The first thing Blaine noticed when his feet hit the bottom landing of the Hummel's basement was that it wasn't really a basement at all. The entire basement, though not very large, had been re-furnished into a makeshift, decent-sized bedroom that was tastefully decorated and that Blaine immediately identified with Kurt. This was Kurt's bedroom. It was in a different location than Kurt had described to him eight years ago and definitely not decorated with a mixture of princesses and Power Rangers, but there was no other room it could be.
A deep maroon carpeting had been laid down across the entire room and the walls were the same color of the houses cinder block foundation. As Blaine stepped off the last step, his footsteps fell silent as he looked around and tried to keep up with Kurt's rapid-fire discussion of outfits for him.
" – and then I thought this olive sweater would go better with your eyes, but it might still be too warm for it, um... " Kurt trailed away. He looked embarrassed and flushed as he spun back towards Blaine, who was staring around at the dark wooden furniture, the plethora of musical posters, and the many drapes and scarves hung about to splash little accents of color throughout the room.
He didn't know much about interior decorating, but the room was very nice in Blaine's eyes.
"Anything's fine with me," he said after a moment, shifting his gaze from a poster advertising a musical called Wicked and over to Kurt, who was biting his lip and looking nervous as he watched Blaine. "Really," he added earnestly, smiling once more. "Anything is better than these wet clothes, and judging by what you're wearing, I'm about to be better dress than I ever have in my entire life."
A slow, tentative smile spread across Kurt's face as he clapped his hands and skipped over to the various clothes laid out on his bed and hung from his desk chair. Blaine's stomach twisted at the look Kurt had just given him. One little compliment shouldn't make Kurt beam like that. He should be praised every day by his father, his friends, the people who saw his talents shine. It was hard to swallow the thought that the same boy he'd left behind hadn't really been helped much at all by him the first time. That had to be why they'd chosen him for this one, and not just to overcome his own similar bullying struggles in his life. Kurt still needed him because, in some way, Blaine must have failed him the first time.
"So maroon or olive?" Kurt asked, spinning back towards him with two shirts draped over himself for Blaine to view.
The look in his eyes was so hopeful, so grateful at just having someone around, that Blaine realized that regardless of whatever the full reason was for him being here that he was glad he was. He didn't want to imagine how much worse everything would be for Kurt if he didn't have someone to make him smile like that.
"Maroon," Blaine decided, eyeing the polo carefully. It didn't look like anything Kurt would ever wear, which surprised him, but perhaps it had been something a relative had bought him on a birthday or holiday. Even now, he still remembered the dozens of outfits his grandmother would buy for him that were always Cooper's size because she'd been adamant that he was still growing. Blaine had never had the heart to tell her his legs weren't going to do anything but start shrinking in another couple of decades.
"Great!" Kurt chirped, setting the soft-looking sweater aside and then shuffling through several pairs of pants and jeans he'd piled up.
Blaine watched it all with wide eyes, barely able to keep up with Kurt's ecstatic monologue or his furious arranging of garments. After several moments, Kurt stood up and handed Blaine a pair of well worn jeans, the red polo, plain boxers, and a pair of socks. Blaine was very happy he wouldn't have to ask for either of the last two. His socks were completely soaked through and his underwear were clinging to him in all the wrongs ways. He wouldn't be surprised to find a trail of his own footprints circling upstairs and then down the stairs to where he was standing right now.
"Thanks, really, this is very nice of you," Blaine said gratefully, accepting the clothing. "You didn't have to bother with all of this– "
"I remember my first slushy," Kurt told him softly. "They aren't fun, and well, you stood up for me, Blaine. Nobody's ever done that before."
The look on Kurt's face made Blaine pause. There was so much for his eyes to capture in that instant – hurt, familiarity, and most importantly kindness and hope. Kurt was still that young boy he remembered. Still witty and cheeky, but with a tough exterior he'd put up after years of heartache and loneliness. Somehow he was going to make Kurt happy again. He'd find a way to stop everything terrible that was a part of his life, and make sure he never ended up how Blaine had.
