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For Better or for Worse

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"Two caterers can't make the tasting tomorrow so I have to reschedule the whole thing, Groom-Number-Two is a control freak horrorshow, and the last band didn't even bother to show up for their audition," Kurt says rapid-fire into his phone, walking down the hall swiftly, half because waiting for the last band has put him behind schedule for the rest of the day, and half because the quick click-click-click of his boots on the tile sounds authoritative and soothes him.

"And no," he says, as Rachel audibly draws a deep breath, "this does not mean that you can be my wedding singer."

"Kurt," Rachel protests, "I will admit: singing at weddings has never been a part of my seven-step surefire plan to Broadway stardom and status as EGOT-winning legend, but I would be more than happy to graciously assist you in your hour of need."

"And you're desperate, looking for ways to pay for your new headshots, and know that Robyn Gantry is one of the most influential theatre producers currently alive on this green earth," Kurt finishes. "No, Rachel. Business and friendships don't mix, and besides," he shifts his phone from one ear to the other as he digs into his satchel for a pen, "the happy couple has been very clear on the point that they don't want a typical Broadway-baby performance at the reception. And I quote: 'I get enough of that shit at work every day, and you know half the assholes there are gonna get up and sing anyway.' "

"Well!" Rachel huffs, signaling that Kurt got it in one when it came to her true motives. "That's vu--"

"Wait!" calls a voice from the opposite end of the hall, and Kurt sighs inwardly and then turns on his ideal-height heel.

The man scrambling toward him is compact and handsome, wearing a blue cardigan that Kurt immediately recognizes from a Jil Sander sample sale, dark curls tamed with just a little too much hair gel. He has a guitar in a gig bag thrown over his shoulder and his pants are perfectly turned up at the ankle over a gorgeous pair of loafers. He's even better-looking in person, Kurt's treacherous brain immediately insists. "Kurt Hummel?" he asks, out of breath.

Kurt ignores Rachel's demands to know what's happening and lowers the mouthpiece of his phone. "Blaine Anderson, I presume," he drawls.

"Yes," says Blaine Anderson, and he scrambles to tuck a sheaf of music under his left arm so that he can offer Kurt his right hand. He doesn't stop talking for a second as they shake hands. "I'm so sorry we're late; Sugar had problems with the van and I didn't realize til we were stuck on the side of the road that I never took down your number; I know that this doesn't exactly make us look trustworthy but we take gigs very seriously and this has never happened before--"

"Rachel," Kurt says over her tinny voice; "I'm going to have to call you back," and he hangs up on her while she tells him don't-you-dare-hang-up. He turns his full attention on Blaine Anderson, who has finally shut his mouth for a second. "I have a wine tasting for another wedding in 45 minutes. How fast can you set up?"

When Blaine Anderson smiles, his bandmates beginning to stagger down the hallway behind him with their arms full of instruments, it lights up his whole face.

Ten minutes later, Kurt is perched on a table in the empty banquet hall, watching five strangers play a cover of a sweet, sad song he's never heard before. This is exactly what drew him to the band in the first place. They're the strangest mix of camp and earnest; wholesome yet wildly cheeky. He first discovered them on YouTube of all places, drunker than he wants to admit and searching for the fiercest covers of "I Will Survive" that he could find, the night after an ugly breakup.

What he found was a gritty video of a New Jersey band with a terrible name. When the skinny girl in the spandex and the glitter and the improbable heels led the band on stage, Kurt had expected her to go straight to the microphone, but instead, she'd marched over to the drums while giving Miss America waves to the cheering crowd. They had a boyband lookalike on acoustic guitar, a guy in a wheelchair and an eye-searing sweater vest on synthesizer, a meathead with a mohawk on bass guitar, and an utterly improbable frontman who adapted Gloria Gaynor to a strong, clear tenor and danced around his keyboard with wild abandon while looking like a throwback from the 1950s.

Kurt had sobered up and spent the rest of the night clicking on thumbnails in the 'Related Videos' sidebar, watching the band tear through everything from "In the Summertime" to "Fat-Bottomed Girls" to "It's Raining Men"; Ray Charles and Rihanna and AC/DC and Beck and Cole Porter and Patti LuPone and countless singer/songwriter indie songs that Kurt didn't recognize.

They're all here in front of him now, sweaty and disheveled from throwing their gear into place at blinding speed (and while Kurt is a professional, one who prefers cleanliness at that, he can also completely appreciate the disheveled look on four out of the five band members), and they're emoting their little hearts out.

Well. Blaine Anderson is, anyway, standing alone in the front and gripping the microphone with all of the pathos and earnesty that this unfamiliar song demands. The rest of them don't look quite as engaged, especially mohawk, who seems to be spending more time leering at the drummer than paying attention to the (fully-correct, as far as Kurt can tell) bass line that he's playing.

They're compelling and fantastic and weird, even more so than they were on YouTube. Kurt has never seen a more mismatched group.

"What do I do, what do I do, what do I do?" croons Blaine Anderson; "what do I do, without you?" and the acoustic guitar finishes the last two bars alone. Kurt lets the silence ring while they all look to him with varying degrees of smiles or uncertainty. From what Blaine said in the emails they exchanged, the band has never played a wedding before; their repertoire has been strictly limited to Hoboken bars and friends' garages and one Newark new music festival. Hiring them would constitute an enormous risk.

Kurt stands up, tucking the strap of his satchel over his shoulder. "You'll need a new name," he says briskly. " 'Your Mama,' while devastatingly witty, is not going to fly with the crème de la crème of New York arts and theatre society. You," he points at Backstreet Blondie, "need a haircut" (the guitarist blinks), "and we'll have to talk suits. I'm thinking 1960s, Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons chic."

"Wait -- what?" asks the guitarist, flicking his hair out of his eyes, and Kurt turns and starts to walk away.

"Dude's kind of a dick," says a voice that Kurt would be willing to bet belongs to the one with the mohawk. He would be insulted, except that the statement actually sounded a little bit impressed. Kurt can work with impressed.

He hits 'send' on the text he'd composed while listening. Behind him, someone's phone chimes. "Now you have my number," he says over his shoulder. "I'll be in touch, and you will be on time from now on."

"Does this mean we're hired?" Blaine Anderson calls, a smile in his voice.

"I'll email you the contract; you can text me with any questions. Please make sure they're not stupid."

Kurt didn't get to where he is, perched on the cusp of true New York wedding-planner stardom at the astonishing age of 25, by avoiding risk. He sweeps out of the room to the sound of a couple of whoops and a particularly noisy high-five. They're perfect, Kurt thinks, as long as they don't screw him six ways til Sunday.

"Wow," Mercedes says. "You hired the random-ass band with the bad name? Seriously?"

"They're eclectic, they can hit the Broadway standards for any starlets who decide to drunkenly serenade the grooms, they're under orders to change their name, they'll be incredible eye-candy once they're cleaned up, and they have ... something." Kurt wags a hand. He isn't at his most eloquent; it has been a long, long day of working with one particularly difficult bride while fielding intrusive phone calls from an even-more-difficult groom, and now he is at the point of the night where he sprawls limply across the sofa in Mercedes's tiny living room while she makes judgmental noises from the kitchen.

"Something, huh?" she calls, knowing.

Kurt rolls his eyes. "Stop it. There's star quality there; that's all I'm saying."

"Uh huh," says Mercedes. "There's also a keyboard player who's cute as a button and wears bowties."

He sits up enough to shoot her a long, level look over the back of the sofa. Mercedes raises her eyebrows back at him, and points with the fork that she's using to toss a salad. "Don't you give me that look, Kurt Hummel. I've seen your YouTube account; I know how many of that band's videos you favorited after the disaster with Diego."

"It wasn't a disaster," Kurt protests. "It was a breakup."

"It was a disaster breakup." Mercedes comes around the sofa and hands him a plate with salad and steak tartare from the amazing place down the street. "Do I need to remind you how many pints of mocha almond fudge ice cream you went through in three days? 'Cause I can do that."

"Don't do that," he says, fast and heartfelt, and she makes an I thought so face as she goes back to get her own plate. "What's your point, Mercedes? I know you have one."

"I just think you should admit that you think the little guy's cute," she says pragmatically, setting her plate and glass of water on the coffee table. "Nothin' wrong with that. Hell, I think he's cute, and I'm pretty sure he doesn't bat for my team."

He sighs gustily and swallows the mouthful of romaine and raspberry vinaigrette that he has been chewing. "Fine," he says. "He's cute. And he's not that little."

Mercedes turns a dubious eye on him. "I want you to sit there and think about what you just said," she says, "and make sure you didn't hire a band for the most important wedding of your career just because the lead singer was cute." She disappears into her bathroom.

Kurt rolls his eyes at his salad, and then his phone beeps with an incoming text. He reaches for it and is entertaining thoughts of stabbing his iPhone with his fork if it's Patrick with more opinions on flower arrangements and table settings and seating arrangements -- but instead, it's another number altogether.

Blaine Anderson
Thank you again for hiring us; we're in discussions about a new name right now.

(I'm really glad you said that. I've been trying to convince Puck that "Yo Mama" is terrible for months.)

Kurt gives a tiny whuff of amusement, more through his nose than his mouth, and quickly taps out a response.

I'm always happy to lend a helping hand when it comes to feats of linguistic brilliance. Puck - mohawk? Somehow I'm not surprised.

Blaine's answer is immediate; fast enough that he must have already typed it out.

I do have a few questions about the contract. I'm hoping they aren't stupid. Do you have time to discuss? I'll be in the city on Thursday.

Kurt glances toward Mercedes's closed bathroom door.

I'm sure I can squeeze you in.

Blaine texts back: :)

"You gave me full creative control," Kurt reminds, struggling to keep his tone halfway between doormat-polite and I-am-dousing-all-of-your-silk-scarves-in-bleach-in-my-mind-right-now.

"And you hired a nameless band that has never played a show or event of any significance," retorts Patrick Tucker. He is the high-class art dealer to Robyn Gantry's Broadway producer; a tall, distinguished man with a shock of perfectly-styled thick gray hair and a penchant for very expensive suits. "You'll excuse me if I'm dubious."

He is also the most difficult party, groom or bride, who Kurt has ever worked for. Which is evidenced by the fact that Kurt is sitting here on a Thursday afternoon in the dining room at Le Bernardin, when they did not have a meeting scheduled when Kurt woke up this morning.

Unfortunately, Patrick is also the most important party who Kurt has ever worked for. If Patrick and Robyn's extravagant wedding comes off well, Kurt's books will be in the black for the rest of his life; instead of being the up-and-coming wedding planner who does everything himself and fights and claws for every scrap that he gets, he'll have his pick of the most exclusive events in New York. He thinks longingly of getting to choose his clients, and hire staff. As much as he loves Finn and appreciates that he volunteers his evenings and weekends to help lift things at strangers' weddings, Kurt would kill for an assistant who understands color wheels and is less prone to dropping priceless items.

"Patrick, you'll see," he promises, with all of the confidence and panache that he possesses. "They're amazing; one of a kind, truly."

Patrick watches him across the table, long and level. Then he says: "Convince me."

"Wh -- right now?" Kurt asks, and his voice must go higher-pitched and expression more judgmental than he means them to, because Patrick's frown deepens. Kurt leans down and digs for his phone in his satchel. "I can show you the videos; they're very int--"

"No," says Patrick. "I want to hear them, in person." He tilts his head toward the corner of the room where, from what Kurt understands (he had never been able to set foot in Le Bernardin before being hired by Patrick and Robyn), jazz musicians occasionally set up a stage to play.

Of course Patrick can snap his fingers and have staff at an outrageously expensive restaurant build a stage and allow an unknown band in off the street to play for their lunch-hour clientele. He's Patrick Tucker. Not for the first time, Kurt doubts the wisdom of the decision to take on this job.

"They're not based in the city, and I'm fairly sure most of the musicians have day jobs; I can't get them here right n--" Kurt starts to explain, watching Patrick's face grow stormier, and then his phone chimes with an incoming text and Kurt is struck by twin lightning bolts of realization.

1) He is late for lunch with Blaine, where they're supposed to go over the contract terms and set list; and
2) That may actually be the answer to his problem.

This is how Kurt winds up stuffed into Le Bernardin's coatroom twenty minutes later, frantically fixing the infinitesimal tilt to Blaine Anderson's bowtie and brushing down the sides of his cardigan, which is far too familiarly to be treating someone who he only met last week and who he has been exchanging cautiously friendly texts with for several days, but Blaine has to be perfect.

"Kurt," Blaine says, low, and he catches Kurt's hands in his own. He peers at Kurt, and then, sounding awed and surprised: "Are you nervous?"

Kurt refuses to answer. He decides that the avoidance position will afford him more dignity than answering with the truth, which is: 'No, I'm not nervous; I'm having a panic attack.' "You have to impress him."

"Okay," Blaine says firmly, which is strangely soothing. He squeezes Kurt's hands before dropping them. "What -- what should I play?"

That's less soothing.

"Whatever you want," Kurt says grimly. There's no sense in trying to micromanage; not when the all-important task is having Patrick like what Blaine brings to the table. "Select a range of emotional projection and be you."

Blaine nods, his eyes just a little too wide for his face, then he takes a deep breath, puts on a convincingly-bright smile, hikes his guitar strap higher up on his shoulder, and steps out of the closet. Kurt follows a respectable moment or two later and makes his way back to the dining room.

"--derson, and it's great to be here," Blaine says, apparently mid-introduction. Kurt slips into his seat and neatly lays his napkin over his knee again. Patrick doesn't pay him any mind, watching Blaine on the little stage with an inscrutable expression. "I hope this isn't too much of a disruption of your lunches, which look delicious, by the way." There's a low, pleasant rumble of chuckles through the diners; a woman sitting near the stage offers a forkful of something up toward Blaine. "No, thank you, I couldn't; you're too kind," Blaine protests, grinning and drawing more laughs.

Kurt's heart begins to settle down in his chest.

Right up until Blaine launches into a slow, acoustic guitar cover of an instantly familiar song.

"Don't stop, make it pop; DJ, blow my speakers up."

Well. Be you, Kurt had said. Apparently, Blaine is a Ke$ha fan.

Kurt steals a glance at Patrick. He's pretty sure he could smash his plate of roasted duck magret across the man's nose and he wouldn't even blink; he is absolutely stone-faced, watching Blaine, and he remains that way for the rest of the song, even when Blaine has the room eating out of the palm of his hand by the time he hits the first chorus.

Kurt would probably be swooning, too -- he is self-aware enough to admit that, seeing Blaine perched on a stool with his sleeves rolled up to the elbows and guitar balanced in his lap, singing and smiling and charming the whole restaurant -- if his entire future wasn't resting on the next few minutes. If Patrick isn't happy, he and Robyn won't continue with Kurt's services; the work that he has done so far can easily be handed off to one of the multitudes of planners who are salivating at the thought of getting a shot at the wedding of the year, and Kurt will never be hired in this city again. He'll have to move home and plan Dora the Explorer-themed birthday parties for two-year-olds and funerals for little old ladies' cats.

