Winter fades, and Blaine feels a low tug in the base of his chest. It's not quite regret, not that particular bone-deep ache, but as the air gets warmer, it feels tinged with nostalgia and an almost indefinable sense of loss. Blaine refuses to be one of those people who looks back on his time in high school as the best days of his life, but it still feels like he's reached the end of of a particularly good book, one he doesn't want to put down, even with a better sequel out there that's just waiting to be opened.
The hallways of McKinley High will always remind him of Kurt, no matter how many new memories he's made here. He knows Kurt wouldn't like that very much, being associated with place he hates so very much, but he's here. Blaine can hear him in every slammed locker and every squeak of shoes on the tiled floors. Blaine thinks of Kurt's hands when he sits by himself in the choir room, pale and slender and strong, and if he closes his eyes, he can recreate every absent gesture, every momentary touch. The stage -- April Rhodes Pavilion -- will always be the image of Kurt standing there, his eyes closed, bathed in the stage lights, his mouth open, ready to sing.
"Are you still pining?" Tina asks. She holds her books over her chest, and she squints in the bright midday sun. The bleachers are quiet and cold today. The football season has yet to start up, and the baseball diamond is on another field. It's just him and Tina; Sam's off doing something with Brittany, something involving Lord Tubbington and a government conspiracy to make cats think they're people. Artie has started pre-production of his film and declared that while he is in mad scientist mode, all cast members should only be seen and not heard. Blaine has no idea what any of the younger members are up to.
"I don't think it technically counts as pining," Blaine says. "It's more like, I just have a lot of feelings."
"You'll get over it," Tina says. She tries a smile, a half-formed thing, and Blaine does appreciate it; he does. "I did."
Blaine hasn't talked to Kurt over the phone in two weeks. They've traded e-mails, and Blaine's snuck in text messages between classes, but it sometimes feels like it did back in October, like Kurt is slipping ever further away. Blaine can't say he's enjoying it, but it's not as bad as it was the first time around, like he was in a slow-moving car crash, just waiting for impact. "Sure," Blaine says. "Thanks."
Last year, he sat with Kurt on these same bleachers and they shared some leftover Valentine's Day chocolate together, and Kurt told Blaine all about Marc Jacobs' spring collection, his voice warm. He was wearing blue that day, Blaine remembers, a cardigan that had complemented his eyes and felt soft to the touch.
Spring has always been Blaine's favorite season, when the first signs of green emerge from the patchy browns and grays of winter. It was spring when he first arrived at Dalton. It was spring when he held Kurt's hand and led him away from Pavarotti's grave. It was spring when Cooper came back to Ohio to visit him for the first time in years.
Blaine has his NYADA audition in less than a month. Tina is wearing yellow today, a floral pattern to her dress. Blaine is wearing green. There are tulips in the yard next door that are beginning to poke out of the ground, leaves first. It might mean something, but it might not.
"I'm not sure if I'm ready to leave here," Blaine says.
Tina says, "I can't wait. God, this place sucks."
Blaine curls his fingers around the hard plastic of the bleachers and thinks of what he'd wants to sing for his audition. That was one of the things he used to share with Kurt, too, tucked away in the quiet safety of Kurt's bedroom, the two of them humming bars of their favorite songs back and forth, getting into arguments about what would suit their voices and performance styles best. "Maybe I am pining a little," Blaine says.
Tina just rolls her eyes and laughs.
Winter in New York is a lot less romantic than Kurt thought it would be, all ugly half-melted slush and biting, howling winds. It's something of a relief when it just starts raining all the time instead, the world turned soggy and wet.
Kurt has never minded the rain all that much. When he was little, his dad always made sure he had heavy duty rain boots, and he'd jump into puddles feet first, giggling as it splashed everywhere. There was a time when he and Blaine were in Columbus, caught out in a sudden downpour because neither of them had paid any attention to the weather forecast. Blaine had tried to cover them both with his jacket, but that had turned out to be a lost cause, and Kurt had grabbed him by the hand, dragging him along. They'd looked like drowned rats by the time they'd gotten back to Blaine's car, their hair plastered to their heads and laughing so hard it had hurt. Blaine's lips had tasted the way it had smelled outside, earthy and soaked through with rain, and his hands had been cold and clammy and perfect.
There will be a day when remembering that Blaine, the one who baked him cookies and sang him silly love songs, won't make Kurt feel like he's had pieces carved out of him, but he's not there yet. He's still not sure when he will be.
