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Permanent Record, Part 1

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“I’m surprised you don’t mind this,” Kurt says, taking care to exhale his smoke away from Blaine’s face.

“You don’t care that I always taste like stale coffee and burnt espresso.”

“That’s not the same thing. And there’s no such thing as second-hand… I don’t know, second-hand coffee breath.”

They’re lying together on the Skanks’ ratty sofa, skipping class yet again as they attempt to come down from the day’s drama. Kurt is still uneasy; they haven’t addressed what they’re going to do about their relationship in a public sense, and though Blaine insists he doesn’t want to hide, Kurt is all too aware that what people desire and what people actually do about their desires can take separate paths entirely. At the moment, though, lying on his back with Blaine snuggled halfway on top of him and resting his forehead against Kurt’s temple while Kurt smokes, it’s tempting to pretend the issue doesn’t exist.

“Regardless, I just think of it as… your taste, I guess?” Blaine lifts his head and punctuates his point with a kiss. “Besides, you’re not a chainsmoker like Quinn or anything, you don’t reek of it. What is it for you, like a pack a week?”

“Two weeks, if those weeks are decent. It makes me feel better sometimes, but I know it’s bad for me and I don’t want to do it too much if I can help it. I still want to sing once I get out of this hellhole.”

Blaine tilts his head, considering. “I’ve never heard you sing.”

Kurt wishes he could use “I’ve never heard you either” as a retort, but he has. Oh, he has. Blaine sings along to the radio, he sings homework questions, he hums along to the tunes in his head and dances in place when he’s idle. And Blaine’s singing voice is beautiful, a rich, warm tenor that lifts every part of Kurt’s being when he hears it. But singing, for Kurt, has become something private, something he still nurtures and perfects, but only when he’s alone.

Blaine has seen a lot of Kurt’s previously private moments, though, so he snuffs his cigarette in a patch of dirt next to the sofa, clears his throat, and says, “Any requests?”

“Really?”

“Unless you give me time to change my mind.”

“Something personal,” Blaine says quickly. “Something you really relate to.”

Kurt takes a deep breath, his pulse racing, and sings, “Blackbird singing in the dead of night… take these broken wings and learn to fly…

Blaine’s eyes go wide, but Kurt closes his own, focusing on his breathing instead so that Blaine can’t overwhelm him in this moment, as he so often does when they’re this close. He feels Blaine rest his chin on his chest, listening intently, but Kurt keeps his eyes shut, trying to keep his tone steady. This song always gets to him, but it’s one of his favorites, a remnant from the days he’d spend listening to music with his mother, music he sometimes avoided after her death but rediscovered years later, when it felt like he had nothing left.

He can feel his face getting warmer the longer he sings, heat building underneath his tear ducts. Blaine’s hand moves to his cheek, his thumb rubbing gently, and it’s almost too much, but Kurt breathes deeply and finishes one last chorus before his sudden emotions can get the best of him.

When Kurt finally opens his eyes, Blaine is staring at him with so much awe and obvious adoration that he looks like he might cry himself.

“Kurt… why did you quit Glee club?”

Kurt looks away, suddenly engrossed in watching his discarded cigarette butt laying in the dirt nearby. “I had my reasons.”

“Yeah, I got that far,” Blaine retorts, still grazing a thumb over Kurt’s cheek. “What I’d like to know is what those reasons were.”

“Why? I was in Glee club, and then I wasn’t. That’s the beginning and end of it.”

“What about the middle?”

“Just drop it.”

“Kurt, why won’t you—”

“It doesn’t matter!” Kurt yells, pushing Blaine’s hand away from his face.

Hurt flashes across Blaine’s expression before it darkens in frustration. He sits up a little, lifting himself from Kurt’s tense figure, and sighs, “Saying that something doesn’t matter doesn’t make it true.”

“I—I don’t want to talk about it, okay? Please just drop it?” Kurt sees Blaine opening his mouth to say something, but his face is still combative, so Kurt shakes his head and sighs, his voice cracking, “Blaine, please?”

