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Young Volcanoes

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According to a few people with sticks shoved so far up their asses you could knock ‘em over and have yourself a spit roast, Kurt is quite the bad seed. Screw them. As far as Kurt’s concerned, personalities like that – people who herald their opinions as immutable fact – are toxic. To each their own, but take it elsewhere.

Most adults look at the metal looped through his lip and ask him if it hurt, most kids ask to touch it and he lets them, and the majority of the rest refrain from commenting. Then there are the assholes. Kurt hates when someone’s first words to him are “What did your mother say about that?” placidly spoken, but clearly judgmental. Confrontational is practically tattooed on his forehead, so he never fails to fire back with an equally intrusive line of questioning – mostly pertaining to what led them to ask, and the generally unanswerable query of why it matters what his mother would think. Of course, all this is accompanied by his own sickly sweet smile. He doesn’t see any harm in demanding people to ask better of themselves than treating strangers like gum stuck on their shoe.

On some level, he gets it. He wears his boots like he’s ready to kick ass at any moment. Wears his hair like he took a swim in the Kool-Aid jar. Loads his face and ears with silver and spikes. Pays homage to the bad boy cliché with the occasional leather jacket. Patterns his pale skin with dark ink. Does a pretty good raccoon imitation on bad mornings after, when yesterday’s makeup has smeared around his eyes.

He sees all the reasons the world sits ever-ready to dismiss him; he just wishes the world were different. His appearance is not a suit of armor for all it’s believed to be one. He’s not impenetrable.

Fuck it.

A single thought and Kurt’s able to purge his mind of the negativity, to let it all just roll off his back. Sometimes a slur or a sneer lingers longer in his memory than he should let it, but what good does it do to dwell?

It is, however, hard not to dwell on his own reception when he’s being stared at by a bunch of boys in uniform like a new exhibit at the zoo.

The Dalton crowd could use a little work on warm welcomings.

They flock together, avoiding Kurt like a stone in their pathway as they exit their school building, eyes hanging back until their feet carry them too far to gawk. It’s all he can do not to lash out and traumatize the little pricks, but he likes to think he’s got a strong enough constitution to withstand a few stares. If he sticks his pierced tongue out at the occasional boy-in-blazer, well – so be it. No one’s ever accused him of being a role model.

Waiting would be a less onerous affair if he hadn’t left his phone in his car. The car currently parked too far away to run back to if he doesn’t want to miss his own boy-in-blazer coming outside in the flood of students.

Standing around fiddling nervously with the rips in his jeans, shifting under the heavy weight of abundant stares, is not conducive to the impression Kurt wants to leave at the moment. But life’s not fair, and we can’t always get what we want.

They lock eyes seconds after Blaine comes outside. Kurt smiles even when Blaine’s eyes dart around to catch the reactions of those around him. Polite mask in place, Blaine steps into Kurt’s Dalton-appointed bubble.

“Surprise.”

No response.

“No kiss hello?”

Blaine moves in to kiss him then, and Kurt kind of hates him for the tiny peck left on his cheek.

“What are you doing here?” Blaine asks softly. Around them, clusters of students are stopped to chat with one another. Kurt knows, and is sure Blaine does too, that they’ve all snuck at least a few glances at the Kurt and Blaine show.

“Can’t I come visit my boyfriend?” his mouth twists up into a wry smile when Blaine all but flinches at the term.

“Did you cut school just to come here?”

“It’s my last day. I hardly needed to be there.” Kurt kicks at the ground. Blaine looks disappointed.

By this time next week, a diploma will certify Kurt Hummel as a bona fide high school graduate. He’s undecided whether this is his ticket to freedom or the shackles of impending conformity, but at the very least his McKinley dues will be paid in full and that’s reason enough to celebrate. If he can get Baby Blainers to quit being such a Debby Downer, they might actually make it to round two of summer love before autumn comes and huffs and puffs and blows their house of cards down.

Kurt can’t help but ask, “Do you not want me here?”

Blaine shakes his head and tells Kurt, “Of course I want you here. I just didn’t expect you.” But the tension rolling off of him in waves is roaring “get the fuck away from this place.” Blaine takes Dalton very seriously, takes the friends he’s made and places them on pretty pedestals. Dalton is Blaine’s safe haven, the place he feels most accepted. He draws fixed lines between here and home, Kurt has learned.

It knocked him on his ass like a hard kick to the nuts, at the end of last summer. Blaine’s always been uptight. Just a smidge. By the time they’d grown close and gotten to know each other in the biblical sense – with significantly less hellfire and brimstone for their sinning – Blaine was damn near laidback. Once school started up, whether it was the distance or Dalton itself, Blaine pulled away. When Kurt tugged him back, it was just different. The carefree, unbounded thrill of summer splintered and mellowed.

Weekends have been fun though – the ones Blaine comes home for. Locked in his room, or Kurt’s, for hours upon hours, rediscovering that thrill if only for a while.

Kurt’s no stranger to needing an outlet, to the ways we cope when life is unkind. He knows Dalton is special and he’d never try to take the comfort it offers away from Blaine. It’d be nice, though, if Blaine could reconcile the pieces of himself he’s compartmentalized. Kurt’s no less special. No less safe.

One of Blaine’s friends – the chatty blond, Kurt recalls from an accidental meeting – bursts their awkward bubble, patting them each on the arm in greeting. “Kurt, right?” he says, extending his hand. Kurt nods and smiles brightly enough to rival Blaine on his better days, shaking the boy’s hand too enthusiastically, holding on too long.

“You’re Jeff,” he says to an eager nod. “You’re the one who told Blaine I was – ‘bad news’ was it? Told him not to hitch his wagon to a Lima loser.” All of his fingers squeeze tightly Jeff’s hand while he ignores Blaine’s protests to quit it. He’s in a mood now, can’t be stopped. “Oh, and your advice was ‘break up with him, but maybe still try to tap that because that’s a fuckable ass’. And here I’d always thought prep school boys were such gentlemen. ‘Tap that’? Really?”

Jeff yanks his hand from Kurt’s grip, matching him glare for glare.

“I was right.”

“Thanks for the compliment,” he bites out, running his hands over his backside and his tongue over his teeth, sexual and threatening.

“All you kids from Lima peak in high school; congratulations on the best you could do,” Jeff remarks, eyes cast darkly at Kurt.

“Well, that’s not very nice.”

“Kurt, drop it.”

Kurt turns to look at Blaine then, shocked to find him seething. "Not that you and I need something new to fight about, but how are you defending him in this situation?”

Blaine steps in close for his harsh whisper to assault Kurt’s ear. “You’re embarrassing me.”

Kurt steps back, all his hurt pooled into a crooked smile. “We wouldn’t want that now would we?”

Blaine is this infuriatingly bright ball of sunshine, for all his best and worst qualities. When he shines, he dazzles, and all you wanna do is soak up the rays and bask in his glory, but hell if it isn’t loathsome to watch the world revolve around him.

He’s a people-pleaser, polite to a fault, oblivious of his own charm. He longs to fit in, sours when he doesn’t. Yet, he seems perfectly content to oust Kurt if it fucks with his reputation.

In a moment of oddly-timed domesticity, he straightens the tie looped through Blaine’s collar and somehow resists the urge to choke him with it. Brushing off imaginary dust from Blaine’s shoulders follows out of habit. Typically, this routine takes place after a Monday morning quickie before Blaine’s off to school for the week, but considering Blaine just fucked him anyway, it still kind of counts the same.

“I was your ride,” he tells Blaine as he backs away with a kiss to the hand and a clumsy bow. “But if you still want to come home this weekend, I’m sure you can figure it out.”

“Kurt,” Blaine says in that way that claws at Kurt’s stupid, useless heart, but Kurt is done and gone and Blaine can kiss his fuckable ass goodbye.

He’s a grown adult goddammit; if he wants to cry, he can do so whenever and wherever the mood strikes. Except he doesn’t want to cry now. Certainly not in front of a school chock-full of kids already looking down on him. Squaring his shoulders doesn’t stop the pressure from building behind his eyes or the few tears that escape, but it makes him feel a little better, a little less like the rug was just pulled out from under him.

Fuck it.

Chapter Text

There’s a photograph on the mantle of the Anderson’s fireplace – plenty of them, actually, but one that always makes Kurt smile. A photo he was coerced into taking when he stumbled upon a Stepford family clusterfuck in the Anderson living room one afternoon.

Cooper usually styles himself however he thinks it will get him laid: nice but not precise. His ass looks great in a pair of dark wash jeans, but the likelihood of them ever getting washed are slim to none unless his mother intervenes. Real catch, that one.

Mama Anderson was blessed with genes from the Philippines; from what Kurt can tell of past evidence, the woman hasn’t aged a day in decades. Blaine once told him that other parents used to assume she was his sister when she picked him up at school. Popping out two munchkins before nineteen has that effect. It took Kurt a while to decipher why those memories have a hold on Blaine, and when he did, he stopped pushing for Blaine to invite his friends to mingle with hoodlums he calls bros. Lesson of the day: Blaine gets embarrassed easily.

Blaine grew up in Westerville, not Lima, but Kurt gets it – the urge to punch a brick wall at the sound of whispers and muffled laughter – because whether with lobster or Lunchables, Ohio’s favorite side dish is talking shit. It messed the kid up, contributes to the gelled-up, poster boy thing he’s got happening.

Kurt grew up being the kid people talked about directly; that’s still the case, but he brushes it off. Surrounding himself with others equally as unimpressed by small-minded bullshit has afforded him a certain level of pride in his peculiarities. Kurt doesn’t get tripped up on the same labels others try roping him into.

If Burt gave him the option, Kurt wouldn’t change a thing about his mechanic chic look – even though he often jokes that there’s a part of his soul that dies seeing so much flannel exist in one person’s closet. Individuality is of high value to Kurt; blending in, for the sake of self-preservation is no way to be alive. For him.

For Blaine, he knows life has led down tracks, quiet and deserted, and beat out factors beyond Blaine’s control, told him to take the bleeding pieces and bury them deep.

Blaine is stronger than Kurt often gives him credit for, has fight in him that knocks Kurt for a loop sometimes, but Blaine is sweet and gentle and it costs him something to choose between acting on his own benefit and someone else’s. It’s not insincerity that drives Blaine to button up and slap a bowtie on his insecurities; if anything, his carefully-planned appearance is a small act of defiance, just this side of over-the-top to make you question what’s underneath. Still though, Blaine hates his curls because some schoolyard shit-for-brains called him “broccoli-head” throughout first grade. He masks his disdain with decorum because he’s been on the wrong side of confrontation. He wears the scars left from skin slammed down at concrete and gravel and he trades in his dignity for security and calls his homophobic grandparents every week and sends family photos every Christmas because they pay for him to be safe at Dalton. Blaine politely ignores the “even though you’re a queer” trailing their regards.

Blaine is prim and proper, and proud of it. But so often, Kurt sees hints of the edges he’s sanded to be a square on this joyously round planet.

If Kurt had to choose an Anderson parent to be embarrassed of, Matty Cakes would take the crown hands down. Sure, hearing your friends say your mom is a MILF is embarrassing on a multitude of levels – not the least of which is realizing you’ve befriended people who unironically say “MILF” – but Tess rocking the hot body she continually earns with extra-healthy habits isn’t all that shameful. Especially in comparison to the epically hot mess that is Matthew Anderson.

In the two years Kurt has known the Andersons, no less than fifty separate instances have been scarred into Kurt’s retinas involving Matt’s propensity for denying the importance of a sturdy belt and the subsequent flashing of one seriously hairy asscrack that simply does not bode well for Cooper and Blaine’s futures. And the man just doesn’t give a flying rat’s ass about it. Any time Mr. A catches the look of utter disgust on Kurt’s face, he begins a strip tease that prompts Kurt to retch. Kurt would really rather he didn’t, but Matt’s walked in on Kurt in varying stages of undress himself – and usually with one or the other of his sons, so it sort of evens out.

Blaine being the only one of the Andersons to make it a daily point to be presentable, it was a shock to walk in and see Tess, Matt, and Cooper squeezed onto the couch and dressed for an afternoon at the country club, early last December. There was a tripod set up across from the couch and Kurt had a lot of questions. Then Blaine came downstairs, his nervous hands plucking at the hem of his sweater, as surprised to see Kurt as Kurt was surprised to see the rest of the family.

“So… this is a thing that’s happening.”

And Blaine looked away, smiling down at the floor.

“What exactly is happening here?” Kurt asked of anyone with an answer to give.

They all looked at Blaine. Cooper rolled his eyes, Tess smirked into the coffee mug Blaine quickly took away from her to place out of frame, and Matt responded casually, “What makes you ask?”

Even without a straight answer, Kurt found himself at the helm of this sinking ship, trying to get everyone else on par with Blaine so they were actually all smiling in the same direction for the two fucking seconds it takes for a camera to do its job. But of course, Cooper loves screwing with Blaine, and Blaine gets so serious, and Matt and Tess are no help when they’re both doing bunny ears over the other’s head.

The increasingly forlorn look on Blaine’s face was already breaking Kurt’s heart and he’d only taken one photo. He stepped out from behind the camera, all business and attitude, loving the mutual looks of fright all but Blaine shared. “Alright, Cleavers. Here’s how it’s gonna go,” he began.

Cooper earned himself a threat to release every photo Kurt could find of his bad side – cue Cooper’s gasp of horror – should he ever pursue that acting career he wouldn’t shut up about. With Mr. and Mrs. A, he grabbed the culprits responsible for those dreaded bunny ears and bit them each in turn. To their speechlessness, Kurt only raised an eyebrow with the implication he’d do so again if necessary. With Blaine, he blew his boy a kiss on his way back to the camera, with a cheeky thumbs up once he got there.

The second picture Kurt took that day featured the dropped jaws of the elder Andersons, the most unnaturally precise posture he’s ever seen from Cooper, and the heated stare from Blaine that was ultimately a sign of the hours to follow. The next few were as normal as normal gets in posed family photos. Blaine picked one he was satisfied to mail to his grandparents, as Kurt later learned, and the Andersons were free to switch back into their jeans and sweats and lose the belts.

