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Tuesday, March 28, 2007

“I really like her,” Blaine comments as Gina Glocksen starts to sing a song by the Pretenders. He holds out the large plastic bowl and raises an eyebrow at Lucy. “Popcorn?”

“No thank you,” she says, pointing to her braces. “She’s pretty good, I guess. I don’t think she’s going to win.”

“Maybe not,” Blaine admits, eating a few pieces of popcorn. “But I like that she’s different.”

“How do you think I’d look with color in my hair?” Lucy asks, tucking one leg under the other and turning to face him. “Some crazy color, like pink or something.”

Blaine grins and holds out his thumb, pretending like he’s surveying a painting. “Mmm, I don’t know,” he muses. “Pink and brown generally complement each other, but I’m not sure you could pull it off with those glasses.”

Lucy throws a piece of popcorn at him in indignation. “Well then you can’t pull off pink hair either, jerk.”

“What is it with middle schoolers and wanting to dye their hair?”

Blaine glances up, shoulders falling as Cooper makes his way into the living room. “Hi, Cooper,” he says dully.

“Let me tell you right now, bad idea, little bro,” Cooper advises, nodding in greeting at Lucy. “Now scoot over so I can watch my drinking buddy kick some ass.”

Blaine shifts on the couch begrudgingly, grumbling, but Lucy’s the one who responds, sounding scandalized. “Cooper, don’t swear.”

“Oh please,” Cooper snorts, eyes fixed on the television. “You’re what, thirteen now, Luce? Pretty sure you’re supposed to be starting your rebellious phase or whatever. Pass the popcorn, will you, Blainey?” Blaine holds the bowl out, waiting for Cooper to grab a handful, but Cooper just takes the entire bowl out of Blaine’s hands and settles in comfortable to watch the rest of the episode with them.

“Since when is Gina Glocksen your drinking buddy?” Blaine asks, annoyed.

“Since last week,” Cooper says smugly. “I ran into her in a bar on her half-day off. She’s a pretty cool chick. I dig the tattoos.” He leans against the back of the couch and tugs the hem of his shirt down a little.

“I doubt the producers let her go out drinking, Cooper,” Lucy says, but Cooper just gives her a look that plainly says ‘really?’ She shrinks into the cushions a little, shifting uncomfortably in her pajamas. Blaine nudges her arm with his elbow and offers her a small smile, rolling his eyes in Cooper’s direction. It gets her to smile, just barely.

“Ooo,” Cooper gushes between giant handfuls of popcorn, gesturing wildly as Sanjaya Malakar murders a No Doubt song. “This song was my jam when I was sixteen.” At Blaine’s skeptical look, Cooper places a hand on his chest, faking offense. “No Doubt is the music of my people, Blaine. You wouldn’t understand. You and Lucy Caboosey over there were still playing jump rope when they first made it big.”

The room suddenly gets very quiet except for the sounds of the judges’ critiques on the television. Blaine sneaks a glance over at Lucy, who’s removed her glasses to wipe at her eyes with the back of the sleeve of her pajama top. Blaine shoots daggers over Cooper, who is completely oblivious of what he’s just done, before he turns his attention back to Lucy and offers her his hand. She sniffs a little, as quietly as she can, before donning her glasses again. She smiles when she sees Blaine’s outstretched hand and takes it, tucking their hands between their legs, hidden from Cooper’s view. It’s strange, holding hands with a girl, but Luce is Blaine’s best friend. He can hold her hand without it meaning something, he thinks. He hopes.

Haley Scarnato comes out and covers Cyndi Lauper. Blaine’s pretty sure Cooper actually drools into the bowl of popcorn when she comes out on stage in a short, slinky black dress. Blaine wrinkles his nose in distaste before stopping to see if Lucy caught him. Her eyes are trained on the television too, though, and Blaine thinks he sees traces of jealousy in her eyes.

None of them say much of anything until Melinda performs (“Great voice,” Cooper says, “but no personality.”), and Blaine has to bite his lip and try really, really hard not to blush furiously when Blake Lewis gets on stage and sings a song by the Cure. Both Blaine and Lucy are fairly enthusiastic about Jordin Sparks, but Cooper dismisses their optimism. “She’s seventeen,” Cooper reminds them. “She’s not seasoned enough to win. Remember Diana DeGarmo?”

Chris Richardson closes the show with “Don’t Speak,” which apparently is the cue Cooper’s been waiting for to start trying to show up the contestants with his ‘training.’ Blaine’s had enough. “Hey, Coop?” he says loudly, trying to drown both his brother and the television out. “Why don’t you go to Breadstix?” he suggests. “Don’t you want to try out your accents on the food industry workers?”

“It’s nine o’ clock,” Cooper points out.

“Isn’t that like, super early for all you Hollywood types?” Blaine tries. “I bet you could call up one of your old girlfriends and get her to go with you.”

Cooper strokes an invisible beard, contemplating. “I guess that could work,” he says. “I haven’t seen Steph in awhile. She really digs the Irish accent. I could use the practice.” He beams and sets the bowl down on the coffee table before standing up. “Thanks, Squirt,” he says, ruffling Blaine’s hair as he walks around the back of the couch to the front door.

“Don’t call me that,” Blaine grumbles, folding his arms over his chest, but Cooper’s already out the front door with a yelled request to phone in votes for his favorites.

It’s quiet for a moment before Lucy ventures, “You know, your brother’s kind of cute.” Blaine yanks his hand away and turns to look at her in horror, glasses slipping down his nose. “I might actually like him if he weren’t so...”

“Awful?” Blaine supplies, pushing his glasses back up his nose. “Obnoxious? A total self-centered jerk?”

“Yeah,” Lucy laughs. “He’s something else.”

“Yeah, well.” Blaine reaches for the remote to change the channel. “I’m not voting for Haley for him. He just likes her because of her legs.”

Lucy doesn’t comment on it, but she holds out a hand to stop Blaine from changing the channel. “Wait,” she says. “Let Ryan finish talking before you change it.”

“Why?” Blaine snorts. “It’s the same stuff he always says. And anyway, he’s a total tool.”

“He is not,” Lucy gasps, smacking him lightly on the arm. “He’s so hot.”

Blaine rolls his eyes. “So not my type.”

He freezes a little when he realizes what he’s just said, but Lucy just grins, teasing him. “And what is your type?”

Blaine swallows, trying to save face. “Not tools?”

“So it’s safe to say you wouldn’t be into a screwdriver?”

Blaine’s mouth falls open and he lets out an embarrassing squeak. “Lucy Quinn Fabray!” he says, outraged, punctuating each of her names with a smack from one of the couch pillows. “What would your mother say if she heard what you’d just said?”

“She’d ask if we had the necessary ingredients to mix her one,” Lucy quips, sticking her tongue out at him.

Blaine eyes the bowl of popcorn on the table, debating dumping it over her head, but he decides against it and pushes himself to his feet, offering her his hand. “Want some ice cream? We have cookie dough.”

She smiles at him and places her hand in his, following him to the kitchen. “Sure,” she says agreeably. “Who do you think’s going home tomorrow?”

“Chris Sligh,” Blaine sighs, “which really sucks because I totally identified with him. You know. Curly hair, glasses.”

“What did he sing again tonight?” she asks. “I forget.”

Blaine spins in place and holds the ice cream scoop up as a microphone. “Every little thing she does is magic.

*****

Monday, February 14, 2011

For all that the world is spinning in the twenty-first century, there are so many things about it that never change. For all that the cities seem to live and breathe by change -- Las Vegas, New York, Los Angeles -- they never really change that much at all. Everything about them is a constant, busy and crowded and lit up even at night. No, the world itself doesn’t change, not as a place, not as much as it’s perceived to. It’s the people who change, regardless of time or place or circumstance. It’s the people who affect change.

If it weren’t for his stunning good looks, Cooper might actually consider giving up being an actor in favor of becoming a motivational speaker. Or a novelist. This stuff just comes to him, it’s like magic.

Lima, however, remains exactly the same. It looks the same, feels the same, smells the same, moves along at the same sleepy pace. It’s no surprise that the cities populate the coasts of the country, at the edge with nowhere to go, ready for change. The rest is a whole lot of landlocked middle, struggling to catch up, desperate to just get out.

Cooper almost feels like a transplant, for all that he was born and raised here. He was always destined for something greater than this, something bigger and brighter and faster. Maybe he wasn’t so different, then, when he was young and idealistic and hungry for something more. But he’s never really belonged here, and if he wants to keep moving forward, he has to pick up the things he’s left behind.

Which is why he finds himself in a rental car driving to his parents’ house on Valentine’s Day, a sorry excuse for a twenty-five year old actor who had lunch with Steven Spielberg yesterday. (And, okay, maybe that’s embellishing the truth a little bit, because they’d eaten at the same restaurant and Spielberg has no idea who Cooper is, but no one Cooper is going to tell is going to know that.)

There’s a black Navigator in the driveway when Cooper pulls into it, but he doesn’t give it much thought. Dad’s probably home, or he swapped out Mom’s old car for something a little nicer. The house is quiet when he enters, though, most of the lights off. There’s the faint glow of a light on upstairs, though, and Cooper climbs them with a small grin. His little brother is probably up there, nose stuck in a book, and Cooper cannot wait to see the look on Blaine’s face when he gets up there. He slows when he gets closer to Blaine’s bedroom door, though, ears straining.

Is that... moaning?

Cooper’s grin grows even wider, and he creeps up on the door that’s slightly ajar, fully prepared to bust his little brother in the act of watching porn. Cooper’s almost proud of him, really. Blaine hardly seems like he has any fun with how studious he is. It’s comforting to know he’s not all that different from every other fifteen year old boy. Another low, guttural moan, and Cooper pushes open the door triumphantly --

Blaine’s not alone.

And he is definitely not watching porn.

He looks like he’s on his way to making it, actually, the way things seem to be progressing. Blaine’s still got his jeans on but he’s also shirtless, arching up off of his mattress into the long, lean body of another boy. Said other boy’s lips are firmly attached to Blaine’s neck, a hickey clearly in progress, and Blaine’s hands dip beneath the other boy’s waistband to grab at his ass.

Cooper barks out a laugh, relishing in the fact that he’ll probably get to make fun of that hickey for days while simultaneously fist-bumping Blaine in congratulations because he’s finally getting some action. Blaine’s eyes blink open, startled, and Cooper lets out a low wolf-whistle to make it clear that they’re not alone.

The boy falls off of Blaine onto the floor with a yelp, leaving Blaine to fumble blindly for his glasses. He finally grabs them off of the nightstand and shoves them onto his face, eyes widening in horror. “Cooper!” he hisses, making a grab for a pillow and moving it over his crotch. “Get out!”

Cooper holds up his hands in surrender but doesn’t stop grinning. “I’m just gonna --” He jerks a thumb over his shoulder, standing on tiptoe a little to try and get a look at the boy on the floor. “-- be downstairs. You know, when you’re finished.”

Blaine throws the pillow at him.

Cooper makes himself busy in the kitchen for a few minutes, pouring himself a glass of water and leaning against the counter. He’s burning with curiosity, but he figures Blaine and his... whatever will be down in a few minutes, hair messed and blushes high. There’s no way Blaine will finish up what he’s started tonight, not with Cooper in the house. Cooper can wait the extra couple of minutes.

He’s not disappointed; he hears voices and steps on the stairs, and he has to bite back a grin at the pained look on Blaine’s face when they come into view (fully clothed, thank god) at the threshold of the kitchen. Blaine heaves a great sigh, runs a hand over his face, and waves his hand between them. “This is my brother, Cooper,” he mumbles, glaring at Cooper. “This is Kurt.” Cooper surveys Kurt over the rim of his glass and wiggles his fingers in greeting. “I’m going to walk Kurt to his car,” Blaine announces, reaching for Kurt’s hand and tugging him into the front hallway. Don’t spy on us is clear even if he doesn’t say it.

Really, Blaine should know Cooper better than that. It’s his duty, as Blaine’s older brother, to check this kid out. So he sulks over to the kitchen window to watch them in the driveway. The Navigator’s Kurt’s, Cooper realizes now, and its owner is leaning against it coyly, obviously on display. Blaine won’t meet his eyes, though, just stares at the ground while he mumbles something and god, he’s bad at this. Cooper’s not sure how Blaine even managed to get this Kurt kid into his bed, much less got his hand in Kurt’s pants.

Kurt doesn’t seemed phased by Blaine’s awkwardness, though, just smiles and reaches for Blaine’s hand. It’s then that Cooper notices the jacket in Blaine’s arms, and he watches as Blaine tries to hand it off to Kurt. Kurt shakes his head, though, and Cooper’s brows wrinkles in confusion as Kurt takes the jacket from Blaine. Cooper’s not confused for that long, though, and he doesn’t suppress the urge to roll his eyes when Kurt drapes the jacket over Blaine’s shoulders. It’s a letterman’s jacket -- Kurt’s, Cooper would bet, because his little brother is so not the athletic type -- and Blaine blushes all the way to his hairline at the gesture, smile big and dopey.

Cooper turns away from the window to let them make out for a few minutes (god, they’re such teenagers, when did that even happen?). He returns to his mark at the counter when he hears the roar of an engine, and the glass is drained by the time the front door clicks open and shut. “You guys must be serious, if you’re wearing his letterman’s jacket,” Cooper teases.

Blaine blinks up from where he’s standing in the hallway, last vestiges of his stupid smile fading. He tugs the edges of the jacket a little closer and draws in a breath before joining Cooper in the kitchen. “Coop, what are you doing here?”

“Do I need an occasion to visit my family?” Cooper asks, tugging him in for a hug. Blaine lets out a disgruntled oomph against Cooper’s chest, adjusting his glasses when Cooper lets him go. “Although, I gotta say, Squirt, if you’re that serious, maybe I should talk to him. How long have you been seeing him?"

Blaine looks simultaneously surprised and annoyed at the question, but answers it. "I don't know, three, almost four months?"

"And you guys are already at second base? Or is that really slow now? Are the bases still the same as when I was in high school? Are they even the same for gay people?"

"Oh my god, Cooper, I am not talking to you about this,” Blaine groans. “You have successfully ruined the end of our first Valentine’s Day together. I’m going to go upstairs and crawl into bed. The bed sheets for the bed in your old room are in --”

“-- the hall closet, yeah, I know,” Cooper dismisses. “I grew up here, remember?”

“That doesn’t mean things haven’t changed, Coop,” Blaine calls as he tromps back up the stairs.