"I know it sounds a little crazy for me to say this," Rachel says, "but I'm kind of glad that Santana is still staying with us." She holds a mug in both her hands, her legs tucked under herself as they sit side-by-side on the couch. The loft always feels cozier when it's gray outside, like it's the only warm place in the entire world.
"This is probably what they mean when they talk about Stockholm Syndrome," Kurt says. Sure, Santana is obnoxious and spiteful, but she also refuses to take anyone's shit, and after all the rough and tumble politics of NYADA, dodging the little gaggles of sycophants that travel together through the hallways, it's almost a relief to come home to someone who won't try to bullshit you about how great you are and how successful you'll be.
Rachel sits back, bringing her mug to her lips, and the rain continues to come down outside in sheets. "You haven't mentioned Blaine in a while," she says. "How has he been these days?"
Kurt shrugs. "He seems fine," he says. Blaine has been writing bubbly e-mails for days now, talking about the weather in Lima, a line of expensive line of German hair gel he was excited to try, what Mr. Henderson said in English about Catcher in the Rye, and some serious student council business involving bubble wrap and Chicken Finger Friday. He doesn't talk about how his college applications are going or how he ended up joining the Cheerios, and he hasn't mentioned singing "Against All Odds" (maybe to Sam? The messages Kurt has gotten about that incident have been vague and somewhat contradictory).
Every few days, Blaine will send Kurt pictures of Tina and Artie and the new kids smiling during glee club. They're not fake smiles, not posed and artificial-looking, but Blaine never sends him pictures of anything else, not the way he used to. When Kurt first came back to McKinley after his time at Dalton, Blaine would send him pictures of everything, the gorgeous light fixtures, the stuffy paintings of headmasters from 1888, the Warblers playing hackey-sack outside during a nice day, Blaine examining himself in the mirror while his hair was attempting to misbehave. The carefully curated selection he sends these days reminds Kurt of all those times when Blaine would smile through his grimace as Sebastian stepped in too close or when his father would try to drag him off to go see monster truck rallies for a fun father-son bonding experience. They may be friends -- best friends -- but Kurt knows that there are things that Blaine can't or won't tell him, and the distance feels so much bigger than the 533 miles between Lima and Bushwick.
Rachel says, "At least you're still friends with him." She bites her lip, and Kurt can tell that she's thinking of Finn, about all her own unresolved feelings.
"Yeah," Kurt says. He curls his fingers into the fabric of his t-shirt and tries not to remember his favorite picture from the Dalton days, one of the ones Wes took of Blaine napping in the senior common room the after a late-night phone call, his eyelashes dark against his cheeks, his blazer tucked underneath his head as a makeshift pillow. "It's been great."
This week, the glee club has volunteered to help plant flowers in the nearby park. The weather seems to have decided that it is truly spring now, and the day is pleasant and warm, a gentle breeze to go along with a bright sun.
Blaine is always pleased to have a chance to work with his hands, and this is better than most, because he feels free to get dirty, to collect grass stains on his knees and brown dirt all over his polo shirt. The weather is just a bonus, the chance to be outside while not buried in a giant coat. Kurt was always annoyed at the unpredictability of spring, but Blaine had always loved the way Kurt would lose layers as the days became warmer, exposing new and interesting patches of skin.
"Why are we doing menial labor here again?" Kitty asks. "These dogs keep barking at me." Her arms are folded across her chest. There's a smudge of soil on her left cheek, but Blaine isn't going to be the one to tell her about that. A few excitable dogs have been walked by, their owners having to tug hard on their leashes to keep them from bounding into the middle of things, curious about all the activity.
"Community service will look good on your college applications," Blaine says. The rest of the club isn't exactly doing a lot of work. Ryder and Unique are getting into an argument about the proper way to handle weeds, and Marley and Jake are sneaking kisses with each other when they think no one else is looking. Tina is wearing the biggest pair of sunglasses she owns while sits on one of Artie's handles and chats with Sugar. Brittany is describing the first time plants started talking to her.
"It's also really awesome," Sam says. He slaps Blaine on the shoulder, leaving a handprint behind on Blaine's sleeve. He grins, and Blaine remembers why he'll miss it here. If nothing else, the friendships he's made are real.
Kitty rolls her eyes at them starts in on the crocuses.
