothing tangible. He liked bow ties and Brooks Brothers, he worked at PetPals, he gelled his hair as if his life depended on it, and he had the warmest hazel eyes.
And he could be Curly Q.
Kurt closed Timeless early that day and went to PetPals under the guise of buying cat food for Marigold. He didn't know if Blaine would be there or not, but he sighed quietly in relief when he entered the store and saw the gelled head bent over a piece of paper, right hand scribbling idly in the silence of the late hour. Blaine looked up when he heard the bell tinkling and he pushed the paper under a folder, but he had nothing but smiles for Kurt.
“Hey! Kurt, right?” The employee made a small wave. “How's your cat?”
“She's more interested in chewing the bows off of her collar than wearing it,” Kurt admitted. He had been all but devastated when Marigold mewled petulantly once he fastened the collar on, and when he took it off, she pawed and chewed at it as if it were a new toy. He met the same result when he tried on the gold collar and had to surrender to Marigold's unflinching amber eyes.
Blaine made a sympathetic noise. “That's too bad. So what are you here for?”
“Cat food. I'm trying out different flavors because she doesn't like chicken too much.” Liar, liar, skinny jeans on fire. “I thought I could buy a couple of bags and see how she likes them?”
“Well, we have foods over at aisle three...” Blaine came around and started for a shelf, but Kurt didn't follow. “Kurt?”
Kurt pulled at his scarf. Sometimes brutal honesty was the only way to go. “You're...you're Curly Q, aren't you?”
There was an inscrutable expression on Blaine's face, but his voice was steady as he said, “I don't know what you're talking about.”
“You're the street artist who has been putting those stick figure sketches all over the city. I heard you one night. You said, 'From your friendly neighborhood street artist.' That was you, wasn't it?”
When Blaine didn't answer, Kurt huffed in frustration and put a hand on his hip. “Look, I used to sing. And I don't have perfect pitch, but I know it was you because I recognized your voice even if I couldn't see your face.” Softening, “I'm not here to get you in trouble. I just wanted to say that I like your drawings even if I don't understand them.”
Blaine watched him warily, but his posture relaxed and his arm shot up so that he could smooth a hand over gelled hair.
“You,” he began, “are something else, Kurt.”
You guys know that Curly Q is Blaine, so I decided not to waste time dragging it out. We're seeing a lot of Kurt right now, but I promise in future chapters there will be bits and pieces of Blaine's thoughts and/or past. Chapters will also be a bit longer now that the initial introductions are out of the way.
Chapter 3: Chapter Three
“So you're the guy Kurt's been talking about.”
Blaine offered a tentative smile. “He's been talking about me?”
“I am right here, Sugar Motta.” Kurt snapped his fingers at the girl who was grinning maniacally. It was Lauren's day off and Kurt could only count his lucky stars that there weren't two girls ganging up on Blaine. Though Sugar was a handful all by herself—maybe two handfuls.
This wasn't what Kurt had in mind when he invited Blaine over to Timeless, hoping to immerse himself in his own territory and figure out if his pheromones were working or not. He and Blaine exchanged numbers shortly after confirming that Blaine was indeed Curly Q, and they've had several following conversations over phone and in person. They shared a love for fashion even though they had differing opinions and styles, a near-worshipful appreciation of music and Broadway, and a general camaraderie that warmed Kurt to his very soul. Or so he liked to think.
There was still the question of sexuality. And speaking of that:
“So are you gay or what?” Sugar asked bluntly, tossing her pigtails. “Because if you're not, you should take me out.”
“I thought you were still with Rory,” Kurt said suspiciously, although he glanced over at Blaine and attempted to hide how eager he was to hear Blaine's answer.
She sniffed haughtily. “I am no longer on speaking terms with Rory Flanagan, thank you very much.”
As if on cue, her phone buzzed and she snatched it up, scowling.
“Seems like he didn't get the message,” Blaine joked easily, winking at Kurt conspiratorially. Kurt's knees wobbled a bit and he had to clutch a heavily laden rack to compose himself. He never thought that he would be attracted to someone who liked to linger on the gray area of legality, but far be it for Kurt to criticize. To be fair, he and Blaine hadn't really talked about the whole graffiti art thing much after the confrontation. It worked as an ice-breaker and now they could talk about more pleasantly comfortable topics that didn't mess with the law, but Kurt's curiosity lingered. He just wasn't sure how to approach the whole business.
As Sugar muttered darkly under her breath and jabbed at her phone, Blaine laughed, showing fine and even teeth.
“Even if you didn't have a boyfriend, I'm afraid I'll have to take you out on a purely platonic date, Sugar,” Blaine was saying, tone apologetic.
Sugar and Kurt's heads shot up, but it was the female teenager who said, “So you're gay?”
“Yup.” His smile was beatific. Kurt was reminded of solemn Buddha figures, unwavering in even the strongest storms. “One hundred percent gay.”
Kurt was far too dignified to blurt out, “Me too!” Fortunately, Sugar took care of the task as she shook her head disappointedly, Rory forgotten for the time being. “I swear, all the good guys... I guess you and Kurt can bone each other then.”
Kurt was docking that girl's pay, no question.
The hazel-eyed man tilted his head and side-eyed Kurt. “You're gay?”
“Out and proud,” Kurt managed to say without trembling despite all of the joy that welled up inside of him, the fantasizing and longing that he had squashed down so that he didn't have to suffer more heartbreak from the whole “crushing on straight guy” scenario. Did and done already.
Blaine reached out and touched Kurt. On the shoulder. “Well, me too,” he said, and his face was like the sun.
“I'm not saying that Jeffrey Daniels shouldn't pay attention to the LGBT community.” Blaine motioned at nothing in particular. “But petitioning the mayor has done nothing before and collecting signatures clearly isn't the way to go. I know that demonstrations haven't worked before in the past, but there's no harm in—”
“How long have you been Curly Q?”
Blaine hesitated, eyes darting all around the deli. They had met for breakfast Saturday morning because Blaine didn't work on the weekends (“Not to say that I'm perpetually lazy, but I like weekends for myself.”) and Kurt worked flexible hours. They'd already spent an hour chatting over croissants, cold sandwiches, and coffee, but this was the first time Kurt brought up Blaine's alter life. But Kurt had made sure that they were nested in a corner and the few people still in the deli weren't paying any attention to the two men in deep discussion.
So Blaine conceded, dropping his hands from the air to hold his coffee cup. “I've been hitting the streets since high school,” he confessed with the air of a man revealing his deepest secret. “I've officially been Curly Q for three years.”
“I picked it up during my undergraduate years. Then I realized I didn't want to end up as a businessman, so I graduated college with the highest honors and shocked my parents by disappearing.” There was a bitter undertone to his words and Kurt instinctively put his hand over Blaine's. Forward, but purposeful. The touch seemed to shake Blaine out of whatever head space he'd been in, and he lifted his gaze, shrugging. “No one wants their son to become a—a delinquent or anything, least of all a gay delinquent, but it doesn't matter anymore. I'm living life the way I want to and there's nothing to regret.”
“Your family doesn't know a good thing when they see it,” Kurt responded seriously. Blaine chuckled lightly, but his face brightened a bit.
To keep Blaine's good mood, Kurt launched into the story of how he came out to his father, including a funny bit of how Burt had caught him dancing to “Single Ladies” by himself. Blaine's eyes grew warm at more accounts of Burt Hummel, commenting more than once at how he was glad Kurt had familial support throughout high school.
“Your father's a good man,” Blaine said, and Kurt smiled tightly.
“Yes, he is.”
“What about your mother?”
He nudged at the last croissant on his plate. “She died when I was eight.” Then he waited for Blaine to say, “I'm so sorry,” or something along the lines of that.
Blaine looked down at Kurt's hand which was still draped over his own, then brought up his free hand and covered both in a comforting gesture. Kurt's lips curved upward at the sweet movement and the sudden intimacy between the two of them. However, Blaine flushed as he finally realized what he was doing and withdraw his hands.
“I, um,” he stammered. “That's...”
“Nothing to worry your gelled head over.” Kurt was quick to soothe, ignoring the flicker of hurt inside his chest.
“It's not that.” Blaine fidgeted at the edge of his seat before sliding his hand over to take Kurt's again. Kurt inhaled sharply.
“The last guy I went out with wasn't...well, out.” The street artist smiled bashfully down at their clasped hands. “And it turned out that I made most of it up in my head.” He deliberately ran his thumb over Kurt's soft fingers, still smiling at the shudder that coursed through Kurt's body. “I don't want to make that same mistake again.”
Kurt subtly pinched himself. Nope, he was awake and still sitting across from one of the most handsome men he had ever met. There had to be a catch somewhere.
“It's also easier since you already know about my other line of work and there won't be any lying or misunderstandings over that. Not that I wouldn't have made a move or something because you're, you're the most fascinating person I've met in this town and I haven't felt like this in a long time.”
“Blaine Anderson.” Kurt coughed as his voice came out higher than he expected. “Are you declaring your intentions to me?”
“Would you mind if I continued?” Hazel eyes became timid, uncertain.
Oh, damn him and his big, bright eyes. “Not at all.”
“Kurt Hummel,” Blaine began, all confidence restored, “I would be honored if you would go on a date with me. Would you—”
“Oh my god, yes,” Kurt rushed out, and the blush on his cheeks deepened in color when Blaine, eyes alight with happiness, smiled the most brilliant smile yet and lifted their joined hands to brush a chaste kiss over soft skin.
Two years before Kurt met Blaine, he was twenty-two, still finding his place with Timeless. He'd fired one of the employees, Brett, for constantly falling asleep and smelling suspiciously of cigarettes. He wasn't about to expose “vintage” clothing to cigarette smoke.
It was idle curiosity (much like the one that would plague Kurt when it came to a certain street artist) that caused Kurt to search for Rachel Berry on YouTube. He hadn't listened to any of her covers for years and the last he heard, she'd made it to New York and was attending Tisch. Kurt had considered New York back when he still had plans to go to college, but Burt Hummel was a humble mechanic. They hadn't been living hand to mouth, but tuition costs kept going up and New York was hardly the least expensive state to live in. Ohio cramped Kurt's style, but he wasn't going to run his father bankrupt.
He hardly had free time anymore, least of all time to keep up with Broadway, but it still gave him a shock when he found videos of Rachel Berry in a Broadway musical.
She made it.
It was a revival of Annie Get Your Gun, and the video was released by the official channel advertising the production. There were snippets of scenes from the musical and songs, and Kurt watched over and over again as Rachel Berry sang, “I can sing anything higher than you!”
No, you can't.
“Yes, I can.”
No, you can't.
“Yes, I can.”
No, you can't. Can't can't can't can't CAN'T.
He was angry, so very angry. It incensed him the way the blurry video of Rachel Berry singing “Defying Gravity” at one of the show choir competitions had incensed him because he could do that. Rachel Berry was not a better singer than him, maybe not even a better performer, but McKinley taught her that she had more right to demonstrate her talents because at least she was a girl and hitting high notes was a gift, not a curse.
“I would kill that song,” Harmony said when he briefly mentioned his find on YouTube. Harmony Nightingale was one of the friends he'd made attending the few theatre productions he discovered on the other side of the country. She was younger but no less ambitious; in fact, she reminded him of Rachel Berry what with their near-vicious determination to achieve their goals. She'd wanted to go to New York as well (oh, what he would give to see Rachel and Harmony butt heads), but costs and a measly scholarship forced her to UCLA instead. She was spending her last summer getting involved in everything she could stick her hand in, and somewhere along the way, she became a friend.
“I could sing that song better than her,” she insisted when she looked up the video on her smartphone.
“I bet you could,” he replied with only a hint of dryness.
She cocked her head at him. “She was getting tired near the end, but she held the note. I can match that and more.”
“Oh, I can't imagine. Little Snow White going up against the Evil Queen?”
“I'll always be your pretty pretty princess, Romeo,” Harmony deadpanned, but she ruined the effect by snorting. It was an inside joke because Kurt called Harmony's look “Snow White” since she had a tendency to lay on the bright red lipstick rather thick despite her pale skin and dark hair. Harmony had come up with “Romeo” after she provoked him, claiming that he couldn't possibly pass as any main male lead with a female romantic interest.
Kurt proceeded to act out a famous Shakespearean scene and Harmony acknowledged that okay, okay, you're the most charmingly infuriating Romeo I've ever met, now give my beret back!
Was it a kind of masochistic acrimony that led Kurt to find more videos and articles of Rachel Berry's rise to stardom? No, it was more than that. It wasn't just that Rachel Berry was a talented singer but perhaps no more than him. It wasn't just that she was on Broadway like she said she would be when Kurt only dared to dream. It wasn't that he was afraid of seeing himself in her, of seeing someone who could have been a kindred spirit and maybe a best friend.
It was that even though they were so similar, she still wouldn't have understood.
Mercedes had told him enough about Mr. Schuester's narrow vision for the New Directions. He was a good teacher and glee club director for Rachel Berry and, shockingly enough, Finn Hudson when he had joined. But Kurt remembered the times when the teacher would catch the end of a locker slam and merely ask, “Are you okay?” Oh, he knew, he knew that it was hard for someone so straight and privileged to fully grasp that McKinley was unkind not only to glee club and nerds, but also gays. Gay.
Because he was the one and only, the sad little queer in a sea of prejudiced heterosexuals.
Because Rachel Berry was ostracized for her fashion choices, hobbies, and obnoxious personality, but never for her sexuality. Never for her voice and how it fit or didn't fit her gender. Hardly for how she and Finn entered a romantic relationship after the fiasco with Quinn and Noah Puckerman and etc., and only because they were practically from different castes at McKinley.
Not because she was a girl and he was a boy. That was natural.
Because McKinley was far kinder to Rachel than it was to Kurt, and he thought that having her as a friend would hurt all the more if she didn't have the capability to see it from his way. The world never promised to be a rose garden for Kurt Hummel, but maybe that was what it turned out to be in the end.
Text to Kurt 11:22 AM
is your apt the one with the poinsettia?
Text to Kurt 11:23 AM
i think its a poinsettia its sorta wilting
Text to Blaine 11:24 AM
Do I look like someone who would let their poinsettia waste away?
Text to Kurt 11:24 AM
oh i see you!!!
Text to Kurt 11:25 AM
and i guess im gonna find out what kinda person you are ;)
“Dork,” Kurt mumbled when he caught sight of Blaine waving frantically from a distance. He pocketed his phone and made a small, gracious wave that had Blaine laughing as he ambled closer. Kurt noted the striped purple and gold bow tie with a deep plum dress shirt, dark wash jeans, and tan saddle shoes. He was devastatingly gorgeous, even though Kurt eyeballed the typically gelled hair.
Kurt cast a discerning eye over his own outfit. He had worried that perhaps his long-sleeved shirt, dark vest, and distressed jeans were on the flippant side, but apparently Blaine had meant it when he said to dress casual.
“No flowers?” Kurt teased.
Blaine stopped abruptly before him. “I thought it would be kind of cliché,” he pointed out, but he brought a hand from behind his back and presented a single peach rose with a bright red ribbon.
“And I was thinking you were going to get me marigolds.” Despite the quip, Kurt accepted the flower, smelling it delicately.
“Does this mean I get to meet the infamous Marigold?”
“I should have known you only asked me out for my cat.”
“Hey, hey. Hey.” The playful atmosphere disappeared almost instantaneously as Blaine laced their fingers together, his gaze earnest. “In all seriousness, I really like you, Kurt. And I wouldn't do something like that to anyone, least of all you.”
One of these days Kurt was going to stop blushing at every single thing Blaine Anderson said. This was not that day. “I like the way you think, Anderson.”
Blaine's easy manner returned. “Good to know.”
As first dates went, this wasn't the worst one Kurt had been on. They ate at an Italian restaurant that had sub-par pasta but absolutely fantastic Caesar salad, and Blaine was quick to pay for the meal with the logic, “I asked, so I'll pay.” There were a line of shops that surrounded a nearby plaza and they spent an hour at Goldie Oldies exclaiming over CDs and sheet music, singing snippets of songs to each other. Blaine had the voice and presence of a leading man and when Kurt delved for more information, he found out that he had been in various show choirs.
“Only two,” Blaine corrected as he examined a Katy Perry album. “I was part of an a cappella group called the Warblers for my sophomore year at my second high school, Dalton Academy.”
“Second high school?”
“It's a long story, but basically, I've been to three high schools. Dalton was a private all-boys school, uniforms and all.”
Kurt was determinedly not imagining Blaine, younger and fresh-faced, in a blazer and tie with a bag over his shoulder. “An all-male a cappella group in ill-fitted blazers? I'm not sure if that was one of my fantasies or nightmares back in high school.”
“The blazer wasn't that bad, and let me tell you, an all-boys school isn't as glamorous as it seems.”
They moved on from Goldie Oldies to stroll down the sidewalk. It was already late afternoon and Kurt was amazed at how much he'd learned about Blaine. His first two high schools had been in Ohio (so close, yet so far away) before his father's company moved all the way to the West Coast, forcing Blaine to his third high school (“Public this time, and I had a whiplash from having to decide what to wear every day.”) where he finished the remainder of his secondary education.
“I was glad to get out of Ohio,” Blaine nodded, as if he had to affirm what he was saying to himself. “It wasn't a great place for a gay high schooler to be. Dalton helped because of a zero-tolerance bullying policy, but it does something to you when you're sheltered from the real world and you look like everyone else.”
Not for the first time during this date, Kurt wished that he had met Blaine in Ohio. It would have helped so much.
“You're not that helpless high schooler anymore,” he said.
Blaine tilted his head at him. “I've been going on and on about myself. What about you?”
“Oh no no no no no.” Kurt shook his head, stopping in his tracks momentarily. “I don't mind hearing about you, Blaine, I'd rather listen.”
The street artist arched his thick eyebrows and for a moment, Kurt thought that Blaine was going to say, “You seem more like a talker,” so he interjected quickly.
“How did you start?”
“Vandalizing the world one wall at a time.”
“Ah... I started in high school. Actually, I was a freshman. There were a lot of upperclassmen who went around spraying paint wherever they wanted. Pretty much everyone knew what they were doing, even the teachers, but no one caught them red-handed.” Blaine paused to scrutinize a few mannequins visible from the windows of a small boutique store. Kurt ruminated on getting his hands on one or two for Timeless.
Then Blaine said, “But I caught them once.”
“I'm guessing they didn't throw a party in your honor.”
“You guessed right, except they didn't see me. I was out of sight and I could tell they were drunk. Still, there was just something about the way they completely let loose. A lot of them were bullies, but some of them were really artistic with the coloring and paint, and I had to admire that. Of course, I was terrified. I recognized one of them who really liked to torment me about my hair.”
“Blaine, if you started gelling as a freshman, then that isn't surprising.” Kurt held his breath, unsure of whether or not he'd crossed a line. But Blaine did that eye-crinkle thing and he exhaled slowly, still awed by this gentleman who had appeared out of nowhere.
“Actually, my hair's naturally curly—”
“Hence Curly Q. Don't know why I didn't put two and two together.”
“You weren't completely off-mark. I started gelling my sophomore year at Dalton.”
“Hm. So what about that time you caught them?”
“Well, I knew even then that graffiti is hardly legal. I don't like causing trouble for people and getting caught? Making my parents pay the fines? That's the very definition of causing trouble. So I went small at first, little pictures and tags—a tag is an artist's signature—with markers and regular primer paint from the art store. I stopped experimenting during Dalton, but then I finally tried out spray paints when I moved over here.”
Blaine halted in his life story, and Kurt knew right then and there that if Kurt didn't want to hear any more, then Blaine wouldn't elaborate. Maybe it was like going out with a superhero—no, a supervillain. Maybe the less he knew about Curly Q, the better.
But you couldn't go out with someone and ignore such a vital aspect of his life. And Kurt wanted to make this work.
“I want to see you.”
“What?” Blaine surveyed him bemusedly. “You're seeing me right now.”
Kurt reached out and gripped Blaine's hand determinedly. “I want to see you in your element.”
I have a lot of thoughts about this chapter. One of them is that I'm not bashing on Rachel, but I am trying to emphasize that some aspects of high school were easier for her. Not to mention Kurt's point of view is obviously biased.
So starting from the next chapter, we'll see more graffiti-y scenes. Let me emphasize that I am not a graffiti artist so take in everything with a grain of salt.
Chapter 4: Chapter Four
At only fourteen, Blaine already knew that he was gay. More than that, he was a romantic and far too sentimental for his own good. Perhaps that was why he was so taken by graffiti, by the whole clandestine operation in which he crept out in the evening, armed with a flashlight, a brush, and a paint can. He was a lover come to leave notes for his sweetheart, the Cupid searching restlessly for his Psyche. It all made more sense in his head, but still his heart beat fast as a rush of adrenaline led him to the very brick wall where he had seen Josh, Daniel, and Tyler mess around. There was an empty beer bottle lying on its side and splatters of dried paint on the ground; the overall effect was hopelessly filthy and disordered.
Blaine sat back on his heels, eyes skimming his surroundings with a jittery air. It wasn't safe to be out alone this late with no one to watch for law-keepers. Professional graffiti artists definitely moved in small but tight-knit groups.
He didn't really have anyone at school. There was Sean, the only other gay kid, though their friendship was one forged by shared miseries. Blaine would have to do this on his own.
To keep the fear at bay, he hummed as he dipped his brush into red paint.
One song glory, one song before I go
Glory, one song to leave behind
Find one song, one last refrain
Glory, from the pretty boy front man
Because wasn't that the reason why he had watched, mystified, as three of his worst harassers made something beautiful with the same hands that had introduced him to so much pain? Society said that they would end up in jail, behind the counter in fast-food restaurants, or climbing up the ranks of the skyscrapers in big cities, and maybe society was right. But Blaine stared at the remnants of green and yellow bubble letters, illegible but decorative, and he meditated on the transience of such art—on the transience of life.
Who will know that I existed after I die? Who will know even when I'm alive?
To his classmates and tormentors, he was merely a part of the high school passage. They wouldn't even remember his name a year into college. Everything that he did would be completely forgotten not even within the century and he would be yet another discarded name and identity thrown into the wind, one singular person in the masses who could only envy the few who were immortalized.