Blaine’s eyebrows furrow at Kurt’s tone and he nods, leaning back down to press a kiss to Kurt’s cheek. He lays on Kurt’s chest again and stays quiet.

Kurt rubs a hand over his face and wraps his arm around Blaine’s back. “Mondays suck.”

“This has been a long one.”

“That’s a fucking understatement. We should get out of here.”

“Running gets old quick,” Blaine mutters darkly, though he seems to surprise himself with the remark, glancing up at Kurt with wide eyes and a self-deprecating grin immediately after he says it.

Kurt chooses not to comment on that. “I just think we need to blow off some steam tonight, you know? Shake things up.”

“If things aren’t already shaky enough for you, I’m a little nervous for whatever you have in mind.”

“God, you’re… sassy today.”

“No, I just thought we learned this morning that being dishonest was a bad idea.” Blaine says it with a pleasant smile on his face, but Kurt feels the barb all the same. “Anyway,” he goes on, looking down and clearing his throat, “I think letting off some steam is a good idea. What do you want to do?”

*****

“I thought you said Quinn was good with things like this. This doesn’t even look like me,” Blaine says, squinting at his brand new fake ID.

“I said she’s better at it than Puck,” Kurt smirks, pulling into the parking lot of Scandals, the only gay bar he knows within a 50-mile radius. “You should have seen the first one Puck got me. It said I was a 38-year-old from Hawaii. At least your age is reasonable.”

“Why North Dakota, though?”

“Have you ever met anyone from North Dakota?”

“No.”

“Exactly.”

After they hop out of the car, Blaine circles around to the driver’s side to take Kurt’s hand. “You look amazing,” he sighs, shaking his head as he looks Kurt up and down.

Kurt’s wearing a short-sleeved black button-up with tiny silver skulls printed all over it, skintight black jeans with safety pins running all the way down the sides, and and black boots. The clothing hugs his body from top to bottom; he watches Blaine’s eyes take him in, a satisfied little thrill shooting through him as Blaine bites his bottom lip and looks back up at Kurt through darkened eyes. “So do you,” Kurt says, putting a hand on the back of Blaine’s neck to pull him close for a kiss. He slides that hand into Blaine’s collar and says, “You have no right to look this good in a fucking polo shirt and loafers, Blaine. I don’t get it.”

Blaine laughs against his lips. “Polo shirts and loafers are classic, Kurt.”

“Yeah, yeah. Shall we?”

As they’re making their way to the doors, Blaine looks over and asks, “So, you’ve been here before?”

“Yeah. I came here a lot last year. Last spring. When I needed to… get away, you know?”

Blaine doesn’t know, not exactly, since Kurt won’t tell him, but he just nods and keeps walking.

The bouncer doesn’t seem particularly fussed about being thorough with their IDs, so they get in without questions. A few of the older men drinking beers near the doors look over at them appraisingly, but most of them keep on dancing and chatting with each other over the music. The rest of the patrons are seated at the bar or in small clusters along the walls and small dancefloor.

“This isn’t as crazy as I thought it would be, for a place called Scandals,” Blaine says, taking Kurt’s hand when he reaches back to guide them towards the bar. “I mean, I can’t put my finger on it, but it’s sort of…” Blaine wiggles his fingers in the air and scrunches his nose, “Rock and roll, you know? For Lima.”

“For Lima,” Kurt laughs, snagging two barstools. “But any safe space is nice.” He orders a couple Shirley Temples, since both of them are staying sober tonight, and Blaine hides a grin at the cute pink drinks with tiny umbrellas sticking out of them. They sit and talk for a while, one or two men coming up to them to say hello and offer them drinks, but they just curl a little closer together at the bar until it becomes clear to the bar at large that neither is going to entertain anyone else.

The day’s tension and anxiety are fading now, ever so slowly. Blaine’s smile is easy and his gaze has returned to the soft, attentive one he usually reserves for Kurt rather than the relentless, piercing one he was using this afternoon. Kurt crosses their ankles, twining their legs together, and leans a little closer; he hasn’t been here in so long that he’d forgotten how it felt to be able to be like this with a boy when surrounded by people. It’s weird and thrilling and sets his nerves alight.

