It takes Kurt a day and a half before he’s able to reach Blaine.
The first time his voicemail picks up, instead of his voice, it’s a little jarring. Granted, they text more than call each other these days, but still… In the end Blaine really had always done his best to pick up when Kurt called. After around the tenth time, Kurt has come to expect it though, has memorized the outgoing message, has learned its rhythm and its cadence, has become adept at hanging up before the beep.
It’s Friday afternoon now, and outside the loft the sun is bright and hot – it makes everything look over-exposed and blown-out around the edges. Kurt is on his way to work, and is just about to head down into the subway when he tries Blaine again.
This time, Blaine actually answers.
“Blaine?” Kurt says, after listening to about ten seconds of silence.
He moves off of the sidewalk, and positions himself under the nearest awning, just past the windows of a sandwich shop where Blaine used to sometimes pick up lunch on the weekends. Kurt’s stomach sinks when Blaine still doesn’t say anything.
“Are you there?” he asks, feeling stupid, because of course Blaine is there. Whether he’s there and willing to talk to him is the real question, Kurt figures.
He hears Blaine take a long breath.
“I’m here,” he says finally, and his voice is worn out and rough, like he’s been sleeping, or crying, or both. Kurt’s face warms immediately. The emotions he’s been trying to push away, and bury somewhere deep inside of him are suddenly right there on the surface.
“I still have a key to Mercedes’ place,” Blaine says. “So I’m staying here.”
“I thought she rented that out already?”
“She did. I’m sleeping on the couch.”
Kurt is quiet for a second. He really has no idea how to do this, how to talk to Blaine like this.
“Well, if you want to, you can sleep on the couch here. You know that, right?” He’d left Blaine half a dozen voice messages offering the same thing. He wonders if Blaine has listened to them. “I left you a message," he says. "Messages.”
Blaine doesn’t say anything.
“I got your messages,” Blaine says, his voice quiet and measured.
“I was worried,” Kurt says without thinking, and hears Blaine suck in a breath.
“Why?” Blaine asks, angry and dismissive, and then before Kurt can answer, he says, “You know, that first message you left, where you said you weren’t even sure if you ‘meant what you said’? About—“ Blaine’s voice breaks off. “About the wedding,” he finishes, quietly.
“Yes,” Kurt says.
He knows he should say something else, and he wants to, but there’s a giant lump in his throat already, and just thinking about that conversation at the restaurant is making Kurt’s stomach lurch. There’s a part of him that’s been pretending that maybe all of this hadn’t been such a big deal – that it had just been another argument, in a long line of arguments that they’d been having for months. But hearing Blaine’s voice now, he knows that this is as far from the truth as anything could be. If he’s being honest, he knows it in his heart, too.
“I know that you meant it,” Blaine says. “I knew for a long time. You thought everything was rushed from the beginning. The engagement, the wedding, all of it. You never really wanted this.”
Kurt allows himself to sink to the ground, all the way down to the sidewalk. He leans back against the side of the building, relieved that he doesn’t have to keep himself upright anymore.
“I think we should talk about it,” Kurt says, because he does, because it’s what he’s been thinking for the last 36 hours, and, for that matter, for the past few months. Maybe they needed this, maybe this would be the thing that changes everything - if he can just talk to Blaine, if they’re honest with each other, then maybe…
He can hear Blaine’s swift intake of breath in his ear, knows that Blaine is crying, can feel the tears sliding down his face, too.
“I’ve never,” Blaine says, and his voice is fervent and angry and bitter – it’s all the things that scare Kurt about him, sometimes, and all the things that Kurt admires about him too, about his ability to show himself to Kurt like this. “I’ve never thought that for a second. I’ve never felt like it was too soon, or that we were too young, or that things were moving too fast. I’ve always just wanted to be with you.”
“Blaine,” Kurt says, and he really doesn’t recognize the sound of his voice anymore, small and desperate and broken like this. He draws his knees in close to his chest.
