Kurt’s thirty-three when Blaine leaves him, faint lines on his forehead and around his mouth, and a beauty regime that’s twice as rigorous if only out of spite; Blaine would tell him it’s pointless but it’s less cruel just to pack his bags and use one of their endless fights as an excuse to walk out the door. There’s a finality to it that Blaine’s forgotten to expect, and it would make him laugh if it wasn’t so sad.
Neither of his parents answer when he calls, but Cooper picks up on the third ring, the sound of the ocean faint through the line.
“You lasted longer than I thought,” he says, and Blaine nods even though there’s no one around to see him. Cooper hums in a way that’s probably meant to be sympathetic but too much experience doesn’t make him a good actor, and Blaine would appreciate the effort if he didn’t still feel raw. “Mom and Dad have already moved on,” he says even though Blaine didn’t ask. “You’re the last to let go.”
“Where are you?” Blaine says, and knows it must be bad if he’s reaching out to Cooper for company. He loves his brother, but he loves him most in small doses, and that’s always been a hard feat.
“Goa,” Cooper says. “I’ll pick you up at the airport.”
Blaine lets out a deep breath and hails a cab.
Blaine keeps his cellphone.
It’s not something he’s ever done before, and there’s a thousand reasons why it’s an awful idea, but he lets the payments drain out of an account he otherwise no longer uses each month and ignores Cooper’s raised eyebrows. Kurt calls (and calls and calls) and Blaine expects that, expects the stream of increasingly vitriolic voicemail messages from Rachel and Santana and Mercedes and the unknown number of solicitors he’s already left his own very particular legal team to handle.
He even expects the hesitant call from Sam; they’ve not spoken in, god, years, not outside of social media and other people’s “did you hear about—“s, but somehow the hesitant, “Hey, dude. I just found out—” isn’t a surprise.
That Sam keeps calling?
He keeps the cellphone.
He used to wonder if Kurt would realize, if he’d take the blurred puzzle pieces and slot them together until they formed the story Blaine had never told him, and then it wouldn’t matter because Blaine wouldn’t have broken the rules and Kurt would have been paying attention.
Two months after their wedding Kurt had gone on an old movie kick, grainy black and white films forgotten with time, and Blaine had held his breath and waited, waited, waited—
“That was awful,” Kurt had said, after, reaching for a piece of popcorn with a frown. “No wonder nobody watches some of these anymore.”
Blaine’s heart had felt like it was in his throat, and he’d wandered into the kitchen under the guise of brewing coffee, clutching the edge of the sink and counting backwards from infinity, feeling lost for the first time in a long time.
In the living room, Kurt flipped over to the TV and started singing along with Doris Day — “So I told a friendly star, the way that dreamers often do, just how wonderful you are, and why I’m so in love with you.” — and Blaine had choked on a laugh and thought, but you didn’t even notice.
When he’d finally returned, the grainy black and white bootleg of a film barely anyone had ever seen had been tossed onto the floor, left to slip under couches and scratch over time.
“You’ll be a star,” the director had said, all smiles. Blaine had only had a handful of lines, but he’d been so proud, and Kurt—
Kurt hadn’t even recognized him.
He’d stopped wondering about the puzzle after that.
“No one’s heard from you in five months,” Sam says to Blaine’s voicemail. “Please tell me you haven’t been abducted by aliens. Please tell me you haven’t been abducted by aliens without me.”
Then, quieter: “Miss you, dude.”
Blaine holes up in the house in France, digs out the typewriter that hasn’t been used in decades and wonders if there are still muscles in his mind left to stretch.
He opens sealed chests until he finds cotton shirts and linen jackets that are so far past the point of vintage they probably belong in a museum, the smell of mothballs and history the best sort of inspiration, and his French is rusty, but he practises each morning on the baker and the milkman and the boy that sits behind the till at the local grocery store and never smiles, and it really is like riding a bike. He doesn’t have many neighbours, but the ones he does have are old enough that he doesn’t have to worry how long he can stay.
The summer heat sticks to everything, and Blaine sprawls out on the front porch where the view hasn’t changed in centuries and writes three novels and the next chapter of what he refuses to think of as his memoirs.
“It’s totally your memoirs,” Cooper says, the rush of Tokyo muffling him. “I’ve been telling you how pretentious this shit is forever.”