It didn't matter if no one knew his name. But to have everything in his life be worth nothing? Blaine wanted something of his, something that he did, to be remembered. To be imprinted in the mind of one person. Something that could jostle the world a little.
A young man, find the one song
Before the virus takes hold
Glory, like a sunset
One song to redeem this empty life
This could be it. This could be his one song, and if one song was all he got, then he'd better make it memorable.
His stomached squirmed as he drew winding vines with human faces as flowers. He painted little castles with all angles and no curves. He tried animals; lopsided dogs, shapeless lions, and bulbous pigeons. He felt the guilt that squeezed at his throat because he imagined the exasperation of the police who would have to find some way to clean up the scribbles. He imagined middle-aged mothers wrinkling their noses at the ghastly drawings, nudging their children away from the wall. He imagined his classmates imaging a hooded juvenile, snickering as he covered the town with his chicken scratch.
Blaine's entire body thrummed with pleasure. He would be seen. He would be acknowledged.
He drew one last sketch before he hightailed it out of there, his watch showing that it was one in the morning. It was a caricature of himself, a stick figure with obscenely curly hair, round eyes, and no words for its mouth was a “X.” It held a little brush in its little hand and looked out to the world, as if holding its breath for the criticisms, the praises, the comments.
Blaine left without signing. In the years to come, he would toy with various pseudonyms, some that he would try out and some that would never see the light of day.
There were more excursions and Blaine learned to use a spray paint can when before, he had hesitated as it seemed to be the final nail in his coffin, the coffin of the law-abiding Blaine Anderson who only wanted the world to accept him. So along with the excursions, there were several attempts to end his night-prowling. He managed for a year at Dalton before breaking down.
Perhaps it was an addiction, but he was determined to hone it as well as he could.
It was after his freshman year at college and he had returned to Ohio with his parents, visiting the ancient relatives who were far too rooted to even fathom living anywhere else. One morning, he got up early to run a few errands before he had to interact with the family, consequently forgoing the gelled hairdo that he'd maintained from Dalton. He made a small trip to the Lima Bean, his favorite coffee shop which was still holding strong against Starbucks, and there he met a both dignified and devious woman in a peculiar magenta tracksuit. She was skillfully cutting ahead by blatantly insulting and then ignoring the people she cut. He watched with an air of trepidation as she finally approached him and she smirked at his deer-in-headlights impression.
“Your miserable excuse of a life isn't worth it,” she remarked when he struggled to stand his ground. “Move it, Curly Q. Nobody stands in the way of Sue Sylvester and her piping hot caffeine.”
He dazedly let her pass, touching his curls self-consciously.
That was when the idea took hold.
“Some artists,” Blaine said, squatting on the ground where he was fitting a cap onto a paint can, “make cardboard cut-outs, like stencils. And then they spray paint to get the result. But my character, Curly, isn't hard to draw. It's easier for me when I only have to carry around paint cans. Other people make stickers or giant posters. There's this French artist who makes mosaic pieces and glues them around. There's always a creative freedom when it comes to graffiti art, which I really appreciate because we're not all gangsters who like giant bubble letters and crude words.”
He studied the can in his hand—the paint color was Monarch Orange—and then looked up at Kurt. “You filmed all of that?”
“Of course,” Kurt said, lowering his camera. He'd asked Blaine if he could bring it along because he wanted to take a few pictures, maybe record a minute or two of action. In all honesty, he hadn't expected Blaine to consent to being filmed, but Blaine replied, “I trust you and if you really want to be careful, film only my hands and the art. Besides, it's a good idea to capture all of this on camera.” What remained unspoken was the temporariness of graffiti art, of how part of its beauty came from its short life in the world. But in a world of rapidly advancing technology, even the most insignificant picture could be caught forever.
“All right, I think I'm ready to go.”
Kurt followed Blaine, filming his back and watching the ground beneath his feet. It was late at night and they only had the streetlights to guide the way, but Blaine appeared confident and sure-footed.
They stopped at a dingy motel, a mailbox, and even a fountain. Blaine altered Curly's appearance to suit each location, giving it long legs or a distorted head whenever needed. He stuck with warm colors, reds and pinks and oranges, and when Kurt asked why, he said, “They make the world look like a better place.”
Though his favorite color was red. “Which is funny because you know how I went to Dalton? Our school colors were navy blue and red. We had this awful red vest that I rarely wore because my friends said it made me look chunky.” Blaine laughed, light-hearted, and kept his voice low. His eyes were glinting in the dark and he couldn't stop smiling, white teeth flashing at Kurt.
“You look good in red,” Kurt murmured without thinking.
“Glad you approve,” Blaine grinned, shrugging his shoulders to bring attention to the dark red polo shirt he was wearing. Kurt refused to be distracted by the short sleeves of the shirt and the way Blaine's arm muscles bulged in the moonlight, no matter how his mind drifted to the many romantic novels he'd read. Moonlight, really?
“You're lucky you're as cute as you are,” he said instead of blurting out something stupid like, “Take me home and never let me go.”
“I should have known you were only in this for my face.”
“Says the man who went gaga for my cat.”
“You're a hard man to tease, Kurt Hummel. I think I like it.”
Blaine was looser as Curly Q, with a wily edge to his gentlemanly personality. It was disconcerting and Blaine noticed after a while because he shot a significant look at Kurt.
“I had you down as a talker,” Blaine said, his tone non-offensive. “But you haven't really talked at all.”
“There's a lot that I still don't know,” Kurt answered carefully.
“What do you want to know?” Blaine faced Kurt fully, his expression open and unguarded.
Chewing on his lower lip, Kurt thought about how surreal it was to be walking the streets at night with only Blaine for company. And this made him an accomplice of sorts, didn't it? He wasn't actively participating, but he was certainly standing by and allowing Blaine to do whatever he did with the spray paint cans and the vandalizing and everything. But the issue was less about legality than it was about engaging in a relationship with someone like Blaine and having to accept this.
Though it was so easy to forget, especially since they ended their first date with ice cream from a Baskin Robbins. Blaine had seen him home with a kiss to his cheek and stepped inside for a minute to stroke Marigold and coo at her purrs.
“Have you ever been arrested?”
“Yes. A few times.”
Kurt inhaled sharply. “Jailed?”
“Fined, mostly. But I don't paint derogatory slurs around town or anything, so I've gotten off pretty lightly. I'm not high on the police's list of concerns.”
In the dim light, Kurt's eyes looked pale and gray, and he fixed those eyes on Blaine, jaw stiff.
Blaine said gently, “If this isn't something you want to deal with, I understand.” There was a brief flash of distress over his face, but it quickly smoothed over as he insisted, “I don't want to force you into accepting this part of my life. I know it's not ideal for someone who doesn't want a complicated relationship. I would be out a lot, late at night. I would get arrested a few more times. I would travel sometimes, hitting new cities. It would be stressful on anyone who got involved with me.” He scrubbed a hand over his face and Kurt wanted to smooth the lines of tension that were still visible even at night. “This isn't for everyone, Kurt.”
Kurt made a noise of frustration. “It's not... I like you, Blaine. I like the way you make me feel. I like the way you're so confident about yourself, how you've figured your life out. I even like going out at night with you because I get to see more of what makes you you. And I'm perfectly aware that if I want to date Blaine Anderson, then I would be dating Curly Q too.”
“I like you too,” Blaine softened, his attention momentarily diverted, and Kurt felt his body lighten because being with Blaine was like walking on air. Never had Kurt held such easy conversations with a guy he was interested in; even if a romantic relationship didn't work out, he knew he'd want to keep Blaine in his life as a friend.
But. “Blaine,” he said, and it came out as cautionary.
The street artist sensed it. “Then what's bothering you? Talk to me.”
“Like I said, there's a lot that I don't know and this isn't my forte. This isn't my world yet, and I want it to be because it's a part of yours. I want to know more, but I don't even know where to start.”
By the end of that spiel, Kurt was panting slightly from the force of his words. Blaine's eyebrows moved upward as he took in everything.
“Are you scared of this?”
“I am, a little. But that's not nearly as important.”
“So it's just because you're inexperienced?”
“Partially. I feel like a baby penguin who has to learn how to fly to be with a warbler.”
“I see what you did there,” Blaine chuckled, but he crossed his arms, tapping his fingers thoughtfully. “You know, I usually go out with two other artists that I know. There's safety in numbers and it helps to have an extra pair of eyes to look out for people. I could introduce you—it won't have to be at night when we're painting the town red! They have lives outside of graffiti like me and they're in the area. I could call them, see if them want to meet up?”
“Who are they?”
“They go by Pink Lady and Meerkat, but you can call them Quinn and Sebastian.”
“Quinn?” Kurt jerked involuntarily. “Quinn Fabray?”
“How'd you know?” Blaine glanced over at him, hazel eyes questioning.
“We...we went to the same high school.”
“Oh, I figured something like that should have happened. We started hanging out because we all came from Ohio. Sebastian's actually all over the place because he went to Paris—he met a bunch of street artists who were part of the early graffiti scene over there.”
Images of the former blonde Cheerio crossed Kurt's mind, and he was immediately desperate to know what happened to her. She'd taken up a decent percentage of his thoughts during McKinley, if only because she was on Finn Hudson's arm half the time. Yet she had also changed so drastically during their senior year, doing a completely 180 turn, and he could bet that no one else from their class knew where she'd ended up.
“So would you like to...accompany me? When we meet up?”
Kurt straightened his posture, chin up. “I'd love to.”
Because you didn't always get to see where your fellow classmates ended up. In the same way, you didn't always get to see how you've influenced people. As for the people who influenced you, you didn't always get the chance to tell them.
Not always. But sometimes.
They ended the rendezvous with a chaste kiss and one last gift from Blaine. He quickly painted the orange outline of a cat with big ears, long whiskers, and a sly tail. Kurt covered his mouth to refrain from laughing too hard and too joyfully, and he filmed the process and gave Blaine one last kiss.
“I'll call you,” Blaine breathed out against his lips. And he slunk away into the night.
It didn't matter then that in the morning, a more immature street artist would paint the words “Got Pussy?” right underneath the drawing. The moment had been captured and it belonged to the only two people who mattered.
During the second half of his sophomore year at high school, Kurt was having a marginally easier time at McKinley. His football stint eased a number of jocks from his back, and though he continued to be pelted by abusive slurs, the dumpster tossing and locker slamming had decreased exponentially.
His one-sided crush on Finn Hudson hadn't moved forward or backward; Finn was still obstinately straight and didn't spare a second glance for Kurt even though they were on somewhat friendly terms, friendly meaning that Finn would say, “Hi,” and Kurt would breathe out, “Hello,” in response before losing the nerve to continue a conversation. The quarterback was single at the moment, taking a break from both Rachel and Quinn (which was sort of a shame because despite his hopeless infatuation, Kurt enjoyed a good old love triangle as much as the next gossiper as long as he wasn't directly privy to all of the crazy that went on).
That didn't stop Rachel Berry from searching for more additions to the New Directions. There was this ongoing rivalry with another group, Vocal Adrenaline, and more trouble had occurred when the group's set list was leaked and they ended up winging Sectionals. It was astounding that they had won regardless of the leaked list and Kurt was occasionally bombarded by an incredibly vivid image of Principal Figgins grinding his teeth as the New Directions carried on belting songs that ranged from extremely inappropriate to extremely old.
“We barely got enough people,” Mercedes sighed as they lined up in the cafeteria. “We had to ask one of the band students to step in as our twelfth member.”
Kurt counted up, “So there's you, Rachel, Tina, Artie, Finn. And Quinn, Brittany, Santana—”
“Yeah, I still don't know why Sue would let three of her Cheerios join up. I keep thinking that she's got moments of sanity, and then she does something like this. Well, Quinn's not a Cheerio anymore, so.”
“Puck, and that's got to be because of Quinn. And those quiet football players, Mike and Matt.”
“That's why Rachel's looking for a twelfth member who ain't a band kid.”
Mercedes brought up her elbow to poke Kurt, peering at him through the curled ringlets on her forehead that he'd helped her with, but he avoided it and changed the topic swiftly. “It's a shame you never got to sing 'And I Am Telling You I'm Not Going.' Getting Rachel Berry to listen to you is like getting teeth pulled. Painful and with no benefits in the long run.”
“But she came through in the end,” Mercedes acquiesced grudgingly. “If she hadn't stepped up with 'Don't Rain On My Parade,' that would have been the end of glee.”
“I thought you were trying to wean her off of her solo addiction.”
“Desperate times call for desperate measures, Kurt.”
“Does this mean I get to say 'I told you so' if she ever clamps her soul-sucking vocal chords on glee club again?”
“I'll take that as a yes.”
“You're impossible,” she rolled her eyes, but her tone was mostly fond.
They sat on a table with Tina and Artie who were sweet enough considering that they were daily exposed to a large dose of Rachel Berry, her Ego, and her Talent. Though Kurt appreciated a couple of friendly faces as much as the next person, he didn't appreciate Rachel appearing out of nowhere and hovering while talking rapidly about their New Directions assignment of the week (Mr. Schuester more or less advocated singing your feelings to the whole group, which was a good way of venting but ultimately solved nothing).
But this time as she marched over, no tray in hand because there was nothing vegan, she headed for Kurt.
“Why is she looking at me?” Kurt hissed to Mercedes, who was looking a little guilty.
“I might have mentioned you've got one hell of a voice.”
“I said she pulled through, but she was getting on my nerves crowing about 'Don't Rain On My Parade.' And Kurt, we both know that your range is incredible. Give me a break.”
“You are dead to me.”
He cringed at her voice and turned around, resigned to his fate. Rachel was wearing a fire engine-red cardigan over a plaid skirt and an equally colorful headband. Her bangs and long socks only completed the Catholic schoolgirl or “naughty librarian” look that she claimed to have. Kurt, on the other hand, wanted to close his eyes and never open them again because it wasn't just her style that offended him, it was everything about her.
“We share a World History class so I believe that introductions are not needed, but there's never any harm in perfecting an entrance,” she said with barely a pause. “On the slight chance that you do not recognize me by face or name, my name is Rachel Berry and I am a featured member of our glee club, the New Directions.”
“Charmed, I'm sure,” Kurt muttered, fighting the desire to turn back to his lunch.
“I have notice that the only extracurricular you participate in is football, and while that is an admirable sport—”
“Just because Finn's in it,” Artie whispered to Tina.
“I am here to offer you a chance to audition for the New Directions as a note to make on your future college applications.”
At Kurt's twisted expression as Rachel looked at him expectantly, Mercedes jumped to his defense. “Not everyone likes sticking their fingers in every pie hole they see. If Kurt doesn't want to join, nobody's gonna force him, so back off, Berry.”
She rounded at Mercedes. “I'm sorry if I'm the only one who cares about the state of glee club, but Mr. Schuester is depending on me—”
“Told you so,” Kurt said with no small amount of smugness.
“Well?” Rachel demanded.
He raised from his seat and picked up his tray, appetite sufficiently sated. As he walked past Rachel who was watching his every move, he inclined his head toward her. “As flattering as it is to be singled out by you, I have no intention of swaying in the background, holding hands as you slowly but surely seize every single moment of attention in a club that's turned into a one-trick pony.” When she took a step forward, most likely intent on countering his argument, he held up a hand. “You're a star, Rachel Berry, and I'm not interested in getting burned.”
The most important person in Rachel's world was herself, and that was how it should be. But the most important person in Kurt's world wasn't himself, and how could he stand against her when he realized other things mattered more, like his father and surviving McKinley?
After Rachel's presence in lunch, Kurt had a fairly uneventful day, which was a blessing. At the end of sixth period, he decided to go to the boys' locker rooms to stock up on an extra outfit or two. There were those unlucky days when he would be slushied more than once, and it never hurt to be prepared. So as he was opening his locker and carefully lining the bottom with a small towel (the locker rooms were some of the most disgusting places in the school, and that was saying something), he heard voices coming from shower stalls. They probably belonged to jocks, cleaning up after a work-out or practice, and he hurriedly finished his task and whisked out of sight into a bathroom stall.
“—I know, right?”
“Thinks he's so high and mighty now that he's played with the big boys.”
“I bet he likes it, that dirty pervert.”
“Have you ever seen his junk? What if he's actually a girl?”
“Well, I'm not about to look at Hummel for more than two seconds.”
With a sinking heart, Kurt easily discerned that they were talking about him. He crouched on top of the toilet seat, holding his bag in his arms and trembling as he was forced to listen. And to his horror, the dialogue only got worse.
“—has a crush on Hudson, doesn't he?”
“Finn Hudson? Shut up, for real?”
“He asked Hudson for help getting on the team, and he looks at him a lot. Let me tell you, Hummel's got it bad.”
“Hey, maybe Finn's got it bad too. He's already with that lame-o singing group. And he burned Quinn and the Berry girl.”
“That'd be rich.”
Their voices faded as they toweled off, changed, and ambled away. But Kurt couldn't stop shivering from his paralyzed state on top of the toilet seat. He'd taken so much crap from the students in this school, and to hear that people guessed, even knew, that he stared at Finn a second or two longer than was appropriate by the standards of the average Ohio teenager—
It was utterly humiliating and unfair because no one would have said twice if he were a girl, any girl.
He buried his head in his arms, face squished against his bag. He took deep breaths in and out, staving off a potential panic attack. (Like suffocating, like drowning, like hearing the world through another wall just like this one.)
And he let out a single sob.
I promise that the story really starts picking up, considering that I'll be introducing two more major characters.
This is my first real foray into the world of street art, so I apologize for any inaccuracies.
Chapter 5: Chapter Five
Blaine called him the day after, saying that he, Quinn, and Sebastian would be in front of Goldie Oldies at three this Monday afternoon. “You're free to show up or not,” Blaine said, voice tinny over phone. “I don't want to pressure you into meeting them. And they're not exactly the easiest people to get along with.”
“I'll be there,” Kurt assured him, sounding more confident than he felt.
He walked instead of taking the bus or a cab, thinking that the physical exertion would steady his anxiety. He was somewhat apprehensive about seeing Quinn again, of seeing someone who had known him from before. Then there was the fact that he wasn't just meeting some of Blaine's friends. He was gradually immersing himself in the world of street art, testing out the waters. It was all or nothing because he refused to go out with Blaine and ignore the other half of his life; both he and Blaine deserved more than that.
His heart in his throat, Kurt slowed his pace as he saw three visible figures loitering outside of Goldie Oldies, two men and one woman. Blaine was obviously searching the crowd for him and his face lit up at the sight of Kurt.
“You made it!” he exclaimed, and he bounded up to Kurt, brimming over with infectious energy.
“I'm a man of my word,” Kurt said, beaming despite himself.
“Are you going to introduce us or keep that twink all to yourself, short stack?” came the snide disturbance. It came from the other man who was tall and lean, with artfully disheveled hair and a sneer curling the edge of his lip.
“That would be Sebastian,” Blaine muttered under his breath, but there was a fond note to his smooth voice.
While Kurt was still bristling from the twink comment (he'd heard it before, but it was still uncalled for no matter if this were the first or one hundredth time), Quinn Fabray came forth, striding out with her head held high like a queen in spite of her small stature. She had the appearance of Quinn Fabray circa senior year at McKinley High School. Her blonde hair was short and messy with hot pink highlights, but she was as stunning as ever in a short sundress and knee-high boots. She still had the haughty expression that Kurt associated her with, but he wasn't the cringing wallflower he once was anymore. He matched her expression with one of his own, tilting his head up.
Instead of increasing the frostiness in her gaze, she looked satisfied, even impressed.
“So you actually ended up somewhere better,” she said, her accentuation husky.
“In contrast to where you ended up?” Kurt shot back without missing a beat.
If anything, she seemed even more pleased by his answer. “Almost anywhere is better than Ohio,” she replied, to which Sebastian retorted with a, “Don't even get me started, I've been out of there longer than any of you degenerates.”
“Who are you calling a degenerate, degenerate?”
“It takes one to know one, Lady.”
“Sorry about that,” Blaine said apologetically as Quinn and Sebastian ran their mouths off at each other, Sebastian with his condescending words and Quinn with her calm but forceful pronunciation. “Once they get started on each other, it's hard to stop them.”
“Better Quinn than Santana.”
“That's another story.”
“You're such a bitch,” Sebastian was snarling, deaf and blind to Kurt and Blaine's side conversation. “I can see how Ohio spawned a bitch like you.”
“Oh yeah? Ohio spawned a douchebag like you.”
“I was born in France, Lady.”
“Nurture over nature, Meerkat.”
“Meerkat?” Kurt twitched; it was a familiar nickname.
“Oh, there's a story behind that,” Blaine said brightly. “Obviously Quinn is the Pink Lady because of her hair and she only uses pink paint. Sebastian's Meerkat because he told us about how he overheard a couple of guys saying that he had a smirky meerkat face and Quinn wouldn't stop mocking him for that. He hasn't come up with a better name, so he's Meerkat for now.”
“Pfft,” Kurt coughed.
“No, I just remembered—I was one of the guys who said he had a smirky meerkat face.”
It was during the summer before he was going to college, just a week or two after graduation. He'd agreed to a date with Chandler Kiehl, a guy from North Lima High he met while browsing sheet music at Between-The-Sheets. They were at The Lima Bean, pitting RENT the musical against RENT the movie, when one of the employees called out, “Skinny caramel macchiato for Smith!”
A young man around their age wearing a ghastly green and blue polo shirt came over, a frown on his face as Kurt overheard him saying, “It's not Smith, you incompetent minimum-wage wretch, it's—”
“Someone has a bad attitude,” Chandler stage-whispered.
“And a bad wardrobe.”
Chandler snickered before pushing his glasses up his nose. “I think he's on Team Gay.”
“Him?” Kurt swiveled his head to gape at “Smith” who had flounced back to his seat, drink in hand and frown temporarily subsided. His hair was reasonably tamed with product and his jeans were tight enough, but Kurt couldn't get over the shirt. “He gives the gay community a bad name,” he concluded derisively. “I mean, look at him. He could be Steve from 'Blues Clues,' it's that bad.”
“Trust me, my gaydar is impeccable,” Chandler said reliably. “Besides, I saw him chatting up Daniel from my school the other day at Between-The-Sheets.”