“And I don’t know what there is to talk about because I already know,” Blaine is saying, between these horribly long, ragged breaths. “I already know you don’t want--”
Kurt listens as Blaine’s voice dissolves. His hands are shaking. He presses the phone to his ear harder, and tries to pretend he’s somewhere else, anywhere other than in the middle of the sidewalk in broad daylight. He’s finding it hard to breathe. His body feels strange, outside of his control. He should say something - he’d wanted to say something, later that night, all the hours between now and then, but right now, his brain, his voice, his heart – they’re all disconnected. Kurt stares out at the street in front of him, at the shoes and shopping bags parading past him. He’s sure he wouldn’t recognize the person they’re seeing right now. Stupid uniform pants, tears streaming down his face. He wonders why Blaine hasn’t hung up yet.
“Blaine, I have to go to work,” he says in one quick breath, and it’s not really an excuse, he really does have to go. He’s already late. He feels like he’s pleading though, like he needs Blaine’s permission, even though he’s not even sure what for. “I’m already late. It’s that new manager on tonight, so--”
“Kurt,” Blaine says, and Kurt really wishes he wouldn’t say his name anymore, not when he sounds like this. “Please—“
“Please don’t call me again.”
Then he hangs up, and Kurt just sits there for a couple of long minutes, just staring at the people passing in front of him. He feels numb. Everything is out of focus. He can’t really remember how to breathe.
This kind of drama happens all over the city - or so Kurt has heard. Apartments are small, so it’s common to see all kinds of things that should be happening behind closed doors happen right out in the open instead. A big city phenomenon, of sorts.
Kurt pulls himself up slowly. He stands under the awning for a second before he propels himself forward. As he descends into the subway, he wonders how this particular drama measures up. Considering the entire population of the city, eight million plus people, this, honestly, is probably pretty commonplace. It probably wouldn’t even make the top ten, the top hundred.
As the train shudders along the tracks and then dives underground, Kurt tries not to think about Blaine’s voice. He tries not to remember his breathless please in a voice that Kurt had barely recognized, as if the most important thing in the world was just to get Kurt to leave him alone.
He tries not to think about anything at all.
That night, after a long shift at the diner that verged on endless at times, Kurt arrives home to an empty apartment. One thousand square feet of silence and space. He realizes that he honestly feels a little relieved, like he’s let go of something really heavy.
He hadn’t realized how tense he’d been. How nice it feels not to have to worry about starting each day with an argument, even a stupid, unimportant one like they mostly were - or worse, ending it with one.
He doesn’t think about the messages he’d left Blaine. Or their conversation before his shift, on the sidewalk under that awning, where for several long minutes the edges of his consciousness had felt so heavy and dark, and he’d honestly been afraid he might pass out, because that’s how serious it had felt, the idea of ending this, of everything being over with Blaine. It had made everything feel cold, despite the heat.
Kurt doesn’t think about that now. He doesn’t think about the tone of Blaine’s voice, how he’d sounded like a stranger. Blaine has never sounded like a stranger to Kurt. Even the first day they met, when Blaine had introduced himself, he hadn’t sounded like a stranger. He had always sounded like someone who belonged in Kurt’s life, like someone who knew him.
He doesn’t think about all the words he didn’t say to Blaine, all the things he could have said to try to make Blaine understand.
He doesn’t think about Blaine’s socks, lined up in neat rows in boxes at the bottom of his wardrobe, not being worn, or about his hair products crowding the edges of the sink in the bathroom. He doesn’t think about the non-refundable down payment they’d given the florist for the wedding, and he doesn’t think about an entire future together - his entire life, planned out, and then offered up to the universe in an instant, a sort of sacrifice, maybe.
Kurt tries his very best not to think about any of these things.
There's a narrative that he has in his head, and it carries him pretty far – hours, days, a week. It's mostly parsed out from conversations with his dad, who tells him, sympathetically, that he should cut himself some slack, that he's young - they're both so young. There was a lot of pressure. People crack under pressure sometimes, and it's okay. If it's meant to be, it'll happen. They'll come around to each other again. It's okay to take some time off.
It's really not okay though. The realization that he has really, really screwed up this time is not lost on him. He knows that there may not be any coming back from this. He can’t help but feel that if Rachel, if anyone, was here, they’d force him to run back to Blaine, to apologize, to at least try to fix this before it becomes un-fixable. But he knows it’s not as simple as that, and there isn’t anyone here forcing him to do anything.
The fall placement audition happens, and then the semester starts.
Kurt shows up to class, work, rehearsal. He thinks a lot, but he doesn’t do anything.
