Kurt hears him before he sees him. His voice is soft, earnest, ringing clear into where Kurt had previously been alone, “I know! I know what you’re thinking: you’ve seen it all before. But you’ll love it, you will—at least, I promise it’ll make you smile.”
He’s ushering a group through the entrance to the museum’s sole 4D experience, some first contact or another, on Kurt’s far right. Kurt looks up on instinct, really, and it’s probably inertia that makes him linger on the man as he slides the doors shut after the last surly teen, waves his station-issued id over the console, and turns to go.
But, “Oh,” he stops, a few feet from Kurt, “I know you,” and his eyes crinkle when he smiles, “you were in sector five yesterday.”
Yes, so, actually, Kurt sees him before he hears him:
The pizza place in sector five has the best fries, and an even better view of the petting zoo. On Technically Sunday, Jeff Wayne begs off their meeting, so Kurt, blessedly free for the day, takes his time with both the food and the ogling.
The petting zoo is mostly a loose collection of cats, dogs, one goat, and, Kurt can only assume, whatever their equivalent from planets not Earth. Planets so much not Earth that some creatures are wearing small storage tanks and masks not unlike the ones Kurt carries when he visits Jeff Wayne. The patrons, however, are mostly human children, with their guardians lounging around in scattered benches, and one cute human guy in mustard pants all bundled up in a blue coat and a matching scarf over which he’s smiling at some creature with something of a big... mouth. Probably.
Kurt’s not particularly interested in risking his outfit, but he has eyes, and he spends his third cup of coffee watching the curious way Cute Guy presses his cheek to the alien creature’s squishy sort of cube-shaped protuberance. Then he spends his fourth cup of coffee watching what appears to be Cute Guy’s bottle-blond boyfriend join him in the petting. By the time he switches to hot chocolate, the boyfriend is captivating children, adults and domesticated creatures alike with his rendition of Sheb Wooley’s The Purple People Eater, with Cute Guy motioning along enthusiastically.
It's when Kurt’s starting on his cheesecake, eyes lingering over where both of them are saying their goodbyes, that Cute Guy looks up and catches his gaze. Kurt’s surprised, fork still raised, when Cute Guy blinks, lowers his eyes, then looks up again, smiles: a small, quick thing, and turns to go, dragging his boyfriend by the arm.
From up close his eyes are bright; today, he’s not in the colorful clothes of the petting zoo, but in the museum’s fairly boring and extremely clashing uniform; dirt-brown shirt and cardigan, and black pants.
He offers his hand and Kurt takes it automatically. “I’m Blaine.”
“Enjoying the museum, Kurt?”
“It’s peaceful,” he says vaguely, but immediately fesses up: “To tell you the truth, I’ve only seen this,” and gestures towards the angel sculpture at the center of the room. The angel is weeping, or maybe sleeping, face-planted onto the altar. He can relate.
“Yeah,” Blaine acknowledges, “it's not The Met but it's fun.”
“It’s a good place to think. I sort of have a lot of work to do.” Kurt’s already spent an hour monopolizing the only bench in the room—what with his bag and his tablet and his laptop and all the brochures he'd picked up from the front desk haphazardly strewn about—trying to turn his notes from the meeting with Jeff Wayne into something coherent he can send to Isabelle later tonight, in a manner of speaking.
“Oh, I don’t mean to interrupt.”
“You’re not, I was hitting a dead end anyway,” he sighs. “Might be the jetlag.”
“You don’t look jetlagged at all—when did you arrive?”
“Well, thank you, kind sir,” he laughs, “This is my fourth day station-side.” The space station, being an Earth-managed hub, sticks to UTC, but it’s probably mostly the abrupt change in routine from the Vogue Offices in New York to the daily interviews with Jeff Wayne that has him a bit disoriented, Kurt figures. “What about you?”
“Today’s two weeks. This is temporary,” Blaine adds, gesturing to his uniform, “a month-long university summer program.”
“You’re interested in alien cultures?”
“No—I mean, yes, it’s interesting, but, I guess I just wanted a change of scenery.”
“What’s your usual scenery?”
“Right now, New York.”
“That’s funny, me too.”
“What a coincidence—” Blaine starts to say, when his phone pings, “sorry, I have to check—yeah, I have to show some group around—”
“Of course, go, I should continue working on this anyway. But I think I’m ready to do it back at the hotel, with room service.”
Blaine looks like he’s hesitating and Kurt is about to ask what’s wrong, but Blaine just says, “So maybe I'll see around again some time?”