"The bathroom's over there," Kurt told him, pointing towards the wall lined with bookshelves.
With a nod, Blaine ducked over into the bathroom and took his time changing. He ignored the reflection of his skinny, sixteen year old self in the mirror and struggled into Kurt's jeans and shirt. They were both rather big on him, but Kurt was taller than himself and no doubt still growing broader and filling out in a way he never had. His clothes had to be a little bigger for his growing body.
When Blaine was sure he was zipped up and straightened out, he made one desperate attempt to tame his dried curls, but gave up rather quickly. Kurt's sink was enclosed by a large collection of beauty and hair products, but he didn't dare touch any of them. The last thing he wanted was to make things awkward, use the wrong one, or to upset Kurt when he was just starting to get to know him.
Back in Kurt's room, Kurt had cleared away all the other outfits and clothes and was sitting on the edge of his bed, wringing his hands and looking nervous again.
"Hey, do– they're a little big, sorry– " Kurt gushed immediately, hopping up and eyeing Blaine. "I mean you'll grow into them, of course, and I'll never wear them, not my style, but– "
"Hey, woah, relax, okay? They're perfect and very dry," Blaine assured him, slowly and carefully taking Kurt by the shoulders and guiding him back towards his bed. He tried to ignore the way Kurt tensed at the touch, but it was rather difficult. Kurt never used to do that. He's always smiled brightly when Blaine had taken his hand. But he'd also never been through all of the things he had now. Life was very different at sixteen than at eight, and for Blaine it was still difficult for him to grapple with connecting that gap in his mind. How had that eight year old become the lonely, scared boy in front of him?
"They– really? You're sure? They aren't too– "
"Boys! Dinner's ready!"
They both startled at Burt's holler from the top of the stairs. Kurt's gaze remained on the stairs, but Blaine carefully folded up his damp clothes and picked up his shoes.
"They're great, Kurt, really," he assured him. "Come on, I'm starving."
Kurt still looked uncertain, but he followed Blaine back upstairs, helped him douse his clothes in stain remover, and then chucked them into the washing machine.
Burt was waiting for them with a giant bowl of pasta and another, smaller one filled with some type of pinkish sauce. When they shuffled in, Burt looked up and smiled easily. It was strange for Blaine to see, despite only knowing the man for half an hour. Kurt's father didn't seem like the type that smile a lot; he seemed troubled by his son's silence and general situation in life, but Blaine wasn't sure how deep those troubled thoughts went.
The one thing that had become obvious to him since he'd stepped foot in the Hummel's home was that Kurt and his father were in a rough place with each other. They weren't communicating. Kurt was as civil with Burt as he was with any of their teachers at school. He could tell without a doubt that Burt loved his son, but at this point Blaine had a good idea that part of his task with Kurt was helping him along on his journey to being open with his sexuality. The first step for that would be helping Kurt tell Burt. It was just a hunch for now, but Blaine had the terrible suspicion that Burt had no idea that Kurt was gay, or at the very least was in denial or had not had a real conversation with Kurt about it.
Helping someone come out wasn't a first for Blaine. In fact, the majority of his missions had involved comforting people as they struggled with acceptance for who they were and then for how their loved ones would react. He was still feeling out Burt and his possible reactions, but the moment in the living room made him hopeful. Burt clearly loved his son, but he was at a loss for what to do to help make his life better.
"Figured I'd go with something simple," Burt offered, motioning for the two of them to grab plates from the open cabinet and to dig in. Kurt gave his father a contemptuous look and tutted under his breath. "It's not that unhealthy, Kurt– "
"You've heard what the doctor keeps saying, Dad," Kurt said loftily, fixing his father with a glare as he took down two plates and handed one to Blaine. "You aren't a teenager. You can't just eat anything you want anymore."
"It's that organic stuff you insist on buying, " Burt argued, looking exasperated. "Look, its quick and simple and better than me burning down the house trying to make one of those fancy health meals you insist on, okay, buddy?"