“One of the predatory gays, huh?”
“He's pretty hot once you get over the asshole personality. But you should see him smirking like—he's doing it right now!”
Synchronized, they turned to eyeball “Smith” once more, and this time Kurt could see a half-smile playing his mouth. Without a doubt, it was a smirk, and one of the most untrustworthy smirks Kurt had ever seen. And he went to McKinley for the love of Gaga.
“He looks like a meerkat,” Kurt observed obstinately. “Look at that face, long like a horse.”
Chandler giggled. “He's cute like a meerkat for sure.”
“No, really,” Kurt insisted, “he's got a smirky little meerkat face. Tell me that we're looking at the same person.”
At this point, “Smith” glared at them as if he'd heard every word. Then he rose up, coffee cup still at hand, and stalked out of The Lima Bean without looking back. Chandler and Kurt admired his back as he left—“It's not cheating if we're both looking, right? And we're not official yet, right?”—because they both liked romance but that didn't mean they were blind or dead.
When he finished the anecdote, Blaine stared at him with softly glowing eyes. “Strange,” he said in hushed tones.
Everything about it was strange. Kurt didn't believe that his life would intersect with anyone else's from the miserable years he'd spent in Ohio; he didn't believe that lives fully intersected at all. The world was a constant crossroad and coincidences occurred every day. There was nothing remarkable about that. The little details from esoteric memories—the navy blue of Sebastian's shirt, the squeak of sneakers on hallway floors, the sound of his father's cheers or curses directed at the television set—were superfluous travelers who stayed with him, their usefulness still unseen.
He didn't even know how much of this day he would remember ten years from now. Perhaps all of it or perhaps none of it. So much uncertainty.
No one was exactly sure what happened to Quinn the summer before her senior year. Whatever it was, it caused her to show up on the first day of school, rocking out with shortened, pink-streaked hair. She had a nose piercing and a tattoo to top it all off, and her new friends were all Skanks who spent most of their free time smoking under the bleachers or taking lunch money from the freshmen girls in the bathrooms. She'd been kicked out of the Cheerios several times the past few years and it didn't seem as though she was going to try again. Nor did she rejoin the New Directions despite all of the support the members had shown her throughout her sophomore year pregnancy scandal.
So much happened. Her father had turned her out of the house, but then her mother got a divorce and brought Quinn back. She spent junior year wavering between Cheerios and glee club, her loyalties often divided. She was alone more often than not because she didn't have a best friend and not even close friends—her partners in crime, Santana and Brittany, quickly became more embroiled in each other's lives.
She graduated with her hair still short and pink, and no one knew her plans for the future.
And Kurt put her out of his mind until now.
“The difference between a throw-up,” she said sternly, hands on her hips and feet planted evenly apart, “and a piece.”
Kurt had done his research at home not because he had the suspicion that he would be tested, but because he was genuinely interested in learning more. Because of Blaine, really. Poised and relaxed, he answered, “A throw-up is basically tagging on a level up.” He hesitated before adding, “They mostly look like bubble letters to me.”
“And a piece?"
“More complicated than that. It has more detailed art and colors and lines.”
“Someone did their homework,” she quipped dryly.
They were in the basement of a friend of a friend of a friend. Kurt had his camera out and set up on a tripod, filming the four of them. Quinn dragged Kurt over to let him see the various spray paint cans and buckets she had; the only color she had was pink in varying shades and tints. Sebastian was cutting out life-size stencils with poster boards and a X-Acto knife, with Blaine looking over his shoulder and offering suggestions. A boombox in the corner of the basement was playing music by The Killers.
You sit there in your heartache
Waiting on some beautiful boy to
To save you from your old ways
You play forgiveness
Watch him now, here he come
The boombox was Sebastian's.
Though Quinn warmed to Kurt relatively quickly (an ironic situation to consider since he'd either loathed or disregarded her during their years at McKinley, and she no doubt felt the same), it wasn't a matter of warm or cold with Sebastian. He made it quite clear that he didn't trust or even like Kurt, occasionally slipping in cutting remarks that had Kurt snapping back, Quinn laughing her head off, and Blaine trying to placate everyone involved. He kept his back to the camera at all times and purposely flirted with a seemingly oblivious Blaine, mentioning that “such a hot ass was going to waste on a pale-faced virgin.”
“Not a virgin, thank you very much,” Kurt barked angrily. He would have added, “So can it, Casanova, because some of us can keep our libidos under control,” but he didn't want to further upset Blaine. He was aware that a relationship with Blaine might not work out, yet he wanted it to work so badly that he was willing to put up with scourge like Sebastian.
Quinn noticed the tension as Sebastian kept touching Blaine lightly on the arm, shoulder, neck, you name it, and Kurt seethed quietly.
“It must bother you a lot,” she said.
“What must bother me a lot?”
“The fact that Sebastian and Blaine had a thing back in the day.”
Every last hint of relaxation and contentedness drained from Kurt's face and Quinn recognized her mistake too late.
“It wasn't a big deal,” she tried. “Sebastian doesn't really do commitment and Blaine got his head out of the sand because he needed something more than what Sebastian had to offer. It was really short, only a month really, and you can't call it a relationship.”
“It's still more than what Blaine has with me,” Kurt said simply, his eyes icy-blue.
Kurt Hummel was the one and only, the sad little queer in a sea of prejudiced heterosexuals.
Until he wasn't.
Many events occurred during senior year. Finn and Rachel's on-and-off relationship was officially on again, and this time for good—according to Rachel anyway. Quinn became a Skank and smoked a pack of cigarettes once a week. The New Directions gradually expanded so that they weren't scrambling for at least twelve members at the beginning of the year.
And Santana and Brittany came out as a couple.
It was one of the worst-kept secrets at McKinley and the only reason why no one said anything about it sooner was because they were too influential as Cheerios under Sue Sylvester's protection, and Santana chewed out anyone who dared to look at them the wrong way. But they were living in a fantasy world if they believed their popularity could keep the wolves at bay. That Kurt knew better than anyone.
A small, petty, and very human part of him wished that they would suffer a bit. Some name-calling, pushing, being the subject of the scornful looks that often scalded Kurt. Santana used to call him a lot of names, most of them relating to his effeminate looks and nature, and even a few jabs at his sexuality. He forgave her a long time ago, but he wondered whether or not she would have treated him more warmly if she had any idea of how much anguish he was forced to suffer. Because she had Brittany by her side and there was an anguish in that too (Kurt knew perfectly well the number of people who'd had sex with Brittany), yet he was alone in a world of boys who would like nothing more than to crush him like an ant.
He didn't share his darker thoughts with his father, but he did tell Burt about Santana and Brittany.
“Sounds like a good thing,” Burt commented over their dinner of lasagna, corn on the cob, and potato salad. “If there's more of you, the others hafta get used to it.”
Kurt shook his head. “It's different with lesbians.”
Burt eyed him, a forkful of salad midway to his mouth. “And why's that?”
“It's still easier for the rest of the student body to overlook their relationship. Girls are naturally more clingy so the line between friendship and romance is blurred.”
“Are you saying that they don't really care for each other?”
“What I am saying is that Santana and Brittany have been involved for who knows how long, and many of us have known for just as long. The only thing that's changed is that they kiss now and then, and according to Mercedes, they sing romantic songs to each other twice as often. I swear, Finn and Rachel are rubbing off on everyone else in glee club.
“And for some reason, it's more scandalous for me to touch another boy. I can't even fist-bump Artie without one of those Neanderthals hooting for everyone to back away or else they'll catch the gay! They treat me like I have some disease and they treat Santana and Brittany like they're just a couple of very touchy friends. And you'd think that now Santana's officially a lesbian, she would give me a break, but no, she still makes fun of my bow ties or kilts, and she said that if I had longer hair, she might even want to make out with me.”
“Hey, stop that.”
Kurt stopped fiddling with his cutlery, his heaping plate still untouched, and met his father's gaze.
“Look, I still don't get a lot of LGBT issues,” Burt said pointedly, “but I'm not stupid and I know that you haven't had the easiest time at school. That's no reason to be all bitter about these girls finally being honest to themselves and to the rest of the world, even if they haven't been the nicest people to you or anyone else before.”
The teenager remained silent. Burt heaved a sigh.
“I could talk to the principal about this,” he suggested to his sullen-faced son. “We could talk to that Santana girl if she really makes you uncomfortable. I know it's hard to be happy in a place that won't accept you, but I want you to at least be safe.”
“Thank you, but I'd rather not.”
“All right then. But promise you'll tell me if something serious happens.”
“Okay, fine, I promise. Now finish your salad.”
“Who's the parent here?”
They finished dinner on a lighter note, though Kurt felt his heart weigh him down as he went into his room and shut himself in there. He spent the rest of the night finishing his physics homework and listening to Adele covers, the angrier ones like “Rolling in the Deep” and “Rumor Has It.”
The next day, Mercedes told him, “Santana was crying in the girls' bathroom, the one across from the library.”
“Why, what happened?”
“Her grandmother won't speak to her anymore.”
Kurt felt a sympathetic pang somewhere in his chest and promptly brushed it off as he said, “Well, none of my relatives speak to me anymore after I came out in style. Except for my dad's sister and I think she might be lesbian because—”
Mercedes leveled a steady look at him. “It's not the same. They were really close.”
Sufficiently chastened, Kurt dared to ask, “How bad is it?”
“The jocks are mostly leaving her alone because of Sue, but you should have seen how this guy was picking on her. Tried to convince her that she needed a real man or something like that.”
“I hope she didn't go all Lima Heights Adjacent on him.”
“Nah, the girls all stepped in and then brought her to the choir room. We performed 'I Kissed a Girl' to help her feel better, you know. She's not getting too much harassment, but it's grating on her. She's not used to it.”
Kurt wrinkled his nose, momentarily confused. “Mercedes, 'I Kissed a Girl' is about a girl who kisses another girl 'just to try it.' How does that help?”
“What other songs do you know that have girl on girl action?” she demanded in return.
Eventually, even Principal Figgins saw that Santana and Brittany's relationship was there to stay at McKinley. It was but a ripple in the daily drama that transpired at the school and few people disrupted the two girls who would occasionally hold hands instead of linking pinkies as they always did. Anyway, no one had the gall to cross Brittany, the senior class president, and to Kurt's disbelief, she was nominated for Prom King. Unsurprisingly, Santana was nominated for Prom Queen.
Yet Kurt went to his senior prom with Mercedes as his date and smiled vacantly as Finn and Rachel showed up late to prom, whispering nonsense to each other and grinning like lovesick fools. He observed Mercedes excusing herself to dance with a football player, Shane, who took her hand so sweetly. (“It's too late for something to happen,” Mercedes quickly said to him before she went off, “I mean, we're seniors already.”) He viewed, with only a hint of jealousy, Santana and Brittany dancing cheek to cheek, Brittany turning her head to speak into Santana's ear. He beheld the bizarre twist of Finn and Rachel being crowned Prom Royalty (he suspected that Santana and Quinn had something to do with it as they were both nominees who were in charge of counting the votes).
He sat alone as his peers danced the night away and waited for time to wind to a close.
“Someday I'm going to New York,” he said to nobody above the din, “and nothing's going to stop me once I'm there.”
Kurt Hummel had enough of settling. From now on, he was going to look out for himself, and he vowed to never let anyone or anyplace bring him down.
I deserve more than that.
Kurt avoided Blaine for a week. He kept himself busy scouring for more items to add to Timeless and hid in the back room whenever he was confined to his store. Naturally Sugar and even Lauren hinted at his unusual behavior, but when he refused to give up any information, they left him alone. He had no reason to go to PetPals now that Marigold had enough food and clumping litter for her litter box. There were quite a few missed calls and text messages from Blaine, most of them to do with “How about we meet up again?” or “How are you?” or “Haven't seen you in a while, you okay?”
It was such a silly thing because Blaine was free to have whatever kind of history he wanted with anyone. But it was painful when you took into consideration that Blaine and Sebastian shared a kind of life that Kurt could never hope to have. Sebastian was at a place where he could in all likelihood offer more in a relationship as a fellow street artist.
So what if Sebastian couldn't do commitment? So what if they must have ended their whatever-it-was for important reasons?
Kurt once dated a Creative Writing major, Kevin, who had complete heterochromia and was particularly proud of how his one blue eye and one brown eye both fascinated and frightened people. He spent countless days pouring over books as if the dusty tomes held the secrets to the universe, and he was so easily exasperated when Kurt failed to recognize the brilliance of Charles Dickens or Vladimir Nabokov. Hours disappeared on his laptop, he frantically typing out stories that were never published, and Kurt feeling disconnect so keenly (like a wound too painful to ignore, but too small to call to attention) that he ended the relationship and cut off all ties with Kevin.
Already he could feel the vast emptiness inside of him as he passed by the Wall, an expanse of color and hidden meanings that he could never hope to decipher. He understood how a hobby, even a career, could become a person's livelihood, and he sensed that this—graffiti, art, the thrill—was Blaine's.
His life was so separate from that.
Kurt didn't want to spend half of his time with Blaine following him around like a cat chained on a leash. He didn't want to film his boyfriend and let a piece of equipment put distance between the two of them. He didn't want to watch as Blaine covered the walls of the world with scribbles that were his only way of self-expression.
He didn't want that life. He wanted—he wanted normality, or as close to it as he could get. He didn't want someone with a passion he could never comprehend.
Because passion could be dangerous. It could lead to ruin. What it meant to Kurt was unhappiness and unfulfilled desires.
Years earlier, Kurt fancied that he knew what his life would be like.
And then it all came crashing down on him.
Yes, you'll be seeing more of Quinn and Sebastian. No, you should not worry about Sebastian too much. We're already halfway through the story, I can't waste more time on a love triangle.
On Santana and Brittany: I am not bashing on them just as I am not bashing on Rachel. It just struck me that sometimes two girls in a relationship can fly under the radar because girls tend to be rather close and tactile. We see Santana and Brittany kiss at McKinley and they get away with it; Kurt and Blaine, on the other hand, haven't been seen kissing in public at McKinley. I like to think there are very important reasons besides RIB being unfair.
I also have a whole book full of thoughts on Santana herself because she's fascinating as a character, but if she were a real person, I don't think I would like her all that much. But nope, this is about Kurt. I can only promise that I try not to bash on anyone because we are stupid humans who tend to hurt each other.
Like I said, we're halfway through the story. I like to think that the plot picks up in the second half, but what do you guys think of the first half? Please let me know because I do like hearing from people.
The next chapter has a lot going on and it'll be fairly long.
Chapter 6: Chapter Six
Every morning, Blaine opened the window in his room and the sound was like an egg being cracked open to reveal the golden sun. On the days when he woke up before his alarm clock went off, he would watch as the sun climbed the sky and say, “Today is the day my life will end,” before reluctantly getting up to change his clothes and brush his hair.
What he meant was the metaphorical death of his current life; the one in which he woke up alone and went to sleep alone; the one in which the only member of his family who still spoke to him was his reckless brother; the one in which he sketched pictures of people, animals, buildings, landscapes, and his character Curly; the one in which the only friends he had were the ones who shared his double life as an ordinary, law-biding citizen and as a street artist who had little regard for the critics who called their work “trash.”
He set aside his qualms about graffiti a long time ago, but he didn't want to spend the rest of his years toiling away at night, painting and pretending that he knew more about the world than he really did. Certainly it was fun right now and not so lonely with Quinn and Sebastian to keep him company, but Blaine believed he was capable of more.
He just wasn't sure exactly what more he could do.
He couldn't go to Quinn or Sebastian for help on this. Quinn was resigned to graffiti and worked at a tattoo shop, Tattoo for You. Sometimes he saw hints of the prim and proper girl she once was, the girl who looked as if she descended from British royalty. Now she ground cigarettes with her boots as she had ground her past to nothingness and he didn't know where she lived or went when she wasn't at work or out as the Pink Lady. She never talked about how she came from Ohio to here and he doubted she would start now.
It was even harder with Sebastian and not because they used to be friends with benefits. Sebastian had a stipend from his high-end parents who weren't too concerned with their son's shenanigans. His future was secure and graffiti was a way to pass the time as he loafed around, waiting for something else to interest him.
Blaine had nothing from his parents, not even a Christmas card. His brother Cooper occasionally dropped a line or popped up to show his face, and that was it.
Not only did he have to be gay, he also had to be an aimless two-bit pet store employee.
He had already been struggling with a low self-esteem after ending his not-relationship with Sebastian. He didn't have a career that was going anywhere, he had no resources, no family, and a few friends who wouldn't be any of help to his state of mind. Blaine started combing his hair back a little longer each morning in the mirror, straightening his clothes and wondering if he should try to make use of his Bachelor of Science in Business Administration.
Because as much as he liked being a pet store employee and nighttime street artist, he wondered if he could be making further use of his life.
That was when Kurt came into it.
Blaine actually did remember the night when he unofficially met Kurt as Curly Q. Quinn had a 24-hour flu and Sebastian was busy getting drunk at one of the many bars he frequented. Armed with a single red spray paint can, he doodled Curly wherever there was space, although he stayed away from houses and familiar stores out of principle. He tackled an empty warehouse going to waste and the city lights reminded him of senior prom, of the flickering lights and the pounding music and sweaty bodies clustered together uncomfortably. There was one guy who had worn a top hat and Blaine, amused by the memory, gave his last Curly sketch a similar hat.
Then his grip fumbled and he dropped the can.
There was a soft exclaim from the street below and Blaine panicked because what if there was a policeman down there? He spotted movement in the darkness and began to hurry away, mind mapping out possible routes for him to take.
A voice, high but definitely male, said, “Hello—?”
And Blaine imagined then. He imagined this wandering man seeing Curly and puzzling over it, face twisted with confusion. He imagined being seen, this suspicious character working at the night. He imagined eyes of any color (would they be blue? Brown? Green?) following his every move with awe.
Heart in his throat, he called back, “From your friendly neighborhood street artist!”
Blaine ran away into the night, hoping against the world that this man would see his work and like it.
When he found out that Kurt Hummel, the endearing cat owner with a sharp look and breathtaking features, and the stranger were one and the same, he thought, Of course.
Of course the one time he spoke to a stranger as Curly Q would be Kurt.
It was natural then to call Kurt, to text him, think about him, go out to lunch with him. Kurt already knew his biggest secret that wasn't really a secret; once you've shown the most secret part of yourself, how could you not latch onto that person? Oh, but Blaine was young and all he could see was the straightforward path of his life panning out, vague as that path was. For a man who was forced to cast away the past, how could he not pin his dream for a more rewarding life on Kurt?
I've been looking for you forever.
Oh, but Blaine was young and sometimes he forgot that romance was supposed to enhance life—it was not life itself.
How well could you know a person? Never well enough, or too well. Too far or too close, both extremes that led to a certain blindness on your part. His part. What he forgot was that he didn't know the Kurt from Ohio, the Kurt in Ohio. He didn't know that Kurt was used to keeping his bitterness bottled in pint-sized containers, small enough to carry around and small enough to hide under a sheer veil of cool sarcasm. He didn't know that Kurt's favorite flowers were sunflowers because they reminded him of his mother during the summer, bright sunshine pouring in from the off-white curtains to shine on her softly curling auburn hair. He didn't know that Kurt has had sex with exactly two people and he topped every single time because he still had trouble shaking off the jeering echoes of “I bet you like to take it hard, don't you, Hummel?” and “Should have known that a fairy like you would take it up the ass.”
A grape could never know it was becoming a raisin, and once it was a raisin, it was too late.
Not sentient, they say, it's not the same, you're talking about inanimate objects, food.
That didn't change the fact that grapes could become raisins, but raisins could never become grapes. That was aging for you, for the youth aged and aged until they were no longer youthful, and then what were they? What could they call themselves?
They were already too far gone to know those most intimate, pivotal moments that led to Kurt owning Timeless and Blaine haunting the streets.
But they could try.
“Aren't you a sight for sore eyes?”
Kurt blinked as Quinn Fabray brushed past him and entered his home without glancing at him once. Then he realized her eyes were fixed firmly on Marigold, who was reclining on his sofa. “How do you know where I live?”
“Wrangled it from Blaine when you kept ignoring him,” she yelled back. To Marigold: “Hey, gorgeous. Who would have thought that Kurt Hummel likes redheads?”
Marigold purred and closed her eyes as Quinn scratched under her jaw. Traitor, Kurt thought.
“What do you want from me, Quinn?” he asked, leaning against the walls of his apartment and thinking furiously because what if Blaine sent her? Why would Blaine send her? Oh no, what if Blaine was sending Quinn to break up with him by proxy? Marie Antoinette married by proxy and all right, that was over two centuries ago, but maybe it was still legitimate to do anything by proxy.
Quinn was quick to silence his hurried theory. “Curly Q, Meerkat, and I are going out tonight,” she replied while stroking Marigold's head. “I was thinking that you could come with us and film some of the process. Blaine said you did that once for him.”
“Why would you want that? You'd be giving me incriminating evidence of your activities.”
“Not my first rodeo, Kurt,” she chuckled wryly. “Being arrested isn't all that glamorous. Mostly it's a pain. But Blaine trusts you, so if we get caught because of you, Sebastian and I can just give him a good verbal lashing.”
“Clearly your friendship is one to last for the ages,” Kurt stated drolly, his eyes already drifting to the shelf where he kept his camera.
“So will you come with us?”
“I don't know...”
“I told you that whatever Blaine had with Sebastian is past now, didn't I?”
“It's not that.” Kurt went over to a window, pulling the curtains shut and brushing off the cat hairs he found. “It's so obvious that he's passionate about street art. And I get how exciting it is, making art, the whole dangerous and illegal part of it. But I don't want that to be the basis of our relationship, him going out every other night and me tagging along, sometimes with a camera. I want more than that, Quinn, and it's unfair to him to be with someone who doesn't share something as big as that. And it's unfair to me too.”
“How many times have you actually gone out with him at night?”
“So how do you know this isn't what you want? Heck, how do you know this is what Blaine wants?”
“He's Curly Q for a reason. Why would he go around vandalizing the town if he wants to do something else with his life?”
“We don't really have heart-to-heart chats while we're painting the town red, but Blaine's like you. Ridiculously big heart and ambitious, even if he doesn't think so.”
