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“Category is...Femme Queen Virgin Runway!”

The guy Blaine had met in Washington Square Park had given him the address to this place, telling him, “you want to meet some real gays that can relate, not just these closet cases looking for a ten-dollar handy before going home to their wife and kids in Queens? Here’s where you go.”

Soul II Soul’s “Back To Life” thumped through the hallway of the building as he approached a cavernous ballroom, with a wrap-around balcony above. Blaine made his way through the mass of people, realizing for the first time in probably his whole life, that he felt comfortable in his own skin.  He was normally cautious and uneasy in crowds, wondering “can they tell I’m different? That I’m gay?” but not here. Across the top of a few heads, he saw what he thought were runway models; they were glamourous and carried themselves as such. Then he heard the emcee:

“These are queens having their debut! Tonight the cherry is popped, though let’s be real, y’all probably got your cherries popped a long time ago! We want realness, but being as you all are virgins we’ll cut you a little slack. But not too much...you betta be sure you can pass, with that face, that walk, that body-ody-ody!”

It hit him, these were drag queens… beautiful, elegant, graceful drag queens. If there were any jeers, it had nothing to do with who they were, only on their talent. Blaine relaxed more, as the crowd around him cheered for their favorites and scores were announced. At the end, winners were presented with trophies that reminded him of ones he’d won with his old glee club before...well, before. He didn’t like to think about it too much.

"Next category is...Homme Modèle Efete! Bring your editorial realness! Werk, twirl, turn, pose!”

The music changed to a hard-charged piano-driven dance beat. A few men stepped up to the floor, and they were dancing in a way Blaine had never seen before. It looked a little bit like some hip-hop he’d seen in the park, but more flowy, like they were posing for a camera. It reminded him a little of what his brother Cooper would try to teach him when visiting from L.A. He heard a few in the crowd call out “vogue, baby, vogue!” which to Blaine made sense; it did make him think of the models in the Vogue magazines he would sneak from his mother’s tote bag. He tried to catch the names of the dancers as the emcee (who thanks to eavesdropping he’d learned was named “Pray Tell”) called them out. The last dancer he called “Damon Evangelista” was particularly good, his movements were both crisp and flowing.

“Do we have anyone else?” Pray Tell asked. “Anyone to challenge the House of Evangelista?”

At that moment, out of the crowd, the most beautiful man Blaine had ever seen stepped forward. He was all pale skin, swept-up hair, and eyes that simultaneously sparkled and froze you with a glance. His jawline was sharp and raised and his shoulders thrown back, as if he knew he was above everyone.

"Porcelain Abundance, from the House of Abundance! Elektra always saving her children for last! And he is indeed an abundance of Porcelain, but this is no delicate flower...this bitch will cut you if you break him!”

While Blaine was somewhat thrown by such a name, he realized it fit in so many ways, as Porcelain moved across the floor (not to mention under Blaine’s skin). He was dressed impeccably well, the lines of his jacket clean, the scarf around his neck flying as he moved, and his tight pants leaving absolutely nothing to the imagination. Blaine was impressed he could still move so well in spite of their fit. Porcelain’s arms and hands were fluid as he posed and strutted for the crowd, who were eating it up.

“Judges, your scores…” Pray Tell prompted. “10, 10, 10, 10, and...10! Tens, tens across the board! And that, ladies and gentlemen, is what you call a perfooooormance!”

With no other challengers, Porcelain Abundance was announced as the winner, with Damon in second place. Porcelain stepped to the stage to accept his trophy, a sparkle in his step, when suddenly there was a disruption.

“Hold up, I want this Rick Astley-lookin’ motherfucker disqualified!” One of the lower-scored dancers shouted. “Why you giving this white bitch a trophy? Don’t they got everything else?”

“If he was going to be disqualified, the judges would not have bothered to even score him,” Pray Tell lectured. “Would you rather take it up with his Mother ?”

Blaine didn’t know exactly who his actual mother was, but imagined “Mrs. Abundance” must be the scariest person on earth, because the dancer quickly shut up and backed away, the fear of God in his eyes.

Porcelain and Damon picked up their trophies and air-kissed each other on the cheek, obvious in their mannerisms that there was no love lost between them and this was merely out of courtesy. Blaine realized he was staring when he suddenly caught Porcelain’s eyebrow arching at him, not out of malice --but it seemed intrigue? --before he glided away, joining a group of (he assumed) friends that cheered and embraced him.

Blaine stayed to watch the rest of the ball, and before he knew it, he was one of only a few left in the cavernous space. It looked like they were closing up, and all he could think was I don’t want to go back out there .

“Excuse me?” Blaine looked up to see Pray Tell scrutinizing him in a gentle, almost fatherly way. “Young man, I don’t know if anyone has told you this, but it’s generally bad form to be the last to leave a party.”

“I, um...I’m sorry,” Blaine stumbled. “I, I don’t…”

“Where’s your mother? Who’s your house?”

Blaine didn’t know how to answer that. “My house? I don’t have a house. There’s a shelter I stay at when there’s room, but mostly I stay in Washington Square Park. And my mother…” It was the first time in a while he had thought about her. Particularly her disappointment in him. He could barely get a word out thinking about it. “She, um…”

Pray Tell seemed to take mercy on Blaine. “Tell you what, are you hungry? There’s a diner down the street. When’s the last time you had a hot meal, huh?”

***

“Child, you better slow down,” Pray admonished, “or that pot roast you’re wolfing down is gonna come back up just as fast.”

Blaine looked up embarrassed, and swallowed the bite already in his mouth. “I’m sorry. It’s just the first thing I’ve eaten in weeks that didn’t come out of a trash can or a vending machine.”

“Stop apologizing,” Pray said. “Lord knows I had my hungry days when I was your age...of course I’m just guessing. How old are you anyway?”

“Just turned eighteen,” he mumbled around a mouthful of potatoes.

“So, I guess now I need to ask your story, cause I know you didn’t just spring up out of the fountain like some water nymph.”

Blaine put his fork down, folded his hands, and propped his chin on them. “I’m from Westerville, Ohio,” he started. “Catholic family. Very traditional, very conservative. My mom was widowed real young...her first husband was killed in Vietnam, otherwise there’s no way she would have remarried. She was already raising a kid...my half-brother. Then she met my dad. He emigrated from the Philippines, and he’s...really rigid about what makes a man, you know? He was pretty shitty to Cooper, since Coop wasn’t his ‘real’ kid, so as soon as he turned eighteen he went to California to be an actor. Dad called it a sissy move. He’d visit on holidays but that’s it. We weren’t really close.”