Blaine swirls lemonade around his glass and counts the first stars. “You calling something pretentious is hilarious,” he says. “Besides, you’re just upset you haven’t done it too.”
“Screw you,” Cooper says, cheerfully, and Blaine thinks maybe they’ll be closer this instalment, now Blaine’s settled into being nineteen and old before his time and Cooper’s remembered to try.
It’s not the worst start.
“It’s been three years, dude, almost exactly.
I quit my job last month, packed up my shit and moved back down south. Stacey’s asshole boyfriend cheated on her so she’s camped out in the guest room, which means Stevie’s camped out in the guest room, so it’s a lot like being fifteen again. Except, you know, with an actual house. It’s nice. Worth it.
I miss you.”
It takes almost a decade for it to hit him.
Sometimes it happens faster, sometimes it doesn’t happen at all, so Blaine’s not surprised but it still feels kind of like being hit by a truck.
He misses them. All of them. Everyone that made up that interlude in his life.
His fingers itch to look them up, see them as they are now, but he knows from experience that that’s more painful than keeping them locked in memories.
(There’d been a boy once, a — somewhat — long time ago, and Blaine had said his goodbyes on Belgian soil in a uniform too clean to be honest, grabbing one more secret moment before following orders, and it had broken his heart not for the first or the last time.
Years later he’d gone searching, the ache of what if pulsating beneath his skin, and found not a beautiful boy with a soldier’s scars but a wife with hard eyes and a quiet child and a Catholic sin settled over a gravestone in the back yard.
After that, he’d never looked back.)
Sam still calls. Technology’s moved on far enough that Blaine’s overpaid to keep his messages safe, but sometimes they feel like a knot in a thread that’s keeping him from unravelling. He misses Sam more than anyone — more than anyone, which is almost too much to process when there’s so much time to pull taught and analyse.
He’d loved him.
Hindsight’s a bitch, but at least it’s honest.
“It was my fifteenth anniversary this weekend. My parents took Meg and Essie so we could celebrate but Laurie’s not been feeling too great for a while so we ended up just staying in.
I’m worried about her.
I just— I think it’s easier to say these things to your voicemail than say them to someone else. I like to think I’d be telling you all this stuff anyway, if you were around. I miss you. I guess I always will.”
Blaine gets bored with writing novels and starts writing music again instead, and it feels like coming home.
He’s in Sweden, though he thinks he’ll leave soon, for Rome or London or Vienna, and his latest piece sounds like a ballet in his head. Cooper’s a dancer these days (or again) and it’s the stage Blaine’s always thought he should stick with, the power and grace of his movement in sharp counterpoint with his personality. Still, the music takes shape and Blaine knows that it’s made for him and made for his brother.
He goes to call Cooper, to talk him into leaving the States and meeting him in Europe, when he notices the new voicemail and his breath catches.
Matheus is downstairs and the clatter of pans suggest he’s already started on dinner, dancing around in his underwear and startling the little old lady that lives across the street. It’s been three years and Blaine loves him in the passing, simple way that comes with knowing it’s almost over.
His hands shake as he stands up and leaves the room.
Tonight he and Matheus will eat and laugh and hold on a little longer.
Everything else can wait.
“Did Rachel call you? About Kurt? I don’t know if anyone even has this number anymore, except me. They all stopped talking about you forever ago. It was like a sci-fi film, like you’d never existed and I was the only one that knew you’d been here, and I couldn’t say anything in case you really were just in my head.
I wouldn’t be surprised if I’d made you up, you know?
Anyway. Essie and her wife are coming by soon so I should start on dinner.
I’m sorry about Kurt.
I think I miss you more than ever.”
Blaine’s parents beckon he and Cooper to Egypt, meeting them off the plane wearing hats that scream of the thirties and smiles that say they finally remembered to miss them.
(“They’re not the sort of people that should ever have had children,” Cooper said, once, watching them parade around the court like they were royalty and not just the guests of such.
“If they’d only lived one lifetime, I doubt they would have,” Blaine had replied, and time hadn’t ever made it any less true.)