“That’s okay,” Cooper calls back from the bottom of the stairs. “We can catch up tomorrow.” When Blaine doesn’t answer him, Cooper adds, “Don’t forget to moisturize! And, you know, a little time alone with your right hand might not be a bad idea after tonight --”

A door slams upstairs, and the house is suddenly too quiet and still. Their parents aren’t home, that much is obvious by Blaine’s foray into sexual escapades (and god, the fact that Blaine’s even old enough to be encroaching on that kind of territory makes Cooper feel too-old in a way that makes his stomach twist). Blaine is freezing him out, which Cooper can handle for the night because hey, he did ruin Blaine’s V-Day booty call.

Cooper is alone at the bottom of the stairs of his childhood home, and the quiet of the sleepy midwestern town mocks him louder than it ever has before.

*****

Sunday, February 27, 2011

In hindsight, Quinn has not really been making the greatest choices lately. Well, she hasn’t been making the best choices for a few years now, actually, but the last few weeks have been spectacularly bad. She doesn’t regret joining the Skanks, doesn’t regret her makeover; she’s always wanted to dye her hair a crazy color and it’s nice not to have to give a shit about what she wears every day. It’s been oddly freeing, in a weird way, to lose everything and slum it again. The only thing she regrets is the ink on her lower back -- she blames that one on the fantasies of a young thirteen year old Lucy, stupidly infatuated with the giant tool.

And, well. This hangover’s not so great either.

She kicks her boots into the ground and tugs her thin plaid shirt closer, shivering. She’s been holding her thumb out for a good forty-five minutes, trying to hitch her way home. She doesn’t even have a pack of cigs to take the edge off or keep her warm, and she curses herself for being smart enough not to drive last night. The sound of an approaching car breaks the silence after a few moments, though, and Quinn glances back, hopeful.

“Nice tramp stamp.”

Quinn resolutely does not blush and instead flips the driver off before she even turns to look at him.

Oh fuck.

Cooper Anderson grins at her, teeth almost too white and perfect. “Need a ride?” Quinn glances around, desperately hoping for another car to drive by. “It’s Sunday morning,” he points out. “Everyone’s probably still in church.” Quinn groans and yanks the door open, slouching in the seat once she settles in. She mumbles out an address and does not look Cooper in the face. It’s quiet for a moment before Cooper reaches over to turn the radio on, and Quinn winces as No Doubt comes blasting through the stereo speakers, her head throbbing in protest.

“Do you mind?” she grits out. “Hangover.”

“But it’s “Sunday Morning.” It’s the perfect wake up call,” Cooper argues. Quinn reaches out and shuts the radio off herself, causing Cooper to blink over at her in surprise when they reach a stop sign. She can feel his eyes studying her before he says, “Lucy? Lucy Fabray?”

Quinn closes her eyes and throws her head back against the headrest. “Fuck.”

“Hey!” Cooper says brightly. “You’re swearing now! Good for you!”

“Can you just take me home?” she requests as politely as she possibly can. “I don’t really feel like a reunion.”

“Look at you,” Cooper says, ignoring her and whistling. “You look so different. Last time I saw you, you were --”

“-- sad and huge and pathetic,” Quinn supplies sharply, narrowing her eyes at him. “Can we not do this?”

“Jesus,” Cooper hisses. “Oh, wait, you probably think that’s offensive, don’t you?”

“Cooper, I really don’t give a shit,” she snaps. “Can you please just shut it and drive me home?”

“Wow, okay, jeez,” Cooper huffs, surrendering. “I had no idea you’d turned into such a bitch. How does Blaine even put up with you?” Quinn shifts her gaze to the window and sets her jaw, trying and failing to ignore the mention of Blaine. Cooper doesn’t say anything else until he pulls into her driveway. She tries to push open the passenger door but it’s locked, and even her best ‘I’m going to kill you’ look doesn’t phase him. “Why’d you get the ink?”

“Oh my god, what is this, twenty questions?” Quinn seethes. “Is this some sort of form of twisted payment for driving me home? Let me out of the fucking car, Cooper.”

“You know, most people would be happy to be stuck in a car with me,” Cooper muses, ignoring her. “I’m kind of famous around here --”

“Yeah, well, I’m not one of them,” she snaps, tugging at the door handle again.

“I’m just curious,” Cooper says innocently. “I have a right to know who my little brother spends his time with.” Quinn can feel her heart race a little faster, fueled by adrenaline and anger, but she refuses to let Cooper get to her. He clearly has no idea about anything that’s gone on in Blaine’s life the last three years, and she’s not going to be the one to tell him. Cooper just turns the engine off and sits back in the driver’s seat, smiling. “So what’s with the drastic weight loss and 90s grunge makeover? You realize that was totally played out by like, 2002, right?”

“The tattoo was a mistake,” Quinn admits, mostly just to get him to leave her alone. “The rest is a personal choice.”

“Ah, yes, the teenage years,” Cooper says wistfully. “A time when everyone mistakes identity crises for finding themselves.”

“Whatever. Are you done with your interrogation? Can I go now?” she asks, trying to keep any trace of a pleading tone out of her voice. Cooper sighs but hits the unlock button and waves a hand at the door. “Finally.” She reaches for the handle, ready to go inside and pass out on her bed, but Cooper’s hand encloses around her arm before she can even open the door.

“Wait,” Cooper says slowly. “The tattoo. You don’t like it?”

She gives him a pointed glare. “It’s a tattoo of Ryan Seacrest, Cooper. Even I can own up to the fact that it was a dumb idea.”

“Are you going to get it removed?”

“Eventually,” Quinn says dryly.

“Why not get it removed now?” Cooper pries.

“Right,” she drawls. “Because teenagers are rolling that kind of dough. I know I look like a drug dealer, Cooper, but I’m not actually one.”

“Why not ask your mom?” She shifts uncomfortably and avoids his gaze, but she can still see him smile with glee out of the corner of her eye. “She doesn’t know you have it.”

“You never met my mom,” Quinn snaps. “If I told her and she agreed to pay to have it removed, she’d use it as leverage to give me a total makeover. Fuck her if she thinks she can get that kind of power over me.”

“So angry,” Cooper says mockingly. Quinn rolls her eyes and reaches for the handle again, only to find Cooper’s hand back on her arm again. She looks down at his hand pointedly. Cooper’s never been one to really take a hint, but she’s been pretty blunt with him. “What if I paid for it instead?”

Quinn looks up at him, half-surprised and mostly skeptical. “Let me see if I’ve got this right,” she says thinly. “Cooper Anderson takes some time off from his ‘busy acting career’ to waltz back into town, run into his little brother’s … friend from junior high, and offers to do something nice for her.”

Cooper smiles hesitantly at her. “Yes?”

She rolls her eyes again. “In what universe does that actually happen, Cooper? What do you get out of helping me?”

“To sit in on your sessions,” Cooper explains. “I’ve been trying to land a role as a doctor on something for ages, even just as an extra, but I haven’t had any luck. If I go with you, I can do a character study and brush up on my skills.”

Quinn arches an eyebrow at him and smiles bemusedly in spite of herself. “I don’t know what’s worse -- the fact that I actually believe you, or the fact that things are so bad that you’re resorting to get acting tips from a dermatologist.”

“Inspiration is all around us,” Cooper says sagely. “Stanislavski says the fingers are the eyes of the body, but he never mentioned that the skin... is the sponge.”

“Pretty sure you’re full of shit, Cooper.”

Cooper waves a hand dismissively at her, annoyed, but he gets a little quiet after a moment, biting his lip and surveying her carefully. “And, okay, I’ll admit, it’d be nice to have an in with Blainey. He’s sort of been freezing me out the last couple of weeks.”

“I can’t imagine why,” Quinn says dryly.

“Can you just --” Cooper sighs and runs a hand over his face before schooling his features into something more more pleasing. “I’m offering to something really nice for you. Can’t you just accept it and say thank you?”

Kurt’s voice echos suddenly in Quinn’s ears (he needs to let someone be nice to him) and she can’t help smiling a little. It falters almost immediately, though, at the realization that it’s an indirect comparison between her and Blaine, and that makes her even more uncomfortable with Cooper sitting across from her. “And all you want is to sit in on the sessions and talk to the doctor?”

Cooper nods a little too eagerly, almost like an overgrown puppy, and he looks so much like Blaine in that moment that Quinn has to look away just so she can keep the churning in her stomach under control. Stupid booze. “And, you know, put in a good word with my little bro for me, that’s all. Easy, right?”

“Yeah, sure,” Quinn says quickly, uncomfortable and eager to get rid of him. “Deal, whatever.” Cooper beams and digs his phone out of his pocket to hand to her, and it’s with extreme reluctance that she programs her number into his phone. “Don’t abuse the privilege.”

“Isn’t that my line?” Cooper quips, but his voice gets cut off but the slam of the passenger door behind her. It takes everything in her to get from the sidewalk to her front door without turning around and taking it all back. She blames being hungover on the impulsive decision to accept his help. And with each step, it hits her a little more that spending time with her ex-best friend’s older brother is probably counter-productive to running away from who she used to be. Her phone vibrates in her hand when she’s halfway up the stairs to her room.

I almost couldn’t find you in my address book, ~Quinn~. What happened to Lucy?

She barely restrains herself from throwing the phone down the stairs.

*****

Monday, March 7, 2011

Session One

"So what inspired you to become a dermatologist?" Cooper asks, leaning back in his chair with his clipboard. "Give me your motivation."

"Oh god," Quinn mumbles. "I am already regretting this."

Dr. Zinman arches an eyebrow at him but continues setting up, trying to focus on the task at hand. "I had really bad acne as a kid, and a dad with one too many regrettable tattoos. Enough motivation for you?"

Cooper gasps and clutches a hand to his chest. "You poor thing. I can't even imagine blemishing this perfect canvas," he says, touching a hand to his face.

"Bye Cooper," Quinn snaps. "You can go shave your back now."

Cooper, infuriatingly, just grins at her. "Me-ow, little Lucy has claws." She narrows her eyes at him, and he throws up his hands in surrender, laughing. "Okay, fine, I'm going. I'm sure there are plenty of adoring fans in the waiting room who would love pictures and autographs."

*****

Friday, March 25, 2011

“We can use the guest bedroom to spread out the sheet music,” Blaine explains, climbing the stairs.

“Isn’t Cooper staying in there?” Kurt asks, trailing behind.

“Unfortunately,” Blaine sighs, reaching for the doorknob. “But it’s still the guest bedroom, even if he’s been staying in it the last month and a half. It’s a little bigger and doesn’t have all of my stuff in the way.”

“Your room is as neat as a pin,” Kurt laughs.

“Not the point,” Blaine dismisses, but he can’t help smiling over his shoulder at Kurt as he opens the door. “The point is that Cooper --” The rest of Blaine’s sentence leaves his mind immediately when he catches sight of the inside of the room. The bed is only half made and Cooper’s clothes are strewn about in organized chaos about the room. There’s a stack of DVDs on every flat surface imaginable, and is that a television?

“-- has moved back in?” Kurt supplies tentatively.

No,” Blaine says fiercely, crossing the room to the dresser to clean up a little. “Cooper is -- oh my god, he’s having his mail forwarded here?!”

“Huh,” Kurt says, picking up one of the envelopes. “I never would’ve pegged your brother as the type to have a subscription to American Cowboy.”

“Okay, can you not talk about pegging my brother?” Blaine pleads. Kurt casts him an apologetic look, and Blaine sighs, leaning against the dresser. “Cooper says it’s research,” he explains, “and that it’ll really pay off when he finally gets cast in a made-for-television film.” Blaine runs a hand over his face, rubbing at his eyes beneath the glasses, frustrated.

“You’re really unhappy about your brother being around, aren’t you?”

“It’s just --” Blaine sighs again and drops his hand, trying to figure out how to articulate his thoughts. Kurt’s hand is gentle and warm on his arm, and Blaine relaxes a little. “Before he showed up last month, I hadn’t seen him in three years. Him dropping in and staying this long and trying to be involved in my life is just... weird.”

They’re both quiet for a moment, Kurt’s thumb running over Blaine’s knuckles, before Kurt leans in and presses a kiss to Blaine’s jaw just underneath his ear. “I could take your mind off of it, if you want.” He shifts so that he’s pressing Blaine against the dresser and leans in for a real kiss, hands tight around Blaine’s waist.

“Kurt,” Blaine laughs against his mouth. “Kurt, we’re supposed to be picking out songs for the benefit concert.”

“And we will,” Kurt says, clearly trying to placate him. “But it’s spring break and I don’t have Cheerios practice to keep me active anymore.”

Blaine arches an eyebrow at him. “And making out with me is going to keep you active?”

Kurt grins impishly. “Well, if we go to your room, it might help me stay flexible.” Blaine’s protest dies in his throat at that and he lets Kurt resume kissing him. Blaine snakes his hands up and around Kurt’s neck, relishing in the warmth he finds there. Kurt starts to press one of his legs between Blaine’s when --

“Ahem.”

It’s Kurt who breaks the kiss, but it’s Blaine who glares over at Cooper standing in the doorway, looking at them both pointedly. “Do you mind, Cooper?”

“Do you?” Cooper throws back. “You’re kind of making out in my space, little bro.”

“Your -- it’s not your space,” Blaine sighs, exasperated. “Don’t you have your own apartment? You know, back in L.A.?”

Cooper shrugs and throws the latest pile of his mail onto the bed. “I’m on sabbatical, working on my craft.”

“Really?” Kurt asks interestedly. “Like what?”

“Don’t encourage him,” Blaine whines, but it’s too late.

Cooper beams and holds up a black and yellow book that Blaine hadn’t noticed before, entitled Medical Terminology for Dummies. “Let’s just say you might see me a white coat in the near future.”

“Yeah,” Blaine mutters quietly, “in a nice padded room.” Kurt nudges Blaine with his elbow and shoots him a look that clearly says ‘be nice.’

“Your brother works in the industry, Blaine,” Kurt says brightly. “I bet he could offer some really good advice, you know, for the benefit concert,” he adds, gesturing to the sheet music peeking out of Blaine’s messenger bag.

“Concert?” Cooper echoes, perking up. “What’s this about?”

“Nothing,” Blaine says shortly. “I don’t think we need the Cooper Anderson seal of approval for our song selections.”

“I’ll have you know I have excellent taste,” Cooper sniffs.

“Really?” Blaine counters dryly. “Do you remember when I was two and you were twelve, and the Spice Girls had just gotten their first big hit? And you carried me around the house singing “Wannabe” at the top of your lungs? And then Mom grounded you when she found out what zigazig ah meant?”

“I was just trying to prepare you, Squirt,” Cooper says innocently. “And it worked, didn’t it? I mean, you’ve obviously told Kurt what you really, really want --”

Blaine and Kurt both blush, but it’s Blaine who yells “Oh my god, Cooper, shut up” while Kurt snickers into Blaine’s shoulder.

