Day -001: Saturday 15 September, 2012
“Well, if I didn't know how much you hated Maine before...” Kurt trailed off, glancing up at Blaine as he drank deeply from his bottle of water and wiped across his mouth with the back of his hand.
“I don't hate it,” he said, setting the bottle down next to Kurt's and leaning back against the edge of the table, the sticky wood entirely characteristic of The Cannery, their local bar; everything worn and in dire need of replacement. “I'm just... I'm done here.”
“I know you are. It's time we both got out,” Kurt replied. “For good this time, not just for a year across the pond.”
“I still wish you could have come with me,” Blaine affirmed, a wistful smile tugging at the edges of his mouth before he added, “That’s exactly why I'm happy we're doing this, though. But first, I have a gig to finish. Two more songs, I promise.”
“Alright. But Blaine—“
Kurt was stopped abruptly as Blaine placed a finger across his lips, and he fought the childish impulse to stick out his tongue and lick.
“They're good ones, I swear,” Blaine told him with a wink that, were it anyone else, Kurt would have considered bordering on flirtatious. But this was Blaine; his best friend of sixteen years. Despite the crush that Kurt tended to harbor for him whenever he found himself single—and, in fact, almost constantly since Blaine’s return from London—he would never have thought of acting on it. They had so much shared history, and so many boundaries in place that had helped keep them exactly what they were to one another. It was nothing more than an occasional harmless crush, perhaps even some bastardized version of hero worship. Kurt never spent too long thinking about it.
Blaine took his place on stage amongst the other members of his band once more, strumming the opening bars of what Kurt vaguely recognized as a OneRepublic song. The Spinning Cogs, reunited for one night only, had spent the previous hour or so playing music that was about getting out, taking off, breaking free. It was a difficult message to miss.
“This town is colder now, I think it's sick of us,” Blaine sang, shooting him a grin, and Kurt good-naturedly rolled his eyes.
“You've got it bad.”
Kurt almost jumped out of his skin and his breath came raggedly for a few moments as he glared at the girl sitting down across the booth from him.
“April, I swear to god if you keep on about that...”
“Aw, Kurt, come on,” April cajoled him with a nudge of her shoulder. “You know they say you tell the truth when you're drunk.”
“Okay, one: I wasn't drunk,” Kurt said hotly, entirely sick of the conversation that had seemed to be playing on a loop for the past three weeks. “Two: I was speaking objectively. Of course Blaine's hot. Have you seen him? I mean, you'd have to be blind. But I don't think of him that way; it's weird.”
“Denial is not just a river in Egypt,” April quipped, looking at him like she could read his mind, which only irritated him more.
“And old clichés are not going to make me start spilling my guts to you about my feelings for Blaine,” Kurt retorted, before appending, “or lack thereof.”
They stared each other down for a long moment before finally cracking up and dissolving into a fit of laughter.
“I'm really gonna miss you, Kurt,” April said, looping her arm through his as the band segued smoothly into The Rescues' Break Me Out.
“It's only three months,” Kurt reminded her. “We’ll see you guys in Michigan, and Anchorage, and we’ll all be back here in time for New Year’s.”
“You'd better be coming back. It's bad enough that you're skipping town on your birthday. And only three months? You're my best friend, what's gonna become of me without you?” April asked, sighing dramatically with the back of her hand to her forehead. “I swear, when we meet up, I'll be sporting only the very best of Walmart couture.”
“Ugh, please don't talk about Walmart,” Kurt groaned. “We'll be parking the R.V. at one too many for my liking. Can you catch bad taste through proximity and exposure?”
April snorted, and they lapsed into silence to enjoy the rest of the song. It was the last song of the last performance that The Spinning Cogs would ever give, but Kurt caught himself thinking that it was almost comforting, the way one thing could end and something new could immediately take its place. It didn't always happen, and sometimes when it did it was far from comforting, but they were standing at the beginning of a road. They were about to embark upon a journey that would take them to every state in the country.
“Break me out,” Blaine sang, holding the last note, and the band wound up the song with a huge crescendo that rang in Kurt's ears. He watched as Blaine hugged Stuart, Jeff and Max in turn, before the band began to pack up their things, a sense of closure seeming to settle upon their shoulders. Soon, Blaine was bouncing over to Kurt with his guitar case in tow, still running on his performance high.
“That's coming with us, right?” Kurt asked, gesturing to the case.
“I thought you said there wouldn't be room,” Blaine replied.
“We'll make room,” Kurt said lightly, before turning to April. “Thank you so much for throwing us this party. I'll miss you too, you know.”
“You'd better, or else what have you got to come back for?” she bantered, though her dark eyes were swimming. “Oh, come here.” She pulled Kurt into a hug, rocking him from side to side.
“You're always my best girl,” Kurt said, voice muffled against her shoulder as he squeezed her so tightly that even he was a little short of breath.
“Alright, go, before I take you hostage,” April instructed, stepping back to wave a hand between him and Blaine. “Be careful, be safe, and look out for each other. Get back here in one piece, okay?”
“Promise,” Blaine said, sweeping her into a brief hug of his own. “Later, April.”
They remained quiet on the short drive back to their street. When they arrived at Kurt's house, Blaine stopped just long enough for Kurt to get out, before continuing on to park his beloved Honda in his mom's garage, where it would remain until next year.
Kurt took his brief window of alone time to run his fingers over the corners of uneven walls and the wavering mantel over the open fireplace that he’d always hated for all of its ugly imperfection, yet now found himself inexplicably fond of. He wandered almost aimlessly through the living room to the den with new eyes that no longer seemed aware of the slight fray to the edges of the carpet or the small bubbles in the wallpaper that betrayed the presence of damp pockets trapped against the stucco beneath.
“You're going to miss this place. Admit it, Hummel,” Blaine said, and Kurt's breath caught for a tiny measure at the sight of him leaning casually against the door frame, the spare house key from underneath the mat catching the light as Blaine turned it between his fingers.
“Don't know what you're talking about. It's not like we haven't left home before, Blaine,” Kurt reminded him, because they were graduates—adults—now, leaving aside the fact that most of the time Kurt still felt like a confused, angry teenager.
“We came home most weekends. It's different this time,” Blaine said, pushing off the frame and dropping the key onto the mantel before settling onto the arm of the couch. As usual, he looked entirely at ease in his own skin, a quality that Kurt had envied as long as he could remember. “What time are Burt and Carole due back?”
“Late, I think. Dad mentioned something about Gone With The Wind showing at Eveningstar,” Kurt said. Blaine followed him into the kitchen, watched as he pulled ingredients from the pantry and set them down by the stove.
“He'd never sit through that movie for someone he wasn't crazy for, would he?” Blaine asked knowingly, yet carefully.
Kurt exhaled sharply, opened his mouth, but said nothing.
“So it's our last night,” Blaine said brightly, parting the tension like he was Moses facing down the Red Sea. Bumping their hips together, he sidled in close, rested his head on Kurt's shoulder with an adoring look, and simpered, “What's for dinner, honey?”
Kurt elbowed him away and concealed the grin he wasn’t yet ready to give into. “You are making my favorite because it's my birthday tomorrow and it'll be consolation for whatever terrible shirt you got me this year. And I'm making cornbread because you were great today and I was proud of you.”
“I hope so,” Blaine said fondly, grabbing a mixing bowl from beneath the sink and setting to work on his Aztec couscous. They moved around one another in the kitchen with a near-silent, practiced ease that had come from years of learning one another by heart.
