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Across a Crowded Room

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It’s almost fairytale-like, the way Kurt first sees him.

It’s one o’clock in the afternoon and Kurt is in a rush, ordering four coffees and a half dozen bagels for a meeting he was invited to sit in on as an afterthought. Ah, the glamorous life of an intern! But being an intern isn’t the way Kurt intends on spending his future. He has aspirations of starting his own fashion line, starring in a Broadway show, touring the world, retiring in the Mediterranean with a younger-than-him lover by his side … maybe three. But his present can be summed up in a montage of phone calls, emails, coffee, and bagels, very few of which are ever for him.

A little adventure would not go amiss, something out of the ordinary to feed his rich fantasy life since that’s the only life he’s got.

And if his adventure turns out to be anything like a scene from his favorite movie The Notebook, he might not mind - a scene from the first hour or so anyway.

Maybe he should ask Isabelle for vacation time – a solid three-day weekend to clear his head. He can take long walks in Central Park, rent a car and go for a drive, park by the coast, somewhere where he can breathe.

At the very least, he can get a dedicated eight hours of sleep.

But if he’s lucky, he can get himself laid.

Though he’d happily give up that last one for a day without answering phone calls or picking up coffee.

Still, it would be nice to give his right hand a break.

But back to the man …

Kurt spots him across the crowded coffee shop, sitting alone at a single table - too small to invite company so Kurt figures that he probably chose it so he could be alone. He’s reading a book, but Kurt doesn’t get a good look at the title because he’s too wrapped up in the man’s eyes – not their color (they’re some shade of hazel – Kurt can’t tell from this distance), but their intensity in concentration. The man leans forward into his book, reading the words on the page like he’s devouring them, absorbing them letter by letter. He furrows his brow and licks his lips when he reaches the end of each page, and God! What a mouth he has! One of the most sensual mouths in existence that Kurt has ever seen, and Kurt should know. He spends about eight hours a day sorting through headshots.

If anyone knows a thing or two about gorgeous mouths or sultry, contemplative looks, it’s Kurt.

The man reaches the end of his page, but this time, instead of furrowing his brow when he licks his lips, he glances up. He and Kurt lock eyes, and when they do, Kurt discovers the answer to the eye color question.

Whiskey, but with hints of green and gold that make them that much more interesting. Kurt doesn’t know this because he can see them clearly. Again, the distance is an obstacle. But because he’s seen eyes like those in his dreams. And this man, with curly hair that looks sable soft and coal black, and the plushest, most delicious looking lips imaginable, has to have dreamy eyes. It’s a given.

The man doesn’t look away. He doesn’t look back at his book, but he doesn’t give Kurt a smile, either. He looks mildly confused, curious as to why Kurt’s staring.

Kurt can’t say anything from where he’s standing without yelling across the room, so he tries to wave, but his arms are full, and he almost loses his load. Adding one more layer of complicated to this moment, his cell phone vibrates, and even though he can’t answer it – lodged in his back pocket, completely out of reach - he knows what that buzzing means.

Where are you, Kurt? We were supposed to start this meeting a half hour ago!!

Kurt only has a few seconds, but he has to decide what to do – try to make his way across the coffee shop and get the man’s name, or turn around and leave, sprint back to Vogue and pray he doesn’t drop anything along the way? In his struggle to pick a choice, he ends up spinning around three times – twice to the right and once to the left – before a sudden crowd floods in making the divide between them bigger, and Kurt realizes that this, even just asking this man his name, probably isn’t meant to be. Besides, the man’s sitting, reading a book, here at about lunch time. He most likely works nearby. Probably comes here every day. Kurt’s bound to bump into him again.

Yeah, right. In a city of eight million people, Kurt will bump into this man again. Even if that’s statistically possible, what if he’s not even a New Yorker? What if he’s just visiting?

Visiting his boyfriend? Or his wife?

Jesus Christ, Kurt Hummel! Just take your coffee and go!

And that’s what Kurt does.

Maybe the man sits up and watches him leave. Maybe he rolls his eyes and goes back to his book. Kurt doesn’t know. He turns on his heel and backs his way out the door.

As soon as he steps through and walks off down the street, he kicks himself.

He has to stop second guessing himself. He has to take more risks, jump more sharks.

He wanted adventure, even a mini, rom-com version of one, and yet here he was, racing down the sidewalk at the beck and call of fashion designers who won’t even remember his name, leaving possible adventure behind.

That man could have been a once in a lifetime opportunity, and Kurt didn’t even get his name.

***

“So, what can I get for you today?”

“A grande nonfat mocha.”

Kurt doesn’t look at the barista when he orders. He knows the man’s name is Chandler. He’s the same man who takes his order every time he comes in. Chandler is a nice guy - laughs a lot, smiles obscenely wide, and always has something nice to say to everyone, even the assholes (who tend to come in during the breakfast and lunch rush). Chandler has this way of complimenting people that comes off as corny and flirtatious until you get to know the man. Then you realize that he’s just creative with his compliments. Kurt used to think they were annoying, but now he kind of looks forward to them.