“Wait,” Kurt says between laughing and gasping for air, lifting his head from Blaine’s shoulder. “Is that why you’re trying so hard to get to know me? You want me to get with Blaine’s friends?”

Cooper exclaims “Exactly!” at the same time Blaine groans “I hate you both.” Cooper flops onto the bed ungracefully and throws a pillow at Blaine, narrowly missing Blaine’s glasses. “Lighten up, Blainey. I got to know Luce, didn’t I? I just want to know more about the people my little brother’s hanging out with.”

“Luce?” Kurt asks, nose scrunching adorably in confusion. “Oh, you mean Quinn.”

“See?” Cooper points out. “I am totally on the right track here.”

“This is so not happening,” Blaine mutters, grabbing Kurt’s hand. “We’re leaving,” he announces. “We’re going to my room, please leave us alone --”

“Hang on, I didn’t even get to ask any questions,” Cooper calls after them.

Blaine ignores him, dragging Kurt to the door, but Kurt stops, leaning in to speak in Blaine’s ear so Cooper can’t overhear. “Just let him ask a few questions,” Kurt urges. “It’ll satisfy his curiosity and maybe he won’t walk in on us. Again.”

Blaine sighs and looks between them, debating. “Two conditions,” he says seriously. “One, I get to say when the interrogation’s over. Two, please don’t like him better than me.”

Kurt bites his lip, clearly trying not to laugh, but he nods when he sees the look on Blaine’s face and presses a kiss to the corner of Blaine’s mouth, squeezing Blaine’s hand. “Promise.”

“Excellent,” Cooper says, rubbing his hands together. “Are you a sophomore too?”

Kurt shakes his head. “Junior.”

Cooper raises an eyebrow at that but doesn’t comment, thankfully. “What’s your sport?” he asks, nodding to the letterman’s jacket Kurt’s wearing.

“Cheerleading,” Kurt answers. “But I quit last month. Our coach tried to shoot a girl out of a canon. Don’t ask.”

The other eyebrow goes up, and Blaine shifts uncomfortably, squeezing Kurt’s hand. He’s waiting for the more personal questions to come, the ones that will make Cooper feel like he’s doing his job as Blaine’s big brother which is just stupid. He’s never done it before. It’s a little late to be starting now. “How’d you end up with Blainey here? I didn’t think he ever took his nose out of a book long enough to make googly eyes at someone.”

Blaine shoots him daggers, but Kurt just looks over at Blaine with warm eyes. “He was my tutor.” He snaps his head back over to Cooper too quickly, suddenly alarmed and blushing. “Just in math,” he adds quickly. Blaine clears his throat pointedly, hoping Kurt will take the hint. “Any other questions?”

“Just one,” Cooper says, and oh no, Blaine absolutely does not like the nonchalant tone of Cooper’s voice. “So have you guys rounded second base yet? Or have you made like the Spice Girls and slid into home yet, because --”

Bye Cooper,” Blaine snaps, tugging a blushing Kurt into the hallway. He presses a quick kiss to Kurt’s cheek. “I’ll meet you in my room, okay?” Kurt smiles a little but doesn’t argue and makes his way down the hall. Blaine spins on his heel and reenters the guest bedroom, fuming. “Leave him alone.”

“I just wanted to check him out,” Cooper says, shrugging. “I didn’t even get to ask him about his post-graduation plans. I don’t want him to hold you back.”

“Hold me ba -- oh my god, Cooper, just stop. This is my life. These are my choices. And Kurt is not holding me back just because he needed a tutor.”

“He’s a year older than you,” Cooper points out, ignoring him, and Blaine has to contain his rage into balled up fists at his sides. “Have you talked about what’s going to happen after he graduates? Blaine, long distance relationships almost never work out. You have too much potential to --”

Enough,” Blaine says firmly. “Whether we’ve talked about it or not is between me and Kurt. And if we want to make it work, we will. He’s ten times the person anyone else in this stupid town is. He’s worth it.”

“Well if it’s that serious, Blainey, then maybe you’re not trying hard enough,” Cooper suggests.

Excuse me?”

“I’m just saying,” Cooper says, holding his hands up defensively, “that if he’s not holding you back, then maybe you should be working a little harder to move forward. You’re too smart to just wait around.”

Blaine blinks, stunned at Cooper’s sudden interest and insight into his life and relationship and goals. Mostly, Blaine’s trying to ignore the voice in the back of his head that agrees with Cooper, the one saying you can do more. It’s a voice that’s always been there, condescending and demeaning and making Blaine feel like less than he is. It’s taken him so long to ignore it, to rise above it and start to recognize his self-worth, and he had to do that without Cooper around.

Mostly, Blaine’s trying to ignore the part of his brain that’s telling him Cooper’s suggestion is a good idea because when have any of Cooper’s ideas been good ones?

Blaine inhales sharply and draws himself up to his full height, squaring his shoulders. “Thanks for the advice,” he says dryly. “Now if you don’t mind, my boyfriend’s waiting for me and we have work to do that doesn’t require your assistance.” He’s halfway down the hallway when Cooper yells after him.

“If you’re making a run for third or home, make sure you’re safe!”

*****

Monday, April 18, 2011

Session Two

“You look bored.”

Quinn rolls her eyes and inspects her nails. It might be time to switch out the black for blue. Or purple. “Nothing gets past those keen observation skills, does it, Sherlock? I’m surprised you haven’t been cast as a detective yet.” Cooper draws in a large breath, probably in preparation for explaining exactly why he hasn’t landed a role as a detective yet, but Quinn holds up a hand to prevent him from speaking.

Cooper fidgets uncomfortably next to her before he shoves a magazine in front of her as an offering. “Want something to read?”

Quinn glances down at the magazine in his hand and arches an eyebrow. “American Cowboy? Do I really strike you as the type to be into that?”

“You’re wearing plaid,” Cooper mumbles. “And this,” he adds, reaching over to tug on the bandana she’s wearing on her head. She bats at his hands and again questions her ability to make good decisions. As grateful as she is to have a way to get rid of this ridiculous tattoo, she’s not sure having to hang out with Cooper Anderson is worth it. “Fine, don’t read it. Sit there. Be bored,” he snaps, petulant, and tucks the magazine back into the stack he’d brought with him.

Quinn sighs and eyes the stack. She’s a little bored, but it’s nothing she can’t handle while she waits for her turn. Well, ordinarily, it’d be fine. But right now, she’s stuck sitting next to Cooper, and she has a feeling if she doesn’t find something to preoccupy herself with, he’s going to keep talking to her and Quinn wants as little of that as possible. “What else do you have?”

The corner of Cooper’s mouth twitches up into a smirk and Quinn instantly regrets asking. “Well, if cowboys aren’t your thing, you have two options: Medical Terminology for Dummies, or Eat, Pray, Love.”

“The first one,” she answers quickly, mostly because it’ll occupy her time without requiring much focus. She won’t deny feeling a little gleeful at the thought of Cooper sitting in the waiting room waiting for her with his nose stuck in Eat, Pray, Love.

The silence only lasts about two minutes before Cooper breaks it, and really, Quinn should have known better. “So you’re friends with Kurt?”

The question is so completely out of left field that Quinn actually does look up at him in surprise. “Kurt Hummel?”

“Yeah,” Cooper says with a warm smile. Quinn’s walls immediately go back up at the sight of it, too much like his brother’s, and she shouldn’t get as much pleasure as she does out of watching the smile falter. “Blainey’s boyfriend. What do you know about him?”

Quinn looks around the waiting room of the office for a moment before looking back at Cooper. “Have I stepped into some alternate universe? Is this your backwards way of trying to be a decent older brother?”

“I’m just trying to be more involved in my brother’s life,” Cooper argues. “You said you’d help me with that, remember?”

“That’s not --” Cooper shoots her a look and Quinn sighs, rubbing her fingers over her temple. “We were on the Cheerios together,” Quinn says, hoping it’s enough to placate Cooper for the time being.

Cooper snorts with disbelieving laughter. “Wait,” he chuckles, giving her a once over. “You were a cheerleader?” Quinn’s lips thin into a line but she doesn’t deny it, and Cooper’s amused expression shifts into a confused one. “It’s just -- you don’t really seem the type, now or back then.”

“Yeah, well, I was,” Quinn says thinly, turning her eyes back to the book in her lap. “Two and a half years.”

“And then what?” Cooper pries, and Quinn has to concentrate really hard on the definition of lobotomy so that she doesn’t lose it in the middle of the waiting room. “You quit too? Because your coach tried to shoot that girl out of a canon?”

Quinn looks over at him and narrows her eyes. “Are you telling me you wouldn’t have quit?”

“I’m not saying that,” Cooper protests. “But you have to admire her love of theatrics.”

“You’re insane,” Quinn informs him. “No, really. You guys would be a match made in heaven.”

“You can’t tell me you don’t understand it from an artist’s perspective,” Cooper argues. “You were a cheerleader. You performed. You had to keep up appearances. I know what that’s like. I’m an actor.”

“Yes, Cooper, I’m aware,” Quinn says dryly, and then she freezes a little, jaw dropping open in horror. “Oh my god, we have something in common.” Cooper beams at her, clearly pleased with himself, but she’s spared from having to deal with the horrifying reality by Doctor Zinman calling out her name. “Not that this hasn’t been fun,” Quinn says, shoving the book in her hands back at Cooper, “but I’d rather get lasered than keep talking to you.”

*****

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Quinn wakes up to the sounds of the Rumours album playing on repeat from her iHome speakers. She groans a little and shifts onto her side to get more comfortable, too tired to actually get up and turn it off. She blinks blearily at the clock on her nightstand, which tells her it’s only four in the morning, and --

She’s naked.

She blinks tiredly and props herself up on her elbows, head pounding as she tries to figure out why she went to bed without putting her pajamas on. She glances over at the other side of the bed and oh shit. No, nonono, this isn’t happening, he isn’t here, she didn’t do this --

-- “You know,” Cooper muses, taking another sip from his wine glass, “you’re much more enjoyable with some alcohol in you.”

Quinn laughs and downs her fourth glass in one go, smacking her lips in satisfaction. “Normally I’d say, ‘Fuck you,’ but I think the feeling’s actually mutual.” --

-- “Why’d you invite me over?” Cooper asks. “I got the feeling you didn’t really want to spend any more time with me than you had to.”

“Maybe I just like yelling at you.” --

-- “You know, when I was twelve, I thought you were cute.”

“Did you ever tell Blaine that?” Cooper laughs.

“I did,” Quinn says, laugh bubbling up from her chest. She feels warm and relaxed and at ease. If Cooper Anderson is good for anything outside of paying to have her tattoo removed, it’s that he’s definitely Blaine’s brother. They were definitely raised by the same set of parents, definitely raised to be polite. He’d shown up with three different kinds of wine, and that alone is enough to get him at least a few points. Well, at least for now. She can feign ignorance in the morning. “I told him I might actually like you if you weren’t so fucking obnoxious.”

“I have a hard time believing a twelve-year-old Lucy Fabray used such language,” Cooper teases, and Quinn hits him with a pillow. --

-- “Do you want to know why I’m paying to have your tattoo removed? It’s -- it’s because --” Cooper buries his face in his hand, unable to keep himself from laughing, and god, Quinn hates that she finds him drunk to be this amusing, but she’s got enough alcohol in her system that she doesn’t care. “Because I know what it’s like to get one and regret it.”

“You?” Quinn asks skeptically. “Mr. I-Can’t-Imagine-Anything-Blemishing-This-Perfect-Canvas?”

“Ugh, I know, I know,” Cooper groans. “But I did, seriously. When I was twenty-one, I’d gone out drinking with a few friends, and we ran into Gina Glocksen -- you remember, that chick from American Idol? And we got to talking and then I went and got a fucking tattoo, right where yours is --”

“You got a tramp stamp?” Quinn gasps, smacking him on the arm. “What was it? A butterfly? Please say a butterfly.”

Cooper shakes his head, eyes glittering just like Blaine’s. “A bastardized version of a car with the words Little Deuce Coop across the bottom.” Quinn does an actual spit take and gets wine all over Cooper’s t-shirt. Neither of them says anything when he takes it off. --

-- “You know, in a weird way, I’m really glad you’re not like your brother.”

“Really?”

“Yeah. It means I’m not going to be stuck with you because I can’t help liking you.” --

-- Quinn presses her lips to Cooper’s, plucks the wine glass from his hand and sets it on her nightstand, straddles his lap and whispers “I promise I’m pretty underneath” into his ear. --

-- She cards her fingers through his hair as he settles between her legs, closes her eyes and groans as he licks a wet stripe up her labia, again and again and again --

-- He’s so much more overwhelming than Puck was, taller, more muscular. Maybe it’s the wine. Quinn’s not sure she cares, not with Cooper hovering over, hips pivoting back and forth as he pants and smiles and takes a little too long to come because he’s so fucking wasted. She puts her hands on him in return and revels in the feeling of being wanted. --

Quinn squeezes her thighs shut at the memory, trying valiantly to ignore the slick wetness between them and fuck, fuck, fuck, they didn’t use a condom, what is wrong with her? She sits up too quickly and prays for the wave of nausea to pass. This is -- it isn’t unfair, because this is her fault, entirely, but fuck, she thought she’d learned her lesson the last time. It feels like history is repeating itself all over again, except instead of sleeping with her boyfriend’s best friend, she’s just slept with her ex-best friend’s brother. His much older brother who Quinn actually kind of despises, how did this happen?

She finds her camisole and underwear discarded on the floor and slips back into them, hesitating for a moment before wrapping herself up in her oversized plaid shirt. She perches at the foot of the bed and tugs her knees to her chest, trying not to panic. She’s Quinn Fabray, for crying out loud, she should be better than this. She was better than this. She was enough to slim down and become a chameleon and see straight, enough to disappear behind the lines of her uniform and part a path down the hallway with her mere presence. She was enough to give up a child she couldn’t support, enough to rock the boat at McKinley, enough to try to do the right thing and make it up to Blaine. She was enough to quit when Coach Sue went too far, enough to hide her wounded pride when Blaine still wouldn’t accept her apology. She was enough for the Skanks to accept her into their ranks, enough to change and camouflage again. She was enough to disappear. She was enough to leave Lucy behind.

But maybe she’s never really been enough. She wasn’t enough before high school, enough when Blaine was her only friend. She wasn’t enough when she abandoned him, wasn’t enough when she cheated on Finn with Puck. She wasn’t enough when she tried to forget about Beth and move on, wasn’t enough for Blaine to forgive her. She wasn’t enough for her father, wasn’t enough to find a way to get rid of this idiotic stain on her back alone. She’s never been enough, she’s never mattered, and that’s why Cooper Anderson is naked and snoring behind her.

She’s never going to not be Lucy.

