They’re at a birthday party for Sara O’Connell, a big-name music journalist and someone Blaine actually likes, even if they don’t always agree on what constitutes a great pop single. The party is noisy with conversation, old friends and new people, and Blaine finds himself chatting with a pretty blonde publicist from LA. Next to him, Kurt talks to the new music editor at New York magazine, an impossibly young kid with a nosering. Kurt’s got on his work-party face, the one that says he’s doing this as much out of obligation as any sense of fun, and Blaine takes the hand that isn’t holding his drink and twines it with Kurt’s, giving it an apologetic squeeze.
The publicist gives him an indulgent smile and stirs her drink. “How long have you two been together?”
“High-school sweethearts,” Blaine says. He still loves saying it.
Kurt turns to him with a little frown. “We’ve been married ten years,” he tells her.
“Come on,” Blaine says teasingly. “Now you’re making us sound old.”
“It’ll only get worse!” the publicist giggles.
Kurt gives her a look that seems tolerant but really isn’t. “I guess it’s better than saying we’ve been together for fifteen years.”
Blaine does some quick math in his head and then — “Seventeen years,” he says.
“We broke up,” Kurt tells the publicist.
Blaine’s chest feels tight. “I don’t count that.”
“Well!” says the publicist, a little too brightly, “I guess it’s a good thing you got married! It means you have at least one anniversary that’s official!”
“Yeah,” Blaine says, pulling back his hand. “I guess so.”
The rest of the party goes by in a blur of alcohol and industry talk. Sara is already drunk by the time Blaine works his way through the crowd to talk to her, but she’s not so drunk that she’s slowing down. He does three rounds of tequila shots with her and listens to her rant about the shitty Grammy nominees this year and he gives her the tightest hug he can manage before he wobbles off again to find his husband. Kurt pours him into their cab, gives him water and Tylenol, and puts him to bed alone.
When he wakes up the next day, Kurt’s side of the bed is warm and slept-in, but Kurt’s not there. Blaine blinks against the bright sun through the windows, takes a long drink from the water bottle still on his bedside table, and stumbles into their bathroom. Once he’s peed and showered, he feels human again, and he puts on some jeans and a T-shirt, mostly ready to face the day.
Kurt’s at the table in what he insists on calling the dining room, though it’s really just an space in their open-plan apartment with a table and a rug. He’s in the paisley robe Blaine bought for him in London, and he’s drinking coffee and reading something on his tablet. He looks up at Blaine over his reading glasses when he comes in. “There’s still coffee.”
“Thanks.” Their coffee mugs are heavy hand-glazed ceramics from the Bay Area, ridiculously expensive. Blaine can remember the fight they had when Kurt bought them, the fight over the first one that broke, the fight when the color line was discontinued and Kurt bought extras ‘just to be safe.’ Today, having the solid warm mug in his hands feels reassuring, like home. “So.”
“So,” Kurt echoes cautiously. He puts his tablet down and folds his glasses on top of it.
“Here’s the thing.” Blaine sits next to him at the table. “We celebrated our anniversary in March. We went to Le Bernardin. I remember that pretty clearly.”
“And we went to San Francisco in June.”
“Tenth wedding anniversary.”
“And we got married that particular weekend why?”
Blaine can’t help grinning. “Because it was exactly five years since I’d sexed you into taking me back?”
“That’s… not exactly how I remember it,” Kurt says, but he’s smiling by the end of the sentence.
“Look, I can get why you didn’t want to count from the start when we got back together.” Blaine grips his mug in both hands. “Neither of us wanted to take it for granted. But now? Don’t you think…?”
Kurt waits a good long while for him before he says “Think what?”
“It’s nice to know. That’s more than half my life already, Kurt. And I don’t know, I — I think it’s comforting.”
Kurt nods and looks away, taking this in. He takes a drink of coffee before he looks back at Blaine. “I don’t want to be comforted.”
Blaine’s not sure he heard him right.
Kurt shakes his head, tries again. “I like that we can celebrate the anniversary of our first kiss, Blaine. It’s nice. And that meal was fantastic.”
“And Eric Ripert…”
“Who knew he was a Sondheim fan?” Even months later, the memory of the chef’s praise makes Kurt blush deliciously. “It was really nice.”
“But you didn’t think of it as our anniversary?”
“Not that same way.” Kurt looks so sad, like he knows he’s making Blaine’s heart ache.
“So those first two years don’t count?”
“Blaine! Of course they do.” Kurt reaches for Blaine’s hand and Blaine can’t not reach back. “Of course they do. But… a different relationship. With two very different people.”
Blaine just shakes his head. He can remember it all so vividly, being that boy in a Dalton jacket and tie, following the new kid around campus in what he didn’t realize for months was a lovesick haze. How he upended his whole life to follow Kurt to McKinley, because he felt like he would die if he didn’t. How miraculous it felt to have sex with him the first time, and the second, and the tenth, and the time when he stopped counting. If that was a different person, then he’s not sure who else he can be.
“When I was sixteen,” Kurt says, “I thought that making a promise was the same thing as keeping it. I thought holding on to what we had would be easy, because I loved you. And I know better now, but it was hard, and I don’t want to forget that.” He squeezes Blaine’s hand, and Blaine can feel the cool metal of Kurt’s ring against his skin. “I don’t ever want to get complacent, or let myself think that it won’t take work, because it does.”
“What happened — that wasn’t your fault, Kurt.”
“I know. But it wasn’t entirely yours either.”
Blaine has never been able to guess what Kurt is thinking. By this point, though, he’s learned to ask the leading question. “So, it’s fifteen years because…?”
“Because it reminds me,” Kurt says, “that we could still screw it up. We found each other again, but it wasn’t a guarantee. I don’t want to forget that.” He pulls back his hand, goes into performance mode. “‘Ladies! Fifteen Ways to Make Your Marriage Thrive.’ Maybe I spent too long in editorial.”
“No.” Blaine puts down his mug — carefully, this time — and takes Kurt’s hand in both of his. “That’s… that’s amazing, Kurt. Thank you.”
Kurt’s twisted half-smile is response enough.
He knows he needs to find the words too, so he tries. “I guess I’ve always counted from the start because… because we did fight for it, you know? We did find each other again. That’s a really great thing. That’s worth celebrating.”
Kurt nods and looks away again, digesting this. “You know, we’re kind of saying the same thing.”
“With different results.”
“It’s a metaphor for something.” Kurt looks unhappy at that thought, and it’s not worth being right if it’s going to make Kurt unhappy.
“Not really,” Blaine says. “Not if you don’t want it to be. We’re just different people. We don’t have to make a thing out of it. Not in the morning, when we’re both mostly sober.”
Mostly, Kurt mouths at him pointedly, but at least he looks amused again.
“So I have a suggestion,” Blaine continues. “I’ll be OK with you counting from 2013, if you’re OK with me counting from 2011. Although, hm… what if someone asks us both?”
Kurt’s eyes light up. “We each give our own answer.” He leans across the table, pulling Blaine towards him conspiratorially. “And we don’t explain.”
“Oh, yes! But, wait.” The best part about fighting with Kurt is when they stop fighting. It still makes him giddy with relief. “Wait. We can give fake explanations.”
Kurt’s smile is so brilliant, and Blaine loves him so much. “I can say you have a math disorder.”
“You have an extremely specific amnesia.”
“You include the years you only followed me on Facebook.”
“You refuse to include the years I held you captive in my castle.”
“You didn’t realize your friends had bought you a Real Doll.”
Blaine is laughing so hard he can’t continue. “You — you….” Kurt is laughing too, his hands clutching Blaine’s as his whole body shakes. “You…!”