Everything blurs after a while, and Blaine wakes some mornings and expects to be in a tent, surrounded by maps and trowels and the thrill of discovery, and he refuses to romanticize it but it’s difficult when his family are the only people tying him to the present (and the future and the past). He plays the dutiful son and enrols himself in school if only for the routine, and misses a moment in time he can’t ever get back.
He dreams about Sam Evans, the beautiful blond who’s no longer a boy and who’s still breaking down his walls without knowing it, and lets regret weigh on him. Blaine’s loved and lost, loved and lost, as repetitive as breathing, and he’d accepted that back when the world was barely recognizable to today; Sam had been his best friend for a spell, not a boyfriend or lover or husband, barely even a crush, and yet the ache of missing him feels startlingly new.
Blaine’s always thrown around the word ‘soulmate’, much to his family’s chagrin. As much as anything, he’s in love with the idea, a point to this endless succession of days, handed by Fate and wrapped in mystery. There’s very little mystery left to him, so he clings to the hope that even love has more to offer than he’s already learnt and gives a part of his heart over and over and over.
That he might have missed Fate’s offering because he was looking the other way terrifies him more than war and death and change ever have.
“Jamie’s on a vinyl kick - thinks he’s being original in the way only teenagers can - so I took him into the city to this little back alley place that came recommended. He loved it, could hardly get him to leave. He’s been telling all his friends how cool his grandpa is, which is kinda an ego boost, I won’t lie.
But…there was this one record, in the cluttered jazz section. Released in 1923.
You were on the cover.
I don’t know what to do with that.
…Even if I dreamt you, I miss you.”
Blaine gets the call in Toronto. He doesn’t answer it, of course he doesn’t, but the number’s unfamiliar so he checks his voicemail without the usual string of days to prepare.
“Hi, this is…this is Lilah Carroway. My great-grandpa’s Sam Evans, I—
This is probably really stupid and whoever gets this is going to think I’m totally crazy, but if there’s any chance you’re Blaine Anderson then, yeah. He told me about you, when I was little. I thought it was a bedtime story, but now I’m looking at the call history on this really old cellphone and everyone else is rushing around and I hope you’re real.
There’s a text message saved on here, and I’ve been staring at it for the last hour, and I think it’s for you. It just says, I hope you’re always happy. Blond Chameleon out.
…Anyway, the funeral’s on the twenty-eighth.
God, I hope you’re real. I hope he had magic in his life. I’m sorry, I—”
Blaine listens to the automated voice ask if he wants to listen to the message again and only just stops himself throwing the cell across the quad. Someone’s asking him if he’s alright, but he brushes them off and wonders how anything can hurt this much.
He doesn’t remember calling Cooper but he comes all the same, wrapping a coat around Blaine’s shoulders, for once not offering half-hearted cliches, and Blaine clings to him and pretends he really is nineteen and the world can stand still just for a little while.
“I should have—” he starts, eventually, and Cooper shakes his head, cutting him off.
“Should have what? Told him you couldn’t die? Told him mom and dad sold their souls to the devil or Fate centuries ago? We have rules for a reason. No one wants to age while we stay the same, Blaine. It hurts them more than us, in the end.”
“No one else has ever remembered us before,” Blaine says, digging fingers into his thighs. “Not for this long. Not for their whole life. People always forget.”
“Yeah,” Cooper says, because it’s true. Memory’s a tricky thing, and this is an anomaly.
“I loved him,” he says, when there’s nothing else to say, and it’s easily the greatest truth of all his years.
He goes to the funeral.
Cooper tries to stop him, goes as far as to get their parents involved, but Blaine ignores them and buys a new suit, spending too long in the mirror trying to look good for someone who won’t even see him.
He finds a spot under a tree away from the crowd and watches from a safe distance, unsurprised by the rain that sets the mood as well as any stage direction ever could. It’s a good turn-out, great even, and when he smiles it’s only mostly sad. He guesses at relatives - children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren - though it’s only when bright blue eyes meet his that he’s able to definitively place someone.
Lilah Carroway looks so much like her great-grandfather it tears through him like a bullet.
Afterwards, amens said, Blaine tries to slip away and fails. Her hair’s stuck to her forehead and her heels slip in mud as she chases him, out of breath with a battered box under arm, and he thinks I can’t be here and doesn’t take another step.