Blaine thinks back to his (now) ex-boyfriend calling from Cusco and saying, “I'm sorry, honestly, Blaine, I'm really, really sorry, but he's, you know, he's the love of my life,” to which Blaine, not prepared to lose his marbles in the middle of a Starbucks, out of any moves left to play, and resisting his very next instinctual it's fine, don’t worry about it, finally (loudly) hissed, “you could’ve at least Skyped me!”, and hung up. Which, all in all, was not an unfair demand given the circumstances.
The flurry of text messages that followed, all variations ofsorry the internet is spotty andI think it's the distance that makes it clear sometimes and you never know when it'll hit you, B, it's better this way, were mass deleted two weeks later under Tina's drunken eye (“like ripping a Band-Aid! Cut him off completely.”) in a symbolic end-of-wallowing celebration (“to new men!”). He didn’t really stop wallowing but he symbolically did, which meant his rational side had caught up, he just had to wait for the rest of him to do too.
So when he found himself humming You bring out the lover in me for the fifth week in a row post end-of-wallowing celebration, after getting an eyeful of a particularly happy photo of his ex with the alleged love of his life (because he was an adult, he wasn’t going to unfriend someone on Facebook over this, at least not first), he finally marched into Sam’s bedroom and, maybe desperately, said, “You have to help me.”
And Sam, in all his wisdom, waved his phone around like it meant something and replied, “how about a vacation?”
And now here they are.
“I met a guy,” Blaine tells Sam later, settling cross legged on the hotel's bed, while Sam practices posing in front of the mirror.
“Like a…” Sam wiggles his eyebrows, “a guy?”
“Maybe? I don’t know? He looked at me.” He looked at me? How ridiculous can he get? “But I don’t think he's interested.”
Blaine hesitates; he’d absolutely wanted to ask out Kurt, that was true: “Yes?”
“Then, dude, just go for it. Unless he’s taken, or a serial killer,” Sam moves to stand up perfectly straight, shoulders square, and points right at Blaine’s reflection in the mirror, in a pose that makes Blaine regret ever introducing him to Cooper. “Just ask him.”
“If he’s a serial killer?”
“Can’t hurt,” Sam shrugs, “But seriously, just ask him out.”
Blaine doesn’t ask him out. In fact, the next time he sees Kurt—right on the same bench at the museum—he blurts out: “You’re Kurt Hummel.”
“Yes?” Kurt confirms, a tad amused.
“You’re doing that editorial on those new aliens! I should have guessed from your perfectly arranged scarf.”
Kurt’s lips twitch upwards, obviously pleased, “Well, their fashion at least—wait, how do you know about the editorial?”
“Sam—you remember Sam, he was at the petting zoo too—he’s here for the photoshoot. I mean, he's here on vacation too, but the photoshoot was first.”
“So you wanted to keep him company?”
“More like he wanted to keep me company.” Blaine rubs the back of his neck, embarrassed. “So I applied for the museum guide thing, and we decided to make it a vacation of sorts.”
Blaine nods. “He’s my best friend.”
“So how are the aliens?”
“Just one alien right now. They have a thing with meeting more than just one-on-one.”
“Just the translator app. It’s making it go really slowly.”
“But it’s going well?”
“It’s… going. We sort of started off on the wrong foot.”
Kurt remembers his first meeting with Jeff Wayne, four hours after landing. He barely had enough time to watch the helpful orientation video at the visitors' reception hall, get his standard station-issued id fitted with all the correct permissions for a special media liaison, freshen up at his hotel, and pick up a mask and oxygen tank at the supply store.
The thing is, Jeff Wayne is not a diplomat or a carefully chosen communications specialist or whatever passes as a politician these days. Jeff Wayne is an Artist, Jeff Wayne is—according to Isabelle's official e-mail designating Kurt to pen the interview— one who transforms culture into solid expression, in fact, Jeff Wayne is something akin to a designer.
They started out okay, exchanging greetings and names. Jeff Wayne's name is not actually Jeff Wayne, but it's close enough that Jeff Wayne accepts it; what comes out of Jeff Wayne is not exactly Kurt either but they make do. Afterwards, having been briefed that it would be impolite to start asking questions right away, Kurt proceeded to share something about himself, as was apparently customary, and sang a few lines of The Carpenters Calling Occupants of Interplanetary Craft. His first blunder: it ended in Kurt having to explain human sex and gender to Jeff Wayne, after the translator app almost gave up when Kurt snapped, “were you briefed by Neanderthals?”
“That first meeting was supposed to last for five hours, but we could only tolerate each other for two,” and by the time they said their stiff goodbyes, Kurt was ready to pull his hair out, “but I think it’s getting better.”