Kurt turned to snap back, paused when he met his father's gaze, and instead pursed his lips. There was definite tension between them and Blaine couldn't help but believe it was for more reasons than one. Burt's health seemed to be an issue. He added the potential problem to his mental list that was growing impossibly longer with every minute he was with Kurt. The one thing he knew with certainty was that Kurt and Burt needed to start talking, really talking, instead of skirting around each other. For now, that would be Blaine's first task until he got to know them both better.
"It looks delicious, Mr. Hummel," Blaine said cheerfully, giving Kurt a soft smile as he set his plate down and pulled the chair next to his out, motioning for Kurt to take it.
With a last look, Kurt accepted the seat and let Blaine push him in. He was surprised to find Burt watching their interaction when he turned to look back at him, and the look was... well, it wasn't unfriendly, but Blaine wasn't sure if it was welcoming or not. As Burt took his seat across from them, Blaine did his best to recall everything he'd read about the man in his file. Surely he would have remembered a sentence or two about Burt being hostile towards potential friends for his son or any sort of "more than friendly" interaction between two boys. His skin prickled as Burt scrutinized him from across the dish of pasta. Maybe he just didn't know what to make of him. If Kurt wasn't accustom to having friends, then Burt certainly wasn't used to having any around the house.
They all filled their plates up and began eating in silence. Blaine wondered if Burt would mention the chair pushing. It was good manners Blaine had had drilled into him as a young boy, though the etiquette had been towards woman, or more specifically important ladies in his life. He'd always switched the girlfriend part to a boyfriend in his mind, but Kurt wasn't that. The very thought was ridiculous for a number of reasons. He'd just wanted to be friendly and keep the peace for a few minutes. Perhaps Burt would bring up what Blaine was curious about on his own.
"So, you said you like football, right?"
Blaine glanced up and found Burt's forkful of pasta directed at him. He nodded eagerly.
"Yes, sir. The Buckeyes are my favorite college team," Blaine answered immediately. "They've done really well with Tressel coaching. I think they'll go all the way this year."
"Nah," Burt disagreed. "The team's still good, but I think he's wearing down. Do you play at all?"
Blaine laughed and shook his head. "No, sir. I don't really have the football build. I box and I'm going to try out for the Glee Club."
"Oh yeah? What's your girlfriend think of that?"
Kurt's fork clattered loudly against his plate and Blaine glanced over at him. His face was red and his fingers were shaky as he scooped the fork back up. He looked terrified by the question, and Blaine briefly wondered if Burt had ever asked him the same thing. Blaine knew from his own life that such a question was painful to swallow when the answer was, and always would be, no. Burt shot Kurt a concerned glance as he started eating again, then returned his gaze to Blaine.
"Um...," Blaine smiled ruefully and chuckled. "I've never had a girlfriend." After a split-second of hesitation he added, "I never plan on having one either. I'm gay, sir."
The kitchen fell silent and Blaine couldn't decide who's face was funnier. Kurt was gaping at him as though Blaine had just signed off on his own death sentence and Burt was looking rather stunned and surprised, but not alarmingly so. It was a relief to see Burt not looking angry or disgusted by his confession. Perhaps this wouldn't be as difficult as Blaine had originally thought. Burt wasn't hostile towards the idea so far, but Kurt... Kurt had gone back to looking scared, his eyes fixed on his father now, waiting for his vocal reaction to Blaine's words.
"Oh," Burt muttered. He stuffed a forkful of pasta into his mouth, chewed for a few moments, swallowed and asked, "A boyfriend then? He big on Glee and all this theatre stuff, too?"
"Dunno," Blaine replied, shrugging a little as Kurt continued to stare at him in amazement. "I'll ask him whenever I meet him."
Burt nodded several times and ate another bite of pasta. "Fair enough. I imagine it's, uh... not easy to find another gay boy around here," he said slowly and his eyes shifted towards Kurt for just a fraction of a second, but now it was Blaine's fork's turn to hit his plate.
Burt knew Kurt was gay.