Blaine moves from "Tik Tok" on to a gentle tune that Kurt doesn't know, the lyrics all love and loss (and the relevant pronouns all male, Kurt notes), and he finishes with a rousing rendition of "I Heard It Through the Grapevine." After a certain point, Kurt gives up on sneaking glances at Patrick and he stiffly watches Blaine sing. It's incredibly attractive -- not that he can fully appreciate it at the moment -- it's true, but Mercedes's caution was wrong. He booked the band because Blaine (and the others, but it was Blaine who caught his eye, and who he suspects is driving most of the band's more unusual cover choices) is so good; Blaine being so good is a large part of his appeal. When he gives that thousand-watt smile and slides off the stool with a "thank you," to enthusiastic applause, Kurt is fairly sure that half the restaurant is in love with him.

Kurt looks at Patrick again. He's sitting up straighter in his seat, because -- Kurt turns to look -- Blaine is headed straight for their table, guitar in his left hand.

"Mr. Tucker," Blaine says, extending his right hand. "It's a pleasure to meet you."

Patrick shakes his hand, looks him up and down, and then shifts and pulls his wallet out of his pocket. Kurt's eyebrows start to climb toward his hairline -- and then Patrick throws his platinum card down on the table, on top of the check that the waiter left before Blaine began to sing. "He'll do," he grunts to Kurt. "But the rest of them are going to need coaching; the one with the hair," the gesture that he makes cannot be construed as anything but a reference to a mohawk, "looks like a dumbass."

Kurt gapes at him.

"I'm twice your age, Mr. Hummel, not an idiot; I know how to use the Google," says Patrick. "I want you to bring them around. Class them up. I'll be keeping an eye on the process."

Kurt blinks rapidly, then nods.

Patrick stands up, beckons the waiter with one imperious gesture, and heads for the coatroom.

They watch him go in silence, the waiter scurrying to snatch up the check and the credit card. Once he is out of sight, Blaine drops bonelessly into his vacated chair. "Oh my god," he says. "Is he always like that?"

"Pretty much," Kurt says, dry as the desert to try to hide just how sweaty his palms are.

"Oh my god," Blaine says again. "It's like trying to impress my dad, but about a million times worse."

In the background, Kurt notices the waiter hurrying back toward the entrance, presumably trying to catch Patrick to give him his card as he leaves. He looks back at Blaine, who looks shellshocked. "Hey," Kurt says, and Blaine's gaze snaps to him. He lowers his voice, and doesn't particularly care if it comes across as flirty. Actually, he hopes that it does. "Do you want to get out of here?"

Blaine slowly smiles.

"I love New York pizza," Blaine says fervently. Kurt cannot believe that he still finds Blaine attractive while he talks with a mouthful of tomato sauce and hot processed cheese, but, God help him, he does.

"As opposed to New Jersey pizza?" Kurt asks dryly, making much neater work of his own slice as they slowly wander the southern side of Central Park. There's just enough of a spring snap in the air that the park is well-used without being overcrowded; they're mostly with dog walkers and joggers and nannies pushing bundled-up kids in strollers.

"It tastes very different," Blaine defends, and Kurt laughs.

"Why would one willingly choose to live in New Jersey, anyway?" he asks.

"Have you seen New York rents lately?" Blaine asks, and Kurt shoots him a level look. "--You live here; of course you have. But you know what I mean." Kurt shrugs companionably, the two of them almost walking shoulder-to-shoulder. "I've got a part-time job at a shipping company; just until the band makes it big."

"You're about to make it pretty damn big," Kurt points out.

"I know," Blaine exhales. "I don't think Sugar and the guys completely get it, but I know who Robyn Gantry and Patrick Tucker are."

"You're a well-informed shipping clerk," he teases lightly.

Blaine laughs. "I'm an aspiring musician who tried to get on Broadway when he first got to New York. Of course I know their names."

"Ah, the siren song of the Broadway lights," Kurt says, faux-nostalgic, because it's easier if he treats it like a joke or like something that wasn't everything to him. "I think they've sucked in every gay man within 50 miles of the city at some point in his life."

Blaine shoots him a clearly-intrigued sidelong look. "You'll have to do a song with us at the wedding," he says, and his smile only widens at Kurt's immediate, alarmed no.

"I haven't sung publicly since I was in high school glee club, Blaine, and I'll be in a room full of professional actors and directors who I have to impress with my style and organizational skills; no, absolutely not."

This is where Blaine immediately endears himself to Kurt even further: he drops it. Kurt's friends have never heard of the idea of dropping it. "You're going to impress them," he says. "I can't believe how much you're juggling with all of this. It's amazing." He gestures with what's left of his pizza on 'all of this.' Kurt isn't sure what he's so impressed with; he has only seen Kurt brisk and running late on the day that Yo Mama auditioned, and making a few lightning-fast phone calls and texts while Blaine bought their pizza from a corner bodega.

Kurt has still never quite mastered the art of accepting a compliment gracefully. Rather than respond, he pops the last bite of crust in his mouth and chews. Blaine smiles and seems perfectly content to wait him out, watching two laughing kids chase a barking Irish setter across the path in front of them and eating his own slice of pizza.

"Well," Kurt says, "it sounds like we're going to be seeing a lot of each other."

Blaine laughs. "He really wasn't impressed with them, was he?"

"You have to admit they're--" Halfway through the sentence, Kurt reconsiders its harshness -- from the way that Blaine talks about Artie, Sam, Sugar, and Puck, they bewilder him at times, but they're good friends. "--a little rough around the edges." He knows his eyes are probably gleaming, but he doesn't care. Etiquette lessons and makeovers may be just one more responsibility added to the mountain that he's currently straining under, but they're like crack to him. "Which can be fixed."

"We'll totally straighten them out," Blaine promises. "Hey, you said you're going to see your florist on 52nd and 7th, right? I'm meeting a friend at Grand Central; I'll walk you down there."

Kurt wonders if ravishing the lead singer of the band that he hired still counts as a professional conflict of interest if he technically isn't the one paying his salary.

Kurt takes one look at the state of his kitchen, and then he shouts, "Finn!"

"I'm gonna clean it!" Finn hollers from behind his closed bedroom door.

Kurt puts down his bag with a heavy thunk and starts dumping used dishes into the sink as loudly as humanly possible. "I don't understand how you do this." He wrinkles his nose at a pot, which has what looks like leftover pasta and sauce crusted up the sides. There's even more caked across the burners on the stove. "This kitchen sparkled when I left this morning!"

Finn scrambles out of his room, and Kurt narrows his eyes at him as he shuts the door behind himself and finishes pulling his T-shirt down over his stomach. Kurt points at him with a filthy wooden spoon. "You are a one-man wrecking crew."

"Uh," Finn says, hushed, as he crosses the tiny living room, "actually, two-man." He stops; his eyebrows furrow. "Wait. No. One-man, one-woman?"

Kurt frowns prodigiously. "I thought we agreed to play 'Love Hangover' as a warning system whenever one of us has an overnight guest."

"Nnnno, we didn't," Finn says, not unkindly. "You agreed. I wanted to put a sock on the door." Kurt sighs sharply and drops a colander and handful of utensils into the sink. Finn continues, "I'm really sorry; I was gonna clean up, but--" He gets that half-proud, half-shifty Finn look, and Kurt holds up a hand to forestall whatever TMI horrors are forthcoming.

"It's fine," Kurt says, "as long as you don't finish that sentence. But I refuse to be sexiled."

"Yeah, no, definitely," Finn hurriedly agrees. Kurt shoots him a long, unimpressed look, then shrugs his jacket off, hangs it on the tree by the door, and rolls up his sleeves.

"Thank you," he says fervently as Kurt goes for the rubber dishwashing gloves. "Seriously, Kurt, thanks; I owe you one."

"Next time, do the dishes first, and we'll call it even," Kurt says, and Finn nods vigorously and disappears back into his room.

Kurt glares at the faucet.

Three loads of dishes later, he lets himself collapse facefirst into his 900-thread count Egyptian cotton sheets and lie there for a full minute, shoes still on (feet hanging off the edge of the bed) before slowly starting to move. When he plugs his iPhone into the charger, he sees that he has a bunch of new texts, and he unlocks the screen with his thumb to flick through them.

There's another from Rachel, apologizing profusely again for canceling on him (they're apologies that she doesn't need to make; Kurt loves Rachel, but he was frankly relieved to be able to take the Q train home at 9:00 after a long day instead of going back to Manhattan to put up with yet another of Rachel's disastrous attempts to set him up with an understudy or a lighting technician or viola player from her current off-off-off Broadway show), and one from Mercedes, confirming that they're on for tomorrow night. Tina texted to apologetically warn that she can't get her hands on the amount of out-of-season lilies of the valley that Patrick is insisting on, and Kurt puts the phone down and resolves to read the rest after he has done his nightly skincare routine, complete with calming aromatherapy.

It's not particularly calming tonight; there are suspicious noises coming through the thin wall that separates Kurt's bedroom from Finn's, and while Kurt is studiously ignoring said noises, he's still stuck on the lilies of the valley. Tina is the very best at what she does. If she can't get that quantity, no one can, which means that Kurt is going to have to reach out to four or five other florists to make up the shortfall, and--

He realizes belatedly that he has been rubbing moisturizer into the same two inches of skin above his cheekbone for at least a minute. He stares at himself in the vanity mirror, then takes a deep breath of lavender and geranium candle and reaches for his iPhone again.

Carole texted to ask if he's seen the latest episode of My Fair Wedding with David Tutera yet, because "it's a doozy." David Tutera and his seemingly-unlimited made-for-TV budgets are the bane of Kurt's existence, but he and Carole are addicted anyway. His college roommate sent an incomprehensible text for which Kurt is judging him, considering that it arrived at 8:15 on a Tuesday night. Another apology from Rachel, and -- Kurt slowly smiles at the last one.

Oh, I don't know, says Blaine's text. I'm convinced Gaga could do anything if she put her mind to it. And didn't she wear a spacesuit to the VMAs last year? She's good to go!

Kurt is trying not to let it get to him like this. They've barely known each other a week, and Blaine is a vendor. But Blaine's several-times-daily casual texts, as they keep up a wide-ranging conversation, make Kurt feel like he's 16 again, with a giddy, ridiculous first crush.

There are a series of rhythmic thumps from the room next door.

Especially since Kurt prefers to pretend that his actual first crush never happened.

Kurt writes back, You're thinking of the Met Ball, but point taken. You live with straight men, right? Why are they constitutionally incapable of understanding the principle of leaving dishes to soak? You'd think it was rocket science.

He hits send, then texts Rachel to tell her to stop it, Carole to promise that he'll catch up with the DVR so that they can discuss, and is halfway through textually laughing at Keith when the next text comes in.

Baby, they were born that way? Blaine suggests, and Kurt laughs.

Another text pops up. Seriously, though, I don't know. Mike and Matt are pretty good about cleaning. I'm probably the messiest guy in the apartment.

Way to break the stereotype, Kurt says.

That's me! Several seconds later: Long day?

Kurt scrolls up and down the row of texts, smiling, then he tells Keith to take a taxi home, Tina that he'll call her with a gameplan in the morning, Mercedes that he doesn't know the address of the bar where they'll be meeting, and he finally settles down to the very serious task of picking out a Lady Gaga lyric that is apropos to the day that he has had.

"Rachel, seriously," says Mercedes over the general hum of the bar. "What is your deal?"

For someone who is an actress by trade, Rachel is astonishingly awful at the outraged innocent act. "Wh -- me? Mercedes, just what are you implying??"

"No, she's right," Kurt pronounces, squinting across the table at her. "You've been much twitchier than usual lately."

"Well!" huffs Rachel, apparently still going with offended as her primary reaction. "I--" She points over Kurt's shoulder. "Is that him?" It's a blatant attempt at changing the subject. It's also, Kurt discovers when he turns in his chair, a valid question. There's Blaine Anderson, his face lighting up as he sees Kurt. He waves, and Kurt waves back as he starts making his way toward them through the Wednesday night crowd.

"I still can't believe you accidentally texted him about the show when you were trying to talk to me," Mercedes says. " 'M' and 'B' aren't even close to each other in the alphabet."

"I can't believe it either," says Rachel with entirely different inflection, and they both start laughing, because they are the worst friends in midtown.

Kurt hisses, "He doesn't know that I didn't mean to invite him, so zip it!" A half a second passes. "Besides, it was an understandable mistake. You were both texting me at the same time."

"He's sulking," Rachel giggles to Mercedes, and when Kurt rolls his eyes and takes a pointed sip of his mojito, she pats his hand. "Oh Kurt, it's all right; he's very cu-- hello, you must be Blaine." Kurt looks up from his drink, fast. Sure enough, Blaine is standing beside their table, dreamy as ever in a pea coat and a smile.

"I am," he confirms, and Rachel is on a roll.

"I'm Rachel Berry; I know Kurt has told you all about me by now," she says, offering a matter-of-fact hand. Looking both confused and bemused, Blaine shakes it, glancing at Kurt.

I'm sorry, Kurt mouths.

"It's always a pleasure to meet a fellow denizen of the performing arts," Rachel plows onward. "I've only h--"

"Hi," Mercedes interrupts. "I'm Mercedes. Pull up a chair, Blaine."

"Thank you," he says, his expression distinctly (politely) relieved as he shrugs out of his coat. The loss of the coat reveals that yes, Blaine does continue to have the world's most comprehensive men's knitwear collection. This sweater skims his trim torso beautifully, and Kurt is alarmed to suddenly realize that Blaine has sat down beside him and someone is saying his name.

"I didn't know Finn was coming," Mercedes says, now that she has his attention, and he follows her gaze to where Finn and an unfamiliar man are headed straight for their table.

He blinks. "I didn't, either."

"Hey!" Finn greets cheerfully. "This is Rory; he teaches geometry."

"Hullo," says the stranger, with a flick of his fingers.

"If we'd known you were coming, we'd have baked a cake. Or more relevantly, gotten a bigger table," Kurt says, eyes narrowed in suspicion. In all the years he's been coming to New York to visit, and in the more recent ones now that he actually lives here, Finn has never made a habit of showing up unannounced at Mercedes's gigs. If it's an especially important one or he has been specifically invited, he usually makes an appearance, but without any reminder from Kurt, and with a fellow teacher in tow? It's unheard of.

"Last minute decision," Finn says, doing a terrible job of coming across as casual. "Rory's on exchange from Ireland for the year, and he totally wants to meet more Americans."

Rory looks earnest enough when he nods and says, "It's true," so Kurt doesn't point out that it's late February and thus that more than half of the year is already gone.

"Rory, this is Mercedes, Kurt, Rachel, and--" Finn stops. "Sorry, dude--?"

"Oh!" Blaine smiles and offers a hand, first to Rory (who shakes it) and then Finn (who stares at it for a second, like he's trying to figure out where he recognizes its owner from, then shakes it). "I'm Blaine."