He paused and looked up. Pray just took a sip from his coffee and motioned for him to continue.

“I knew I was gay from a pretty early age. My dad already gave me a hard time about being emotional, crying at sad movies, that sort of thing. I won a prize in art class, you know what he did? Called it a sissy subject and tore my painting up. So I got good at hiding, I thought. I was going to a private boarding school as a teen, so I figured as long as I kept my secret there, I’d never be found out. I forgot I’d have to move back in the summer. I hadn’t even started to unpack when Dad found my stash of gay porn and fucking blew up. He actually challenged me to fight him; said if I could prove I was a real man , he’d let me stay. Instead, I grabbed the one bag I knew had basics in it and left.”

Blaine took a sip from his water glass, remembering the worst part.

“Mom came running out...part of me hoped she was going to try to convince me to stay. But all she did was give me some money. ‘For the bus,’ she said. She didn’t say I love you or be safe , or even let me know where you are . ‘Why did you bring that filth into our home?’ she whispered, like dirty gossip. ‘Toss it in the garbage at Dalton, that’s all you had to do.’” Blaine willed his tears to stay back and waited for Pray’s response.

“So, Ohio to New York City,” Pray finally said. “Why not California, to your brother?”

“Like I said, we were never really close,” Blaine said. “And besides, they don’t have the art scene I want. Like Keith Haring. His work is just amazing. I mean, people write it off as simple, but for these simple clean lines and colors he says so much. There’s, like, joy and rage in the same piece. It speaks to me. I want to be an artist like him.”

“You want to be the next Very Special Christmas album art?” Pray joked.

Blaine blushed and looked down. “I just want to make art and help people. I know, it’s dumb.”

"It’s not dumb. It’s brave. Now,” Pray straightened up. “You need to get some rest, and you’re not going to get it on a park bench. You’re coming home with me.”

Blaine blanched. “Um, I’m a virgin,” he blurted.

Pray laughed. “Well good for you. I have a boyfriend, and I’m allergic to chicken. No child, I’m just offering you a sofa. And tomorrow we’ll try to figure out better arrangements.” Pray paid the bill at the diner and they left.

Later, at Pray’s loft, Blaine was in clean, comfortable clothes, after taking a long-overdue shower. “Pray, you asked me before about my mother and my house? What did you mean?”

Pray leaned forward in his chair. “Well, some people would say a house is like a gay street gang. Just, instead of fighting, we battle in the ballroom, like you saw tonight. But really, in the best cases, a house is a chosen family. It’s a home for those of us who don’t have a home otherwise. And the mothers, well, they serve that role. Keep a roof over your head, food in your belly, and your ass in line.”

Blaine thought about the boy he saw at the ball earlier that night. “What about the house that Porcelain Abundance is in?”

“House of Abundance? Oh no, no, no, no, no...Mother Elektra would eat you alive.” Pray leaned back in his chair and chortled. “And I see that look in your eye, dreaming about Mr. Porcelain. No, joining a house because you have a crush on a boy is a terrible idea. But I’ll tell you what, I know a house that would suit you just fine. Now get some sleep; we’ll go in the morning.”

***

The next morning Blaine and Pray arrived at a shabby apartment building and knocked on the door.

“Yes?” A Latina woman opened the door, took one look at Blaine, and shook her head. “No way, Pray, I am not running an orphanage, I already took in Damon’s boyfriend, and Angel’s back from playing house with her corporate boytoy, I’m busting at the seams!”

In spite of her resistance, she let them in, Pray making Blaine’s case. “Please, Blanca. The child’s been in the park for months, and has managed to keep his virtue intact, I don’t know how long that will last. He’s a sweet boy…”

“What does he have to offer the House of Evangelista, though? What can he provide? Does he look like Angel? Can he dance like Damon, or Ricky, or even Papi?”

“I can dance, actually,” Blaine offered. “And sing...I was in glee club in school. And I can paint, I can clean, I can do whatever you need me to.”

Blanca looked him over, her arms crossed in front of her. “Give me and Pray a moment,” she said.

Blaine nodded and walked into the kitchen, where he saw a familiar face. “You’re Damon. I saw you at the ball last night. You’re a great dancer!”

“Thanks!” Damon responded. “And you are?”

“Sorry, I’m Blaine, nice to meet you,” he said as he shook Damon’s hand. “I’m actually hoping I can stay...Pray was telling me about your House on the way over.”

“Cool. So, let me guess, your super religious conservative parents tossed you out, too?” Blaine’s mouth dropped open and all he could do was nod. “I figured. So did mine. Hey, I have to run to class, but good luck, maybe I’ll see you around, Blaine!” Damon grabbed his bag and went down the hall and out the door, just as Pray and Blanca returned.

“Okay, I’ve talked to Pray,” Blanca paused, “and I think we can make room for you.”

“Oh my...thank you, thank you so much!” Blaine said, shaking her hand. “I promise, I won’t make you sorry for this.”

“You better not,” Blanca said. “Now, I have one main rule in this house. This isn’t a place for freeloaders. You’re gonna work, for the house and for your future. So you need to either get a job or go to school. Pray tells me you want to be the next Keith Haring or something?” Blaine nodded. “Well there are lots of art schools around here. Let’s find one that fits.”

 

Work

That week Blanca took Blaine downtown and got him enrolled in FIT. Without a solid portfolio (only a few paintings he had hurriedly done his first days at the Evangelista house; the rest had been left behind in Ohio), it took some convincing at admissions, but Damon had been right when he told Blaine she had a magic touch with people. Blanca shrugged it off. “I just told them what they could already see in your art.”

(He was also pretty sure Pray Tell had put in a good word.)

His first day he was late; he’d misguessed the subway arrivals and came running breathlessly into his Beginning Drawing class, turning the head of the instructor and every student.

The teacher checked his roll. “You must be Mr….Anderson?” Blaine nodded. “You can take a seat on the end of the row, next to Mr. Hummel.”