He already knew it and from what Blaine could tell he didn't care in the slightest. Just as quickly, Burt's eyes flickered back to his plate, but Blaine had caught it all, even if Kurt hadn't noticed. It didn't matter to Burt and that was a relief in so many ways. At least one part of Kurt's life would be easy and maybe these two would finally open up to each other if Blaine could get Kurt to open up to him first. That had to be the thing preventing these two from being honest with each other. Kurt was scared, and given the reactions he got at school, Blaine didn't blame him in the slightest. His father, for all his apparent love and support, was a very imposing man and fit the stereotypical look and interests of a homophobic man. It was no wonder Kurt was scared to tell him.
"I haven't really been looking," Blaine remarked casually. "It'd just make things more difficult and I've got a lot of other things to focus on right now if I want to get into a good college."
Burt nodded, but it was slower, more thoughtful as his eyes shifted to Kurt who was staring down at his plate and shuffling his pasta back and forth. They both watched Kurt for a moment and Blaine knew Kurt was beyond confused by his father's reaction just now. He certainly had his work cut out for him now that he knew what he needed to do. Kurt wasn't going to be easy to convince when it came to telling Burt the truth, but Blaine could see the obvious strain between them. More importantly, he saw the worry in Burt's eyes when he looked at his son and the hope that had just been sparked there by Blaine's sexuality. Blaine couldn't offer anything more than friendship given his circumstances, but he would give these two back their relationship even if it took the rest of his time here.
Kurt spent the entire weekend thinking over what had happened at dinner on Friday night. His father's reaction to Blaine revealing that he was gay had been remarkable to him. He hadn't ordered Blaine to leave and never come back, hadn't even acted disgusted or uncomfortable. Instead of asking how or why, he'd corrected himself and asked if Blaine had a boyfriend.
It didn't make any sense to Kurt. He'd spent the last handful of years vehemently refusing to acknowledge that he was gay, and then finally accepting himself, but still not being able to tell anyone the truth. There was no one to tell the truth to besides his father, and Burt had always seemed so... not gay-friendly. As Kurt worked through his homework, he desperately tried to recall a time when Burt had mentioned homosexuality in a negative way, but after six hours and a pile of completed homework he only came up blank.
How had he missed it? Did his father already know he was gay and was just waiting for him to tell him?
Kurt couldn't believe that. Burt Hummel didn't sit around and wait for other people to start talking. If he knew the truth or even suspected, then Kurt would be out and his father would react however he chose to. No, Burt probably didn't know the truth. If he did, his reaction would undoubtedly be very different when it was his son instead of some boy he'd just met and hadn't seen since.
By Monday, Kurt had convinced himself that his father could still never know the truth. The truth would ruin what was left of their relationship and potentially make the only easy part of his life hell. He left for school after a solitary breakfast, and was almost at his locker when a voice trickled over his shoulder.
"Hey, stranger," Blaine greeted, his voice bright and happy. The sound of it made Kurt's heart soar even as he did his best to ignore the sensation. He was still hopelessly suspicious of Blaine and why he looked like the boy he remembered, but for now he had no real reason to doubt his friendliness. If Kurt was honest, he loved having him around. It was so easy to let himself go around the other boy. He felt like he already knew him and had to keep reminding himself that he didn't. This wasn't the boy from the park and tea parties.
"Hi," Kurt replied as he stopped in front of his locker and started twisting the lock. To his surprise, Blaine began fumbling with the one a few to his right.
"How was your weekend?" Blaine chirped, quickly rotating his books in and out as Kurt paused to watch. Nothing fazed him. Even stating that he was gay hadn't made Blaine bat an eyelash. Kurt envied that confidence. It was something he'd wished for a long time, but had never happened. Being strong only went so far when there was nobody to fall back on.
"Fine, lots of homework," Kurt replied softly, turning his gaze back to the contents of his locker. He eyed the little music posters and fashion collages he'd created for the inside. Even without them the entire school knew he was gay without him saying anything. Surely his father wasn't blind enough not to notice. His own dad had to at least pay enough attention to see how much he was hurting.
"Yeah, I had a lot of catch-up work," Blaine agreed smoothly, shutting his locker and circling around to the other side of Kurt so that he could see him. He frowned when he met Kurt's gaze and Kurt turned his tearful eyes back towards his locker. "Hey, what's up?" Blaine murmured in concern. He glanced around and then leaned in further. "You– did someone try to rough you up or– "
Kurt shook his head as he willed his tears not to fall. He was already made fun of enough at school; crying would only make the teasing worse.