“I have to use the bathroom,” Blaine says after a while, standing up and setting his empty glass on the bar. He glances around for a moment, then kisses Kurt sweetly, his grin huge and excited when he pulls away. “You taste so fruity. Public kisses are awesome.”

Kurt rolls his eyes and laughs, “I know they do. That’s what I’ve been trying to tell you, you adorable doofus. Go on, I’ll save your seat.”

Blaine winks and heads for the bathroom, switching his hips back and forth in time with the music as he goes. Kurt watches him, as do the other men surrounding the bar; he returns to his drink with a smug little smirk when a few of the onlookers look at him to see who the cute new boy is with.

And, Kurt notes with another bump of satisfaction, the looks they're giving him are just as interested. He sticks his straw in his mouth, holding their gazes for a few moments, then turns back to the bar to wait for Blaine.

No one approaches him for those few quiet minutes, and then—

“Kurt? Oh! My! God! I would recognize that hair anywhere!”

Kurt spins around on his barstool and a pair of lips smashes sloppily into his. Plastic-framed glasses, gone askew on the other person’s face, bump up against his nose ring for a moment before the person backs off. Blond hair and a bright, cheerful smile greet him when the boy comes into focus.

Blaine’s hurt, confused face comes into focus, too, standing a little ways behind him. Kurt’s stomach sinks.

Fuuuuuck this is not good not good not good —

“Chandler,” Kurt says, his voice tight and his heart thumping wildly in his chest in shock. He discreetly wipes the back of his hand across his mouth and takes a sip of his drink, glancing over Chandler’s shoulder at Blaine. “Still... enthusiastic as ever, I see.”

“And you’re still as hot,” Chandler replies, adjusting his glasses and placing a hand on Kurt’s arm.

Chandler’s flattery always sparked a little flutter in Kurt, and it does so now, catching on that tangled ball of need deep inside of him that craves praise insatiably where it has been so sorely lacking. Kurt hates it. He pulls away, leaning back against the bar, and takes another sip of his drink to hide his smile. “I thought you moved to Ann Arbor.”

Chandler slides onto Blaine's empty barstool and leans toward Kurt. “I did! I was just visiting family this weekend. My mom pulled me out of school today and Tuesday since it was the only time she could get off from work. We’re driving back tomorrow, so I thought I’d check out Scandals one last time, and lucky me, the boy who rocked my world all those months ago is right here in the flesh! What have youuuu been up to, heartbreaker?”

Kurt laughs, his cheeks going warm as he glances over at Blaine. He’s making his way over to them, slipping through the men clustered around the bar and smiling hesitantly at Kurt, clearly unsure of what he’s walking into. Frankly, Kurt’s not sure what he’s walking into, either. “Not breaking any hearts lately. At least, I hope not.”

“Hey,” Blaine says, sliding up to Kurt at the bar. He wraps an arm around Kurt’s waist and presses close, glaring at Chandler with wary eyes and his mouth pressed into a flat line.

Chandler’s smile falters, but only for a moment, and he reaches out a hand to shake Blaine’s. “Chandler Kiehl, pleasure to meet you!”

“You too,” Blaine replies, his tone clipped but polite, because he can’t help being polite when someone greets him so openly. “I’m Kurt’s boyfriend,” he adds, just as Kurt opens his mouth to introduce him as such.

“Lucky you!”

Chandler’s response is sunny and immediate, and Blaine is quite obviously caught off-guard by it. “I—I am.”

Kurt takes a deep breath. This might not be as much of a shitshow as he thought.

Blaine and Chandler hit it off quickly, their shared friendliness and amiable personalities syncing them right away. Blaine’s jaw tenses and his arm tightens around Kurt's waist each time Chandler says something a little too enthusiastic about Kurt, but their introduction passes mostly without incident.