Blaine takes pictures on his phone, though he misses some of the best moments. He'll send them to Mike and Mercedes tomorrow, and he hopes the sight of it will make them smile. Last year, they spent so much time preparing for Nationals, they barely had time to do anything like this, something that wasn't about competition or performance or putting everything into winning. He's trying to decide whether or not Kurt will want to see them. Kurt still hasn't said anything about the costumes the club wore when they did that performance of "Karma Chameleon." It's not that Blaine resents Kurt for his silence. It's just that he doesn't know which lines he can cross and which ones he can't.
When they finish for the day, Blaine is covered with sweat, and even after wearing the gloves all day, his palms feel scraped raw. He needs to take a shower and fix his hair and he needs to work on his homework for Monday. It's still a good sort of feeling, worn out and messy and coming home after a day surrounded by friends.
Kurt calls just as Blaine gets inside his own door. "Hi," Kurt says.
"Hey," Blaine says back.
"Long day?" Kurt asks. He must have read Blaine's exhaustion in his tone of voice, and it reminds Blaine of how they used to be so close, so familiar with each other. It wasn't so different when Kurt was here for the wedding, but in Blaine's mind, New York has transformed Kurt into something strange and beautiful, completely out of reach. It's what he was always meant to be, Blaine knows, but sometimes he has no idea how to talk to Kurt anymore.
"Yeah, the whole glee club did a bit of gardening. It was fun," Blaine says. "At one point Sam tried to wear one of the plants as a hat. That... didn't go well."
"I'm sorry I missed it," Kurt says. He sounds wistful.
"I have pictures," Blaine offers. "Some of them are a little blurry because Sugar kept bumping into me but--"
Kurt says, "I'm sure they're great."
"Okay," Blaine says. His arms are still streaked with brown, and they still feel sticky and dusty with drying sweat. He wishes Kurt was here, so that he could wrinkle his nose at Blaine's mess, and they could watch Project Runway together after Blaine has scrubbed himself clean, and they could gossip about the rest of glee club with hushed, giggling voices. "Can I stay with you when I'm visiting for my audition?"
"Yes, of course," Kurt says without hesitation, and Blaine lets out a breath he didn't realize he was even holding.
"Good," Blaine says. "That's... I'd like that."
In the morning, Kurt wakes up, and it's finally stopped raining. The world smiles fresh and new, washed clean, and the sidewalks are still wet, shallow puddles forming where the road meets the curb.
There's a text on his phone from Blaine, something about the theme of the week at McKinley (early 80s Madchester, apparently), and it will be five days before he shows up in New York again, more vivid and more real than any type of electronic communication could ever convey.
Rachel is gone because she has an early morning class, and Santana is still asleep. Kurt's morning is silent save for the sounds of the kitchen, the burble of the electric kettle, the hum of the toaster, the opening and closing of the refrigerator. There are days when Kurt wants to greet the start of a day with a song, but today he feels curled in on himself. He wants to keep the silence with him.
If Kurt were the type to write letters, the old-fashioned kind, with pen and ink and paper, he'd probably write something to Blaine about how it feels to grow into a city that you love and the painful, difficult sensation of a heart learning how to heal. Sometimes I'm scared that you cheated because you fell out of love with me, but I think it's far more terrifying that you never did.
It's true that Kurt is kind of a sap. He's cried at the end (and sometimes the middle and even the beginning) of Moulin Rouge more times than he can count, and he sniffles his way through The Notebook at least once a year. None of that prepared him for what real romantic agony is like, how it actually feels to have your heart torn out and stomped all over. Maybe one day he'll thank Blaine for this. Maybe Kurt can turn this into his Adele moment and create a masterwork of soulful angry heartbreak and dedicate it to Blaine just so that he understands, just so he can see what he's done.
But Kurt isn't really angry anymore. He just misses Blaine, misses whispering secrets and laughing at shared jokes and feeling like there were pieces of himself that had finally been colored in, finally whole. Now there's this awkward space where there are things they can't and won't talk about, and Kurt has no idea what to do about it. Being friends hasn't worked. Being not-friends hasn't worked either. For a while he'd thought that maybe-- that Adam could be the answer, but it's not, not any more than cutting Blaine out of his life completely.
The clouds still linger on, even after Kurt's done with his morning classes. He has a couple hours for lunch, so he goes outside. He gets a gyro from a food cart and sits on the steps of the Met, feeling the lingering humidity against his skin, listening to the chatter of the other people who've also decided to enjoy the first rainless day they've had in almost a week.