“Quinn?” Cooper mumbles sleepily, shifting a little closer. “It’s four-thirty in the morning, why are you awake?” Quinn doesn’t answer, doesn’t look back. “Come on,” he urges quietly, hand brushing against her arm, “just come back to --”

“Don’t touch me,” she says, and even though her voice is shaking, she has enough resolve to sound serious, cold, firm.

She can see Cooper sit up all the way and crawl even closer out of the corner of her eye, and if she weren’t so absolutely furious and disgusted with herself, she’d almost feel bad at the wounded look on his face. “What did I do?” he asks. “Quinn, come on, just tell me,” he pleads, clearly wanting to go back to sleep. He reaches for her arm again, this time his hand going for her elbow, and she smacks him away so hard that he actually falls backwards a little.

“I said,” she says, her whole body starting to vibrate as she stands up and goes to lean against her vanity, “don’t touch me.”

Cooper’s looking at her like he doesn’t recognize her, she can see the flash of rage and indignation behind his eyes and she absolutely does not care -- “What the fuck, Quinn?” he snaps. “You came onto me, remember?”

“I don’t care,” Quinn answers quietly, wrapping her arms around herself and looking away. “This was a mistake. This can’t happen again. This won’t happen again, I don’t even like you --”

“You invited me over!” Cooper says, the raised volume of his voice reflecting how much more alert he is now. “What is with the multiple personalities here, Quinn? First you run hot, then you run cold --”

Quinn’s eyes snap up to look at him. “You know nothing about me,” she seethes. “You have no idea what I’ve been through.”

“It’s not for a lack of trying,” Cooper grumbles, irritated.

Trying?” Quinn echoes, laughing incredulously. “The way you try with Blaine? God, Cooper, if you were actually trying, if you knew anything about us, you’d know that Blaine and I haven’t been friends for three years.”

Cooper’s entire face falls, his eyes growing a little wide and panicked. “What?”

And that’s when Quinn snaps, because fuck Cooper, fuck Blaine, fuck anyone and everyone and everything. “Yep,” she says, throwing her arms out, putting herself on display. “Secret’s out. Blaine fucking hates me.”

Why?” Cooper asks, retrieving his boxers from the floor and hopping back into them.

“For the same reason he hates you,” Quinn says, laughing bitterly. “Because we fucking abandoned him when he needed us the most. God, no wonder he’s so fucking resentful and closed off. You packed up and moved to California for good after you’d spend most of his life treating him like crap, and then I left him two months later. It’s a fucking miracle Kurt was able to break down those walls enough for Blaine to let him in. Blaine probably spends most of his time worrying that Kurt’s going to leave him like we did.”

“Do you think he will?” Cooper asks worriedly, tugging his jeans back on.

“Fuck -- no,” Quinn snaps, running a hand through hair, ignoring the way blonde is starting to twist in with the pink. “Kurt wouldn’t do that, trust me, I know from personal experience. And you want to know why? Because he’s a way better person than you and I combined. God,” Quinn says, half-laughing in disbelief. “You know, it pains me to say this, but you and I? We’re two of a kind. We treated Blaine like shit and yet we’re so fucking attached to him that we will do just about anything to get him to approve of us again. I just want someone to give a shit about me. And you -- you are totally incapable of caring about anyone but yourself, Cooper.”

“I’m trying,” Cooper yells, and Quinn has to hit him hard with a pillow to get him to shut up because she has no idea if her mom’s home or not. “You may not have been able to get Blaine to forgive you, but at least I’m trying, okay?”

“By what?” Quinn says coldly. “Using me to get to him? Well, guess what, Cooper? I’m not for sale.”

“You had a price,” Cooper reminds her. “Everyone has a price. You agreed to this, to me helping you and you helping me and --”

“And like I said, Cooper, I’m done pretending. I’m done trying. It’s time for me to be the user instead of the used.”

Cooper narrows his eyes and folds his arms over his bare chest and Quinn has no idea where his shirt is. “Well then maybe you should stop letting people use you.”

All of the air leaves her at once, her chest aching. “Get out,” she says, voice low and shaking. “Get out. Get out.” She picks up anything in reach -- a pillow, his shirt, his shoes, his stupid DVD copy of Eat, Pray, Love -- and throws it at him, barely able to keep her voice quiet enough not to wake her mother. “Get out, get out, getoutgetoutgetout,” she rages, wishing she could scream. Cooper retreats, caught off guard and clearly panicking, hands fumbling to hold onto his possessions as he stumbles out into the hallway and down the stairs. Quinn closes her bedroom door behind him and sinks to the floor, knees pulled up tight to her chest.

The first of the birds start to sing outside just as she buries her face in her sleeves and starts to cry.

*****

Sunday, May 15, 2011

It’s almost eleven Sunday morning when the front door clicks open, and Cooper’s eyes flick up when he hears it shut, waiting.

“Where the fuck have you been?”

Blaine starts in the hallway and looks over to where Cooper’s sitting in the dining room. He pushes his glasses further up his nose and runs his thumb over his crumpled bowtie in his hand, meeting Cooper’s narrowed eyes. Blaine glances around for a minute, clearly trying to buy himself some time. “Where are Mom and Dad?”

“Brunch,” Cooper says thinly, hands gripping his mug tightly. “I repeat, where the fuck have you been?”

Blaine narrows his eyes in retaliation and draws himself up to his full height, which really doesn’t do much for him. “I don’t see why you care,” he replies, voice just as cold. “I don’t need a babysitter, Coop. Mom and Dad knew where I was --”

“Mom and Dad knew that you went to prom,” Cooper supplies. “What Mom and Dad don’t know is that you went to a school dance and stayed out all night.” Blaine doesn’t answer, just folds his arms over his chest, unrelenting. “Were you with him?”

Blaine rolls his eyes. “It’s none of your business,” he says, and turns from Cooper without another word.

“See, I think it is my business,” Cooper counters, rising from his chair and following Blaine out into the hallway, managing to keep Blaine downstairs. “What’d you do, get a room and --”

“God,” Blaine groans. “Cooper, why do you care?”

“I care because the last time you went to a dance, you had the crap beaten out of you,” Cooper admits, voice louder and less controlled than he wants it to be, and god, he needs to be in a workshop pronto. “You stayed out all night last night and didn’t call or text or leave a note or anything --”

“You don’t get to do this,” Blaine says coldly, jaw set. “You don’t get to start caring, Cooper. Not now.” He spins on his heel and takes a few steps up the stairs, turning to face Cooper again on the fifth step. “We went to prom. We went to prom and then Rachel had the glee club over for a party after and we stayed the night there. I would’ve come home earlier, but her dads fixed us breakfast. So no, I didn’t get the shit beaten out of me again and no, Kurt and I didn’t hook up last night. Happy?” he says, and he’s mocking Cooper.

Blaine starts to make his way back up the stairs, and Cooper snaps. “Why aren’t you friends with Lucy Fabray anymore?”

That gets Blaine to stop dead in his tracks, and he turns slowly halfway up the stairs to stare at Cooper incredulously. “At the risk of sounding like a broken record, why do you care?”

“You were best friends,” Cooper argues, trying to reign himself back in.

“Yeah, three years ago,” Blaine reminds him. “People change. They grow apart. They grow up.” He pauses and then adds, “Well, some of us do, anyway.”

Cooper grips the bottom of the banister in an effort to hold himself back. Blaine’s deliberately trying to provoke him and Cooper’s not sure how much longer he can hold out. He’s almost at the end of his rope. “That’s a bullshit answer and you know it.”

“And again, Coop, you don’t get to do this,” Blaine says, taking a few steps back down towards him. “You don’t get to just show up unannounced and try to insert yourself into my life and start caring about me or my relationship with Kurt or, god, Quinn Fabray. You don’t get to, Cooper. You have no right.” Another spin of his dress shoes and he’s heading back up the stairs, oblivious to the volcano that’s about to erupt behind him.

“I slept with her.”

Blaine’s at the top of the stairs now but he turns around again, much faster this time. He mirrors Cooper, hand gripping the banister. “You what?”

Cooper draws in a breath, squares his shoulders, and doesn’t look away. “Quinn and I -- we’ve been spending time together while I’ve been in town. She said you weren’t friends anymore. And last weekend, I was over at her house and we had a few glasses of wine and one thing led to another and --”

“You slept with her?” Blaine whispers, feet thudding heavily against the stairs as he drags himself down them, eyes fixed on Cooper.

Cooper works his jaw as Blaine comes level with him again. “Yeah,” he says indifferently. “I did. And you know what, you don’t get to care either, if you’re not -- fuck!” Cooper clutches at his face and stumbles back a little, gaping when he pulls his hand away to find blood there.

Blaine punched him.

“Jesus, Squirt,” Cooper hisses, pressing his hand to his nose to try and staunch the blood flow. “When did you get such a mean right hook?” It takes him a minute to catch his breath, hand clutching at his nose painfully. When he finally looks up, Blaine’s hands are clenched in fists at his sides, his entire body practically vibrating. Cooper’s eyes widen in surprise. Yeah, he sort of went out of his way to try and provoke Blaine into actually talking to him, but he didn’t figure Blaine would react this violently to the news.

Blaine inhales sharply through his nose and takes a step forward, his voice shaking when he speaks. “You. Fucking. Asshole.

“Okay, what is with the personal attacks?” Cooper yells, equally as pissed. His nose is throbbing. “First her, now you --”

“I have to get out of here,” Blaine mutters, brushing past Cooper towards the front door.

“Where are you going?” Cooper asks, trailing after him, palm trying to stem the blood flow. “You don’t even have a car --”

“I’ll call Kurt to come back and pick me up,” Blaine says wildly, yanking the front door open.

“Blaine, this is ridiculous, why can’t we just talk about --”

“Because I don’t want to talk to you!” Blaine yells, practically screaming. He’s the volcano now, erupting and red in the face. “What part of that don’t you get, Cooper? I wasn’t happy to see you when you got here in February. I’m not happy to see you now. I don’t want you here. I don’t need you. So stop trying so fucking hard. You’re wasting your time.”

The door slams in Cooper’s face, and Cooper finds himself grateful that Blaine punched him. It makes it harder for Cooper to cry.

*****

Cooper doesn’t follow him.

Granted, that’s probably because he was bleeding profusely from his nose and probably prioritized lamenting the loss of any potential gigs until the bruising went away, but Blaine can’t bring himself to care. His feet carry him down the driveway to the sidewalk, and by the time he’s passing the neighbor’s yard, Kurt’s picked up his phone. “Hey, you,” Kurt says warmly, voice sounding distant. He must have Blaine on speaker while he drives. “Miss me already? Or did you leave something in my car --”

“Can you come pick me up?” Blaine pleads, voice pitching a little high as he walks down the block. He feels himself losing control with each passing second, and he needs this, needs to get out, needs to breathe, needs to box, needs Kurt.

“Sure,” Kurt says, hesitation clear in his voice. “Is everything okay? You sound upset.”

“I can’t -- I don’t want to talk about it over the phone,” Blaine says. “Can you just come back and get me and take me to your house? I want to be anywhere but home right now.”

“I’ll be there in five minutes,” Kurt promises.

It’s less than five minutes, in the end, because by the time Kurt shows up, Blaine’s already two blocks away from his house and Kurt hardly has to stop the car at all before Blaine’s climbing in. His head hits the headrest with a soft thump and he closes his eyes, willing himself not to lose it yet, not to scream or cry or hit something (else). Kurt seems to have the good sense not to ask about it just yet, just drives in silence, his hand a gentle warmth on top of Blaine’s. The silence works against him, though, because it means that not talking about it means he thinks about it instead, and that means everything he’s feeling just keeps building inside of him. By the time he climbs the stairs and enters Kurt’s bedroom, there’s nothing left for him to do but explode.

“Cooper had sex with Quinn.”

Kurt blinks in surprise, frozen in the doorway for a moment before he shuts the door quietly behind him. “I’m sorry, what?”

“My brother,” Blaine says, laughing bitterly as he runs a hand through his already messed up hair, “slept with Quinn Fabray.”

“Okay, hang on,” Kurt cuts in, settling down at the foot of the bed. “Back up. How did you find this out?”

“Cooper told me,” Blaine explains, pacing the small floorspace in Kurt’s room just so he doesn’t punch a hole in the wall. “He was waiting up for me when I got home. We argued and --”

“Why?” Kurt asks. “Did he threaten to tell your parents that you’d been out all night?”

Blaine blinks, caught off guard, but he shakes his head and resumes his pacing. “No, he was just -- he tried to play the part of the concerned older brother because of Sadie Hawkins. And I sort of blew up at him, because I’m so sick of him acting like he has any right to care now when he never has before, and we started arguing and that was when he told me.”

Kurt rubs at his temple and sighs. “Okay, and when did it happen?”

“Last weekend. Apparently, they’ve been spending time together ever since Cooper came back to Lima,” Blaine explains, and god, saying it out loud is even worse. “He went to her house last weekend and they got drunk and he slept with her, god.” Blaine sinks down on the bed next to Kurt and closes his eyes. “I feel like I’m going to throw up.” He starts to clench his hands a little in an effort to hold on to some of his resolve and winces in pain.

Kurt reaches over and takes Blaine’s right hand in his. “What happened to your hand?”

“I, um.” Blaine colors a little and rubs at the back of his neck, glasses slipping down the bridge of his nose. “ImighthavepunchedCooperintheface.”

“You shouldn’t have done that,” Kurt says quietly.

“I know,” Blaine sighs. “I just -- I was so angry with him and I just lost it.”

Kurt draws in a breath and pushes himself to his feet, fixing Blaine’s glasses for him and pressing a kiss to Blaine’s forehead. “Okay, pause,” he says. “Let me go get you some ice for your hand.”

He returns a few moments later with an ice pack and gently applies it to Blaine’s hand before kneeling on the floor in front of him, hand warm and comforting on Blaine’s knee. And Blaine relaxes a little at the sight of Kurt looking up at him, smile small and kind, eyes a mix of confusion and concern. Like Blaine, he’s still wearing his tuxedo from prom, sans jacket. Everything’s wrinkled at this point, of course, but it serves as a reminder of the night they’d enjoyed together. No, it hadn’t been perfect, and they’d shared less slow dances than they would’ve liked, but overall the night was a success. For one night, Blaine had forgotten about the jagged scar on his arm and where it’d come from. “Thank you,” Blaine says quietly, decidedly less angry than he had been a few moments ago.

Kurt doesn’t respond for a few more minutes, just studies Blaine’s face, quiet and contemplative. “Okay,” he says slowly, “I just -- I’m trying to understand where you’re coming from, Blaine. Why did it make you so angry?”

Blaine stares at him disbelievingly. “Are you saying I shouldn’t be?”