Blaine looked in the direction he pointed and saw the empty easel and stool at the end. He went to take a seat and get settled with his supplies. It wasn’t until he looked up to his right that he saw “Mr. Hummel.” His clothes were more casual, his hair a bit looser and falling across his forehead, but the pale skin and profile were unmistakable. Away from the darkness of the ballroom, in the light of day he could finally see those eyes up close, icy blue with flecks of green.

Blaine tried his best to pay attention to the teacher and follow along, but he couldn’t help stealing glances at...Porcelain? Did he even want to be called that outside the ballroom? By the time they were excused he finally looked to the blank sketchpad he should have been drawing on the entire time. Then he realized his mystery ballroom man was about to leave and he decided to take a chance.

“Hey, um,” he reached out and touched his shoulder. “I’m sorry, I’m new here. Um, I saw you at the ball the other night? With House Abundance? My name’s Blaine,” he finally got out as he offered his hand.

His new classmate took his hand. “Kurt,” he said. It’s the first time Blaine had heard his voice, and it was like a morning songbird, clear and high and beautiful.

“Kurt,” Blaine repeated, feeling the name against his teeth and tongue. “Um, would you perhaps like to get some lunch?”

They walked over to a hot dog vendor on the street corner, then sat on a bench outside the building with their sodas and food, and began to get to know each other with the basics. They quickly found they had things in common; both were from Ohio, both sang in their high school glee clubs, and both loved a good bowtie. Blaine broached the question of Kurt’s name. “So, your name is Kurt, but at the ball Pray Tell called you Porcelain?”

“Ah yes. It was a nickname an old high school teacher gave me. You know I almost went by Elizabeth? It’s my mother’s name...my actual mother, not my house mother. And it’s also my middle name.” Blaine’s eyebrows shot up at that. “I know...not exactly a bully-proof name. But the ‘Kurt’ was all that was called out when they took class attendance. I don’t think anyone besides my dad and the DMV knew my middle name until they announced it at my high school graduation. Anyway, when I joined Abundance, Elektra thought it fit the house better. ‘Kurt is the name of an accountant, not a fashionista,’ she said. But even I thought it was too much. I told her about Coach Sylvester’s nickname for me, and Elektra loved the irony. So I’m Porcelain Abundance at the balls,” he said with a flourish of his hand, “but here at FIT I’m just plain Kurt Hummel.”

“Kurt Hummel you are anything but plain,” Blaine laughed. “You know, something else I wanted to ask you.” Kurt motioned for him to go on. “You stood out at the ball the other night. I mean, really stood out.” Kurt seemed to preen at the compliment. “Look I’ll just come out and say it; most of the people there were black or Latin, and you’re a white guy.”

“You mean ‘Porcelain’ didn’t give it away? Yeah, pretty obvious. No one is going to mistake me for anything else except maybe Casper the Friendly Gay. I hear the comments about my race, how I must be able to pass ‘out there.’ But Mother always puts them in their place. I mean I get it...I’m white, I’m male, so why am I in a House? Well, I don’t pass that well. Apparently I’m too gay even for the regular gay bars. When I try to play butch, it’s laughable. I mean I did try once...wore a bunch of flannel, tried to date a cheerleader, thought it would make my dad happy...instead he thought about sending me to a shrink because I wasn’t acting, well not ‘normal’ but not like myself. It’s funny that as much as realness is valued in this world, I just can’t pull it off, and honestly I don’t think I want to. So instead, I help others who can. I may have a gender, but my fashion doesn’t.”

“Your fashion is impeccable,” Blaine said. “I imagine that’s an asset for your house.”

“Oh, it is, it’s why Mother wanted me. I sew a lot of their outfits. And the ones I can’t…” Kurt suddenly was nervous. He looks around, then leaned into Blaine’s space (and oh he smelled good too) and whispered, “Well, when a white guy leaves Saks and the alarms go off, the security guards don’t run quite as fast.” Blaine’s jaw dropped a little. “I know, it sucks. The color of my skin lets me get away with shit, and Mother knows it so she uses it to her advantage. I can’t really blame her. But I don’t mind. It’s a way I can contribute.”

“So, what about your Ohio family? You said you tried to act straight. Did you get thrown out too?”

Kurt looked down quietly, and a sadness washed over him. “Um, both my parents are dead,” he said. “My mom died when I was eight, and it was just my dad and me. It was hard. First, just being the two of us. My dad was a real ‘guy,’ you know? Owned a tire shop, watched football, listened to Bob Seger and Springsteen. But he would still play tea party with me and my stuffed animals, pick me up when I fell off my bike, let me cry it out. He was a good man. I think he knew, deep down, about what I am...I never said anything. Came close, once, after I tried playing football, but I got too scared. Still, maybe he would have been okay with it.”

Blaine reached out to hold Kurt’s hand. He couldn’t help but think how he didn’t sound anything like Blaine’s dad. “His first heart attack was my junior year of high school. My grades dropped because I was so busy taking care of him and helping with the shop, but at least we both made it to graduation. The second one was fatal.” Blaine squeezed his hand. “My few friends were going away to college, and I was going to be all alone. So I sold the tire shop that summer, and moved here.”

It was then that the late bell rang.

“Oh, shit, I have another class,” Kurt said. “I’m in a fashion concentration so I have this required sewing class. It’s ridiculously basic and I breeze through the assignments, but the instructor is a stickler for attendance.”

Blaine helped gather their lunch garbage to toss in a bin. “I have sculpting class, and then I have to get groceries for Mother.”

“Oh, you didn’t mention you’re in a house, too!”

“Yeah, the Evangelistas are really nice.”  

Kurt froze, and his eyes nearly popped out. “Wait...you’re House Evangelista?” Blaine nodded. “I’m sorry Blaine I can’t talk to you anymore.” He hurriedly gathered his things.

“What? Kurt, what did I say wrong? Don’t go…”

“Look, I’ll see you in class and all, but when Blanca left House Abundance to start her own house, Mother flat out told us to cut them off. Elektra really knows how to hold a grudge and how to punish her children when they disobey. I’m really sorry, Blaine, it was nice meeting you.” And Kurt dashed off to his next class, leaving Blaine bewildered.

What just happened?

***

Blaine got home in time with the groceries for everyone to get dinner started, then went to the room he shared with Angel (after the first two cramped nights dealing with Damon and Ricky’s making out and Papi’s snoring) and lay down on his bed facing the wall, away from the door.