When everything was ready, they set themselves up in the Adirondack chairs on the back deck, counting fireflies at the bottom of the yard.
Kurt knew that neither of them had quite learned who they were, yet. They hadn't found themselves in amongst the term papers and library stacks, nor in the space between their dorm beds where they held hands every night for the first week of freshman year to anchor each other in a sea of homesickness. They were both—especially Blaine—chasing those elusive threads of a life that seemed to be hiding around every corner, twelve steps ahead and always just vanishing out of sight.
“This is going to be awesome, right?” Blaine asked, setting his plate aside and wiping his mouth with one of the cloth napkins Kurt had brought out. Kurt took a sip of his ice water before nodding. “It's the start of something really, really great?”
“It's going to be incredible. I'm so glad we're doing this,” he replied, putting his hand over Blaine's and curling his fingers into the space above Blaine's thumb.
Distance: 0.0 miles
Day 000: Sunday 16 September, 2012
The First Step (Maine)
“So what's our first movie going to be?”
“Has to be Forrest Gump. Has to be.”
“I think I can live with that. Alright, Anderson. One down, forty-nine to go.”
Blaine stood outside the R.V., the thumb of his left hand tracing around the patterns on his pocket watch casing, the fingers of his right absently swinging the keys back and forth. It was just after sunset and the sky was somewhere between periwinkle and cobalt. The stars hadn't yet made their twinkling appearance, though Blaine doubted if they would even be visible through the thin layer of cirrostratus that had contained the late-September humidity since mid-morning.
The entire summer had been leading to this point. All the hours logged on Google Maps and Wikipedia; all the vetoes cashed in when debating movie choices; all the grease that got lodged beneath his stubby fingernails as they fixed up the R.V. outside Burt's shop. All of it done in the name of a bond that they could trace back sixteen years, to a day not dissimilar to this one.
Blaine met his best friend in the entire world for the first time on a Saturday in late September, when he finally jumped out of the big U-Haul truck that had carted his family’s entire life all the way from Fredericksburg. It felt good to finally be outside and moving around after having to stay still for so long, so long he could barely contain himself. He felt like he was about to pop, he had so much energy.
Once he had helped his dad take out all the little boxes and earned himself a grin and a high five, all that was left were the big pieces of furniture that only his big brother, Cooper, could help with. His mom told him to go ride his bike since they’d just unpacked it, and to go make friends with the other little boy circling the junction at the other end of the quiet street, since they were going to be neighbors and all.
Soon enough, Blaine’s bright green bike—his first big boy bike—was drawing level with the boy’s blue one, and they rode to the end of the street with shy smiles before coming to a stop near the bright yellow fire hydrant.
“My name's Blaine,” he said, holding out his hand like he’d seen the grown-ups do.
“I'm Kurt,” the boy replied, firmly shaking Blaine's hand once. “Do you like singing?”
“I love singing! Disney's my favorite. My big brother Cooper always says I'm real good,” Blaine proclaimed proudly, and Kurt grinned.
“I love singing, too. I sing with my Mommy every day. Maybe you can be my friend and come sing with us,” Kurt said, twisting his hands together and looking at Blaine shyly. Blaine couldn’t understand why he was so hesitant; he had super-cool clothes—his shoes matched his bow tie and everything—and the most awesome bike that even had streamers on the handlebars. Blaine totally wanted to be friends with him—all he’d ever wanted was a real friend.
“Let's be best friends!” Blaine yelled excitedly, and Kurt grinned so wide that it almost split his face right in two. Blaine couldn’t help but smile back, and he turned his bike around to face the direction they’d come. “Race you to my house!”
Everything was mostly the same. A little rougher, a little more well-worn and weathered, a little faded and fuzzy around the edges—but the same. It was the reason Blaine had reached this itchy plateau of completion, having done all that he could here. He had hoped, in the dark and cold hours of winter night in London, that he would be able to stick it out here upon returning, but even a week after getting back and spending every waking minute with Kurt, he had known that it wasn’t enough. There were places he needed to be, though he didn't know where. All he knew was that he needed to get the hell out of Maine.
“Yes, Dad, I'm sure we have everything!”
Blaine grinned at the irritation in Kurt's voice as he exited through the front door of his cozy little house, the house in which Blaine had always felt more at home than in his own. Burt and Carole were right behind him, both wearing the same expression they had the day he and Kurt had left for Bowdoin—and college was only a couple miles from sleepy, whimsically-named Merrymeeting Road.
Kurt hugged each of them in turn—as always, Blaine noted, Carole rather more briefly than his dad—and beckoned Blaine over.
“Watch out for each other, you two,” Burt instructed, hands on both of their shoulders and his shop cap tilted back on his head. Blaine caught Kurt's eye and grinned. “I want you both home in one piece.”
“Yes, sir,” Blaine replied.
“Kid, how many times? I’ve known you sixteen years. It's ‘Burt’.”
“Old habits die hard,” Blaine said, and the familiarity of the words that so easily rolled from his tongue brought the point into startling focus—he was truly doing this. Getting out. And he was going to miss these people, this tight, dysfunctional little family that he'd long been expected to call his own.
“Okay,” Burt said, sharp inhale and all business, “get outta here.”
Kurt crooked his fingers and saluted in a way that Blaine hadn't seen him do since the Unmentionable Flannel Phase, and Burt chuckled, pulling him into one last bear hug. Blaine could hear him whisper something to Kurt but couldn't discern the words, and when he stepped back, Kurt's face was noticeably flushed. Blaine had to bite the inside of his cheek to keep from smirking—be safe, he wondered with thoughts that meandered back to a sixteen-year-old Kurt practically battering down his front door, red-faced and clutching a handful of pamphlets.
“Let's get out of here,” Kurt muttered, avoiding everyone's eyes, and turned on his heel with an awkward wave.
“You'll figure it out, sweetheart,” Carole intoned with a meaningful look that preceded a dry, tip-toed kiss to his cheek. “Just see him, alright?”
“What do you mean? See who?” Blaine asked, but Carole simply shook her head and gave him a little push in the direction of the R.V., where Kurt sat waiting in the passenger seat.
“Time to go,” she said gently, and Blaine took a step back. One last look at Kurt's house, one last tentative and nervous smile back at Burt and Carole, one lasting closing of the front gate behind him, and his excitement was overwhelmingly threatening to burst out of his skin. He pulled open the door to the cab of the R.V., stepped up and swung himself into the driver's seat, taking a moment to run his hands over the textured leather steering wheel cover before pulling the door shut with a satisfying thud and fastening his seat belt.
“Stoke the fires,” Kurt said wryly, rolling down his window.
“Start the engines,” Blaine finished, and turned the key in the ignition. As he pulled away from the curb and started toward the end of the street, he continued, “She should really have a name.”
“Let's not think about it too hard. I'm sure something suitably fabulous will present itself.”
“Hey... Do you maybe want to stop by the cemetery?” Blaine asked quietly, the goodbyes ringing in his ears prompting him to wonder about just one more. Kurt shook his head vehemently as Blaine pulled the R.V. into a wide one-eighty to retrace their road on the opposite side, and they both waved to Burt and Carole where they still stood beneath the porch light, arms wrapped around one another against the slight chill that hung in the air. Blaine wondered if they would start turning it off at night now that both Kurt and Finn had flown the nest completely.