“What are you saying?”
“I'm saying that you should come out with us tonight and see if you can stick around for the short run, if not for the long. You don't get to make this decision all by yourself because that would be unfair to Blaine.” She gave Marigold one last scratch and then stood up, ruffling her pink hair. “I'm going to pick you up at no later than nine. Wear dark colors and bring your camera. Or better yet, bring a video camera if you have one. I'll tell Sebastian to stop dicking around with Blaine, but I make no promises that he'll actually listen to me.
“And you don't have to call Blaine back, but try not to ignore him tonight. He's not the sharpest lookout when he's sad and moody.”
She swept out the door after wiggling her fingers at Kurt, leaving behind the faint scent of smoke and iron.
At exactly 10:37PM, Kurt was clutching a video camera he'd dug out from storage with fresh batteries and an amateur's hand.
The four of them had gone out to dinner at a Chinese place. Sebastian kept a careful physical distance from both Kurt and Blaine, choosing instead to disregard the former and leer at the latter. Kurt retaliated by sticking the video camera into Sebastian's face until Quinn clapped her hands and said, “Now, now, children, break it up.”
They ate from platters of mixed vegetables, shrimp with peking sauce, and kung pao chicken. Blaine kept an eye on Kurt, his smile radiant whenever Kurt happened to look back. They drank pot after pot of tea, Quinn claiming that they would need the caffeine because “I'm going to stay up all night long, so you boys better keep up or else.” She and Sebastian swapped a few more insults and Kurt discovered that Sebastian was fluent in French, or at least prone to swearing in the so-called language of love whenever Quinn pushed his buttons. This led to a very intense discussion between Kurt and Sebastian, both of them using what French they knew to wield as weapons as Blaine sat off to the side, blinking at the tête-à-tête.
Then they were off into the shadows of the night, leaving behind the bright fluorescent lights of the Chinese restaurant, and Kurt readied his video camera.
As the Pink Lady, Quinn exclusively used pink paint. But to Kurt, the most fascinating part of her art was that she painted the shadows of objects. In some cases, she used an already-present object such as a mailbox and traced the elongated shadow in dark carmine. In other cases, she made up shadows, painting the shadows of a man and a woman locked in embracing, faces touching.
“Pink because it's an illusion,” she explained to Kurt as he filmed, “because it speaks of joy, contentment, a childhood wrapped up in childish fancies. It's bright and ditzy, almost ignorant. Now in contrast with shadows, you see the darker side of objects, a darkness that we take for granted and don't really pay attention to. It's not necessarily good versus evil because we don't think our shadows are evil, right?”
Sebastian apparently dabbled with different mediums, from posters to stickers to murals when he had the patience to paint one. Tonight he used the stencils he made the other day; most of them were rats going about on everyday human business.
“Rats?” Kurt raised an eyebrow. “I am shocked. Not meerkats?”
“He's emulating one of the first street artists in Paris,” Blaine told him, “Blek le Rat.”
“There's a surprising number of artists from Paris,” Kurt remarked, thinking back on the research he had done (mostly consisting of Google and Wikipedia).
“You know what they say about the French.”
Sebastian put rats everywhere; rats holding briefcases and umbrellas, rats carrying boomboxes, rats lifting giant cameras.
“I don't know what it says about a man when he's obsessed with rats,” Kurt whispered to Blaine, who only laughed and shrugged as if to say, “What else can you do?” Sebastian scowled when he caught the whisper, but a seering look from Quinn silenced him.
But intriguing as it was to watch Quinn and Sebastian, Kurt only had eyes for Blaine. He watched as Blaine went to work on the wall, tongue poking out of the corner of his mouth, and Kurt thought, I could love this man. Abruptly, he remembered that he was trying to ease out of Blaine's life, and he forced down the thought, refusing to think of a one-story house with white picket fences and 2.5 children because he didn't plan on settling down any time soon and thinking about starting a family with a man he'd only gone on one date with was usually filed under “Creepy Obsessive Thoughts.”
“How did you all meet?” he asked in order to distract himself.
Quinn wavered, a frown forming on her lips. “Well...”
“I don't care if Blaine and Sebastian were together. Just tell me.”
“When did you get smart, Hummel?”
“Are we on last names now? Is that how it's going to be, Fabray?”
“All right, you got me. I ran into both of them a couple years back, but they weren't together at that point. They were staggering around in the dark and it was obvious that they were both pretty drunk, Blaine a bit more because he was a stuttering mess. Apparently Sebastian was trying to pick him up without noticing that Blaine's a lightweight.
“So I slapped them both until they were black and blue because they were idiots and I knew Blaine was in no condition to be taken advantage of. If you're going to get fooled, might as well be coherent. I made Sebastian give up Blaine to me so I could take him back to my place and make sure he was okay, though Sebastian ended up tagging along and crashing because he said I owed it to him for ruining his one-night stand.”
“If you're trying to warm me up to Sebastian and stay with Blaine, it's not working,” Kurt deadpanned, although he had to admit he was disappointed. And he thought that he was naïve, but Blaine took that a step further.
“Trust me, they were a lot worse back then. Sebastian probably didn't even know the meaning of friendship and Blaine was a lot more careless with the drinking. It helped that they stopped encouraging that kind of destructive behavior with each other by ending their not-relationship.”
Kurt pursed his mouth, looked away.
“What, too squeamish to look at Blaine or any of us anymore?”
“A little,” he confessed, “but I'm mostly disappointed in him.”
“Why would you be disappointed?”
“Why wouldn't I be?”
“That means that you actually expect him to do the right thing every time. That's not realistic. That's not even life, Kurt.”
Before Kurt could answer, Sebastian shot his head up. “Do you hear that?”
And now that Quinn had fallen silent, Kurt could hear it too. The sound of sirens not too far away from their current location forced Kurt's heart to work overtime because suddenly he faced the reality of all street artists. What they were making was art, but not everyone saw it that way, and as the police cars pulled up, Blaine shuffled over and grabbed Kurt's hand, squeezing it reassuringly. It was too late to run and now Kurt stood close to Blaine, shivering. Slowly, he brought up the video camera and kept rolling.
As a male, middle-aged police officer came up to them, cinching his belt and looking grimly at all of them, Sebastian began to speak rapidly in French.
“Hey now,” the officer said, “you people not from around here? Because you can't do that here.”
“Sorry about that, officer,” Quinn drawled, propping up an elbow on Blaine's shoulder.
Kurt, on the other hand, didn't appreciate the way the officer shook his head dismissively at them and at the work on the walls. He also didn't miss how the man pointedly flicked his eyes at his and Blaine's joined hands, which caused him to protest, “But it's art.”
“It's not art, it's graffiti.” Now the officer saw Kurt's video camera and stiffened. “Sir, please put that away.”
“I was just passing by,” Kurt lied badly.
“Sir, put that camera away or else—”
“Okay,” Quinn broke in, “my curfew's coming up so if you'll excuse us, officer, we really need to get going.”
“Wait a minute—”
And they were running, running, running. Kurt felt rather than saw his vision blur, flashes of red and blue light and the edge of Quinn's skirt fluttering in front of him; she was a much faster sprinter than he would have thought. Blaine's hand still around his in a tightened grip, pulling him along firmly across the concrete road. The video camera in his other hand, pointed at the ground, still rolling—later he would check the long minutes of dark gray street, stretched out and jerking to the rhythm of his breathing—and he could hear Sebastian a ways ahead of them, laughing viciously, victoriously.
He heard his thoughts pounding in his ears, loose threads that chanted, We could get caught, we could get caught, we could get caught.
Then: I'm so alive. I'm so alive. I'm so alive.
“That was a pretty good show the other day.”
Kurt looked up from the display of vintage tea dresses he was adjusting. It was Sunday afternoon. Sebastian had his arms crossed, signature smirk slapped on, and a more fitting black tee that accentuated his flat chest. Damn him.
“Are all street artists stalkers?”
“Can't help it if Blaine has a loose tongue,” Sebastian countered breezily. “Though it's good for other things, if you know what I mean.”
“Not a virgin,” Kurt rolled his eyes, plucking a pale green dress from the display and feeling the tiny rip that escaped his notice before. He'd have to mend it. And possibly stick his sewing needle through Sebastian's own tongue because Blaine had called him several more times and he'd rejected every call. “And stop trying to rile me up.”
“Is it working?”
If you couldn't swat a fly, you had to ignore it. (Or kill it slowly via indirect methods.)
“Unfortunately, I'm not just here to watch you putter around in your princess castle. I need you to do something for me.”
“You're Blaine's friend, not mine. I'm not interested in spending the rest of my Sunday doing you any favors. And why aren't you asking either of your friends? I'm sure that Quinn would be thrilled to supervise your acid wash rear end.” He paused deliberately before spinning around and planting his chin on a propped hand. “Unless it's not something either of them would be thrilled by. More illegal than usual, I'm guessing? Something with higher stakes?”
There was a gleam of respect in Sebastian's eyes, but his tone remained sardonic. “Princess has some brains after all.”
“You're not endearing me to your mysterious cause.”
Sebastian leaned forward until their noses were touching. “How do you feel about going to Disneyland?”
“I have never missed this many days of work before,” Kurt repeated over and over again even as Sebastian gestured for him to hustle. “Never in my life, I swear.”
“I believe you,” the Meerkat groaned, “so please shut that big mouth of yours or put it to better use.”
“This is what getting involved with street art has done to me. This. I purposefully skipped manning the store—the store that I own and built up from the ground—in order to drive you all the way to Los Angeles so you can play with Mickey Mouse and his animal friends. Why did I let you manipulate me into doing this? I don't like you and I don't like the way you act around Blaine. Why?”
“Having fun venting?” Sebastian said distractedly, scanning his surroundings. “As for why, it's because I threatened to vandalize your precious store.”
“Oh yes. Now why are you still alive? I have so many terrific places where I can hide a body. You know my old house in Ohio had a basement? I'm telling you, it was perfect.”
“Uh-huh. Now quiet, Princess. I'm on serious business.”
“So. Many. Places.”
They had left the week after Sebastian first brought up his plan. Sebastian was adamant that Blaine and Quinn be left in the dark. (“Hey, you've been ignoring Blaine's calls and everything, it's so obvious, you should see the way he mopes.”) Kurt thought that was fair enough since Sebastian obviously hadn't gone to either of his friends for a reason. What he thought was unfair was how Sebastian wouldn't tell him anything about his plans for Disneyland. It would have irked Kurt a lot more if Sebastian hadn't insisted on paying for the tickets, gas, hotel rooms, and any “toxic food you want to consume because trust me, you need it.”
“That's surprisingly chivalrous of you,” Kurt had mentioned offhandedly.
Sebastian immediately crushed that belief. “Hardly. I just wouldn't want to bankrupt your precious store or else Blaine and Quinn would definitely find out. Just covering my tracks.”
Sebastian led the way down Main Street, a backpack slung over his shoulder. Kurt was carrying his video camera which Sebastian had also insisted on. “To take pictures,” he'd said, and continued to give cryptic answers when Kurt pressed for more information.
In the end, Kurt let himself relax in the light atmosphere Disneyland gave off. There was music playing, children running around, people screaming from nearby rides, and the scent of popcorn and cotton candy even early in the morning. He couldn't escape the feeling that he was too old now for any magic in this theme park to work on him, but he resolved to enjoy his first time at Disneyland and not to give Sebastian too much thought as long as they kept walking around the park.
But Sebastian walked quickly, eyes darting all over the place, and finally he settled on the ride Big Thunder Mountain Railroad. It appeared to be a fast roller coaster and as a mine train roared past, Kurt could hear the delighted shrieking that extended throughout the rest of the ride.
“Are you finally going on one of the rides?” he asked Sebastian.
The Meerkat didn't answer. Instead, he settled down on a bench and took out two items from his backpack: a pump and what appeared to be an inflatable doll.
“What is the date, Kurt?” Sebastian finally answered.
“It's October 12.”
“It's the twentieth anniversary of Matthew Shepard's death after he got attacked in Laramie, Wyoming.” Sebastian looked up and now Kurt could see a fierceness that he hadn't noticed before. Sebastian pumped and pumped and pumped until the doll was completely blown up. It was clearly meant to be a young man with a white shirt and dark pants, its hands tied behind its back. There were marks and streaks of red all over the doll's body, meant to be wounds, and a piece of duct tape covered the lower half of the doll's face.
Sebastian had taped a sign to the front of the doll's shirt, saying “In honor of Matthew Shepard, December 1, 1976 – October 12, 1998. May all faggot-hating homophobes go to hell.”
Kurt stared in disbelief. “Sebastian, this is...”
“Now you see why I didn't bring Tweedledee and Tweedledum.”
“Because you could land yourself in real hot water over this! Sebastian, this isn't worth it. What are you trying to say?”
“I should have known you wouldn't understand. You might as well be a girl—”
“It's got nothing to do with my face!” Kurt's voice rang out. “Sebastian, there will always be people who hate us. It's one thing to be yourself and one thing to deliberately rub it in their faces like this and in Disneyland.”
“Just listen to yourself!” Sebastian drew himself up so that he was a scant inch or two taller than Kurt. “How many people have told you that the way you dress is a way of 'rubbing it in their faces,' never mind that it's being yourself and all of that crap? Huh? How is this any different from the twinks who run around in kilts and high heels?”
“You better take some pictures, Princess,” Sebastian said in a tone of finality, voice deadly. “Now shut it.”
The Meerkat took the doll and hopped over the first and shorter fence that blocked ordinary people from the site of the ride. Then he hoisted the doll over the taller second fence, black and with intimidating spikes on top, and made it face the oncoming mine trains. He hurriedly secured the doll to the fence, making sure that it could stand on two legs, before leaving the site and heading off in another direction.
Kurt filmed it all.
No one seemed to pay attention to Sebastian when he had been setting the doll in place, but now that he was gone and the doll was standing all by itself, more and more people began to stop and stare. They pointed and took pictures and whispered among themselves, and Kurt kept filming and took a few pictures on his own. The first few mine trains zoomed past, with a few of the riders drawing attention to the doll, but finally one train completely stopped in front of the offending object. There was an announcement: “Ladies and gentlemen, may I have your attention please. All of our trains are stopped...”
That was when Kurt detected movement from the gathering crowd. There were bulky men who weren't dressed like security guards, but had the hardened look down pat. Like they definitely weren't at Disneyland to have fun.
They headed straight for him and his video camera, and Kurt knew he had to leave.
It was a day of firsts.
First time at Disneyland. First time seeing a street artist work his magic at Disneyland. First time getting accosted by security. First time in an interrogation room. So many firsts. Kurt figured he could cross off half of his bucket list at this point.
There was a man on either side of Kurt's seat and one of them said, quite plainly, “You are in big, big, big trouble.”
It was like a poorly scripted scene from a heist movie. Kurt coughed to disguise his laughter.
Sebastian had told him what he was going to do after his mysterious task. The Meerkat had gone off in the opposite direction to change his clothes, go on a few rides, and then he would call Kurt so that they could meet up and scram. Neither of them had anticipated that Kurt would become the target and for what? Filming an interesting event that he was in no way part of?
It became clear that the Disneyland security team didn't know if Kurt had actually set up the doll or was an accomplice meant to capture the entire event, but they certainly suspected him of either/or. Now one man stuck by his side and the other faced him from across the table where the video camera was, one hand on the table and dark mustache twitching.
All Kurt understood was that he could not give Sebastian away.
“Gentlemen, I was at the wrong place at the wrong time,” Kurt repeated over and over again. “I took one picture, just one picture.
“Yeah right,” the man across the table snorted. “Turn on that camera and show us then.”
Uptown girl, she's been living in her uptown world...
The security guard next to Kurt fumbled with his pocket and drew out Kurt's cell phone, which had been confiscated. It was the ringtone Kurt had set for Sebastian and although his phone had caller ID, he'd entered Sebastian's name as “S. S.” as a precaution.
“Maybe it's your partner,” the guard scoffed and handed the phone to Kurt. “Now answer it.”
Thinking fast, Kurt held the phone to his ear. “Hello, sweetie,” he said too loudly and cheerfully, hoping that Sebastian would catch on. “How is the cat? I hope she's not causing you any trouble while I'm gone. I can't tell you how many times I've had to clean her litter box because you didn't want to touch it.”
He heard heavy breathing over the connection and then a click when Sebastian hung up. Kurt placed the phone on the table. “Just my sweetheart,” he chirped, noting the scowls both guards sported.
“Whatever,” the mustached guard announced. “Now hurry up and turn on the camera, and we'll see if you really only took one picture.”
Who would have thought that Disneyland hired people who looked as if the happiest place on earth was the worst possible place to be? Kurt was never coming back here ever again, not even if they let him stay at the Cinderella castle.
“Fine, I'll show you,” he said, reaching for his video camera.
The two men surrounded him, watching his every move. Kurt turned on the camera, holding it carefully in his hands. Going to the menu, he glanced at either man, and then deleted everything in one fell swoop. Then he leaned forward, planted the video camera back on the table, and leaned back, crossing his legs and folding his hands primly. “There,” he said smugly, “I have nothing you can hold over me. No pictures.”
The security guards stared at him.
“Son of a bitch,” the mustached one said after a moment of silence.
“I'll take that as a compliment.”
He was kept in the interrogation room for another four hours, but with no evidence, they were forced to release him. Luckily Kurt had stashed the tape with backup files in the sole of his shoe and now he walked somewhat stiffly toward the entrance of the park where Sebastian was waiting for him. He'd recounted the entire incident to Sebastian over phone as he made his way and Sebastian's reaction had been rather disappointing. He'd merely said, “Get your butt over here, we need to talk.”
Now he could see Sebastian with a different shirt and baseball cap shading his face. “One would think that I deserve a little more gratitude after the stunt you pulled,” he remarked, bumping shoulders with Sebastian as they exited the park.
Sebastian tossed his head up and said nothing.
“That's the thanks I get? I think I'd rather you vandalize my store instead of dragging me out here.”
Sebastian shook his head. “You don't understand,” he said lowly. “I didn't expect you to cover for me.”
“You had such a low opinion of me? Thank you, Sebastian. Let us part ways and never speak again.”
Now the street artist guffawed. “You may dress like you're at a pride parade every day,” he said fondly, “but you're all right. And I promise I won't scrawl all over your precious store, so don't worry about that. Let's get out of here.”
He touched Kurt very briefly on the arm and turned away, but not before Kurt saw something like a genuine smile on Sebastian's face.
Uh, this isn't a Kurtbastian story and it won't turn into one. But you have to admit Kurt and Sebastian have a lot of...friction, so to speak. Fear not, I will be focusing more on our favorite couple in the next chapter.
This was a monster of a chapter because it's pivotal in a sense. I needed to establish a sort of trust between Kurt and the other street artists so that he would feel less inhibited and more confident about continuing a relationship with Blaine.
Quinn is based on French street artist Zevs and Sebastian is loosely based on the infamous Banksy. The stunt pulled at Disneyland is one that Banksy pulled, with some details tweaked to suit. I don't know a lot about interrogation scenes and protocol and all, so I stuck to the details from the documentary.
Feedback would be greatly appreciated and thank you to the reviewers and lurkers who have followed the story so far.
Chapter 7: Chapter Seven
When Kurt and the three street artists met again, Quinn was predictably displeased and Blaine was predictably worried. They were at their default meeting spot, in front of Goldie Oldies, and Sebastian shot Kurt a few warm smiles that had Blaine looking back and forth between the two of them suspiciously.
“I knew it was you from the moment I saw that online article,” Quinn hunched her shoulders, muttering more nonsense to the ground. “I can't believe you pulled something like that off.”
“Good thing I took along Princess instead of you.”
“D-did you just slap my—?” Kurt whirled around at Sebastian who was holding up a guilty hand, grinning like there was no tomorrow.
“Trust me, it's a compliment,” Quinn snickered. “That means he thinks you're worth his time.”
Blaine bit his lip.
It was technically their second date at a little coffee place called Riley's Roast. They learned each other's coffee order (medium drip for Blaine, grande non-fat mocha for Kurt), and they had a brief battle with credit cards before Blaine managed to worm Kurt's away and pay for their drinks with a triumphant shaking of his shoulders to the pop music playing in the coffee shop. Forced to admit defeat, Kurt reserved a little table for the two of them and watched as Blaine worked his way through the throngs of caffeine-driven citizens, holding a coffee in either hand.
After the Disneyland scandal, Kurt finally came to the conclusion that there was no use pretending Blaine didn't exist. Shockingly enough, Sebastian had helped him.
“You're all so concerned with goals,” Sebastian said, his intonation superior, on the drive back from Disneyland. “That's why you miss out on all the fun you can have for the moment.”
“Getting someone to sleep with you is a goal, isn't it?”
“Focus on yourself, Princess, not me, though you wouldn't be the first.”
“I don't know why I thought you could avoid being egotistical for even a minute.”
“Attraction's not the problem,” Sebastian went on blithely, ignoring the scathing glare Kurt was sending his way. “What you're worried about is the long-term, or if there even is one.”
“I'm starting to see why you have one-night stands. So much easier, hm?”
“If you don't want to be Blaine's bit on the side as he rampages through town armed with paint, then you don't have to do that. But maybe Blaine doesn't want that either, you ever think of that? Maybe that's what he wants to do for now, but it's not like he's going to be a street artist for life. He's the kind of man who wants to settle down eventually and he thinks he's at the age when he should be looking for that.”
“The house, the family, the 2.5 kids, you name it. Though if you ask me, he could squeeze in a few more years of fun.”
“Like me, except I'm in this for as long as possible, Princess. Anyone can tell that you and Blaine are the kinds who want to settle, but don't start predicting your future with him. If it's going to happen, it's going to happen. For now, go on more dates, hold hands and other gushy actions that couples do, and have fantastic sex. Don't think too hard about it. You'll find out if your wants line up one way or another.”
“The way you and Blaine found out your wants didn't line up.”
“Exactly,” the Meerkat said without batting an eyelash.
Now Kurt traced the lines of salt previously spilled on the table before he was fully aware of what he was doing, and then snatched his hand back hastily and wiped it with a napkin to be safe. Blaine scooted into the other seat, depositing their drinks with a flourish. “Grande non-fat mocha for you,” he pronounced, showing his teeth as he smiled.