Sam calls, out of the blue, from Lima. He’s going to be in town, wrapping up some modeling contract. He wonders if he can stop by. He’s doing a favor for Blaine – he wants to pick up Blaine’s things from the apartment, if that’s okay. Kurt doesn’t have to pack anything up, but if he could just point him in the right direction, that’s all he needs.
Because, apparently, Blaine hates him so much, he can't even stand for them to be in the same room together anymore.
It makes Kurt angry. Jealousy twists inside of him at the thought of Blaine calling Sam, asking him to come here to do this for him. He knows he’s being irrational. That there’s no reason to begrudge Blaine this friendship, this support.
It makes it real though, is the thing. It cuts through the wall of fog that seems to have been erected between Kurt and the world, makes this somehow more permanent – a thing that there are words for. An ex-boyfriend, an ex-fiance. Belongings to be collected. A failed engagement.
He packs up Blaine’s things because he wants to, because he knows that it’s a thing he’s capable of. He can’t stand the thought of Sam just tossing everything haphazardly into a box, wrinkled and mixed up and not organized by color, and season.
He folds Blaine’s crisp shirts, and his sweaters, and his colorful collection of slim-fit chinos very carefully.
He takes various plastic tubes, and tubs, and bottles from the bathroom and arranges them in a medium-sized cardboard box. Smaller items, lip balm, eye cream, go into appropriately-sized Ziplock bags. It takes him hours; he’s meticulous, careful not to overlook anything.
He doesn’t cry; his breath doesn’t hitch once until the very end, until he sees everything piled up in a corner of the living room: Blaine’s suitcase, a couple of boxes, the table lamp he’d brought home from a thrift store one Saturday afternoon, months ago. A throw rug that never matched anything, a stack of books. The soda stream machine, because Kurt has always really hated that thing, no matter how much Blaine had tried to convince him otherwise.
It starts as a lump in his throat, and before Kurt knows it, he’s curled up in a ball on the couch, and he can’t catch his breath. He feels utterly and completely alone, really feels it, right down to his bones, and it terrifies him. Blaine is gone. Obviously, Blaine has been gone for weeks, and Kurt has been aware of this, has come home every night to an empty apartment, has deflected questions about Blaine at NYADA, but this - looking at all of Blaine’s things piled neatly against the wall by the door - really, really brings it home.
At NYADA, Blaine hasn’t shown up to any of the classes they’d scheduled together. Kurt figures he’s found some way to switch to other sections, or maybe he’s just dropped the classes altogether. As the days have passed, Kurt has been struck by how completely ridiculous it is that someone who used to be the most important part of his day, of his life - someone who’s still there, who still exists in the same city, the same school - could suddenly just disappear. It’s like Blaine has been plucked up and deleted from Kurt’s life, as if he’d never been there in the first place.
All of the questions he’d been asking himself before – why they were fighting so much, the wedding, what it meant that they weren’t happier, that New York with Blaine wasn’t a perfect utopia of pre-marriage bliss – suddenly none of that matters at all anymore.
Blaine is gone.
Kurt has ruined everything, and there’s no going back.
And these are all facts that he can more or less deal with, that he’s been dealing with. He doesn’t know what to do with his heart though, or any of these feelings.
He wishes he could carefully pack them up in a box, too. They’re clearly not going to do him any good – they’ve clearly never done him any good. He can’t though – they’re stuck; lodged inside of him, filling in all sorts of nooks and crannies and miniscule little cracks – he’d never be able to find them all.
This is different than their last break up, when Kurt could be angry, when he could fill up his heart with that, and call it justified. This time all Kurt has to fill anything up with is the realization that he wasn’t strong enough. To accept Blaine’s love. To express his own.
He doesn't know what he is--what he was--so scared of.
Eventually he falls asleep on the couch, and when he wakes up, Blaine’s things are still there in a pile, just like they had been the night before, and he’s still alone.
The loft had felt so small, with Blaine there - like they were tripping over each other all the time, getting in each other's way, on each other's nerves, to the point where Kurt just felt like he was being bombarded with evidence of their incompatibility, all the time.