“Okay, last time. Clothes, shoes, toothbrush, hair products, skin stuff,” Blaine listed, trying to shake off the lingering vestiges of tension between them as he turned onto Minat Avenue.
“Check. Guitar, laptop, video camera, gas card and credit card even though I still don't agree with accepting your dad's guilt money…”
“Check,” Blaine replied, jaw clenched as he pushed all thoughts of his dad far into the dusty, forgotten corners of his mind. He didn't want his still-burning fury with his father to taint their first night on the road together—Baltimore was going to be bad enough. “Halloween costumes.”
Kurt laughed as he plugged Blaine's iPod into the stereo and started scrolling. “Check and check," he said in a low voice that made Blaine swivel his eyes just in time to catch Kurt's gaze raking across him before returning to the playlist. Good-naturedly, he reached across and batted at Kurt's shoulder until they were both laughing.
“All right. This is it, Hummel. Last chance to turn back.”
“Are you kidding me? Do you realize how long it took me to teach Dad how to track the GPS on my phone?”
When they merged onto I-295, joining huge freightliners taking catch of the day all over the country, Blaine reset the odometer and Kurt, having waited until then in honor of their unspoken agreement, hit play.
“Yes!” Blaine exclaimed as U2's Vertigo filled the cab. “Yes. Perfect choice.”
“I know,” Kurt replied, with no hint of self-satisfaction. He was good with music, Blaine had come to appreciate. The fact that he never sang—which was, occasionally, still a bone of contention between them—had refined his listening, and he supplied Blaine with a new playlist every month or so. Indie, new age, show tunes, Top 40—there was a seeming endlessness to Kurt's hunger for music, and Blaine loved that about him.
“Hello, hello,” he sang in time with the chorus as they sped south along the freeway.
“I thought you didn't sing,” Blaine said, voice raised to carry over the music.
Kurt quirked one eyebrow at him, the patented and sardonic Hummel Arch, and rolled his eyes. “That wasn't singing.”
By the end of the song, the moment was forgotten as Blaine all but bounced in his seat, yelling in time with Bono and quite unable to keep the grin from lighting him up inside as well as out. Is this what true freedom feels like? All asphalt, open sky and your favorite person by your side? Because, Blaine thought, it can't get better than this.
When they were about twenty miles away from the campground, just exiting onto Route 1, Blaine took one hand off the steering wheel and reached underneath his seat. Kurt watched him curiously, and looked torn between dismay and anticipation when Blaine handed him two brightly wrapped packages in succession, one thin and soft, and the other small and box-shaped.
“Happy birthday,” Blaine told him sincerely, eyes flicking between Kurt and the highway ahead. “Open the big one first. You know what it is anyway.”
Carefully, Kurt pushed his fingers underneath the edge of the paper and tore it open to reveal a bright red t-shirt emblazoned with stylized text that read, 'pale is the new tan'. Kurt stared at it for a full ten seconds, muscles working in his jaw, before he burst out laughing.
Blaine's Awesome T-Shirt Tradition (or Blaine's Terrible T-Shirt Tradition, as Kurt referred to it, insisting that the alliteration was both more mellifluous and, most importantly, more accurate), had begun six years earlier, on Kurt's sixteenth birthday. Blaine had been agonizing for weeks over what to buy. Both movies and music had been out, since Kurt just downloaded everything. He’d thought about clothes or accessories, but hadn’t had the funds to cater to Kurt’s expensive tastes. And then one day, during his fourth fruitless trip to the Plaza, he had come across a street vendor selling some truly awful slogan shirts. As soon as he’d seen the black shirt hanging proudly on display, sporting a green loading bar beneath the legend 'sarcastic comment loading,' he’d pulled out his wallet.
It had been perfect, and despite the look of utter disdain that had contorted Kurt's face upon opening it, he had still worn it to sleep in that night when Blaine stayed over.
“One day, I'm going to make a quilt from all of these terrible shirts,” Kurt said, refolding the shirt in his lap with the slogan facing up. “I'll give it to my kids as proof of what a dork their Uncle Blaine is.”
“You've kept them all?” Blaine asked, surprised.
“Of course I have, silly.”
Blaine smiled, eyes back on the road as he nodded to the other gift. “Difference is that I got you something good this year, too.”
As carefully as before, Kurt unwrapped the box with slow and curious movements. Blaine chewed at his lip and actively worked at keeping his gaze trained ahead—he'd never been so nervous about giving someone a gift before, not even when he’d presented his mom with the portrait of her that he'd painted in high school for their project on Cubism. She'd loved it, and it still hung on her bedroom wall.
In his periphery, Kurt opened the slim, square box and removed the tissue paper, letting out a small gasp. “Blaine...”
“You don't have to wear it, or anything,” Blaine rushed out, words tripping over themselves. “It's just that, you know, he's the patron saint of travelers. And I know you're not religious or anything, it wasn't about that, I just—“
“Blaine, shut up,” Kurt cut across him, reaching over to squeeze his knee. The silver Saint Christopher caught the headlights of passing freightliners where it was already tangled between Kurt's fingers. “Thank you.”
“You really like it?”
“I really like it,” Kurt affirmed, letting the pendant drop and swing for a moment before taking it by the chain and putting it on, settling the small disc beneath his shirt and palming it through the fabric. “It's perfect. Thank you.”
Before long, they were pulling into the visitor parking at Hemlock Grove Campground in Arundel. Only an hour from home, and already Blaine was starting to feel like Samwise Gamgee, standing in the Shire and telling Frodo that if he took one more step, it would be the farthest from home he'd ever been. It wasn't exactly accurate, of course—he had spent his entire last year of college at King’s in London, after all— but, knowing that this was it, he could understand the sentiment. This was what he'd been hungering for since he was fifteen, and while he could one day return to Maine if he wanted to, it would never be the same.
They made their way toward the site office at a comfortable, ambling pace, and Blaine reveled in the cool and beautifully fresh, woody air of the grounds. Kurt's hand rested absently just below his collar, toying with his Saint Christopher through the fabric until he came to an abrupt halt at the bottom of the steps up to the office porch. Blaine paused at the top, looking back at him in question.
“Would you still have taken this trip if I hadn't come, too? Would you still have left?” Kurt asked quietly, and Blaine was entirely taken aback by the vulnerability that pulled at the corners of his mouth. The lights from inside the office spilled out through half-closed horizontal blinds, and suddenly Blaine wished there wasn't a swath of shadow falling across Kurt's eyes.
The truth was that Blaine had been waiting for this for years. Since the day the bottom dropped out of his world, mere weeks after he and Kurt had both come out to their respective families. For him, Maine represented a lot of things, and not all of them good. He needed to see so much more of the world, leave a mark of himself behind. He wanted to be something good, something great, to reach out and affect someone—even if it was just one person. Those were things he'd never admitted aloud, content to keep them close to his chest—but Kurt must have known. He must have.
“I...” he trailed off, not knowing where to take the rest of the sentence. Would he really have been able to leave Kurt behind again? Would he have found the strength to go another three and a half months—probably much longer, given his lack of desire to ever set foot in Maine again—without his hurricane of a best friend, this immutable kindred spirit who could tear him apart and put him back together in a better combination? He'd never even had to think about it before; when he had first brought up the idea of the road trip, there had been no doubt in his mind that Kurt would be with him.