"Mercedes, Kurt, Rachel, and Blaine!" Finn says, looking pleased with himself.

Mercedes gives a little wave. Kurt says, "Hello," and Blaine smiles encouragingly.

"Let's just--" Finn glances around, at the full-to-bursting bar. "--grab a few chairs."

"One of you boys can park your butt in mine," Mercedes says, rising. "I'm on in a couple minutes, anyway."

This is the first chance that Kurt has had to take in the entirety of her outfit, and he does it at a glance. The dress is a short, silver sheath, layers of hammered satin tiers fitted perfectly to her body. "Tahari?" he asks. "It's fabulous."

Mercedes shakes her head, but before she can correct him, Blaine says, "Definitely Adrianna Papell," and the entire table turns to look at him. Kurt is particularly aware of Finn's gaping. "My sister's a big fan of their dresses," Blaine adds. "It looks amazing on you."

"Thank you," Mercedes hums, pleased, and when Blaine turns to answer whatever it is that Rachel is asking him, Mercedes mouths something at Kurt over his head. He has no idea what it is, since he isn't a mind or lip reader, but it looks wildly approving and also wildly unsubtle. He furiously draws a finger across his throat, then turns the gesture into an innocent touch to his hair when Blaine glances back toward him again.

Mercedes only laughs. "I'll see you guys later," she promises with a wave and a wink, and they chorus goodbyes and well wishes (Rory tells her 'good luck,' which earns him an instant horrified stare from Rachel) after her as she sashays over toward the band that's setting up on stage.

While Rachel lays into Rory about the proper etiquette for wishing a good performance on a performer, Blaine leans in. Kurt can almost feel the warmth of his shoulder. "So how do you all know each other?" Blaine asks.

Finn says abruptly, "I'm gonna buy a round. Kurt?"

"I'm fine, thank you," Kurt says, and turns back to Blaine. "Finn and Mercedes and I went to high school together, an--"

"I could really use a hand carrying," Finn says, making significant eyes at him and practically shifting from foot to foot.

"--Okay," says Kurt. "Fine." He takes a final sip of his mojito and stands up. "I'll be right back." The promise is primarily for Blaine, who is about to be abandoned at a table with Rachel Berry and a stranger who looks completely overwhelmed as she steamrolls him.

"I'll keep your drink warm for you," Blaine promises.

"Touch my mojito and you'll live to regret it," threatens Kurt, and Blaine laughs and holds up his hands in surrender.

Finn walks away toward the bar without actually taking any drink orders, because he continues to be the least subtle man in all of New York. Kurt rolls his eyes and trails along after him. "What, Finn?" he asks once at the bar, having followed the path that Finn genially shoved through the crowd.

"Is Blaine gay?"

"Yes, Blaine is gay. What does that have to do with anything?"

"Are you guys dating?" To his credit, Finn has apparently improved at recognizing the signs of an I have gay friends, Finn Hudson; there is such a thing rant when he sees one, because his eyes widen and he hurriedly adds, "It's just -- with basketball season and the school musical rehearsals, and those two weddings you're doing and everything, I feel like I don't really know what's going on with you, you know?"

Kurt softens. "No," he says, and pulls a face when some stranger's elbow hits him in the small of his back; "we're not dating." He raises a hand to try to get the attention of one of the bartenders. The harried-looking woman nods perfunctorily, which means they might get served sometime in the next century.

"What's his deal?" Finn asks, leaning on the bar.

He sighs, and gives Finn the Cliff Notes version. "His band is going to play the reception at the big society wedding I've been planning. We've been texting and I accidentally sent him 'so: Garage, tomorrow, 8?' instead of Mercedes."

"Oh man," says Finn, in a burst of perception that makes Kurt's heart sink. "Oh man! He's that guy! He's that guy from that band!"

"Yes, fine, fantastic," Kurt hisses. "Don't tell him that I YouTube-stalked him."

Finn shoots him a funny look. "Why would I do that?"

"Why do you do any of the things that you do?" Kurt asks, though he thinks it's a rhetorical question, because the bartender has finally come over and Finn is busy ordering a pitcher of pilsner with five glasses.

"He seems cool," Finn says once the bartender is gone again. The trumpet and trombone players are tuning up in the background. "And ... kind of little, but attractive. And stuff. Right?"

"You've never gotten better at lady-chats," Kurt tells him, and from the way that Finn smiles, he knows that he can hear the fondness in Kurt's voice.

Kurt glances back at the table. Rory has sat down, still looking shellshocked from Rachel's "break a leg" lecture, and Rachel is now very seriously monopolizing Blaine, her hands gesturing wildly. Blaine is blinking. Kurt plucks his phone out of his inner jacket pocket and texts Rachel: whatever you're doing, stop it right now.

He misses her reaction due to being drafted into helping to carry empty glasses back to the table, but when he and Finn arrive, Rachel only smiles sweetly at them. Rory is in the middle of a sentence.

"--say they can't understand my accent, but I think they really just don't want to take their quiz on congruent and similar angles."

"I can't blame them," Blaine says; "--no offense, Rory," but Rory is grinning. "I can't remember the difference between angles, either."

"I fear for the stacks of boxes that you arrange at your day job," Kurt says, setting down the glasses and sliding back into his seat, and Blaine laughs. The skin around his eyes crinkles when he smiles like that, and Kurt half wants to recommend a dozen serums and half just wants to stare dreamily.

"Thank you, Finn," Rachel is saying on his other side, sounding touched, and Kurt blinks and starts to glance over -- then the MC pops up onto the stage.

"Hi!" he says cheerfully into the mic, and a few rowdier customers at the bar shout back hellos. "We've got a real treat for you all tonight; Mercedes Jones is here to sing your faces off." There are cheers; Kurt cups his hands around his mouth and shouts, "Ow-ow!" Standing back with the band, Mercedes laughs and preens. "So without any further ado -- Miss Mercedes Jones."

She steps up to the microphone, hair and makeup flawless under the bright lights, and Kurt settles back in his chair and feels the same warm swell of pride that he always does while watching Mercedes do her thing. "I thought we'd start out with one of my favorites," she says, smiling, and the band launches into the intro to "Share Your Love with Me."

"It's an evil wind that blows no good; yeah, it's a sad heart that won't love like I know it should," she sings, full and deep and rich, and a hand grabs Kurt's elbow and holds on tight.

"Oh, my, God," Blaine says quietly, low and stunned, and Kurt isn't sure if it's physically possible to be any happier (or more smug) than this.

It turns out that it is possible; toward the end of her set, Mercedes finally laughs and says, "Okay, Rachel Berry, get on up here."

Kurt turns to look at Rachel. She's making an unconvincing display of surprised modesty, mouthing, Who, me?

"Girl, I can see you practically vibrating back there; I know you want to. Let's go, come on already."

Rachel beams, drops her capelet off her shoulders, and goes bounding up to the stage amid a smattering of applause. She hugs Mercedes at the microphone and they quickly confer before Mercedes turns back to the crowd. "We're gonna switch it up now; you better be ready for this."

Kurt starts laughing before the piano player has even finished the split-second run right at the beginning of the number. Blaine does, too, a second later; when Kurt glances at him, he finds him watching the stage, enthralled and grinning fit to bust as Mercedes and Rachel vamp around each other, eyeing each other up and singing the initial yeah's and ooh-ooh's.

The whole place is in an uproar by the time they hit the chorus, circling each other and play-fighting. Rachel is bouncing -- and they're both fighting smiles -- just a little too much for the duet to come across as angry as Maureen and Joanne are supposed to be, but it's perfect just the same.

The solid wave of sound that erupts out of the crowd as they go up on the final "Take me, baby -- or leave me!" is incredible. Kurt can barely hear the sound of his own cheers. Blaine has two fingers in his mouth and is whistling ear-splittingly beside him; Finn has a familiar dazed, glazed-eye look on his face as he claps furiously, and Rory is smiling delightedly beside him.

Rachel hides her face with her hand for a second, laughing, and Mercedes grabs her other hand so that they can bow together.

"Wow," Blaine is still saying two hours later. "Just -- wow. I can't believe you hired Yo Mama when your best friends sound like that."

Boots crunching in the snow and ice and sand as they pick their way along the sidewalk, Kurt says, "1) I prefer not to mix my friendships with my professional life, 2) your sound is very different and equally nice, and 3) please, it's 'the artists formerly known as Yo Mama.' "

Up ahead, Rachel and Mercedes are singing again, arms linked as they all troop along toward the subway, and Finn and Rory are discussing something animatedly.

Blaine laughs, and Kurt -- not drunk, but pleasantly warm and buzzed -- turns around and walks backward for a few steps so that Blaine can catch the full force of his play-serious look. "You need to pick a new name."

"We're working on it!" Blaine says, hands in his pockets against the cold. "I promise!"

"I have yet to see any evidence of this."

"It's a very serious decision," he insists. "Don't worry; we're gonna come up with something that'll knock your socks off."

"Uh huh," says Kurt, and Blaine laughs again. They walk for a few seconds in companionable sentence, practically knocking shoulders, and then he hears Blaine draw in a breath.

"I know you grew up with Mercedes and Finn, but I've got to ask -- how do you know Rachel Berry?"

It's Kurt's turn to laugh now. "That is the question, isn't it?" he asks wryly. "I met her while on the audition circuit after college. The theater career didn't last, but Rachel did. I'm still not entirely sure how she managed to worm her way so thoroughly into our lives."

Blaine smiles. "She's sweet."

"She is," Kurt agrees. "She's also a holy terror, but she's an amazing friend." Their feet go crunch, crunch, crunch through the New York City Public Works Department's half-assed attempt at clearing the sidewalk after the last storm. "Mercedes has been my best friend since we were freshmen, and Finn is my brother."

He catches Blaine's sidelong startled look. "Really?"

He nods. "My dad married Finn's mom when we were 16." He wags an airy gloved hand. "I finally convinced him to move here from Ohio two years ago; he was visiting so often that my couch had a permanent giant-sized dent in it."

"So," says Blaine thoughtfully, and Kurt glances over at him to find that his face is alight, "then everyone here has heard you sing, except me? That hardly seems fair."

"It's perfectly fair," Kurt tells him lightly. "Rory hasn't heard it, either," and they jog across the street to the signs marking the N stop. Mercedes and Rachel duck down into the stairway right away, sheltering from the wind and impatiently calling to the rest of them.

"And this is where I leave you guys," Blaine says, stopping just at the top of the steps.

"New Jersey," Kurt scoffs, and Blaine only laughs.

"Don't knock Hoboken til you've tried it," he says, and they stand facing each other for several long seconds. The first of a few dirty snowflakes begin to drift down between them, because Kurt's entire life has decided to become a gay romantic comedy at some point in the last week. "Thanks so much for inviting me, Kurt; this was great."

"Anytime," Kurt says, and then Blaine is saying his goodbyes to everyone and is gone, and Kurt is forced to listen to breathless imitations of himself ("Anytime! Oh Blaine!") for the rest of the trip back to Queens, while he covers his hot face with his hands and tries his utmost to step on people's feet.

Dealing with Patrick's ultimatums is generally one of the worst parts of Kurt's day, but he really, really likes the one where he's supposed to class up the band formerly known as Yo Mama.

Sure, Puck and Sugar are quite possibly the crudest duo known to humankind, Sam walks around in what seems to be a constant state of goodnatured low-level confusion, and Artie takes every possible excuse to start rapping, but they're oddly sweet, Kurt likes them more than he would be willing to admit, and Patrick's orders mean that he has an excuse to have Blaine around all the time.

Like right now, while the band is struggling through a lesson on dining and silverware etiquette -- thanks to Tina, who is ostensibly here to deliver sample flower arrangements for Patrick and Robyn's approval but is really doing what she often does and cheerfully, efficiently saving Kurt's turkey bacon -- and Kurt is masterminding the all-important catering tasting.

At the moment, he's taking a three-second breather in the back of the hall, near the kitchen doors. He needed a moment away from the intensity that is Robyn and Patrick, and he genuinely did need to talk to the bride from the Julian-Chatterjee wedding that's coming up in two weeks. Phone call finished, he takes a deep breath, tucks his phone back into his jacket, and straightens his shoulders in preparation for wading back into the fray.

One of the caterers is leaning just outside the kitchen doors, calmly watching Patrick and Robyn as they lean over a table of appetizers on the other side of the room. She's by far the most zen of the five caterers here; the others are all running around the kitchen, frantically plating and biting nails, well aware of what being hired for this wedding could do for their businesses. Kurt appreciates a good suck-up every now and again, but the number of times that his boots have figuratively been licked today is bordering on the absurd.

He doesn't know this particular caterer well, but her no-bullshit attitude -- and her fillet of Scotch beef with celeriac and thyme puree, fondant potato, glazed carrots and truffle jus -- has endeared her to him forever. If he has his way, this will be the second of his weddings that she has worked, and it definitely won't be the last.

"Hey," she says, "Hummel."

Even if her idiosyncrasies are innumerable and her people skills could use some serious effort.

He quirks an inquiring eyebrow at her.

"Friendly advice?" (Kurt really raises his eyebrow now.) "Nut up or shut up."

"Excuse me?"

"Little one's following you around like he's eight years old and you're an ice cream truck," Lauren says matter-of-factly. Kurt feels his eyes widen, and he pointedly does not glance over at the corner where he can hear Puck loudly saying something about shrimp and forking that doesn't bear repeating (Puck, who has already made lewd comments at Lauren today, in regards to her size and her occupation, and whose ensuing awe-inspiring, jaw-dropped verbal smackdown had Kurt struggling with every bone in his body to maintain a professional straight face). "Either hook up with him or put him out of his misery already." She ducks back into the kitchen, but her voice carries. "All that pent-up sexual tension's gonna kill people's appetites."

Kurt stands gaping like a fish until Robyn calls for his opinion on caterer #3's mini leek tarts. Then he mutters, "He's not that little," and flounces off to taste watery tarts that are, unfortunately, vastly inferior to Lauren's.

"Is it that obvious?" he asks Mercedes that night, half-wounded and halfway through a bottle of chardonnay. "I thought I was cultivating a genteel air of mystery."

Mercedes laughs for so long that Kurt, who generally abhors violence, seriously considers hitting her with the nearest tastefully-upholstered throw pillow. "Oh honey," she finally says, wiping at the corners of her eyes. "No. The two of you are about as subtle as a car crash."

Kurt scowls, but has the grace to give a small laugh when his phone chimes Blaine's ringtone three seconds later.

When Kurt flies into the shop, he finds himself facing a state of absolute chaos.

Sam and Artie are laughing, wearing their own pants (jeans for Sam; some sort of Dockers for Artie) with matching maroon crushed velvet suit jackets. Sugar is strutting around the showroom in an oversized men's suit, fedora hanging low over her eyes, looking like nothing so much as a five-year-old in her father's clothing and mother's shoes. Puck is standing on the short platform in front of the mirrors, wearing a heinous powder blue suit and making obscene thrusting movements over the head of the oblivious tailor crouched at his feet, her hands in the hem of his trousers.