"How did your parents react when you came out?"
Blaine stiffened beside him and Kurt watched the other boy's expression falter and then droop. It was exactly what Kurt had expected and everything he feared. His own father was fine with Blaine, sure, but Blaine's own parents apparently hadn't taken to the idea at all.
"They... well, it was... difficult at first," Blaine explained quietly. "I mean, they tried to ignore it and insist I was saying that to upset them and that I needed to see a specialist at our church, but... they accepted it eventually. Before they died at any rate."
For a moment, Kurt was sure his heart had stopped. Blaine's parents were dead. Both of them. But that would mean–
"Blaine, your– I'm sorry– "
Blaine shrugged easily and Kurt relaxed slightly at the reaction. He didn't seem hurt or concerned at all about the fact. It must have been an old wound, something he barely remembered, unlike Kurt who still thought of his own mother every day.
"It's fine, I live with my brother and he's always been great about it," Blaine told him. "My parents got it in the end, and well, my grandfather... he never really did. He still doesn't."
"Oh," Kurt replied quietly, watching Blaine for any signs of sadness, but he found none and it unnerved him. It almost made him feel like Blaine was lying. It didn't seem possible for him to not feel something about his parents being dead and yet he smiled once more and nudged Kurt playfully with his elbow.
"Your dad's already got a leg up on them," Blaine smiled. "I didn't think he'd take me being gay so well the other night, but... he surprised me."
"Yeah, h- he surprised me, too," Kurt muttered softly.
The first bell of the morning rang overhead and the students around them slowly began making their ways to their homerooms. Kurt lingered at his locker, still trading out notebooks and textbooks as Blaine leaned against the closed lockers beside him, looking thoughtful.
"For what it's worth, I don't think he'll be upset," Blaine said slowly, quietly. "I wish my parents had been more like your dad. He seems wonderful."
The instantaneous thought was like a slap across Kurt's face. His father was amazing; loving and caring and more than he could have ever asked for. But Kurt was scared. So many possibilities and horrible reactions and coming out stories had been running about in his mind for almost two years. Anything could happen and just because Burt was okay with Blaine didn't mean he'd be fine with his only son announcing he was gay.
Blaine bit his lip and shifted against the lockers as Kurt stayed silent. He couldn't tell him, but if even Blaine could tell the truth after less than a week, then surely his father had at least an inkling. Kurt wasn't sure if that thought was comforting or more terrifying. If Burt had his suspicions, but hadn't brought it up, then there had to be a reason for it.
"Sorry, that was overstepping," Blaine apologized as he pushed off from the lockers and hitched up his bag. "We better get to class," he added, glancing at the clock as Kurt shut his locker.
Before he realized it, Blaine's arm had tentatively looped through his and tightened. Immediately, Kurt looked around for a pack of jocks or even a passing student, but the hallways were empty now. He relaxed a little at that, but still kept himself upright and stiff. Anyone could appear at any moment and Blaine was so carefree about this. He wasn't sure why that surprised him, but it did.
"So I was thinking we could get coffee after school, consider it an apology for overstepping," Blaine offered. "I'll buy a grande non-fat mocha latte for you, free of charge."
Kurt smiled and agreed with a nod, but it was only after he'd been dropped off at his homeroom and the morning announcements were in progress that he realized that he'd never told Blaine his favorite coffee order.
For the rest of the week, little things like his coffee order kept cropping up in Blaine's speech. At first Kurt let it slide and tried desperately to recall mentioning any of it beforehand, but by Thursday he knew Blaine somehow had access to a lot of information Kurt had never told him. At least nothing he'd ever told this Blaine.
On Monday, Blaine asked how Burt's shop was doing.
At lunch on Tuesday he mentioned Kurt's obsession with Alexander McQueen's designs and his worship of The Golden Girls. Kurt would have let it slide if Blaine hadn't tacked on the second piece of information. His love of Alexander McQueen should be apparent to anyone with an eye for his wardrobe and a knowledge of fashion.