He barely noticed when Blanca approached the doorway. “Hey, dinner’s almost ready, you know you’re supposed to help the others set the table, right?” Blaine said nothing. “Hey, what’s the matter?”

“It’s stupid, it’s nothing,” Blaine shrugged.

“It’s not nothing, you’re usually the first to volunteer for chores,” Blanca said. “Come on, tell your mother. First day of class not go well?”

“No, my classes were fine,” Blaine sniffed and turned around to face Blanca. “Why can’t we talk to House of Abundance?”

“Abundance? What does that have to do with school?”

“One of my classmates is in that House. And we started talking at lunch, and Blanca he’s beautiful, and nice, and I like him, but then I told him I live with you, and he got all nervous and said Elektra would flip if we were talking.”

“You must be talking about Porcelain, also known as Kurt.” Blaine smiled and blushed. “Aw, my baby boy’s got a crush! He is very pretty, and very talented.”

“And apparently very forbidden.”

“Hey now, I’m not gonna forbid you to talk to him, okay? I’m not like Elektra.” Blanca settled down to sit next to Blaine. “I don’t know what happened to her, what made her so bossy and cold. She wasn’t happy when me and Angel left to start this house. But I had been living with her for a long time, and I learned a lot from her. About how to run a house, and how not to run one. Some mothers are proud when their children leave the nest, but some are like Elektra. I don’t know if it’s clinginess, or if its fear that their children will outdo them, or what. But I know this about her...she’s got a heart in there somewhere. That heart saved me when I had nowhere else to go. And I know for a fact Kurt does too. That boy is loyal. It’s one of his best qualities, though maybe it doesn’t seem like it right now.”

Blaine thought for a moment about his old family, about how loyalty didn’t mean anything when they found out he was gay. “It’s a good quality to have.”

“But,” she added, “be careful, okay? You and Angel are a lot alike. You know, when she falls, she falls hard. I got a feeling you’re the same?” Blaine just shrugs at that. ”Look, I don’t want you to get your heart broken. I don’t think Kurt would ever do that on purpose...but I don’t put it past the rest of that house.”

Blaine nodded. “Thanks, Mother.”

“Now come on and help set the table. I made empanadas.”


***

Over the next few days, Blaine would try to talk to Kurt, in class or out. This rule was stupid; just because there was some house rivalry, weren’t they all in this together? None of them fit into the “real world,” being gay, femme, trans (something he had never heard of in Ohio, but now thanks to Blanca and Angel, he knew about more than ever), really anything not straight and white. But even a “Can you pass the charcoal?” was only met with a silent nod and the aforementioned drawing implement. He could tell, though, that Kurt wasn’t being malicious...if anything, it seemed like he was bursting to speak.

He didn’t even try to approach him at the next ball, the first he attended with House Evangelista. He was mainly there to cheer on Angel and Papi in their categories, but he did catch a few glimpses of “Porcelain” and even earned a shy wave, before Elektra and Candy gave him the evil eye.

Blaine’s next chance came on a rainy day. He spotted Kurt with an armful of fabric, trying to get it and himself to the building with minimum water damage and failing.

“Here, let me help,” he said, running to him with an open umbrella held over them both.

“Thanks,” Kurt replied. “I guess huddling with an Evangelista is worth saving this brocade. But you can’t tell the others.”

Blaine flushed at their closeness under the umbrella, Kurt’s warmth pressed to his side. “My lips are sealed.”

They went inside, Blaine shaking the umbrella out the door while Kurt found a place to dry off and get settled.

“So, you’re here early,” Kurt said. “Finally got an alarm clock?”

“Ah, so you notice me more than you care to admit,” Blaine teased. “That alarm clock was called Angel coming in late and her and Blanca having it out over this guy she’s been seeing . Not like a love triangle or anything, Blanca’s just concerned. He’s married and stuff. None of us could get back to sleep, so I decided to get a head start on the day.”

“Tell me about it,” Kurt sighed. “Lulu and Candy get into it all. The. Time. Then Elektra has to break it up. Ugh, my old glee club didn’t have this much relationship drama.”

“Well, mine was all male, so we didn’t really have that problem. And before you say anything no, it wasn’t anything like the porn would have you believe.”

“Darn, there go my schoolboy fantasies,” Kurt joked, as he looked up and met Blaine’s eyes...and then turned away again. Was he blushing ?

Blaine decided to change the subject. “You never got to tell me about your move. Did you already have a place before you got here? Did you know Elektra?”

"God, no. I was still a baby gay from bumfuck Ohio, the only balls I knew about were the ones aimed at me in dodgeball. I was lucky though...I wasn’t totally homeless. I spent the first few months couch surfing between a high school friend who was in NYADA and a bartender named Elliot, from Paramus. I had gotten into FIT, so it wasn’t like I had no place to go during the day. But then Rachel booked a sitcom in L.A., and I stupidly lost my virginity to Elliot which made the whole roommate situation awkward. I actually met Cubby sneaking into one of the gay bars...and then getting thrown out of said bar because he was underage. He brought me to a ball, where I met the rest of House Abundance. And the rest is history.”

Blaine was still catching up to the rest of what Kurt had said, stuck on the “lost his virginity” part. “You, um...aren’t a virgin?”

“Well it’s not like I’m some brazen hussy, please.” Kurt scoffed dramatically, making Blaine laugh. “Back when my dad was still alive--and assumed I was straight--he gave me the whole birds and bees business. I think he just didn’t want me to ‘get some poor girl in trouble,’ like some friends of his. But two things he said I remember stood out. And one was that when I had sex, that I should use to connect to another person, and not throw myself around like I didn’t matter.”

“And what was the other thing?”

“That once I started doing it I wouldn’t wanna stop. So he was wrong on both counts. The sex I had with Elliot didn’t matter, I didn’t connect with him, it actually pulled us apart. And honestly with the virus and everything, I don’t really want to do it again.”

“Ever?”

“Well, I don’t know...maybe if I ever meet the right person, I will. But maybe that’s just me being a silly romantic.”

“It’s not silly. I mean, I haven’t done anything . I was too afraid to even kiss someone in case it got back to my teachers or my parents. And now it’s just scary because I could die.”