Blaine had led Kurt upstairs, pulled them into his bedroom and closed the door behind them. He kissed Kurt then and thanked him softly. Kurt kissed him back and said, “Your family is insane.” And then Blaine was laughing until he couldn’t stand, flopping back onto his bed and holding himself ‘round the middle. Kurt only watched by the door, propped his elbow on Blaine’s dresser and waited for the giggles to die down.

“God, did you see their faces? You- you bit my parents, Kurt.” He did do that..

“Oops.” Kurt joined Blaine on the bed, pushing him out of the way and snatching a pillow to curl into.

“We are so not the Cleavers, Kurt.”

No shit. Kurt shrugged. “I’m still gonna call you Beaver.”

Kurt swallowed Blaine’s very adamant protests with persuasive tactics using fingers and lips until Blaine relented, permitting Kurt to call him anything he wanted if he would just – ‘fuck, Kurt. Oh my god.’

It’s the second photo Kurt took that day which sits upon the Anderson’s mantle. It stares back at him now, in it a completely different Blaine than he left on the steps of Dalton this afternoon.

Matt is in the kitchen, pulling together a plate of leftovers though Kurt insisted he’s not hungry. Tess rests with her head on Kurt’s shoulder like he’s going to run away if she doesn’t hold him here. He won’t. This is his family, too. They were his before Blaine ever was. His little Beaver, the last to welcome him into the fold. Still it feels like it should be awkward to be in this house without him, like he and Blaine are coming up on something awful and sides will emerge and those closest to them will have to choose one or the other. That’s not what he wants, though. He wants this, wants to waltz into this house as easily as his own and not get caught in the rainstorm of tension overhead. All Kurt wants is to be on Blaine’s side and to know Blaine’s on his.

“Are you spending the night?” Matt asks, coming in with a plate of food and setting it on the coffee table.

“Blaine’s getting a ride in the morning,” Tess adds with a hint of amusement.

Kurt ignores the teasing from the parents of the boy he stranded two hours away. “Had you gotten him a less shitty car, it wouldn’t have broken down already. Then he could drive himself.”

“Don’t be surly.” Tess nudges him in the side, laughing.

“Don’t be mad if I drop crumbs on you,” Kurt says, reaching around her for a piece of breaded chicken and giving it a little shake in her direction. Tess moves out of the way, slapping back at him. Right into his brand new piercing. “Mother fuck!” he screeches, cupping a hand over his, right now, very sensitive nipple.

Matt clues in first, laughing while Tess has gone into full-blown mother hen mode. “Stop,” Kurt grits out, pushing her away and groaning in pain. In one smooth move, Kurt rids himself of his t-shirt, and then finally Tess knows what happened. And then she’s biting her lip to keep from laughing too.

“Hilarious,” Kurt comments. “Look, I’ll stay the night. Seeing as you’ll try to kill me if I leave. Fuck. That really hurts.” Kurt pulls up off the couch, taking his plate with him as he goes in search of some jammies.

Miss Kitty is sleeping on the bottom step when Kurt rounds the corner to start up the stairs. She hisses at him, but he picks her up anyway, petting her soft fluffiness. “At least you won’t laugh at me,” he whispers, but she wriggles herself free then and he flips her off. A cat. He’s just flipped off a cat. It’s a weird day.

He’s already in Blaine’s room, checking his piercing-slash-injury in the mirror when he realizes how desperately he does not want to be in this room. Back in the hallway, he thinks of grabbing clothes to wear for the night from Cooper’s room, but anything Cooper deems clean is questionable at best. Instead, he deviates to Mr. and Mrs. A’s room, shamelessly rifling through their drawers for sweats and a t-shirt because they keep the air conditioning too cool and it’s impossible to sleep in his skivvies unless Blaine is there clinging to Kurt like a little koala.

What he goes downstairs with is decidedly unhelpful in combating the cold, but it feels like payback for the slap to his nipple. Tess just snorts though, used to Kurt’s – antics, they could be called. He flounces over to the couch, the pink fabric of Mrs. A’s baby doll nighty carrying on the air.

“These are a little snug,” he says, snapping at the waistband of confiscated boyshorts.

“They’re yours now. Your problem.”

When Cooper comes home, reeking of pot, hair and clothing all askew, Matt and Tess have already gone off to bed. Cooper does a double take in Kurt’s direction, but just winks and reignites the running joke that Kurt is working his way through the Anderson family, bedroom by bedroom.

“Yeah well, nothing wrong with having goals.”

Kurt follows Cooper up to his room, invites himself into the bed, and ignores the exposing of flesh he was once all too familiar with as Cooper sheds his rumpled clothes and lays down beside him. It’s like it was before Blaine, only innocent now. No risk of meeting in the middle and tumbling around until they’re tuckered out.

There’s so much that’s familiar in this house. Memories born before Blaine would even give Kurt the time of day, but now his ties to the Andersons are interwoven with his ties to Blaine and it’s harder to sleep knowing how fragile they are. Knowing if he pushes Blaine, he’ll fall down too. Knowing that the threads are so weak they may even break.

So he lays next to Cooper’s passed out form and lets today become tomorrow’s problem.

Chapter Text

Kurt’s just waking when he hears the clomping of footsteps up the stairs. It takes him a second to process whose bed he’s in, but snoring and the grotesque scent of stale weed and last night’s alcohol on Cooper’s morning breath are quick to catch him up to speed.

Something close to nauseated, he rolls out of bed, grabs Cooper’s deodorant and sprays it in the general direction of the bed.

“Take a shower,” he yawns, kicking at the bed. Cooper lets out a grunt in-between snores and carries on sleeping.

Kurt’s not mentally prepared to see Blaine at the moment, not dressed in his mother’s lingerie and still barely conscious. Yesterday was telling, and Kurt is steadily growing more pissed at the thought that Blaine would rebuff him so cruelly. He feels off-center, regretting the decision to stay the night, like he’s walked into enemy territory with no weapons and no escape. Except Blaine’s not his enemy. Or he’s not supposed to be.

He wants a good day. A day where it doesn’t feel like his relationship is slipping through his fingers the harder he tries to hold on. Where it doesn’t feel like he’s the only one trying.

Blaine only comes home for weekends, and only if he has the time to spare. He never has the time to spare anymore with his finals looming on the horizon. Kurt’s been holding out for summer to come, for a chance to latch onto the coattails of last year’s excitement and ride the high. Now, he’s done with school and Blaine will be finished in a few weeks, but Kurt doesn’t think they’ll survive until then.

The look on Blaine’s face when Kurt pops into his bedroom doorway does little to reassure him. Kurt thinks if Blaine were alone, he’d be hands all over Kurt, but next to him is Sebastian and Hunter. Hunter, Kurt doesn’t know well, but Sebastian and Kurt are thick as thieves – fast and accidental friends from their first encounter. Sebastian has no shame about checking out the goods on display, and he wouldn’t spread the news around school that Blaine’s alleged “bad boy” boyfriend dresses way down around the house because Sebastian doesn’t give the slightest of fucks about anything but himself. Kurt likes his candor, if not always the smarmy attitude attached.

Hunter might, though. As far as Kurt knows anyway. So that explains Blaine’s horrified expression.

“Hey, Beav,” he greets. “Hey, boys.”

“Nice look, Hummel. You dress up like that for the admissions board at FIT?”

“Mmhmm,” Kurt responds coolly. “They respect my bold choices.”

“Very bold. Practically flamboyant.”

“Fuck yourself, Smythe.”

“Aww. Love you too, cupcake.”

“Absolutely do not, under any circumstances, call me cupcake ever again.”

“Oh, but you’re so doughy.”

Kurt rolls his eyes, pulls Blaine’s hand from where it’s rubbing circles into his temple and leads them both out of the room.

Kurt shoves Blaine into the bathroom, shuts the door for privacy. He hops on the sink counter and watches Blaine slink against the wall across from him. “We have to talk about Rachel.”

It’s the cupcake comment from Sebastian that reminded him of getting home after his detour to Columbus for a piercing like treatment for his woes, to discover the icing on top of the shit cake that was his trip to Dalton.

The sugar and sprinkles was walking in the house only to be ambushed by the sight of his father and Carole making out on the couch. He used to love that couch. Then, not seconds later was he victim to another assault on his senses: the sound of Rachel Berry’s squawking. He loves Finn, he really does, but his choice of girlfriend really leads to questions about his sanity. Nails on a chalkboard are preferable to Rachel’s shrieking, which is all he knows of her speaking voice since it’s her default setting when dealing with Kurt.

Kurt heard the two of them yammering over one another on their way downstairs and he attempted to make a quick exit, but Rachel’s death grip snatched his sleeve, unwelcome as a herpes outbreak and just as annoying.

“If you wanna keep that hand, you’d better get it the hell off me, cupcake,” he told her.

“Blaine –”

Joy of joys, wonder of wonders. Not only is Rachel dating Kurt’s brother, she’s his boyfriend’s bestie. She’d be so much less annoying if she just – didn’t exist. But no. He gets it from all angles. In the worst way. It’s not surprising she’d want to talk about Blaine, but, “You wanting to talk about Blaine, and us having to talk about Blaine are two separate things, Rachel.”

He’d sidestepped her then, crossing the street to find sanctuary in the Anderson home – safer with Blaine’s relatives than Rachel – ignoring whatever words trailed after him. No way, no how will he ever be paying patronage to the Rachel Berry School of Overdramatics.

Kurt can only imagine how the conversation went as Rachel relayed the moment to Blaine – because they’ve no doubt talked about it by now. Blaine swears Rachel has redeemable qualities, and it’s his business to think so, but Kurt has no interest in knowing either way. She’s just another point of contention between them.

“Kurt, let’s not fight.”

“I don’t want a fight. I just want you to call off your watchdog.”

“Done.” Blaine’s tone is absent. His eyes are glued to the shiny new piercing poking out of Kurt’s nighty. “This is new.”

“It’s your mother’s.”

Blaine pushes off the wall and comes to nuzzle into Kurt’s neck, ignoring Kurt’s teasing and fingering the lacy garment aside. Blaine is very tactile, like he’s been starved for touch and Kurt’s his first meal. Every time. At this point, it may be what’s holding them together.

“When did you get it?” Blaine prods at Kurt’s nipple, the pain slight but prickling nonetheless.

“Yesterday.”

Blaine draws back, looks ready to say something, and then swallows it down. He knows Kurt’s habits, knows Kurt is running out of places to pierce for when times get tough. Still, he just zeroes in on the lust crackling in the space between them. Kurt wonders if he should push, make Blaine spit up the words he’s forced away. But Blaine’s tongue is running up his neck, and it soothes quells the rising storm well enough that Kurt can let himself be lost to the dizzy feeling of desire.

:: ::

When Blaine shows up in Quinn’s backyard later that night, his presence is a surprise Kurt’s too drunk to question. The party just sort of evolved and Kurt considered inviting Blaine, but god it just felt so much nicer to have a night off from the bullshit.

But Blaine is here now, and Kurt is a happy drunk tonight. Without hesitation, he wraps his arms around Blaine’s shoulders and kisses him rough and dirty, sloppy for all the tequila he’ll be throwing up in the morning.

Blaine kisses back with as much fervor and Kurt thinks distantly that he tastes the flavor of liquors he hasn’t downed tonight. He wonders then how long Blaine has been here, how long it was before he came looking for Kurt – that is, if he even sought Kurt out and they didn’t just drunkenly stumble into each other.

Too much thinking.

Sex is a crutch, but at least limping their way along is better than falling apart.

Kurt pulls Blaine around to the side of the house, not thinking very clearly when he pulls down Blaine’s pants and starts blowing him – a return favor for their bathroom shenanigans this morning. Anyone can see them if they care to look, but Blaine’s not bothered, a hand in Kurt’s hair and a stream of obscenities that make Kurt proud. Yeah, he’s drunk.

The hand in Kurt’s hair tries yanking him back and Kurt knows Blaine is close already, so he pumps his fist, hollows his cheeks, and holds them together the only way he knows how.

It’s not right. It doesn’t feel as sturdy a crutch as it did this morning. Feels more like treating cancer with a Band-Aid.

Kurt stands, rasps “I’m thirsty,” and stumbles away from Blaine as fast as he can.

Blaine finds him again later in a horde of Cheerios, dancing around to half-assed routines from his stint on the squad. When Blaine pulls him away, the smile on Kurt’s face twists into something born of sadness.

“It’s harder than I thought it would be.” Kurt slows their moves to a beat outside of the music, his limbs overwhelmingly lethargic when the dread he’s drank away creeps back in.

“What is?” Blaine strains over the music and chatter, the liveliness of the crowd that mocks them in merriment.

“Holding onto you.”

“I’m right here, Kurt.”

“And just what, pray tell, are you doing here?”

Blaine stalls their movement, holds Kurt close, but looks so sad. “Do you not want me here?”

Kurt howls in laughter, peal after painful peal ripping from within.

“You’re mad,” Blaine observes plainly. Oh, poor, oblivious Beaver.

“In more ways than one,” Kurt mutters, walking away to find air. “God,” he breathes, his mind on a roll with the anger roiling inside him. “I am pissed. Pissed, Blaine. I mean – Do you even know what it’s like to have you boyfriend – your fucking boyfriend of all people – be embarrassed of you? To be told you’re dirtying up the ivory shores of his paradise.” He’s mocking Blaine now and he can’t bring himself to care.

“Give it up, Kurt. You purposely picked a fight with Jeff.”

“And I’d purposely do it all over again.”

“So what are you saying?”

“I’m saying,” I don’t know. No, I do know. I just don’t like it. “I’m saying that yes, Blaine. I am mad. And I’m mad that you can’t fathom a single thought as to why.”

‘Then tell me!”

“How are you so dense?”

“Insulting me won’t get us anywhere.”