There's a new e-mail on his phone from Blaine, and Kurt doesn't read it. He's not really afraid of reading it. It'll be full of unimportant things, like giddiness at the improving weather in Lima and distaste for the food they have in the cafeteria and confusion over what exactly is going on between Ryder, Jake, and Marley. Blaine doesn't have the words for heavier topics. That's fine; Kurt keeps his own locked up in his head, too.
Kurt runs his fingers along the edges of his phone, and he imagines Blaine sitting next to him, grinning, the wind trying its hardest to ruffle his hair. I love museums, Blaine would say, all that art and history. It always feels like a celebration of what humans are capable of.
And maybe Kurt would smile back and hold his hand and kiss his knuckles, and they would be here, together in New York, and it would be easy again, fizzy and sweet.
When you get here, I'll be waiting, Kurt writes in his imaginary letter. but I'm not waiting for you. I think I'm still waiting for me.
Blaine's plane gets into JFK around noon on a Wednesday. Kurt picks him up from the airport, loitering near the baggage claim with his arms crossed, and Blaine feels his entire chest clench at the sight of him. There's something in the air, or maybe it's just Kurt, but Kurt always looks different in New York City. It's something about the way he wears his clothes, the way he holds himself. He's less defensive, less scared. He's happy in a way that Blaine could never make him.
They hug, and Blaine closes his eyes, holding Kurt's body close, breathing him in. It doesn't matter that they're not together anymore; Kurt still always smells like home.
They take a cab back to Kurt's apartment, sitting through traffic shoulder to shoulder, and Blaine gives Kurt updates on everyone from McKinley and what they're planning to do after they graduate. The city moves by so fast Blaine can't keep track of it all, so he watches Kurt instead, the curve of his lips, the flutter of his fingers as he describes something, the lovely swoop of his hair.
The apartment is much the same as Blaine remembers it. There are differences. It's more cluttered, Santana's things piled up in one corner and more knick knacks on the shelves and a new set of dishes left dirty in the sink. For a moment, Blaine lets himself entertain the fantasy of living here, imagines settling his own stuff next to Kurt's, imagines waking each morning to the rattle of pans in the kitchen, imagines having his own blanket as they watch reruns of Jersey Shore. He could come home after a long day of school and rehearsals and listen to Santana humming to herself in her corner of the apartment while Rachel chatters about proper audition protocol and how she's mastered it. He could make this his home.
He doesn't have anywhere else to be, and Kurt doesn't have any classes this afternoon. They find themselves on the couch, sitting next to each other, not quite touching. The sky turns orange as Kurt talks about his favorite dance class at NYADA, and Blaine talks about what Cooper's been up to in LA, and they both talk about Ready for Love and whether or not it will ever reach the heights of The Bachelorette.
Kurt touches Blaine's hand before they start dinner. It feels like a slow-blooming warmth underneath his skin, like the sun after a long winter. "I--" Blaine starts.
"We should start with the vegetables," Kurt says, and there's a softness on his face that Blaine hasn't seen in a long time.
"Okay," Blaine says.
After dinner, Kurt takes him up to the roof. The sky overhead is gray-black, tinted by the orange of the streetlights. The stars aren't visible, and the AUTOMAT sign glows blue behind them. The air is brisk, a little chilly. Blaine pulls his jacket a little bit tighter around his shoulders.
"It's never too quiet here," Kurt says. "The week after we moved in, I thought that maybe I'd miss that about Ohio, but I never did."
There's a dog barking somewhere, a car rolling down the street, a small crowd of drunk people leaving a bar. The city is still awake, and Blaine feels buoyed by it, the idea of a place as a living thing. "It's amazing," he says, his voice hushed.
Kurt smiles, his face in shadowed profile. Blaine remembers the first time they snuck outside while at Dalton, pulling their heavy winter coats on over their pajamas, a fresh layer of snow giving way underneath their feet as they wandered out into the night. Kurt had looked like this, Blaine remembers, hesitant and curious and ready to take on the world. "You're not allowed to slack off during your audition tomorrow," Kurt says. "You could have this every day."