Kurt doesn’t mean to be rude, but he’s been thinking about the man with the delicious mouth and the whiskey eyes since yesterday, and Kurt’s hoping that he’s there, hoping that he didn’t walk out on something fabulous. He’d come to the conclusion last night that if the universe saw fit to gift him with a second chance, he’d pounce on it without hesitation.

But the man’s not there – not in line, and not at his table.

Kurt sighs. Oh well. The universe is rarely ever fair.

“Here you go. One grande nonfat mocha for the man with the hippo head brooch.” Kurt scrunches his nose. He’s not wearing his brooch today. He’s worn it here before. He even wore it yesterday. But he left it on the jacket of the suit he had on. He reaches for his wallet, but Chandler waves it away. “Non, non, non,” he says with a fake French accent and a giddy blush. “It’s already paid for.”

Kurt quirks an eyebrow, but, incredulously, pulls out a five. “How?”

“One of our morning regulars,” Chandler says, smiling so wide that it lifts his cheeks up to the level of his eyes. “He said he saw you in here yesterday. He described you to a tee, right down to your charming hippopotamus head brooch. He left me a five to pay for your drink the next time you came in.”

Kurt bites his lips together, trying not to smile as goofy as the man in front of him, but he’s not doing too good a job avoiding it.

“So, uh, is there any way I can, maybe, buy him a cookie for the next time he comes in? Maybe one of those cupid ones?” That you have out way too early for Valentine’s Day, Kurt thinks, since it’s barely the end of January, but he’s not about to criticize his envoy.

“We usually don’t do the pay it forward thing,” Chandler says, slowly reaching out for Kurt’s fiver, “but I can’t say no. I’m invested now.” Chandler pops the five into the register and hands Kurt his change. “I want to see how far this goes.”

“Well, if we get married, I promise to invite you to the wedding,” Kurt offers, watching Chandler carefully set aside one of the cupid cookies.

“Oh, you must!” Chandler coos with a far-off look in his eyes, and Kurt doesn’t know who’s swooning more – him, or the barista.

***

The next mid-morning, Kurt practically sprints to the coffee shop to see if the man’s there … or if Chandler has any more news of him. Kurt’s kind of hoping for the latter. Seeing as Kurt couldn’t get any time off (not with Fashion Week coming up), this coffee shop liaison is the only bit of excitement he has going for him. It’s not too bad, if he does say so himself, plus it happens to lead in the direction of a rather attractive man who’s already bought him coffee.

Kurt considers that a date.

After scanning the interior to see if his mystery man is there (which he’s not), Kurt waits in line, bobbing ridiculously on restless feet, unable to keep still, which matches Chandler, bouncing up and down behind the counter, practically shoving customers aside to get Kurt to the front of the line.

“So, did you give him his cookie?” Kurt asks before the customer ahead of him is out of the way.

“I did,” Chandler says, grinning from ear to ear. He doesn’t give Kurt anything more, so Kurt knows he’s going to have to work for it.

And did I earn another coffee?”

“You did, Sir,” Chandler replies in a British accent this time. “And this …” Chandler reaches behind the counter and pulls out the most beautiful bouquet of white roses Kurt has ever seen.

“Oh! For me?” Kurt gasps, taking the bouquet into his arms. “Are you … are you sure? I mean, all I got him was a cookie.” Kurt looks the flowers over, searching for a card or a note – any explanation. There isn’t one.

“Yup,” Chandler reassures him. “He was ever so touched. That cookie made some impact! After I gave it to him, he said that Valentine’s Day happens to be his favorite holiday. He ran straight outside to the cart on the corner and bought you these. Told me to make sure you got them.” Chandler sighs as Kurt sniffs his flowers. They’re not just beautiful, they’re the most fragrant creatures on the face of the planet. “I could tell by the look on his face, he’s smitten. Have you guys even met yet?”

“No,” Kurt says with a soft laugh, offering Chandler a sniff. “I don’t even know his name.”

“Oh my gosh!” Chandler gushes, hands to heart. “That’s so romantic!”

You don’t happen to know his name, do you?”

“No.” Chandler deflates, as disappointed as Kurt, possibly more. “And he always pays with cash, so I haven’t seen his credit card.”

“Well, that’s … interesting,” Kurt remarks for lack of a better word. Who in this day and age doesn’t use a credit card?

“What are you going to do?” Chandler asks, not at all bothered by the line that’s begun to grow, winding out the door, or the disgruntled faces peeking over Kurt’s shoulder, trying to find out what’s the hold up.