Out of breath thanks to his bolt through the April freezing rain from the bus stop three blocks down, Kurt says, "Puck" sharply enough that he stops doing the horrible thing that he's doing, and then he allows himself to sag there in the doorway. One day, Hummel Event Design is going to be successful enough (and he is so close now) that cab rides or even car hires are more than a once-in-a-blue-moon special treat. But for now, he's keeping expenses low in every possible arena while trying to make it with a small business that requires excess during the worst economic recession since the Great Depression, and that means that when he isn't with clients, he scrambles along New York City streets with his arms full of design books and fabric swatches and centerpiece mock-ups.

His bag is heavy on his shoulder, and he has come straight from a bridal expo that required an unbelievable amount of networking and smiling and gushing over potential brides, and he's tired. Kurt is so tired. His head is swimming from the smell of thousands of flowers and cloying perfumes, and he's hot and dizzy after the mad dash from Flushing, and his phone has been blowing up with text notifications for the last hour, probably from Patrick Tucker, which he can't bring himself to look at right now.

Ordinarily, Kurt loves his job with the fierceitude of a thousand RuPaul's Drag Race contestants, but the only activity that sounds good right now is getting on the Q, going home, crawling under his eider-down duvet, and not emerging until he has slept for at least three days straight.

And then Blaine walks in from the dressing room wearing a boxy suit jacket with absurdly high-waisted sack-cloth trousers, the hems so long that the fabric flops uselessly with every step that he takes, and that is it. Kurt has absolutely had it.

"Noah Puckerman," Kurt snaps, and Puck guiltily freezes (he'd been making lewd gestures down at the tailor again) and then shoots Kurt an incredulous look. "That's right; I know your name. Get down, get back in the dressing room, and take off that hideous eighties-prom throwback right now. Sugar, you're a musician, not a five-foot-three Don Draper in hooker shoes. Put your own clothes back on; even they're an improvement over this." She pulls an offended moue at him. Kurt is way too far gone to pay it any mind. "You two--" Artie had been laughing silently at Kurt's treatment of his bandmates, but he shuts up now that he's facing Kurt's accusing pointer finger. "This is fashion, not a game. Put the Austin Powers costumes back where you found them."

Blaine started out wide-eyed and a little amused, and is frowning now. Kurt stares at those awful pants for a long moment, and then shakes his head and says, "I can't speak to you while you're wearing that."

"Okay," Blaine says slowly, like he's trying to placate him, which just makes Kurt all the madder. "What do you want us to do?"

"Put everything back, get in the dressing rooms, and wait for me, like I asked you to," Kurt snaps.

Artie is the first to finally turn and head toward the dressing rooms, one of his wheelchair's wheels squeaking in the otherwise total silence. "Wow," he says. "That is some serious power-tripping." The others follow, Sugar muttering something that Kurt blocks out, leaving Blaine to look at Kurt for a few more seconds before he goes, too.

Kurt slowly breathes in and out, and then flashes a tight smile at the graying man who has just come into the showroom from the back and is walking toward him. "Mr. Delsolio, hello. I trust you have what we discussed?"

After an awkward half an hour of fittings (which went very well in terms of actual progress, thanks to Kurt's instinctive eye for sizing and for fabric), Kurt slips out and leaves the tailors to marking their minor alterations, and the musicians to trying not to squirm as the tailors stick pins here, there, and everywhere. He perches on the employee-only steps behind the storefront, leaning his shoulder against the rail and staring at the dumpster. It's blessedly cold on his hot face out here by the loading dock, and he draws his knees up and lets his forehead rest on them.

When he hears cautious footsteps approach, he knows very well who it is.

"I'm sorry," Kurt says to his knees.

"No," Blaine says firmly, sitting down beside him. "Kurt, no. We were goofing around; you had every right to put us in our place." Kurt decides to go along with the false pretense that Blaine was joking around, too, and that he hadn't thought that his suit was a valid contender. Kurt would ordinarily feel magnanimous about allowing Blaine his lie of omission, but he feels too guilty about the way that he just took his bad day out on the artists formerly known as Yo Mama.

"I said Sugar was wearing hooker shoes." He doesn't raise his head. "They weren't hooker shoes; I actually almost like them. They have a certain awful charm."

"Kurt." Blaine lays his hand on his shoulder, careful, and when Kurt doesn't try to shake him off, he squeezes. "You should hear some of the stuff we say to each other sometimes; that wasn't even in the same weight class. They're going to forgive you."

"Rachel makes pretty amazing 'I'm sorry' cookies, if you ignore that they're vegan," Kurt says. "Maybe I'll commission a few dozen to speed up the process." Blaine laughs softly, and doesn't move his hand. Kurt imagines that he can feel its warmth even through his coat and three layers of shirts, even though he knows he really can't.

"We're all suckers for cookies," Blaine says. "I think that would probably do it."

He smiles faintly and finally sits up straight. Blaine is sitting very close, still wearing his wedding performance suit (which looks just as incredible on him as Kurt had thought it would) and watching him with obvious concern. "Please don't take this the wrong way," he starts, and Kurt preemptively sighs, "but you look terrible."

"Why thank you, Blaine," Kurt deadpans. "I have no idea of any wrong way in which I could take that."

"Kurt, I'm serious. Are you feeling okay?"

"It's just been a long week," Kurt says. "I'll go home and catch up on America's Next Top Model and get some sleep tonight, and I'll feel fine in the morning."

He shoots him a patently dubious look, but instead of voicing his clear disbelief, he says, "Do you want to come back inside?"

"I think I could stand to eat some crow," Kurt says, and he accepts the hand up that Blaine offers him.

The fitting ends much more harmoniously than it started; Kurt's regrets are accepted, and even Puck apologizes, in his own Puck-ish way ("Whatever, dude. I guess I could have not pretended to bang the sewing lady"), and the suits -- and Sugar's dress -- are another item that Kurt can tick off of his to-do list. It doesn't do much for how hard it's becoming to stand upright without swaying, but it does make him feel a little bit better in terms of stress points.

While the others are getting their things together and putting their coats on, Blaine takes Kurt by the elbows and walks him into a chair, almost tripping over the shoelaces that he hasn't bothered to re-tie yet after changing back into his own clothes. "You're sick," he says bluntly. "You shouldn't be here."

In all honesty, Kurt gave up on trying being in denial about his own illness several hours ago, when he nearly coughed right in the face of a potential client at the expo. He doesn't bother trying to talk his way out of it. "I have things that I need to do this afternoon," he says, vague but determined. "I'm going to do them."

Blaine presses the back of his hand to Kurt's forehead. "You're burning up."

"Then I'll burn," Kurt tells him. "I still have to meet with the photographer for our wedding, and look at two venues for another one." Later, he thinks, he is probably going to cringe at the fact that he called it 'our wedding.' Blaine doesn't so much as blink, though.

"Just call and tell them you're sick; I'm sure you can reschedule."

"That's adorable. There's too much to do, and I can't show any weakness." Kurt stares up at him from the chair. "This is a cutthroat business. They'll be all over me if they smell blood in the water."

"The cutthroat business of helping to create the happiest day of people's lives," Blaine says doubtfully.

"Love hurts, Blaine," he says, as serious as he has ever been.

"Okay," Blaine says, finally. "Then here's what we're going to do."

"Quinn, Blaine; Blaine, Quinn," Kurt says with an offhand gesture as they blow into Quinn's tiny studio like a hurricane. "He's assisting me on a trial basis today."

"Wow," Quinn says, looking up from the table of photographs that she is bent over and glancing at Blaine with calculated interest. "An assistant? You're moving up in the world."

"Assistant?" scoffs a new voice, and a stranger comes down the stairs, killer heels and long legs first. "What a new and fascinating way to say butt buddy." She smiles at them, bright and sharp-edged and smug; she's beautiful, and also, Kurt thinks from the look on her face, probably the devil.

Kurt blinks dully and is aware of Blaine tensing up beside him. God, this isn't fair. He is definitely sick, and it is definitely turning all of his best insults into a quagmire of exhaustion and loss of critical thinking capacity.

Quinn glares at the wall behind Kurt's head for a long second. "This is Santana," she says, her voice professional and faux-sweet. "She'll be my second shooter for the Tucker-Gantry job, and she would not still be working for me if her shots weren't grossly amazing."

"I don't work for you, Fabray," Santana says. "I'm an independent contractor; I goes where I wants."

"Whatever," Kurt breaks in. "I don't care, just as long as you don't say anything about butt buddies within 15 miles of June 12th." He shoots Quinn a long look.

Quinn steadily meets his gaze. "She's a tactless lesbian, not a homophobe," she says, unruffled. "It'll be fine."

"Hey!" Santana barks. "I'm standing right here, you clowns."

Ignoring her definitely seems like the best possible strategy, both for getting in and out of here quickly, and for annoying her like she's annoying Kurt. He maintains focus on Quinn. "She's good?"

She shrugs; a what can you do? gesture. "She's the best."

"Okay." Kurt tugs his iPad out of the bag and powers it up, stepping away from the safety of Blaine's side and crossing to the table. "Then let's talk shot lists."

After an hour of discussing essential photographs and equipment with Quinn, complete with less-than-useless interjections by Santana, Kurt downs two ibuprofen and half a mocha while wedged into a two-person seat on a bus, and then relies on Blaine to be his legs on walk-throughs of a hotel ballroom and a stunning, well-lit wine cellar. It's a lot easier than he would have expected; Blaine is incredible at surreptitiously steering him, though Kurt is fairly sure that it isn't just the fever that's keeping his face hot when Blaine lightly touches his elbow or the small of his back. With Blaine making sure that Kurt walks in the correct direction and doesn't trip, Kurt is free to focus on talking design and logistics and not letting on that he's so light-headed that it feels like he is about to float up into the clouds.

In the end, the bride and groom go the road less traveled and pick the architecturally-fascinating wine cellar as the reception venue, which Kurt loves and is going to be very excited to plan once he isn't juggling nine weddings at the same time and once he feels less like he's going to die, and they all part with pleasant handshakes on the pavement outside the restaurant.

Then Kurt crumbles, because he doesn't have to be on anymore, and lets himself sink against Blaine and give him mumbled directions for how to get home.

Once they're up the stairs and through the front door of the apartment in Astoria, Kurt leans against the wall. "I'm sorry." He is sorry, more than he can say; Blaine gave up his entire afternoon to be Kurt's seeing-foot-dog just because Kurt is hopefully-endearingly-but-probably-irritatingly stubborn.

"Don't be sorry," Blaine says, closing the door behind them and putting Kurt's keys on the kitchen island. "I kind of thought you were Superman for a while, and as amazing as that was, this is a lot less intimidating."

"If my brain was less full of cotton wool, I would probably have a serious problem with what you just said," Kurt says woozily.

He looks endearingly guilty as he carefully strips Kurt out of his coat. "It's not -- I don't mean it like that; I just-- I have bad days all the time, and it's kind of nice to know that you do too sometimes, you know?" He stops, hands still on the scarf that he's unwinding from around Kurt's neck, and grimaces. "That's not any better, is it?"

"No, not really." Kurt leans in, as if to tell him a secret: "But I like you anyway."

"You're adorable when you're a little delirious," Blaine tells him, smiling. "I think it's adorable. I think you're adorable. All the time, but still."

"You think it's adorable when I'm a little delirious all the time?" Kurt asks doubtfully, staggering away from him.

"You know what I mean," Blaine calls, taking off his coat and ridiculous beanie hat while Kurt carefully pours himself a glass of water. And then Blaine is there again, taking the glass out of his hand and gently asking which room is his, and leading him over. He finds a pair of silk pajamas and diplomatically leaves the room so that Kurt can slowly change and hang up his skinny jeans and prized Dior blazer.

(He offered to help Kurt change his clothes, but the force of Kurt's steady, silent stare drove him back out into the kitchen.)

Blaine comes back with Tylenol and a box of tissues and a trash can while Kurt is crawling into the incredible cocoon that is his bed.

"This is embarrassing," Kurt informs him, while Blaine sits on the edge of the bed and tucks him in.

"It's not embarrassing to need a little help once in a while," Blaine says, which sounds strangely reasonable when it's coming out of his mouth. "I can have a breakdown of some kind in the next month, if it will make you feel any better."

"Only if you promise," he says drowsily.

Blaine lays a hand over his own heart. "Kurt, I promise I'll suffer a meltdown and you'll have to take care of me sometime in the near future."

"Good," Kurt says, and he passes out with the vague idea that someone is stroking his hair.

"Apparently, he left just long enough to go to the Safeway on the corner, made chicken soup, and stayed until Finn got home from school," Kurt says into his hands, his elbows on the counter.

"Kurt," Tina crows. "That's the sweetest thing I've ever heard!" She pauses. "Does he have a straight and/or bisexual brother?"

"Yes," Kurt says immediately. "His name is Cooper and he's 35 and looks like a male model, and he's married with a frightening number of children." He looks at her. "His sister is single."

She ignores him. "Are you sure you and Blaine aren't dating?" Tina says, arranging a stunningly simple bouquet of sunflowers as they talk. He has no idea where she got sunflowers at this time of year; she's amazing. Her parents may have built this shop, but it's Tina, with her creativity and determination and head for business, who has sent it exploding into the stratosphere of New York's elite. Kurt is extraordinarily lucky that they met when he was first entering the scene and her parents had just retired, and they bonded over being the new kids on the event planning block. He would never be able to get in the door for her in-demand arrangements and bouquets now, if they weren't friends.

"We're not dating," Kurt says. "I would know if we were dating."

"I seriously think you're dating." Tina eyes the bouquet with a practiced eye, then reaches for the drawer under the counter and pulls out several spools of grosgrain ribbon. "You know all about each others' families. He made you boyfriend soup!"

"He made me 'very weird friend with very weird boundaries' soup," Kurt protests, and he stops peering through his fingers and shuts his eyes again.

A gentle hand on his wrist pries first one hand away from his face and then the other. He doesn't really fight it; it doesn't matter that much, and he's still weak from the two-day flu that Blaine saw the beginning stages of. Besides, Tina is nothing if not determined once she sets her mind on a course of action. "Kurt," Tina says. "He gave up his entire day to help you finish yours, and you guys flirt constantly, and he told you you're adorable, and he made you soup."

He narrows his eyes at her. "You're really stuck on the soup."

"God, I'm so hungry," she says. "Do you want to order from Bangkok Heights?"

"You're a terrible influence," Kurt informs her. Beat. "Yes."

Over pad thai, Tina single-mindedly brings the subject right back to Blaine again, despite Kurt's attempts to talk business about the three weddings of his that she's currently working out flower arrangements for. "Have you guys talked since Monday?" she asks.

Kurt's involuntarily-guilty look apparently speaks volumes, because she says, "Kurt!"