Blaine leans on the lip of the building, hands supporting him as he looks down at the street below. There's a stray newspaper sheet lying on the sidewalk below, and someone has parked at a ten degree angle from the curb. They're pretty high up right here. Everything looks small and far away, like a doll's house, not quite real. "I'd like that," Blaine says.
Laughter burbles up from the street below, bright and clear. Blaine closes his eyes. They used to talk about this, what it would be like when they could leave Lima behind, and now it's here. It's within reach.
The day of the audition, they go into NYADA together. Kurt watches Blaine as he betrays his nervousness on the train, biting his bottom lip and fidgeting with the strap of his bag. When Kurt would get like this like this last year before his own audition, Blaine would hold his hands and kiss him calm again, and Kurt would squeeze his fingers, and Blaine would look at him like he really thought Kurt could do anything, be anything he wanted to be.
"You'll be fine," Kurt says.
Blaine's answering smile is lopsided. His eyes are bright, and even in the ugly, washed out lighting of the subway, he seems to glow. Kurt honestly has no idea how anyone could take their eyes off of him, not when he looks like this. "Thanks," Blaine says.
He drums his fingers against the edge of his seat, humming to himself. His left leg twitches in a way that should be annoying and is mostly just endearing instead. No one pays any attention to them, their heads turned away or buried in one electronic device or another. Kurt could kiss him now. Maybe not anything more than a quick brush of lips, and maybe not without a puzzled, hopeful look crossing Blaine's face, but Kurt could close the distance between them, and he could--
It doesn't matter. Nothing has really changed. He closes his eyes and feels to the rumble of the train on the track, breathes in the stale smell of human bodies squeezed together, listens to the fuzzy music leaking out from the earbuds of the guy sitting in the middle of their car.
Kurt drops Blaine off at the admissions office once they get to NYADA. He lets himself squeeze Blaine's hand once before leaving him to Carmen's tender mercies. Blaine lets his fingers linger for a moment too long. Kurt doesn't question it. He has class before Blaine's audition, and Blaine had said that he wanted some time to himself so he could focus while he was warming up.
Blaine will be fine, Kurt knows. Blaine is charismatic and beautiful and passionate. Blaine will get up there and put every bit of him out there on that stage, and people will love him.
Technically, Carmen is the only one who's supposed to be in the audience for these things, but Kurt decides to peek in as soon as his class is done. It had been difficult enough to pay attention to Professor Stapley's droning voice for the past week, with city birds chirping outside his windows, morning sunlight pouring in, getting brighter every day. When Blaine in the same building as him, it's pretty much impossible.
They're in the process of setting up for Blaine's performance when Kurt sneaks in the back of the auditorium. The door slams shut behind Kurt, and he has to duck behind the last row of seats so he won't be seen. No one is paying any attention to him, though. The backing band shuffles around as Blaine adjusts his microphone. Even from back here, Kurt can tell that there's a nervousness to his walk, a tension in his shoulders.
The auditorium lights dim as the stage lights come up. The lights are yellow, and it shouldn't be anything, but Blaine looks golden in his crisp white shirt, his black pants, his hair slick and shining.
"And what are you singing for me today, Mr. Anderson?" Carmen asks. Kurt doesn't have to see her face to imagine what it looks like, one eyebrow raised, coolly expectant.
Blaine clears his throat. "Today, I'm going to sing 'Some Boys' by Death Cab for Cutie."
Carmen says, "A pop song? That's an unusual choice."
"It's what I want to sing," Blaine says.
"Very well, then, Mr. Anderson. Take it away."
The music starts up. Blaine closes his eyes and holds his microphone like it's his lifeline, like it's the only thing keeping his feet on the ground. Kurt clutches at the strap of his bag, fingers tight enough that it's uncomfortable and a little painful.
And then Blaine starts to sing.
Some boys are singing, some boys are singing the blues.
The first time Blaine hears the song, it's the hazy summer between his sophomore and junior years. He's in the Six Flags locker room putting on a fresh shirt when Jason, their audio guy, walks up to him and shoves a pair of earbuds into Blaine's hands.
"It's the new Death Cab album," he says, beaming.
"Um," Blaine says.
"Just try it," Jason says, and he's almost vibrating. He usually only gets like this when he's seen the most amazing concert ever and everyone needs to go listen to this one band who will change their life, he swears.
"Uh," Blaine says.
Jason rolls his eyes. "Come on, man."