There were birds chirping a dusk song in the trees surrounding them, and it reminded him a little of the previous day, when he had sung Stop & Stare—he'd been singing it for Kurt, almost as if he’d still needed convincing.
“You don't get rid of me that easily, Hummel,” he finally said, trying for nonchalance. Kurt huffed a humorless laugh and crossed his arms over his chest.
“Blaine, be serious. What if I'd said no? Or, maybe in a year? Would I have lost you for good this time?”
“Is that why you said yes?” Blaine countered.
“You know it's not,” Kurt stated evenly, before letting out a heavy sigh and dropping his arms. “I'm sorry. It's just… It’s been a really long day, and I'm terrible with goodbyes. It got me thinking.”
“Never a good idea,” Blaine joked, and held out his hand. “Come on. We've got a fire pit and s'mores waiting.”
“Always with the damn s'mores,” Kurt muttered, climbing the steps and taking Blaine's hand in a fleeting squeeze.
When the young clerk with yawning eyes had signed them in and assigned them site 69—much to Kurt's amusement—they made the short drive around the winding track that ran through the park and pulled into their space with a renewed buzz about them. Blaine left Kurt pulling supplies from the fridge to go out to the fire pit, though it became abundantly clear when he got outside that a campfire was not in the cards. Everything was still too damp from the previous day’s rain, and he was still standing forlornly by the pit when Kurt stepped out of the R.V., arms laden with a cooler and plates.
“You're quite the Boy Scout, I see,” Kurt quipped, bending down and making a show of warming his hands over the non-existent flames.
“Should've gotten you another sarcasm shirt,” Blaine grumbled. “It's too damp; I don't think this is gonna happen tonight. Next stop?”
“Next stop,” Kurt agreed, stretching his arms and rolling his wrists. “I'm tired anyway, and we have a movie to watch.”
Blaine gathered up the bag and plates, following Kurt back inside with only a passing, dejected glance at the fire pit.
Fifteen minutes later, they were both sitting on the bed, on top of the covers in t-shirts and shorts, sucking the color from slices of honeydew melon while Kurt loaded up the movie on Blaine’s laptop.
“It's no campfire, but it's pretty damn perfect,” Kurt murmured, chasing a trail of juice down his wrist with his tongue and reaching for another slice after he hit play.
They watched in silence for a time, as the feather curled its way down to where Forrest sat on the bus bench.
“I wouldn't have,” Blaine said quietly, just as Forrest finished the classic, timeless line about life being like a box of chocolates. Kurt questioned him with a single look. “I wouldn't have left without you.”
Kurt smiled, then, and curled his fingers around Blaine's again in the way that somehow only felt right when he did it, and Blaine leaned sideways to rest his head on Kurt's shoulder, settling in for the duration.
Distance: 50.6 miles
Day 001: Monday 17 September, 2012
Old Ground, New Ground (New Hampshire)
“Come on, Blaine. How many times did you demand that your parents take you to see it at the movies? I’ve heard you quote it in everyday conversation.”
“Alright, fine. You win. I guess it’s a classic, after all.”
“You can never go wrong with Robin Williams getting sucked into a board game.”
The next morning, after he had awoken to Blaine moving quietly around the bedroom as he got dressed for a run, Kurt retrieved his yoga mat from the narrow closet and set it out in front of the couch. With his favorite feel-good playlist floating through the speakers of the iPod dock, he warmed up gradually, easing into the familiar stretches of his favored routine. He tried to clear his mind and sink into the peace of repetitive extended breathing, but Blaine’s affirmation the previous night still weighed heavily on him, calling up memories that he’d been examining for the better part of the last three months: Blaine bowing to his grandfather’s coffin one last time; Kurt’s fingers rubbing back and forth in the crook of Blaine’s elbow as they left the church; the words Blaine had said as they sat with their backs to the trunk of the cherry tree in Blaine’s back yard, ties loosened and shirt sleeves rolled up in an attempt to combat the mid-afternoon June heat.
“Let’s go somewhere. No, wait, let’s go everywhere. He left me the R.V., so let’s use it. Take a road trip with me.”
Kurt, who had been systematically shredding a still-damp tissue in his lap, had barely been surprised by the suggestion. Blaine was always looking for a place to call home—he’d spent their last year of college across the Atlantic interning under Oscar-winning director Dmitri Serafino, in fact— but that he’d come up with the idea a mere six days after his return to Maine had thrown Kurt for a loop, so much so that he had found himself agreeing with barely a thought.
And now, here he was on his last morning in Maine, waiting for Blaine to return and provide an arrow to his compass. As he transitioned from a standing half forward bend into a firefly pose, the exertion causing sweat to bead at his temples, Kurt wondered if it was a smart decision to put so much of his stock into Blaine’s nomadic hands. Maybe there was some part of him that still needed convincing after all, never mind that they were already almost past the point of no return.
No, he thought, exhaling to a count of five. No, I’m here, and I’m doing this.
He moved smoothly back into standing half forward before switching through to downward-facing dog, relaxing into the stretch in his back and thighs. He’d forgotten how much he enjoyed this—he’d been too busy enjoying the benefits of his own flexibility instead.
“Well, that’s quite a view.”
Kurt twisted to the side, looking back past his own legs at where Blaine stood just inside the door, curls sticking damply to his forehead and the front of his heather gray Bowdoin tee dark with sweat. Kurt hummed non-committally, but wiggled his ass from side to side all the same. “I work hard for this ass.”
“I know you do,” Blaine said as he edged past, Kurt sinking and pulling back into upward-facing dog. “But you’re really working out to Bowie?”
“I’ll have you know that this song is a classic, and Bowie is one of the true artists of our time.”
“Our parents’ time, maybe,” Blaine replied, leaning against the unit below the sink and draining the remaining contents of his blue Camelbak. “Since when did you start doing yoga again, anyway?”
“It was a slow summer,” Kurt said, releasing the pose and moving to stand—he’d been almost finished, and the quiet was broken.
“Didn’t look that slow the day I got back from London,” Blaine quipped, and Kurt glared through the rising heat in his cheeks, incensed at how efficiently Blaine could make him blush.
“I think you mean the day you started cramping my style again,” he shot back, and bent to retrieve his mat from the floor.
“Come on, Kurt. You must already have been pretty hard up if you finally gave in to Pick-Up Line Guy,” Blaine continued, stretching his arms out over his head with a satisfied smirk. Kurt paused halfway through rolling up the mat, watching the muscles shift beneath Blaine’s skin, and he felt it all over again: the tug, tug, tug of dull want that had been lying mostly dormant somewhere in the bottom of his gut ever since the day Blaine had come home, broader and better defined and more worldly. Every single day since, Kurt had been asking himself how one person could change so much in the space of a year. “What was it that finally did it for you? Was it the library card one?”
“What about, ‘People call me Chandler, but you can call me Tonight’?”
“Blaine, we’ve had this conversation a million times already. Can you just drop it?” Kurt asked hotly, tucking his mat under his arm. Really, it was just that Chandler had happened to be at the same Pride parade and the same post-parade party as Kurt had been, and somehow dancing had morphed into staying out all night, into breakfast at Brunswick Diner, into finding themselves stretched out on Kurt’s bed as early-morning summer sun filtered through the drapes. “It’s not like I got to finish the job anyway, what with you barging in on us.”
“Hand or blow?”
“Do you know the difference, or should I draw you a diagram? Though, you know, practical demonstrations are always fun. And if I’m as ‘hard up’ as you say…”
Blaine finally raised his hands in surrender, acquiescing, “Fine, fine, you win!”