It was the wedding – so many details, and decisions – and maybe it wasn’t the wedding at all. But Kurt had been overwhelmed, and he suspects Blaine had been, too. His dad said it was normal – reminded him how many hours Kurt had spent on flower arrangements for his wedding with Carole, just for one example. Kurt doesn’t think so; he doesn’t think any of it had been normal. Doesn’t think Blaine sleeping four hours a night, tops, because he couldn't stop searching wedding websites for napkin rings or overhead lighting schemes had been normal.
He’d wanted desperately for something to change, and then it had, and now he wants it to change again, backwards or forwards, it doesn’t really matter. He just wishes something would happen, so that he can stop feeling like everything is so pointless – like he’s wasted the last four years of his life, believing in something that ended up like this in the end.
It’s a Thursday, and on Thursdays, Kurt knows that Blaine has a musical theater history class that meets from five until six-thirty – it’s one of the few classes that he wasn’t going to be sharing with Kurt, and Kurt is fairly certain that he’ll be able to catch him on his way home afterwards.
It’s a shot in the dark, really, and mostly a spontaneous decision. A selfish one, maybe. Kurt realizes this the second Blaine comes out of the classroom and reluctantly meets his eyes.
“Can we, um,” Kurt starts, but he’s immediately taken back by the hostility, the anger on Blaine’s face. It’s been a month since that night at the restaurant, and somehow Kurt isn’t expecting this. He forges forward anyway. “Do you mind if we talk?” he says. “Just for… well, I don’t know exactly how--”
“Let me stop you there,” Blaine says. “Yes, I mind.”
He doesn’t say anything else, and Kurt just stands there for a moment, confused. The rest of the class has filed out and dispersed around them. The teacher is the last one out of the room, and as his back retreats down the hallway, Blaine turns around, and starts to follow him.
“Wait,” Kurt says, panicking a little. “Blaine, wait!”
Blaine stops, turns around slowly. Kurt doesn’t really recognize him anymore, he realizes. It’s not just that Blaine’s wearing a shirt that Kurt doesn’t recognize, it’s like everything about him has changed – how he holds himself, how he looks at Kurt most of all, like Kurt is some sort of hostile presence that he can’t wait to get the hell away from.
“What are you doing?” Blaine asks, looking around like he needs to plan an escape route, like he’s mapping out possible exits.
“I don’t know,” Kurt admits. “I’m sorry. I just wanted to talk to you.”
Blaine is standing in front of him, looking anywhere but Kurt’s face, and there’s something complicated, and guarded about the way he’s holding himself, about the set of his shoulders, his jawline.
“Blaine,” Kurt says, searching for something familiar, anything to stop this surge of emotion he can feel rising up inside of him. “I—“
“No,” Blaine says quickly, and for a second before he turns away again, his face softens into something Kurt almost recognizes, but it’s gone as quick as it came. “I can’t do this.”
“Do what? You can’t even talk to me now?”
“You’re not saying anything!” Blaine says, voice rising, eyes wide. His hands are clenched into tight fists at his sides. “If you had something to say you would have said it by now.”
“You told me not to call you, so I thought I’d come in person, and-- I’m sorry, I didn’t exactly plan this.”
“Well you should have, because I’m not going to let this happen again.”
“Let what happen again?”
“I’m not going to let you corner me, and—and--”
And Blaine is doing an okay job of hiding it, ducking his head, and turning away from Kurt, but… Kurt recognizes the movement of his shoulders, can see him swiping at his face.
“Look,” Kurt says, quietly. “Maybe we should do this somewhere else.”
“Where? Somewhere where no one from school will see us?”
“That’s not what I meant,” Kurt says, feeling defeated, underwater already. He shouldn’t have come here. “This was a mistake,” he says. “I’m really sorry.”
“Me, too,” Blaine says, and Kurt doesn’t wait to hear anything else, just turns and makes his way out of the building.
Outside, the sky is threatening rain. Kurt walks several blocks in the wrong direction, away from school and the subway, until he turns on a street lined with brownstones, and wrought iron fences. No one is following him – he’s alone on the street, aside a couple of people at the far end of the block, who turn the corner a second later before they disappear from sight.
Kurt sits down on the bottom step of the first stoop that doesn’t have a gate blocking it.
It seems ridiculous, to let all of this go. Everything they’ve shared between them, to just let it go like this, without so much as a real conversation, but the look on Blaine’s face in the hallway… He looked like he couldn’t wait to get away from him. Blaine has never looked at him like that before.