"I was struggling to lift my head off the pillow, much less to write texts that are the perfect balance between flirtatious and friendly!" Kurt defends. "I've been busy!"

"I seriously do not understand you."

"It was embarrassing." He knows it's a weak argument, but it's the truth: he is very, very embarrassed about the total breakdown in self-sufficiency that Blaine witnessed.

"Not as embarrassing as you're being right now," Tina challenges. "Kurt Hummel, if you don't call him, I'm going to make all of your orders pink carnations with baby's breath."

He gasps, scandalized. "You wouldn't."

Tina lifts her eyebrows at him.

Kurt calls Blaine and makes his apologies about having been difficult to get in touch with.

"Hi," Blaine says softly, the next time that they come face to face.

Kurt is fully aware that the quiet smile that blooms across his own face is fully ridiculous, but he can't do a thing about it. "Hi."

"Are you feeling better?"

"Yes," Kurt says. "Definitely. Thank you." He shoots a sidelong glance at Blaine as they fall into step side by side. "I suspect that the key to my recovery may have been this incredible soup that magically appeared in my apartment."

"Really?" Blaine says, and Kurt hears the grin in his voice. "It sounds like you have some kind of soup fairy."

"I have some kind of fairy," Kurt agrees before he can quite stop himself, and Blaine's startled laughter is worth it. He holds the door so that Blaine can pass through with his keyboard under his arm, and they're both laughing -- in a dance studio with Kurt's clients. Who are early.

Kurt likes to think that he recovers nicely. "Patrick, Robyn," he says, letting his smile slip into the professional place. "Right on time. Robyn, this is Blaine Anderson from the band; Patrick, you remember Blaine."

"Hi, it's really nice to meet you," Blaine says, and shifts his keyboard up so that he can shake Robyn's hand.

Robyn looks bemused as anything at the picture of earnesty in front of him, but he says, "Charmed, Mr. Anderson." Patrick regularly makes Kurt wish that his apartment was soundproofed so that he could scream in frustration without Mrs. Rodriguez downstairs banging on the ceiling, but Kurt adores Robyn, who is quick-witted and funny and judgmental and intimidating, the outgoing bitchy cheer to Patrick's stoic reservation. He's the one who wanted to give Kurt a chance in the first place. Unfortunately, he also doesn't care about the little details as much as Patrick does, and seems content to let Patrick steadfastly harangue the hell out of Kurt.

Kurt, frankly, doesn't get them as a couple, at all, but they've been together for 30 years, so they must be doing something right.

"You and the band will be our accompaniment today?"

"We thought it might be a good idea if you guys got used to dancing to exactly what you'll be hearing at the reception," Blaine explains. "I mean -- Kurt and I thought so."

"Did you?" Robyn asks, his amused, cat-caught-the-canary expression only broadening as he looks between Blaine and Kurt, and Kurt determinedly doesn't react. It isn't necessarily forbidden for him to have an unspoken flirtation with the lead singer of the band that he hired to play the reception, but he doesn't think it's exactly a shining statement about his professionalism, either, and he's going to play it close to the vest. The metaphorical and literal vest; he's wearing a plum brocade waistcoat today.

"Yes," Kurt says, giving Blaine an unsubtle shove toward where Sugar is setting up her drum kit against the far wall. "We did, while conferring over the set list and sartorial choices for the band."

Blaine, thankfully, is capable of taking a hint. He nods and says, "Uh! Yes! We're very excited to play for you," and then gets the hell out of dodge with his keyboard.

"While I have you two, I have a few bills and flower arrangement concepts for you to look over," Kurt says matter of factly, opening his satchel to grab his Gantry-Tucker folder.

"Uh huh," says Robyn, grinning, but he doesn't comment; just slips his reading glasses on his nose while Patrick takes the crisp papers that Kurt hands over. Robyn leans over his shoulder to read, and Kurt is about to launch into the routine explanation when someone says, "Excuse me, I'm looking for Kurt Hummel."

"That's me," Kurt trills cheerfully, because he can hear Sam and Sugar and Blaine laughing, and he feels 100% energized and ready to go, and for once, Patrick isn't saying boo about the (on-budget, thank you very much) bills that Kurt has put in front of him. He turns around and finds a man with a dreadful toupee, dressed in jeans and a leather jacket that are about 15 years too young for him, looking at them all strangely from his spot standing in the door. He looks nothing like the pictures on his website, which were clearly not taken recently, but Kurt recognizes him all the same. Nicolas Lanigan was an astounding catch on his part; a dance instructor who Kurt has never worked with before, but who has a list of credentials a mile long, including four years dancing leading roles with the Royal Ballet in London and another six touring with the Kirov Ballet. "You have perfect timing."

Kurt knows that something isn't right when there's a pause before the man says, "A word?" and jerks his head toward the door.

Kurt says, "Certainly," and leaves the grooms to a quiet, foul-mouthed argument about lilies of the valley.

Lanigan doesn't beat around the bush, once he has Kurt in front of him. Voice lowered, he asks, "Where is the bride?"

Fuck, Kurt thinks, very distinctly, somewhere far away. He smiles, brittle and tight. "There isn't one."

"I don't understand," says Lanigan flatly. "In your emails, you said that the bride and groom's names were Patrick and Robyn."

"Their names are Patrick and Robyn," Kurt says, letting his hand tighten, white-knuckled and steady, on the strap of his bag. "The grooms' names. I thought that that was understood."

"Robyn with a y. That's a woman's name."

"It's a personal preference in spelling," he says, icy and quiet and cutting. "You will want to stop, right now, and think about what you're saying and who you're saying it to, and about the contract that you signed."

The man actually has the gall to snort. "Listen, kid," he says, "I'm sure you're the queen of the gays and everything, but I don't care if your feelings are hurt here; I'm not helping you people use marriage as some social experiment."

"How do you survive?" Kurt asks, though it's primarily an acid-tongued rhetorical question. "I didn't think there was such a creature as a homophobic dance instructor in New York City."

Lanigan lowers his chin and says, "You really wanna talk about creatures?"

It's been a while since Kurt heard words like those, in a tone like that. Not as long as it's been since he left Ohio, because there isn't a tolerance paradise anywhere in the world like the version of New York that he'd built up in his head as a teenager, but a while; enough that it almost startles him.

Kurt draws himself up and feels a certain cold pleasure at being the taller and more imposing of the two. "Please, as you leave, enjoy the knowledge that you'll never land a lucrative private booking in New York again, and that you're wearing the least convincing dead cat of a toupee that I've ever seen in my life."

The guy takes a step toward him (which is a first; Kurt can safely say that a dance instructor has never tried to physically intimidate him before), and he's distantly aware that someone says, "Whoa," and someone else says, "Hey!" and that there's movement behind him. His attention, though, is on the small-minded little man in front of him, and on watching him with a long, unflinching look.

A tense half a second passes, and then Lanigan grabs his duffel bag from where he'd set it down and storms out of the studio.

Kurt watches him go, and then he settles his face into something less incredulously icy and furious, and turns around. Everyone is watching him. Sam and Blaine are standing halfway across the studio, clearly having started toward him and Lanigan when the guy got up in his face, and Puck isn't far behind. Kurt actively avoids looking at Blaine's face. Patrick is inscrutable as ever but Robyn looks resigned, and that's so much worse than anything else. That expression says volumes about what he and Patrick have had to endure in 30 years together, and comes closer to unhinging Kurt's controlled, glacial fury than anything else.

"Well," Kurt says, into the silence. "I may need a few hours to track down a less vile dance instructor." He's going to start apologizing for clearly not having done his due diligence, momentarily; he just-- he needs a minute. He is so angry that his hands are shaking at his sides.

And, then to his eternal shock, Blaine's voice says, "I might have an idea, if you don't have someone immediately in mind."

Kurt turns to stare at him. Blaine looks steadily back at him, as, behind him, Sugar claps her hands together and says dreamily, "I love watching Mike dance."

It turns out that "Mike" is Blaine's six-foot-tall, impossibly-sweet, body-of-a-Greek-god roommate. Patrick takes to him immediately. Kurt watches in no small amount of awe and shock as Mike -- who Patrick insists on calling Michael -- diplomatically guides Robyn and Patrick through the potentially-stormy waters of figuring out who's going to take which dancing position, then starts to teach them the steps.

"I don't understand," Kurt says, staring. "Patrick doesn't hate him. Patrick hates everyone."

"Mike's just kind of like that," Blaine says, smiling alongside him as Mike demonstrates the first steps of a waltz, which he apparently doesn't want musical accompaniment for just yet. "He gets along with everybody."

Kurt snorts, and sees Blaine toss him a quizzical look out of the corner of his eye. "You two," he says. "How do you ever decide on anything?" Blaine turns to face him more fully, looking confused now, and Kurt studies him shrewdly. "Everything is 'you first, I insist'; 'no, I insist,' isn't it?"

Blaine opens his mouth -- then closes it. "We might have argued for 10 minutes last night over who was going to pick the takeout," he admits.

"And while most people would be arguing the merits of sushi vs. pizza, the two of you were both trying to let the other one decide, weren't you?" Blaine's face is a dead giveaway; Kurt lifts an eyebrow. "And how was the argument of the century settled?"

He looks sheepish. "Matt got sick of it and ordered from the diner down the street."

Kurt laughs softly, and watches Patrick Tucker give a faint smile as Robyn spins him, and listens to Blaine breathe beside him, and he knows what he's going to do.

Patrick and Robyn are the first to leave, very important schedules (Kurt is 85% sure that he heard Robyn say something about "drinks with Elton, that asshole," and then he shut his brain down for the sake of not having a Moment while talking to his clients) calling. They've readily agreed to another pre-wedding session with Mike and the band, since Robyn's main point of actually-giving-a-shit about the reception seems to be that they have a stellar first dance, and Robyn meets Kurt's eyes and smirks as he sweeps out of the studio.

The band packs up next, and Kurt makes phone calls to deal with as much of the afternoon's business as possible while they load their disgusting van and Sugar sits parked in a loading zone and honks the horn in bizarre rhythms. Blaine is on his way out the studio's front door with a final bag of guitar cables when Kurt grabs his arm and says, "Why don't you leave that to Mike."

Mike lifts his eyebrows. He takes the bag from Blaine as he passes, clapping him on the shoulder, and grins at Kurt. "See you later, Blaine."

Mike is quite possibly Kurt's new favorite person ever.

"Kurt?" Blaine asks, looking between Kurt and the van idling outside. Kurt knows -- because he has become That Person, the one who talks to someone so often that he has memorized their work schedule -- that Blaine doesn't have anywhere that he has to be for the rest of the day, and he leans out the studio's front door and makes a very obvious gesture for them to leave.

Artie's wolf whistle is clearly audible thanks to the open passenger side window, and Sugar gives them an obnoxious thumbs-up and pulls away from the curb and out into traffic.

The strains of classical violins tumble down from upstairs, along with the soft-shoe muffled stomp of tiny ballet slippers on the floor. Blaine is standing in front of him in the cramped entryway, looking up, his lashes long as he blinks. It's cold with the door open but sunny, dust motes drifting down slowly through the light.

"Thank you," Kurt says, and he leans in and kisses Blaine, who freezes for barely a split second before clutching at Kurt's arms and reciprocating. "Thank you," and they kiss again, hot and hard, two months of longing and want and dancing around each other crammed into this one moment, "thank you--" and he grabs Blaine's face and holds him right there, right in the best place to kiss the living hell out of him.

By the time they finally take a break, Blaine's face is pink right up to his hairline and his lips are shiny and puffy and his hair is comically wild. "Kurt," he gasps, and Kurt tries to reel him in again but Blaine holds him off. "Wait, wait, Kurt, hold on a second." He's laughing so it can't be bad news; Kurt gives him a moment to compose himself. "This -- I don't want this to just be because you're gratef--"

"Oh my god," Kurt says. "Don't be asinine," and they make out in the foyer until two teenage ballerinas practically trip over them and then back away giggling.

They take a cab back to Queens (fuck it, Kurt has decided; just fuck it, fuck all of it) and it's a good cool-down period, thirty minutes spent holding hands across the backseat and memorizing the way that Blaine's thumb strokes the skin between Kurt's thumb and forefinger, and the way that he smiles like Kurt has just handed him the moon.

"I'm crazy about you," Blaine murmurs, and Kurt squeezes his hand so tight that it has to hurt, but Blaine doesn't complain.

"You move me," Kurt says, just as quiet, and it has the potential to sound stupid but he's pretty sure that Blaine gets it.

As easy as it was to hold Blaine's hand and stare into each others' eyes in the cab, by the time they stumble through the door to Kurt's apartment, they're all over each other.

"Finn!" Kurt yells as they both frantically pull off coats and gloves and hats, arms tangling and elbows accidentally smacking each other. They both pause for a long moment. There's no answer. "Good," he says, and then he and Blaine messily collide again.

Blaine backs him toward the sofa and Kurt yanks Blaine's dangling scarf off just as they fall down together. Blaine grabs at him like he can't decide where to touch him first so he's just going for all of him, all at once, and god, his mouth is amazing. It's with slight reluctance that Kurt stops kissing him long enough to leave a curve of kisses up his jaw and suck high on his throat, but the noises that Blaine makes, and the way that he shifts and squirms under Kurt, are very worth it.

He pushes Kurt's blazer off his shoulders. Kurt pulls it down his own arms and drops it off the side of the couch, then Blaine wedges his hands between their chests and starts on the buttons of Kurt's vest, except they're both still trying to kiss and still heaving against each other, and when Blaine is on the lowest button, his wrist bumps Kurt's erection.

It's a wake-up call, if an unbelievably tempting one. Kurt hisses through his teeth and says, "Wait," and Blaine freezes. Kurt pushes himself up to sit on his feet and helps Blaine up, and doesn't let go of his hands afterward. "I'm old-fashioned," Kurt tells him. They're practically in each others' laps. The wariness in Blaine's face fades a bit. "This isn't something I usually do without at least a few dinner dates first."

Blaine smiles immediately, and Kurt exhales a long, relieved breath. "Me neither." He leans in for a much slower kiss. Kurt sucks on his lower lip with just a hint of teeth, and Blaine sighs into his mouth. "Have dinner with me tonight," Blaine says, voice low and sweet.

"... On the other hand," Kurt says. "We did eat pizza together the day you played for Patrick." Blaine blinks at him, and then he understands and his smile flashes with enough wattage that it could probably light the tree at Rockefeller Center. "And I bought you a drink after Mercedes's set at the Garage."

"I made you dinner; we can just ignore that you were comatose at the time," Blaine contributes, and Kurt snorts. "So -- what do you think? Three dates?"

Kurt pretends to consider it. He doesn't have to consider it, not really. The thought of sex with Blaine isn't the same as the thought of sex with some random stagehand who Rachel set him up with (which has yet to happen even once, because Rachel is the worst yenta in the history of yentas) or a stranger who Kurt has just met at a bar. They know each other very well, Kurt is halfway to hopelessly in love with him, and they've practically been dating for two months. It's Blaine. "I think my conscience is assuaged." He crawls the rest of the way into Blaine's lap and loops his arms around his neck. "What do you think?"