“Good,” Kurt said, nodding. “Now go take a shower; I can smell you from here.”
Blaine saluted him with a wink, and soon enough Kurt was left alone in the living area, a smile quirking the corners of his mouth as Blaine’s voice singing Golden Years carried over the shower.
It was noon before they drove into Hampton, and Kurt had been watching the shadows grow longer and darker ahead of the R.V. as the sun shone ever brighter. The windows were rolled down, the fuzzy black dice hung from the mirror swinging back and forth in the cool breeze that whipped through the cab, and Kurt reclined in his seat, one hand on the steering wheel and his elbow resting in the window frame. Blaine’s seat was tipped as far back as it would go, his crossed ankles resting on the dashboard, and he hummed quietly along to the radio.
Kurt’s lips curved into an involuntary and easy smile as he ran his fingers back through his hair, shaded eyes flicking towards the GPS even though they’d taken enough trips as kids to Hampton beach that he could have driven the route in his sleep. It felt good to finally be out of Maine; until they’d crossed the state line, it had felt like he was simply gone for the evening, visiting friends in the next town over. His lingering apprehension notwithstanding, he had to admit that finally leaving home behind for a while was probably going to be a good thing—he was twenty-two years old now, and a college graduate wanting to work in the film industry. He would always have needed to relocate.
“We’re almost there,” Blaine said absently, twisting to drop his feet to the floor and pulling his seat upright before reaching into the spacious glove compartment to retrieve Kurt’s folder. “Everything’s in state order, right?”
“Are you questioning my organizational skills?”
“Never,” Blaine answered with a light chuckle, flipping past the first few pages of the thick blue folder that Kurt had stuffed full with print-outs and reservations, until he found the one for their two-day spot on the waterfront at Hampton Beach State Park. “I can’t believe it’s been so long since we were last here. Remember? With those ridiculous sandwiches you made?”
“That was a good day,” Kurt said fondly, nodding even as he recalled his disastrous first attempt at croque-monsieur. “Seven years, though.”
“I know; it’s insane. That was the day before, right?”
“The day before what?”
Blaine rolled his eyes and turned in his seat, folder splayed across his lap. “The day before we came out to each other. You know, when we almost made out before we remembered that it’d be totally weird?”
“Totally weird,” Kurt agreed automatically, pushing his sunglasses back up his nose and returning both hands to the steering wheel. He could feel Blaine’s eyes on him as he did so, and he couldn’t help but shift in his seat. It was one of their many unwritten rules that they didn’t bring up the one time that they had almost kissed; it really was just too weird to think about, and if Kurt was one hundred percent honest with himself, the more he thought about it, the more he would begin envisioning the lines blurring between them. It was safer for both his sanity and his sex drive that he didn’t dwell on it too long. Despite all of his protests to April, he spent enough time surreptitiously checking out his best friend as it was. He cleared his throat, and unnecessarily asked, “The paperwork’s all there, right?”
“Looks like,” Blaine replied, pulling the sheet of paper from its plastic pocket and scanning it as Kurt continued guiding the R.V. along Ocean Boulevard. “Meet you down there?”
A few minutes later, Blaine was closing the passenger side door to the cab behind him, and Kurt eyed the camcorder he’d left on his seat for a moment before pulling back out onto the main road. There was an old Stereophonics song playing on the radio—not so old as to be considered part of their “old stuff” but old enough—and, fleetingly, Kurt opened his mouth to sing along. As soon as he did so, his throat constricted and it felt as if his tongue had swollen to twice its size, lying thick and useless in his mouth—just as it did every time he tried to sing outside of his room on a day where the house was empty. He shook himself, stuffing memories of singing The Dishes Song with Mom back into a box and taping it haphazardly shut. He set his jaw, flexed his fingers around the steering wheel, and drove on.
Being a mid-September Monday, the R.V. park was all but deserted, and an air of tranquility accompanied the never-silent beach quiet as he pulled into their reserved site and cut the engine, sinking back into his seat and breathing in the familiar scent of Hampton beach saltwater. The first lungful uncoupled with the smell of Bois de Voilette always made him ache, the hollow cut deep into his chest growing infinitesimally wider for a second that never failed to feel like falling, and he found himself rubbing the dip at the base of his neck absently, the chain of his Saint Christopher catching on his fingertips. He pulled it from where it lay beneath the collar of his fitted, short-sleeved black shirt and studied it closely, resting the disc in his palm so that it could catch the light of the lunchtime sun. The design was simple: a smooth silver circle bordering an engraving of a man with a walking stick carrying a child on his back, nothing outwardly religious about it.
Kurt felt ashamed for having been so surprised at receiving such a thoughtful gift from Blaine; over the course of their year apart, the number of little things Blaine would do for him had been assimilated into Kurt’s own life, and by the time Blaine returned, Kurt had begun to take for granted the independence and self-reliance he had made great efforts to carve out for himself. After the first three months of barely-returned Skype calls, and emails that went unanswered for days—and though it wasn’t exactly conducive to keeping his best friend close, even when said friend was three thousand miles away and busy almost eighteen hours a day—Kurt’s sense of self-preservation had kicked in and he had simply learned how to be alone without being lonely.
And then Blaine had come home, sadness over the reason for his return weighing on him like a boulder and the very slightest of London affectations in his voice. He had come home, and suddenly there was Aztec couscous, and a blanket covering him when he started awake at 2 a.m., having fallen asleep halfway through the movie they had been watching, and the DVDs on his shelf that he’d been meaning to get to were back in alphabetical order. Kurt had barely known what to do with himself, struck dumb with the fear that he needed Blaine much more than he’d ever thought before their symbiotic relationship had been stripped away from him.
With a sigh, he tucked the pendant beneath his collar once more, unbuckled his seatbelt, and grabbed the camcorder from the passenger seat. Blaine’s laptop was hibernating on the diner-style table at the far end of the couch, and as Kurt seated himself on one of the high-backed, flock-print chairs, he connected the camcorder up using the USB cable that was still plugged into the laptop from the previous night’s charging.
The footage that Blaine had been taking out of the window was sparse, clips here and there of passing cars and scenery rushing by, with music omnipresent in the background and snatches of idle drive-time conversation. Kurt transferred it all to the hard drive and wiped the camcorder’s SD card. He and Blaine had plans for the footage they collected, plans that involved the final result of a documentary movie that would net them an Academy Award, though they hadn’t yet figured out the point of the documentary itself. Details.
Logging into the park’s free Wi-Fi network, the signal strong even from the oceanfront pavilion where his parents’ wedding had taken place, Kurt opened a new incognito window and visited his blog. Beneath the legend 100 Days of Kurt Hummel were only two entries; a short placeholder entry, and the text entry he had made the morning of his birthday. He’d promised himself no looking back, and so he didn’t waste any time re-reading what he’d written, simply clicked through for a new video post, choosing the instant capture option. It was about a five-minute walk from the site office to their where he’d parked; he had time.
“It’s day one, and we’ve just arrived in Hampton,” Kurt began brightly, looking directly into the laptop’s tiny but powerful webcam. “The sky’s blue and the sun’s high, which can mean only two things: two days on the beach, and lots of sunblock.”