“I’m not saying that at all,” Kurt says calmly. “I’m just asking you to explain it to me.”

Blaine looks away for a moment, trying to figure out how he’s even supposed to articulate what he’s feeling. He feels like it’s pretty obvious and self-explanatory, given his history with them. Given their, history, god. “Because it was a shitty thing to do,” Blaine answers finally, getting a little hysterical again. “Because this time last year, Quinn was what, two or three weeks away from having a baby? Because Cooper is twenty-five and she’s seventeen?”

Kurt shakes his head. “Look, I’m not saying I condone what they did. Do I think it was poor judgement on their part? Absolutely. But...” He trails off and bites his lip, giving Blaine a once-over before sighing and barreling forward. “Blaine, they’re two people over the age of consent.”

“They were drunk --”

“Again, bad judgement and I’m not saying it was okay at all, but -- Blaine, I’m trying to figure out why it matters. You’ve never been close to Cooper. You’ve been increasingly agitated by his presence the last couple of months. And you’re not friends with Quinn anymore. Why does it matter to you so much?”

“Because...” Blaine shifts uncomfortably on the bed, deflating a little. He doesn’t like this. He doesn’t like feeling like he has to justify the way he feels. He feels the way he does for a reason. A lot of reasons. A lot of good reasons. “Because it was a shitty thing to do,” he says again.

“On whose part?” Kurt asks carefully.

‘I don’t know, both of them?” Blaine snaps. “Cooper’s my brother, even if he’s never really been there for me. I just don’t understand how he could do something like this.”

“Okay, so you feel betrayed?” Kurt tries.

“I don’t know, I guess so,” Blaine says awkwardly, looking away. “It -- look, it doesn’t matter that Quinn and I aren’t friends anymore. The fact that we ever were established a line he shouldn’t have crossed. And he did. And -- you know what? No, it does matter that we’re not friends anymore, because he knew that. He asked me why we weren’t friends anymore. If he knew we weren’t friends anymore, why would he sleep with her? He had to know it’d hurt me.”

“But why?” Kurt asks again, moving his hand from Blaine’s knee to grab Blaine’s uninjured hand. “Why does Cooper sleeping with Quinn hurt you?”

“Because, fuck, I don’t know,” Blaine gripes, agitated. “Because it’s like he’s taking her side. Hers, over mine. Over his brother’s.”

“Blaine,” Kurt says patiently, “if Cooper was asking you why you and Quinn aren’t friends anymore, wouldn’t that mean he doesn’t know why you stopped being friends in the first place?”

“So that makes it worse,” Blaine says, and fuck, he can feel the onslaught of tears welling up in his throat, behind his eyes. He bites his lip and inhales sharply to keep them at bay, trying not to fog up his glasses. “He took her side without knowing anything.”

“I think that’s an unfounded assumption,” Kurt says gently, and Blaine’s jaw falls open because Kurt is taking their side. “And before you say anything, I’m not taking their side, okay? But you do that. You tend to assume things about people without really knowing them. You did about me, remember?” Blaine colors a little but relents, squeezing Kurt’s hand. “Just... keep an open mind, okay? It might not be what you think.”

Blaine’s bottom lip quivers, the effort to hold back his tears getting harder with each minute. “I don’t want to have to justify how I feel to you.”

“I’m not asking you to,” Kurt assures him, pushing himself up a little higher on his knees to be closer to Blaine. “I’m just trying to understand why you feel the way you do.” Blaine closes his eyes and nods, feeling his lashes grow wet. “Can I ask you one more question?” Blaine nods silently. “Why are you upset with Quinn?”

Blaine opens his eyes slowly, brimming with tears, and the answer falls from his lips a lot more easily than he would’ve expected it to. “Because it feels like she chose him over me. Because everyone chooses Cooper over me.”

“Oh, baby,” Kurt murmurs, leaning forward and wrapping his arms around Blaine. “I didn’t.”

“You’re the only one,” Blaine murmurs, burying his face into Kurt’s neck. He knows he’s being completely childish and petulant right now, feeling inferior to Cooper, but it hurts ten times more because it’s her, it’s Quinn, it’s Lucy, she was supposed to be his friend. Blaine pulls away a little and tugs his glasses off, wiping harshly at his eyes with palm, desperate to scrub the tears away. He’s so tired of crying over her. “You don’t get it,” he says wetly. “She used to despise him as much as I did. And then they both abandoned me when I really needed someone, and now it’s just...”

Kurt waits until Blaine’s stopped crying to put Blaine’s glasses back on for him, and the smile he gives Blaine is a little too sad for Blaine’s liking. “And the reason you’re so upset about Cooper sleeping with her is because you still care about her.”

Blaine meets Kurt’s eyes for a moment, the words hanging between them, before he heaves a great sigh and flops onto his back on the mattress. “It’s been three years.”

Kurt climbs onto the bed and adjusts them both so they’re lying side by side. “That doesn’t change the fact that she meant a lot to you. And it’d be easier to move on if she hadn’t tried to earn your forgiveness this year. Blaine, I get it -- it hurt when she turned her back on you. And it hurt more because you trusted her, because you cared about her.”

“So why should I forgive her?” Blaine asks bitterly.

“Because those feelings don’t just go away,” Kurt says gently. “And whether you like it or admit to it or not, there’s a part of you that wants what you used to have, because it meant something to you. And if you forgive her, that’s what will make it easy.”

“I don’t know if I can,” Blaine admits, shifting to rest his head on Kurt’s chest. “Not yet.”

Kurt presses his lips to Blaine’s forehead and curls an arm around him. “I have faith in you.”

*****

Friday, May 20, 2011

Quinn takes a long drag of her cigarette and exhales slowly. It’s getting warmer now, warm enough to wear the miniscule shorts she’d pulled on this morning, but Quinn feels too cold. She tugs the ends of her plaid shirt closer for warmth and stares unseeing out at the football field. The rest of the Skanks are at the skate park this afternoon trying to pick up guys, and Quinn was glad for the solace under the bleachers. This, at least, was familiar. She was used to being alone.

“Those are really bad for you, you know.”

Quinn rolls her eyes and glances sideways briefly before doing a double take, unable to mask her surprise. “Blaine,” she coughs, making too quick work out of putting the cigarette out. She clears her throat and takes a moment to collect herself before schooling her face into something a little more neutral. “I’d ask what you were doing slumming it over here, but since the rest of the girls aren’t here --”

“I have one question for you,” Blaine says, cutting her off. She can see his hands clutching the strap of his messenger bag tightly, sees his Adam’s apple bob as he swallows nervously, the bright green bowtie drawing her eye.

“Why did I sleep with him?” she sighs, looking away and pretending to inspect her nail beds. She can’t look at him, not now, not ever. He makes her too vulnerable, and she’s at her weakest now. She can’t afford any more opportunities to make it hurt more. Hmm, green might be a nice change.

“Why have you been spending time together?”

It’s not the question she expected, but she’s still not all that surprised by it. Leave it to Cooper to hold his cards close to the vest. For all that Cooper’s been claiming to want to get closer to Blaine, Cooper’s not exactly that great at letting Blaine in. Well, assuming there’s actually a person underneath that veneer. Quinn takes her time, though, because it’s the first time in a long time that Blaine’s asked something of her, needed something from her, and no matter how much she might hate herself for it later, she’s going to enjoy it for now. In the end, she decides on the truth, or at least part of it. “He’s paying for my tattoo removal.”

Blaine’s answering question is immediate. “And what does Cooper get out of that?”

Quinn smirks a little, the edges of a laugh just missing escaping her. She’d forgotten how well Blaine knew his brother and how he operated. It was Blaine, after all, who had first pointed out to her how completely selfish Cooper was. She has two options in answering Blaine, the two reasons Cooper had agreed to pay for her tattoo removal. There’s the reason Cooper would give, the surface reason, the one that’s so characteristically Cooper that it’s easy enough to believe and overlook. And then there’s the reason Cooper had been much more hesitant to approach, even before Quinn had told him about the demise of her friendship with Blaine, the reason that’s the real truth behind it all, the reason that’s inherently more selfish just because of the deception involved. And Quinn can’t help it -- she gives Blaine the answer he deserves because fuck Cooper. Even if Blaine hates her for the rest of their lives, he still treated her better than Cooper ever has and ever will. “He wanted to get closer to you.”

Blaine seems to be expecting this answer too, because he’s quick again with his next question, and this time it’s directed at her, about her, and Cooper isn’t the focus anymore. “And you just happened to neglect to mention that you and I aren’t friends anymore?” And there’s the kick to the gut Quinn’s been waiting for, the dig Blaine can’t seem to help, the resentment, the hurt. She looks away, because even if she feels the guilt and shame of being selfish, she’s not going to let him see it. “It’s always about you, isn’t it? What you want, what you can get out of something or someone. If I weren’t so pissed off about you sleeping with him, I’d say you two were perfect for each other.”

“If you’re worried about a repeat performance, don’t be,” Quinn says flatly. “If I ever end up in the same room as Cooper again, I’ll claw his eyes out.”

Blaine doesn’t laugh at her like she expects him to. He doesn’t say anything at all, actually, not for a long time, and Quinn endures the long silence only by forcing herself not to look into his eyes again. When Blaine does finally react, it’s with a few quiet steps towards her and an outstretched arm, box in hand. She glances over at the box, unable to help herself, and her gut twists in knots at the sight of it. The box of pregnancy tests is an unfriendly and harsh reminder of the cold reality of the situation that she’s been trying so, so hard to forget, to ignore. “I figure you don’t want a repeat of last year,” Blaine says quietly.

Quinn stares at the box for a moment, fighting to keep her breathing even, before she reaches out and gently pries the box out of Blaine’s hands. She still doesn’t look up at him, but she can’t help the small smile that tugs at the corner of her lips, suddenly warm again. “I don’t know whether to be insulted or say thank you. Is this your way of being nice to me?”

Blaine takes a few steps away from her and the chill settles in again immediately. “I don’t think you’re allowed to expect more than this from me right now.”

Any traces of a potential smile are gone, and she nods with closed eyes, hand gripping the box a little too tightly. “Right.”

“Just... take them,” Blaine says, and Quinn can detect a small note of pleading in his voice. “And let Cooper know. He deserves to know.” Quinn swallows hard and looks up, Blaine’s figure a blurry outline in her peripheral vision. She nods in reply and then he’s gone without another word or backwards glance. Her fingers twitch, aching to reach into her pocket and pull out another cigarette to take the edge off, but a second glance at the box Blaine’s given her makes her think twice.

He’s always made her think twice.

*****

Monday, June 20, 2011

Session Three

Quinn clicks the cap of her antibiotic cream shut and reaches for the patch of gauze to cover her lower back. She twists awkwardly in front of her vanity as she tries to apply the medical tape to keep it in place and sighs in frustration. Cooper had been around after the last two treatments to help her with this. She should’ve just stayed at Doctor Zinman’s office until it was time to do this and asked for help. Hell, she would’ve even accepted help from the annoyingly perky receptionist.

Her phone starts to ring on the vanity and she abandons her efforts for a moment to see who’s calling. She bites her lip and hesitates upon seeing Cooper’s name, unsure whether or not she wants to answer. She really wants nothing more to do with him, not after the way they’d left things. She’s only heard from him once since then, a text to let her know he was back in L.A. soon after and not to worry about paying for the rest of her sessions. For that, at least, Quinn is grateful, and it’s because of that she even answers the call at all. “Hello?”

“How’s Ryan looking?”

Quinn smiles a little in spite of herself. “Fading, slowly but surely. Like his career.”

“Payment go through okay?”

“Yeah,” Quinn answers faintly, sitting down cross-legged on her bed. She toys with a stray thread on her comforter, wondering which one of them is going to make the first move.

It takes her by surprise when Cooper does. “I wanted to apologize,” he says, and it sounds stiff and awkward even through the phone, but it doesn’t make her appreciate it any less. “What I said about letting people use you -- that was out of line.”

“Thank you,” she says quietly, and she hopes it comes across as sincere. “I -- there’s something I should tell you. Really, I should’ve told you about it then, because I was freaking out at you for a lot bigger of a reason than I was letting on.”

“Yeah, I got that,” Cooper answers quietly. “I’m not as dumb as people think I am. I’m actually pretty good at reading people sometimes.”

“I need you not to interrupt me,” Quinn says, clear and firm. “I need you to just let me get this out, because this isn’t easy for me.” Cooper doesn’t say anything, and she takes the cue while she has it. It’s now or never. “My sophomore year of high school, I was captain of the Cheerios. I was dating the quarterback of the football team -- he’s Kurt’s step-brother now, actually. And, surprise surprise, I made some really stupid decisions and slept with his best friend.”

“Kurt’s?”

“No, Finn’s,” Quinn clarifies, half-exasperated, half-amused. “Noah Puckerman. And he -- he got me pregnant.”

It’s quiet on Cooper’s end of the line except for the sound of steady breathing, and it makes her fidget uncomfortably on her bed even though he’s over two-thousand miles away. “Jesus, Quinn,” Cooper breathes. “Why didn’t you say something?”

“I generally like to forget it ever happened,” she admits, trying to focus on the words themselves instead of what they mean. “There was this whole mess over who the father was, and then my parents kicked me out and Kurt’s family took me in -- but none of that matters now. I gave the baby up for adoption. I tried to start over.”

Cooper sighs on the other end of the phone, clearly frustrated. “I just don’t understand why you didn’t tell me all of this when I offered to pay for your tattoo removal.”

Quinn purses her lips, immediately on the defensive. Leave it to Cooper to turn what’s supposed to be a calm, rational conversation into a petty argument. “Believe it or not, I don’t actually owe you anything, Cooper. You’re so selfish.”

I’m selfish?” Cooper snaps, and he sounds angry now too, fuck, this is why Quinn didn’t want to answer the phone. “You accepted my help knowing that you couldn’t help me with Blaine. You came onto me with your track record --”

“My track record?” Quinn echoes. “What the hell is that supposed to mean?”

“It means that this isn’t what I signed up for.”

“Why?” Quinn throws back coldly. “Because it doesn’t serve your needs?”

“You lied to me,” Cooper argues. “I’ve never been nothing but honest with you.”

“Oh, honesty, what a virtue,” Quinn says dryly. “Congrats, your karmic slate is super clean because you were so honest. Tell me, Cooper, were you that honest with Blaine when you first came to town? Did you tell him why you were here? Because I did, and let me tell you, I’m pretty sure he had that figured out without me having to tell him. He saw right through you, Cooper. Not like that’s hard to do. And guess what? He still doesn’t want anything to do with you.”

“You think I don’t know that?” Cooper says bitterly. “Do you want to know what he did to me, when I told him I’d slept with you? He punched me in the face. God knows why, it wasn’t like he was defending your honor or anything.”