“We don’t get anywhere anymore anyway. Except third base.” Kurt swings his imaginary baseball bat. He digs the heels of his palms into his eyelids and sighs like the breath in his body is toxic. “Just – just go home, Beaver. Just – go home. You don’t want a fight. I don’t want a fight. That’s only preventable if we’re not in the same room. Or at the same party. If we’re not together.” He kicks at the ground, sobering up and fighting it off. “Go see if Rachel can explain it to you. We can reconvene in the morning.” He claps his hands together. “Break.”

Chapter Text

Kurt was raised on the clank of metal and the stench of motor oil. Hummel Tires & Lube is as much a fixture of Kurt’s childhood as the books his mother read him each night before bed and the swing set in his backyard where he scraped his knees jumping off and tried all over to stick the landing in ceaseless cycles.

His father doesn’t say a word when Kurt drags himself into the garage, freshly showered and fed, but no less hung over than he had been when he woke up floating on a plastic dolphin in Quinn’s pool. Kurt gives the bag in his hand a little shake, passing Burt by to stick it in the fridge in the break room. He grabs a stool and pulls it up beside where his father continues working under the hood of an old Camaro.

Burt remains quiet, giving Kurt an occasional look clearly stating, “Anytime you wanna spit it out, kid – go right ahead.”

Kurt doesn’t know if he does though. If he’s ready to let his dad help him unload the weight on his shoulders; Burt has a way of simplifying the complicated messes that spring up in Kurt’s mind. Something in Kurt must be ready. Something led him into work on his day off to sit beside Burt like he did as a child, when he’d draw pictures of the cars that came into the shop and hand them to his father, only to wrinkle his nose at the grease stains left on the edges of the white sheets and draw them all over again. Now he doesn’t mind the grease so much. He gets his own hands dirty, finds comfort in the connection it draws to his father.

When Burt’s done and wiping his hands on a rag he keeps tucked in his back pocket, Kurt lifts his propped head from where he’d been falling asleep, dizzy with the familiar sights and sounds and smells of the shop, and the remnants of his hangover. He pulls himself up in a daze with a nod from Burt towards his office.

Kurt claims the big, comfy, padded, spinning chair as his own, sitting down and opening the drawer where he knows Burt keeps a “hidden” stash of candy, pulling out a lollipop and twirling around until his father steps in closing the door behind him.

Burt pulls the sub Kurt made him from the plastic bag he carried it in with, unwrapping it with a bemused expression and handing half to Kurt. Kurt smiles, a goofy thing that splits his face in two, feeling every bit the child he’d been a decade ago, weekends spent with his father while his mom flew off with friends to escape the humdrum habits of suburbia, her youth a badge of honor ‘til the day she died.

Kurt looks like his mother, the same hair, the same nose and eyes. The same inclination to decorate his flesh in pretty metal and ink. Kurt thinks the only reason Burt signed his consent before Kurt turned eighteen was the reminder of Elizabeth. Burt sees Kurt as his mother’s son, sees the penchant for troublemaking and the strength of will, and sometimes looks at Kurt like he’s seen a ghost.

Kurt has his mother’s old CDs and cassettes piled on the shelves of his bookcase, passed down prematurely, before they grew antiquated. He listens to the songs that stole his mother’s heart when she was his age and blaring them from her car stereo. Tokens of another life. Pieces of his mother he shifts around like a jigsaw puzzle to fill in the blanks her death created.

He remembers her like that: in fractured pieces. In the perfume she wore and Polaroid keepsakes. In the sunflowers that bloomed across her forearm and the freckles he inherited. In ratty old band tees repurposed into pillowcases and a dependency on caffeine.

In the books she read him and the music she loved.

Kurt is as much of his mother as he can manage without the chance to truly know her. But Kurt knows that it’s his father who holds the most influence over him. Burt, who makes dad jokes at every opportunity and looks way too proud of himself when he sneak attacks a Dutch oven, but puts up with Kurt’s bitching about bugs and dirt and the lack of civilization after insisting on family camping trips, and indulges . Burt, who welcomes Kurt without question or hesitation when Kurt slinks into the shop and sits by his side just to be close. Burt, whose love and acceptance know no bounds. The kind of man Kurt loves looking up to.

Burt – with tendency to stay quiet until his thoughts are formed into words that will pack the biggest punch – is gruff and intimidating to outsiders. To Kurt, he’s home. Humble and protective and heroic in his ordinariness.

Kurt bites into his half of the sub, knowing his father won’t wait much longer to ask him why he’s here and stuffing his mouth to delay that conversation.

Unsurprisingly, the question is out of Burt’s mouth seconds after his last swallow.

“Maybe I just miss you, dad.”

“Bullshit.”

“I do.”

“Okay,” Burt nods. “That’s not what’s eating you.”

“I’m – nervous about some things.”

“Okay.”

It’s the last summer Kurt will spend in Lima, the last chance for goodbyes he’s not ready to make. He’s ready to leave Lima in the dust, but not his father. Not Carole, not Finn. Not Cooper, nor Tess, nor Matt. Not Quinn, not Puck. Yes, Rachel. Not Blaine.

Not the swing set in the backyard, nor the cassettes crowding his bookcase.

The people he holds close are the only tolerable things in this one-horse town. In three months, he’ll leave them all behind for the bright lights and fast pace of New York City. The entirely undesirable drama with Blaine exacerbates the anxiety thrumming at the fringes every time he thinks those few months ahead.

There was an assumption when he and Blaine started dating that it would be over with the changing of the seasons, that Kurt would bust his nut in Blainers and be done. Even amongst Kurt’s friends and family, there was seemingly endless, completely unnecessary teasing that it was Kurt – Lima’s hometown harlot – who’d taken a bite too big for even him to swallow. That Blaine was too much of a good ol’ boy to get down and dirty with the likes of Kurt for too long.

Hell, maybe they were doomed from the start, but it sure as shit doesn’t rest on Kurt’s shoulders alone. Even if his share of the burden is so heavy he can barely stand upright.

“New York will be strange – without everyone.”

“Who’s everyone?”

“Oh my god. Just – everyone, dad.”

“Kiddo, I know we don’t talk much about boys.”

“Guh-fucking-roan.”

“Cut it out.”

Kurt slouches down in his seat, but bites his tongue making a show of it for Burt’s benefit.

“Thank you.”                                          

“Will I hurt myself if I roll my eyes too hard?”

“Kurt.”

“Sorry.”

And he is sorry. He’s not actively trying to push his father’s buttons and isolate the one person who always been on his side. At least, not at the moment – the next time Burt builds a pyramid of industrial-size boxes of condoms as a birthday present, all bets are off. Though, that was a fairly thoughtful gift. Blaine’s been one seriously eager Beaver about helping Kurt put them to use.

There’s a dropping feeling the longer the day goes on without any incoming texts from Blaine, worse for the reluctance at sending one himself.

“Is this about Blaine?”

“Bud, c’mon. Work with me here.”

“Yeah.”

“Okay.”

Then it’s Burt who waits. Talking to his dad has a tendency of making things feel final, helps him sort through the lies he tells himself and own up to the truth. This truth is too awful to admit, but every day it’s getting worse, growing stronger and it fucking hurts.

“I don’t think, um… I don’t think Blaine is happy with me.”

It’s a small admission, the tiny tip of an iceberg. And Kurt is the Titanic.

“Are you happy?”

“I thought so.”

“You guys fighting?”

“It’s always that or fucking these days.”

Burt huffs out a chuckle, looks at Kurt the way he does, like he’s suddenly remembered Kurt isn’t a little kid anymore. It’s unsettling, but Burt finally looks away, just shakes his head and sighs.

“Why are you coming to me and not him?”

Kurt shrugs, and it’s clearly not good enough given Burt’s raised eyebrow and tiny smirk.

“Kurt if you wanna come hang out all day with your old man, I’m not gonna be the one to stop you. But you can’t avoid all your problems and treat them like they’re resolved. You say you and Blaine are fighting all the time? You’re not happy? No one’s forcing you two together.”

“I love him.”

“That’s good. But loving someone doesn’t mean being with them is what’s best for you.”

“How am I supposed to know?”

“Can’t help you there, kiddo. Talking to Blaine is good place to start. Maybe keep your hands to yourselves while you do it; might be a distraction if your tongue’s in his mouth while you’re trying to talk. Hey, don’t roll your eyes. You’re the one who said you two are always having sex.”

“I said fucking.”

“Maybe that’s part of your problem.”

“No. I’m pretty sure that’s all that runs smoothly.”

:: ::

Kurt lays in bed, his phone discarded in the folds of his sheets. He locked himself in his room when he got home, started playing CDs pulled off his bookcase and hasn’t stopped since. He doesn’t share the same vigorous love for The Smiths his mother had, but he thinks he gets it. Thinks if he’d discovered the band for any other sake than holding onto his mother, he may still have found a reason to sing along.

Blaine hasn’t called, hasn’t come over. Kurt saw Rachel’s car parked across the street when he pulled into his driveway; he knows Blaine was home, but he couldn’t let his heart be broken with her there to watch and gloat. Because that’s what will happen the next time they’re alone. They’ll fight or they’ll fuck or both, and the last bit of hope Kurt has for them will be smothered in the smoke of crossfire either way.

A buzzing sounds from somewhere near Kurt’s feet. He assumes it’s Quinn telling him to get his ass to wherever the hell she is, knowing midnight passed a while ago. It’s not Quinn. Squinting against the harsh light of his phone’s screen, he sees the notification is from the young Mr. Anderson: truant suitor.

Kurt reads the text asking him to come outside, and his first thought is he has no time to prepare. He doesn’t have time to change out of his boxers or stifle his anger. With a blanket draped around his shoulders, he schleps downstairs.

Blaine’s sitting on the porch swing, shoulders hunched and head in his hands when Kurt steps outside.

“Fancy meeting you here.”

“Hey.”

“Let’s get to it, huh?” he says, plopping down beside Blaine.

“I’m not angry, Kurt.”

“I am. I’m pissed.”

“Dalton – Jeff, I’m sorry about him.”

Kurt gets up, too combustible at the moment. Deep breaths keep him from immediately ripping Blaine a new one, but they do nothing to truly calm him. He needs to be anywhere but on this fucking porch. When he speaks, it’s almost eerie how much darker and quiet the night becomes. His heartbeat runs a mile a minute, but his voice somehow remains steady.

“You’re sorry about Jeff.” It borders on a question, filled with vitriol and bewilderment. “You think I’m upset because some prep school twat thinks he has a say in who I am?”

“Kurt –”

“No, Blaine. Jeff is so far outside the issue right now. This is about us. And you.”

Blaine sits quietly while Kurt paces back and forth through the grass. Blaine’s dead silent and Kurt’s so busy fuming he doesn’t notice that they’re not arguing like usual. That there’s been no volleying of bullshit between them, just his anger tossed into the night and silence to consume it. He looks up then at Blaine, who’s prim and proper stature remains molded into something so untrue to his anger – because Kurt knows he has to be angry. He has to be – or what’s it all for?.

“Look at me, Blaine.”

Blaine’s sad eyes pull up to meet his, and Kurt just knows that it’s resignation that has tugged Blaine’s usually-smiling lips downward, folded his arms across his chest, and dimmed the sunshiny halo that surrounds him. Blaine made up his mind about how tonight would go before Kurt ever came outside. Who knows how long he’s been sitting on this decision.

“You called me out of my fucking house at midnight to break up with me.”

“I have to go back to school in the morning.” And Kurt snorts, because of-fucking-course – can’t disrupt any delicate timetables with the dissolution of something so menial.

“Right, yeah. Absolutely. The mere two hour distance and my newly wide-open schedule really don’t fucking jive well. We couldn’t have done this at any other moment. Perfect planning, Beav.”

“I don’t want to make you angrier.”

“Not possible.”

“You were right. We – together – we’re not… this isn’t working.”

“Fuck you.”

Blaine shakes his head, like Kurt’s anger has been somehow misdirected. “I don’t want to fight,” Blaine says, a sullen plea. Kurt is so achingly tired he can’t focus on more than one feeling at a time. Somewhere deep in the back of his mind, he feels pity and envy tumbling around together that Blaine is the one to do this. To call it what it is. But he’s hurt more than anything, and for a number of reasons – to start, the throwing in of the towel because as much as everyone thought Kurt would try clawing his way out of monogamy, he’s come around to it. He likes having someone on his mind who makes his stomach do that stupid fluttery thing and knowing it was mutual. Was.

Shaky legs carry him back inside, past Blaine who can sleep on the stoop for all he cares. They’re done, he’s not talking about this anymore. Answers be damned; Kurt can regret walking away tomorrow or some other time when he can breathe without feeling like his chest is caving in. Seeing Blaine so broken down and weary, not even trying to muster a little fighting spirit, killed the fight left in Kurt. They’re over; it’s done. What the point in yelling about it now?

Fuck it, he tries telling himself with not a single shred of success in biting back the tears that come.

Fuck.

Chapter Text

The next time Kurt sees Blaine, it’s after weeks of careful avoidance of the Anderson house. Cooper still comes over to get high and watch Toddlers & Tiaras, and he has his monthly Golden Girls weekend with Tess and Miss Kitty after assurances of Blaine staying in the dorms, but it’s all different now. Kurt’s sure he’s welcomed by every Anderson but Blaine, but he has not the slightest clue where he stands with Blaine. It makes his choices feel awkward and stilted, having to navigate around Blaine’s lingering presence while Blaine gets to hide away at school.

Kurt moped the first week. Until Puck came by with beer and porn at sunrise, saying “Dude, saw the news on Facebook. That’s rough.” He’s handed Kurt a DVD – which has curiosities about, but no desire to confirm, exactly how Puck came by having – that they most definitely did not fucking watch together, but Kurt appreciated the gesture. He also appreciated six a.m. beer and the incredible opportunity Puck handed him to absolutely ream him on every form of social media they share with friends. Not a gesture Puck appreciated, but he let it slide, probably just because Kurt stopped moping for a bit.