Kurt paused momentarily, gaze faltering and slipping to the mirror image of himself on the screen, and he reminded himself that, other than whatever followers he may pick up along the way, this blog was completely private. No one knew about it, not even April. It was his space to document his thoughts and feelings, something that he could call entirely his own. In light of the comeback his sense of codependence had made, he needed something that was just his, and this blog was it.
“Leaving home last night was… It was hard. Not just the goodbye part—I always knew that that part would suck—but knowing whether I was really doing the right thing. I think when we got to Arundel and I brought it up, Blaine realized how much he was asking of me to just take off with him. Don’t get me wrong, I’m… I’m thrilled that we’re doing this together. I am. But this isn’t just some day trip to Vermont or even a week’s vacation to the west coast. This is three months of nothing but the road and each other, and I’m a little bit terrified that home won’t ever feel like home again. And a little bit more terrified that it’ll feel too much like home and I’ll never want to leave.
“Despite all that, though, I really am glad to be here. I mean, this place just has so many memories for the both of us. We both have family history here, and so many weekends spent down here since we were just kids, building sandcastles with seaweed-fortified battlements, right up ‘til just before Blaine left for London. It’s one of our places, and nowhere else would have felt right.”
Kurt smiled in spite of himself, almost feeling like he should be lying on a leather couch. He didn’t lay himself bare like this for anyone—except perhaps Blaine—and knowing that this video diary was just for him… There was an odd sense of freedom in it.
He knew he had to cut his stream of consciousness short, however, when he happened to glance through the windshield and saw Blaine approaching. Turning back to the screen, he said, “Well, better get going. The water waits for no man.”
“Who’re you talking to?” Blaine asked, stepping up into the R.V. and pushing his sunglasses up on top of his head, regarding Kurt with a curious look.
“No one, just… Thinking out loud,” Kurt replied, tilting the laptop lid downward after closing the browser when he saw the upload confirmation.
Blaine chuckled, and dropped the paperwork he was holding onto the passenger seat. “So, I figure we can take the laptop to the beach with us and watch our movie. And god, I’m so hungry. I passed, like, thirty restaurants on the way here and everything smelled fantastic. Are you hungry?”
“Yeah, actually,” Kurt said, his stomach grumbling quietly at the mention of food. He slid out of the booth and stood, the prospect of getting out of the R.V. and stretching his legs a happy one. “What are you in the mood for?”
“I was thinking Ocean Wok, since it’s close. The calamari…”
Kurt groaned aloud, mouth already beginning to water. “Excellent choice.”
“Or, you know, we could head up to the Urchin. See if they’ve added anything new to the menu lately,” Blaine continued in a mischievous tone, and Kurt didn’t miss the gleam of a tease in his eyes.
“Blaine, no. Anything but croque-monsieur.”
Distance: 95.6 miles
Day 004: Thursday 20 September, 2012
A Curious Kind of Closeness (Vermont)
“Kurt, seriously? You’ve never seen Beetlejuice?"
“Okay. We’re watching Beetlejuice, and because it’s Tim Burton, you’re not allowed a veto.”
The farther away from Maine they drove, the more Blaine felt a sense of dust settling around him. Granted, there was only actually one state between them and the place he’d called home, but being on the road was freeing in a way he hadn’t quite expected. He’d been able to make something of a home in London, but the living situation had been sticky for a while, having to get used to the quirks of roommates that were all the polar opposite of Kurt. Since the day his dad had left seven years earlier, Blaine had simply felt adrift and anchorless, no matter the lengths he went to in order to find that elusive sense of belonging he only ever felt around his best friend. There were no good first impressions to make, no façades to keep up, no pretenses or misconceptions. It was easy, and no matter the distance that stretched ahead of them with its miles of untapped potential, he felt a descending peacefulness.
Yet he couldn’t sleep.
Trying not to toss and turn too much lest he wake Kurt, who was stretched out next to him in the recovery position, he had been counting sheep for nearly an hour. They had only gotten halfway through the movie before Kurt’s yawns had grown so frequent that his eyes had begun to water, and had decided to just go to sleep.
“I know it’s your turn, but unless you’re planning on carrying me out there, the idea of me moving right now is pretty much a non-starter,” Kurt had said as he sank back against the pillows, one arm thrown over his eyes. Blaine had simply laughed, prodded him in the ribs, and taken his laptop out to the living area. By the time he had returned, Kurt’s breathing had slowed and deepened. Blaine had watched him from the doorway for a long moment, biting his lip with the indecision, before caving and crawling beneath the covers, turning onto his front and burying his arms beneath the pillow.
He had thought about their two days in Vermont: the giddy excitement he had felt at finally getting to visit the Ben & Jerry’s factory like he’d never been allowed on family trips growing up; the way Kurt had bounced on the balls of his feet when they’d walked past a sign for Apple-y Ever After and when Blaine had suggested they split a hot fudge sundae in the scoop shop; the beautiful and history-rich art at Shelburne Museum; the long walk they had taken up to the Waterbury dam and back, debating shooting with film versus digital—contrary to his technology-savvy, early adopter nature, Kurt was a staunch advocate of the classic art of film, whereas Blaine had always preferred the level of detail that could be achieved with digital. It was one thing that they could never agree on, but for which they would one day have to find a compromise if they ever wanted to work together.
The clock beneath the wall-mounted TV at the end of the bed read 2:37 a.m., and Blaine sighed quietly, finally giving in and getting out of bed with slow, careful movements. Sliding the bedroom door shut behind him, he padded out into the living area and collapsed onto the couch, wincing at the cold leather against the backs of his thighs, bare save for his boxer shorts. Squinting against the sudden burst of light as he called his laptop out of hibernation, he reached up to switch on one of the spotlights over the couch, deciding that it was probably time to update his blog.
He had started it on a whim, signing up the day before the gig at The Cannery, and sent the link to a few friends in London with whom he had been exchanging semi-regular emails since being back stateside. He knew he’d be lucky to even get a reliable Wi-Fi connection every day, and he was a damn good pen pal—short, phone-typed responses simply wouldn’t do, so he figured that a blog would be a decent substitute. He uploaded pictures and small video clips using his phone app every day, but it had taken until now for him to find a window of time large enough to sit and order his thoughts enough to write about them.
Greetings from Little River State Park, Waterbury, VT, he wrote once he had signed into the park’s network. I’m a little afraid that all this excitement is already proving too much for me, since it’s nearly 3 a.m. and, to quote the artist, I can’t get no sleep.
Things so far are great—the road really is a fantastic place to be, especially when you’ve got a kick-ass playlist that includes plenty of Pink. Kurt and I (see, Lucy, I can use proper grammar outside of merry England!) have had a fairly chilled-out trip so far, hanging out at Hampton Beach and doing a few things around Vermont we’ve both wanted to do for years but never had the chance. I’m sure we both looked right at home with the rest of the kids on our tour of the Ben & Jerry’s factory, all wide eyes, gasps and giggles. It’s a wonder we didn’t start whispering behind our hands or, God forbid, passing notes.
If any of you guys ever get the chance—though, really, why you’d choose Vermont out of all the places in the U.S. you could visit would be something of a mystery—I’d definitely recommend checking out Shelburne museum if only for the folk art collection. The level of detail and craftsmanship in some of the pieces there is truly breathtaking, particularly the Fire Engine weather vane. I completely geeked out over it and I don’t even care.
I’ll keep this short so as not to bore you too much, though rest assured that you’ll probably wind up sick of the sight of Boston, Salem, and Provincetown over the next three days—we’re heading for Massachusetts tomorrow morning (it’s not tomorrow until you’ve slept).