“I think …” Kurt scans the counter, but it seems that Chandler reads his mind before Kurt even comes up with a plan. Chandler tears off a piece of blank receipt paper from the register and hands it to Kurt along with a pen “… I’m going to leave him my number. If you don’t mind passing it along, that is.”

“Not at all. Oo-la-la!” Chandler claps his hands. “And so, the plot thickens.”

***

It’s the following afternoon, of all times, that Kurt comes down with a bout of laryngitis. He’d been working the run-through for the Marc Ecko part of Fashion Week’s runway shows, and spent most of the afternoon trying to be heard over various levels of urban house music and hip hop. But, as luck would have it, his mysterious coffee date doesn’t call. He texts.

Stuck on a ferry. Cell phone signal patchy. Does this number belong to the man I think it does?

Kurt reads the message, then giggles in strained silence.

If you mean the stunningly handsome man from the coffee shop, then yes. Tis moi.

Kurt types that, but he doesn’t send it. It’s a little too daring for him. And tacky. He’s afraid it might turn off his target audience.

Why don’t you tell me who you think this is, and I’ll tell you if you’re right, he opts for instead.

The man from the coffee shop, the text comes back. The man with the perfectly styled brown hair, the mesmerizing blue eyes, and the impeccable taste in Alexander McQueen … who can juggle four coffees and a mess of bagels at once while opening a door with his rear. You bought me a cookie.

That’s me, Kurt replies, his toes curling in his slippers. And you bought me roses.

That’s me. I really wish we could talk in person. Unfortunately, I’m stuck on the Staten Island ferry right now.

And I seem to have lost my voice.

Aww, poor thing. Are you sick?

No. Just strained it talking over designers all day.

Are you in the fashion industry?

Sort of …

What do you mean “sort of”?

Kurt chews the question over before he answers. He hates telling people that he’s an intern. In some ways, it’s worse than saying he’s a college student. People think that, no matter what industry you’re in, you’re either not taking your life seriously, or you can’t get a “real job”. But if he’s going to go through with getting to know this man, he might as well be honest. No use lying and having him find out later. That never works out well for anyone. I’m an intern.

Kurt expects a pause while the man comes up with a response that isn’t entirely condescending, but a reply message comes back in a flash.

That’s wonderful! We all have to start somewhere. I’m an intern myself.

Where?

My uncle’s law firm. His office is in Midtown.

Text after text they talk, Kurt lying in bed while this man on the ferry tells him all about what he does at his uncle’s office, his classes down at NYU, growing up in Westerville (along with the inevitable Westerville? I’m from Lima! Small world … comment tossed in), and his last relationship, which ended about five months ago, forcing him into abstinence ever since. Kurt tells him about McKinley and NYADA, and working at Vogue, all the while picturing him on the ferry, wind whipping through his curls, holding his coat closed at the neck to keep the chill from creeping down his body as he reads, those intense eyes occasionally searching the water, maybe in the direction of the city, wondering where Kurt is in that sea of dark buildings and bright lights.

Well, I’ve reached the end of my journey. I’ve got three meetings and then the long trip home.

Good luck, Kurt types. Stay safe. They sound like neutral comments, perfect for this type of ice-breaking conversation.

No they don’t! Kurt thinks, reading them back after he hits send. God! They’re so lame!

Thanks. I intend on packing it in the second I get home tonight, but I’d really like to see you tomorrow.

Kurt clenches his teeth and stifles the delirious scream tickling the back of his raw throat. At the coffee shop? Too bad he doesn’t have Chandler’s number. Kurt can’t wait to tell the man all about this. He deserves it. He’s the reason why Kurt could get in contact with this man in the first place. He should know all the gritty details.

I was thinking some place a little more private, if that’s alright.

Certainly, Kurt types, ready to pass out from pure happiness. I’d invite you over to Vogue, but, for the time being, my office is a utility closet.

The coffee shop’s not too far from where I work actually. Why don’t we meet at my office for lunch?

Noon?

That sounds perfect. I’ve gotta run. Good night, Cupid. ;)

Kurt blanks for a second, then he laughs. Cupid. In reference to the cookie. He gets it.

Another message comes through with the man's work address, but after the last one, Kurt realizes he didn’t get the man’s name. And if Cupid is any indication, the man doesn’t know Kurt’s real name either. How did Kurt manage to forget to add that to the note he left? It was most likely because the woman waiting behind him started complaining about being late for a dentist’s appointment or something. Kurt doesn’t remember. It was a very stressful time. Kurt sends a message asking. He sends it and re-sends it three times, but his phone tells him that the message isn’t going thru.

Oh well.

Kurt will find out tomorrow when he meets the man for lunch.

At noon.

At his office.

Kurt can’t wait.