“Not if you ‘wrap it up,’ as they say. At least Elliot and I were safe. And we were both tested months later to be sure. But yeah, I’d rather not risk it. Not until I fall in love … .”

“I know, right?” Blaine agreed. “I mean they talk like we’re all these insatiable perverts that fuck anything, but I just want to be swept off my feet by Prince Charming, like anyone else. It’s just that I also want to BE Prince Charming.”

“Well you already have that going for you.” Blaine’s eyes popped. “No, seriously, you look like the prince in that new Disney movie.”

"The Little Mermaid ? Well thanks. You know, I’ve been wanting to see that. I’m glad they’re going back to the old fairy tales.” Blaine decided to be brave. “You know, it’s a lot easier to sneak into a movie with a partner. And more fun.”

“Are you asking me out?”

“Maybe...I mean it’s not a date or anything, just thought it’s more fun going to a movie with someone, so you can talk about it after. If you don’t want to I understand….”

“Blaine, quit rambling.” Blaine stopped, and Kurt touched his hand. “I’d love to go to a movie with you.”

 

***

Blaine and Kurt spoke every day after that. They would meet early before class with one bringing coffee for the other, have lunch together after drawing class, and talk about everything they could. Their old glee clubs, fashion, music, no topic was off-limits -- except for any plans their respective houses had for upcoming balls. It was a fair rule, once Kurt explained it. Apparently, his old high school show choir had been infiltrated by a rival club, and the whole thing ended with their lead soloist broken hearted and getting pelted with eggs.

“I remember them,” Blaine recalled. “Vocal Adrenaline were legends in the show choir world, known for their ruthlessness and precision...not unlike a certain house in the ballroom world?”

“Please...Elektra wishes she could be like Vocal Adrenaline. They can never be that precise so long as Candy and her noodle arms are a part of it.” Kurt realized he’d said too much from the look on his face. “Okay, no more ballroom talk. How are we getting out of our houses and to the movie this weekend?”

Saturday nights were normally ball nights, which was a problem; attendance was apparently mandatory to support House Abundance, so Kurt had to fake a cold. Blaine had it a little easier, since Blanca put so much emphasis on school, so he just told her he didn’t think he was ready and had classwork to catch up on. After Abundance and Evangelista left their respective homes to head to the ballroom, Kurt and Blaine both waited a few minutes, then left to meet outside the theatre for the late showing of The Little Mermaid . They didn’t really have extra money to splurge on a movie, but Blaine knew a guy from his time on the street who worked cleanup part-time at the theater; he snuck them in through one of the emergency exits.

The movie was great, but Blaine was pretty certain that the present company lent to the enjoyment of it. Over the course of the movie, Blaine and Kurt had leaned closer and closer to each other, sharing an armrest and pressing in to each other’s sides. Blaine had found himself resting his head on Kurt’s shoulder during “Kiss the Girl,” and felt Kurt’s grin against the top of his head. They laughed so hard during “Le Poisson” that they were gripping their sides, then they cried for Ariel when Eric had so obviously been tricked. By the time Prince Eric was steering the broken ship into Ursula’s side, Kurt had a tight grip on Blaine’s hand at the suspense of it all.

They walked out of the theatre into the cold, their arms around each other’s shoulders. Blaine couldn’t remember ever having so much fun. Being on a date , with a boy , and feeling more free than he ever had. They were midway through singing a chorus from a song in the movie-- “wandering free, wish I could be, part of that world --” when they ran smack into Lulu Abundance.

Kurt stood stiffly; his arm fell from Blaine’s shoulder and Blaine suddenly felt the late night chill. “Lulu,” he said coldly.

“Hi there, Ceramic,” Lulu retorted. Blaine had a feeling Lulu called him the wrong name on purpose. “Aren’t you supposed to be home sick?”

“Aren’t you supposed to be at the ball?” Kurt turned the question back on her. “I felt better, but I didn’t want to walk into the ball late and upset Elektra, and I was getting cabin fever at the loft, so I went to a movie. Again, why aren’t you at the ball?”

Lulu ignored the question, her gaze landing firmly on Blaine. “Don’t I know you?”

Blaine bristled under Lulu’s inquisitive look. “Um, I don’t think we’ve met...”

“No, no, I’ve seen you before...At the ball the other night, right?”

“Yeah, I guess?”

It must have been a trap, because Lulu looked like the cat who got the cream. “Wait, now I know! I saw you with Damon and Angel the other day. But that can’t be, because Enamel here wouldn’t be hanging out with an Evangelista , now would he?” She said this looking only at Kurt, in a tone dripping with you’ve been busted .

“We, um, I mean…” Kurt started to stutter, when Blaine tried to save him.

“We just ran into each other leaving the theatre,” Blaine said, trying to rescue the situation. “We didn’t even realize we’d seen the same movie, except I heard him singing a song from it and I joined in.”

“Right,” Lulu drawled out sarcastically. “Well, you better get home, China. Before Mother does.” She turned on her spiked heel to leave; Blaine could swear she was skipping .

“Well, she seems...um, like a lot .” Blaine was still reeling. He turned to look at Kurt, who seemed practically green at the gills with nerves. If he’d been faking sick before, he probably wasn’t now.

“She’s right, I, uh, better go home,” Kurt stumbled apologetically. “I had a lovely time Blaine, really.” Kurt practically ran in the same direction Lulu was heading, probably hoping to talk her out of snitching, Blaine guessed.

Up until then, though, Kurt was right, it had been a lovely time. He only hoped it wasn’t the last.

 

Pose

Blaine spent all of the next day in a ball of anxiety. Had Lulu snitched? What would Elektra do to him? Angel tried to get him to eat something, and Papi attempted to get him to at least laugh with a story about a pop and lock battle on the piers that ended with an angry parent screaming in Spanish while dragging her kid off by the ear, but Blaine couldn’t stop worrying.

The next day he got to FIT, early as usual at the spot where he and Kurt normally met, but there was no sign of him. He waited as long as he could before finally heading to class, hoping he would see Kurt there. Alas, his chair sat empty. The teacher had begun to call roll as he settled at his easel when the door creaked open, Kurt sheepishly poking his head in before the rest of his body followed.

“Mr. Hummel, glad you could join us this morning,” the teacher droned. Kurt quickly took his seat next to Blaine and started arranging his drawing supplies.

