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Sotto Voce

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"Is this really necessary, Kurt?"

Blaine sat forward in a rocking chair on the veranda, concentrating on the dog demanding repeated belly rubs. "You already know all this, and it's a busy week. We're bottling..."

"Would you rather I wrote this off the top of my head, from memory? Blaine, it's better this way, an interview. That way, I can limit what I write just to the things we discuss today. That, and observation. Nothing more. I promise. Anything else? That's privileged. That's private. And I won't take up too much of your time, okay?"

Blaine nodded, kept watching the dog, and bit his lip. 


"Tell me why you're so uncomfortable with this."

"Have we started? Is this the interview?" Blaine looked up, rubbing his forehead, looking pained.

Kurt picked up his recorder, and shut it off. He snapped his notebook shut, and set it on the table.

"No. We don't start until you're ready."

Blaine nodded, more to himself than to Kurt.

He was looking out to the vineyard, but there was no focus to the view. He was persistently scratching the dog, but his actions were automated, mindless as he circled, circled, and circled again with his hand.

"Do you want to tell me about it, Blaine? Because I'll listen. No judgement. No notebooks."

He shook his head no, then nodded it yes, then looked up to the sky as if it would tell him what to say.

"Do you want to know, really?"

"Not professionally."

Blaine's face was a balance between a clenched smile and a grimace. 

"You already know."

He took a breath to collect himself, and tried to form words that he didn't want to speak,  facts that he needed to broach, despite the risk they posed to the fragile friendship that he had hoped could be more. 

"Was it in college? Back at Cornell?"

Blaine still couldn't meet Kurt's eyes, but he tentatively found his voice.

"No. That was just like I said, just a lab or two. I haven't lied about anything, Kurt. I haven't been exactly forthcoming, but I haven't lied. College was just college. We hung out a few times, at parties. He hit on me, but he hits on everyone. I never thought much about it."

"I can definitely see that," Kurt said grimly.

"He didn't..."

"Oh, he did. He invited me to San Francisco for the weekend. And no, I'm not going."

Blaine allowed himself a half-hearted little smile, then reeled it back in. "So, what did he say?"

"Not that much, really. He inferred a few things and then let them hang in the air awhile." 

Blaine shut his eyes tightly, trying to block out the images criss-crossing his memory. A desk, a mahogany bookcase, an oxblood couch. Wine. Clothes haphazardly tossed around an office in the dead of night.

"How nice of him," Blaine said, pinching the bridge of his nose in an effort to shut out the building stress behind his eyes. "Kurt, I'm so sorry."

"For what? For your past? It is your past, right?"

"Of course it is. I really don't like that guy. I don't think I ever really did. But I used to think he was relatively harmless."

"So what was it?" Kurt said, delicately navigating the emotional minefield to try to reach Blaine.

"It was nothing, Kurt. It meant nothing. We weren't involved. It was just a short... That day in the vineyard, when you asked about Rhapsody being isolated? It is, it was, especially when I was first getting my footing here. I just felt really alone. He was someone I knew, something familiar. I ran into him over in Napa one night. We started  drinking, and..."

Chest draped against a sweat-slicked back, arms wrapped tight around his waist, reaching...

"A one night stand?"

He opened his eyes, and looked at Kurt for the first time since he'd ventured down this thorny path.

"No, but it was very short-lived. Very short-lived, Kurt. It wasn't a relationship. It wasn't much more than a weekend, really. Whatever it was, it was a mistake. It's something I regret. It's an embarrassment. It's not like me. And it's something I just felt you should  hear from me."

Blaine punctuated his words with a forceful rhythm, stressing the negatives; the nos, the nevers, the not ever agains.

"He's never let me forget it and he is constantly dropping hints about it. I hate it, and I can't escape it. So I just stay as far away from him as possible."

Blaine fully expected to see Kurt pull away. If the thought of Sebastian Smythe made his own skin crawl, he could only imagine what Kurt thought. Worse yet, what would Kurt now think of him, his judgement and his brief, humiliating fling with his Napa rival?

But instead, he leaned forward, toward Blaine, reaching out and taking his hand. Kurt skimmed Blaine's knuckles gently with his thumb, caressing the skin with a gentle, reassuring touch. "It's okay. It's okay, Blaine.

"Is that why you've been so reluctant to do this? Because he might be competing too? You must run into the guy from time-to-time."

"Not if I can avoid it. The two of us competing, being compared, side-by-side? Nightmare, it's a complete nightmare to me. I don't want to be around him. I don't want him near me." 

Or you, Blaine thought. 

"I don't want people to know about this," he said, his voiced hushed. "I'm trusting you, Kurt."

"And you can. I told you I've got no professional interest in this. None. But I'm glad you told me, that you felt you could trust me."

Kurt squinted, and the corner of his mouth turned up in a tiny, troublemaking grin.

"Seriously, Blaine? Smythe? Couldn't you have just downloaded some porn? Not gonna lie. You're not exactly the kind of guy I picture him with," Kurt said, finally breaking through Blaine's reserve.

Blaine choked back a laugh. "And that would be?"

"I'm thinking maybe a horny cell mate with daddy issues... So—you want to get started now?"

Blaine sniffed, and nodded, and quietly wondered who Kurt pictured him with.