Hoping you’re all well and not too rain-miserable (did I mention that we’re having some really beautiful weather here?).
After a quick read-through for any glaring grammatical errors—Lucy would tear him a new one if she found him slipping back into old ways just because he was back in the States—he hit Publish, closed the tab, and sat back on the couch.
“Why are you awake right now? It’s ridiculous o’clock,” Kurt’s voice, gravelly and sleep-rough, came from the now open bedroom doorway.
“Old man,” Blaine teased him, running a hand through his mussed curls as he took in Kurt’s messy hair, bleary eyes, and the soft blanket wrapped around him. “I couldn’t sleep.”
“Why didn’t you wake me up?”
“Kurt, you’re scary enough when you wake up in the morning, let alone in the middle of the night,” Blaine said, dropping his head to the back of the couch, and Kurt sleepily raised an eyebrow at him. “I’m serious! You’re legitimately terrifying. You open your eyes and all I can see is fire, pitchforks and death.”
“Cute,” Kurt huffed. He shuffled slowly towards him and collapsed onto the couch, leaning over the center arm and dropping his head against Blaine’s shoulder. Flicking his eyes toward the computer to make sure that he actually had closed out of his blog—something he couldn’t quite put his finger on had made him keep it a secret from Kurt, from everyone apart from his friends in London, actually—he closed the lid and shifted downward, Kurt’s forehead pressing warmly against the skin of his neck. Kurt cleared his throat. “Did you want to finish the movie? Or… I could make some warm milk.”
Blaine wrinkled his nose. “Warm milk? We’re not kids anymore, Kurt.”
“Shut up; you know it’s delicious,” Kurt protested, sitting up and arching his back, the pale expanse of his neck fully exposed as he tipped his head.
Blaine swallowed thickly, flashes of Kurt’s now daily yoga routine rushing unbidden to the forefront of his mind. Something between them had changed since he had come back from London, the subtlest of shifts in their dynamic that had somehow given everything a humming undercurrent of a feeling he couldn’t pin down. Mostly, he chalked it up to the fact that they were simply settling back into being them after spending a year apart, but the longer it wore on, the more he wondered if there was more to it.
The moment passed when Kurt added with a wicked grin, “And growing boys need their calcium.”
“Not a growing boy,” Blaine grumbled both indignantly and regretfully. Kurt simply swatted at his thigh and moved over to the R.V.’s narrow electric stove, retrieving ingredients and a small pan from the cupboard above. He paused in front of the fridge as he went to get the milk, shaking his head and chuckling despite himself at Blaine’s—genius, in his opinion—reworked Jumanji quote using the refrigerator magnets: In the jungle you must wait, until your turn to masturbate.
“So did you want to finish the movie?” Kurt asked a few minutes later, rolling his neck from side to side as he stirred vanilla and nutmeg into the pan.
“Sure,” Blaine answered, pulling the laptop back toward him and opening VLC. “But how and when did you manage to stock the cupboards so full? I didn’t see you bringing in any of that stuff.”
“I’m a stealth ninja and you’ll never learn my secrets, Anderson,” Kurt replied smoothly, shooting him the patented Hummel Eyebrow Arch—and Blaine knew much better than to argue with that.
He couldn’t deny, upon tasting the first sip of warm milk he’d had in years, that it was indeed delicious. Kurt quickly rinsed the pan and spoon he’d used before returning to the couch, wrapping himself up in his blanket and dropping his head to Blaine’s shoulder once more. Blaine skipped back a couple of scenes, to where Catherine O’Hara and Winona Ryder were arguing in their gaudily-decorated kitchen, and drank deeply from his mug after pressing play.
A few seconds later, Kurt reached up and quickly swiped his thumb across the skin above Blaine’s top lip, then pulled it back and sucked it into his mouth, all without taking his eyes off the screen. Blaine froze for a moment, trying to reconcile being at once confused and oddly turned on.
“What was that?”
“Milk mustache,” Kurt said simply. “You always get them.”
Blaine couldn’t quite relax after that, the remainder of the movie washing through him as he tried not to think too much about the warmth he could feel from Kurt even through the blanket separating them—he wasn’t about to let a little sleep deprivation make a creep out of him. That’s all it was, after all—it was a little too early in the trip to be calling it cabin fever—and it wasn’t long before he was resting his head atop Kurt’s, determinedly focusing back on the movie and not the softness of Kurt’s thick hair against his cheek.
It was just Kurt, for God’s sake.
Distance: 347.8 miles
Day 007: Sunday 23 September, 2012
A Hand Unheld (Massachusetts)
“But it’s Jaws. It made history!”
“Unless you want me clinging to you like some sort of barnacle, veto.”
“Alright, fine. Mona Lisa Smile it is.”
Kurt (11:21am) – IMG_20122209_4976.jpg
April (11:23am) – Rude. Where are you guys and why do you both look so attractive right now? I’m still in my sweats.
Kurt (11:24am) – That was yesterday, walking along Charles River in Boston. Massachusetts is beautiful! And hey, you deserve a lazy day. I saw the video from last night, you guys were fantastic!
April (11:25am) – Are you kidding me? It was fucking ridiculous. Damn Hugh and his obsession with obscure British indie bands.
Kurt (11:26am) – For what it’s worth, you sounded great. Will you guys be in Boston at all?
April (11:26am) – Jen’s trying to get us a gig at some bar in the North End. Why?
Kurt (11:27am) – Make sure you go to Mike’s Pastry for cannolis. But for the love of god, hide the fucking box when you’re out.
April (11:30am) – …am I just supposed to guess why?
Kurt (11:30am) – Just trust me.
Blaine’s eyes had been fleetingly coming to rest on Kurt at intervals since the previous day by the river, and Kurt wished more than anything as he turned his gaze out of the window for the umpteenth time that he could narrow his field of vision to nothing but the asphalt ahead of them and simply not notice.
But he couldn’t do that any more than he could forget Blaine’s stupid, throwaway comment. It was nothing, and Kurt felt stupid for being so fixated on it, and what he needed most was not to be shown a living, breathing reflection of what he saw every time he looked in the mirror: a kid playing dress-up in an old man’s skin, a faintly haunted look in his eyes that spoke of too many things never dealt with, regarding himself with pity as he arranged his armor. And with pity was exactly how Blaine was looking at him.
“You sound like your mother, you know,” Kurt said fondly, in response to Blaine using an old phrase of his mom’s.
“It’s getting worse,” Blaine admitted somewhat sheepishly. “I guess there’s something to that old saying, after all.”
“That we’re destined to become our parents?”
“That we’re destined to become our mothers.”
And just like that, Kurt had stiffened, the tension setting his spine arrow-straight quicker than the crack of a whip, and his head had spun from how quickly he had been suddenly eight years old all over again, the light from Blaine’s living room spilling out into the hallway, a yellow rectangle framing his dad as he had knelt down in front of Kurt and taken his shoulders. His grip on the blue and white string around his pastry box had tightened until it cut into the creases of his fingers, and he had closed his eyes, inhaling slowly.
“I swear to god, I want to shoot everywhere in this state,” Kurt said, pocketing his phone and settling back into his seat his left leg crossed over his right. He picked up the camcorder from the dash, the plastic casing warm from where the midday sun was bearing oppressively down upon the R.V., and flipped out the screen to go through some of Blaine’s footage from the previous day. He had to do something to break the tension.