And it hits her, then, what Blaine was trying to do when he gave her the box of her pregnancy tests. I figure you don’t want a repeat of last year, he’d said. He punched Cooper in the face, he’d pushed her to be honest, to do the right thing.

Somewhere in him, no matter how reluctant and upset he might be, Blaine still cares about her.

Quinn reaches up to wipe at her eyes, ashamed that they’ve filled with tears so quickly. “Cooper, I can’t do this with you right now,” she says, rushing to bring the conversation to an end. “The only reason I answered your call was to tell you that I’m not pregnant.” Cooper seems stunned into silence, for once, and Quinn attributes it to disbelief. “I took tests,” she adds. “Three of them.”

“No, it’s not -- I believe you,” Cooper says, voice suddenly quiet. “I just -- I lost focus. I wasn’t even thinking about it.”

“I know you weren’t,” she sighs, wiping roughly at her eyes with her sleeve. “Goodbye, Cooper. Thank you for your help.” She hangs up the phone without giving him the chance to respond and crosses her room to the mirror to clean up her face properly. She almost doesn’t recognize the person in the mirror, this mess of Lucy and Quinn and Cheerio and Skank. She’s thin, for now, drowning in her clothes, her hair a messy twist of blonde and pink, dark at the roots. The only thing that’s stayed the same over the last five years has been her eyes, and no matter how hard she tries, they’ll always be there to betray her, to show just how much she hasn’t changed.

Quinn looks in the mirror and finds Lucy staring back.

*****

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Text Message from: Cooper Anderson
You don’t seem like the type of girl to appreciate a box of chocolates.

Text Message from: Quinn Fabray
Not while I’m undergoing laser removal. Trying to take care of my skin. Don’t want to break out. I’ve had to give up chocolate and cigs.

Text Message from: Cooper Anderson
I can’t exactly send you a bottle of wine. That didn’t work out so well last time.

Text Message from: Quinn Fabray
Don’t remind me.

Text Message from: Cooper Anderson
Tell me how to make it up to you.

Text Message from: Quinn Fabray
Don’t worry about it.

Text Message from: Cooper Anderson
Please? Blaine’s freezing me out. You’re at least talking to me.

Text Message from: Quinn Fabray
I hate you.
I can’t believe I’m telling you this.
Company. I could use some company.

Text Message from: Cooper Anderson
Skanks and 40 y.o. men at the skate park not cutting it?
Sorry, habit.
Let me fly you out.
I’ll take you to Disneyland and everything. We can even get you one of those pins and pretend it’s your birthday and try to get free dessert.
Not chocolate.
I can’t believe you gave up chocolate. You brave, brave soul.

Text Message from: Quinn Fabray
Oh my god, if I agree, will you stop rambling? Jeez.
And we don’t have to lie. It will be.

Text Message from: Cooper Anderson
Will be what?

Text Message from: Quinn Fabray
My birthday. A week from tomorrow.

Text Message from: Cooper Anderson
Perfect! Enjoy your youth at the happiest place on Earth before you’re a real adult.

Text Message from: Quinn Fabray
So what’s your excuse?

Text Message from: Cooper Anderson
I’m Peter Pan. Or a lost boy. I never grew up.

Text Message from: Quinn Fabray
That explains so much.

*****

Friday, July 1, 2011

“Cooper, I’m seventeen,” Quinn reminds him, watching him dash around the store. “I think I’m a little old for this.”

Cooper stops dead in front of her, eyes wide and jaw hanging open, and says, very seriously, “You are never too old for Disneyland.” He plops a pair of mouse ears on her head and dashes away to the accessories.

“Says the twenty-five year old to the seventeen year old,” she mutters, taking the ears off of her head and following him over to the accessories bin. “Is this really necessary? I’m never going to wear these ears anywhere but here. The only reason I’ll wear them at all is because you force me to.”

“Quinn,” Cooper says, rising to his full height and looking her square in the eye, “let me tell you something I’ve learned.” Quinn arches an eyebrow at him but doesn’t interrupt. She just can’t take him seriously with those pirate mouse ears on, his name in a bright, swirly yellow along the back. “Life blows sometimes.”

“Excellent verb choice in the current environment.”

“Getting older only makes it worse,” he continues, ignoring her. “There’s a lot more to deal with, more responsibility, more disappointment. That’s probably the worst of it all. Sometimes, you just get dealt a shitty hand.”

“Walt Disney is rolling over in his grave.”

“He was cremated, actually,” Cooper informs her. “But the point I’m trying to make is that sometimes, you just have to take a step back and let yourself enjoy something. It’s easier to do that when you’re young and innocent. They don’t call this the happiest place on earth for nothing. Now,” he says, tapping the ear hat in her hand, “decorate.”

Quinn’s mouth quirks into a smile in spite of her best efforts. It may be a little over the top, letting Cooper fly her out to California and take her to a theme park as an apology, but he’s trying. He may not know exactly what he’s doing, but he is trying, which is still more than Blaine’s doing right now. For all of the things that Quinn has in common with Blaine, she’s finding that she has some things in common with Cooper, too. Mostly it’s just sort of horrifying, but she’s starting to see good things, too, like this. Cooper’s trying, like he tried with Blaine, like she tried with Blaine. And they’re not -- they’re not particularly good at it, she’ll admit that, but the thought has to count for something. At some point, Blaine has to meet them halfway. She figures the box of pregnancy tests was a decent start.

Quinn doesn’t particularly feel like adding a lot to the ear hat, no tiaras or veils or patches or pins. It all feels too distracting and sort of tacky, and if she’s learned anything from the last few years (the last few months, watching her tattoo slowly fade), it’s that she likes things simple. Clean. Bare. She adds a red bow with white polka dots between the ears and has her name sewn into the back. If Cooper has any thoughts about seeing the name Lucy across the back, he doesn’t say them out loud.

It’s not until they sit down to an over-priced and carb filled lunch in Tomorrowland that things start to get even remotely awkward, and that’s mostly due to the fact that Cooper’s suddenly gone quiet. He toys with the crust of his pizza, glancing up at her every so often, but she doesn’t take the bait. She’s starting to realize that Cooper and Blaine are more alike than either of them would ever realize or care to admit. Even if Cooper’s been nothing but honest with her, he doesn’t share very easily, like Blaine, and she doesn’t know him well enough to know what the right way to push him to open up is. So she sits across the table from him and blinks demurely over the lid of her drink, sipping through the straw, and she triumphs a little when she sees him roll his eyes and crack a grin. “That ship has long since sailed, Ms. Fabray.”

She tosses a crumpled up napkin at him. “I’m not flirting with you, asshole.”

“Language,” Cooper admonishes, but he’s still smiling, and Quinn hopes he’s relaxed enough to get whatever it is off of his chest so she can go kick his ass at Astro Blasters. He draws in a breath and toys with the balled-up napkin she threw at him, eyes cast down at the table. “I don’t --” he starts awkwardly. “I don’t know how to not be selfish,” he admits, and oh, that’s not what she was expecting at all. “I just -- I feel like I have to make things about me, otherwise I’ll get overlooked.” He heaves a great sigh and pushes the rest of the pizza away from him. “And I’m tired of being overlooked.”

She bites back the comment she wants to make -- that Blaine would beg to differ -- and surveys him more closely instead. “You’re... not doing that great out here, are you?” she ventures gently. He doesn’t have to say anything for her to know it’s true, and just like that, the pieces start to click into place and make sense. “What’s holding you back?”

Cooper shifts uncomfortably in his seat, still not meeting her eyes, and Quinn starts to feel kind of bad for him. All three of them are the same, really, with how close they play their cards to the vest, but Cooper’s clearly the worse off of the three. Blaine, at least, has Kurt to peel back his layers, and Quinn will spill almost anything if she’s provoked enough. But Cooper’s an actor, he always has been. Letting himself disappear, playing a role, those things all come naturally to him. And now he’s stuck somewhere in the awful in-between, unable to be himself, unable to move forward. “It just... doesn’t feel right,” he says, rubbing at the back of his neck. “I got out, Quinn. He didn’t. And I just -- I feel bad about that. I wanted to make it up to him. I wanted to make sure he got out.”

Quinn hesitates for a moment before reaching over to take his hand in hers. “He will,” she reassures him. “But he’s going to do that on his own. He doesn’t need us. If anything, we’d probably be holding him back.” She drops his hand and withdraws her own, suddenly uncomfortable herself. “And what happened to him -- Cooper, that wasn’t our fault. Even if we hadn’t left him out to dry, it probably still would’ve happened. It took me a long time to stop feeling guilty about it.”

“So what do you feel guilty about?” Cooper presses, lifting his eyes to meet hers finally. “It’s obviously something, Quinn. You wouldn’t be punishing yourself if you didn’t feel guilty about something.”

Quinn narrows her eyes, annoyed at Cooper’s surprising ability at being able to read people, but she’s gone this far. There’s no point in stopping now. “I was the first person he came out to, you know,” she says faintly, stabbing absently at the remains of her pasta with her fork. “After I graduated from junior high, right at the beginning of the summer. I... didn’t take it so well.”

“Religion will do that to you.”

Quinn shakes her head. “It wasn’t -- it wasn’t about that. You were around a lot less in my eighth grade year, Cooper. I changed a lot. I was -- I tried really hard to fit in. And when it didn’t work, Blaine was there for me. But I -- I wanted a fresh start. I figured I could have that at McKinley.”

“So, what?” Cooper asks slowly, sitting back in his chair. “He was baggage?”

Quinn flicks her eyes up to meet his. “He would’ve held me back,” she says, and even if she doesn’t feel good about it, it’s the truth, the reason why she did it. “Kind of like he’s holding you back now.”

“That’s not his fault,” Cooper retaliates quickly, an edge to his voice. “That’s all me.”

“Guess I’m not the only one punishing myself then.”

Cooper blinks at her, surprised, before he breaks out into a smile. “We’re not so different, you and I, are we? We’re actually kind of... friends.”

Quinn barks out a laugh and shakes her head, but she’s smiling now too. “Misery does love company,” she sighs. “But yeah, I guess we kind of are.” She points her fork at him in warning. “Don’t think this means I’m going easy on you in Astro Blasters.”

“You’re on, Fabray.”

*****

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Blaine blinks up from his book at the sound of a quiet knock on his bedroom door. “Mom,” he says warmly. “What’s up?”

His mother enters the room with a box nearly half her size in her arms. “This just arrived for you.” Curiosity peaked, Blaine bookmarks his spot and sets the book down before rising from the bed to take it from her. It’s heavier than it looks, and it’s with great care that he sets it down on his dresser. “Were you expecting anything?” Blaine shakes his head and runs his hands over the cardboard, fingers tracing over the unfamiliar return address. “Your brother called.”

Blaine tenses a little at that but doesn’t turn around to face her. “Oh?” he says lightly. “What’d Cooper want?”

“Just to chat,” she replies, equally as nonchalant. “He has an audition tomorrow.” Blaine hmms in response and digs around in a drawer until he finds a pair of scissors to open the box. “Have you spoken to him?” she asks, slightly less casual. “Since he left in May?”

“No,” Blaine says thinly, breaking the tape open.

“Oh,” his mother says faintly. “I just thought that maybe -- it was the most he’d been around in a long time. I didn’t get very much out of him. I just worry about him.”

Blaine softens a little at that but still doesn’t turn around. Instead, he grips the edges of the box and says, “I’m sure he’s fine, Mom. He has an audition. He’s probably working.”

“I suppose.” A pause, and then, “He asked about you.”

Blaine flexes his fingers and concentrates on opening the box in an effort not to misdirect his frustration at his mother. “What did you tell him?”

“That you were busy with summer work,” she answers. “And that you were still spending a lot of time with Kurt.”

“I can’t imagine Cooper was happy about that part,” Blaine snaps dryly. He regrets the words as soon as they’re out of his mouth, and he instantly feels guilty when he turns around to meet his mother’s gaze.

“He’s not your father, Blaine,” she says, quiet but firm. “Cooper seemed satisfied that things were still going well for you.”

Blaine shifts uncomfortably and leans against his dresser. “Well that’s news to me.”

She makes a disapproving sound but doesn’t press the issue. She nods at the box on the dresser instead. “What is it?”

Grateful for the change of subject, Blaine turns his attention back to the box and moves the packing material out of the way. His hands slow when he realizes what it is, and he can’t bring himself to tear his eyes away when he answers. “It’s a telescope.”

“That’s thoughtful. Who’s it from?”

“I don’t know.” The return address is a company, not a person, and there’s no card or note attached. He thinks it might be an early birthday gift from Kurt, but he can’t be sure. His mother doesn’t press for more information, tells him dinner’s in an hour and heads back downstairs. It’s not until she’s gone and Blaine’s done a little digging around the inside of the box that he finds a thin white envelope he’d missed in his initial search.

The results of your gift were negative, so I thought I’d send something positive in return. I know your birthday’s not for another month, but I know how much you’ve always wanted to be closer to the stars. I thought this might help. -- Lucy

Blaine has to rub his eyes behind his glasses to make sure he’s not hallucinating; he reads the card over and over and over again until it finally starts to sink in. Hands trembling, he drops the card back into the box, takes a step back, and tries to breathe. In, out. In --

Out, out, he has to get out. He feels like he’s suffocating in here. He needs air. Out, out, out the bedroom window and up onto the rooftop. He sinks down and wraps his arms around himself and tries to just breathe. It takes him several minutes to calm down, and by the time he can even remotely think about it, a voice distracts him.

“Hey,” Kurt says warmly, climbing up onto the roof with him. “Your mom let me in. I thought you might be out here when I couldn’t find you in your room.” He sits down next to Blaine and hooks his arm through Blaine’s, curling in close. “What’s the matter?”

“I got an early birthday present today.”

“Oh my god, did your parents buy you a car for your sweet sixteen?” Kurt asks, perking up a little. “I mean, I don’t mind driving you around, but --”

“It was a telescope.”

“Oh,” Kurt says agreeably. “That’s cool. Are you going to set it up out here or in your bedroom?”

“I don’t know if I’m keeping it.”

Kurt sits up a little at that. Blaine can feels Kurt’s eyes on him, but Blaine doesn’t look over, not yet. “Why not?”

“It’s from Quinn.” Kurt is silent next to him, and Blaine finally shifts his gaze from the town in front of him to the rooftop underneath him, uncomfortable. “She’s not pregnant.”

“That’s a good thing, isn’t it?” Kurt asks hesitantly.

“Yeah,” Blaine admits. “I wasn’t really ready to be an uncle. I’m not even sixteen yet.”

“One month,” Kurt reminds him. “So, wait -- are you considering not keeping it just because she was the one who sent it to you?”