“Thank you,” Kurt said formally, sipping so that he wouldn't have to start the conversation.
Blaine sat still, hand clutching his medium drip. Finally: “Quinn told me that you knew. About—about Sebastian and me.
Kurt quirked an eyebrow and waited.
“I, um.” Blaine put two fingers to his temple and leaned on them, gazing down on the table. “I get that you're not mad that I have a history or that I'm still hanging out with Sebastian. What she wouldn't tell me was why you were mad at all.”
Slowly, “I wasn't mad. And I wasn't jealous either. Well, a little bit? But no, not that you've had boyfriends or friends with benefits, that's to be expected. I was more worried about our...future. I was afraid that it wouldn't work out because...”
“Because I'm Curly Q?”
“Partially. I was afraid that I wouldn't get along with that part of your life after a while because it's so different from what I'm used to, and I didn't know if I could stand you going out at night for, for the rest of our lives, basically. Sebastian helped straighten the issue for me. There's no point in thinking so far ahead about something I can't control. And I do like you a lot and I understand that graffiti means a lot to you.”
“Well, first off, graffiti does mean a lot to me. But I don't want to keep it up for the rest of my life. The going out and the spray painting and the walls and the police. It's something to do and it's something to help me figure out what I really want from life, but I know for sure it's temporary. And second, it's great that you and Sebastian are getting along, but um...”
“Do I sense jealousy?”
“No! I mean, no. I know what Sebastian's like, that's all.”
“Then you should know that Sebastian doesn't want to settle down, and I want to. At some point.”
Blaine shook his head, helplessly grinning, and covered his face with his hand. “Wow, there's been a lot of miscommunication here. We really need to get better at that.”
“No time like the present to start working on it.”
“So total honesty?” Blaine suggested, lips twisting upward.
“Total honesty. And speaking of total honesty, I have to tell you that I'm flying to Ohio next week. I'll be there for a few days.”
“Are you visiting family?”
Kurt raised his coffee and drank deeply, finishing half of it. His mind raced. “Yes, I am.”
“When will you be back?”
“I should start counting down the days then. Can I see you off at the airport?”
“You,” Kurt enunciated clearly, “can do anything you want. And in this case, I definitely want you to see me off.” They clasped hands on the table and finished their drinks before Blaine insisted on going for a walk to soak in what time they had left together before Ohio.
They ended the date at Kurt's house, cuddling on the couch in front of the TV as Moulin Rouge! played, with Marigold on Kurt's lap and purring the day away. Blaine whispered into Kurt's ear, “May I draw on you?”
“I always carry a Sharpie around, but if you don't want me to...”
“Anything you want.” Kurt's voice was as soft as feathers. “Anything you want, Blaine.”
Blaine captured Marigold's likeness on Kurt's forearm in red Sharpie and Kurt laughed at the ticklish sensation. He signed it “Love, B” with a hint of a blush on his olive skin and Kurt responded by kissing him on the cheek. They petted Marigold and rested against each other as the movie came to an end, their bodies warm with affection and proximity. Kurt turned his mouth to Blaine's ear and it was his turn to whisper, “The spare key is in the potted plant outside. If you have the time, can you check on Marigold when I'm gone?”
“Anything you want,” Blaine reiterated, hazel eyes boring into Kurt's soul.
The red cat hadn't faded by the time Kurt was boarding his plane; he'd taken care to avoid washing the drawing off. It wasn't so much a claim as it was a reminder that he had something to return to besides Timeless (and he was sure that all of his sick days would be used up after this trip, regardless of the fact that he was the owner). Blaine left him with one last parting hug, leaning his forehead on Kurt's shoulder and punctuating it with a squeeze.
“I'll call you when I get back,” Kurt assured sincerely, answering Blaine's embrace and pressing a kiss to the side of Blaine's head.
Blaine finally let go and looked Kurt square in the eye. “Will you be my boyfriend?”
“You're seriously asking me as I'm about to fly to Ohio?”
The street artist winced and chuckled wryly. “I didn't want to jump the gun when we've only been on two dates.”
“I'm glad you did. Jump the gun, I mean.”
“I am too.”
“But not yet? It's just I'd rather we make it official after I get back.”
“Oh! No, it's no problem. I should let you go. Be safe?”
“I don't think you should be worrying about me,” Kurt grinned, but he stroked Blaine's shoulder one more time and left, surrounded by the clean, purposeful atmosphere of the airport. The process was mechanical as security let him through and he managed to find a fairly nice seat next to the window, listening to the sound of other planes already taking off and the low chatter of little children and the soft hums from the older and more worn passengers. He dozed for most of the technically five-hour flight and the warmth of Blaine's presence was pressed into his skin with something like permanence. Once, he would have kept his eyes outside the window, watching in marvel at the serene white clouds that looked slyly solid, but he'd flown back to Ohio several more times at this point, and then back.
He dreamed of Blaine's unmarred skin and his long lashes, and he wondered when he would fall in love with Blaine because he knew he would. It was only a question of how soon it would happen, be it tomorrow or a hundred years from now, because all times were soon in regards to the subconscious as mingled strains of music mixed with the all-too-quick images of his childhood, distorted and real, imagined and true.
Kurt woke up in the middle of his flight to scramble for pen and paper, designs and colors scrambling in his mind. After roughly ten minutes of a labored frenzy, he went back to sleep.
It was an abrupt process when the flight ended as he unbuckled his seat belt, followed the trail of passengers to the airport in Columbus, Ohio, retrieved his luggage from the baggage claim, and hailed down a cab to take him to the Holiday Inn he always stayed in. The weather was cool and dry, just a touch colder than the sunny days of Los Angeles that he'd grown accustomed to. The cab driver reminds him of his father with a supposed bald head and dark green truck hat, though his voice (if not his speech) was a bit more refined than Burt Hummel's.
“Nice young man like you in Ohio,” he was jabbering away, swerving occasionally and meeting Kurt's eyes in the rear-view mirror, “must be visiting family.”
“I am, actually. How did you guess?”
“Oh, I have a son around your age,” came the jovial answer, “moved out the moment he could and never looked back, not that I blame him, the Midwestern is so small compared to that big city of his—watch that right turn, lady—so the only reason he comes back is to see us old coots—did you just flip me off, man in the big truck?”
“Sounds like he has his life figured out.”
“Sure, but he always has a place with me and his old mama. Nice having a place to go back to.”
The driver tipped his hat at Kurt when they reached Holiday Inn and Kurt gave him a generous tip. Then, pulling his solitary suitcase with him, Kurt went to check in.
It took roughly two hours to drive from Columbus to Lima. Kurt rented a car and now he drummed his fingers on the steering wheel, waiting on a red light. In the passenger seat was a bouquet of African irises, his father's favorite flowers because he said they reminded him of Kurt's mother. His mother, on the other hand, preferred tiger lilies because “they have freckles, just like me!”
Kurt didn't remember much about his mother, only her vague form and her sweet high voice. It became more difficult to recall as the years passed and he liked to think that new memories, memories that she would want him to have, were staging a takeover in his brain. Soon, he would forget about anything that happened when he was under eighteen. Or perhaps he would only remember day-to-day events, concerned with only yesterday and tomorrow, his present bracketed like a carefully slotted puzzle piece.
It was a frightful thought as it was comforting because his memories may fade, but so would any ache.
So when he parked the rental car and gazed around the cemetery, irises at hand, a certain melancholy overtook his emotions but no longer the crippling despair that used to bring him to his knees.
“Hi, Dad,” he said when he found Burt Hummel's tombstone. “Long time no see.”
These were the facts:
A month after Kurt graduated from McKinley High School and embarked on his last real summer before college at Ohio State University (which he was going to only because of costs and his father's aging condition), Burt Hummel died from a heart attack.
(Just a week ago, he broke up with his first boyfriend, Chandler. They would never speak to each other again.)
It was a confusing period for Kurt and he couldn't remember part of it. It was blocked, cut off, gone. His recollections of the first moments were hazy, though he sensed a pain in his knees. From constantly falling to the ground. (What he had were two legs, but the invisible support had been family. He didn't have that anymore.) He spent a lot of time in his room, sitting somewhere. On the carpeted floor, the small sofa, his bed, at the vanity. Half the time, he couldn't register anything but the inanimate objects in front of him: clothes, moisturizers, stacks of school worksheets he was going to recycle. The other half, all he could think was, I'm an orphan.
He was eighteen, an adult in the eyes of many, but all he wanted was to be five again and to have both his parents with him, mostly his father because his mother had been gone too long and the ache from that was already faint.
The longer you lived, the more you lost. The longer you lived, the more you had to lose. Wasn't that right?
His aunt, Laurel, arranged for a private funeral and a memorial service for anyone else who wanted to attend. She kept Kurt alive, coaxing him to eat and dress himself and sit in the living room, the TV turned off and the lamps on. Laurel was a beautiful woman, spirited and determined, and she often sat with Kurt, arm wrapped around his shoulder. Sometimes they would fall asleep together, only for Kurt to wake up and panic briefly at the changed surroundings.
“A friend of yours dropped by the other day,” she said one morning as they sat the dining table. Kurt had a bowl of cereal, a breakfast he rarely ate anymore, and twirled his spoon absentmindedly.
“Who?” he asked listlessly.
“She said her name was Mercedes Jones, part of the glee club at your school.”
“My old school.”
“Yes, your old school. She said the glee club offered to sing at the memorial service.”
The thought of the New Directions taking over his father's memorial service, of Rachel Berry brandishing her voice at this one last event for her in Ohio, was almost too much to bear. But people should be sent off with music, music to move and to induce tears, if only for a short period of time.
“Why not,” he said, and his eyes dropped back down to his Cheerios and Laurel silently took his consent at face value.
But he began to balk at the memorial service.
It was scheduled in the evening, at a little church not too far away from McKinley. Kurt was wearing all of the black he could find in his wardrobe: black dress shirt, black vest, black jacket, black tie, black pants, black belt, black boots. He stood off to the side, accepting condolences whenever they were given, and keeping an eye on Laurel who was circulating and conversing. People were chattering and laughing; this was another social event for them. What did they care about Burt Hummel and his quiet life as a car mechanic and his obviously gay son? They wouldn't have to live with his death every day like Kurt would have to, with a painful sort of absence that could only come from familial intimacy. He saw one girl in jean shorts, talking a little too loudly with he friends, and he glared at her until she felt his stare.
He recognized some faces such as his father's employees from the shop and students from McKinley who didn't have anything better to do. Mixed in the crowd were church members, the pastor, and—
Mercedes stood before him, wearing a somber black number with her hair down. She looked sorry and uncertain, a look that Kurt was quickly becoming used to. He could see members of the New Directions scattered around as they waited to go into the sanctuary where the real service was being held. Rachel Berry herself was a small distance away, uncommonly subdued.
Mercedes held a program out to Kurt and he took it with minimal movement.
“Thanks,” he said unnecessarily. Speaking and moving seemed more and more unnecessary as time went on, but he wasn't about to tell Mercedes that.
“Yeah, um.” She inspected her shoes, unable to meet his gaze. “I'll, I'll see you inside. And I'm sorry, Kurt.”
“Don't be. No one's fault.”
“I just don't know what else to say.”
“There's really,” Kurt said, “nothing to be said.”
The sanctuary doors opened and people poured in. Kurt trundled inside, ahead of everyone else, and his aunt led him to the front pew. He saw the podium where the pastor would stand and the stage where people worshiped a being that may very well not exist. Behind him, he saw a sea of black jackets and skirts find seats and squish together like packs of sardines. Then he forced himself to look ahead, impassive as people settled around him.
He was deaf and blind to the pastor's opening message and the stories from friends (the former shop employees) and family (Laurel). Instead, he waited as all men must wait for the moment when the veil in front of their eyes lift and all was clear and obvious.
Then it was time for Rachel Berry's solo. “Fire & Rain,” by James Taylor.
Accompanied only by a piano, she sang.
Just yesterday morning, they let me know you were gone
Suzanne, the plans they made put an end to you
I walked out this morning and I wrote down this song
I just can't remember who to send it to
Some of the women and girls were crying. Because of the music, because of death, because of sadness invoked tears, because of the world. It didn't matter if they were crying for his father or not (a small fact: they were not) because there were far too many things in the world to cry over or about. It only made sense that people should either drown in their tears or be as stoic as a stone wall.
I've seen fire and I've seen rain
I've seen sunny days that I thought would never end
I've seen lonely times when I could not find a friend
But I always thought that I'd see you again
Suddenly, he felt sick to his stomach. He wanted to rip people from their seats, cast them on the ground, rebuke them. You do not mourn, he wanted to shout, you do not get to mourn when I have not mourned, not yet, not properly. Who were they to cry when he could barely stand to see his features in the mirror, thinking that Burt would never see him become a man, fall in love, live?
Because that was the point. He would have to live with it.
Kurt didn't wait for Rachel to finish and for all of the New Directions to go up the stage, ready to sing “Seasons of Love.” He didn't even give Laurel a clue as to what he was doing. No, he merely stood up, brushed the lint off of his pants, and calmly (like a ship) walked down the center aisle, clear of chairs, out the doors of the sanctuary and the doors of the church (followed by the whispers of the masses, but what were they to him? What were they to anyone? An embodiment of a general consensus, of ordinariness, of extraordinariness—of nothing).
Once outside the church, he leaned over, bracing himself on his knees, breathing in the summer air and desperately trying to contain the wracking sobs that threatened to overtake his body.
He was out.
(He had to leave.)
This wasn't where he needed to be.
So he left.
(Of course, it wasn't as simple as that. He wasn't going to Ohio State University anymore, no sirree. The house? Laurel could keep it, sell it, rent it out, hell if he cared. His Navigator was still his, still his car, still a relic of his father. What else to take? Clothes, clothes... He was eighteen, he was his own guardian, he would make it, if not on Broadway, then in life. He would make it.
He drove far, far away, thinking that he could escape if only temporarily.)
My name is Kurt Hummel. I am eighteen years old. I lost my mom when I was eight and my dad when I was eighteen. I am still eighteen. I will not stay eighteen. Not for long.
Kurt spent a total of three days visiting his parents, though most of his thoughts were directed to his father. For the first two days, he stuck to safer topics like his job, his friends, updates on anything of importance in his life. There were stretches of time when he simply sat on the ground, unmindful of the dirt and insects, and listened to the sound of his breathing and the wind winding through the trees. Being in the cemetery now brought Kurt a sense of tranquility that could only come from many long months of struggling with old grievances. He was happy now—happier in comparison.
On the third day, he finally talked about Blaine.
“A bit vertically challenged,” Kurt teased his father. “You would have liked that, it would have been so easy to intimate him. Oh, but he likes football. You'd have liked that even more. You would have liked him period, Dad, even though you were afraid of talking about boys at first.
“I'm going home tomorrow, Dad. It's still so easy to forget that I don't live here anymore, with you. Do you think I grew up faster than I had to? Because I think I did, and it was so fast that I barely had time to regret it. I do regret it.
“But I like where I am right now. I'm not in New York or on Broadway, and I still—I still want. I've learned, though. To settle. Is that such a bad thing?
“Oh, but don't worry. I definitely didn't settle for Blaine. He's...he's Blaine. I'm glad I met him. He makes me want to, oh, I don't know, pursue my dreams again. Do more for the world. He's that kind of nice, dapper gentleman. Maybe not everything he does is squeaky clean, but remember how you told me about the time you stole your dad's car and almost ran into a stoplight? He's like you. You loved cars, so sometimes you bent the rules to do what you loved. He loves what he's doing right now and it would be temporary. Because he's that kind of gentleman and he wants to do more for the world too.
“I can see a future with Blaine, sometimes. It's still hazy and in the far distance, don't you worry, but you know me. I don't casually date and I, I want to find a partner I can be with for the rest of my life. If I had what you and Mom had, then I know you'd be happy. And I would be happy.
“I should go now. I promise I'll be safe and that I won't get into too much trouble. Say hi to Mom for me. I'll visit soon.
When he was finally home, suitcase unpacked and Marigold purring against his legs, he had to sit down on the couch and catch his breath. He rubbed his face, wincing at his dry skin, and reached for his cell phone. At this time, Blaine would probably be at work and might not pick up, but it didn't hurt to leave a message.
“Hey Blaine, I just got back from Ohio and I'm exhausted, but please feel free to call me whenever because I haven't heard your voice in months...a few days, but still. Call me. Missed you.”
The apartment was again filled with silence except for Marigold's continued purring as she butted her head against him. He smoothed her ears and scratched under her chin to keep her occupied. He ought to take a shower or at least wash his face, even do some laundry or stock up his refrigerator with groceries. On the other hand, the prospect of leaving his seat to return to his busy routine made him sink further back into the sofa, head pillowed on the edge. His cat curled into his lap, getting hair all over his vest, but he smiled sleepily down at her.
“You know someone is lonely when they get a cat,” he murmured to Marigold. Her eyes were luminous.
So on a whim, he called Mercedes Jones.
After McKinley, they'd kept minimal contact. Eventually Mercedes went to the West Coast as well in order to take a job offer as a backup singer. She was currently with a fairly well-known label, making her way as a solo artist and with one album out. She was hardly Whitney Houston or even Kelly Clarkson at this point, but she had a small and devoted fan base that stalked her on Twitter and Facebook. Kurt was one of her few non-celebrity friends and had the privilege of knowing her personal number, though he rarely used this privilege since he imagined she was immensely engaged. Her second album was in progress and she was starting to attend a few more interviews, and no doubt her schedule was hectic.
But Kurt Hummel wasn't quite a cynic, not yet, and he believed that he was still one of her closest friends, perhaps even more so because he was removed from the glitz and glamor.
His few qualms were set aside when she answered, “What up, Hummel?”
It was so good to hear her voice. Not as good if it had been Blaine, but beggars couldn't be choosers. “Well, if it isn't Mercedes Jones. How has the paparazzi been? Hospitable?”
There was an audible groan. “Did you see it?”
“Nothing,” came the too-quick answer.
Kurt tapped his foot, then remembered that Mercedes couldn't see it. “Mercedes.”
“All right, so I went to this nearby Forever 21. Thought I could just pop in, grab a couple of shirts, and wear my shades and hat so no one could see me. Then the sweetest little girl grabbed me and started blabbering about how she was such a fan and could I sign her arm with a pen or something, it was so sweet, but my cover was blown—”
He listened to the rest of the story with interest because Mercedes still wasn't completely adjusted to her growing fame. She deserved her success, and it helped that he didn't feel quite as many pangs of jealousy that tormented him so much when it concerned Rachel Berry.
Finally, she stopped to take a breath and ask, “How about you, Kurt? How are you doing with your store? I really should stop by when I have the time, you have the best advice.”
“We're doing fabulously, Mercedes, but I actually called about something else.”
“Oh?” Her tone shifted; now all of her attention was on him.
Kurt took a deep breath. “I met someone.”
“His name's Blaine,” Kurt continued, unable to keep any giddiness out of his voice. “Blaine Anderson. I met him almost two months ago. He's very charming, Mercedes, and he wears a lot of bow ties. Sometimes I think he was born in the wrong time period, but then I wouldn't have met him.”
“Boy, you're head over heels, aren't you?”
“Wha—no, no, I'm not. I'm not losing myself over someone, it's just so easy with him. Mostly easy, anyway. I never thought I would meet someone like him. There's something very wholesome about him. He's very earnest.”
“So you've found yourself a boyfriend. We need to drink to that.”
“We're not actually dating yet. I mean, we are. But not boyfriends yet.” Not like he hasn't asked.
“How many dates have you guys been on?”
“Um.” He knew he couldn't lightly divulge Blaine's other identity, but did their late night excursions count? Most likely not. “Officially, two dates. But we've met informally for breakfast and coffee and, uh, where we work. Oh, Mercedes, he works at a pet store. It's cute, he's like a puppy himself.”
They talked for another half hour and Kurt spent most of the time elaborating on the more harmless aspects of his possible relationship with Blaine. Mercedes was suitably enthusiastic because Kurt never really gushed about his past few boyfriends. It was all mixed up in a bundle of what he could have been, what he could be doing, what kind of people he could be meeting. To appear happy where he was right now at this moment was to give up on that dream which he still clung to, chanting to himself that it was never too late to start because if you never started, you didn't have to fear failure but you also didn't have to fear staying in one place for the rest of your life. It was noncommittal and saddening, but now.
But now it was all right. He wanted to do right by Timeless and by Blaine. He wanted to put in renewed effort in the two good things in his life because no matter what anyone else said, he had succeeded in life. How could he ask for any more?
When Mercedes bid him farewell, she asked one last thing, “So is he any good in bed?”
“Very. Loves cuddling, doesn't snore, great heat source,” Kurt answered evasively, although a snort escaped from him.
“I'll let you know when I find out.”
“I'm holding you to that.”
There's actually quite a few stories that kill off Burt Hummel since his death would indeed be a pivotal moment for Kurt. So I did that gleefully. Sorry Burt, you get to be Awesome Dad (Who Is Alive) in another one of my stories.
Three more chapters to go, folks. As always, let me have the privilege of hearing your thoughts. It's always nice to get feedback.
Chapter 8: Chapter Eight
“It's open mic night at this café I know,” Blaine said excitedly when Kurt visited him at PetPals. After Kurt came back from Ohio, they'd had several more informal outings, mostly to eat and chat as their interest in each other grew steadily now that they were fairly clear on what they were looking for. Sometimes they just stayed in at either Kurt or Blaine's place, pressed together on the sofa with a movie playing in the background. Whenever Marigold was present, she would go back and forth between the two of them, purring with pleasure as she received double the amount of stroking and scratching.
Now Kurt raised an eyebrow at Blaine as he idly looked at the dog tags on a small display on the counter. “Open mic night?”
“It's at the Ground Zero Performance Cafe and it has the best milkshakes. We could go if you're interested? I'm a regular by now and open mic night is always crazy.”
“You just want to hear me sing.”
“You would be a fantastic performer, Kurt, I know it. It's a great way to let loose and hear some really talented voices. There's this guy called Sam who usually shows up every week and he's pretty good with the guitar. He's a USC student—”
“University of Southern California?”