Blaine leaned over and whispered, “What happened to you this weekend?”

“Not now,” Kurt responded.

They sat quietly next to each other for the next hour, sketching the model in front of them, until the bell rang. Kurt apparently couldn’t leave fast enough, and Blaine followed after him.

“Kurt...Kurt, wait, hold on!” Blaine called out as he ran to catch up to Kurt who was walking at a brisk pace. ”Kurt, please talk to me, what happened?”

Kurt stopped and turned on Blaine. “What happened is Elektra tore me a new asshole, that’s what happened! I spent the rest of Saturday night and half of Sunday morning getting read the riot act about loyalty and betrayal and after everything I’ve done for you. And then when I thought she would let me sleep, we instead had to be her personal slaves for the rest of the day, with her reminding the others that it was my fault. So you can imagine how everyone in the house feels about me this morning.”

“Kurt, I’m so sorry...maybe we shouldn’t have gone to the movie.”

“No, I’m not mad at you, I’m mad at Lulu and my dragon of a Mother. You know she even threatened to not let me walk in the next ball!”

Okay, now Blaine thought that was being a little dramatic. “Who cares what she thinks? It’s just a trophy, right?”

Blaine realized quickly he said the wrong thing, because Kurt’s demeanor turned, and the anger Blaine imagined he felt at his house was suddenly turned toward him. “Just a trophy, Blaine? Maybe to you it’s just a trophy. For me, it’s validation of who I am...who I wasn’t allowed to be in Ohio. Whether you like it or not, you pass. You probably had girls falling at your feet when your glee club performed, wondering why you played hard to get.”

Blaine was stung at those words; passing sure as hell didn’t prevent him from losing everything. He wanted to tell Kurt as much, but he was on a roll. “Meanwhile I had to settle with being in the background while Rachel Berry got all the solos and had her pick of leading men, knowing they’d never let the little faggot have the spotlight. That ball, those trophies? Those mean everything to a little boy who was never allowed to shine!”

His eyes welling with tears, Kurt turned and stomped away. Blaine, feeling awful, went ahead to where his next class would meet and skipped lunch. He’d lost his appetite.

***

When Blaine got home, he found everyone gathered at the dining table.

“Oh, good, you’re here!” Blanca said. She got up and pulled Blaine into the room. “I was just telling the others about the theme for the ball this week.”

“Yeah, it’s gonna be a ‘Back To School’ vibe, all collegiate and preppy and shit,” Papi added.

Angel smiled knowingly up at Blaine. “And, well, we figured you’re our secret weapon. Being you actually are a preppy school kid.”

"Was a preppy school kid, you mean,” Blaine retorted. He then realized what Angel meant. “Wait, secret weapon? You want me to walk? In the ball?”

“No, we want you to walk in the bodega on the corner, yes, walk in the ball!” Blanca teased. “I’ve seen you practicing your moves with the boys. I know you said all you did was some step-touch with your school choir, but Damon told me you’ve really impressed him.”

Blaine was touched. “Really? Damon, you think I’m that good...good enough to do the ball?”

Damon scoffed. “Hell yeah, you’re ready.”

“Shit you better walk in this ball before you get cast in a Madonna video or something and we lose you!” Ricky added.

“One thing you should know,” Blanca said. “This will probably be the category Porcelain is walking in, too, so you’ll be competing. You okay with that?”

Blaine was still stinging from Kurt’s outburst earlier, but the House didn’t need to know that. They were so excited for him to walk in his first ball. But knowing how much the trophies meant to Kurt, he felt odd being put right in the middle of this feud between houses. Still, it was going to be his first time, and the odds of his scoring higher than a seasoned pro like Kurt were slim to none. Kurt would get first place for Abundance, and Blaine would probably get a small token for Evangelista. And perhaps things between he and Kurt would settle by the ball so they could have fun with it.

“Okay, Secret Weapon, at your service!” Blaine agreed. “Now, what do I need to do?”

“Well, we’ll have to get you an outfit. Like something out of the Preppy Handbook.”

Blaine remembered something he had brought with him. Something crumpled in the bottom of his suitcase, that he’d never returned...he didn’t have a chance, as quickly as his family had thrown him out like he was nothing. It had been a sad reminder of his old life. Maybe it could be something new? He held up a hand and said “Just a moment,” then went to his and Angel’s room and brought out the pile of clothing, rumpled and creased. “Can we do something with this?”

He handed it to Blanca, who shook it out. “Well, it needs ironing bad, and it looks like it might be too big on you. “

“Yeah...I lost weight since then.” Blaine thought painfully to those first weeks on the street where he was nearly starving. “But you could take it in, right?”

Angel put her arm around Blaine’s shoulders. “I’ll make this thing fit you like a glove,” she said. “It’s perfect.”

***

“The Category Is...Boooooody!”

As it turned out, Blaine didn’t get a chance to speak to Kurt for the rest of the week. He had a feeling Abundance had put a kibosh on their budding relationship, plus he was certain word had spread that he was walking, making him The Competition.

He hadn’t even seen Kurt...Porcelain ...in the ballroom. Ten City's "That's the Way Love Is" thumped in the background, and he watched as the women walked, each plumped up in all the places women were usually plumped. Sure they were beautiful, but they weren’t really his thing...not like Kurt. Blaine started to sweat in his outfit, and his throat was dry. He asked Papi to get him some water.

Blanca placed a hand on his shoulder. “You look a little nervous. Don’t worry, I have faith in you.”

Blaine responded by wrapping her up in a hug. “Thanks, Blanca. I mean it...for everything.” Feeling Blanca’s arms wrapped around him felt like getting back something he’d lost; something like home.

Pray Tell tapped on the mic. “Thank you, Thank you, clear the floor please...the next category is: Preppy Academy Realness! I want the ultimate Cooley High schoolboys strutting their stuff tonight!”

The DJ started up DeBarge’s “You Wear It Well” and the people in the ballroom clamored to watch, as dancers from the House of Pendavis began to catwalk, wearing their LaCoste and Brooks Brothers finery. Following them was a dancer from House Xtravaganza, who didn’t look like he’d gotten the memo. “Son, that banjie look is gonna get you detention! We said preppy realness, not pimpy!”