“So, how do you know each other?” Blaine asks.

Kurt's heart suddenly feels like it’s seizing up in his chest.

“Well...” Chandler begins, looking over at Kurt, who stares back trying to somehow indicate the things that shouldn't be said without looking suspicious, “we met here! And he stole my heart right away, of course. I mean, BLAINE, you know how he is!” Chandler shakes his hips and sings, “Simply irresistible!”

Blaine laughs despite himself. “Yeah, I do know that.”

“We had a scandalous time with each other,” he adds, winking theatrically, “but all good things must come to an end, I suppose. And then I moved to Michigan and… Anyway, that’s how it all began: he had a fake, I had a fake, and the rest is history!”

Ancient history?”

Kurt sucks down the rest of his drink so quickly that he nearly chokes on it, ignoring the cold smile on Blaine’s face and blank surprise on Chandler’s in favor of clanging the empty glass on the bar and hopping up from his seat. He doesn’t even try for subtlety when he grabs Blaine’s hand and drags him out to the dancefloor. Blaine, thankfully, doesn’t say anything else, and when he pulls Kurt close with that same loaded stare he gave him under the bleachers this afternoon, Kurt shakes his head and kisses him. “He’s an old friend. This is now, not last year. Okay?”

The corner of Blaine’s mouth twitches, but he doesn’t respond either way. He just squeezes Kurt’s waist and dances with him, pressing their foreheads together.

Kurt shakily breathes him in and tries to relax despite the panic beginning to hum under his skin. He can feel his control slipping, and for the first time in a long time, he isn’t sure how to get it back, isn’t sure if he even can with both Blaine and Chandler doing their best to unravel him.

They stay that way for a while, pressed close and intimate, enjoying the music and savoring their visibility in the midst of the semi-crowded dancefloor. This is what Kurt loves about this place; he and Blaine can be surrounded by strangers, yet left alone, as Kurt would love them to be in the outside world. That’s part of the reason he got wrapped up with Chandler here; Scandals was an escape, once upon a time. Scandals is not real life.

Kurt feels the tension in Blaine’s hands on his waist before he feels the tap on his shoulder. When he looks over, Chandler is there, eternally bubbly smile and all. “Can I cut in?” he asks.

Refusing will only raise more questions. Everything is supposed to be fine. Kurt will make it fine. He turns to Blaine, smiling in what he hopes is a reassuring way, until Blaine finally nods and says, “No reason not to.”

Kurt reaches down and squeezes Blaine’s hands, dropping a sweet little kiss to Blaine’s bottom lip, then spins to face Chandler.

Chandler’s grin is just as big and bright as always, his cheerful attention immediately bringing a smile to Kurt’s face. He dances like a complete dork, his moves somewhere between “embarrassing grandpa” and “chorus member of West Side Story,” but it puts Kurt at ease in a way he wishes it didn’t.

Kurt starts shimmying and swiveling his hips to meet him. He’s settling into a rhythm with an old friend, someone comfortable and familiar. Chandler might just be the only person to get to know him as he was then, when Kurt had already shed his old skin but hadn’t quite grown into the new one. Chandler knows Kurt in limbo, between the skittish, blushing boy who used to get so nervous about sex and the boy he is now. There’s something both terrifying and freeing about that, acknowledging that Chandler met him at his worst, when he was the terrified, desperate version of himself who dragged a stranger into a dive bar bathroom.

But hey, Chandler was safe at a time when no other boy was.

He reaches for Kurt’s waist, and Kurt allows it, resting his hands on Chandler’s shoulders and stepping closer so the space between them isn't so awkward. “You got taller. And I don't just mean your hair,” Chandler says, looking adoringly at Kurt's wild pink and brown coif.

Kurt snorts and rolls his eyes. “Hmm, I thought you got shorter.”

“Then I'm in luck, since you're into short guys now.”