“I think it’s impressive that you’re managing to communicate about art with Jeff Wayne at all, Kurt, since first contact was not too long ago, and with no interpreter! The Editorial is supposed to be a ‘welcome to our league of planets!’ sort of thing, right?”
“Yeah. A look into something other than ambassadors and authorities.”
“I can’t wait to read it,” Blaine says, his expression open and sincere. Kurt feels fond all of a sudden. He can already tell it’s going to be a problem.
Kurt makes a habit of sitting in front of the extremely tired angel and working on his notes. The museum in general doesn’t appear to receive many visitors in the late afternoon and the ones that visit almost always go for the 4D experience. Of course, spending time in the museum also means he gets to see Blaine most days, for a few minutes. Maybe he shouldn’t, Blaine has a boyfriend, but it’s not like he’s making a move, there’s nothing wrong with it, they are friends, and Blaine is always sweet about it, like he’s pleased by Kurt’s presence, by his attention.
When Jeff Wayne is being annoying, when Kurt comes out of their daily meetings with a headache, Blaine is an easy thing to think about: his voice and his hand motions and his ridiculously expressive face; his neck and his shoulders and his small waist and his perky ass and his skinny ankles; so Kurt distracts himself with it, with Blaine’s words and gestures.
So, okay, yes, he might be pining after a guy with a boyfriend. Crap.
There's a coffee shop up around the main reception area that serves sets of mini-cupcakes that are better than anything Kurt has ever tasted on Earth. It's always crammed with people of all sorts. Today two of those people are Blaine and Sam, the bottle-blond boyfriend. They are standing in front of the window of alien delicacies. One of Blaine’s hands is on Sam’s arm as he leans down to peruse more carefully.
That makes Kurt pause, but there’s no way he’s leaving without his mini-cupcakes; after Jeff Wayne, he feels sleep-deprived and light-headed and his throat is burning a bit like it’s the beginning of a cold, he needs the dessert. He keeps them in the corner of his eye and in the end they catch up with him when he’s waiting in the checkout line with his mini-cakes boxed to go.
“Kurt, this is Sam.”
Kurt nods at him politely, “nice to meet you,” but he’s already thinking of ways to excuse himself before anything can get awkward, except then Sam says, “So, are you like my boss?”
“Not really?” Kurt says slowly, “Someone else is in charge of the photoshoot.”
“Cool. How about a serial killer?”
“Just making sure because we were thinking of trying out that bar in sector six tomorrow night and if you’re not a serial killer, you should totally come.”
That catches Blaine off-guard, it seems like, and Kurt is once again thinking about how to smooth things over when Blaine recovers and says, “Yes, yes, it’ll be fun. I heard sometimes they have karaoke nights; maybe you can show off your amazing range.”
Kurt blinks, confused, but finds himself smiling hesitantly anyway. “Sure,” he tells them, “I guess it’ll be good to take a break.”
This is all Sam’s fault. Sam should have minded his own business; Sam should have absolutely not asked Kurt on some sort of weird not-date, the three of them.
“Relax, dude. Think of it as a double date.”
“You don’t have a date.”
“I’m getting one. That’s why we’re going. Don’t worry, I’ll still prioritize being your wingman.”
Except Sam is not prioritizing being his wingman because Sam is not here, at this bar, at this table, and Blaine is losing it, just a tiny bit. To begin with, Kurt's shirt looks unfairly good on him. All of Kurt looks unfairly good, from the tips of his gravity-defying hair to his mid-calf boots. He thinks he even tells Kurt this, after half a bottle of beer, and Kurt preens but laughs it off, as usual, skipping over the compliment like Blaine is not serious, like he’s not trying to be charming on purpose.
It’s not a karaoke night, so instead Kurt is telling him about Jeff Wayne: “You know how the angel’s dress looks like real fabric, as if I walked up there and touched it, it would yield? It was sort of like that today, with Jeff Wayne. I took pictures but you can’t really see it, hold on—” Kurt picks up his phone, “see?” He scoots closer to Blaine, “Everything looks soft and ethereal but on Jeff Wayne it was hard as stone. Some trick of the construction and the way it reflects the light. It’s something about the way they change how they move depending on what they are wearing too.”
“Sounds amazing,” says Blaine, looking over the pictures. “Is Jeff Wayne going to be at the photoshoot?”
“No. I don’t think Jeff Wayne could take a photoshoot with other alien people right now. In fact, I think we’re lucky their ambassadors didn’t pull off a Two Little Men in a Flying Saucer when they first came to Earth.”
“Kuuurt, that’s mean. Make love, not war.”
Kurt leans back and raises an eyebrow, considering. “You’re saying I should sleep with Jeff Wayne?”