When Porcelain stepped out from the crowd to start his walk out, Blaine’s jaw dropped. His hair was coiffed high, as it normally was for balls, and he was wearing a black, double-breasted blazer that looked like raw silk, with a white button-down and a red tie. Below the waist, Kurt had black watch plaid shorts just above the knee, and black leather riding boots. Who knew knees could be so fucking sexy? Blaine thought to himself.

“Ooh, here comes Porcelain...giving me shy schoolboy, giving me Joey MacIntyre, cause he’s the New Kid on the Block! His eyes looking for the cutest boy in school to give him directions…”

Blaine nearly missed his cue, staring at Kurt’s beauty, but Blanca and Angel nudged him back to reality. “It’s your time to shine, baby,” Blanca said. “Good luck!”

“Don’t fuck it up!” Angel added.

Blaine shook off any remaining nerves and stepped into the center of the room for the first time. He barely heard Pray Tell over the crowd: “Okay hookers, pay attention, for making his debut tonight, fulfilling aaaaall your schoolboy fantasies, giving you The Dalton School realness, Blaine Evangelistaaaaa!”

Blaine focused on the task at hand, bringing as much sass and confidence as he could muster. Pray’s descriptions didn’t hurt his ego. “He is serving us some Teen Angel! I’d say he’s serving Dead Poet’s Society except this look has me liviiiiiiiing!”

He gave himself a moment before glancing in Kurt’s direction. Kurt’s facade dropped for a second, as Blaine made sure to own his look. He half hoped he recognized the blazer from a long ago Sectionals; Blaine had always wondered if their paths had crossed ever since they talked about Ohio connections, but he’d been sure he’d never forget that face. Kurt seemed impressed by Blaine’s bravado, but soon his face shifted back to a steely resolve; this was a battle, after all, and Blaine had been practicing with Damon and Ricky all week. He knew he was ready.

Kurt threw his shoulders back, tilted his chin to Blaine, and then moved to the music, bringing one hand to his hip while the other slid up his other side, above his head, and sharply his wrist flicked out. Blaine smiled; this was the Kurt he’d begun to fall for that first night, strong, confident, sexy, and itching for a fair fight. Blaine raised his arms over his head, then in a flurry of movement swept his hands around his face and shoulders in a series of poses, just like the others taught him. He was surprised how naturally it came to him, and how much he enjoyed the duel. He tried to match Kurt pose for pose at first, but then each began to improvise, one trying to outdo the other, popping and cat-walking. Kurt at one point bent to the ground, pressed his forearms to the floor, and in a fluid move swung his legs above him and landed in a box dip, eliciting cheers from the crowd. Blaine responded with a perfectly executed duck-walk, combined with some precision hand performance. Soon the boys from the House of Pendavis and Xtravaganza weren’t even trying to dance, instead joining the rest of the crowd as ‘Porcelain’ and Blaine dueled with their vogueing, chanting “pose, pose, pose!” But it was barely a duel; it was like he and Kurt were feeding off each other’s energy, vogueing in perfect synchronicity.

Pray Tell finally decided the competitors had made enough of a statement...there were several categories left to get through. “Okay, I think these butch queens have more than brought it! Let’s get some scores up in here!” The judges scored Pendavis and Xtravaganza well, mostly nines with a few tens thrown in. Blaine began to get nervous, more for Kurt than for himself.

"Now, judges, your scores for Abundance!” The judges raised their scores. “10, 10, 10, 10, 10! Another perfect score for Porcelain of the House of Abundance!” Kurt jumped up and down and smiled from ear to ear, a toothy grin that Blaine adored. He then looked over at Blaine with what looked like an apologetic face.

“Don’t worry about it,” Blaine said over the din of noise. “You deserve it...all of it. Besides, it’s my first ball walking!”

Pray Tell brought back Blaine’s attention. “Now, it’s time for the scores for the latest addition to House of Evangelista.” Blaine suddenly felt Kurt’s hand in his; when did that happen? “Judges, your scores.”

Blaine didn’t hope for much. He knew he did well, and he had so much fun doing it with Kurt, who had a perfect score. What was the likelihood of a tie, anyway? Still, butterflies filled his belly, and the only thing that calmed them were Kurt’s palm pressed against his, their fingers flexing tightly together.

“10, 10, 10, 10, and oh my God 10! Ladies and gentlemen it’s a tie! House of Abundance and House of Evangelista, an unprecedented tie!”

The ballroom exploded, Blaine hearing his house members’ cheers. Before they could get to him to congratulate him, he felt a tug on his hand, and found himself swept up in Kurt’s arms, in a fierce hug. “You did it, Blaine, your first ball and you got a perfect score!”

“We did it,” Blaine cried out. “There’s no way I could have done it without you egging me on.”

The next thing he knew, Kurt’s head was no longer nestled in the crook of his neck, but right in front of him, his breath ghosting across Blaine’s lips and his eyes crinkled in joy. Blaine forgot all about the ball, about Elektra and the House of Abundance, about trophies; all he cared about was this beautiful creature in front of him, his joy emanating from his face. Kurt must have known what was coming, because Blaine saw his eyes pop just before Blaine swept in and pressed his mouth to Kurt’s.

The world fell away, and there was nothing but a whooshing sound in his head as he felt Kurt’s lips moving against his own, soft and slightly wet. His eyes closed, but he could swear he felt Kurt smiling against him. It was his first kiss...he hoped he was doing this right.

It took hearing Elektra’s “what in the hell do you think you’re doing?” to jar them apart. Next thing he knew, Kurt had taken his hand again and pulled him through the crowd, toward the doors and away from the angry voices of Abundance and the joyful whoops and hollers of Evangelista (a particularly hearty “get it, preppy!” was definitely from Papi). They stopped at the sidewalk out front to catch their breath.

“So, where to?” Blaine asked.

Kurt smiled at Blaine, flirtily. “My place is closer. Come on, I know a shortcut.”