"God, yes," Blaine says fervently, and they get carried away making out again, until they've both shed several layers of clothing and Kurt finds himself rocking against Blaine's stomach, and then he drags Blaine into his bedroom, because that couch may be perfect for lying together and kissing, but he refuses to have sex on a piece of furniture that Finn has dripped maple syrup on.

"Hold that thought," he says, pointing at Blaine, who is deliciously rumpled and smiling and in his bed, and then he scrambles back out into the living room. He digs through his abandoned bag until he comes up with his iPod, and he finds the song that he's looking for, turns the volume all the way up, sets it on repeat, and leaves it on the kitchen counter.

Blaine shoots him an amused look when Kurt comes back with the tinny sound of Diana Ross's classic "Love Hangover" echoing from behind him. He has made himself at home in Kurt's bed, propped up on his side with his head in his hand. His jeans are lying in a heap out on the living room floor, and Kurt allows himself a long, long happy stare at muscled legs and tight boxer briefs and the way that the T-shirt he'd been wearing under his sweater is so thin it's practically translucent, as he shuts his bedroom door.

"Everything okay?" Blaine asks.

Kurt toes off his shoes and crawls into his bed. "It is now," he says, and he grabs Blaine around the waist and rolls him over as Blaine laughs.

Somehow, despite the facts that Blaine started out with less clothes on and that Kurt has been dying to do this for him, Kurt is the first one to wind up on his back with someone between his knees. He throws his head back into the pillows and tries not to thump Blaine in the small of his back with his heel as Blaine peppers the insides of his thighs with kisses and runs warm fingers up under the hem of his briefs.

"Can I--?" he asks, lifting his other hand to the waistband.

Kurt pushes himself up on his elbows so that he can shoot Blaine a wordless disbelieving stare.

"Okay, okay," Blaine laughs, peeling off the underwear as Kurt shimmies out of them. Kurt kicks them off once they're hanging around his right ankle, and then registers that Blaine has sat up, his hands on the tops of Kurt's thighs -- and is staring.

Kurt has every bit of confidence in himself and in his own attractiveness, but there's still a half a second where something uncertain shifts in the pit of his stomach. "Blaine?"

Blaine keels over and presses his face against Kurt's hip. "Oh Kurt, god," he groans, muffled by Kurt's skin, and Kurt would laugh at him, but -- he feels the same way, hot and wanting and giddy and overwhelmed. He reaches down and starts running his fingers through Blaine's curls.

Blaine apparently needs a moment to collect himself, but once he does, he turns his head on Kurt's thigh, close enough that warm puffs of air gust across Kurt's feverish skin as Blaine breathes, and he hesitates and glances up at Kurt.

Kurt takes a guess at what's going on. "I'm -- good to go," he says, and then internally cringes, because that's what his dad says to customers about finished cars at the garage. "I got tested after my last ex--" and he doesn't want to finish that sentence, not really; Blaine is aware of what went down with Diego, anyway, and it would be spectacularly unromantic to bring it up at a moment like this. This conversation in general is spectacularly unromantic, but necessary. "But I probably have condoms, somewhere, if you want," he goes on, hearing his voice pitch upward, "or you don't have to--"

Blaine wraps a hand around him, and Kurt shivers and stops trying to talk. "I'm clean, too," Blaine says, his other hand stroking Kurt's hip. He's looking up at Kurt as he settles down on his stomach, and there's not a word that describes the set of his mouth and the light in his eyes so well as 'adoring.' "I trust you." Kurt blinks rapidly and nods in the face of Blaine's soft expression, and Blaine apparently takes that as encouragement, because he sinks his mouth down over him.

Kurt is forced to reevaluate his assessment of Blaine's mouth, from 'amazing' to 'absolutely out of this world.' He inhales sharply, scrabbling at the sheets. He is going to last about five seconds; he's been so hard since the elevator, and he has wanted this so badly for months, and they were already rolling around together on the couch, and Blaine is sucking, now, and letting Kurt rock into his mouth, his hands guiding his hips.

Kurt covers his face with his hands and says, "Ohmygod," well aware that his voice has gone strangled and high. Blaine makes a muffled noise that sounds like a moan (a vibrating moan) and has to pin Kurt's hips to the bed after he instinctively jerks too hard.

"Sorry," Kurt says into the heels of his hands; "sorry, sorry--"

Blaine whuffs something that somehow sounds reassuring, his thumbs rubbing circular patterns into Kurt's skin, and then the tight ring of suction slips lower and Kurt is going to die. It takes him a long moment to register just how hard the bed is shaking, enough that it can't just be from him, and he lowers his hands and looks down.

The sight of Blaine's head between his legs is honestly almost too much to take; feeling it is incredible enough, but looking down and seeing that yes, it's Blaine who's taking him apart -- it's unreal. Then Kurt realizes that the long, lean line of Blaine's back right down to his perfect ass is rocking because Blaine is grinding against the mattress. Kurt shuts his eyes and pants.

Blaine lifts one hand off a hip and slides unsteady fingers around the base of Kurt's cock, squeezing what he can't reach with his lips and his tongue, and Kurt is distinctly aware of the scrape of a guitar callus, which should probably be unpleasant but instead sends another hot jolt to the tension pooling and roiling in the pit of his stomach. He yelps, breathing ragged, and clutches at Blaine's shoulders and the back of his neck, and Blaine traces a vein up with his tongue and then laps just at the head, still stroking. Kurt's thighs start to tremble beyond his ability to control.

He squeezes Blaine's shoulder tightly, which hopefully suffices as enough of a warning, because he can't string coherent words together and he can feel orgasm barreling down on him like a runaway freight train. Blaine, because he is an amazing ruthless bastard, dives back down again, jacking hard and sucking harder, pulling Kurt in by the hip with his free hand to encourage him to give shaking-all-over thrusts into his mouth. It only takes three before Kurt is shuddering and seizing up, and then coming and coming and coming.

Kurt doesn't swear much, because he tends to find it unimaginative when there are so many more interesting ways to communicate, but he gasps, "Fuck" at his bedroom ceiling when his body has finally gone limp and he's starting to go soft and too-sensitive against Blaine's tongue. Blaine pulls back and laughs, low and rough and tender and shaky, and Kurt feels at sea.

Which, he abruptly realizes, is probably because Blaine has laid his head on Kurt's thigh and drawn his knees up and is stroking himself hard and fast enough that the entire bed is shaking like a ship in a storm.

"Blaine, Blaine," Kurt says, grabbing at his hair with one hand and his elbow with the other and weakly tugging, and Blaine gets the point. He scrambles up in the bed and Kurt comes face to face with Blaine's desperate about-to-come face, which is somehow both ridiculous and the hottest thing he has ever seen.

This is not a situation that calls for finesse. Kurt fumbles and grabs his silky-hot damp erection, and Blaine makes a choked grateful noise and throws a leg over Kurt's hip. He hides his hot face in Kurt's shoulder and groans, "Ah, ah, ah," thrusting into the tight circle of Kurt's fist while Kurt breathes across his ear and twists on every upstroke. He gives a sharp cry and spills across Kurt's stomach and hand, shaking, and then finally slumps, his arm tightening around Kurt's waist. They lie together in breathing-hard sticky silence.

"Fuck," says Blaine's muffled, scratchy voice, and Kurt chuckles and kisses every available inch of him until Blaine lifts his bleary-eyed head from Kurt's shoulder. "That was amazing," Blaine tells him. "You're amazing."

"Maybe next time, we'll both be amazing for more than five minutes," Kurt says, and Blaine, thankfully, takes it in the spirit in which it was intended and cracks up laughing.

By the time that keys rattle, they're half-decent; they'd cleaned up and started getting dressed again, since Blaine had promised to meet Matt to help him go over the presentation of his MA dissertation that he's giving tomorrow, except they have this problem where they keep getting distracted by kisses. Kurt can still barely believe that this is something he can do now; that when he wants to reach out and kiss Blaine, he can.

They're back in bed again, on top of the duvet, Kurt with pants on and Blaine's cardigan half-buttoned, when they hear it.

Blaine raises his head and blinks at Kurt as they hear the front door open. Kurt shakes his head and says, "Wait for it."

There is a long moment of silence, Diana Ross's tinny voice barely audible.

"--Oh, crap," says a distinctive mutter; the keys drop noisily, Finn swears, shoes scrape on the floor, the keys fall again, and then the door shuts.

Blaine laughs while Kurt strokes his sides and uses the opportunity to start buttoning his own shirt. Blaine makes a sound of protest.

"I will need to put clothes back on eventually," Kurt points out.

"Not yet," Blaine says, content. "I get to look at you a little while longer."

"A little while," he agrees, smiling, and he lets Blaine roll off of him only because he replaces the position by curling up at Kurt's side. They watch each other quietly; Blaine reaches out and gently brushes his cheek. Somewhere in the apartment, Kurt's phone rudely beeps, and he frowns. He lifts his head. "What time is it?"

"Uhh." Blaine checks his watch, because the two items of clothing that Kurt never quite managed to get off of him, in their rush, were one sock and that watch. "Six."

Kurt shuts his eyes, and he hears and feels Blaine nestle closer. "You've got to go, don't you?"

"I'm sorry," he says, without opening his eyes. "I have a casual dinner meeting with prospective clients in an hour."

"Hey, hey, it's okay," Blaine promises, hand sweeping in long, slow strokes up and down his back. "I was originally supposed to meet Matt a half an hour ago anyway."

Kurt looks at him. He's tucked in close, watching Kurt with those gorgeous brown eyes under long eyelashes, face content. "This is going to be hard, Blaine," he says. "Wedding season is upon us, and your schedule, and my schedule -- I can't slow it down."

"I know," Blaine says; "we'll make it work," and he leans in and kisses him on the mouth with a silly audible mwah.

And the thing is, Kurt believes him.

"No," Kurt says two months later, and then: "no, what do you think you're-- Fold left, then, right, then -- yes, that's an improvement; thank you."

"Kurt," says a voice from behind him, as the waiter scuttles away with a now-properly-folded napkin; "terrifying the servers is not an efficient use of your time!"

"It was a hideous attempt at napkin origami, Rachel," Kurt says, glancing down at his clipboard and checking off 'napkins.' "It had to be done."

Rachel stomps around to his front, when it becomes obvious that he isn't going to turn to face her. "You're a terrible boss," she informs him. "The movers want to know where the wedding party's table goes."

"Did they not even look at the itemized table map that I drew them?" Kurt asks, and then he sighs. "No, of course they didn't." He points with his pen. "To the left of the stage, to the right of the ice sculpture."

Rachel whistles, shrill and impressively loud, and shouts the directions to the two men carrying one of the longest tables. Kurt presses a hand to his ear. Rachel's enthusiasm and ability to project have made her a very useful temporary assistant thus far, but he's fairly certain he is going to go deaf by the end of the night.

"Crisis handled," Rachel says firmly, and he doesn't bother pointing out that it wasn't a crisis. "The guests are going to start arriving soon, aren't they?"

"Don't remind me," Kurt groans. "We're still setting the tables."

The gleam in her eye is a warning that Rachel wasn't thinking about what still has to be done to get the ballroom ready. Kurt turns a wary eye on her. "Rachel Berry, you aren't going to confess your undying love to Barbra Streisand, are you?"

"No. Your instructions were very explicit," Rachel says. "And four pages long, and I signed them, like you said that I had to."

He studies her for a long moment. "You brought copies of your resume, didn't you?"

"--No," Rachel says, clutching her stack of to-do lists and programs and various papers closer to her chest.

"Rachel, anything that you do will reflect on me. You cannot use this as an opportunity to network."

She fixes him with an unimpressed look. "I know that," she says, and she leans up and kisses him on the cheek.

"What was that for?" Kurt drawls warily.

"Look at this place, Kurt," Rachel says, gesturing outward, and he does look. It's still in chaos, but he can see the beginnings of something that will be, if he dares say so himself, brilliant; the 'classy nightclub with hints of the 1960s' feel that he first pitched to Robyn and Patrick a year ago. "It's beautiful. Everything is going really well and you're doing an amazing job. Breathe, okay?" She smiles up at him, and, after a few seconds, Kurt smiles back.

"Okay," he says. He lets a few seconds pass. "You look lovely."

Rachel beams (she does look lovely, dressed in simple black Milly Justene with her hair pulled back off her face, the only ostentatious pop of color a bright red lip) and wipes his cheek clear of lipstick with her thumb. "They're going to be really happy with what you've put together for them," she promises, and they smile at each other. Then the moment is broken. "All right, people!" Rachel shouts, flouncing toward the men who are moving in the tables and chairs. "Let's go, chop chop!"

Kurt watches her go, bemused and fond, and turns away to go check on the catering.

"No," Lauren says, the second that he steps into the kitchen. "Uh uh. I don't do micro-managing."

"I'm not micro-managing," he says, craning his neck to get a look at the team that she has putting together plates of appetizers all along the counters. "I'm checking on your prog--" He squawks as she none-too-gently gives him a push toward the swinging double doors.

"You're micro-managing," says Lauren flatly. (He isn't.) "And tell Puckerman that the next time he comes in here and gets in my way, I'm going to rupture something that he really doesn't want ruptured, mmkay?"

" 'Rupture someth--' " Kurt repeats incredulously to himself, the doors swinging shut behind him, and then the hotel's events coordinator is calling for him and he goes to compare notes. By the time that they finish discussing schedules and timing and the bartender that the hotel is providing, the tables are nearly all ready; the movers are putting up the last of the (gorgeous) chairs, and Rachel and Finn are directing the hotel staff in straightening tablecloths and the proper way to display the centerpieces.

Tina sweeps in just then, several bouquets of flowers in hand; the person walking behind her is hidden behind the enormous armful of lilies of the valley that he's carrying, but Kurt is 85% sure that it's Mike. He'd volunteered to help out at the wedding after overhearing Kurt tell Blaine that Mercedes wasn't going to be able to make it thanks to a gig, and he and Tina haven't been more than a foot from each others' sides since first making eye contact at Kurt's come-to-Jesus six A.M. team meeting. Kurt will be very happy for both of them, he's sure, once the day is over.

"Kurt!" Tina calls. "The church looks great, so we're switching over to set-up here." He flashes her a thumbs up and ducks around the movers to go to the table where the baker and her assistants are putting the cake tiers together.

The cake is stunning. Neither Patrick nor Robyn are fans of the twee or the over-designed, so it's among the most simple that Kurt has ever commissioned; enormous, but simple. Six broad Valencia orange layers frosted in perfectly smooth (white) orange-flavored buttercream, not a flower or a filigree to be seen, with two midnight blue fondant-and-gumpaste ribbons each ringing a layer. If Kurt hadn't known better thanks to consultations with Marina, he would swear that they were actual ribbon. Marina is currently on a stepladder and -- with the help of two taller women -- is slowly lowering the second-to-last layer onto the support pole running up through the center of the cake.