“No!” Blaine sways forward, alarmed, then realizes Kurt is laughing and slumps back. “Don’t tease me, I’m drunk.”
Kurt buys them another round and Blaine tries being charming again but what comes out is: “Do you have designs on my virtue?”
“No!” Blaine’s buzzed, he is, but he can see that Kurt is flustered, “No, absolutely not. No,” and he’s so final about it that Blaine reels back, feeling stupidly hurt, of all things, and for a second doesn’t know what to do; it might be that Kurt’s not flustered, he’s horrified. “Blaine—” he starts to say but then Sam arrives and he’s saying stuff like “sorry I’m late,” and “I went to this meet-up, ‘all the universe’s models’, and I sort of lost track of time,” and “But, like, did you know a lot of them could kill us without much effort? Super kind, though, gave me a few tips,” and “I see you started without me,” and it’s so mundane that Blaine finally gets that it was on purpose, that Sam was trying to give them space, and Blaine blew it.
The photoshoot takes place one late afternoon in sector two, in the main conference hall; Blaine gets out of work early and messes around with his phone for a whole hour with no one bothering him until somebody drops their bag next to him and clears their throat: “Is this seat taken?”
Kurt doesn’t look good, he’s pale and he’s absently kneading his right temple. Blaine forgets all embarrassment and surges up immediately, “Kurt, are you all right?”
“Yeah, I think I’m just coming down with something. I think I’ve been coming down with something since I got here.”
“You should sit down.”
They end up shoulder-to-shoulder. Next to Blaine, Kurt feels warm and solid; he tilts back his head against the wall for a few seconds, eyes closed, then straightens up and says, “I think we should talk.”
“Let me go first?” Kurt doesn’t object so Blaine presses on: “So, first of all, I’m sorry if I said something that freaked you out before. I know,” he swallows harshly, and wow, when did it become such a big thing? “I know you don’t like me that way—”
“It’s okay, I know I’m not,” he fumbles, “I know sometimes, I’m too, too much, so maybe I annoy you—”
“Blaine! What are you talking about?”
“I’m trying to say I like you! A lot. But I know you don’t feel the same way, so—”
“You like me? What about your boyfriend?”
“My boyfriend? My ex? I’m over him, I swear—but, did I tell you about him?”
“Your ex? You broke up with Sam?”
“Sam?” For a second, Blaine is at a loss, then it clicks: “you think Sam is my boyfriend?”
“No! What, you think I’m some kind of,” Blaine can’t even find a word, “floozy? I was flirting with you!” He covers his face, “Or am I that terrible at flirting?”
“No, I just thought… that was something you just did.”
“Like a floozy.”
“No, like, I don’t know, people have all sorts of relationship boundaries.”
“I told you Sam’s my best friend!”
“That’s what people say about their significant others all the time!” Blaine opens his mouth to retort but Kurt interrupts him, “Please stop saying the word floozy.” Then: “Jesus, I think I’m going to faint.”
Kurt rubs at his head more intensely. “I might need help getting to the health center.”
Kurt's last date had been with a florist by day, psychic by night sort of guy. He'd done a flower reading right then when Kurt had gone to pick him up at the shop he worked at for their date. He’d told Kurt love would be coming his way and hitting him like a freight train eventually, so maybe he should try being on the lookout for it. Kurt had been a gentleman about it, nodded politely and resolved to take the words to heart in the heat of the moment, but then he’d promptly forgotten them the next morning.
And now here they are.
“Figures Jeff Wayne would try to kill me,” Kurt mutters darkly, after the doctor leaves.
“It’s not like it was a conscious thing.”
“It would still have been a huge diplomatic incident if I’d died from being allergic to them, so congratulations, you saved us all from that particular nightmare.”
“I just walked you here. You were the one who snapped your fingers at the nurses. I think they want you out of here as soon as possible.” His voice is soft; Blaine’s obviously still annoyed about it, but he’ll get over it, he’s still sitting on the chair next to Kurt’s bed, after all, even if drawn in, small. But Kurt can fix that. He can fix anything. He sits up and Blaine stands up too, hovering. “No, Kurt, I think you should rest.”
“I’m fine.” He feels a lot better and what’s the point in waiting any more, really? “Is this contagious?”
“Well, it's an allergic reaction so I don’t think so—”
“Good.” Kurt grabs one of Blaine’s hands to pull him closer, places the other on his cheek to drawn him in, and kisses him. Blaine makes a startled sound but doesn’t push him away, in fact, he gets with the program quickly. When Kurt pulls back, Blaine chases his mouth. “Go out with me?”
Blaine’s eyes are wide, “Yes,” and he sounds eager, excited. He smiles, bright and open, “Yes.”