Blaine puts the earbuds in and tucks in his shirt. The music is good. It's got a driving beat, an ache to the lyrics, a unusual echo to the vocals. It sounds familiar, like Blaine's heard it somewhere before.
"Good stuff, huh?" Jason says. He doesn't even wait for Blaine to react before barrelling forward. "Fuck Mark--" Mark's the guy who trades places with Blaine between the two pm and four pm performances. "-- he told me it's boring, but he only listens to, like, Broadway and shit. Listen, I'll send you a copy."
He disappears as quickly as he appeared, and Blaine doesn't really think about it again until a link shows up in his inbox.
Blaine only listens to the song once again that summer. It's a sleepy Thursday afternoon, and the air is stifling in Kurt's room, so bad that Blaine could almost swear he sees heat distortions when he looks at Kurt's window. They're too lazy to pick music, so Blaine's iTunes is on shuffle, jumping from Katy Perry to the Rolling Stones to the RENT original cast recording.
The song kicks on. Some boys are filling, some boys are filling the hole.
"Well, that's depressing," Kurt says, "and weirdly sexual." He wraps an arm around Blaine's chest. They have a fan pointed directly at them where they're sprawled all over Kurt's bed, but that only does the tiniest bit of help. Blaine's down to a t-shirt and shorts, and sweat still rolls uncomfortably down the back of his neck.
"I think it's honest," Blaine says. He presses a kiss to Kurt's forehead, just because he can. They can see each other every day, and the simple happiness in that hasn't faded. It's summer, and it's perfect. "Just because we managed to find each other doesn't mean-- doesn't mean there aren't other guys out there who are like that."
Kurt's arm tightens. Blaine's shirt sticks to his his chest. "But we did find each other," Kurt says. "It doesn't matter." His eyes are soft and fond, and Blaine had never realized that love was like this, even more intense, even more ridiculous than old fashioned movies and pop music had ever led him believe. The song ends and rolls over onto something shinier and happier.
It's nice, believing what Kurt says, but it does matter. Years later, Blaine learns for himself why those lyrics felt so familiar, why they always felt like they were talking about someone he knew.
Some boys don't know how to love.
There's no point at guessing what Carmen's decision will be now that the audition is over, Kurt knows. They're back in Bushwick so that Kurt can show Blaine all the secret, hidden places he's found, and Blaine keeps getting distracted by the trees that line the sidewalks.
"They're budding," Blaine says when Kurt raises his eyebrows. Blaine grins in a way that makes him look twelve. "Look how green they are." The buds have started to turn green, bright little dots of it along the brown branches, and it does make Kurt's heart twist a little to see it. Every year, the leaves fall, and every year, they grow back again. In some ways, Kurt wishes he were that resilient, that every time he hurt, he grew back just as strong, just as vulnerable.
When they get back to the apartment, it's early evening, and the sun is still out. Kurt makes some tea while Blaine sits at the kitchen table. Blaine talks about some of the people he met at the audition, the girl who had spent three days wearing a wig and fake eyelashes to 'get into character,' the boy who literally hissed at people for walking too close to his guitar. Now that he goes to NYADA, Kurt has to say those stories are less surprising to him than they used to be. Blaine hasn't even heard the legend about the one NYADA student who went off the deep end sometime in the mid-90s and decided that she would work on her sung-through musical by speaking in song for two months straight until Carmen decided that she'd had enough and expelled her.
"Thanks," Blaine says eventually, "for everything." His eyelids are drooping, and Kurt realizes just how long today must have been for him.
"You're my best friend," Kurt says. "I was happy to help." He crosses his arms across his chest, unsure about what to do.
"The song-- it wasn't really about you," Blaine says, and he only gets like this when he's sleepy or drunk, skipping between conversational tracks. "Well, kind of, but--"
"I know," Kurt says. He could tell from the first line, from the first chorus. He knows what Blaine looks like when he's beating himself up, what Blaine sounds like when pours everything he has into his music. Blaine is hurting, and Kurt hurts too, and there's no easy way through this. Their holding pattern is teetering on the edge, just about ready to tip over.
"It's really about me," Blaine continues, stumbling over his words, "and how I'm not any good at--" His eyes have gone round, his brow beginning to furrow.
Kurt has no resistance to Blaine when he's like this, open and vulnerable, bleeding out every one of his feelings. Not when he was seventeen and watching Blaine talk about his Sadie Hawkins dance, not when he was eighteen and helping Blaine work his way through his pain meds, not when he was nineteen and listening to Blaine cry his way through their song. "I know," Kurt says. He takes Blaine's hands in his own.