“Yeah, what about it?”
“Do a lot of USC students go to this café?”
“I have a good friend who goes to UCLA. It might be traitorous for me to go to a popular USC hangout.” Blaine's mouth fell open and Kurt folded his arms, laughing inwardly at Blaine's distress. Of course he was joking; Kurt never put much stock in school rivalry. Or at least he hadn't at McKinley since he hadn't been all that fond of his own school, though playing football forced him to go through the motions. Harmony would be tiffed if she ever found out, but their contact was sporadic and unless she actually went to the Ground Zero Performance Cafe herself, he doubted she would hear anything about his “betrayal.”
Meanwhile, Blaine went on panicking. “I'm sorry, Kurt, I didn't know that you were close to people from UCLA. I mean, I don't really get the competition and everything, but we can always go somewhere else.”
“I was playing with you, silly man. I'll be there with bells on.”
“I know this other place that—oh.”
“So...you'll be there?”
“I just said that I will be. With bells on.”
“Now that,” Blaine smirked, looking eerily like Sebastian for a moment, “is something I'd like to see.”
It was technically their third date and third dates were special. That was when people started to put out (in movies), that was when people started to get serious (...also in movies?), and that was when Kurt planned on asking Blaine to be his bona fide boyfriend with no disclaimers, warnings, or take-backs.
Kurt admired himself in the full-length mirror in his room as he arranged a blue scarf with tiny white spots and little bells hanging on the ends. They tinkled agreeably in the silence of his room as he turned his head this way and that, making sure that his hair was exemplary. As he took a step back to get a wider view, mostly satisfied with his appearance, his cell phone rang.
My love has come along
My lonely days are over
And life is like a song
He picked up, blushing because what would Blaine think if he ever heard the ringtone? Because really, “At Last” by Etta James? Quickly checking the time, he saw that it was 7:56PM. Blaine promised to pick him up at eight. Answering his phone, he said, “If I didn't know any better, I'd say that you were eager to get to this Monday open mic night.”
“The things I do to hear your voice,” Blaine sighed dramatically, though he ruined the effect by laughing at the end. “Now what do I have to do to get you to come out?”
“I did that years ago in high school, so you don't have to do anything.”
“You know what I mean.”
“I do.” Taking his sweet time, Kurt checked his reflection once more before saying, “Coming out right now, so don't worry about me standing you up.” Upon walking to the front door and opening, he could see Blaine standing outside, back against a beige Mercedes-Benz. He was wearing his customary bow tie, but his hair had been combed into tamed curls that made him look less severe. It looked fluffy from Kurt's point of view and he had to resist the urge to tug on a curl because there was still a healthy amount of product on Blaine's head.
“I love your scarf,” Blaine said, his gaze moving up and down leisurely despite a somewhat bashful grin splitting his cheeks.
“Do you?” came the arch reply. Kurt stepped forward for Blaine's benefit, bells tinkling brightly.
“I do. Uh.” Blaine blinked rapidly and then snapped out of his daze. “Right, we should go now. Open mic night. Yeah. Wait—” He scrambled over and opened the passenger door with a deep bow. “Your carriage awaits, Kurt Hummel.”
“But they're fantastic.”
“The calories, Blaine. The calories. It should be illegal for a milkshake to have that many calories.”
“Which is why we should split one because I'm definitely getting a milkshake and I like to keep in form. If you're worried about your figure, you really shouldn't be.”
“I...oh, fine. But nothing too sweet, Blaine.”
“Says the man who loves cheesecake.”
“I told you that in great confidence!”
Laughingly, Blaine went to place his order and Kurt sank back in his seat, surreptitiously taking in his surroundings. There were sofas where the college students were draped, squinting at their laptops, sipping lattes, and prattling eager among themselves. There were round black tables, one of which Kurt and Blaine were stationed at, and flyers advertising events, bands, and other entertainment acts. As his gaze continued to wander, the country singer who had been on the stage with dark curtains and colorful lights left and the next person gracefully flounced her way up.
His jaw dropped.
She seemed to be a regular as a few cheers rose from the frazzled college students. She waved graciously like a queen before looking back to nod at a friend near a boombox. (Were they becoming a fad again? First Sebastian, now Harmony. Maybe Kurt needed to invest in an old-fashioned boombox himself, maybe play enticing music that would somehow convince his customers to buy more than what they really needed.)
She began with a light song, almost sweet: Nancy Sinatra's “Sugar Town.”
I got some troubles, but they won't last
I'm gonna lay right down here in the grass
And pretty soon all my troubles will pass
'Cause I'm in shoo-shoo-shoo, shoo-shoo-shoo
Shoo-shoo, shoo-shoo, shoo-shoo Sugar Town
“So I got an Earl Grey Shake and it's one of the tamer options, I think,” Blaine was saying and Kurt shook the disbelief from his face to smile brightly at his companion. They grinned foolishly at each other for a second before Blaine tore his gaze away to look at Harmony. Blaine hummed thoughtfully as Kurt tried the milkshake; it tasted rather like vanilla ice cream, with just a hint of the freshness that could only come from tea.
When Harmony finished to the applause of the café, she bowed deeply, beamed her pearly whites at her audience, and then all but skipped off of the stage. Performing was a high for Harmony and Kurt watched nostalgically as she gathered the boombox and hurried over to a table where her friend, a sassy-looking black woman with short hair and a big bust, was sitting.
“I think I've seen her a couple of times,” Blaine observed casually, oblivious to Kurt's scrutinizing. “She usually does show tunes and she has a pretty incredible range.”
Kurt mouthed, “Wait for me,” and then headed over to the table. Harmony was talking so rapidly that it was a wonder she didn't stumble over her own words, but the moment she caught sight of him, she stopped and stared.
“Kurt!” She flew up and squeezed his body with her thin white arms, all but crushing his ribs. “How have you been, oh, oh, I can't believe you're here, I never thought I would see you again, ugh, isn't that dreadful, never seeing someone ever again? Wait!” Harmony drew back, still grasping his shoulders with her hands. “Now I'm still attending UCLA,” she said sternly, though the gleam in her eyes betrayed her, “so don't expect me to let you off lightly for this.”
“Then what are you doing here?”
“Their milkshakes are adequate,” she allowed, “and I have to gain exposure in any way I can.” Then her eyes widened as she finally let go of him, her hands flying up to her mouth. “Is—is that your boyfriend?”
“What?” Kurt whirled around only to see that Blaine had followed him, hands tucked in his pockets as he looked at Kurt sheepishly.
“We haven't made it official,” Blaine said to Harmony who was practically vibrating. “But if you'd be so kind as to be our witness...” He turned to Kurt and grasped a pale hand, holding it reverently. “Kurt Hummel, will you go steady with me?” This time, there was a hint of disquiet because Kurt had put it off once. Well, no longer, even if Blaine had once again asked first.
“What era are you from?” Harmony shrieked excitedly.
Kurt tossed his head back, grinning so hard that he thought his face would split in half. Then he brought himself back down to look into Blaine's hazel eyes. “I think you should know by now that I'm always going to say yes. Unless you wear plaid and stripes on our next date.”
“Something tells me that one day, you're going to end up picking out my clothes.”
The performer after Harmony, a blond young man with a guitar and porn star lips, finished a sweet cover of Jason Mraz's “I Won't Give Up,” and Blaine pecked Kurt's lips before bounding up, leaving his newly minted boyfriend to gaze curiously up at him. Harmony tugged at his arm and he remembered to grab the Earl Grey Shake before joining Harmony and her friend who was named Unique. There was a quick exchange as he complimented her shoes and she pointed out his scarf.
His attention went back to Blaine as he adjusted the microphone, smacked his head, and hurried back down to wink at Kurt and whisper into Harmony's ear. She eyed him speculatively but passed the boombox over to him. He hurried back to the stage.
“Hi everyone, my name's Blaine Anderson.”
A few people chorused, “Hi Blaine.”
“I made this arrangement with an a capella group from high school and I think most of you still remember this song. No lie, it was one of my favorites to sing. So I hope you like it.”
He played the boombox and took the stage, and Kurt had to catch his breath because some people were born to be on the stage and some people weren't, talent and charisma and luck all factoring in a person's success story. He knew full well the intensity of Rachel Berry and the high-energy determination from Harmony, but Blaine was breathtaking. He drew the awareness of nearly everyone in Ground Zero as he sang, almost softly:
Before you met me, I was alright
But things were kind heavy, you brought me to life
Now every February, you'll be my Valentine, Valentine
“I think I need a new ringtone,” Kurt said to Harmony, hand over his heart. She nodded, just as stunned as he was.
Let's go all the way tonight
No regrets, just love
We can dance until we die
You and I, we'll be young forever
Blaine spun a neat circle and pointed at Kurt, backed up only by voices that harmonized many years ago, when Kurt and Blaine hadn't known the other existed. Kurt imagined then a group of boys, dressed in their blazers and ties, following this wonderfully talented man in front of him, never knowing that their voices had been immortalized only to played over and over again.
You make me feel like I'm living a teenage dream
The way you turn me on, I can't sleep
Let's run away and don't ever look back
Don't ever look back
When Blaine finished, sweating a little under the lights but glowing with pure joy, Kurt was the first to leap to his feet and clap.
The night went on and on. Harmony and Unique did a beautiful rendition of Beyoncé's “Best Thing I Never Had.” Kurt and Blaine put their heads together and decided on a Beatles medley that they were winging, accompanied only by Sam Evans (the blond with the lips who was one of Blaine's friends) and his guitar. Part of the medley included a minute-long solo on Kurt's part and although his focus remained on his entranced audience (how long had it been?), he couldn't help but notice the way Blaine went perfectly still when he sang the first few lines of “Blackbird.”
But at the end of their performance, one unruly college student yelled out, “Hey, come on, man, I didn't come here to see two guys all over each other.”
Ground Zero fell silent as the surrounding customers turned to look at the college student who had a squashed face like a bulldog and wide shoulders. Kurt chanced a look at Blaine who seemed frozen, and then took matters into his own hands as he leaned into the microphone. “My boyfriend and I are celebrating our relationship tonight and I apologize that we refuse to bend to the whims of an uneasy straight male.”
The student sputtered something out like “'I'm not like homophobic, just—”
“If you have anything to say to my friends,” Harmony said loudly at that moment, crossing her arms, “then you can say it to all of us.”
Unique backed her up with a loud “Hmph!” and there was a murmur of assent. The college student wheeled around, looking for a friendly face, and threw his hands up when he realized he was overwhelmed.
“Fine, then!” he growled out unpleasantly. “I'll just leave if you all like being around Shorty and his fairy boyfriend.”
“Hey!” Now Blaine surged forward, eyes spitting fire. “You don't get to talk about my boyfriend like that.”
The student merely flipped him off before stomping out of the café.
“You just watch,” Unique commented, suitably amused with the immature display of prejudice. “He's gonna have a harder time at school if everyone knows he's a narrow-minded hothead.”
But the damage had been done. Though most of the other customers threw sympathetic looks at Kurt and Blaine, Kurt could see a few discomfited people who refused to look at either of them properly. Los Angeles wasn't Lima, but total acceptance was still impossible in any place on the planet. He reached out to Blaine, tentatively touching his shoulder. Blaine was tensed like a panther, eyes still dark and glittering with anger and anxiety, but he sagged a bit at Kurt's touch.
“Hey,” Kurt said, keeping his voice soothingly quiet, “you wanna get out of here?”
“Yes,” his boyfriend said immediately. “Yes, let's do that.”
This time they were at Blaine's place, a small but comfortable flat with low tables and soft sofas in plaid. The walls would have been a blank white except they were scrawled over with drawings. Some of them were Curly, leering over a table, crouched over a door, or floating in an expanse of white. Kurt counted the sketches as Blaine turned on the lights and made to run a hand through his hair before huffing, remembering the gel.
“That wasn't how I wanted our date to end,” he mused almost to himself, a certain self-deprecation in his voice, but Kurt wouldn't let him.
“It's better than Ohio,” Kurt shrugged, only bothered because Blaine was bothered.
“It's just I don't understand why there are people who would—”
“And I'm telling you that it would be a waste of time.” Kurt took Blaine's hands to stop his wringing. “They hate us because they don't understand us either, or because they're afraid of differences. They don't matter. Don't let them ruin tonight because I thought it was pretty much perfect.”
Blaine worked his mouth for a moment before glancing down at their hands. “I don't, I don't know what to say,” he confessed, laughing a bit. “But thank you. For, uhm, being my boyfriend.”
“Trust me when I say I should be thanking you.”
They chuckled over that because it was evident they would have to agree to disagree, but then the weight of the situation settled because they were alone at Blaine's flat, still energized from the performances and the milkshakes, and Kurt frantically tried to stem the stream of thoughts that chanted steadily, Third date third date third date.
“Um,” Blaine said awkwardly. “We, uh, could watch a movie?”
“Or...we could do something else.”
“Oh god.” Blaine moved away from Kurt and buried his face in his hands. “I didn't plan for any of this, you know. It's not—I mean, you're gorgeous and we know each other better now, but I don't want to pressure you or anything. And I just realized that the song I sang—we don't have to go all the way tonight oh god I just quoted it that's so...”
“We don't.” Kurt paused and licked his lips. His throat was dry. “We don't have to go all the way. But I would like to do something. With you. If you want.”
“I do want,” Blaine blurted out thoughtlessly.
Oh, Kurt thought. Oh. “Well,” he said aloud, “come here.”
They moved together simultaneously, unable to take their eyes off of each other. Blaine took Kurt's hand again and his skin was so warm and alive that Kurt had to take deep breaths because hyperventilating before sex really wasn't a good idea. He was nervous, of course he was nervous, with apprehension practically streaking through his bloodstream because he's only had sex with two people and only actual intercourse a handful of times, never mind that he wasn't going all the way with Blaine tonight.
But it was Blaine. Blaine who loved the color red and drawing on his walls and animals and medium drips. Blaine who was gazing at him now with tender eyes that also had a hint of anxiety, and it relieved Kurt because they both wanted to do this right.
There was still so much that he didn't know. Blaine established that he didn't want to be a street artist for the rest of his life, but what were his alternate plans? What about his family who never contacted him anymore?
And still there were the smaller things that seemed less important, like whether or not Blaine liked mushrooms, if he had allergies, if he was an only child. These were the details that made Blaine a human being, someone as real as Kurt was. He didn't know why Blaine had become the man he was right now, but that didn't change the fact that he knew who Blaine was.
We wish to achieve a supernatural understanding that can only occur if two people are truly soul mates, but if such a thing is not possible, then the next best is to find someone who will change you for the better. Love is not the end result; you are the end result.
He kissed Blaine. He kissed him not because people have told him all his life that he shouldn't kiss boys. Not because he hadn't been in a relationship for the past year. And least of all because he practically had no family to speak of and a dream that was never realized.
He kissed Blaine because it was the basest form of communication between two people in love, or well on their way to being in love, and because you couldn't share everything about yourself with another person.
He kissed Blaine because he accepted that he could only love the Blaine he knew so far and was going to know, not the Blaine he wished he had known from beginning to present.
So Blaine kissed him back with a fervor that had been absent in all of their earlier kisses, as if he had been restraining himself from taking what he wanted. Then, gently, he pulled back and pressed lighter and sweeter kisses on Kurt's face and neck. He hesitated with his lips still on Kurt's neck, mouthing a question into the paler man's skin. Deliberately, Kurt nodded as a way of answering. For some reason, the stirrings of arousal were almost lazy, heat simmering on the surface of his skin. It would be so easy with Blaine and he wanted it like a child wanted; simply and without reservations.
Blaine kissed him on the neck one more time and then led him to the bedroom.
“Tell me about you and Sebastian.”
It was later that night and they were under the covers on Blaine's bed. They were both gloriously naked, basking in the afterglow with their noses touching and hands clasping. They had been whispering about silly things, light things, things like an inexperienced mother who went into Kurt's store with her four-year-old child. The child picked his nose and proceed to stick his germ-infested finger into every piece of clothing he'd seen before Kurt hustled mother and child out with an irate “Watch your son, lady!”
Now as their knees knocked together, Blaine furrowed his eyebrows. “Why do you want to know?”
“I know you two are just friends now.” Kurt snuggled into the pillow, petting Blaine's hair when he began to get agitated. “Honestly, I'm not worried. I want to know, that's all. I want to know more about you and you've had past relationships. There's nothing wrong with that.”
Slowly, Blaine relaxed because it was true. What was the point of making a past relationship into a bigger deal than it was? “What do you know so far?”
“Quinn said you all met a couple years back and Sebastian tried to have a one-night stand with you. She didn't say much besides the fact that you two were sort of friends with benefits for a while before you decided you wanted something more than that.”
“Okay.” Blaine nodded, searching for a way to start. “So it was two years back and it happened like you said. The morning after, I was pretty embarrassed because I'm not someone who looks for one-night stands, even though I avoided one with Sebastian that time. I had a long-term relationship before except it didn't last that long in the end. So I ended up becoming friends with Quinn first because she said, and I'm quoting her on this, that I 'need a friend who actually has a brain.' She was more worried for me than she let on because Sebastian wouldn't stop, uh, bothering me after I refused him.”
“How did he find a way to bother you?” Kurt asked, interested despite himself.
“He got my name at the bar and it was just a matter of finding my number and then where I worked part-time.” Blaine trailed off and looked at Kurt straight in the eye. “I'm not proud of what happened next, Kurt. He was persistent, but he would have left me alone if I tried harder. But I gave in after a while.”
Blaine told him. The combination of having a disapproving family and one failed relationship caused Blaine to think that maybe something was fundamentally wrong with him. Perhaps that was a bit dramatic; what he meant was that he wondered if he was trying to rush into relationships. Would it be so wrong to have a—well, not a friend, but an acquaintance with benefits? Maybe it was a sign of desperation that only lonely men could have, but he wasn't sure if he wanted to face more rejection, especially since he tended to be very invested.
“It was casual.” Blaine stroked Kurt's arm as if grounding himself. “And something that is casually begun can also be casually ended. That was my thought process when I agreed to see Sebastian. We weren't boyfriends, it never came to that, but we did do a lot of things that were...you know.”
But after the initial haze of easy attraction and lust, it became tiresome for Blaine. “It's pointless to have sex without feelings if you're looking for more than simple pleasure. So I ended it and Sebastian didn't really care. He always had another warm body lined up. I decided I was going to look for long-term relationships again. And, well, I mentioned the last guy I sort of dated. Like I said, he wasn't out and it ended badly. That was almost a year ago and I didn't find anyone I was interested in until you walked into my store.”
“Of all the pet stores, in all the towns, in all the world, I walked into yours.” Kurt couldn't help but giggle, touching Blaine's cheek.
“Excuse me, Kurt Ilsa Hummel, but that was supposed to be my line.”
“You were too slow. I couldn't watch for you to catch up.”
“I'm going to have to catch up to you a lot, huh?”
“I'll always be waiting.”
They snickered together in the dark, kicking their feet against each other like children playing hide and seek at night. “All right, Kurt Hummel,” Blaine began challengingly, “I've talked about my last relationship. Now I believe I get to hear about yours.”
“Oh no, you don't get to hear about my last relationship, it was disastrous.”
“Now I have to know.”
“No no no, I'm saving that one for a really good or bad time. I'll tell you about my first relationship. It was when I was in Ohio and I met Chandler at Between-The-Sheets.”
“That sounds a sex toy shop.”
“I will bite you, Blaine Anderson, don't think I won't.”
“I might be into that, actually—ow! That wasn't sexy at all.”
“Good. And it wasn't a sex toy shop. I was looking for sheet music. It was the summer after graduation and I had to pass the time somehow. I was thinking about writing a musical because I couldn't go to any schools in New York and if I couldn't perform, I might as well get involved in other ways. So there I was, minding my own business, when Chandler appears like—oh, I don't know. He was very good at sneaking up on people.”
“I think I need a mental image of this Chandler.”
“Blond hair, big glasses, and the most awful hats. Generally speaking, it was a dark period in my life.”
“You must have seen something in him.”
“To be fair, he asked for my number first, and we mostly went on coffee dates. Sometimes we went shopping or to the movies, but he was a little too...enthusiastic? We both liked talking way too much and we could get into the most awful fights because we disagreed over the smallest details and he would get all passive-aggressive and, oh fine, I would be passive-aggressive too. It only lasted about two weeks when he figured we couldn't stand each other and I figured that I really wasn't all that attracted to him. I just liked the way he made me feel.”
“Did you guys talk at all after that?”
“Ah, no... You see, a week later, my dad died.”
Blaine tightened his grip on Kurt, and then moved even closer so that their bodies were plastered together and there was barely room to breathe. The presence of a solid warm body (and not that just; a solid warm body that belonged to Blaine) made Kurt feel comforted, even safe. He could hear the apologies on Blaine's skin as the street artist smoothed a hand over Kurt's shoulder, wrapping to anchor him.
“So,” Kurt continued, “I never really got around to talking to Chandler after that. I was otherwise occupied.”
Blaine could hear a context that wasn't being said, one that he didn't know. “Kurt, did you go to college at all?”
His boyfriend nuzzled him gently, sadly. “Not that year.”
“It's been a while,” Kurt said.
The older Rachel Berry only patted his hand. In actuality, they were the same age in his dream. He had caught up to her at last and now they sat together, not quite colleagues and not quite strangers.
“He's worth it, you know.”
“Worth what?” Rachel Berry asked, hand in chin and eyes far, far away.
“He's worth staying for. I used to have this backup idea in my mind, when the perfect situation would arise and I could run away to New York. I always thought that it wasn't too late to begin, that I could still make it if I wanted it enough. I know that it doesn't matter as much because I'm...I'm happy. I didn't think I could be this happy.”
“Happiness is not the absence of sadness,” Rachel noted, quirking an eyebrow at him. “Neither is it the absence of fear. And you're both sad and afraid. But of what?”
“I'm sad that I never got to talk to you like this. And afraid because there's still that chance that I can. You made it, Rachel.”
“I did, and what about it?”
“Are you happy?”
“Ask me that in person,” she said with a tone of finality, flicking her fingers at him dismissively. But he could see a smile stealing over her face and it was wrong, all wrong, because he didn't know what she looked like when she smiled now in reality.