Blaine glances sideways at him. “You make it sound so petty.” Kurt opens his mouth to reply, probably to say that it is petty, but Blaine doesn’t let him. “You told me I didn’t have to justify how I felt to you.”

“Well, no,” Kurt allows, “but I have asked you to explain it to me so I can understand. Why can’t you accept a gift from her?”

“Because it’s meant as an apology,” Blaine sighs. “And it’s -- she’s trying too hard. That telescope cost a hundred and fifty dollars, Kurt. If she’s got Cooper paying for her tattoo removal, that money had to come from somewhere. She just had a birthday.”

“So her pushing me to give you a second chance and standing up for you in school wasn’t enough for you,” Kurt says slowly, “and now this is too much?”

Blaine’s brow furrows and he tugs his arm out of Kurt’s hold. ‘You’re making me sound unreasonable.”

“Well you’re being a little unreasonably stubborn,” Kurt snaps. Blaine recoils, stung, and it’s Kurt turn to sigh and rubs his eyes. “I just -- I don’t understand, Blaine. Why did I get a second chance and Cooper and Quinn don’t?”

“Because,” Blaine says, frustrated, “I know them better. Or -- at least I used to. I had higher expectations. They failed to meet them.”

Confusion clouds Kurt’s face. “I don’t know if I’m supposed to take that as a compliment or insult.”

“Neither,” Blaine groans. “It’s not -- this isn’t about you.” Blaine reclines, back hitting the rooftop, and gives Kurt a once over. “Why is this so important to you?”

Kurt looks uncomfortable, now, and it takes a moment before he settles down all the way next to Blaine with a sigh, eyes trained on the sky above them. “I don’t have what you have,” Kurt says carefully. “I have a brother by marriage and we’re not -- he stopped picking on you because I started dating you. But he hasn’t -- Finn and I aren’t that close. And I’m not saying I’ve made an effort to be closer to him, but he hasn’t either. At least Cooper’s trying, Blaine.”

“I don’t feel obligated to be close to him,” Blaine argues. “I never have. And if we’re comparing, you have things I don’t. Your dad’s a lot more supportive than mine.”

“And your mom’s still alive,” Kurt tosses back. “But that’s -- I’m not trying to compare, Blaine. I’m just trying to make you understand how lucky you are.”

“Lucky?” Blaine echoes. “Because I have a brother who’s trying to make up for lost time?”

“And someone you used to be very close to trying to make amends,” Kurt adds quietly. “You have people who want to be close to you, Blaine.”

“So do you --”

“Do I?” Kurt asks softly. “Mercedes and I aren’t as close as we used to be, Santana and Brittany dropped off of the grid, and Quinn --” Kurt purses his lips, clearly holding back.

Blaine props himself up on an elbow and rolls onto his side, intrigued. “What about Quinn?”

“I was never as close to her as you were,” Kurt admits. “I would never claim that. But -- things were different between us. It was me she lived with when her parents kicked her out. She shut me out again when school started last year, but she started to let me back in again when you and I were first getting to know each other. And --” Kurt stops and sighs, rolling onto his side to meet Blaine’s eyes. ‘I’m not saying this is your fault, but -- why do you think she joined the Skanks in the first place? After we all quit the Cheerios, I don’t think she felt like she had any place to go where she’d feel comfortable and welcomed.”

“And it’s my fault,” Blaine supplies bitterly, “because she couldn’t just join glee club like you and Mercedes did. Because of me. Because I won’t forgive her.”

“Because she feels like she’s not enough for you,” Kurt says.

“At least now she knows what it feels like.”

“Hey,” Kurt says gently, moving in close again. He reaches out a hand and cups Blaine’s cheek. “Don’t. That’s not you, Blaine. I know you. You like helping people. You like making people happy. No matter what she did to you, you don’t want her to be as miserable as you were.”

Blaine has nothing to say to that, mostly because Kurt is right and Blaine doesn’t particularly feel like admitting it. He leans in for a kiss instead and tries not to focus too much on the shivers that run down his spine at the spark of want he feels. It’s another thing they’ve been dancing around for months, sex, since Valentine’s Day when Cooper --

Blaine pulls away with a sharp inhale and squeezes his eyes shut behind his glasses. He can’t do this anymore. Something has to give.

“Blaine?”

“Sorry,” he murmurs, opening his eyes. “I’m just a little... overwhelmed. Between you and school and Quinn and Cooper, I have a lot on my mind.”

Kurt shifts so that he’s hovering over Blaine a little. “I get why you’re thinking about school,” he placates, “but it’s summer and it’s you. That’s easy. And as for me,” he continues, thumb running across Blaine’s bottom lip, “you really don’t have anything to worry about.”

“I’m not worried,” Blaine assures him, breath catching at the touch. “You’re just on my mind a lot.” He retaliates by trailing his fingertips down Kurt’s bare arm, biting back a smile when Kurt’s eyes flutter shut. “It’s a good thing, trust me.”

“I do,” Kurt breathes. He loses himself in Blaine’s touch for a moment, arms trembling from holding himself up, and it’s with a shaky inhale that he whines, “You’re trying to distract me.”

“Is it working?” Blaine asks, unable to keep from grinning.

“Keep the telescope,” Kurt manages to get out, blinking his eyes open.

“I’ll take that as a no,” Blaine says wryly. “If I keep the telescope, it’s like accepting her apology.”

“And the reason you don’t want to do that is because it forces you to acknowledge the fact that you still care about her and that hurts too much,” Kurt says with a knowing smile. “That’s sort of the point of forgiveness, Blaine, to make it hurt less.”

Blaine wishes it were that simple. Maybe it is. It doesn’t feel that way. But as much as Kurt gets him, knows him, understands him, he can only work with what Blaine gives him. Kurt’s still putting himself on the same plane as Cooper and Quinn because he doesn’t doesn’t get it, he doesn’t understand what sets him apart for Blaine. “You asked me why you got a second chance and they didn’t,” Blaine says slowly, trying to bring the conversation full circle. Kurt arches an eyebrow, waiting for Blaine to continue. “I didn’t really give you a second chance,” Blaine admits. “I know you think I did, but the truth is, I never gave you a real first chance. I never needed to give you a second one.”

Kurt looks a little surprised by that -- he looks like he’s going to argue, actually, but he takes a moment before he speaks, clearly thinking things through. “What about Cooper? Did he ever get a first chance?”

“Cooper had a whole lifetime of chances to be a decent older brother,” Blaine argues, barely suppressing a snort of derision.

“That’s not the point,” Kurt counters, sitting back up. “The point is that he’s trying to be a better brother now. And he can’t do that if you don’t let him. It’s not about the opportunities he missed, it’s about the chance you can give him when he finally tries to use one. You have to meet each other halfway. It’s what you and I did.”

“I trust you more than I trust him,” Blaine says. He sits up now, too, and reaches for Kurt’s hand.

Kurt’s smile is a little too triumphant for Blaine’s liking. “You trust me because you gave me a chance.”

Blaine groans in frustration and rests his head on Kurt’s shoulder. “Okay, okay, fine, point taken,” he grumbles. “Do you want to change my mind about Quinn before my mother invites you to stay for dinner?”

“She already did,” Kurt answers with a laugh. “And why would I want to change your mind about Quinn when you still care about her?” Blaine lifts his head to glare at Kurt; his glasses slip down his nose a little and Kurt pushes them back up the bridge of Blaine’s nose, still smiling. “Can I ask you something?”

“What?”

“Why do you still care about her?” Kurt asks.

Blaine heaves a great sigh and curls back into Kurt’s arms, eyes scanning the neighborhood rooftops. Life is so much simpler up here, so much safer, high above the ground and in Kurt’s arms -- it’s been that way since he told Kurt about Sadie Hawkins last fall. It’s not supposed to be this difficult. It’s not supposed to hurt so much.

Blaine just wants to stop hurting.

“I keep thinking about what you said last fall, about Quinn still being the same person I knew before. I --” Blaine hesitates and takes a second to breathe as Kurt’s fingers trace up and down the jagged scar on his arm. “I think about what you said about the baby she gave up, why she gave it up. And I just -- I can’t shake that it means something, you know? She was thinking of me even then, before you and I even really met. She pushed you towards me and stood up to the entire school for me and -- I can’t reconcile that person with the same person who slept with my brother. And then I remember that the only reason she was even spending time with my brother was because I pushed her away and she was trying to help mend that relationship --”

Kurt’s lips fall to his forehead. “Sweetie, you’re rambling.”

Blaine closes his eyes and exhales loudly through his nose. “I care because she still cares. And... it’s nice to have someone care about me. And if she cares, then maybe she’s not so different. Maybe I can get that back.”

Kurt’s lips trail down to Blaine’s ear and it’s really distracting, but god, it feels so good -- “You realize you have the power to get it back, right?” Kurt murmurs. “That forgiving doesn’t make you weak? It means you have heart, Blaine.”

“Yeah, well.” Blaine swallows thickly and shifts a little just to get Kurt’s lips off of his skin so he can actually focus on the conversation. “Mine’s still sort of in pieces.”

The light in Kurt’s eyes dims a little, but it’s back in full force as he reaches out for Blaine’s hand to weave their fingers together. “Well then, now’s your chance to start putting them back together.”

*****

Friday, July 15, 2011

Session Four

“Where is your mom, anyway?” Cooper asks, settling down on the couch.

“Christian wine booze cruise thing,” Quinn says dismissively, rejoining him in the living room, two glasses of iced tea in her hands. “She won’t be back until Sunday night.” She settles down onto the couch next to him and hands him a glass.

Cooper raises his with a tentative smile. “To one more session?”

Quinn hums appreciatively and clinks the rim of her glass against his. “To one more session.” She takes a sip and turns her attention to the television set. “So what exactly are we watching?”

The Divide,” Cooper supplies, taking a sip himself. “It’s an hour-long drama --”

“At two in the afternoon?”

Cooper hesitates. “Yes?”

“So we’re watching a soap opera?” Quinn says dryly, arching an eyebrow at him.

“You know, soaps get such a bad rep but they’re actually --” He tapers off at the look Quinn gives him and throws his own right back. “Can you just... okay?”

Quinn rolls her eyes, but Cooper can see her smile behind her glass. “I guess I can indulge you.”

They sit in a companionable silence for a little while; Quinn is clearly biting her tongue for Cooper’s sake, something he’s grateful for. “Okay, this guy,” Cooper says, pointing to the guy on screen.

“Please don’t tell me he’s your favorite character,” Quinn says. “He’s a total tool. He slept with a girl who was half his age, and then her grandmother.”

Cooper’s mouth twitches into a smile. “That’s pretty good for someone who’s never seen the show before.”

Quinn takes another sip of her tea and pointedly ignores him. “What about him?”

“They’re casting someone to play his secret half-brother,” he explains.

“Oh,” Quinn says agreeably. “And you’re thinking of going out for it?”

“I... kind of already did,” Cooper says, hedging. Quinn arches an eyebrow at him, clearly waiting for him to elaborate and get to the point. “They offered me the part.”

Quinn smiles at him, warm and genuine, and it almost makes Cooper feel better. Almost. “That’s great. Is it a guest spot or a long term sort of thing?”

“Series regular,” Cooper says, coloring a little. “I’d have to move to New York if I took it.”

Quinn’s smile falters and Cooper immediately feels uncomfortable, squirming on the couch under her gaze. He’s not used to having someone who knows him this well. “And you’re thinking of turning it down?” Cooper knows his silence and purposeful avoidance of her eyes is answer enough for her, so it doesn’t come as a surprise when she immediately asks, “Why?”

Cooper shrugs and twists the glass in his hands. “If I take it, I get out of the hole I dug myself.”

“And what,” Quinn pries, “you’d feel like you were leaving Blaine behind in the hole again?” Cooper lifts his eyes at that, glad he doesn’t have to spell it out. Quinn sighs and reaches for his glass before setting them both down on the table. “Cooper,” she says, “this comes from a place of caring, okay? You’re an idiot.”

“Why?” Cooper counters. “Because I’m finally trying to not be selfish by thinking of my kid brother?”

“Because you’re holding yourself back out of guilt!” Quinn argues, a little more vehemently than Cooper would’ve expected. “You can’t get Blaine out, Cooper. He has to do that himself. He has to take some initiative,” she mutters bitterly.

Cooper’s stomach twists unpleasantly at that as he remembers saying almost the same thing to Blaine earlier in the year. He’s long since dismissed the idea as misconstrued and overbearing, but Quinn’s words have him second-guessing himself again.

Cooper is tired of second-guessing himself.

He tries to push the feeling away and shift the focus. “Old wounds not so old anymore?”

“Yeah, well, your brother knows how to hold a grudge.” She softens a little and looks down at her lap. “We both want something he’s not willing to give, Cooper, but it’s not for a lack of trying.”

“So what, I should give up trying?”

“I’m not saying that,” she sighs, “but you should take the job. You’re not going to win him over by being the older brother who gave up dreams for him.”

“So how do you suggest I win him over?” Cooper says dryly.

“You are so asking the wrong person,” Quinn says, reaching for her glass again. “I sent him an early birthday present and never heard from him.”

Cooper takes the cue and reaches for his own glass. “What’d you send him?”

She surveys him over the rim of her glass for a moment before answering. “A telescope.”

Cooper barks out a laugh. “So he can take a closer look at things?”

Quinn’s mouth twists into something between a smile and a scowl. “You really aren’t as dumb as you come across sometimes.” She looks down into her glass, knees tucked up underneath her, and it strikes Cooper in that moment just how young Quinn looks, how young she still is. “I just hoped -- I thought that --” She lets out a frustrated, impatient noise before looking back up at him. “I told Kurt to take a closer look, back when he was struggling with his feelings for Blaine. And I thought that maybe if I got Blaine the telescope, he’d tell Kurt about it and it’d work out in my favor. But I guess not.”

Cooper nudges her knee companionably with his own. “I wouldn’t give up hope just yet,” he says encouragingly. “Kurt’s good people.”

That gets her to laugh. “Yeah,” she agrees, amused, “he is.”

“I’ll tell you what, if Blainey and I ever get on the same page again, I’ll put in a good word for you,” he offers.

She studies him again but not for long, and her face softens into a smile. “Deal,” she says, clinking her glass against his. “You’re good people too, Cooper.”

He beams at her. “Well thank you,” he drawls. “And just for that, I won’t even tell anyone you said that. I know you have a reputation to protect.” Quinn rolls her eyes and throws a pillow at him and tells him to shut up, but she’s laughing as she says it. “Thank you,” he adds.

“For what?”

“Letting me back in.”