Quinn’s master plan was to give Kurt his own hideaway at her house, surrounded by his girls from the cheerleading squad. No one asked about Blaine or told him to cheer up when he soured and kicked around by himself on his friend, the inflatable dolphin. No one to console him, to fix him like a broken thing, for which he was certainly more grateful than for the horrendous porn Puck bestowed upon him. Sometimes there’s nothing to be done but to feel the hurt coursing through your veins ‘til it’s finished its laps and run off. Quinn’s become a queen of reinvention over the years; she’s good at spotting flaws in the masks others wear, good at hearing “I’m drowning” when Kurt says, “I’m fine.” That night, he slept like a baby, resolute in his reconfirmation that life goes on regardless of loss. So he doesn’t belong to Blaine anymore – he still belongs to Quinn and Santana and the rest of the Cheerios whom he’s held onto since his wayward days on the squad. He matters.

It’s Cooper who has bridged the gaps between Kurt-before-Blaine, Kurt-and-Blaine, and the mess Kurt’s been left with. Sweet, dumb, hella handsome Cooper who thinks offering a hand job will help Kurt feel better. In Cooper’s defense, his hand jobs are quite divine – with no small thanks to Kurt’s guidance. But as idiotic and inappropriate as it may be to consider sex with his brother’s ex – ‘it’s just bros helping bros, amigo’ – there’s a certain method to Cooper’s madness. Cooper doesn’t simply pull focus, he knocks it over the head and binds its wrists and ankles so it can’t run away before the show is over. He’s ridiculous, honestly. But earnestly so. And it’s impossible not to love the dipshit. Especially when Coop shows up one morning with coffee and the keys to his grandfather’s Aston Martin. Yet another question with a likely dubious answer at best, but thankfully Richard “Big Dick” Anderson is every bit the pretentious jackass Kurt swore he sounded like to Blaine because the car handles like a dream and it’s an extra special treat that he gets to rub his queer hands all over it.

When Blaine comes home for summer, Kurt is almost ready for it. Almost at ease with the idea that he’s still in love with someone who maybe doesn’t deserve it and who lives a thirty second walk away from him. It’s more than likely to become a mess, but maybe his magical “fuck it” powers will make a comeback.

Kurt braids Quinn’s hair, sitting in the grass on his front lawn while Puck and Finn and their meathead friends toss around a football. He knows Blaine is coming home today, he had breakfast with the Andersons before they headed off in separate cars to retrieve Blaine and all his things. He’d wanted to stay inside, give Blaine space, but Quinn kindly suggested he grow a pair and deal with the fact that their quarters are too damn close to pretend they can avoid each other all summer.

Blaine ignores him from the second he steps out of his mother’s car. Not that Kurt is trying to get his attention or anything, but if this is any indication of the coming months, New York City – with its skyscrapers and its population: eight million – is going to be like running naked through an boundless meadow for how claustrophobic he feels at the moment.

It’s unfinished between them. He walked away from the chance for clarification, mind too fuzzy with ache, and now he’s feeling the jagged edges, the splintered crack of their separation.

Cooper’s come and sat by Quinn, turning on the charm and failing miserably at impressing her. Blaine and all his bags and boxes have disappeared inside with his parents. Kurt’s wondering if it would be too much of an ambush if he just popped in for a little chat. Just to set things straight. Get the awkward out of the way all at once, so it doesn’t drag down the rest of summer.

It’s probably a bad idea, and the universe seems to think so too, because when he’s stepping off the curb to cross the street, a body slams into him, followed by a sickening snap in the ensuing silence. It’s Puck. Full weight falling on Kurt’s leg and jamming it between him and the curb. And yeah. This summer is shaping up to be just fucking perfect.

Chapter Text

A broken leg blows. Knowing he won’t be off crutches before he moves away blows even harder. They’ll be his number one accessory at design school. What joy! Puck is now officially his bitch, mostly just driving Kurt anywhere he wants to go, sometimes just riding in circles around the block while Kurt glares at him. If this summer is going to suck, he’s going to drag Puck into this vaccuum with him.

Nurse Carole is up his ass making sure he’s not exerting himself, which is just about impossible to do when he’s practically bedridden. He’s happy there’s someone in the house with the skillset to handle his injury, but holy shit there’s only so much mothering he can take before it’s smothering.

Finn somehow thinks Kurt broke his whole personality in the fall. He looks at Kurt like a child in need, smiles like he’s in on a secret when Kurt threatens him with bodily harm should he offer to help Kurt take a piss one more time. The real secret is that Finn can be a real fucking dunce. He’s smart – enough, intuitive about people, but there are truly times Kurt wonders how he’s survived life this long. Kurt’s glad to be off his painkillers; he’s less susceptible this way.

“Give him a break, Kurt,” his father advises, a warning barked behind his words.

“Yeah, okay. Wake up with a towering ogre looking like he wants to swaddle you and see how you feel about it then.”

Burt seemed ripe to become the biggest offender in infantilizing Kurt when he joined them at the hospital. Then he saw the medical bill and jumped on the “kill Puckerman” train with Kurt. Still, he keeps close to Kurt, whose privacy has been stripped away by the shift from his upstairs bedroom to the first floor living room. Burt reads his Car and Driver while Kurt relearns his sewing machine using the opposite foot on the pedal, and occasionally looks up and pretends to care at all about Project Runway reruns.

Kurt is using his immobility as an opportunity to get ahead of the upcoming school year, sketching to build his portfolio and scrolling through blogs of current FIT students. Puck’s been forced into being his human mannequin for no other reason than to remind him who’s in charge; Cooper’s bitter about being booted from the position. Blaine, though cute as a button, was always too short. Quinn models for him voluntarily, always getting to keep the clothes afterward because he’s just practicing with her, keeping his options open. At least, he can be productive in his agonizing, sexless summer.

Kurt hasn’t seen Blaine since the afternoon of his tackling. Rachel makes sure to drop his name anytime Kurt is within earshot, though. How sweet she is to keep him updated on information he didn’t ask for. Kurt knows he’s been too hard on Finn for simply caring about him, but if there’s anything that makes him question his brother’s sanity, it’s his relationship with the troll princess.

Rachel is one of those believing that Kurt is a bad seed. And she made it her personal mission to try keeping him from planting that seed in Blaine while they were together. She’s over the house more often, previously under the same impression as Finn that Kurt has lost his bite with the full use of his leg. She learned quickly his teeth are still intact when she sat down beside him one day with the intention of having a heart-to-heart about Blaine. She hasn’t tried again since. Instead, she hauls Finn into the kitchen where she can be overheard and suggests introducing Blaine to her friend Gavroche and maybe double dating. Finn, to his credit, always calls her out on being “way uncool, Rach” which might be why Kurt considers letting him off the hook about his hovering habits.

Kurt’s seeing what he can do about convincing his father to install a chairlift so he can hide when she’s over. No progress on that front yet, but he’s becoming less clumsy with his crutches, so he can at least hobble across the street to hang out with Papa Anderson, home most days since he’s only teaching a web class this summer. He keeps hoping he’ll run into Blaine, but the kid’s either always out or purposely avoiding him. Or always out in order to avoid him. Probably that.

Blaine volunteers his time and talent to children, pets, and the elderly all year round. He’s just the Beaver June and Ward always wanted, and it kind of drives Kurt up the wall that he can’t stop thinking he’s lost a real catch. But – fuck that noise – Kurt’s a catch, too. He’s surly and sarcastic, but he’s driven and loyal and – shit, man – he likes old people too.

He’s lying on the Anderson’s couch, watching TV with Miss Kitty atop his belly, waiting for Matt to come home from a run to the post office when he hears Blaine’s pattern of footsteps coming downstairs. And then he hears the sharp intake of breath and the sigh that follows.

“Hey.”

“Kurt. What are you doing here?”

“Your dad’s making that salad pizza thing for lunch,” he responds, and Blaine looks anything but satisfied with it.

“It’s weird that you’re here.”

“Far as I can tell, I’m here more often than you are. It’s weird seeing you.”

Blaine turns back toward the stairs, aborting whatever plan he’d had before seeing his ex-boyfriend sprawled out on his couch. It’s too fucking awkward to go from being somebody’s someone to being their nothing. It’s too false. Blaine still matters to Kurt; unless Kurt never mattered to Blaine, they shouldn’t be averse to spending an entire minute together without wanting to run away.

“Blaine, wait,” he groans pulling himself up to sit. He places both hands beneath the knee of his bad leg and hauls it over the edge of his seat, grateful when he looks up to see Blaine is still standing by. Blaine eyes twitch away from staring at the decorated plaster cast, littered in writing and art ranging from disturbingly perverse to genuinely artistic, courtesy of his friends.

Kurt has taken to wearing shorts, not as if he has much choice – they’re the most comfortable bottoms other than Blaine that he can get in and out of easily. His love of wearing skinnies took a hit the same time he did. He pinched a pair of yoga shorts Quinn left at his house and wears them as often as he can clean them. But today, he’s stuck in a pair he had to construct himself because men’s shorts are seriously lacking in style. They’re long enough to cover the tattoo wrapped around Kurt’s thigh, but Blaine’s eyes still flicker to the spot where he’s pressed his adept fingers teasingly into the warped piano keys before he pulls them up to meet Kurt’s.

“We should talk.”

“Little late for that.”

“You’ve been avoiding me. Which I get. But this is stupid.”

“It’s not stupid, it just hurts.”

“It’s stupid.”

“Then if it’s stupid, why talk about it?”

“So we can get past the stupid and be – friends. Or cordial, at least.”

“This isn’t cordial enough?”

Beav,” he groans, quickly fed up with having to climb the wall Blaine’s putting between them. “Work with me.”

“We’re not together anymore.”

“No shit, really?”

Blaine huffs, and goes back upstairs where Kurt can’t chase him without hurting himself. Not that he’d be in any better a position with Blaine if he could risk the stairs, but it would be nice if he could try. It’d be really nice if he could even just scratch the permanent itch beneath his cast because, miraculously, Blaine has turned out to be the least of his troubles.

:: ::

Kurt’s drunk on wine he tsk tsk’d Mr. A about while tapping his glass for another round. It’s late, dark outside and cooling off now the sun has gone down.

Blaine is trailing behind him, an unwilling volunteer to help him get home without passing out or falling over. They don’t speak. Blaine doesn’t touch him, lets him work his way along with a crutch beneath each arm, watching closely to see if he’s needed. Finally stepping in when Kurt falters sideways halfway through the street.

It’s a quicker journey, then, with Blaine carrying most of Kurt’s weight. Blaine has a lot of muscle packed into his tiny frame, something Kurt will miss until the ache to repair the damage between them has gone. If it ever goes.

“I miss you,” he whispers into Blaine’s slicked back hair.

“You’re drunk.”

He is. But he’s leaning on Blaine and feeling nostalgic, remembering the night last year when Blaine walked him to the door after dinner and a movie – a proper date, their first. Blaine had lingered in the doorway, bashful and smiling, eyes glued to the wooden planks below him. Kurt had laughed, tilted Blaine’s face up with a finger beneath his chin, and said, “Hey, chicken shit. If you want to kiss me, get a move on already.” And Blaine bit his lip, unsure for a fraction of a second and then he surged forward. They’d stumbled backward, too much energy from Kurt’s little ball of light. “Jesus, Blaine. I think you broke my teeth,” inspired a look so broken Kurt had to kiss it away, bury the first attempt under new successes.

“I miss you when I’m sober, too.”

Blaine helps him up the steps, asks sincerely if he needs help getting inside, hears “no” and backs off. It’s nice not to be treated like a child or an invalid. He has to fend off the urge to kiss Blaine. The strings that bound them together hang limply in the absence of purpose, but Kurt feels acutely aware of their severed existence.

Blaine says a quiet goodnight, his eyes as resigned as they’d been the last time they were here. Though, this time he’s the one to leave Kurt behind at the door.

Chapter Text

Kurt’s neighborhood is average suburbia in all the ways it’s assumed to be. Any given weekend, parents are out mowing lawns, kids play in the street, and barbeques are open-invitation.

Matt Anderson is a master at the grill. For that reason alone, shindigs at the Andersons are his favorite. The free booze and their tendency to look the other way when Kurt chugs it down don’t suck either. Tonight though, he’s sober. He’s gotten a handle on lugging around his bum leg; he’s not looking to lose that grasp.

It started out as an ordinary enough afternoon, with Matt and Tess as hosts. Then night came and it fell into the hands of Kurt and Cooper. It was meant to be a small thing. Most of the neighbors had returned home, so Kurt called up Quinn and Puck, and Cooper called up some in-state college friends to come hang out by the fire pit. But Quinn called all her Cheerios, and Puck brought in the footballers, and they brought friends. And now it’s an outright jamboree.

Kurt saw Rachel skulking around with Blaine, who managed to keep from crossing Kurt’s path as often as possible all day. But she’s off eating Finn’s face and calling it a kiss, and Blaine’s nowhere to be found.

“Hey, Betty.”

Kurt turns around and comes face-to-face with the physical embodiment of Craigslist who somehow thinks referring to Kurt as ‘Betty White’ is at all an insult.

“Bas,” he nods, batting at Sebastian with a crutch. There’s a group of boys behind him who Kurt assumes are fellow Dalton attendees. “Who the hell invited you?” he scoffs with no real venom.

“Who do you think?” Sebastian smirks. Blaine, he thinks at first, but then he reconsiders.

Santana. Their friendship scares Kurt worse than his secret phobia of vampires. Diabolical comes to mind when trying to describe it.

Kurt spots Blaine then, over by Cooper, who must be explaining something he finds really important because he starts to point at everything and get creepily intense whenever that happens. Blaine looks up at the exact moment Kurt does, going wide-eyed at the people standing by him. He stays rooted to the spot, turning back to Cooper and feigning investment in whatever crackpot web he’s spinning.

“If you’re drinking tonight,” Kurt announces to the group, “you’re welcome to stay over. Or you can call your drivers to come pick you up. However you rich kids roll,” he teases, eyes on Sebastian.

“You plebes have a helipad around here?”

“Is ‘smirk’ your one and only facial expression?”

“No. when they built me as the model of human perfection –”

Kurt barks laughter that nearly knocks him off his crutches. “Fuck off.”