By Thursday, however, Blaine had asked how his father's relationship with Carole Hudson was going, and Kurt finally called him on it. There was no logical way that Blaine knew all of these things about his life and truthfully, it was starting to unnerve him, despite Blaine's nonthreatening nature.
"– she sounds like she's pretty nice– "
"How in the world do you know that?" Kurt demanded in exasperation, fork hitting his lunch tray as he gave Blaine a furious look. "I've never even mentioned her– "
Blaine looked startled at Kurt's tone and for a moment Kurt could see the cogs in his head churning into overdrive. If Kurt hadn't been suspicious before, he certainly was now. Blaine knew seemingly everything about him, just like the boy from his childhood had. There were so many similarities, even outside of physical appearance and for Kurt the list was getting too long to keep going unnoticed. Something was up and there was some sort of connection, but for the life of him, he couldn't imagine what it was.
"Oh, Finn's in my weight lifting class," Blaine lied smoothly, lips quirked up in a small smile. "He mentioned it since he's seen us hanging out."
Kurt decided to play along instead of calling Blaine out for his lie. He'd rather figure out the reason for it on his own. First, he'd ask Finn at dinner tonight if he'd ever even spoken to Blaine, and then...
Well he didn't really know how to follow up after that. How could he prove that the Blaine he was slowly becoming friends with was the same boy, right down to his hair style and age, as the Blaine he'd befriended eight years ago?
Suddenly Mr. Schuester appeared behind Blaine, looking cheerful and excited.
"Hey, guys," he greeted, giving them a little wave as he stopped at the table. Not for the first time he did a double take when he looked at Blaine. Kurt wasn't sure why, but he was starting to get the impression it was for the same reason Kurt was suspicious. Ever since Blaine's Glee Club audition on Monday, during which he'd killed an old Queen song, much to the club's enjoyment, Mr. Schuester had been looking at him oddly. It was almost as if he, too, recognized Blaine from another time.
That was ridiculous, of course. Even Kurt thinking he recognized him was impossible.
"So I've got a great idea for a boy bands versus girl bands from the nineties lesson for next week," he told them happily, still watching Blaine with interest. "I think it'll really help fire everyone up for Sectionals in November."
"Will there be Britney?" Kurt asked hopefully. "Spice Girls is the only really noteworthy girl band... "
"I– she's not the greatest role model, Kurt, but... I'll think it over," Mr. Schuester said uncertainly, but his gaze was still fixed on Blaine, who was starting to look creeped out.
"Is there something on my face, Mr. Schue?" Blaine asked after another moment.
With a jolt, Mr. Schuester shook himself and tried to smile but failed. "No, there's– sorry," he added sheepishly. "You just... you look almost identical to this kid that went here when I did. He died the year I graduated, and I swear his name was– "
"Blaine Anderson?" Blaine offered, looking uninterested. "Yeah, that was my dad's younger brother," Blaine added with an easy shrug. "He drowned in his junior year, I think. It was a few years after my dad graduated from here. I'm not sure on much of it, just that my dad named me after him since I was born not long after. I guess it worked out pretty well, too," Blaine said with a little laugh. "You're not the only one who's been looking at me like they've seen a ghost."
Eyes closed and nodding vigorously, Mr. Schuester seemed to accept the story for the truth, but to Kurt it didn't make sense for his own recollections. Mr. Schuester had graduated either before or around the time Kurt was born. His supposed uncle who had died then wouldn't have been around a decade later to be part of Kurt's memories.
He watched the two talk about Mr. Schuester's latest idea as he started to form a plan in his own mind. Blaine's uncle would be pictured in McKinley's old yearbooks, and so would his father, too, if Blaine's story was true. Kurt didn't know what the pictures would tell him yet, but he was positive that Blaine was lying. If he was lucky the boy in the old photographs would be identical and from there he'd corner Blaine and demand answers. An old yearbook photo wasn't much, but it was a place to start with the mystery of the many Blaine Andersons.