Blaine says, "I love you." His voice has gone quiet, barely louder than a murmur.
"I know," Kurt says before kissing him.
The kiss is slow, drawn out, unhurried. Kurt's fingers linger on Blaine's neck, his thumb brushing along Blaine's jaw. Blaine lets Kurt set the pace, because he can be happy with just this, whatever Kurt was willing to give on Valentine's Day and whatever Kurt's willing to give now. This position isn't the most comfortable, twisting his neck up to meet where Kurt is leaning down, but it's worth it. Kurt is worth it.
"I do love you, too," Kurt says after he pulls back. He rests their foreheads together, their breaths mingling, and Blaine clutches at the sleeves of his shirt.
"Just as friends?" Blaine asks.
Kurt sucks in a sharp breath. "Blaine--"
"Sorry," Blaine says. "I'm not pushing. I'm really not. I just want to make sure I know where we stand."
"Not just as friends," Kurt says. He looks right at Blaine, and his eyes remind Blaine of a sunny day, the clearest of blue skies. The smile on his face is wry and sad. "You're kind of impossible to get over, Blaine Warbler."
Blaine yanks back. His stomach drops out even as his heart climbs into his throat. "Sorry," he says. "I don't mean to--"
"Hey," Kurt says, "what--" He grabs hold of Blaine's wrist like he's afraid Blaine will run away.
Blaine blinks a few times, his breathing rough in his own ears. His eyes sting. "I don't want this to be something you resent," he says. "I don't want that." What happens one year from now, when Kurt meets someone else, someone who can make him smile and laugh and won't-- won't come with the baggage that Blaine does? Two years from now? Five?
"It's not like that," Kurt says with a huffed out breath. "I'm not going to lie. There are times when it still hurts. But I want to-- I want us to try again. You're still you. You're still the boy I fell in love with. You're still the boy that I want." He looks as fragile as Blaine feels, like one stray word could shatter him.
Blaine stands up and kisses Kurt, and this time their kiss is fiercer. Kurt's fingers tighten around Blaine's wrist, and his teeth nip at Blaine's lips, and their bodies line up the way they used to, toe-to-toe, hip-to-hip.
Kurt tugs him towards his make-shift bedroom. Blaine's been sleeping on the floor, because Santana has claimed the couch for herself while she searches for a decent second-hand mattress, one that isn't riddled with bedbugs. Blaine hasn't even seen Kurt's bed since the night they broke up.
The last time they were together, it had been silly and fun, frothy and light. Now Kurt kisses his way down Blaine's neck as they lie down on Kurt's bed, and it feels thick, dense with emotion.
"We can make it work this time," Blaine promises. His voice is hoarse, his throat tight, and he cups Kurt's face with one hand.
Kurt smiles at him, and Blaine remembers the future they'd built together in their heads, how wonderful and easy and perfect it had seemed. It was a lie in so many ways, but Blaine still wants it. He still wants the house and the kids and the dog and the artist colony in Maine and the Broadway stardom and the chalet in the Swiss Alps and the Thanksgivings in Ohio and the mornings in bed, just the two of them together. Kurt says, "We've made it this far, haven't we?" His fingers are warm against Blaine's skin.
"We can go farther," Blaine promises. He closes his eyes when Kurt kisses him again, and he wraps his arms around Kurt's back, holding him there, not wanting to let go.
In the morning, it's raining again. The world looks clouded over and gray, but there are new splashes of color: purple and blue flowers blooming in a windowsill across the street, fresh green leaves on the tree outside their window, Rachel's new pair of pink rain boots left lying underneath their kitchen table.
Blaine tucks an arm around Kurt's waist as they make breakfast, and Kurt curls into the touch. He knows his time with Blaine is ephemeral. In another twelve hours, those 533 miles will become all too relevant again. It's only for a few months, but Kurt remembers how hard it had been when they'd first separated. It hadn't lasted more than three weeks.
"I'll make the eggs," Blaine murmurs, pulling away. He's smiling, not the content smile he wears when he's feeling pleased with himself, the soft one that makes him look older than he is. It's the smile he wears when he's too happy to keep any of it in, the one that stretches his face and crinkles his eyes. In the gentle white light pouring through the windows, he looks flawed and human, flesh and blood and bushy eyebrows and morning stubble.