“If you saw my smolder, you wouldn’t be able to resist.”

“I’m not into cross-species mating. Meerkat.”

“Turtle face.”

“Drink lots tonight, Bas. Maybe you’ll kill all the douchebaggy brain cells.”

“Probably not,” Sebastian laughs.

“One can dream.”

The other boys have wandered off, and Sebastian does the same while Kurt sets his sights on Blaine. Cooper’s runaway hands almost take out Kurt’s eyes when he hobbles near.

“Watch it, Coop,” he says, slapping an errant hand while Cooper pouts and slouches away.

“Hey, bud,” Kurt says, giving Blaine a little knock on the arm. He’s trying out new friendly, cordial greetings because that’s what they’ve relegated themselves to. It tastes funny on his tongue when his mind’s been inundating him with images of all the tiny moments he misses sharing. The memory of their first kiss opened the floodgates. Kurt is desperate to know where it went wrong, how they stopped laughing and playing, and then talking altogether.

Kurt tells himself he wants to talk to Blaine just to have those answers, so he can take in the information, file it away and move on. Really, he just wants Blaine to smile, to give him reasons to, to hold him, and fuck him, and have it all mean something again. If a single conversation is the closest he can get, he’ll take it. But Blaine, who’s still mostly avoiding him though he doesn’t immediately shy away when they run into each other, won’t budge. He takes his pain and keeps it private. He’s already put Kurt-and-Blaine away in storage and he won’t pull it out for a second look. So Kurt’s forced instead to take the awkward, stilted passing exchanges. The ‘Hey Bud’s.

There are moments though. Like when Kurt comes out of Cooper’s room in the morning, dressed in those fucking yoga shorts he’s just given into and stockpiled since he doesn’t go anywhere anymore. When Blaine comes out of his own room, just having woken up as well, still sleep-rumpled, pillow creases marked in lines on his cheek, curly hair free of its gelled cage, and yawning out the last bits of sleep. When he looks at Kurt like he’s forgotten he’s not supposed to want him anymore until his memory catches up and the mask goes on. Moments when Kurt knows he’s not crazy for feeling some little hope that their issues are solvable.

Blaine is smiling his polite, charming, frighteningly convincing smile.

“Don’t do that. Not for me. Please.”

“I’m not doing anything.”

Kurt sighs dramatically. “Mary, Mary, quite contrary.”

“I’m not being – Shut up.”

“So domineering,” Kurt teases. “Me likes.”

Blaine rolls his eyes, but he’s smiling something more sincere, so Kurt leaves him with that, gives him another good old fashioned buddy punch on the shoulder and limps away to find Quinn and release the hold on his sturdy legs.

Some indiscernible time later – three drinks in, he thinks, maybe four or five, but who’s counting – Kurt has Cooper’s fingers pointing south on his hips and he’s busting out the best moves he can with one crutch under his arm. Then they’re goofing off, finding it hilarious to do the sprinkler when they’re on top of actual grass.

Kurt’s closeness with Cooper has always been a sore spot with Blaine. Kurt knows the little munchkin worshipped his big brother, growing up. That, even so, Blaine played second fiddle to Cooper’s eccentricities. That he was the baby and the black sheep of the family, with his diffidence to contrast Cooper’s exuberance. The idea that Kurt could want Cooper, that he could have Cooper and then want Blaine always seems to baffle Blaine. He must not recognize his own magnetism.

Kurt’s eyes are drawn to Blaine when his guard’s down like this. Always seeking out the threads to pull him nearer.

Beyond the laughing crowd gathered around his and Cooper’s antics, Blaine stands sandwiched between Sebastian and some kid Kurt was never allowed to know, that someone’s arm around his shoulders. It sparks an angry flame in Kurt’s chest that he blows out as quickly as he can remember he should. Blaine looks uncomfortable though he’s smiling along, and Kurt gets why when he hears his own name slurred along with “dry humping” and “brother.” Those little pricks.

He pulls away from Cooper, the crowd’s cries of disappointment following him, but Cooper is enough entertainment on his own and they forget about Kurt before he’s even gone.

Blaine’s watching him approach, eyes a little hurt, a little hungry, and a little ‘save me’. He holds out a hand when he gets to Blaine, ignores the blatant stares from all but Sebastian and his give-no-fucks-if-it’s-not-my-business attitude.

They’re inside leaning on the kitchen counter, the party raging on outside the window, and Blaine heaves a heavy sigh. And then he’s kissing Kurt. No explanation, no hesitance or shame. And Kurt will take it because it’s more than he thought he’d get. Blaine’s hands know Kurt’s body, know where to press and drag and scratch and tease. They can talk later. They can sort it all out in the sunlight if Kurt can just – have this. Have this one moment.

Blaine is the one to pull away, and Kurt feels the tug on his heart to follow, but Blaine doesn’t go far. He presses his forehead to Kurt’s and kisses his jaw, too sweet for what they are now. Then he draws back and looks Kurt in the eye, determination reigning in his expression.

“Come,” he starts, then takes a breath. “Come up to my room.”

Blaine draws his body back, taking Kurt’s hands in his, not waiting for an answer. But Kurt holds as firm as can on unsteady legs. “You’d better be serious about this Blaine. You can’t change your mind in ten minutes because that’s as long as it’s gonna take me to get up those stairs. And then you’ll be stuck with me anyway.”

Blaine kisses him again, a brush of the lips on the way to his ear. “I assure you, Kurt. This is what I want.”

Kurt nods, certain this will be the last time he sees Blaine this summer. Regrets can come later, though. He wants this, too. Blaine helps him through the house, and to the stairs. Kurt puts on hand on the banister, but Blaine grabs him around the middle and picks him up with ease – Kurt’s little muscly munchkin – and places him two steps up, then turns around.

“Are you fucking leaving me here?”

Blaine turns his head, face scrunched up in the apparent answer no. Then he’s grinning, playful and sly. “Hop on,” he says, facing away again.

“You’re joking,” Kurt says, even as he lifts his arms around Blaine’s neck and trusts Blaine to hold his weight as his legs come up next. “Do not drop me, Beav,” he huffs, laughter in his breath.

“I won’t,” Blaine promises, giving Kurt a tiny bounce to tuck him in closer where he’s wrapped around his back.

They make it up the stairs in one piece and tumble back onto Blaine’s bed in a heap when Blaine tries to drop Kurt down gently. Kurt hasn’t been in this room in ages. Hasn’t been allowed to throw his clothes in the corner and steal blankets from Blaine, or pilfer his socks when it’s unnaturally freezing at night.

“So we’re doing this,” he comments when Blaine’s sorted out his limbs and rests hovering above him. Blaine nods. And they do.

Chapter Text

Kurt Hummel had his metaphorical cherry popped by Elliott Gilbert when he was seventeen in more ways than one.

When Kurt begged and pleaded with his father to let him get a tattoo, Elliott was the artist to do the job when Burt succumbed to Kurt’s pleas.

When Kurt came back again and again, Elliott eventually became the one Kurt scheduled appointments with. Their friendship happened fast, an easy, seamless thing with no snags or snares. They bonded over music and started seeing shows together. Kurt met Elliott’s friends, way out in Columbus where the parlor is. They flirted and had fun, and then had a fling. And when it was over, they still flirted and they still had fun. They still do.

Kurt calls Elliott the same morning he wakes up in Blaine bed after a night that’s messing with his head. Probably because it was so the opposite of a mess as it happened. They haven’t talked since they broke up, not about anything of substance. But last night, they communicated in freely in chuckles and caresses and careful choreography to avoid crippling Kurt’s leg. No dark shadows loomed overhead like they’ve done for months.

So maybe they shouldn’t talk. Maybe Kurt should stick to what he knows. To keeping it flirty and fun.

Elliott says he’s free anytime Kurt wants him, laughs, sets up an appointment for the next day and tells him to just send a sketch before he comes in, like always.

Kurt’s next call is to Puck, letting him know to cancel any plans he had because they’ll be driving to Columbus tomorrow. Puck groans about it, but he shows up in the morning with Quinn and Santana in tow for company.

:: ::

Tattooing is an intimate act. Spending hours at a time in each other’s personal space, trusting Elliott to honor the permanence of the mark he’s leaving. Kurt wasn’t too concerned when he and Quinn got matching tattoos of stars trailing from their ankles to feet, or the little infinity symbol on the side of his finger. The imprint of lips on the side of his neck are inconsequential, he just thought they’d look cool – which they do. The impression of buttons sewn into his wrist were Burt and Carole’s gift to him when he received his acceptance letter to the Fashion Institute, aka his ticket out of Lima. The fingerprints dotted along his hipbone like a hand squeezing him tight are a naughty little thing that keeps him smiling, but they’re all just pictures. Fun mementos to look back on when he’s older. When he’s a man who wouldn’t do the same again, but unapologetic for the boy who did.

Kurt likes tattoos, likes the idea of his body as a canvas. Likes the Cheshire Cat resting precariously atop his foot as much as the words scrawled across his collarbone, found in a book that belonged to his mother. He likes wearing himself proudly for anyone willing to look to see. Little glimpses, important and not-so, but all displaying some truth about Kurt.

It’s profound an experience to let Elliott be the scribe to tell Kurt’s story. Especially with work like he’s getting done today. Work that isn’t frivolous for the sake of preserving a whim.

Kurt’s very first tattoo – the one he begged and pleaded for – is a singular sunflower pressing outward from his inner arm, drawn like the ones his mother had. It keeps his mother close, keeps him grounded, rooted to himself and those who matter most should he ever forget.

Elliott traces his needle along the outline resting on Kurt’s shaved forearm and asks him if he’s getting it for his dad. Kurt shrugs a little, offers a vague “kind of” and leaves it at that. Elliott grins though, says Kurt’s going to run out of skin if he keeps solving all his problems this way.

They break for lunch, meeting Puck and the girls at a diner nearby where Santana flirts shamelessly with a waitress named Dani, who may not even be gay, but she’s giving back even better than she gets. By the time Kurt and Elliott are ready to cut out, Santana is sticking napkins under her shirt and talking some mess about underboob sweat.

It’s the imitation of a date with the way they’re all paired off. Santana and her waitress. Puck and Quinn, who were in the Matt and Tess of McKinley High – only they gave their baby up for adoption. Kurt and Elliott, who’ve coupled and copulated copiously in the past. And it’s easy. This could be the way he spends the rest of summer, the kind of memories he hold onto when he’s all alone to brave the big city. And he will hold onto it. But it’s Blaine who’s on his mind. Because as much as his father has impressed a lifelong love of cars, current and classic, it was waking up in Blaine’s bedroom – surrounded by toy robots and sweater vests sewn for grandpas everywhere and Blaine alone, by cherished models cars that always did make Kurt think of his father – that put the idea in Kurt’s head to get ink on his arm. And the sting of needles binding him to Blaine takes easy off the table.

:: ::

Now would be a good time for a piggyback ride, Kurt thinks as he braves another staircase. He thought about texting Blaine on the way back to Lima, maybe detouring a little before going home. But he’s tired after a long day of travel and therapy, as Elliott calls it.

It’s late, everyone else is asleep, and Kurt is seconds from passing out where he stands - well, where he wobbles. Enemy though they are, he’s been trying more to make stairs a friend. That’s not going to happen anytime soon, especially now. He’s thinking perhaps he was a little rash in his actions because now he’s two limbs down with his bandaged arm and its leftover prickle of pain. But he makes it up to his room by some miracle of Satan and he’ll just call Puck over in the morning to carry him downstairs if he has to.

Resisting the temptation to peek under the bandage for another look is his least favorite part of the process. He always wants it healed already, wants to stare for awhile. Tonight, at least his exhaustion is catching up to him fast, so he’s ready to conk out the second he wipes off his makeup and applies his nighttime creams – his skin isn’t flawless by accident.

With the light off, he doesn’t notice at first the lump on his bed. He catches it in the mirror, and for a second his mind interprets it as a mess of clothes. But Kurt doesn’t mess when it comes to clothes.

It’s Blaine. Sleeping in his bed. No explanations, yet again. But fuck explanations, Kurt’s riding this gravy train wherever it’s headed tonight. So he speeds as quickly through his routine as tired hands allow and crawls into bed, Blaine’s body immediately gravitating to him. This part has always been easy. This he can hold onto.

Flirty and fun doesn’t usually involve booty calls for cuddling; even if Kurt has to lie to himself to deny it, the unfinished business pulling him to Blaine can’t be fixed with a fling. The conversation they need to have can just sit perpetually on the list of tomorrow’s problems for the little taste of what he’s craving.

Chapter Text

“Creep,” Kurt yawns half into his pillow when he wakes up to Blaine staring silently. “Get lost, Goldilocks?”

Blaine smiles, something fleetingly bashful. “Nope,” he says, the “p” popping loudly.

“That’s it? That’s all you’ve got for me?” Kurt laughs. “It this a thing we do now? Fall asleep in each other’s beds.”

“We did before.”

“Right. And then we broke up. So this should probably not be a thing – that we do. Yet here we are. Doing it.”

“Right.”

“Oh my god. Beaver, stop.”

“…”

“That. Stop. Quit being evasive.”

“I’m not being evasive. You’re leaving in a few weeks. You miss me, I miss you.”

“Well, there’s the fucking shock of a lifetime.”

“Why is that shocking?”

It’s not funny, but Kurt’s every reaction is laughter still. “Beav,” he whines. “You’re not serious.”

“I’m very serious. It’s what you hate about me.”

“I don’t hate anything about you. What I hate is that I don’t hate anything about you.”

“Why not?”

He should update his father because, as he’s just learned, it is entirely possible to rolls his eyes hard enough to hurt himself.

“Do you hate me, Blainey?”

“No.”

“Then assume it’s for the same reason.”

Blaine’s kisses have improved significantly since their first. He’s treated it like a personal challenge to find Kurt’s every button, every lever, every knob and handle that will grant him access to the sounds Kurt couldn’t reproduce if he intentionally tried.

There’s no more talking after that, not about what they’re doing or why they’re doing it. But there’s a lot of doing.