And that was the point.
“Good-bye, Kurt Hummel,” she said to him, and shattered.
Two more chapters to go. I got a lot of strings to tie up so hang onto your seats.
There is an actual Ground Zero Performance Cafe. I'm been using both fictional and real locations in this story, so I hope I'm not confusing anyone.
As you've probably realized by now, this is not really a story about graffiti. This is a story about Kurt Hummel. ...But I'll leave the author's spiel for the very end. Just don't expect too much illegal vandalizing in the last few chapters because I need to stuff in some relationship building.
Feedback is always appreciated especially since I'm drawing to a close. The next two chapters are a bit shorter. Anyone want to take a stab at guessing the ending?
Chapter 9: Chapter Nine
You got a fast car
I want a ticket to anywhere
Maybe we make a deal
Maybe together we can get somewhere
Anyplace is better
Starting from zero got nothing to lose
Maybe we'll make something
But me myself I got nothing to prove
He didn't let himself worry about money. Kurt had a credit and a debit card, and there was enough for him to make it all the way to California if he wanted to, as long as he was careful about spending. Maybe he should stop in a couple of towns, get a part-time job, and then form a more solid plan.
Kurt was eighteen and still a teenager, and as a teenager, he'd thought about running away a few times—no, even younger, when he was six or seven and thought about running away from home. It seemed more like a phase of life seen in television than anything else and he would make lists of items he needed to take. His teacup set, Power Rangers, a stuffed cat, his favorite bow tie, twenty dollars. (Twenty dollars was a lot to his six or seven-year-old mind. Kurt thought about New York and choked back a laugh.) Of course, at eighteen, he was a little more worldly, a little smarter, and he had the sense to bring food, water, clothing, his license, and other miscellaneous items that he had bought for college (can opener, cutlery, sewing kit).
Come to think of it, his packing had been rather thorough despite the abrupt departure.
For the first time in days, Kurt laughed until he had to pull over because his sides were hurting.
He'd brought his phone with him and at the moment, he didn't know if that had been a smart move or not. Could the police trace him? It was probably for the best that he use it as sparingly as possible. He would call Aunt Laurel from a payphone to ease some of her worrying. He hadn't even left a note.
Kurt never felt so undirected, so purposeless. That was the point of having goals, otherwise you wouldn't go anywhere in life. That was what he believed, at least. For the last few years, he thought it was fairly straightforward. Survive high school, get into college (preferably somewhere out of Ohio), and then work himself to the bone until he made it on Broadway. There were backup plans, of course there were backup plans, but now everything came to a screeching halt because he hadn't expected for his father to die.
He hadn't expected to go at it alone because maybe he would have gone to college and to New York alone, but at least he would have had family.
Kurt was eighteen and too smart to ask the pointless questions, like why this had to happen to him or why it had to happen to his father of all people. Like why Rachel Berry had not only the talent but the financial support to go straight to New York. Like why he had to be a homosexual man because life would have been so much easier for him otherwise.
At eighteen, he had to learn the lesson that he was not invincible, and neither were the people around him.
He was crazed for doing this. How long could he keep this up? If he went back, Aunt Laurel would take him in. She was the only relative from Burt's side of the family that kept in contact anymore and she appeared concerned enough for him. She wouldn't push if he didn't want her to. She would support him and not even think about replacing Burt. He could still go to Ohio State and it wasn't a bad college, just not what he wanted, but he'd always known that. He could still go back and no one would realize he had left in the first place.
The thought of turning back made him sick to his stomach.
It wasn't as if he hated leaving home. He wanted to make a clean break from Ohio eventually. This just wasn't how he imagined it would happen.
Kurt wasn't going to go back. Not until he'd made something of himself.
You got a fast car
But is it fast enough so you can fly away
You gotta make a decision
You leave tonight or live and die this way
Kurt was making dinner for a change. It was nice to have the privacy of a simple meal at home, and eating out too often was expensive. He hadn't had good ravioli in a while anyway.
Blaine was out in the living room, trying to put Marigold into his lap, but she meowed in protest and kept leaping off to settle on the opposite side of the room, grooming her fur and eyeing Blaine with a reproachful air. She was an independent lady; she only sat in your lap if she wanted to, and she still preferred Kurt's company.
“She doesn't like me!” Blaine bemoaned, loud enough for Kurt to hear.
“She likes you just fine. She lets you pet her whenever you come over, isn't that enough?”
“You cats are cruel,” Blaine said to Marigold, reduced to stroking behind her ears. She blinked languidly at him, unmoved by his words. “Come on, sit here, Marigold.” He patted his lap again and she didn't move. “Kurt said that I'm like a heat generator. My lap would be awesome. You should try it.”
“Stop harassing my cat.”
Blaine sang to an unimpressed Marigold, “They give me cat scratch fever, cat scratch fever—”
“Ted Nugent. I guess it's not your style.”
Kurt stuck his head out from the kitchen to pin a severe look on his significant other. “I'll have you know that my taste in music goes far and wide.”
“Oh yes, it's very broad. Like Broadway.”
“I take musical theatre very seriously and if you don't shut up, I'm going to burn your ravioli.”
Blaine actually did shut up for a while, contenting himself with Marigold who finally curled up in his lap after he stopped trying to pick her up. He hummed strains of songs that he knew Kurt loved, sticking to anything from Wicked.
“What is your favorite song?” he asked, breaking the silence.
“That's easy, it's 'Defying Gravity.' There's something very powerful about it, something very free...”
“I bet you could sing it. You could make a show-stopping Elphaba.”
There was a deliberate clashing of pans and running water. Deep sigh. “Blaine.”
Blaine wasn't the smartest man in the world, not when it came to human beings. But he was starting to know Kurt with a certain intimacy that lent a bold and assuming force to his words, intimacy that brought tentative knowledge. “Kurt, I saw you at Ground Zero. I think you want to perform, or you wanted it once.”
“What about you? You're an amazing singer too.”
“Don't make this about me, Kurt, don't do that.”
“Maybe I don't appreciate you springing an irrelevant topic on me when all I want is a nice dinner with my boyfriend.”
“There's something else you're not telling me.”
“Are you really going to push, Blaine?”
“I think it's important.” Finally, Blaine set Marigold aside and walked over to the kitchen. He saw Kurt, slumped over the counter and his shoulders hunched all the way up to his ears, and he softened. He ran a hand down Kurt's back, silently asking permission, and wrapped an arm around Kurt's waist when the shop owner nodded. “I was talking to Quinn. She mentioned that one of her former classmates was part of a Broadway revival cast. Her name is Rachel Berry.”
What Kurt heard was the name “Rachel Berry,” but what he actually heard roaring in his ears was the sound of his two worlds, kept so carefully apart, suddenly crashing into each other until they were one and the same, leaving only remnants behind. What he heard were the sounds of Rachel Berry's voice, and how his was only ever really heard by his father and Mercedes. What he heard were the endless put-downs extracted from his peers and amplified in his head (not good enough, not talented enough, not conventional enough) until they were all he could hear.
What he heard was Blaine saying his name over and over again, “Kurt. Kurt. Kurt! ”
He was clutching his head, bent over the sink as if he were about to puke. Blaine had one hand on his arm and the other on his cheek, meeting Kurt's blank gaze. “Hey, hey, Kurt, it's okay. I'm sorry I pushed. Take deep breaths for me. I'm sorry.”
Kurt sucked in air like a suffocating man before letting Blaine steer him over to the dining table where they could both sit. Blaine bent to look at him, but Kurt turned his head away, ashamed.
“Kurt?” Blaine murmured, sounding apologetic and guilty.
“What does Rachel Berry have to do with anything?” Kurt threw out, voice strangled.
“Nothing, forget I said anything. I won't push again.”
“No. You've gone too far. You might as well finish what you were saying before. What do you know about Rachel Berry?”
Blaine stalled momentarily, glancing furtively at Kurt, but when there were no further questions, he let out a breath and respectfully put a few inches of space between the two of them. “I know she made her Broadway debut two years ago in a revival of Annie Get Your Gun. She's had a few minor roles in TV shows and movies. I know she went to McKinley with you and went on to Tisch. She was in glee club and you weren't because McKinley was a horrible place for people like us. I know that she has two gay dads and one of her favorite Broadway musical songs is 'Defying Gravity.' I know that you wanted to go to New York and perform, just like she did. And I'm sorry, Kurt, that you never got the chance to.”
“I did have a chance,” Kurt argued at this point, and he glared at Blaine. “I did, and I threw it away because my dad died and I wasn't confident enough and now it's too late.”
“Kurt, it's never—”
“Yes, it is! You know what, Blaine? I didn't go to college. I've taken classes when I could afford to, but after my dad died, I decided I had to be alone. I wasn't going to burden my aunt or my homophobic relatives with my presence or my expenses. But if he hadn't died...” He broke off and stared blankly across the table. “If he hadn't died, I would have gone to Ohio State. And then I would have gone to New York somehow. Maybe I would transfer or move after graduation, but I would have found a way. But he died and I was alone. And he was the most important person in my life. Gone, just like that.”
“I'm sorry, Kurt.”
“They all seemed so silly after that. My—dreams. What was the point of going to college and New York if he was gone? But I was a childish teenager who didn't know how to deal with grief, and I regret running away. I regret it so much. I wish I had gone to college. I wish I tried harder because that's what my dad would have wanted. It's not his fault that he died.”
He finished recounting and kept his gaze firmly on the tabletop. He had more or less babbled to Blaine, and half of him relieved that he emptied his thoughts at all, the ones he had held onto for so long that they were forever imprinted in his mind.
Because it was all mixed up, all of it. How much had grief played a part in his reckless move to leave Ohio the way he did? Or the cowardice that he never knew he had—fear of having Aunt Laurel as a parent figure instead of his father, fear of going to New York and calling home only to remember that Burt wasn't going to pick up. Perhaps even the confusion that plagued every person his age had a hand; of growing up, of leaving all that was familiar, of losing all that was familiar. (Of being at an even greater disadvantage compared to Rachel Berry.) Eventually, the emotions passed and he was able to maintain a semblance of a balanced life.
But even then, his best years had been behind him. He'd lost them slowly, leaving them with his mother, his father.
What was the point?
I learned that I could be special in a different way. I had experiences. I had people I loved. Making it didn't matter as much because even if I lost my voice, I would still have something.
“I have an older brother.”
Blaine spoke the words calmly, as if he were passing the time by chatting about anything and everything.
Kurt didn't say anything. He didn't have to. He merely listened.
“There's an eight-year difference between us, so we weren't really close at all. He was aspiring to be an actor when I was still in high school and he was in a couple of ads and films, nothing big. My parents didn't approve especially since he was hopping all over the place, but Cooper's mistakes were nothing compared to mine.”
“Your parents are officially idiots.”
“They were a bit narrow-minded. It didn't help after I came out to them. They used to be critical, but then they started to be deliberately...”
“Distant. They didn't like me singing or performing before, and now they saw it as a sign or effect of my sexuality. Obviously that meant they wouldn't support me at all. It also didn't help that I got beat up my freshman year.”
“Hey, hey, hey.” Blaine squished into Kurt's seat to hold him, making soothing noises. “It was a long time ago. I stupidly went to a Sadie Hawkins dance with the only other openly gay kid at school and we got beat up when we were waiting for his dad. Our injuries could have been more severe, but I transferred to Dalton anyway. Dalton with its zero-tolerance bullying policy was everything I'd dreamed of and it wasn't perfect, but it helped me figure out who I was without danger. I'm sorry that you never got to do that in high school.”
Kurt traced the veins on Blaine's arm, lost in his thoughts. “What happened to the guys who beat you up?”
“They were suspended for a week and had detention for the rest of the school year.”
Making a noise of distress, Kurt squirmed around until he could see Blaine properly. “You could have died.”
“I told you our injuries could have been more severe. It doesn't matter, they were never going to accept me at school. What hurt me most was that my parents couldn't do the same. I tried to get back some of their approval by majoring in business and never talking about my boyfriends, not like I had many, but it was easier to be myself when I was farther away.”
“So after college...”
“So I went and graduated college only to become a street artist. Sometimes I don't know if I made the right decision in losing contact with my parents because I won't have to see or hear their disappointment, but I can't stop imagining it. I don't know what's worse.”
“You,” Kurt grasped Blaine's face, “have done nothing wrong. Take pride in yourself because I do.”
Blaine lifted his head, shocked speechless as if he'd never heard those words before.
“It's not your fault that they can't accept or support who you are. All you can do is find a way to be happy. And if you can't be happy, then be interested.”
“I am happy.” Blaine tilted his head. “And I know now that I can't control my parents. Neither can you.”
“What I was trying to say from the beginning is that you may regret parts of your past, but you didn't control the circumstances. You didn't wish it on yourself and though it was your choice to leave Ohio, that doesn't mean you've lost everything.”
“If I had been stronger—if I had held onto what was important to me—”
“Do you really regret everything about your life here?”
There was a note of sadness underneath Blaine's placid exterior, and Kurt scrambled to say, “No, Blaine, I don't regret meeting you or owning Timeless or anything else, really. But I feel like I wasted what potential I had. I know it's hard being a performer in New York, but I wanted to give it a shot.”
“Like Rachel Berry.”
“And she succeeded.”
“Do you hate her?”
“No!” Kurt shook his head, hair flying around his face. He really needed to get it cut. “I don't hate her. I was just...sad.”
Because I think that we could have been friends. And being friends with her would have been so much easier than resenting her for factors she couldn't control. Maybe life in Ohio would have been different if I joined glee club or tried talking to her nicely. At the time, I didn't want my life to be more complicated. Now I don't know anymore because maybe I would have been happier, but I'm happy now. Does that negate everything bad that's happened to me? Of course it doesn't. But would I trade one for the other?
“And now?” Blaine prompted, and Kurt understood the question for what it was.
“Now I'm happy too,” he admitted, but it felt less like a concession and more like a promise. Blaine's eyes were tender and they were kissing, unaware that the ravioli was burning in the kitchen or that Quinn had just run into her old flame Puck at the hardware store or that Sebastian was printing fake money with a particularly smug smirk on his face. They were unaware that in New York, Rachel Berry was drinking hot water with lemon and honey as she always did nowadays before going to bed, and as she did so, she thought about the new Broadway musical she was going to star in.
But that was life because you would always miss moments, some that were important and some that were not, some that were related to you and some that were not. The good news was that you wouldn't miss all of the pivotal moments; in fact, the ones that you didn't miss were usually the only ones that mattered in the end.
What he saw behind his eyes were bursts of color; dotted violet lines crossing his body, green vines climbing up his arms, blue scales lining his thighs, and red streaks painting his face. He felt like he belonged in a Froot Loops commercial, except his surroundings were dark and the colors on his skin lit up so that he was the brightest firework in the night sky. Distantly, he could hear the sound of applause from somewhere below, a small thundering noise that seemed to come from no apparent source.
He opened his eyes just in time to see Blaine lean back, a satisfied curl to his lovely mouth, and paintbrush in hand.
“What did you do to me?”
“Had a nice nap, Sleeping Beauty?”
“I was mentally preparing myself,” Kurt explained loftily, stretching his arms up above him. He casually looked over the walls of the living room, taking in the cream-colored surface. Quietly, he made a decision.
Blaine didn't notice Kurt's thoughtful expression as he brought over a hand mirror. “Were you mentally preparing yourself to see your face?” he teased. With a flourish, he held up the mirror so Kurt could see the distinctly plum and smokey gray swirls shadowing his cheeks and eyes.
“Like out of a Mardi Gras parade,” Blaine enthused.
Seeing his face only strengthened Kurt's resolve as he moved the mirror out of the way, getting Blaine's attention as he did so. “Blaine,” he began, “would you like to help me redecorate my house?”
“You want to redecorate?” Blaine squinted, surprise written all over his face.
“More like I've been thinking about painting the walls. I wouldn't mind giving this place a more cheerful color scheme. And it would be nice to have something artsy to remind me of you...” Kurt snapped his mouth shut at Blaine's stunned countenance. “But if you don't want to, I completely understand. It's a lot of work and I can do it on my own.”
“Kurt,” Blaine said, stroking one of the painted swirls affectionately, “of course I want to.”
Kurt was sitting up now, straightening his back and fussing over his hair self-consciously. “I just don't want you to think that I'm forcing you or abusing my significant other privileges, even though that's more or less what I'm doing.”
Blaine silenced him with a touch of his hand. “I'm going to do this because I love you and I never mind having more blank space for me to unleash my artistic creativity upon. So if anything, I'm the one who will be abusing my significant other privileges, which you were not doing in the first place.” He caressed Kurt's neck and cocked his head to the side, grinning like the mischievous young boy he must have been. “Okay?”
“Okay,” Kurt whispered, awed by Blaine's glowing silhouette. He loves me.
“I'll take care of it, okay?”
“I'm going to kiss you now.”
“And then,” Blaine deepened à la James Earl Jones, “I am going to put my penis against your penis—”
“You most certainly will not if that's how you talk dirty!” Kurt cried, mock-indignant. The spell Blaine had put him under was broken and he slapped Blaine lightly on the forearm.
Blaine was laughing his head off, wheezing from the force of his gasping, and he rolled onto the carpet where Kurt pounced on him, the two of them pinching and squealing as if they were teenagers again. When they cooled down, panting in the other's mouth (and hello, when did they start kissing and touching like that?), Kurt braced himself on his arms to get a better view of Blaine spread out underneath him, a loose curl adorning his forehead and beads of sweat shining on his darker skin.
“I love you too, you know. And thank you,” Kurt said.
“Hey, don't thank me until after you see what I'm going to do to your walls.”
“Not for that. Okay, not only for that. But thank you.”
“For being you.”
Blaine pulled Kurt back down so that they were nose-to-nose, chest-to-chest. Kurt could feel how hard Blaine was against his stomach, but it was secondary in the face of Blaine's softly glowing eyes. “Trust me,” Blaine asserted, “you never have to thank me for that.” And he sealed it with a kiss and then some.
He was on a stage of some sorts, the biggest and flashiest stage he'd ever seen. He could hear the chorus members singing as they flounced about in a myriad of costumes, everything from a football uniform to a ballerina tutu. There were so many of them that they piled on top of each other, steady notes still pouring out of their cherry-red mouths, arms waving and gesturing.
Then a podium rose from the pile of singing human bodies and there was Rachel Berry, wearing a long red coat and carrying two suitcases, her expression rapturous.
“NYC,” she sang, “just got here this morning. Three bucks, two bags, one me.”
And then another voice continued, “NYC, I give you fairing warning. Up there, in lights, I'll be.”
It was his voice, and now Kurt was walking up stairs (where did the stairs come from?) as the spotlight fell on him. He was wearing something, no, he was wearing a suit, a dark gray number, and he ascended the podium to offer Rachel his arm. She took it, smiling widely at him with sparkling eyes, and he looked out at their adoring fans.
Gradually, the music slowed and...
“Forget your troubles...”
“And just get happy...”
“Are here again...”
“You better chase all your cares away / The skies above are clear again.”
They sang on in the light and Rachel squeezed his arm once as if to say, This is how it should have been. Then: darkness.
Kurt woke up in tears.
The song at the beginning is “Fast Car,” sung by Tracy Chapman. The two songs Kurt and Rachel sing in the end are “NYC” from the musical Annie and obviously “Get Happy/Happy Days Are Here Again.”
Chapter 10: Chapter Ten
“Of course you were going to bring Quinn and Sebastian. Why did it even cross my mind that you wouldn't?”
“Are you mad at me?” Blaine pouted.
“I'm not mad, I just...” Really didn't want anyone else, least of all Sebastian, to see me in overalls. But Kurt couldn't deny that painting would go a lot faster with two extra sets of hands and really, he did like Quinn and Sebastian, and he liked their artwork. Even if Sebastian was currently looking at all of the pictures in his apartment and Quinn was nosing around the bookcase.
“You had a serious case of baby cheeks back in the day, Princess,” Sebastian said with almost malicious glee.
“You have Crime and Punishment, but you don't have The Brothers Karamazov?” The Pink Lady was wearing her “I am judging you and I'm not going to bother pretending that I'm not” look and while Kurt had never been the direct victim of her look before, he certainly didn't appreciate it.
“Now that you've all had a good look at my personal belongings,” Kurt said loudly, “let the painting commence. And please, nothing vulgar or inappropriate, or else I will be forced to unleash my cat on every piece of dark clothing you own.”
Sebastian raised his hand. “Does my face count as inappropriate?”
“Every. Piece. Of clothing.”
“Does he talk like that in bed?” Quinn asked Blaine conversationally.
The three street artists worked with the same degree of intensity that they brought to their street art as well. Kurt had a mild problem in his hands when Quinn staunchly refused to use anything other than the pink paints she had brought with her, but in the end, he convinced her to stick with red. Unfortunately, she kept painting shadows of objects (did a fireplace really need a shadow?) and with the particular shade of dark maroon she'd chosen, his furniture appeared to be bleeding.
He had an even bigger problem when Sebastian sneaked into his bedroom under the guise of a bathroom break to hurriedly paint a rainbow right above his desk, all without putting tarp down or even dusting the place in preparation.
“It's dripping,” Kurt lamented, all but whimpering at the sight.
“If you say that rainbows are inappropriate, I'd have to slap you.”
“That's my line.”
“You have to admit it cheers the place up,” Quinn pointed out, although she made it clear she wasn't taking sides by pinching Sebastian's abdomen, pointedly ignoring his pained yelp. Kurt joined in the pinching, heaping insult after insult on Sebastian's head, as Blaine stood by and examined the rainbow, thinking privately to himself that it did brighten up Kurt's room although of course it was rude to paint a rainbow without Kurt's permission—it wasn't gentlemanly.
After the initial anger, Kurt sent Sebastian to his own little corner where he stood sulking, running his brush everywhere and playing obnoxious music on his boombox. Kurt complained at first because “You have the audacity to not only ruin the interior of my house but also play offending music?” Quick to resolve arguments as always, Blaine helped the two compromise on certain song selections and Quinn snickered from the sidelines, painting her bloody shadows.