***

They were both breathless when they got to the Abundance loft. Kurt pulled off his boots at the doorway and then led Blaine inside, to the room he shared with Cubby and Lemar. “So...this is it. It’s not much, but…”

“It’s great,” Blaine said, slipping off his blazer. Kurt took it and put it on a hanger, then did the same with his own jacket; hanging them both on a clothing rack that made for a makeshift room divider. Kurt’s little corner was a mirror of everything Blaine knew about him. The cover on the bed was a tasteful dove gray, with artfully arranged throw pillows. Above it was a mosaic of things taped on the wall; a November 1988 Vogue cover (“Anna Wintour’s first...you watch, she’s going to revolutionize the fashion world. I actually recreated that sweater for myself.”), a picture of George Michael from a teen magazine, a swatch of the fabric Kurt had been carrying on that rainy day, and a photo of a young couple with a small child, no more than five. The man was wearing a flannel shirt, a baseball cap, and an affable smile; the woman had bright blue eyes just like Kurt’s, her chestnut hair falling over her shoulders and onto the head of the tot in her arms. Blaine motioned to it. “Your family?”

“Yes,” Kurt said, a tinge of sadness there. “It’s the last picture of us before my mom started to get sick. She has her full head of hair there.”

“You look like her.” Blaine sat on the bed, as Kurt shuffled through a stack of tapes on top of the bureau. He put one in the boom box next to the bed and pressed play. The initial quiet creak of the cassette gears were followed by the opening synth chords of Al B. Sure!’s “Nite and Day.”

“Elektra would kill me if she knew I’d borrowed this. She’s been tearing the place apart trying to find it.”

“Aren’t you worried about them coming home early? I mean after we left like we did?”

Kurt sat next to Blaine. “Trust me, that woman cares way more about being the queen of the ball scene and crushing your house than she cares about where one of her errant children went. I sure as hell won’t be walking the next ball, that’s for sure.” He turned pensive. “Shit!”

“What?”

“We forgot our trophies! That bitch will probably keep it to punish me.”

Blaine tilted Kurt’s chin towards him. “Don’t worry, I’m sure Pray Tell won’t let her.”

Kurt just smiled and leaned into Blaine’s touch. When he went in to kiss Blaine, there were no screaming crowds or flashing colored lights this time. Just the muffled sounds of the city, soft music from the foot of the bed, and the rustling of the bedsheets as they shifted, putting their arms around each other. Blaine could hear the soft, wet sounds of their mouths moving together. He felt Kurt’s tongue glide across his lips, asking for entrance; when it slipped inside and met his own, his toes curled in his loafers.

They each undid the other’s tie, barely separating their lips. Blaine moved his hands up and down Kurt’s chest and fiddled with the buttons on his shirt. “Can I?”

“Of course.” Blaine slipped each button out of its hole and opened Kurt’s shirt, marveling at how the skin and muscle underneath twitched at his touch. His thumb caught on one of Kurt’s nipples, eliciting a gasp. “I can take yours off too, if you want?” At Blaine’s affirming nod, Kurt undid his shirt buttons a bit more quickly and slipped the garment off his shoulders. Blaine was warm all over in spite of having fewer layers. Having another man touching him like this was amazing; having it be Kurt, someone he could very well be falling in love with, was mind-blowing. Kurt braced his hands on either side of Blaine’s body and they moved to lay down. “Is this okay?” Kurt asked.

“More than okay.” Blaine willingly fell onto his back, allowing Kurt to settle above him and deepen the kiss. He kicked off his shoes as they arranged themselves on the narrow bed, Kurt’s weight rested against his body a comforting ballast. Blaine touched every inch of Kurt’s skin he could reach, sweeping his hands from the nape of his neck, across his shoulders, down his arms to the small of his back and up again. Kurt was kissing him all over his throat, chest, and shoulders; every place his lips touched felt like little licks of flame.

Kurt’s hips shifted against his and there he felt what had to be Kurt's cock, twitching and hardening against his thigh. A surprise moan escaped from Blaine’s lips, as his own dick involuntarily responded.

Kurt suddenly rose up. “I’m sorry, was that too much?”

“No,” Blaine protested, boldly reaching to pull Kurt back against him. “It’s wonderful.”

Kurt grinned and kissed Blaine again, resuming his motions. They rutted against each other, their kisses soon devolved to sighs and moans, and Blaine was soon fully hard and rubbing desperately against Kurt until their clothed cocks were lined up perfectly.

“Do you want…unf, to take these off?” Kurt panted. “I, I have protection.”

“I’m so close though,” Blaine whispered, “and, um, I don’t think I’m ready for that yet?”

“It’s fine, this is good.” Kurt kissed him as they continued and increased their pace. “Whatever you want, it’s so good.” As they kept feverishly thrusting, Blaine felt the fire in his groin build and grow, like a pressure cooker about to pop.

“Oh...oh God, Kurt!” Blaine whined, as his cock pulsed and he began to cum. He buried his face in the crook of Kurt’s neck and sucked on the tender skin there. It must have done something to Kurt because he heard Kurt cry out, followed by the feeling of Kurt’s own cock twitching out its own release. As their breath slowed, they clung to each other, and Blaine held on for dear life. Next to Blanca, Kurt had just become the most important thing in the world.

Kurt started to giggle. He raised his head from Blaine’s shoulder. “Hi.”

“Hi, yourself,” Blaine smiled. His bliss soon turned to discomfort, however, as the mess in his underwear began to turn tacky. “Ugh, how can something so amazing end up so gross?”

“Hey, I gave you the chance to take off the pants,” Kurt teased. “But I get you weren’t up for it. So how was your first time?”

Blaine looked at Kurt like he couldn’t believe he’d ask that question. “It was incredible. You, are incredible,” He reached up and brushed his fingers through Kurt’s hair, bringing his head down for a kiss. “And I’ll bet our second, and third, and every time after that will be even better.”

Just then they heard commotion in the loft. “Porcelain! You had better come out here and explain to your Mother what came over you to embarrass MY house!”

"Shit,” Kurt said. He grabbed Blaine’s shirt from the floor while Blaine put his shoes back on. “Fire escape, over here! She may be mad at me, but she’ll murder you!”

“What about you?” Blaine whispered as he pulled his shirt on while simultaneously climbing onto the fire escape.

“Don’t worry about me--she’ll have a temper tantrum and then probably run to her sugar daddy. Worst comes to worst, you think Blanca has enough room?” Kurt said, with one last kiss that Blaine barely pulled from before Elektra could spot him. “Now go!” Blaine scrambled down the escape to the street below. As he walked home, he wondered if he could talk the others into a new roommate...just in case.

***

Blanca made room.