In the course of a week, there hasn’t been a single night Kurt’s slept alone, whether in his bed or Blaine’s. It numbs the desperate ache to pick at the past and force answers from Blaine. They go off in separate directions in the morning, sometimes joining various family members for breakfast first, all of whom tease them mercilessly about keeping it down or by inquiring intentions.

It’s like last summer all over again, without the promise of good things to come. This is the best they’ll get because summer is ending and Kurt will be gone before the season’s change. There’s no whispered conversations under the sounds of music playing through Kurt’s speakers, no nights on the couch watching Moulin Rouge with Blaine humming into his ear, no dragging Blaine along to see bands he’s not into just to get in Kurt’s pants. Kurt’s pants are wide open for any use Blaine can find there.

It’s easy, and it’s – something, but it’s not what Kurt wants. He wants the sex, sure, but he can get that anywhere. Broken leg be damned, he’s learned his hips work just fine. Kurt wants shimmies in the kitchen while they throw together lunch in tandem, lazy days with Blaine: Ungelled, and shopping trips where they bicker about Blaine’s obsessions with bowties and penny loafers. Wants the stupid fluttery feeling that’s been kicked into overdrive of late.

Blaine sometimes looks like he wants to say something, wants to reveal the cards he’s holding close to the vest. He looks scared. Kurt’s in the same position; he has no assurances to offer, no convictions to pass on. Can’t promise any future when they’re stalled over their past.

:: ::

Blaine knocks on the door of Burt’s office. Kurt has commandeered it for the day to avoid Rachel, who thankfully thinks he and Blaine are dating and that she has to play nice with him – which she’s never done before but he’s sort of done questioning oddities. He tends to break something every time. His leg. His heart. His pride. If Rachel’s decided to prove she didn’t sell her soul for her talent, so be it. It doesn’t make them friends.

He and Blaine are sort of friends again. Fuck buddies, at least. But they don’t really do casual visits outside of bedrooms.

“Hello, my little enigma.”

“That’s better than Beaver.”

“Lies. Vicious lies you tell.” Burt’s office is on the smaller side, not much use for it to be any bigger when the real work requires a full-size vehicle. Not models, or tattoos of ’59 Thunderbirds running from wrists to elbows. Blaine zones in on all of Kurt’s tattoos, but the most recent puts unspoken questions in Blaine’s eyes that Kurt doesn’t prompt him to ask aloud. They’ve talked cars before, they’re fans of sleek exteriors both, though Kurt has a bigger love for what’s under the hood than Blaine – which is just too fucking close for comfort to the root of their problems. Still, they were together for long enough that Blaine was witness to the addition of nearly all of Kurt’s tattoos, to know the difference between frivolous and crucial. Kurt needed this, needed to mark an occasion. Kurt knows that. Blaine knows it, too, but he hasn’t asked what it’s for. Just stares, eyes curious and daunting.

“Have a seat,” he tells Blaine, gesturing to the chairs that only just push back far enough to give some leg room. Another reason to prefer the rolling, swiveling chair Kurt’s ass rests comfortably on: it has all the under-desk space.

Kurt swivels right to left and back again, over and over while Blaine dons his stalker cap. He could ask Blaine why he’s here, but he doesn’t get straight answers anymore and it’s just one of those oddities he’s rolling with these days.

“This would be so convenient to have all the time,” he leads with instead, pushing off the desk so he spins in full circles. “Like – I wish I had the crutches version of this. So it wasn’t so hard to get around all the time.”

He’s still spinning. The corners of his sketchpad lift in the tiny breeze. It’s this office, the whole place that washes over his senses and makes him feel young. Younger, anyway. He feels so old with all his summer woes and their constant reminders. Like the itch under his cast that needs to be scratched, like, three years ago. And the perplexing Blaine Anderson waltzing in unannounced, though not unwelcome.

“Are you talking about a wheelchair?” Blaine asks.

“What?” he stops spinning, but the world doesn’t. He braces his palms on his father’s desk and closes his eyes until his brain feels realigned with the rest of his body. Blaine has his cute judgey-face on. Not the mean one Kurt tries to forget because it called him an embarrassment, but the sweet confusion that turns Blaine’s eyes squinty and lips pursed.

“Wheelchair is the word you’re looking for. It’s the, uh, - ‘crutches version’ of –”

“Don’t you sass me boy.”

“You asked.”

“No, actually. I didn’t. I only said I wanted one.”

“A wheelchair.”

“No a chair-crutch thing.”

“A wheelchair.”

“Shut up.”

He’ll miss this, he thinks. The teasing fights that didn’t end in tears. When he’s off alone, beautifying the East Coast one accessory at a time, he’ll have a little something to rev his engine anytime he looks down. Something to hold him over until he’s moved on from this strange summer. Something to remember it by.

Blaine gets up and comes around the desk. Standing behind Kurt, he starts massaging his shoulders. Kurt would ask why but Blaine’s intentions seem clear enough. His breath is warm against Kurt’s neck, then teeth bite down and a tongue soothes it over.

“Sex fiend,” Kurt snorts. Blaine’s hands grow bolder, moving away from Kurt’s shoulders and traveling downward. Kurt has to spin himself around to pull Blaine away. Blaine’s cute squinty face is back, heavier on the confusion. Kurt pulls Blaine in for a quick kiss, then pushes him away laughing and spins back around. “I like your enthusiasm, but no.”

“No fun,” Blaine says, and Kurt can hear the pout in his expression before seeing it.

Blaine rounds back to his side of the table and plops down dejectedly, arms folded and still pouty – a student of Rachel Berry’s teachings.

“It’s very sweet that you want to get off on the idea that I’m a juvenile delinquent, but this is where I work.”

“Excuse me?” That’s Blaine’s ‘if I weren’t so polite you’d be dead’ voice. Kurt’s stepped in something. Fan-diddlyfucking-tastic.

“What now?”

Kurt’s surprised as Blaine at his own immediate anger, but it’s there in his words and the way they spit themselves out.

“You have no idea how I see you.”

“I know I came to your fancy private school and you looked at me like a crack in the wall of that pretty exterior.”

“No –”

“Yes, Blaine. Yes. That was you.”

“Can we not fight?”

“Of course! Let’s fucking pretend that it’s all okay so our dicks can still have playdates. Sounds good.” He gets up, steadier on his feet than he’s been all summer with this surge of adrenaline, and opens the door. “See you tonight, then?”

Blaine doesn’t answer. The fire in Blaine’s eyes burns Kurt as he passes, storming out.

Kurt doesn’t go home that night. He calls Quinn and has her pick him up from the garage. He can’t give Blaine the chance to stand him up. If it’s over this time, it’ll be over on Kurt’s terms. No matter what the stupid fluttery feeling has to say about it.

Chapter Text

Blaine hasn’t pulled another Goldilocks move. When he gets home in the morning, Kurt doesn’t find Blaine fast asleep having waited for him. He’s not sure where they stand now – if it’s he who should apologize for throwing off the casual vibe, if they’re back to the fights from before, if anyone needs to apologize at all, if they’re just done and over.

But Blaine comes by that night with a short “I’m sorry” and that’ll do for now. Kurt’s already started packing to leave, has Puck over every day to be his legs. And his arms. And really, Kurt just bosses him around for the hell of it. He could pack on his own, but the sadistic pleasure of continuing to punish Puck is too much to deny himself when everything with Blaine is so batshit.

He and Blaine – hell, he and the entire state – are down to exactly eleven days left together. There’s no point in yelling his grievances to an absent audience. Blaine will leave – and Kurt wouldn’t blame him at this point, he’s made his position clear – if Kurt pushes. It’s only to clear his own conscience that he wants clarity. A selfish desire to absolve himself of guilt, though he sure if he picks at the scabs he’ll find faults of his possession.

:: ::

Kurt wakes up alone in Blaine’s bed.

With six days left, he’s practically living at the Andersons. Mr. A has started giving Kurt these looks like Kurt’s gotten plenty of before but never from him. Kurt gets it. Kurt will leave and whatever lies Blaine has told himself to keep up his cool demeanor will have no use, no power. Blaine is likely to fall apart once Kurt is gone, and Kurt won’t be around to help pick him back up. But he’ll be responsible. In his own eyes, and apparently in the eyes of his would-be in-laws.

Kurt’s the resident bad seed, even when he’s not around.

He really doesn’t blame Matt; Kurt feels the same way about Rachel dating Finn, and they are significantly less of a mess than he and Blaine. So he puts up with the looks and tamps down his need to be confrontational because if there’s any offense he knows he’s guilty of, it’s indulging in Blaine’s body and hiding his heart. In letting Blaine do the same.

All that shit buried deep is going to blow its way past the surface at some point.

Not today. Today is quiet and nice and peaceful.

Blaine comes in, hair dripping a little and a puffy robe on. Kurt lounges, watching him towel dry and disrobe. It’s a gift, these moments. To see Blaine at ease with himself in Kurt’s presence. It’s not like he’s getting dressed for the day just to crawl back into bed and take it all off. It’s something private and solitary, but Kurt is granted access nonetheless.

Last summer, it was simple like this. One day, Kurt had shown up uninvited and walked in on his not quite yet boyfriend coming downstairs in only a towel. Blaine ran straight back up the steps and locked the door behind him. Kurt knows, because he followed him up, knocking on the door as obnoxiously as possible until Blaine yanked it open and demanded he stop.

“Can I touch it?” Kurt had asked, voice low and excited. He’d clapped his hands together and bit his lip. “Please!” he begged. And then he realized what Blaine thought he meant and clarified, “Your hair, naughty boy. Your hair.”

“No.” Blaine had looked truly mortified. At no point of any day is Blaine’s head not encased in gel; Kurt was sure he popped out of his mother’s oven with a tin of Dapper Dan in his hand.

“But it’s so curly,” he said, reaching out and being swatted at. “Me likes.”

“It’s awful. Don’t look,” Blaine pouted, pulling at strands in the mirror.

Kurt decided then and there it was his civic duty to appreciate those curls if no one else would. He’d demanded Blaine stay where he was and not try locking him out again. He ran downstairs and poached a bar stool and a bowl from the kitchen. He dropped the stool outside Blaine’s door on the way to his parents’ room, not missing the pouty baby look on Blaine’s face as he passed. He rifled through the products in Mr. and Mrs. A’s bathroom and came back to Blaine with a bowlful of whatever he thought he might need.

“No, Kurt,” Blaine had tried when Kurt dragged in the stool and placed the bowl on Blaine’s dresser.

“Please. You can do so much with these little cuties.”

When Blaine’s shoulders sagged in defeat, Kurt pumped an obnoxious fist in the air. He got Blaine seated and even threw on that horrible noise called disco to appease him a bit. Blaine started policing every move Kurt made, so Kurt twisted him around so he couldn’t see his reflection anymore.

“Don’t you like it?” he asked when he was done, laughter erupting from somewhere deep inside. Blaine hated it. Granted, he had plenty of reason to since Kurt had spent an hour pulling and prodding, and in the end he gave Blaine pigtails. “You look cute.”

“I look… ridiculous.”

“Ridiculous looks good on you.”

Kurt smiles at the memory, equal parts pained and nostalgic. Lifting his head from the pillow, his mind finally wakes up enough to process that Blaine is putting on his Dalton uniform.

“What have we here? Role play?”

Blaine rolls his eyes. He tilts his whole head when he does that. It’s cute as a fucking button.

“Alumni event. Warblers are performing.”

“Did I know about this?”

“Why would you?”

Kurt has no clue where Blaine goes when they’re not together. He’s not sure if giving a hoot qualifies as pushing, so he hoots from a distance, getting his information through Cooper, who only considers things relevant if they pertain to him directly. And Blaine doesn’t ask after him, doesn’t concern himself with the dates of Kurt’s doctor visits or invite himself along with Cooper to anymore of Quinn’s parties.

“I guess I wouldn’t.”

Kurt drags himself out of bed, draping Blaine’s sheet around himself and admiring the view of Blaine with his white shirt unbuttoned and gray slacks on that hug his ass too deliciously to be fair to any of the middling boys he attends school with. Kurt gives that ass a little squeeze just to make him jump and grabs the undone tie under Blaine’s collar.

Kurt loops the tie around his own neck, the blanket around his shoulder falling to his feet. Blaine actually blushes as though he wasn’t naked in this very spot not five minutes prior. Kurt picks up the blanket and fastens it loosely around his waist. Then he winks and goes back to tying Blaine’s tie for him.

When he’s done he just watches Blaine. Watches him slather all the muck in his hair to tame it. Watches the slow buttoning of his shirt, bottom to top. Helps him into the navy blazer. Then he loosens the knot of Blaine tie and tells him frankly, “I kind of wanna fuck you right now.”

“Oh please, Kurt,” Blaine scoffs, then grins. “You always want to.”

“Always want to – what now?” Kurt teases, affixing the tie to complete Blaine’s ensemble.

Blaine leans in close to Kurt, places a kiss to his jaw and whispers, “Frickle frackle.”

“Oh god no.”

“Oh god yes! Let’s do the do, bruh.”

“Gross.”

“Okay but… See Kurt, I know you like my cat, but have you met my anaconda?”

“Blaine. I will use this like a noose,” he promises, tie-in-hand again.

“C’mon. Let’s make our anacondas kiss!”

“That’s enough from you.”

“Let’s –”

“Shut the fuck up.”

“Make me.”

Kurt cackles to the heavens, but tugs Blaine backwards with the same tie he has used to bind Blaine’s wrists to his headboard and Blaine comes willingly, chasing Kurt’s lips.

“Please tell me you have another shirt pressed because this – this needs to come off. Now. Immediately. Take it off, Blaine.” All of their fingers are working the buttons back open, and it’s kind of a mess, but it’s the sweetest smelling mess they’ve made all summer.

However, as good things do, it ends too soon.

Cooper knocks once then barges in, smiling at the sight of them panting hard and giving him their best bitch faces at being interrupted. He asks if he can watch and ducks out of the way when Kurt sends a robot flying his direction.