Kurt kisses him. His mouth tastes like toothpaste. The feel of his smile against Kurt's lips makes Kurt's heart feel shaky and full, rain water sloshing through its ventricles, liquid and warm. "You always overcook them," Kurt says.
"I won't this time," Blaine says, his eyes narrowed and serious, and for once, Kurt believes him.
Kurt huffs out a breath, but he lets Blaine work, listening as Blaine sings along to the radio, watching the shrug of Blaine's shoulders, the sway of Blaine's hips. Rachel always sleeps until noon on weekends, and Santana makes gagging noises every time she gets within five feet of them, so they have the kitchen mostly to themselves. Kurt spends the time mixing pancake batter and thinking of all the things he'd given up, that he'd never thought he'd have again.
The sun comes out halfway through breakfast, and Kurt does have to admit that in the time they've been apart, Blaine has learned how to properly cook sunny-side-up eggs. Kurt finds himself talking, all the things he meant to say to Blaine over the past few months and couldn't quite bring himself to, about the little sushi restaurant down the street that they need to try next time and how things have been at NYADA since he joined the Apples and this perfect moment when he walked into the nearby Salvation Army and saw the loveliest scarf at the front of this rack, just asking to be bought. He talks about how much it hurt sometimes, missing Blaine and wanting him and knowing that from here on out, it would be difficult, that they would have to work for it.
They go up to the roof again before Blaine has to leave to catch his late afternoon plane. Blaine seems to have become attached to this place already, this small oasis isolated from the hustle and bustle of the city. It's almost noon, and the hazy humidity of morning is beginning to fade. There are puddles where the surface of the roof is uneven, and they glisten in the sunlight, brilliant enough to blind.
"You should do something with this space," Blaine says. He spreads his arms wide as if he can hold it all in. No one puts anything up here most of the time, because the wind likes to tip things over during bad storms, and pigeon droppings are an ever-present threat.
"What do you suggest?" Kurt asks.
"I've always wanted a rooftop garden," Blaine says. "Those always seemed cool."
Kurt feels himself getting wistful at the mental image of it, Blaine in garden gloves and a wide brimmed hat, tending to his plants with a broad, beaming smile on his face. Kurt says, "I dreamed that we sang 'Come What May' up here."
"Really?" Blaine says. He's watching Kurt, but there's no weight to it, just simple curiosity.
"There was some snow, some fog, and these really amazing flower-shaped lanterns," Kurt says. Some of the details have faded with time, but he remembers the outlines of it, the suits and the gazebo and the look in Blaine's eyes.
"Sounds gorgeous," Blaine says.
"This is better," Kurt says. Nothing quite compares to having Blaine right in front of him, a tangible thing for Kurt to touch, to taste, to feel. He curls a hand around Blaine's and kisses his cheek.
"Yeah," Blaine says. "I think you're right." He leans in towards Kurt, resting a head against Kurt's shoulder.
"Are you sure you're going to be okay?" Kurt says. There's a small thread of anxiety underneath it all, about what will happen after this, once Kurt is out of sight, out of mind. Maybe Blaine will go back to his life of distant smiling pictures, and Kurt won't learn anything about this new person he's become, the one who can cook eggs and co-captains the Cheerios, and when they come back together again, they'll be strangers.
"I'll miss you," Blaine says, "but I think it'll be fine. Not great, but you know, fine. I have more practice at it this time around." His eyes are soft and dark, and the love there is achingly familiar. Kurt feels some of his worries melt away. Blaine could never be a stranger to him, not when they've seen the best and worst of each other.
"Me too," Kurt says. "I'll miss you too."
Somewhere, a bird trills a tune over the sounds of the city. A cool wind comes by, and it has a bit of a bite to it, raising goosebumps on Kurt's arms. Kurt thinks of the last lingering gasp of winter, how it's fading away in starts and stops. He closes his eyes and tilts his head up so he can feel the sunlight on his face, the warmth of it against his skin. Maybe it is the right time to start over, to try again.
When Kurt opens his eyes, Blaine is still there. Their hands are still tucked together. Blaine's grip is firm and slightly sweaty. "I think I'm ready," Blaine says, and the expression on his face reminds Kurt of the moment Blaine held out his hand during junior prom, uncertain and hopeful and brave.
"Ready for what?" Kurt asks.
"Everything," Blaine says.