Turned out that Sebastian could sing as well, and more than once they had to stop painting, look up the lyrics to a song they all managed to agree on, and then start to harmonize.
Some nights, I stay up cashing in my bad luck
Some nights, I call it a draw
Some nights, I wish that my lips could build a castle
Some nights, I wish they'd just fall off
Blaine and Sebastian were leading men, easily trading off the main lyrics as Quinn hummed in the background. Kurt felt his heart pulse faintly—he'd once believed he had the talent and charisma to be a leading man—and as Blaine met his gaze and grinned wide, he had to smile back.
But I still wake up, I still see your ghost
Oh Lord, I'm still not sure what I stand for oh
What do I stand for? What do I stand for?
Most nights, I don't know anymore...
As Sebastian contented himself with mini-versions of the rainbow he'd left in Kurt's room (Kurt was going to paint over that with vengeance) along with tiny forest animals (at least there weren't any rats), Blaine was actually using a roller and covering a wall with a rather cheerful shade of yellow. Kurt had been thinking about a pink and yellow scheme, though he acknowledged that they were more “baby nursery colors” than anything else. A long time ago, he would have gone for soft shades of blue and green, something to match his eyes and keep him quiet and calm, but now it's as if someone had tipped sunshine and marshmallows into the room.
Blaine, with his sleeves rolled up, was mouthing along to the music still blasting from Sebastian's boombox. He and Kurt were the only ones to completely paint over the walls, leaving Quinn and Sebastian to wait for the paint to dry before attacking with renewed energy, leaving doodles and drawings all over the place.
His apartment looked less like an adult man's meticulous bachelor pad and more like a children's playroom.
House, family, 2.5 kids.
Slow down there, Hummel.
They took a lunch break, eating cold sandwiches bought from the deli Kurt was so fond of, and he learned that Quinn liked eating the tomato slices separately or else they would soak through the bread. Sebastian on the other hand piled pickles on everything, and Kurt couldn't resist poking fun because really? Pickles? (It had nothing to do with the way they were shaped.)
It was when they were finishing up their sodas that Sebastian groped Kurt again, though “groping” was a tentative term because all Sebastian did was feel up his chest for a moment. Kurt slapped his hand away and then his cheek for good measure, with Quinn tsk-ing and Blaine puffing up with anger.
“Don't touch him,” he snapped brusquely at Sebastian.
“He likes it.”
“I do not.”
“If you do that again—”
“It's not like I'm interested because I'm not, but you have to admit he has a nice body.”
“I agree,” Quinn said for no reason.
Blaine wouldn't let Kurt go further than a foot away after that, and Sebastian kept smirking and giving a thumbs-up as if to say, “You're welcome.” Judging by the way Blaine kept putting a hand to Kurt's back and Sebastian kept grinning hard at that, Kurt realized this was what Sebastian had been aiming for the entire time.
“He's not so bad,” Kurt remarked out of nowhere as he watched Blaine cut in a room, using a paintbrush to paint the corner of a room.
“Sebastian?” Blaine's face grew dark. “I thought you didn't like him.”
“I never said that. He just can't keep his hands to himself.”
“He better learn how to.”
“You know that I only have eyes for you, right?”
“I would hope so,” Blaine said with finality, his shoulders sagging as Kurt snuggled into his side, “because I only have eyes for you too.”
“Look at them, they're so sweet,” Quinn commented to Sebastian. “Nauseatingly sweet, but still.”
“They probably eat pure sugar and honey for breakfast, lunch, and dinner,” Sebastian scoffed, still in his corner.
“Or maybe they just eat—”
“Quinn,” Sebastian declared, “I am proud to say that I've had a positively dirty influence on you.”
“Why am I the only straight person here?” Quinn deadpanned.
It was the eighteen-year-old Kurt Hummel who left Ohio, but it was the nineteen-year-old who finally found himself in California, basking in the endless sunny days and big city atmosphere. A year across America had taken its toll on Kurt (and his bank account) and he was quite literally living from hand-to-mouth, although he found he didn't mind the lifestyle so much. Days of working part-time jobs in small towns and nights of sleeping in cheap motels or in his own car were humbling, even startling, experiences that he never thought he would have, and yet here he was.
Aunt Laurel occasionally helped out with the money situation. Her interference was minimal, as per his request when he had called from the very beginning, and every now and then he would let her know where he was temporarily staying.
But she still wanted him to come back.
“You deferred for a year,” she said during their last phone call, “and a year's nearly up.”
Kurt didn't want to go back and start as a nineteen-year-old freshman, a year older than most of his classmates. He wasn't even sure if he was going back to Ohio after all; his plan had always been to leave sooner or later.
“It's college,” Laurel insisted, “you know how important it is. And I'm in charge of your dad's finances now and you can still go if you take out a loan.”
“I'll think about it,” came the evasive answer.
He liked to think he had developed complete independence. He didn't have a college degree, a full-time job, or the designer wardrobe he once dreamed of not too long ago, but it was not such a bad life. He stayed in a cramped and unhygienic apartment that he shared with a young woman who was reassured by his blatant sexuality and exemplary taste in clothes. Sunshine Corazon was a soft-spoken and petite woman, a sophomore studying theatre at UCLA who had an extremely powerful voice despite her short stature. He worked as a cashier at a little gift shop, but she vouched for him so that he got a second job at Riley's Roast.
Kurt wasn't dissatisfied with this kind of life. (That's what he told himself at night.) He might even settle down in Los Angeles. (Because otherwise he'd have to go back.)
It was late at night (or had it been early in the morning?) when he persuaded Sunshine to take a break from her studies and to indulge in warm milk together. She could see that he wanted to talk and waited patiently for him to find his voice, though it took quite a few minutes of stilted dialogue such as “This is good milk” and “I know.”
“I think,” he said slowly, his vision blurred by sleepiness and meditation, “that I don't really have a place to go back to.”
“So basically you ran away from home.”
“No, no. 'Home' implies that I have someplace to go back to. I just said I didn't.”
“Then where did you come from?”
“From my mother's womb!” he slurred, looking bleary and slightly punch-drunk.
“I think you should go back to bed.” Sunshine set down her mug and reached out, catching Kurt by the shoulders as he swayed. He was so light, she mused, and she managed to bring him back to his feet and led him to his room, secretly wondering if he'd put alcohol in his milk. Meanwhile, he mumbled nonsensical sentences such as “I wanted to say to her, 'So if you're a Berry, does that mean you're fruity?' Ha, ha, ha!” Finally, his thin body was sprawled over the bed and he buried his face in the pillow, already drifting away.
Though he was barely conscious, she sat by him and petted his head. “Cheer up,” she said in her slight but endearing accent. “You're here for a reason. Don't think too hard about it now. Sweet dreams.” She turned off the lights and left Kurt to his dreams.
The next morning, he was awkward around Sunshine, offering to take care of the breakfast dishes before she went to her 10 o'clock class, and once she was gone, he busied himself with a little cleaning before swiftly deciding to take a walk.
He spent a good chunk of the past year living out of his car because money often went to more urgent and immediate matters such as food and gas, and that meant he couldn't exactly splurge on expensive and impractical clothing. Oddly enough, he sprouted a few more inches on the road despite his meager diet of sandwiches and salads, and most of the clothes he brought from Ohio didn't fit as well. Kurt's typical daily outfit consisted of well-worn jeans or slacks, tennis shoes for easy walking, and a plain shirt he didn't mind getting dirty. He threw on a jacket or sweater when it got cold, sometimes even pulling out the same pair of boots he'd worn to his father's funeral.
How far I've fallen, he thought sardonically.
But he had to remember that he chose this road. There was no point in complaining when he still had the option of going to Aunt Laurel, loath as he was to acknowledge that option.
If only he could be doing something he loved. Burt had been a simple man, interested in cars and good with his hands, so naturally he became a mechanic. What about Kurt? He supposed he could sing at a restaurant or bar, maybe help stitch costumes for the local elementary school plays. It seemed paltry in comparison to Broadway, but he had to grasp what straws he had.
He was certain that no restaurant or bar would keep him as a singer for long. Too long had he endured the insults directed at his voice and now he half-believed that his voice would ultimately rub people the wrong way, even if Mercedes had complimented it more than once.
Also, he didn't like kids.
Looking down at his shirt, he grimaced. He ought to find a laundromat; he'd neglected to ask Sunshine, but he didn't think it would be too hard. Turning on his heel, he began to trudge back, hoping that he had enough quarters for the washer and the dryer.
As he passed by a boutique shop, he hesitated at the clothes in display. I could use new jeans, he mulled over in his mind, looking balefully down at his own jeans that were beginning to appear ragged. He didn't have much money to spare (he never had much money anymore, come to think of it), but a new pair would last for the rest of the year.
Inside the store were sleek coats that he used to wear during the winter (now he layered his shirts and zipped up his thin jacket, huddled under a blanket he stashed in his Navigator). He felt soft cardigans in cream, gray, and black, frowning at the buttons that hadn't been sewn on very well.
Finally, he purchased a pair of bootcut jeans at a reasonable price. They were from the women's section, but the cashier barely blinked. I love LA.
“So where do you get most of the clothing here?” Kurt asked, still wincing at a vest he'd seen with far too many loose threads.
The cashier, a bored-looking young girl, shrugged. “I dunno. I heard the owner makes this stuff herself.”
“Well, she gets the clothes and everything from other stores, yeah? Then she mends them or gives them a new design, though if you ask me, she's horrible at it.”
“It's a good idea.”
“Yeah, sure. I wouldn't go near the vests, though, they tend to fall apart.”
“Thank you for the fair warning,” Kurt answered, keeping the sarcasm out of his words, but before he left, his gaze swept through the boutique one last time. The clothes were subpar and that led to a certain cheapness. But if the clothes were well-made—er, well-designed—and still sold at a cheap price?
He went home, wondering if he should take a course in entrepreneurship.
“Don't you think it's a little dark?”
“That's the point, Blaine.”
“No, I get the point. The point I'm trying to make is...isn't it a little weird to have a royal blue ceiling? It catches a lot of attention and most people don't want to pay attention to the ceiling.”
“Explain the hundreds of tourists who visit the Sistine Chapel every year.”
“I should know better by now than to argue with you.”
“Besides, it's not just a solid royal blue ceiling. There are stars. Not in constellations because my ceiling isn't as big as the Sistine Chapel, but better than the hearts Quinn was thinking about at first. Or Sebastian's rainbows.”
“He's just teasing you. I'm a little sad you didn't keep the first rainbow in your room.”
“Are you saying I should have kept a reminder of your ex-boyfriend in my personal bedroom where I'm going to see it every day?”
“We weren't boyfriends!”
“Okay, your previous friend with benefits. How about that?”
“I...see what you mean.”
“There's no need to be jealous, Blaine. I can tell Sebastian isn't seriously flirting with me, and he'll have to try a lot harder than a slap on the rear end.”
“But what if he starts seriously flirting?”
“So now we're exploring hypothetical situations. How about you hypothetically go to bed with me?”
“We're on your bed right now.”
“It's really not fair how you can distract me—mmph.”
Text to Kurt 2:12 PM
did you see the article?
Text to Blaine 2:13 PM
Text to Kurt 2:13 PM
its about rachel
Text to Kurt 2:14 PM
shes starring in a new bdwy musical this dec
Kurt stared down at his phone, then at the clothes he was sorting in the back of Timeless, and then back at the phone. Heaving a sigh, he dropped a pair of leggings back onto his lap and called Blaine. His boyfriend picked up right away and Kurt went straight to business. “To clarify your last text, Rachel Berry is going to be in an original Broadway musical starting in December.”
“That's what her Wikipedia page says.”
“You stalk Rachel Berry on Wikipedia?”
“Also you can buy tickets on Broadway.com and I stalk that site too. I have an invested interest, okay?”
“Why on earth would you have an invested interest in Rachel Berry?”
“Because you do.”
“I didn't know about her starring role in this musical, so clearly I'm not as invested as you think I am. And tickets? Blaine, I'm not going to New York, the city of my past dreams, to see Rachel Berry screech her heart out to her adoring audience.”
“I was just going to suggest—”
“If you have any common sense at all,” Kurt said sharply, “you won't try to talk to me about this again.” He hung up and sat on the ground, phone clutched in his hand, taking deep breaths despite his racing mind. There was that spark of anger because he wasn't quite over New York and Broadway yet, and he wasn't going to get over his dreams if Blaine kept on shoving Rachel Berry into his face. Angry as he was, he was tempted to go on the Internet on his phone and look up more details about the show.
He lasted until he got off from work and then he sped over to his home, turned on his laptop, and spent the next half hour perusing various sources and sites. The show was called Belladonna and followed the lives of two schoolmates, Bella and Donna, as they competed in school and later went on to become waitresses in the same restaurant at their hometown, both of them saving up money and waiting to turn into big stars.
Bella would eventually run off to a big city and find her chance, starting out in small roles before people began to see her talent. Donna, on the other hand, remained chained to her hometown via a controlling father and freeloading boyfriend.
By the time Donna's father died and her boyfriend finally dumped her, Bella had already become one of the most well-known movie stars of her time. Donna followed her progress bitterly, her resources drained by various unfortunate events, and she began to lose hope.
That was the first act and of course Rachel would be playing Bella.
Without reading any further, Kurt called Blaine again. “I'm sorry. For being bitchy and hanging up on you and generally being defensive.”
“It happens to the best of us,” Blaine said, his tone forgiving. “It's okay, Kurt. I shouldn't have brought it up.”
“She plays Bella. Of course she's going to play Bella. She is Bella.”
“Doesn't that make you Donna?”
“Yes! And I don't want to be Donna except I am. It sucks being Donna.”
“In the beginning, yeah, but—Kurt, did you read the second act?”
“No. Should I?”
“I think you should.”
“Okay. I'll, um, I'll call you later.”
“Okay. And Kurt, calm down. It's nothing bad, I promise.”
Rejuvenated, Kurt turned back to his laptop and scrolled down.
The second act started off with Donna at the market, downcast because the restaurant she worked at was closing. Through a chance of fate, she ran into Bella who was keeping a low profile as she visited family. It became apparent that Bella was unhappy despite her fame, confiding in Donna and mentioning how being a movie star was like being surrounded by sharks; fearing new talent, putting on a false front for directors, and never spending enough time with friends and lovers. Despite her warnings, she still offered to help Donna start a new career in acting. Obviously Donna decided to take the offer.
There were other conflicts sprinkled in the second act as Donna slowly became more and more successful and Bella began to fear Donna's talent as well. There were fights, crying, enraged singing, and even a poor handsome actor caught between Bella and Donna (in the end, everyone was single). The climax of the show came when Bella and Donna, forced to act together in a high-budget movie, blew up at each other and were promptly replaced by lesser actresses.
The consequences of their actions finally caught up, they admitted their envy and regret to each other and became friends as they should have been all along, and they led the others in one last musical number before parading toward a sunset.
Okay, Kurt made up the last bit. It didn't change the fact that Belladonna was an ultimately predictable show, though that wouldn't matter as long as there was superb acting, vocals, and enough heart-wrenching moments to move the most apathetic audience. He immediately called Blaine again and expressed all of his thoughts as he stared at a picture of a smiling Rachel Berry, wearing a dress probably worth a month of his income.
“It's typical,” he said disappointedly to Blaine. “Two girls who more or less spit into each other's faces until they become best friends forever. It's not like Rachel and me at all.”
“Well, I doubt that you and Rachel would become movie stars who get on each other's nerves,” Blaine agreed amicably, “but I just wanted you to see that there are different endings. You saw yourself in Donna in the first act, right?”
“Are you my psychologist? I'm not about to relate to fictional characters—”
“So that explains why you're obsessed with RENT and Wicked. Can't be because of the characters.”
“It's not even about the characters, Kurt,” Blaine explained patiently. “I think you want to see her.”
“Rachel Berry? Please, I'd be perfectly happy if I never saw her again. At least she graduated from the horrific knee socks she used to wear.”
“Why are you so afraid of seeing her in a show?”
“I—I don't have the money and I can't up and leave Timeless and—”
“Kurt, you spent over two hundred dollars on clothes when we went shopping the other day.”
“Sometimes I like to splurge a bit on clothes. This is different. There's still flying or driving over to New York, staying at a hotel, paying for food.”
“I could chip in.”
“Blaine, no. I don't know how much you make as a pet store employee and I mean this in the least offensive manner possible, but I doubt it's enough to cover all of the costs this trip will entail.”
“Well,” Blaine began uncertainly, “I forgot to mention that my paternal grandfather left me a chunk of inheritance money when he passed away.”
“It's not a fortune or anything, but it's enough to let me live comfortably for another decade.”
“And you want to spend this inheritance money on a trip to New York with me?”
“I can't think of a better way to spend it.”
“Okay, fine, so money isn't going to be an issue. But I'm still the owner of Timeless and I've taken too many days off of work. I can't just leave without closing the store or leaving someone in charge, and there's no one that I trust to take charge.”
“I could ask Quinn for you. This may be a stretch and I know you two aren't really best friends, but she just quit Tattoo for You because she said that too many biker dudes hit on her. Believe it or not, she used to manage a thrift store and she has a pretty good eye for products like clothes.”
“I don't know...”
“You could train her and everything before you go. It's not like you're leaving for a year, Kurt.”
“There's still my cat.”
“Quinn could take care of her too. She likes cats.”
“You really thought this through.”
“Guilty as charged.”
“I'll think about it, okay?”
Kurt thought about it.
He thought about it for the entirety of November. Blaine had already bought the tickets, insisting that he could sell them online at the last minute if Kurt really and truly didn't want to go. Blaine reserved a room at a hotel, waving off Kurt's attempt to pay him back because “I'm not going to take your money until you make a decision.” Blaine even brought Quinn over, advising that Kurt teach her the basic rundown of the store because Blaine may not have been a Boy Scout, but he got the “being prepared” lesson down pat.
Conflicted as he was, he still sought advice from his peers, though it only made him even more confused.
Mercedes: “Why on earth not?”
Sebastian: “You'd be stupid not to take this chance.”
Sugar: “New York?! Oh my god, oh my god, it's so pretty, you have to go!”
Lauren: “Can I have a raise?”
Quinn: “I thought you'd want to be stuck with Blaine for a few days.”
Blaine: “It's your decision, but I really hope you'll go.”
Throughout November, he didn't dream of Rachel Berry. He thought it would have helped maybe, to have a more tangible form of her presence to convince him (and wasn't that sad, that he would consider a dream version of Rachel Berry to be more tangible than the announcement of her Broadway role?), but she never appeared again. Perhaps it was a way of nudging him to make his own choice—Ask me that in person—but he was afraid of exactly that.
He didn't have his father's death to use as an excuse. It was an event long past, an event he'd come to accept, but Rachel Berry was one constant ache that never went away because what if? What if they had been friends from the start? What if he had swallowed back some of his fear, some of his pride, and just talked to her? What if he had joined glee club or pushed harder to go to New York? What if he had stayed and studied at Ohio State University, supported by his Aunt Laurel? What if he hadn't run away?
But it stopped being about hypothetical situations a long time ago. Kurt was too old to try again and too young to stay. He found some measure of happiness where he was and who he was with, happiness that wouldn't be taken away so easily, but there were still unfulfilled desires leftover from his youth.
What are you afraid of?
Because he and Rachel might have been best friends in high school. They might have even kept in touch during college. But now their paths were so sharply diverged and Kurt imagined an immense expanse between between the two of them. He could reach out, of course he could reach out, but it wouldn't be the same as it would have been back in high school.
Because it stopped being about hypothetical situations a long time ago, but Kurt couldn't let go of the idea that it might have been, could have been, should have been.
Rachel Berry was a star now and he was only one more nameless person in a sea of human beings.
“Does it matter, though?” Blaine asked, hands buried deep in the pockets of his coat. There was a slightly chilly air although Kurt bet it would warm up soon enough. It was Los Angeles and it rarely stayed cold for long.
“What do you mean?”
“Maybe you won't be a famous Broadway star like Rachel, but is that so bad? Lauren and Sugar look up to you.”
“Because I'm a direct factor in whether or not their salaries go up.”
“Quinn and Sebastian know you.”
“I'm still not sure if that's a blessing or a curse. I think I'm going to go with curse.”
“I know you. Isn't that enough? Because, you know, it's the little people who keep everyone else going. We're the ones who feed Rachel Berry, make her clothes, help her put her makeup on, even come up with the scripts that she refers to at the end of the day.”
Kurt looked at Blaine's Mercedes-Benz. Inside were a handful of suitcases and bags. He could see a map on the driver's seat and fuzzy dice hanging from the rear-view mirror. He knew Blaine's car intimately enough that he was aware of a stack of CDs in one of the compartments, ranging from Phantom of the Opera to Katy Perry.
He also knew that if he decided to turn back at the last minute, Blaine would follow him without a word of complaint.
“It's not about Broadway anymore,” Kurt said finally. “I just want to see her again with my own eyes.”
“Why?” Blaine probed gently.
“To see if she's happy. Like I am.”
“You should ask her.”
Kurt tossed his head back and laughed because if two people were giving him the same advice, then he had the sense to take it. “All right, let's go. Kurt Hummel waits for no one, least of all Rachel Berry! I'm not going to run away anymore.”
Blaine pulled out a hand to run it down Kurt's back. “You sure?” he asked, mouth curved in a soft smile.
And he was sure, surer than he had ever been before in his life.
My name is Kurt Hummel. I am twenty-four years old. I lost my mom when I was eight and my dad when I was eighteen. I don't know what the future holds for me, but the same can be said of anyone. What I do know is that I have a cat, a home, my own store, and a graffiti artist boyfriend, and these are things I want to keep.
Because I love them and I'm happy. So, so happy.
Does this story feel a little incomplete? Because that's how I wanted to portray it. I could let this story go on and on and it wouldn't ever end because stories don't really end. Will there be a sequel? That...I really don't know. I'm not someone who writes multi-chaptered sequels, but I might post a oneshot or two in the same verse. Inspiration is unpredictable, so we'll see.
Thank you to all of the people who have reviewed, lurked, or just glanced at this story. I consider this to be my first real Glee child, so to speak, and the feedback I've gotten has been so positive that I'll definitely be playing around in this fandom and with this pairing again.