Kurt double-takes at the leggy blonde assistant. "Brittany?" Brittany S. Pierce is one of the bakers who he had considered before ultimately hiring Marina; Brittany's cake designs were breathtaking, but whimsical, complex, and strange far beyond what Robyn and Patrick wanted. Her attention span, from what Kurt remembers from that bewildering consultation, is much the same.

"Hi," Brittany says cheerfully over her shoulder, while Marina tells her to hold her hands steady. "I really like your wedding; the penguin at the door was awesome."

It takes Kurt a half a second to realize that she's probably referring to one of the hotel staff members, who are wearing tuxedos.

Marina finally exhales once the layer is in place, and dusts off her hands. She's a cheerful, short Asian woman in her mid-40s who never seems to wear anything but chef's coats and Crocs. Her cakes are beautiful and elegant enough that Kurt overlooks it, but seriously: pink Crocs. "This sweetheart offered to give me a hand when a few of us met for drinks and I was complaining about how damn big this cake is for just me and Anushka to carry," she says. "Hi Kurt; we're just about ready to go here."

"It looks incredible," he says, sincerely.

"Tell me the same thing when it makes it through the reception without cracking the cake board," Marina says wryly. "Come on, next one." Brittany and the other woman -- apparently Anushka -- carefully pull the topmost layer out of a cardboard box.

"Is that a serious concern?"

"Probably not," grunts Marina, the three women slowly lifting the circular layer. "But I can't stay to keep an eye on it -- play at my kid's school tonight -- so Brittany's gonna stick around just in case."

"I have emergency buttercream," Brittany tells him seriously.

"Steady hands, Britt-Britt!" Marina orders, and Kurt is pretty sure that watching them is going to give him an aneurism, so he leaves them to it.

The band is hard at work on the process that Kurt has never quite gotten a handle on, tuning and moving drums and juggling dozens of cables and amplifiers and instruments. He allows himself just a moment to stand back and self-congratulate on how amazing they look. The boys are in charcoal skinny-leg suit pants with midnight blue jackets that catch the light beautifully. From a distance, the jackets just look like they have a hint of a sheen in the material, but up close, one can see the subtle, intricate patterns winding through the brocade. They're paired with white dress shirts and thin matte black ties; not enough to look like costumes, but more than enough to invoke the Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons vibe that Kurt had been aiming for. Sugar, meanwhile, took to her full-skirted blue vintage dress like a duck to water as soon as she figured out that the bodice was fitted and she had enough room to pound the foot pedals of her drum set. She likes it enough that she happily added a pair of white wrist-length gloves on her own initiative. Kurt isn't sure if she plans to drum in the gloves, but if he can, he figures, more power to her.

Sam got the haircut that Kurt ordered, Sugar's hair and makeup are flawless (though he'd had to order a tone-down on the cats-eye liner), Puck trimmed the mohawk so that it looks less like something died on his head, Artie is wearing what look like a new pair of glasses, and Blaine-- Kurt devotes several precious seconds to smugly admiring Blaine. His boyfriend looks like heaven, hair slicked and shoes shined to a tee; a sixties crooner come to life. All together, they look every inch the eye candy that Kurt had envisioned. Blaine meets Kurt's eye as he bends over an amp to check a cable, and he smiles brightly.

"Puck," Kurt says, taking the last few steps to bring him to the foot of the stage. "Stop harassing my caterer. She has threatened to rupture something that is very dear to you if you go in that kitchen one more time."

All of the guys wince, Sam going so far as to -- instinctively, Kurt thinks -- shield his crotch with his guitar.

"That's bull! I wasn't harassing her!" Puck defends. "I was trying to get her number!"

Kurt lifts his eyebrows.

"She's smokin' and she won't give it to me," Puck says sulkily, like constantly bothering the woman is the obvious solution.

"Shocking," says Kurt in a deadpan, though he is actually shocked -- and not in an unpleasant way -- to hear Puck describe Lauren as 'smoking.' "She has a job to do and she isn't falling for your dubious charms. Leave her alone." He turns to the rest of them. "You look fabulous," he says, careful not to let his gaze linger on Blaine any longer than the rest of them.

They all smile; Sugar says, "I know, right??" from where she is dressed like a perfect lady while sitting like a 275-pound man, knees splayed, behind her drums.

"You have the set list, right?"

"We've totally got this, Kurt," Artie says. "It's gonna be baller!" He fist-bumps Sam.

"We're very prepared," Blaine assures him, warm. "The set list is perfect, and we've learned just about every Broadway hit of the last 50 years for when drunk guests start wanting to sing."

"Miss Saigon is really depressing," says Sam.

"And the band name?" Kurt asks.

They all glance at each other, and Kurt immediately feels suspicion crawl in. "You're going to like it," Blaine promises, and this time, Kurt does maintain eye contact for too long. Puck starts making kissy noises while Sugar laughs, and Kurt rolls his eyes as he steps away. Behind him, he can hear Blaine starting to earnestly lecture Puck on how important it is that they keep his and Kurt's relationship under wraps while they're performing here, for the sake of Kurt's professional reputation. Kurt smiles and, the next time that he has a moment to himself, texts Blaine a heart.

Kurt's favorite part of every wedding reception is the magical twilight hour in which the guests are fed and drunk enough to be dancing and happy, but not drunk enough for the bridesmaids and groomsmen (or bridesmaids and bridesmaids, and groomsmen and groomsmen, or bridesmaid-bridesmaid-groomsman -- Kurt has seen it all) to start pairing off. They're not there just yet at this wedding, but it's coming; he can feel it.

The wedding itself, held at a gorgeous UU church in Brooklyn, reportedly went off without a hitch. Kurt wasn't there thanks to being hard at work on the reception, but he saw the church this morning and it was stunning, and he's hearing talk of tears among the guests.

The ballroom is packed now, the guests having trickled in from Brooklyn over the course of an hour or two, and the wine and champagne are flowing freely as the place roars with conversation and laughter. It's going spectacularly well so far, with the only exception a brief tense moment wherein Kurt realized that a server had accidentally swapped two placecards, putting Susan Sarandon and Tim Robbins at the same table, but he switched the cards before anyone was the wiser.

Lauren's appetizers are a smash, the cool-blue mood lighting on the white cake has drawn a steady stream of ooh's and ahh's and cameraphone pictures, and the band is playing quiet music, nobody singing just yet. Because Blaine and Artie are both ridiculously talented multi-instrumentalists, Artie has taken over piano duties while Blaine plays violin. Kurt listens for a half a second and is fairly sure that they're playing a Coldplay song; not a bad -- if a ballsy -- choice, given that Chris Martin is in this room somewhere.

This is by far the biggest, most star-filled wedding that Kurt has ever put together. He actually fits in and looks like a guest here, though the iPad and the fact that he never sits still probably give him away; most of the time, he's very overdressed -- and sometimes, depending on the two people getting married and where their families travel from, very conspicuously gay -- at his weddings. But among a room full of the New York arts and music scenes' finest, an impeccable burgundy tuxedo with a black bow tie: not so strange.

He's leaned against the wall by the kitchen doors, Lauren allowing him access now that the initial rush of appetizers is over with. She only let him stay if he took the glass of very expensive wine that she shoved at him ("nobody can micro-manage when they're drinking Château Margaux 1995; stand there, look pretty, and don't tell me what to do"), but Kurt was just pleased to be able to get a look at the dinner plates before they went out to the guests.

(They looked unbelievable.)

It's a good vantage point to take in the room from. They're not quite at his favorite part of the evening yet, but this isn't half bad -- everyone clearly enjoying their meals, the grooms deep in conversation at their table. Robyn laughs at something that Patrick has said, and Patrick looks like he almost might smile. Flitting in and out in a floaty green dress, Quinn snaps a photo of the moment and then ducks out of the way again, two cameras hanging from their straps around her neck.

Kurt doesn't, frankly, have much to do anymore. He's primarily here to smooth things over in case of an emergency; the wildest (most exhilarating, but also worst) part of his job is over with now that the vendors are hired and wrangled, the venues are set up, the guests are here, and the grooms look happy.

A gorgeous ballroom filled with people whose autographs he would beg for if he met them in any other setting is a pretty wonderful place for him to twiddle his thumbs, he thinks.

And Lauren was right; this wine is amazing.

Robyn is tapping his wine glass with a knife, and the band stops in the middle of their voiceless rendition of "The Scientist"; the room quiets down expectantly, and Kurt throws himself into action, scrambling over to the stage.

"Mic, mic," he hisses to Blaine, who blinks at him for a second, then says, "Oh!" and twists his microphone out of its stand and hands it down to him.

Robyn and Patrick have risen out of their seats, the best man and maids of honor looking up at them from the table the five of them are sharing. (Kurt really, really wants the autograph of one of the maids of honor.)

"Patrick and I wanted to thank you for being with us today," says Robyn, and then Kurt speed-walks over and hands him the wireless microphone. "--Thank you, Kurt," he says, shooting him a bemused look, and Kurt sidles back out of the way. Robyn taps the foam, the sound echoing through the ballroom. "Is this thing on?" A few rowdier guests catcall. "Wonderful. As I was saying -- today has been a long time coming," he says, glancing at Patrick, "and we're very happy that you were all able to share it with us. Even if you are only here for the very fine free booze, you greedy fucks."

Kurt leans back against the stage, conscious of Blaine standing just over his left shoulder, and he laughs along with most of the room.

"We've just got a few things to say before we go back to letting you get tanked in peace."

"You mean before you let us take the microphone and embarrass the hell out of you," says the best man, and the two maids of honor beam in agreement as three tables in the front -- Robyn's four brothers, three sisters, their spouses and kids, and his 90-year-old mother, from what Kurt remembers of his seating charts -- applaud with particularly raucous approval.

"Yeah, whatever," says Robyn, drawing more laughter. "Like I was saying -- we wanted to say thanks to the First Unitarian Congregational Society in Brooklyn, for letting all your sorry asses darken their door, and because I don't think either of us ever figured we'd get married, legally, in a church."

Oh, God, Kurt is not going to get choked up at this. He's not; he doesn't do this. He hasn't cried since the very first wedding that he planned, when he was 16 and thought it would be the epitome of romance and class to have a cage full of glitter-pooping doves. He takes a long drink of wine.

"And thanks to everybody else who made today happen; the food, the decor, the drinks -- just wait til you taste the cake and see our first dance. None of you dicks are gonna have a wedding that's anywhere near as good as this one."

Kurt smiles over the rim of his wine glass, so hard that he feels like his face might split. The six-figure paycheck was an amazing motivator, it's true, but this is the true payoff; this lovely foul-mouthed moment, right now.

And then it gets surreal.

"We wanted to thank one person in particular, too," Robyn says, and Kurt nearly drops his wineglass when Robyn turns and looks directly at him. "Kurt Hummel over there planned every single inch of today, and most of you know what it's like to work with Patrick and me."

There's a ripple of knowing laughter. Kurt is very, very aware that he looks like a deer in the headlights and probably has wine stains at the corners of his mouth, as 400 very important people stare at him. He stands frozen.

Patrick leans in to the microphone and says, "Anything particularly stylish or innovative that you see tonight was Kurt's idea."

Continuing to be the greatest boyfriend that Kurt has ever had, Blaine somehow realizes that Kurt is in danger of splashing wine all over himself, and he reaches down and gently pulls the glass out of Kurt's limp fingers. Kurt is fairly sure that it's Blaine who does it, anyway, since he physically cannot move to turn around.

"Thank you, Kurt," Robyn says, tossing him a wink, and then he turns back toward his captive audience and starts telling a raunchy story about the first time that he and Patrick met, while Patrick looks increasingly embarrassed.

"Kurt?" murmurs a voice from just over Kurt's shoulder.

"I didn't know that Patrick could get embarrassed," Kurt says dimly.

"Are you okay?"

"I'm--" He takes a deep breath; a few guests at the nearest tables are still looking at him, and he draws himself up and forces a smile past his shock. "I'm fine." He glances back. Blaine is crouched on the edge of the stage, Kurt's wineglass in his hand and a concerned expression turned on Kurt.

"It's not really normal wedding etiquette to thank the planner," Kurt tells him. "My job is primarily to make everything so smooth and effortless that no one knows that I even exist."

"So," says Blaine, slowly, "what they just did was a really big deal?"

Kurt can't even bring himself to answer sardonically. "Can I please have my alcohol back now?"

After Robyn and Patrick's speech (and after the wedding party do, in fact, manage to embarrass the hell out of the grooms, much to the delight of the guests), Kurt finds it very, very difficult to keep an eye on the proceedings from the background. Every time he tries to slip from place to place, someone manages to corner him to ask about the centerpieces, to praise the flowers, to demand to know where he found the baker, or, most overwhelmingly of all, to say that they're throwing a party/getting their daughter married/going to the moon (that last one was Brittany, still keeping vigil over the cake) and want to discuss with him.

He has so many business cards tucked into the inner breast pocket of his suit jacket that he's fairly sure they could stop a bullet.

"Somebody's a busy boy," says a familiar voice, when he finally manages to escape behind the bar. The bartender shot him a sympathetic (interested, and Kurt isn't leading him on on purpose, since he does have an incredible boyfriend who is about 30 feet away, but he really, really wants a martini and a moment to himself) glance and let Kurt hide while he fixed a jack and coke at the other end of the bar.

Kurt, straining gin and vermouth into a chilled cocktail glass, barely spares Santana a glance. "If you're standing here talking to me, you're not doing the job that I hired you to do."

"Easy, Mr. Wilson," she scoffs. "Quinn's on the grooms gettin' their first dance on, and I'm totally capable of multitasking." As if to demonstrate, she snaps off a quick shot over her shoulder without looking.

"Did you seriously just make a Dennis the Menace reference?" Kurt asks incredulously.

"Whatever," she says, which he's pretty sure means yes. "Listen, who's the honey guarding the cake?"


"Like I said," Santana says, half a purr and half confrontational, "I can multitask like a mofo. What's her deal?"

"That's Brittany," Kurt says sharply. "She bakes incredible wedding cakes and she's making sure that this one doesn't crack and fall to pieces before anyone can actually cut into it." He puts the strainer down, realizes that the bartender is now shooting a dubious look down the bar at him, and hurriedly slides out from behind the safety of the bar with his misbegotten drink in hand.

"Huh," says Santana, glancing over at the cake, where Brittany is standing by and having a conversation with an increasingly bewildered-looking woman. "Okay. I can work with that."

"Santana," Kurt says, as the soft instrumental strains of "At Last" come to an end and the guests applaud Patrick and Robyn's first dance as husbands. "Brittany, she's -- unique."