*****

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Cooper knocks tentatively on Blaine’s bedroom door, waits for the “Come in,” and draws in a breath as he turns the knob and pushes open the door. Blaine looks up from Coorie Ten Boom’s The Hiding Place and blinks at him in surprise. “Cooper,” he says slowly, bookmarking his place and adjusting his glasses. “What are you doing here?”

Cooper holds up the small box in his hand and shakes it, offering Blaine a hopeful smile. “You didn’t think I’d forget your birthday, did you?” Cooper takes it as a win that Blaine’s only response is “My birthday was yesterday, Coop,” before he draws his knees up to his chest to make room for Cooper on the bed. Cooper takes a seat carefully, without weight, not wanting to push his luck. He nods towards the vase on Blaine's nightstand. "Birthday flowers?"

Blaine's eyes follow Cooper's to the vase. He blushes and then looks away, shrugging a little. "Sure, let's go with that." At Cooper's raised eyebrow, Blaine sighs and adds, "Okay, they might also be virginity losing flowers." He holds up a hand as Cooper opens his mouth. "And just... spare me the big brother talk on this, okay?"

Cooper schools his face into something resembling seriousness and tries to sound authoritative. "You're a sexually active sixteen-year-old, Blaine, someone has to --"

"You had unprotected sex with a seventeen-year-old girl who'd had a baby less than a year before. I'm pretty sure out of the two of us, I'm the one who gets to give the sex talk, Coop."

Cooper’s jaw twitches but he doesn’t argue. “I just want to make sure you’re safe,” he says. “And happy.”

Blaine surveys Cooper curiously behind his glasses. He doesn’t look angry, which is more than Cooper hoped for, honestly. It’s -- it’s a little unnerving, this about-face, considering the last time they saw each other, Blaine punched Cooper in the face. Cooper figures he has Kurt to thank for that, and that, at least makes him feel a little better about accepting the job in New York. Kurt’s a good influence on Blaine, or vice versa, or maybe both, Cooper’s not really sure. Quinn was right -- for all that Cooper was trying before, he didn’t really know Blaine (or Kurt). He was too selfish to care the way he should have. He’s hoping to change that.

Blaine reaches over to his messenger bag and tugs out a small packet of papers, hesitating for the space of a second before handing it over to Cooper. Cooper flips through them quietly, reading, before he blinks back up at Blaine in surprise. “You’re applying to graduate early?”

Blaine picks up The Hiding Place and shows the cover to Cooper. “Junior reading list. I’ve spent the summer going through all of the requirements I’d have to fulfill during my junior year.”

“So you can graduate early,” Cooper concludes. “With Kurt.”

Blaine’s mouth twitches into a smile at the mention of his boyfriend, but he shakes his head as he takes the papers back from Cooper. “I’m not doing it for him,” Blaine insists. “Getting to graduate at the same time, going to colleges that are, hopefully, close to each other? Those are bonuses. But I’m doing this for me.”

“Why?”

Blaine shifts on the bed and glances down at his lap, looking uncomfortable for the first time since Cooper arrived. “Because you were right,” he mumbles.

“I’m sorry,” Cooper laughs, nudging Blaine’s leg with his arm. “What was that?”

Blaine glares at him through his glasses. “You were right,” he says again. “When you were worried about Kurt holding me back, you said I wasn’t trying hard enough to move forward, that I was too smart to just wait around. And... you were right. If I really want to get out of here, go to New York like I really want, I needed to make sure I was doing everything I possibly could to make sure that happened. And I wasn’t.”

“I didn’t mean it like that --”

“I know,” Blaine says gently. “I work really hard at everything I do. But it’s in my power to graduate early, so I’m going to do it.”

Cooper smiles. “I’m really proud of you, Squirt.”

Blaine’s mouth twitches at the nickname, annoyed, but it only takes a minute for his face to soften until he’s smiling back. “Thanks, Coop. It -- it feels really good to hear you say that.” The silence that lingers is only a little awkward, and Blaine squirms on the bed before nodding to the box on Cooper’s lap. “Can I have my present?” Cooper barks out a laugh but hands the box over and watches as Blaine pries off the lid, his eyes growing comically wide. “A key -- oh my god, did you get me a car?

“Does that look like a car key?” Cooper asks dryly.

Blaine holds it up between two fingers and looks over at Cooper with a raised eyebrow. “No?”

Cooper rolls his eyes and shoves at Blaine’s knee. “It’s a key to my apartment in New York.”

“New York?” Blaine echoes, brow knitting in confusion. “Since when can you afford a second apartment in New York?”

“It’s not a second apartment,” Cooper says. “I moved.”

“You -- what? Why?” Blaine asks, sitting up a little straighter.

Cooper smiles and mirrors him. “I got a gig.”

Blaine opens his mouth to speak and then clamps it shut, suddenly looking horrified. “Please tell me it’s not more commercials with jingles.”

“No,” Cooper says, smacking him lightly on the leg. “I wouldn’t move across the country for that. It’s a recurring role on -- have you heard of The Divide?”

Blaine’s jaw falls open. “You got a gig on daytime television?”

“So you’ve heard of it,” Cooper teases.

“Kurt and I might have spent our summer getting hooked,” Blaine admits with a blush. “Oh my god, who’s your character? Are you related to anyone?”

Cooper grins and leans in, dropping his voice to a conspiratorial whisper. “Let’s just say that Matthew Rockford might have a secret half-brother who’s a doctor.”

“Spoilers!” Blaine gasps, grabbing a pillow and smacking Cooper with it. “But -- wait,” he says, forehead scrunching up in confusion. “Why do I need a key to your apartment?”

Cooper rubs at the back of his neck awkwardly, discomfort creeping in easily despite how well they’re getting along. “I just thought, if you do end up going to school in New York, this way you have a place to stay. You know, if you need one.” Blaine just stares at him, quiet and unanswering. Cooper looks down at his lap. “I know it doesn’t make up for the way I’ve treated you, but --”

“No,” Blaine agrees, but before Cooper can even look up, Blaine’s pushing himself to his knees and crawling across the mattress to engulf Cooper in a warm hug. “But it’s what a big brother would do.”

Cooper lets out a puff of air and rubs Blaine’s back, unable to keep his eyes from watering a little. Blaine lingers only for a moment before he starts to pull away, and Cooper can’t bring himself to be embarrassed when he tugs Blaine closer. “Hold on a sec, I want to remember this emotion so I can use it in a scene someday.”

Blaine does manage to pull away at that and bats him on the shoulder. “You are ridiculous.”

“Can I offer you some advice, little brother?”

Blaine grins at him. “You can try.”

“I know I get a little self-absorbed,” Cooper admits. “But you’re... not so different, Blaine.”

The smile fades from Blaine’s face but he doesn’t get angry, doesn’t withdraw or retaliate. He simply asks, “What do you mean?”

“Just that you might want to look a little harder and closer at people outside of yourself,” Cooper says, trying to come off as nonchalant as possible.

It doesn’t work, he knows it doesn’t work because Blaine nods in acknowledgement and scoots back up against his pillows. “You mean Quinn.”

“She tried, Blaine,” Cooper reminds him. “Maybe it was a little late. Maybe she didn’t really know what to do to earn your forgiveness. But I didn’t either, Squirt, and you forgive me... don’t you?”

Blaine turns the key over in his hand. “Kurt says the reason it’s easy to forgive the people who hurt you the most is because they have the most power over you, because you trust them. Because you care.”

“He’s a smart guy, your boyfriend,” Cooper says, and Blaine smiles a little. “You used to really care about her. Even I know that.” Blaine freezes in his movements a little before flicking his eyes up to meet Cooper’s gaze, and the realization smacks Cooper right in the face. “You still do.”

Blaine shifts uncomfortably on the bed, fingers tracing over the jagged scar on his arm. “It’s my move to make, isn’t it?”

“I think it has been for awhile,” Cooper says gently, but Blaine merely sighs and nods once and doesn’t say anything else. “I know she meant a lot to you, Blainey, but try to remember that you meant something to her too.”

There’s that curious, questioning look again, but it’s accompanied by a twist of a smile and a slight shake of the head. “How did you get so good at this?”

“I learned from the best.”

*****

Monday, September 12, 2011

Session Five

*****

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Blaine adjusts the last bouquet to his liking and stands up to survey his handiwork. The array of gardenias and white tulips on the front porch is pretty enough, although he’s starting to see how the display might look like a giant cloud from far away. He reminds himself that it’s the thought that counts and kneels down again with a sigh to place the small envelope on the welcome mat, name scrawled in his tidy, loopy script.

The front door opens and startles him to his feet, blush rising high on his cheeks. “O -- oh,” he stammers, flustered. “Mrs. Fabray.”

She arches a perfectly sculpted eyebrow at him and gives him a once over. “Blaine?” she says faintly. She laughs, high and bubbly and quick, before breaking out into a smile. “Little Blaine Anderson.”

Blaine rubs awkwardly at the back of his neck and looks down at the ground. “Yeah,” he laughs awkwardly. “I, um, I know it’s been awhile --”

“Did you want to come in?” Mrs. Fabray offers brightly. “I think Quinny’s upstairs --”

“No,” Blaine says quickly, panic starting to set in. “I just, um.” He tapers off and glances around at the display he’s left on their front porch. “I just wanted to leave these for her, that’s all.”

Mrs. Fabray glances around at the porch, jaw dropping just slightly, before she turns her attention back to Blaine. “This is very... nice of you,” she says, obviously choosing her words carefully. “But last I heard, you were --”

“-- gay, yeah, no, that’s still a thing. True. About me.” Blaine closes his eyes for a second and huffs out a breath, trying to collect himself. When he opens his eyes, he finds Mrs. Fabray still watching him, and even behind the lenses of his glasses, she’s still the picture of serenity, clean and blonde and god, her smile -- “Can you just --” Blaine bends down to pick up the envelope and hands it to her awkwardly, pushing his glasses back up the bridge of his nose. “Can you make sure she gets this?” She takes the envelope from him, thumb running over the name on the front. She wrinkles her nose a little as if she’s not sure what to think of it, but eventually she nods.

Blaine offers her an awkward wave and makes his way down the steps and down the walkway to the gate, hands tucked firmly in his pockets, his elbows too close to his body. He feels uncomfortable in his own skin for the first time in a long time, high waters and polo and bowtie and boat shoes all feeling like they’re suffocating him. To Mrs. Fabray, Blaine probably looks like he hasn’t changed all that much in the last three years. He’s gotten a little taller, maybe, and filled out, but he’s still the picture of quiet and bookish, glasses perched on his nose, shoulders hunched to block out the rest of the world.

So much has changed, and yet so many things stay the same. For all that life at McKinley has been turned on its head, there is so much that’s still the same. Blaine has changed, though he realizes now it might have taken him a little longer than it should have. He’s stronger now, more aware, more forgiving. It hasn’t been easy, change, but then it’s not supposed to be. Blaine sees that, with Cooper. And he’s seen it before, with Kurt. Kurt will change too, over the years, and Blaine will adapt and adjust and change too, because he can’t imagine not loving everything that Kurt is, everything he’s come to be.

Shutting people out might offer less opportunity to be hurt, but it also doesn’t allow for the potential of a payoff. As much as it hurts to get there sometimes, Blaine wants that payoff. He’ll chase after it for as long as it takes, because there has to be something more outside of this, what he’s been through and where he’s been.

Blaine.”

Blaine stops just short of the gate at the sound of his name and turns slowly. He stumbles back a few steps with a quiet oomph as a pair of arms wrap around his neck. He can feel the faint scratch of the edge of something against the back of his neck, and it takes him a minute and a few blinks to realize it’s the photograph in the envelope he’d left. The softness against his cheek is a twist of pink and blonde hair. He withdraws his hands from his pockets and wraps his arms around her, chin tucked over her shoulder.

Luce,” he breathes, closing his eyes. “Lucy.”

She just clings to him tighter and it’s as easy as breathing, being together like this. She’s changed so much in the last three or four years, up and down and back around in dizzying circles. But here, now, in his arms, is the girl who’d been his friend when no one else would, and she hasn’t changed at all.

But they can’t stay like this forever, not with the world still spinning around them, so Blaine reluctantly pulls back and sniffs a little, trying not to cry behind his glasses. “Sorry,” he mumbles, anchoring his hands at her waist. “Sorry, I know you prefer Quinn --”

She shakes her head at that, arms still looped around his neck. “I’m not sure I know what I want, anymore. I don’t know that I ever did.”

And there it is, like a knife to his heart, a plain and simple truth, their common thread. “Yeah,” he breathes, “you do.” He tugs her back into his arms and squeezes his eyes shut to keep the tears at bay. He’s hurt her so much by shutting her out, by rejecting her olive branch. He’d felt justified in it, before. And maybe -- maybe that’s not entirely wrong, but he had so much that she didn’t, even when it seemed like she’d had the world wrapped around her finger. But that was a lie too, he realizes. She clawed her way up and out of the bottom more than once, and no, it wasn’t right to leave him behind, but she came back for him. He’d turned his back on her like she’d done to him because he didn’t need her the way he used to, not when he had Kurt. And he’s still had Kurt, all this time, while she’s been falling from grace all over again. He can’t leave her behind. He doesn’t want to. “I’m sorry,” he whispers. “I’m really, really sorry.”

“That’s my line,” she laughs wetly into his shoulder, but her hands clings to him a little tighter all the same.

Blaine laughs too, can’t bring himself to care about crying a little, and he pulls away, shaking his head. “You’ve been spending too much time with Cooper.”

She groans and rests her forehead on his shoulder. “That’s probably true.”

He glances behind her at the display he left on the porch and bites his lip. “It’s too much, isn’t it?” he asks. “The flowers?”

She snaps her head up and shakes it vehemently. “No,” she insists, turning to look at the array of flowers with him. “It’s -- well, it does look a little like a cloud --” Blaine groans and it’s his turn to rest his forehead on her shoulder, glasses slipping down the bridge of his nose. “It’s not bad,” she laughs, turning around and forcing him to stand up straight. She adjusts his glasses for him and smiles, eyes bright and warm and happy and oh, there Lucy is. Blaine feels like he’s been looking for her forever. “It was like walking into heaven.”

“I hate to take you from it,” Blaine says, rubbing at the back of his neck awkwardly. “They were sort of meant to be an invitation. Cooper’s in town. He’s taking Kurt and me to lunch. I thought... you might like to join us.”

She laughs, sounding so much like her mother had not moments before. “Didn’t you just say I’d been spending too much time with Cooper?”

“Yeah, well, he’s easier to handle in small doses.”

“Truer words were never spoken.” She pauses and tentatively reaches out a hand, offering him a hesitant smile that Blaine feels all the way down to his toes. “I’d like that.”

Blaine takes Lucy’s hand in his and knows it doesn’t mean anything.

It means everything.

*****