“I’ll replace that,” he tells Blaine.

“We gotta go, Squirt.”

Blaine’s event is a family function as well, Kurt gathers when Blaine helps him downstairs, hastily dressed in some combination of his and Blaine’s clothes. Matt even has a belt on. Must be a super special event.

“Hello, Andersons. Goodbye, Andersons.”

“You’re not coming?” Tess asks, smoothing out her dress and fixing her hair in the light shining on a photo frame.

“I tried,” he mutters and Blaine elbows him in the side.

She turns and tilts her head and pout in the same way Blaine does. “Honestly, Kurt. You should come with. And ugh. These things are so stuffy. It’d be like your personal playground.”

“I’ll pass,” he says, looking for any reaction from Blaine and getting nothing. Then he looks down at his rumpled clothing. “I’m not even dressed.”

“We’ll wait,” she says, and continues quickly when Blaine protests that he’ll be late for rehearsal. “Blaine, honey, you can go with Cooper. Your father and I will come once Kurt’s ready.”

“You know we’re not dating, right?” he asks Tess once Blaine and Cooper have gone.

“You smell like what I presume involves my son’s ejaculate –”

“What is wrong with you people?!”

“Get a move on. A shower is key, ‘kay hon.”

“I am not spending two hours in a car with you unless you promise to never fucking ever say ejaculate again. And you’ll be writing me a formal letter of apology if I can’t repress this.”

:: ::

Thanks to the very limiting cast on his leg, Kurt has hardly any suitable options. Fashion is his forte, his future profession. But Kurt lives to stand out, not blend in like the uniformed lads at Ivy League – Lite. Skinnies are sadly still off the table; it takes elven magic to get them over his ass, he’s not risking strain on the fabric to prove himself right.

Riding the struggle bus from one pair of pants to the next, Kurt finds he has exactly one pair just loose enough to stretch over his cast and still hug his thighs how he likes it. Luckily they’re dark enough to match pretty much anything. The catalogue of clothes he owns is stored securely in his head, so he runs through it quickly to figure the least extravagant getup he can manage with what’s available. Most of his clothes are already wrapped to be moved, but he’s left the simple ones for last, which serves him well today because it’s not about him. It’s about Blaine.

Kurt’s comfortable in any clothes. Or no clothes at all. He wears his skin comfortably enough that the rest is really just dressing. Presentation affects perception, and he does love accessorizing, but Kurt never worries much what strangers have to say because they don’t know him. Kurt knows himself and that’s what’s important.

He also knows Blaine, know Blaine’s concern for the way he’s understood. Knows presentation is damn near the be-all, end-all of social interaction to Blaine.

Today is about Blaine, and Dalton, and surrendering. Being selfless for Blaine’s sake. Kurt’s eyes are opening to the fact that another of his faults is not taking interest in this place that Blaine calls home nine months of the year. In concentrating on the gimme gimme feeling of wanting Blaine near and not asking Blaine what he wanted. In trusting that Blaine, the boy who cherishes restraint, would want to lay out all his doubts freely and risk losing control. In not pushing when pushing could have been effective.

Kurt owes Blaine something. What – he’s not sure, but this he can give, so he will.

His hair he styles easily, a quick sweep of his bangs off his forehead and half a can of hairspray. With a sigh, he skips past putting on makeup.

He throws on a slim-fitting, gray V-neck that plunges a little lower than what Dalton’s probably used to seeing, but it’s otherwise plain and it clips off most of the words tattooed on his collarbone. Not that “unbeing dead isn’t being alive” is particularly offensive. Still, this is Blaine’s world he’s entering.

While Blaine himself may take great pleasure in petting at the places ink lives in Kurt’s skin, he buttons up when the deed is done. That’s who Kurt is doing this for, so he unzips a navy blazer of his own from a bag of garments ready to go. It’s sleeker than Blaine’s and tailored – personally – to perfection. The sleeves look better rolled up with the patterned fabric inside offering a small flash of color, but since dull is what he’s aiming for he keeps them down. Covers the tattoo he got for Blaine, or Burt. Or himself. Some combination of all of them, doubtless. Covers easily the bow made of measuring tape that sits too high for rolled up sleeves to reveal, and covers the buttons that lay lower, but creep upwards along his arm. There’s nothing to be done about the lips on his neck, but he’s done his best and anyone with commentary can kiss his ass.

He takes off his jewelry last, deliberates over it still as he goes, starting from his ears and working inward until his eyebrow, nose, and lips are suddenly bare. He takes the jewelry with him to the kitchen to find a baggie, puts the metal pieces inside, and stuffs the baggie in his pocket. Those are all going back in the second he’s back in the car of the way home. Clothes are one thing. His jewelry he wears morning, noon, and night. It’s like the sudden loss of a limb. Worse than a broken leg and pain he can feel, the phantom lingering of their presence unnerves him.

The Andersons come outside to meet him at the car before he even shuffles across his lawn – the struggle bus rolls onward.

Tess has a genuine sparkle in her eye when she opens the door for Kurt.

“Say nothing,” he orders.

Matt is giving him a strange look in the rearview. Kurt’s seen that look before, it’s the one that Cooper and Finn garner when they bond over a particularly idiotic idea and have to be monitored to make sure they don’t go through with it – not after the first time. Someone almost lost a toe. It was Rachel, so Kurt didn’t care as much as if it was anyone else in the world, but it’s just not a good idea to put them alone in a room together. That is the look Kurt is getting.

No one asked him to be someone else, to try at all, never mind try too hard. He feels a little foolish at their gawking.

“Is this thing happening today, or are we just going to sit here?”

This is for Blaine, he reminds himself.

Chapter Text

Kurt, Matt, and Tess show up late to the event, thanks to Tess having the bladder of an infant.

“You’re probably pregnant,” Kurt told her.

“Don’t,” was the response from both driver and shotgun.

They pulled off at a random exit and drove around this backwoods, little shit town for someplace with an actual bathroom since Tess refused Kurt’s suggestion of pissing in said backwoods. Eventually, they turned back toward the highway and stopped at some funky gas station off the highway between mile markers.

“Well, even if you’re not having a baby anytime soon, you’ll probably be having an outbreak of herpes, so you might still want to see a doctor,” he said when Tess got back in the car.

“You’re such a delight when you’re nervous.”

“Nervous about what?” he scoffed.

“That’s cute,” Tess said, slapping Matt on the arm to pull him in on her bullshit.

“I’m not nervous,” he insisted.

And he’s not. Intimidated, yeah. Kind of. Okay, maybe a little nervous with the way Blaine’s eyes keep darting back to him from the center of the room. Whilehe’s performing.

Kurt has heard Blaine sing plenty of times. They’ve sung together, in the car, in their bedrooms. Blaine’s performed private serenades that have melted Kurt’s heart and made the panties drop. He’s even been sweet-talked into watching the Rachel & Blaine show a few times.

Seeing Blaine like this, though – this is new. He’s a fucking star. All confidence and charisma and an unnamable quality that makes Kurt feel light and happy. He’s proud of Blaine. So pleased to see he hasn’t burned out Blaine’s fire with their teenage angst to smother the flames.

Kurt has no idea what this event is even about. He sure he could find a gold plated pamphlet to give him the deets if he cared at all, but his eyes are on Blaine, living for that stupid flutter flapping wildly whenever Blaine’s eyes are on him.

After the performance, Blaine Anderson, leader of the prestigious Dalton Academy Warblers is apparently going to be stopped by everyone in this room, Kurt realizes after ten minutes.

“Oh look! Here he is background Warbler number… turn around – do you guys have, like, numbers on your backs or something?”

“Betty. Always a pleasure.”

“Why aren’t you off kissing ass, Sebastian?”

“Because they should be kissing my ass and making sure I don’t usurp their thrones.”

“Oh my god,” Kurt rolls his eyes, laughing. Too loudly, if the turned heads in their direction are any indication. “Oops,” he mouths.

Sebastian shrugs. Too cool for school, apparently.

Kurt sets his eyes back on Blaine, follows his movements around the room and sharing glances on occasion.

“You guys back together?” Sebastian asks. Cooper, Tess, and Matt all turn their heads toward the pair at the same time, just this side of creepy.

“Is it a family thing? Did you guys take synchronized fucking swimming lessons together?”

“Boo. I wasn’t invited,” Blaine says, coming up beside Kurt.

Kurt feels hyperaware of all his missing pieces, all the phantoms appearing at once when Blaine looks at him curiously. He sucks his lip in his mouth and bites down lightly where his ring should be. Everyone is watching them. Kurt and Blaine’s everyone. Blaine’s parents, his brother. Sebastian.

“It’s not polite to stare,” Kurt admonishes, and Blaine’s the only one to look away, but he’s smiling.

“Can we talk?” Blaine asks, leading Kurt away from the group and out of the hall.

“Oh so now you wanna talk, huh Beav?”

“Hush you,” Blaine commands gently and surprises Kurt with a kiss to keep him quiet.

“Where the hell are we going?” Kurt asks when they’ve walked – and limped – far enough that the din of voices is distant and fading.

Blaine takes him down one final ritzy-schmitzy hallway, and opens the door to a room Kurt couldn’t guess the function of with multiple choice answers because the nicest McKinley ever looks is when the gym gets decorated for prom, and even then it still smells faintly of used jock straps. Or maybe that’s the scent of the student body.

“What is this?” he gestures to the couches and fireplace. “Economics class where you cry about the plight of the poor and dry your tears with Benjamins?”

“Kurt,” he chides. “It’s the senior commons. Warblers kind of run the place though.”

“Oh ho ho. Look at you and your rock star perks.”

“I’m sorry,” Blaine bursts, knocking Kurt a little off balance.

“What for?” Kurt wonders as he plops down on one of the plushy couches. “This is what a cloud would feel like under my ass, isn’t it? Damn. I guess you’ve got it good here, Beaver.”

“I do.” Blaine sits beside him and Kurt lays his legs across Blaine’s lap. “Making you do this,” he tugs on Kurt’s sleeve, “was not my intention, you know.”

“Righty-o, let’s pretend I’m here at your invitation,” he snorts and pokes at Blaine’s shoulder. Blaine looks up from examining the artwork on his cast. “Blainey boy, no one makes me do anything. Not unwillingly.”

“That so?”

“The so-est.” Kurt pokes at him again, gets a smile as Blaine pulls his hand away to hold. Blaine plays his calloused hands over Kurt’s longer, softer fingers. “Beaver,” he gasps, sounding scandalized, “Are you trying to put the moves on me?” He’s teasing, shimmying his shoulders and sending a wink Blaine’s way. Blaine scrunches up his face, shakes his head. A tiny uh-uh falls out on an exhale, but he laces their playing fingers together.

Flutter, flutter bitch, Kurt’s belly full of butterflies taunts.

They pick up smoothly where they left off this morning, Blaine pulling Kurt onto his lap. Blaine handles Kurt like treasure, with the reverence bestowed upon a childhood toy still knocking around when childhood’s long gone, durable, familiar, and precious. Kurt is his ragdoll, safe in hands that have learned how not to grip too tight or pull too hard. Hands that know how to break him and choose rather to hold his stuffing in place and nimbly mend his ripping seams.

Kurt feels Blaine loving him in the confidence of roving extremities unfettered unlike tamed tongues silenced by experience.

This is the part that works, and why it works so well. Why Kurt craves him so badly.

Flutter, flutter.

“I thought we came here to talk.” Kurt inhales unsteadily, chuckling and brushing back his falling bangs. “I’m gonna pop a chub if you don’t slow your roll, partner.”

Blaine laughs, lost for breath the same as Kurt. “Yeah, we should, uh – we should… talk.”

“You might want to release the death grip, tiger.” Kurt slides back onto his own cushion, though his legs remain in Blaine’s space, crowding the area his ass vacated. “We’re bad at being exes.”

“We were worse at being together.”

“The whole time? No. I’m just a prick and we’re shit at talking. Which we’re still not doing, by the way.”

Blaine reaches for Kurt’s uncomfortably unadorned earlobes, thumb stroking along the bare skin. “This is weird.”

“You’re weird,” he counters, batting Blaine away.

“I’m serious.”

“Eh.” Kurt looks Blaine over and twists an errant curl around his finger. “Not always, Mr. Frickle Frackle.”

“You love it.”

“Eh.”

“Eh?”

“Eh.”

Blaine nudges aside Kurt’s blazer, runs a finger over the tattoo peeking out. He harbors a secret fascination with them only Kurt bears witness to. It’s sweet, private. Blaine is the only person granted the same level of access to explore. More than Elliott, the doctor who delivers them into this world. Blaine is the voluntary guardian who devotes time, nurtures with attentive hands.

“Do you think…,” he trails off and Kurt waits. “Do you think we’ll be friends again?”

“We’re friends now.”

Blaine sighs. “Like we could have been. Without… without ending up – here.”

“Depends on what you mean by ‘here’.”

“Hurting each other.”

Kurt puffs out his cheeks and just – blows. “Maybe.” He bites his lip, missing the metal burning a hole in his pocket. “Maybe not.”

“I wish I knew where potential goes once you’ve made a decision.”

“Maybe it gets passed on to someone who knows what to do with it.”

“I thought I knew what I was doing.” Blaine swallows, a sad look coming over him.

“Beav. Honey, no.” Kurt wipes at the tears before they fall. “What’s done is done, right? We’ll just have to do better next time.”

“You’re leaving.”

Kurt cocks his head to side, noticing how young Blaine is, how old he feels for being someone’s first heartbreak, how far over the edge they’ve fallen. Six days, that’s all they have left. Then Kurt is gone. And Blaine will be here, likely in this very spot every now and again, carrying his pain around and masking it with a smile. There is no next time. No promises to make or keep. That’s it, Kurt realizes. The dissolution, their finale that comes without fireworks or fanfare, has brought the elusive inner peace missing all summer, the power to move on though it aches.

The anger and resentment at a bitter, unfair, premature and preventable ending is fading fast with the sight of Blaine’s breakdown, like Blaine’s tears are the miracle cure, the absolution from his unanswered questions saving them from rehashing the past. Sadist, he thinks. I’m a sadist.