Kurt smiles, glancing back at Blaine, who has been scooped into a dancing circle of friendly strangers. When he looks over at Kurt, and finds Kurt already watching him, his wary expression softens into a sweet smile and he winks, his eyes boring into Kurt’s and cutting through all the swirling lights and moving bodies in the bar. Kurt swallows as they each turn back to their respective dance partners. “You could say that.”

“Hmm. Well then...” Chandler murmurs, right into Kurt’s ear, before he grazes his lips across Kurt’s cheek and kisses him on the mouth.

Kurt shoves him back. “What the fuck are you doing?”

Chandler blinks, confused. “Kissing you, duh! What’s the problem?”

“I have a boyfriend!”

“You didn’t have a problem with me kissing you earlier…”

“Yes, I did, but you just latched onto me—”

“I thought it would be fine. You’re… you know! It’s my last night here, and you’re so free, open, like… You don’t care, it doesn’t matter, whatever!”

“No, I’m—I’m not.”

“Kurt… Remember when we met? You knew me for an hour before you blew me in the bathroom.”

The statement slaps Kurt in the face so much harder for how casually Chandler says it, the way Chandler so flippantly behaves as if this is a simple truth of who Kurt is. That’s when it hits him: Chandler is not safe, not anymore. And Chandler is not an old friend. He can’t be, because the Kurt that Chandler knew doesn’t exist anymore.

“So what?” Kurt snarls, despite the way his face is turning red with humiliation and his eyes are starting to prickle with tears. He hasn’t felt this small in ages. “You don’t know shit about me, Chandler, and you never have. Now’s a good time to let go of the idea that you ever could.”

It isn’t true, but it does the trick. Chandler backs off, stunned, and Kurt walks as quickly as he can towards the door with one hand on his chest, trying to breathe.

He doesn’t hear Blaine calling after him, nor does he see Blaine follow him out of the bar.

*

Blaine finds Kurt pacing outside with his hands on his hips and a cigarette dangling from his mouth. He looks jittery and unsettled, and when he raises two fingers to his mouth, his hand is shaking.

All Blaine saw in the bar was Kurt screaming at a completely confused-looking Chandler. “Kurt, what happened? What did he do?”

“When we… when we hooked up at Puck’s party, did you think I was slutty?”

“What? No. I would never say that about anyone, you least of all,” Blaine answers. “Besides, I started it, remember?”

Kurt doesn’t seem to really hear him, taking another drag from the cigarette and continuing, “Even though I’d only known you for a day?”

“We just clicked, Kurt, you know that. Like we’ve been saying this whole time. Where’s this coming from?”

He shakes his head, his lips pressed together tightly before he says, voice wavering, “Chandler was right. He was right. When I was hooking up with him last year, I-I was a mess and I didn’t care and nothing mattered, except it did, it always did, and I didn’t realize it, but I just — I took the first person who actually wanted me who didn’t scare the shit out of me and—”

Blaine wraps his arms around him, and Kurt’s go around his neck immediately, his cigarette falling somewhere near Blaine’s feet. Blaine can feel Kurt breathing hard against his neck — a little too hard, as a matter of fact. He rubs Kurt’s back and whispers, “Hey, hey, you’re okay.”

Kurt shakes his head against Blaine’s neck.

“You will be. Breathe, okay?”

Kurt tries.

Blaine keeps rubbing his back and goes on, “Listen, it’s still early. Can I take you home and we can just… talk? I know you don’t want to get into it, but I need to know what happened last year.”

“I’ve never told anybody,” Kurt whispers, “but I don’t think I can keep it in anymore. It just keeps coming back and I need—I—”

“Shhh, it’ll be okay, whatever you need, just tell me.”

Kurt sniffles, takes a deep breath, and then the words come, his voice choked-off like he can barely manage it: “I need you.”

Blaine nods, slipping his hand into Kurt’s front pocket to take his car keys. It feels as though Kurt has spent this entire day slowly cracking apart in front of him, and now that he has finally shattered, it’s all Blaine can do to try and keep him together. He stretches up on his toes to kiss Kurt’s forehead and says, “Okay. Okay. I’ve got you. Let’s go home.”