“Fuck,” she says, eyes wide, and Blaine tries not to blush. “You’re— Shit.” Words seem to fail her after that, and she presses the box into his hands before uttering a final curse and rushing back to join the fray of mourners.
Blaine weaves through graves until they’re all gone then circles back, sitting under the same tree and opening the lid that’s been taped down countless times over the years. There’s layers of tissue, and Blaine peels them back carefully, curious and uneasy, until—
It’s a box of him.
Records and film strips and well-thumbed novels amongst newspaper cutouts and torn pages of textbooks and photographs, eBay receipts tucked into old programmes, even an oil miniature that’s probably worth more than most people make in a year. It’s Blaine’s secrets and his achievements collected in a battered cardboard box, and he thinks of that first movie and soulmates and almost six decades of unanswered voicemail messages, and knows that Sam Evans spent a lifetime loving him.
It’s the most humbling realization, and the most heartbreaking.
“I’m sorry,” he says, and doesn’t know if it’s to Sam or to Fate.
If he could do it again, he’d break the rules without hesitating, but hindsight and he have tolerated each other for long enough.
The world keeps turning, and Blaine moves with it the way he’s always done.
“Have you ever been in love?” the boy asks him, black hair and flirtatious smile, and Blaine goes cold.
“Yes,” he says, impossible age and experience echoed in a single word, and the boy hesitates before slipping away, overwhelmed even if he can’t explain why.
Blaine still looks nineteen and love no longer holds the sheen it did before it danced in front of his fingertips and he was too far away to catch it. It’s started seeping through, everything inexplicable about him, and he knows that’s dangerous. People don’t like things that are different, and just because he was here first — the immovable — doesn’t mean they won’t react.
His father suggests a sabbatical in the mountains.
Cooper suggests therapy.
Mostly he ignores everything for a while, the spill of years his own version of a lazy Sunday afternoon.
Times Square. Friday. 2pm.
Blaine tells himself a hundred times on the flight that he doesn’t know why he’s doing this, but it doesn’t stop the thump of unaccountable expectation in his chest. He’s so used to pretending at normal that he rarely listens to the pull of something other that’s been there since he really was a boy playing in streams with butterfly nets; his mom’s chided him about it for centuries, trying to get him to understand what lies beneath the surface, but it doesn’t matter how many lifetimes he’s lived, it’s still that base human nature that makes him feel alive and lost and real.
He’s ignored it before though, and he’d give all his lifetimes not to make that mistake again.
New York is a crush of bodies, and he holds the phone he should have tossed two decades ago at least and almost drops it when it rings.
“Hello?” he says, breathless.
“I only had to die for you to pick up, huh?” Sam says, and Blaine can see him now, twenty years old all over again and more beautiful than any memory he’s tried to keep. He’s stood a few yards away, coloured lights reflecting off his hair, and his free hand stuffed in his jacket pocket.
“Well,” he says, and he’s not crying but his voice comes out choked anyway, “I don’t believe in ghosts, so—”
Sam laughs and it’s every cliche he can think of rolled into one, and a thousand more he’s sure the human race is yet to think of.
“How—?” he says, and Sam shakes his head.
“I don’t know. I just remembered. Also…there was a car crash a few years back. I shouldn’t have walked away. I couldn't have walked away, unless..."
The pull of something other tugs tighter.
“For a while, I really thought I’d dreamt you,” Sam says quietly.
“I think,” Blaine says, feet already moving, “that it’s more likely that I dreamt you.”
Sam reaches out first, hands shaking, and Blaine clings to him and thinks thank you, thank you, thank you, and imagines he can hear Fate laughing through the crowds.
“You worked it out,” Blaine says eventually, lips shaping the words against Sam’s collarbone and meaning so very much, and Sam presses the tips of his fingers into Blaine’s hips and smiles.
“It wasn’t that hard,” he says, nudging until his nose is tucked against Blaine’s cheek. “You’ve always been special, dude.”
The other pulls taught and snaps, and Blaine remembers what it is to be immovably in love.
“There’s so much to say, too much,” he begins, and Sam kisses the corner of his mouth and cuts him off.
“I get the feeling,” he says, “that we have all the time in the world.”
Thank you, thank you, thank you, Blaine thinks, and it’s a whole new beginning.