But no. He hates the sadness that overwhelms to fill the void of anger.

“Let’s go back to your family.”

Blaine nods. Too sadly.

“Okay, let’s not. Let’s just – come here.” He opens his arms and Blaine jostles Kurt’s legs to clamor into his hold. They stay just like that, the awkward positioning secondary to the need to be close.

“I’m not ready for you to go,” Blaine mumbles.

“You’ll survive.”

“It won’t feel like living.” Blaine runs his thumb over the words on Kurt’s skin, chuckling when Kurt mutters drama queen. “You – I didn’t… I love you,” he looks away. “I’m sorry I wasn’t proud enough to deserve you.”

Kurt sucks in a breath through his teeth. “No more being sorry. Not until I leave, then you can crank the angst up to eleven and rebel by – bringing lunch from home or something. Like us peasants.”

“I was so wrong for treating you like I did. You know. Here. Before we – before the break up.”

“You were. That stings a little still, actually.”

“I’m sorry.”

“Blaine.” Kurt flicks him in the arm. “Apologize again and that’s what you get.”

“Somehow I think I can take you.”

Kurt raises an eyebrow. “Mm,” he hums. “We can put that theory to practice tonight. For now, let’s return to the land of the living.”

Blaine brings them to a bathroom on the way back. “First let me say, if you tell me you don’t have them, I won’t believe you,” he starts, leaning on a sink and beckoning Kurt over. He puts a finger where Kurt’s lip ring should be. “So where are you hiding all the jewelry?

“Blaine, Grease was made over thirty years ago. And it takes place even before that. If you think I’m running your ear under cold water and –”

“Shush.”

“Don’t shush me. Rude.”

Blaine holds out his hand and Kurt deposits the little baggie in his palm. “Put them in,” Blaine commands.

“Blaine.” He rolls his eyes. “I’ll admit this was for you, you don’t have to prove a point.”

“Yes. I do. And it’s not a hardship to want to see you – the real you, pierced, tattooed, sexy,” he rolls up Kurt’s sleeves, “you you – again.”

“I’m me me now.”

“Humor me then, if this is really all for me.”

“Ass.”

“Just do it.” Blaine holds the bag out in front of him.

One piece of metal at a time, Kurt comes back into view. Blaine helps, maybe hinders, by kissing every spot Kurt redresses, so Kurt leaves his lip ring for last. “Party’s probably over by now.”

“Uh-uh. Party lasts all day. These guys love knowing where their money goes.” Blaine checks his grandpa-approved pocket watch. “Campus tours, small groups led by students. We can just go to the dining hall. The tours will be over soon.”

Cooper spots them first, congratulating Blaine on the “good work” and pointing at Kurt.

“Stop,” they demand in unison when Tess claps her hands together in the excited way she tends to do, coming up behind Cooper and waggling her eyebrows in silent question.

“Please, please, please. Just tell me what happened. The PG version,” she hastily tacks on.

“What makes you think there is a PG version?” Surprisingly, not Kurt’s words but Blaine’s.

Cooper shifts his eyes back and forth between them. “Oh do tell.”

Blaine looks to Kurt for the answer, but Kurt shakes his head. “You stepped in it all on your own, big boy.”

“Tell us!”

“Mom, calm down oh my god. We –” he looks again to Kurt, smirks mischievously. “I liked it,” he bops Kurt’s nose, “so I put a ring on it.”

Kurt flicks Blaine as hard as he can, amused but pretending not to be, while the rest burst into laughter. They draw the attention of the room briefly, then mutual oops faces make them laugh all over again. It’s a fitting goodbye somehow to leave Blaine this memory, to have it for himself when he’s off alone.

Chapter Text

Six days is not a lot of time when trying to squeeze in love where it doesn’t belong. The days are filled with selfies and sex and refusals to succumb to sadness. This is it, their last hoorah. Love is at the table, but it’s overplayed its hand. Sure, the future’s a wild card, but it’s been lost in the shuffle of compensating for all the missed instances of unencumbered intimacy.

Blaine takes Puck’s place in packing up the final pieces Kurt plans to take with him when he goes. The process runs slower than it had with Puck, with distractions abound springing up out of lust.

Kurt muses that perhaps the hand of his forgiveness is forced by the constraint of time. Kurt even tolerates Rachel for extended periods of time, offers her invites to Quinn’s with added threats of drowning her in the pool should her tongue run ahead of her mind.

The beginning of the end is upon them like a volcano set to erupt and send them flying. Blaine clings somehow tighter as the days pass, though they’ve been glued at the hip. Kurt lets him, likes it more than he lets on.

After their quasi-reunion at Dalton, the impasse and compromises, Kurt and Blaine seized the keys to Cooper’s car and drove off together. They went for ice cream, wagging their tails for a little nibble on the bone that’s been taunting them all summer. The shop is not too far from Dalton, on a farm that smells of cows and grass and open air, and Kurt felt the change, the shift that’s occurred between them. They sat on the roof of Cooper’s car, blazers discarded somewhere in the backseat, quiet and marveling at the starry sky. Couples, families, and groups of friends all milled around them, just as caught up in the spirit of summer that enlivens and lift cares away on the breeze.

“I love you,” Blaine reminded him, starting a trend of saying the words as often as possible before the chance is gone, combusting with the pressure of prior abstinence.

“I love you, too.” The confession loosened the last thread caught on Kurt’s heart. He feels boundless, now. Free. Free to love Blaine and not ache at the imperfection of crossing desire and practice.

The Andersons join the Hummels for dinner on Kurt’s last night. Cooper and Finn are placed at opposite ends of tables pushed together to make room for them all. Rachel joins them, a sparkle in her eye at the mention of New York – she’ll be there, too, Kurt recalls the information he blocked. Blaine pinches his side, mouths “be nice.” It’s a big city, if their paths cross, Kurt’s sure he can find an alley to duck into. Blaine pinches him again, reading Kurt’s mind.

The last memories Kurt holds of Blaine are flashes of the gasping boy beneath him, the elated giggles when they stay up talking through their exhaustion, the ring he fashions from gum wrappers to mark the occasion and promise friendship, the wavering smile when Kurt walks him home before dawn, the teary goodbye and the crushing hug that has to end sometime.

:: ::

Burt drives the rental truck all the way to New York. Kurt’s things are piled in the back, books and clothes and music and trinkets – some his, some not. He left Blaine a present sitting on his dresser, a shiny model of the car on his arm, put together and painted by his own hand. He’s stolen one from Blaine, called it a trade. It’s fair, seeing as he knows Blaine has poached pieces of his wardrobe while he was meant to be packing.

Santana is waiting for him to arrive, already moved in to the apartment he’ll share with her, Puck, and Quinn. It seems like a disaster waiting to happen, the four of them trapped in a quartered one-bedroom. They’ll make an adventure of navigating the landmines.

“How you holding up, kiddo?”

Kurt turns away from the window, looks at his father and smiles. “Good. I’m – good.”

“Sounds convincing.”

“I’ve been waiting for this for so long, it’s just… I don’t know. It doesn’t feel real yet.”

“You scared?”

“Terrified.”

“New York is gonna be a breeze, Kurt. It’s full of people like you. People who aren’t afraid to be different. Look at all the crap life’s thrown your way, and you’re still standing.”

“Don’t be surprised if I whack you with a crutch when we get out of this van.”

“Have you called the physical therapist your doctor recommended, yet?”

“Yes, dad. Everything’s in order. I’ve got my phone, my wallet, the keys Santana sent, the interview set up for that internship with Isabelle Wright.” He perks up in his seat. “I’ve got all my cards – ID, social security, insurance, emergency credit card –”

“Which is for…?”

“Emergencies.”

“Right. Which do not include…?”

“Tattoos.”

“Right again.”

Kurt rolls his eyes, turns back to the blurring highway.

“Kid, you’ll be fine. I’m a phone call away if you ever need me. Which you won’t.”

“I always need you, dad.”

Burt lets out a short bark of laughter. “That bullshit smells nice.”

Kurt clunks his head against the glass. “You’re insufferable.”

“Good thing Lima’s so far away, huh.”

“Not too far.”

Kurt falls asleep to Burt humming along to whatever classic rock station comes in clear as they pass through counties and cross state lines. When he wakes up, it’s getting dark again and he’s missed the crossover into New York. They’re sitting in traffic, the only thing delaying him from reaching his new home. He feels the excitement building within him, drumming an erratic beat through his veins.

Looking around, Kurt sees the variety of styles and skins that people wear. His father is right, differences are what bind this city together; Kurt will be invisible here in the way he’s never been.

Breathing in the musty, rank fragrance of downtown coming through his open window, he feels a surge of power and gratification. Feels young and wild. Feels free.

Chapter Text

Kurt sits on his father’s porch. Lima looks just the same as he left it; he’s the variant. Always was.

Finn never fully grasped the concept of contraception. His tiny, female doppelganger chases bugs through the grass, looking back at Uncle Kurt and bringing over whatever her clumsy hands manage to catch.

“That’s so cool,” he says, peeking at her findings. And disgusting, he keeps to himself.

He pulls his shades down over his eyes, the light too bright for the headache he’s sporting thanks to a little reunion get-together at Quinn’s last night – and this morning. The sun warms his bare skin and draws out all of his freckles. It’s easier to be in Lima when he doesn’t call it home anymore. Easier to breathe knowing he’s bound to the people, not the place.

Chrissy runs through the grass uninhibited, unconditioned to be self-conscious at so young an age. She’s giggling and gurgling, excited just for the sake of being alive. For all the conceit he’s rightfully earned, Kurt doesn’t think he’s ever been so limitless.

A car comes around the corner of the street. Kurt perks up, ready to move should his niece not view the sidewalk as a fence to keep her in. The car slows coming nearer to where they are. It pulls into the driveway across the street and Kurt smiles.

Blaine steps out of the car, his mother as well. Tess sees Kurt and immediately comes running for a hug.

“Oh, honey!” She’s reluctant to let go, but he pries her off. “I thought you were stuck in New York. No one ever updates me anymore.”

“Work delay.” He picks up Chrissy who’s ambled over. “It’s my niece’s birthday. How could I miss that?” Tess knows better, but she’s a recent enrollee of the Rachel Berry School now that Rachel and Cooper have joined forces – and genitals – to wreak havoc on the sanity of innocent minds. It’s oddly apt those two would find their way to one another.

“Hello, handsome,” he greets when Blaine approaches.

“Hewwo, han’sum,” Chrissy repeats.

“Hi, doll.” Blaine rubs a thumb at Chrissy’s cheeks.

“Rude.” Kurt pouts, not liking to be ignored.

“Hi, Kurt.”

Unc’l Kurt.”

“Hello, Uncle Kurt,” Blaine corrects, with a nod of approval from Chrissy.

Chrissy wriggles to be let down and Kurt sets her back on the grass. Tess leaves them be, making a shitty excuse to go, and looking back at the pair at least a dozen times and miming the shape of a heart before she actually makes it inside her house.

“Come,” Chrissy calls. The gesture of her hand makes no mistake of her demand. She stares at Kurt until his lazy feet pull him with her.

“Um, why doesn’t Uncle Kurt just watch and I’ll help you find the creepy crawlers.” Blaine wiggles his fingers at her, reaching out to tickle, and she runs away as he chases her.

Kurt gives up on the idea of dragging himself back to the steps and lies down on the lawn instead. He hears Blaine and Chrissy laughing and running, hears Blaine panting – old man – and suggesting they go back to the original plan. Then it’s quiet. Only the sounds of a boring afternoon on a suburban stretch of road.

Blaine’s hovering shadow lets Kurt know he dozed off. Kurt smiles at a distant memory of being here in this same spot, locked out of his house and hung-over – much like now, with a timid Blaine coming over to invite him inside, out of the heat. It was their first non-date date. He turns his head in Blaine’s direction, but he’s too comfortable to even fathom getting up.

“Kurt’s not in at the moment. Leave a message at the beep.”

“Hey, Kurt. It’s Blaine calling –” Kurt snorts, too hard and causes a coughing fit. “You’ve really got to cut down on the partying. You’re not as young as you once were.”

“Fuck you.”

Slowly, Blaine moves to straddle Kurt where he lays. “Here?”

Kurt pushes his sunglasses up then, fans himself a little. “Well, I declare! Where, oh where, has my little Beaver gone?”

“Hush you.”

“Do I have to say ‘make me’ or –”

Blaine kisses him hard, dirty, and slow. Blaine is all he can see and feel and taste and hear. He sits up on the ground suddenly, bumping heads with Blaine.

“Ouch.”

Kurt’s eyes comb the yard, the surrounding houses. He pushes Blaine off of him and stands up. “Where’s Chris?”

“Inside. With your parents.”

“You assholes just left me out here?”

“Uh… no?” Blaine does his scrunchy face and gestures to himself. “I just woke you up, dummy.”

“Right.” Kurt’s shoulders relax. “You know, you could have just carried me in, bridal style.”

“I haven’t asked you to marry me yet.”

“Well, get on with it then.” Kurt turns, laughing, headed inside.

“Do you get off on guessing my moves before I’ve made them?”

Kurt stops short, tripping on the bottom step and banging his knee into the wood. “Sweet mother of – fuck me. That’s – ow. That fucking hurt.”

“So I’ve gathered. Is that a yes?”

“I’ve forgiven you for a lot of things, but if you propose to me now when I’m going to be tossing up my breakfast in twenty minutes, we’re over.”

“So it’s a no?” Blaine smirks.

“It’s an ‘ask me properly, I’ve got options if this doesn’t pan out’.”

“Later, then.”

“Later,” Kurt agrees. He jumps on Blaine’s back without warning, almost sending them crashing to the floor, but Blaine hitches him up onto his hips securely. Kurt wraps himself tightly around Blaine and lets himself be carried toward the sound of his niece and his father singing along to her favorite movie. He rests his chin on Blaine’s shoulder and runs a hand through his curls. “It’s a yes, you know. Just to be clear.”