It makes Kurt think that maybe he was right - they were never ready for this.
It’s not about whether or not he meant what he said that night – at least for Kurt, it’s not about that night at all anymore, not really. It’s everything else – it’s Blaine’s things piled into a corner of the living room and Sam making small talk as Kurt helps him carry them down the stairs to his truck. It’s Blaine not picking up the phone and not answering his texts and not calling, and both of them walking away, just now outside that classroom.
It’s about walking away from all of this. And of course, it’s about the horrible things Kurt said that night, whether he meant them or not… It’s about everything they’ve ever shared, everything they’ve ever said, or not said.
Sometimes Kurt thinks he’d do anything to fix it, get married tomorrow if it meant that everything could go back to the way it was – but there’s just no way to reconcile that fantasy, with the reality of what just happened between them. Blaine could barely even look at him. He doesn’t have any words to explain how they’ve arrived here.
When it finally starts to rain, the cement at his feet darkens slowly, wet blotches that grow and spread around his shoes, up and onto the steps next to him. Kurt eventually forces himself up, and points himself in what he’s fairly certain is the direction of the subway.
Kurt doesn’t try to contact Blaine again, after that. He spends a lot of time thinking, instead. About this summer, and the wedding, about Blaine’s proposal - about everything, really.
This had never been about not wanting to marry Blaine. Kurt had always wanted that. He'd told Blaine as much in a McKinley stairwell when he had no idea what he even meant. He would have accepted a gum wrapper from a clueless teenager as proof of everything that one person could conceivably promise to another person. He didn't need Blaine's elaborate proposals, or a ring made of anything other than paper. He knew that Blaine loved him. And he was always going to say yes.
And still, it had occurred to Kurt fairly early on that maybe Blaine had staged his over-the-top proposal the way he had because he was afraid of giving Kurt the opportunity to say no. (Or maybe. Or yes, but not right now.)
It made him feel guilty. Made him wonder why he could never seem to make Blaine feel as loved as he needed to be loved. Because after everything they’d shared between them, Blaine had still thought he might actually say no. The more he thinks about it, the more awful it makes him feel. He wonders what exactly it means, that Blaine had chosen a spectacle, had chosen to let Kurt off easy – to make him an offer he couldn’t refuse.
But Kurt had always been afraid to admit just how much he cared, and he’s not stupid enough to think Blaine didn’t know that, too.
He tells his therapist all of this, on a chilly, windy Thursday afternoon, in a tiny room in her East Village office. The couch is white leather, and there are so many throw pillows, he always ends up crowded right into the center. He wonders if the pillows are there on purpose, strategically placed, so that her patients don’t ever get too comfortable.
It had taken him about a month and a half, to realize that he was going to lose his mind if he didn’t talk to someone about this, if he didn’t at least try to make sense of why he’d ruined this so spectacularly.
He’s not sure how it’s going so far. Most of the time he just feels like a silly, emo teenager. Sometimes though, he feels something take hold inside of him, a kind of deep understanding of himself that he’s shied away from for as long as he can remember.
"Were you comfortable telling him how you felt in those moments, when you were overcome with emotion?"
"No," Kurt whispers, and suddenly it's so obvious. How much he’d been hiding, even from Blaine. "I wasn't. I didn't."
It’s the first time that Kurt wonders if maybe the most important person in his life had never actually known him at all.
The loft feels huge without Blaine. The world feels huge, too; it’s hard to navigate, sometimes. Time passes in a blur.
Sam calls, a couple of times.
"You know he's not going to class, like, at all," he says, from far away Lima, Ohio, where Kurt hasn’t been for what feels like a lifetime.
"I know," Kurt says. He wraps his fingers around his coffee, trying to hold in the warmth that doesn't really reach him.
He's noticed. Of course he has. How at first he'd occasionally walk past Blaine in the hallway, or in the cafeteria, and then it had just stopped one day. Blaine was there, and then he wasn't.
"Can you try to talk to him, at least?"
"Trust me, it wouldn't help," Kurt says, voice thin, and quiet.
Kurt can hear the hope in Sam's voice and tries to remember what that must feel like.
"Okay," he says, and it's not a lie, he really thinks he can do it.