***

370 Lexington Avenue. Office of Anderson and Bing. Room 505.

Kurt reads the address so many times, he unintentionally sets it to memory. He plans the trip out on Mapquest, then with Google Maps. He memorizes exactly what subway to ride at what time, and how long it will take him to walk from his last stop there. He plans it down to the second so that he can be fashionably late and still he arrives half an hour too early. He trolls the lobby, trying not to seem overly excited, but after fifteen minutes, he’s convinced the receptionist behind the counter is about to call security, so he heads for the elevator. He considers riding it all the way up to the top and then back down, but he decides that that’s worse than being early. So he presses the button for the fifth floor and prays for a little traffic.

No one else gets on, so it goes straight to the fifth floor and stops.

Kurt steps off onto a floor that reminds him of Vogue – teeming with energy and constant activity, people walking around carrying folders full of paperwork and holding phones to their ears. No one seems to notice him, even though, in his black on grey lace-print McQueen suit (which took Kurt over an hour to pick out), he sticks out like an exquisitely dressed sore thumb.

No one asks him if they can help him or who he’s looking for, which must mean he looks like he knows where he’s going, but he stops a young man for directions anyway.

“I’m sorry. I’m looking for room 505?”

“Over there,” the young man says, pointing to a row of six doors numbered overhead from 500 to 505.

Kurt makes his way through the desks and the cubicles, passing by employees who finally seem to notice that there’s an intruder in their midst. When he gets to the office, the door is slightly ajar. That could be an invitation to walk right in, but regardless, Kurt holds the doorknob and knocks.

On the final knock, the knob slips out of Kurt’s hand and the door swings in. Hanging half open, Kurt gets a better view of the inside. It’s a modern space, decorated, in many ways, like an office Kurt would see at Vogue - denim blue walls showcasing a few black and white photographs, and minimalist in the way of furniture: a metal filing cabinet, a mahogany pedestal displaying a piece of abstract art, a simple oak desk. In the center sits a handful of purposefully mismatched chairs gathered around a long, glass coffee table, with a navy blue futon against the far wall. On the futon, right leg crossed over left, reading his book and anxiously worrying his lower lip with his forefinger and thumb, sits the man from the coffee shop. He looks exactly the same – everything from the way he wears his hair to the furrow of his brow, identical to the first time Kurt saw him.

Before Kurt can conjure a hello, the man looks up. He sees Kurt darkening his doorway and leaps to his feet, dropping the book on the cushion behind him. He looks Kurt up and down, somewhat stunned to see him standing there – excited stunned or disappointed stunned, it’s too early yet for Kurt to tell.

Kurt imagined a hundred different ways this meeting could go. The man could reach out a hand and shake Kurt’s, possibly even kiss it. The kind of man who would give another man flowers probably wouldn’t object to kissing his hand. The man might even be inclined to give Kurt a hug. But there’s something unexpected in the air when Kurt walks into the room and shuts the door behind him, like the hanging cord at the end of an overture where it leads into the first act, waiting for a resolution. Kurt takes a step forward and so does he, but by the second step, they’re both rushing towards one another. Kurt’s bag and coat are discarded along the way and they meet in the middle, crash together, the man’s mouth colliding with Kurt’s, Kurt’s hands climbing up his back to tangle in his hair. They move together again, the man leading Kurt backward to the futon he got up off of, falling down onto it and dragging Kurt into his lap.

One part of Kurt’s brain screams, “This is crazy!” while another part answers back with, “Why? Why is this crazy? How is this any different than meeting in a bar and hooking up?” If they’d met in a bar, after flirting and a few drinks, Kurt might be making out with this man in a filthy bathroom, knowing for a fact that more than kissing was about to take place, and Kurt might not know as much about this man as he does now – wouldn’t know about his childhood in Westerville, that he sang with a show choir called The Warblers, that he plays the guitar and the violin, that he’s Filipino on his mother’s side and Italian on his father’s, and that he’d wanted to be Cinderella in his middle school play, but ended up being cast as the prince instead.

“Yeah, but you might know his name,” the haughtier part of his brain volleys, and Kurt freezes. His name! Jesus H. Baloney and Christ! Kurt doesn’t know his name!

“Wait, wait, wait,” Kurt pants against the man’s swollen lips. Kurt nearly can’t stop kissing him. That mouth – it’s just as heavenly as Kurt imagined it would feel pressed against his own. “Wh---what’s your name?”

The man smiles, whiskey eyes full of fire, and not an inch of disappointment.

“Blaine,” he says, husky and thick and full of a want to continue kissing Kurt as soon as humanly possible. “My name’s Blaine.”

That’s the first time Kurt hears the man speak.

His voice is just as glorious as everything else about him.

“My name’s Kurt,” Kurt says quickly, pretty sure he won’t have another chance to speak a coherent sentence again for a while.

“Good to know,” Blaine says with a wink. “I may want to use it soon. Hopefully you’ll be using mine, too.”

“Oh God,” Kurt moans, sinking back into that heavenly mouth again.