"I know," she says, softer than he has heard her yet. Then she seems to realize what she has just said, and she tears her eyes away from the cake. "Uh, yeah, Hummel. I kind of figured that out when she asked m--"

"Hi!" says an amplified voice, and Kurt's eyes snap toward the stage. Blaine is standing in front of the mic stand, harmonica in its cradle around his neck, handsome as ever. When he adds, "I hope you're all ready to get your dancing shoes on!" he's greeted with cheers.

"Your assistant, huh?" Santana asks, grinning obnoxiously.

"Many happy returns to Patrick and Robyn," he continues. "We are Rough Around the Edges, and we'll be here for the rest of the evening!"

Santana takes a picture right in Kurt's stunned face; then she condescendingly pats him on the cheek, laughing quietly, and slinks away toward the cake.

The band launches into the opening bars of "Can't Take My Eyes Off of You," the Lauryn Hill version, with all of them singing the backup vocals. Blaine comes in, strong and gorgeous, on, "You're just too good to be true, can't take my eyes off of you."

"Wow, they're -- surprisingly good," says a man standing in a small knot of movers and shakers a few feet away.

"I would hit the short one like the fist of an angry god," adds a 50-something woman who Kurt knows he recognizes from the back of a playbill somewhere, and the group dissolves into hoots of laughter.

Kurt shoots the woman a startled, narrowed-eyes look, but as he keeps eavesdropping -- and keeps listening to Blaine singing a love song, in a band that he named after something that Kurt said -- and listening to their praise, he lets himself give a small, slow smile.

This wedding slides very quickly from the 'everyone buzzed and happy' to 'everyone drunk and happy' stage, and honestly, Kurt loves the hell out of it. He's going to keep his mouth shut because he knows what's good for him, but he has witnessed so much hilarious behavior from famous people in the last two hours. He can't wait to tell Carole what he saw her favorite soap star doing on the dance floor with a bottle of whiskey and a scarf.

So when he opens the coat closet -- because helping to find Sutton Foster's wrap isn't part of his job description, but it's an excuse to talk to Sutton Foster -- and finds two people making out in it, he rolls his eyes and slams the door on them.

Then his eyes widen. He reopens the door.

Finn and Rachel stare back at him, red lipstick smeared all around Finn's face.

"Uhhh," says Finn.

"What!" Kurt manages.

"Kurt!" Rachel, thank god, doesn't lose her gift of gab even in incredibly awkward, bizarre moments. "We -- we should have told you, but we weren't sure at first that it was going to work out, so we didn't want to drag other people into it, and we didn't know if you would approve--"

"And then it was really hot sneaking around," Finn says, like a dumbass, and Rachel elbows him in the ribs.

"How long has this been going on?" Kurt demands.


"Five months, one week, and three days," Rachel says matter-of-factly, and both men stare at her.

Well. Now Kurt knows why the two of them have been so incredibly weird for the last few months. He probably would have figured it out, he thinks, if he hadn't been so stressed out, and so wrapped up with Blaine.

"Okay," says Kurt. "I'm -- happy for you both, really, but I'm going to close this door now, and you can stop sneaking around, starting tomorrow. Does that sound reasonable?"

"Very," Rachel says, as Finn blankly nods, and Kurt shuts the door on them and goes to find another drink and watch his boyfriend sing the hell out of Britney Spears.

He knows from experience as a spectator at many, many wedding receptions that there is truth to the old cliché about people getting lonely and hooking up at weddings, but between Puck still doing his damndest to impress an unimpressed Lauren, Tina leaving with Mike to get coffee after finishing with the flowers, Santana following Brittany around like a puppy in spike heels, what Kurt had seen happening on the dance floor between two female Gossip Girl costars, and now Finn and Rachel, this is getting ridiculous.

By the end of the night, Kurt may be a little drunk. Might be. Only a little bit.

Patrick and Robyn left an hour ago, and Robyn definitely was drunk, because he hugged Kurt (and, fine, Kurt knows he was drunk even then, too, because he allowed it to happen) and then smugly went on his way out to the car while Patrick long-sufferingly shepherded him. Robyn was very aware, Kurt could tell, of what they did for Kurt with that speech, and of the business cards burning a hole in his pocket.

("Thank you," Kurt had said, quiet, while his face was smushed into Robyn's shoulder, and that was the extent of the discussion.)

The reception has devolved into a general party, with most of the more-staid guests now gone. Someone on the dance floor apparently brought a supply of glowsticks, because there are an awful lot of them being worn as crowns and necklaces over chignons and thousand-dollar gowns. This is the most absurd wedding that Kurt has ever planned. He loves it.

"I love it," he says to the person coming up behind him, and there's a chuckle.

"Not that you aren't very charming right now, but I thought the whole idea was professionalism?" Blaine asks, leaning against the table beside him.

"Screw professionalism," Kurt says. "Robyn Gantry and Patrick Tucker publicly declared their love for me. I'm never going to be short on clients again. I can hail every taxi in this fucking city."

Okay, Kurt may be on the very drunk side of drunk.

Blaine looks like he thinks Kurt is the most adorable thing on the face of the planet, and also like he's trying not to start laughing hysterically.

Kurt frowns. "Wait. You're here." Leaning against the table with his hip cocked, Blaine thumbs over his shoulder at the stage, and Kurt realizes that Puck is rapping a spirited duet of "Fat-Bottomed Girls" with Lin-Manuel Miranda.

"Oh," says Kurt, "my, god."

"If he thinks that's going to win Lauren over, he's probably got another thing coming," Blaine says.

"Did he--?"

"He dedicated it to her."

"Oh my god," Kurt says again. "This is my favorite wedding ever."

Blaine laughs. Kurt loves the crinkly thing that the skin around his eyes does. Loves it. "It's definitely the most amazing one I've ever been to," he says, and Kurt preens at the blatant compliment. "So this is the first time I've seen you without any admirers all night."

"Jealous?" Kurt flirts.

"No," Blaine says. "I have this amazing boyfriend who I know cares about me."

They smile enormously at each other. Kurt says frankly, "I think all of my admirers are shitfaced now."

Blaine, because he is the best boyfriend, doesn't say anything about how shitfaced or non-shitfaced Kurt himself may be. "I think you're probably right. It's their loss."

"Also," Kurt says, starting to wind his arms around Blaine's neck, and Blaine looks surprised and then tries to gracefully slide out from under the grab but Kurt persists, "I have a boyfriend with a very interesting band name."

"Kurt," says Blaine, suddenly serious, "you were really clear about us not broadcasting our relationship at this reception; you thought it could damage your image if you canoodled with vendors."

Kurt thinks it's sweet that Blaine listens to him closely enough that he can repeat exact phrases like that. "Blaine," he says, tone equally even. "We are now in the stage of the reception where everything turns into a drunken rave; apparently literally, at this wedding -- did you see the glowsticks?"

He doesn't crack a smile, or let Kurt pull him in, and Kurt sighs. "Nobody's going to notice," he says, "and even if they do, I don't care. I'm with you; it's not like I'm going to run around making out with every caterer or napkin folder that I hire," (napkin folder? Blaine mouths), "or like you got the job because we were sleeping together."

"I did get the job because you stalked me on YouTube, though," says Blaine, starting to smile a little bit, and Kurt narrows his eyes and says, "Finn is a dirty traitor."

"You're really okay with this?" Blaine asks. "It's not just the--?" He gestures discreetly at the nearly-empty martini glass in Kurt's hand.

Kurt spits him on a look that is only slightly unfocused. "Blaine," he says. "It's one in the morning, all of the really important people have gone home and left their 20-something kids here, the most stressful event I've ever planned in my entire life is finally over, and I want to dance with my boyfriend."

Blaine reaches out and takes the martini from him, downs the last sip, and puts it on the empty table behind him. He holds his hand out to Kurt, a smile hovering at the corners of his mouth. "May I have this dance?"

"Yes," Kurt says, smiling too hard to be properly haughty as he takes Blaine's hand. "Yes, you may."

He makes a strange gesture over Kurt's shoulder, and the music abruptly shifts to a very familiar slow guitar introduction, someone onstage tapping their foot to the beat.

"Do you want...?" Blaine looks toward the seething mass of sweaty humanity that is the dance floor, which is making complainy noises about the sudden slowdown in the musical tone.

"Not even a little bit," Kurt says firmly. He wraps himself around Blaine, the brocade of his suit jacket lovely under Kurt's hands, and Blaine presses his cheek against the side of Kurt's jaw and sways from foot to foot with him. They dance alone, way in the back, between empty tables.

"Blackbird singing in the dead of night," Artie croons. He really does have a beautiful voice, Kurt registers distantly. "Take these broken wings and learn to fly. All your life, you were only waiting for this moment to arise."

"Blackbird singing in the dead of night," Kurt sings along softly, and he feels Blaine stiffen against him in surprise, "take these sunken eyes and learn to see." Blaine's arms tighten around him. "All your life, you were only waiting for this moment to be free."

He lets Artie go on alone, and Blaine draws his head back so that he can look Kurt in the eye. Kurt can't quite make sense of his expression, and he doesn't think it's the martinis that are giving him trouble; it's -- complicated. Open and soft and wondering and a little wounded, like Kurt just knocked the breath out of him.

"Kurt," he says, quiet.

On the other hand, Kurt knows that it is the martinis that make him want to demand, 'What?' so he keeps his mouth shut.

Blaine blinks several times, his eyes looking almost wet, and then he says thickly, "I just really love you."

Kurt sucks in a sharp breath. He feels his smile curve up shakily, and he leans in and presses it against Blaine's mouth in a chaste kiss. "I love you, too," he says softly, and Blaine squeezes his sides.

A shutter clicks. "Gag me," announces Santana, and then she stalks away toward the dance floor.

He rolls his eyes, and Blaine smiles, looking more like himself again. "You're sure I can't convince you to come sing something with me onstage?" Blaine asks. "Your voice is just..."

"Made for taking the female half of duets?" Kurt suggests wryly.

He exhales a faintly amused whuff, shaking his head. "I was going to say 'amazing.' "

"No," he says, "thank you. I love singing, but I also love what I do." He pats Blaine's shoulder and smiles at him, flirty and genuine. "I'll leave the stage to you, maestro."

In the afternoon, after about 10 hours of sleep and several excited rounds of we-aren't-going-to-be-interrupted-by-texts-from-Patrick sex (and then another few hours of sleep), they sit in Kurt's bed and stare at the quilt that Kurt has made out of the business cards that he was handed last night.

"Does that say Rockefeller?" Kurt asks, stabbing a finger at one of the cards.

Blaine leans in and peers at it. "Yyyyes," he says.

"It was a rhetorical question, Blaine." Overwhelmed, Kurt flumps onto his back.

"This is a good thing, right?" Blaine asks, lying back and staring up at the ceiling with him.

"Yes," Kurt says firmly. "It's amazing. It's just a lot to take in."

"Then I'm sorry, because I'm definitely about to add even more."

He frowns and rolls toward Blaine, dislodging business cards. "What?"

Kurt has no idea where Blaine got that business card from; it isn't one of his, and Blaine isn't exactly wearing a lot of clothing underneath the covers for him to have been hiding it somewhere. He hands it over. "I met him last night."

"--Blaine," Kurt says, eyes snapping up from the card. "Interscope Records?!"

"What?" yelps a familiar voice, and then the door bursts open and Rachel flings herself onto the bed.

"So not only are we not pretending that you and Finn aren't together anymore, but we're also not pretending that you don't eavesdrop?" Kurt asks, pointedly holding the covers up to his armpits to keep himself (and Blaine) covered.

Rachel says, "Too many double-negatives" absently as she looks through all of the business cards.

"I'm too hungover to manage double-negatives," Kurt mutters, and Blaine squeezes his arm sympathetically. He raises his voice. "And for you to be in my bed without pants on, oh my god, Rachel."

"Were you really approached by an Interscope scout, Blaine?" Rachel asks, still pantless (she's wearing a long T-shirt that clearly isn't hers and just barely covers everything that needs to be covered) and ignoring Kurt.

"Uhh," says Blaine. "Yeah, at the bar while I was on a break."

"He wasn't a simple scout," Kurt says, rereading the card and starting to bounce under the covers. "He was the vice president of A&R. He was the king scout. Blaine!" He hugs him, hard.

"Blaine!" Rachel echoes excitedly, and she can't get her arms around both of them, but she tries very hard. Rachel can have her selfish moments, but Kurt really, really loves her in ones like these. Even if he wishes he didn't now know what color panties she wears to sleep.

"What the crap is going on?" asks Finn from the doorway, leaning heavily on the doorjamb and clearly barely awake.

"Blaine's band has a record deal!" Rachel exclaims from within their cuddle pile.

"No, we don't," Blaine says; "we just have an appointment to talk with them, that's all."

"That's awesome," Finn says, and he sounds like he means it, as sleepy as he is. "Rachel, you ... maybe wanna put some pants on?"

"Thank you," says Kurt vehemently, giving her a light shove.

"Fine." Rachel hops out of the bed, fully destroying Kurt's business card organizational system. "I'll put pants on, since you all clearly need to work on your comfort with expressions of female sexuality, and then I'll call Mercedes and we'll all have celebratory wholegrain vegan strawberry-banana pancakes."

"They're actually delicious," Kurt confides to Blaine, and Rachel beams and leaves the room in as huge of a burst of energy as she'd entered it.

"Awesome wedding, guys," Finn says, and then he pulls the door shut behind himself as he leaves.

Kurt turns the business card over and over in his fingers, studying it.

"Kurt?" He glances up, and finds Blaine tilted all the way toward him, watching him. "What are you thinking?"

"That I'm in love with a bona fide rock star," Kurt says, and Blaine shakes his head, smiling, modest as always. Kurt leans in. "And that all of your future groupies will keep their hands to themselves if they know what's good for them." Blaine is laughing when Kurt kisses him. "And that as long as Finn didn't inhale it, there's still a half a bottle of champagne in the refrigerator for mimosas."

Kurt isn't actually as hungover as he's been claiming; not as hungover as he was the first time they woke up this morning, anyway. He hops out of bed nimbly, and is about to go to his bureau for a pair of underwear when Blaine scrambles after him and grabs his elbow.

"Kurt, seriously," he says. "This is huge."

"I know," Kurt promises. It's impossible not to smile at him, not when Blaine looks so worried and so sleep- and sex-disheveled, and so gorgeous, standing there in the warm light streaming in through the open window. "I know. Everything's about to change. But we'll make it work."

From the immediate look that Blaine shoots him, he recognizes that Kurt is using his own words against him. He starts to smile back, though, and leans in for a kiss when--

"Kurt, where do you keep th--"

"No," Kurt calls sharply, too late, and the door opens.

"Oh my god," says Rachel, sounding both shocked and like she's starting to laugh, and she slams the door. "I'm sorry!" she shouts from the other side.

"This is not going to work," Kurt says, probably wild-eyed, given the way that Blaine looks like he's trying not to laugh at him. "She can't be here like this all the time."

"For what it's worth, neither of you has anything to be ashamed of!"

"Rachel!" says Finn's agonized voice, and Blaine laughs on Kurt's shoulder for what feels like forever.