But he waits too long, a week, maybe two, before he tries calling Blaine again, and by then Blaine is gone. Has changed his number, is no longer enrolled at NYADA, no longer in New York at all.
The loft still feels huge. The city is endless, sometimes. He misses Rachel.
His therapist tells him he has intimacy issues, which, he supposes, is something he always knew was true. She spends a lot of time asking him about his mother, and Finn, tells him that he needs to spend more time examining his emotions, and being honest with himself, which feels ironic, because he always thought that's what he was doing, pretty much every second of every day.
It’s like he doesn’t even know himself anymore.
Labor Day has long since come and gone - it’s the middle of October, and the weather has started getting cold again, has started turning towards winter.
Kurt spends a lot of time thinking about things he should have said to Blaine when he’d had the chance.
He thinks about the last couple of days with Blaine, all that wasted time spent arguing and worrying about a wedding that never happened. He wonders when the last time he’d told Blaine he loved him and really meant it had been… He wonders if Blaine had believed him.
He wishes he’d said those words more often. Not I love you, too, but I’ve loved you since the day we met. Since you took my hand that day. I loved you first. As if that counts for anything at this point. He’s sure it wouldn’t have made a difference, but he wishes he’d said it all the same.
He writes long letters, at his therapist's suggestion, pours his heart out to Blaine with as much reckless abandon as he can manage. Wine helps, sometimes. Ambien doesn't. But he writes all the time anyway. He tells Blaine everything – all of his fears, how he’s not sure if he believes in love anymore, how he’s not sure if he ever really believed in it, how underneath it all, he’d always been scared - of losing Blaine, of losing everyone, of losing himself.
He tells Blaine that there are things he’s working on, that the next time they meet, he’ll be better.
He contradicts himself a lot. He tells Blaine that he wants to believe in love again. He tells him that he believes what they shared was real, that it meant something, that it meant everything, that it still means everything.
He knows he’s supposed to hold on to the letters, that the end result is supposed to be that eventually, he comes to terms with everything that he’s ever felt about this, that the letters are proof, but he throws them away instead – grabs the pages and crumples them into the trash. Sometimes he lights a candle, and watches carefully as the flame overtakes a corner of the paper, and then engulfs it. He even buys an ugly metal trash can from the hardware store around the corner, for safety. It’s cathartic, he tells himself. It’s better than nothing.
November arrives, and Kurt is not surprised when he’s the only one who shows up on that street corner on a particularly grey, rainy afternoon. He hadn’t really been expecting a reunion, has a hard time even imagining what that would look like anymore – it’s been so long since he’s talked to anyone from McKinley.
He should probably take it as a sign – let go. Move on.
He writes letters instead. Not just to Blaine. To his mother, to his dad. To Finn, and Rachel, too.
He even saves some of them. He doesn’t contradict himself quite so much, either – he starts to recognize that his thoughts and his feelings have patterns, starts to understand them. His therapist tells him that he needs to face his fears. That he needs to learn how to forgive himself. It feels impossible, but he tries anyway.
She tells him he’s doing well, that he’s making progress. Sometimes he believes her.
And then it’s an entirely new year. It’s January, and Rachel is back from L.A., is back in Lima, and she says Blaine is there, too. That Blaine is okay, that he's back with the Warblers, that he’s teaching.
It takes Kurt all of three hours to book a flight back to Ohio.
He's packing before he's even cleared it with NYADA, before he's even thought about what it will mean for his work study assignment, before he's even had a chance to think very much at all. There’s no question in his mind though – he knows he needs to do this.
He spends an entire afternoon packing because he can't figure out how to be efficient about it, and packing is something that Kurt is usually really good at. But this time he’s packing, and unpacking, and packing again, feeling a bit manic, unable to figure out what to bring, and what to leave behind when he has no idea if he's coming back next week, or next month, or never.
He leaves Blaine's blanket on the couch in the loft, the one that used to smell like him, the one that he’d sort of stolen. He’d tried to squeeze it in to his luggage at first, and then he’d changed his mind, and then he’d changed his mind again, before he’d finally just returned it to the couch.
He's sure Blaine doesn't even remember that he has it anymore. It's more his than Blaine’s now, anyway – hasn’t smelled like anything but the loft for months.
And if the past few months have taught Kurt anything, they’ve taught him that sometimes you have to leave something behind to move forward.