“It certainly has something,” Blaine agreed, and Kurt scrolled back through the footage until he found the panoramic view of Charles River that Blaine had taken from their vantage point by Harvard Bridge. Even with such a state-of-the-art camcorder, there was no capturing the full magic of the blue-backed skyline and the sun sparkling out over the water—it was breathtaking, cinematic, a place where anything could happen. A place where he wanted to make things happen. The location was a cinematographer’s dream.
“Doesn’t it? I feel like I’ve had this blank canvas put in front of me. I don’t know why they don’t use this place more, there’s so much untapped potential.”
“I can see you there. Back in Boston,” Blaine said lightly, absently tapping his fingers against the steering wheel to the beat of Bittersweet Symphony pouring through the speakers.
“You can?” Kurt asked, trying for nonchalance.
“You suit cities; that’s all I’m saying. Don’t think I’ve forgotten the Philadelphia trip.”
“I thought we agreed never to talk about the Philadelphia trip.”
“Well, you know, before the whole public indecency thing… I’ve never really seen you like that. It was like you came alive; I don’t know how else to put it. And here even more so. You’re all color.”
Kurt chuckled and shook his head, trying not to notice the way his lips seemed to strain to keep hold of the smile when Blaine’s eyes caught his across the center console, and the mirth faded back into that same hesitant, considering look.
“Kurt, about yesterday… I wasn’t—“ Blaine began, his voice holding the same regretful tone as it had the day before, right up until he’d been interrupted by two petite brunettes, holding hands and glancing at the Mike’s Pastry boxes he and Kurt had been carrying, the ones that contained the second halves of the cannolis they’d been unable to finish in one sitting. The girls—tourists, there for the weekend from London—had easily been the twelfth or thirteenth time he and Blaine had been stopped and asked for directions, even as far away as they were, and while Kurt was busy trying to keep himself from screaming, Blaine had directed them to the nearest train station, telling them to get off the T at Haymarket and head to Hanover Street.
“Blaine, it’s fine. Really,” Kurt said, cutting him off and reaching over to cover Blaine’s hand with his own. He shot him a tight smile, wishing and hoping and praying that Blaine would just let it go, file it under the list of things that Kurt didn’t want to talk about, and move on.
Blaine returned his eyes to the road, nodded after a brief pause, and as he began turning off the freeway, said, “okay.”
A few quiet minutes later, they were parked in the small beach parking lot behind Devon’s on Commercial Street in Provincetown, the scent and sound of the ocean waves chasing after them as they made their way around to the front of the restaurant. Kurt took in the weathered white siding of the building next door, the paint no doubt battered from the wood by the salty sea air. A few couples were seated outside beneath the black awning, and Kurt couldn’t help but let his eyes linger a fraction too long on two boys sharing a stack of blueberry pancakes, proudly holding hands across the table. When one of them looked up at him over his boyfriend’s shoulder as Kurt and Blaine passed, strands of red hair falling over his eyes, Kurt offered him a small smile and continued on inside.
“Did you see the two boys holding hands out front?” he asked Blaine, when enough silence—save for the old Donavon Frankenreiter song playing inside the restaurant—had passed since placing their orders that it began to feel uncomfortable, like Blaine was just itching to bring it all back up again so that he could try to fix it or something equally as frustrating.
“Adorable, right?” Blaine answered, sliding his hand palm-up across the tablecloth and waggling his fingers.
“I’m not holding hands with you,” Kurt said, pulling his napkin from the table and setting it across his lap simply to give his hands something to do other than give in to the urge to grab onto Blaine and hold tight. He took a small sip of his iced tea, hoping that the cold would help clear his mind, because this was beginning to prove problematic—it was Blaine, for Christ’s sake. Blaine, his best friend of sixteen years and emphatically nothing more—feelings never led anywhere good, and as Blaine himself always said, sex just complicated things. Though when Kurt started putting ‘Blaine’ and ‘sex’ in the same train of thought, he didn’t know.
“Aw, Kurt,” Blaine whined, giving Kurt his best wounded puppy expression. Kurt turned his eyes upward, concentrating on the exposed white beams of the ceiling and the checked, cylindrical light fixtures suspended over the tables. “Come on, everyone else is doing it.”
“Those are the exact words you said to me in Philly, and look how that turned out,” Kurt said archly, glancing around at the other patrons. Granted, there were a smattering of couples, straight and gay, throughout the busy restaurant who were holding hands, but they didn’t exactly form a majority. “And besides, not everyone else is doing it.”
“But they could if they wanted, and isn’t that the point?”
“Can we just talk about how you’ve already started making plans to retire here, instead? Because I saw the look on your face down by the beach.”
Finally withdrawing his hand with a sigh, Blaine shifted his gaze from side to side and fiddled with his fork. “Not true.”
“So true, Blaine Anderson. Come on, you don’t think about what it’s going to be like to be old?”
“All the time.”
“I knew it.”
“I think it’s going to be fantastic. Who really wants to be forever young?”
“Ask an old person.”
Blaine snorted. “I guess. But picture it, Kurt—a lighthouse down by the beach, a little artist’s colony…”
“Sounds pretty perfect,” Kurt said, “and just like you.”
“Well, you’ll be there too, right? Someone needs to be in charge of exhibitions, because my organizational skills are for shit.”
Kurt laughed, his first genuine laugh since the day before, and felt himself relax back into his seat, the residual tension draining from the top down, until he could feel it soaking through the bottoms of his shoes and down into the floor to dissipate completely. “Of course I’ll be there. Someone has to bring the fabulous,” he said, leaning in conspiratorially for a moment.
Kurt glanced up at the waitress he hadn’t even noticed approaching and nodded—the smell of hollandaise sauce intermingling with applewood smoked bacon was heavenly, and he swallowed thickly as his mouth began to water. He hadn’t realized quite how hungry he was until the food was placed in front of him, and suddenly he felt ravenous.
“So what’s the plan for tonight?” Blaine asked, tearing off a small piece of his French toast with his fork after the waitress had discreetly slipped their bill onto the table and excused herself.
“Go to the site, watch our movie, get ready, and then head to A-House,” Kurt answered succinctly.
“Ah, so that's the real reason you brought the leather,” Blaine teased. “The Halloween costume was just a convenient cover.”
“The place has three bars, Blaine. And if you don’t watch it, I might have to tie you up and leave you there for the bears to feast on.”
“But…” Blaine trailed off with a look of faux-puzzlement. “How did you know I like that?”
Kurt just laughed, shook his head, and took another bite of his eggs. Despite the little moments of temptation, the curiosity to see what it would be like, Blaine was still just Blaine. Dorky, charming, affable Blaine: his best friend and nothing more.
Distance: 683.8 miles
Day 009: Tuesday 25 September, 2012
Melody in Flames (Rhode Island)
“Meet Joe Black. I know it’s a little long, but—“
“It’s three hours, Kurt. The only other movies that long that I’ve been able to sit still for are Titanic and the Lord of the Rings movies.”
“Trust me, Blaine. It’s so worth it.”
Something had changed.
It had been a little over a week since they had left Brunswick, and Blaine could already feel the shift that was taking place. Something he couldn’t put a name to had burrowed beneath the layers of his skin and taken root, was spreading outward, and the longer he tried to follow the thread back, the more lost in his own history with Kurt he became.
An intelligent person might have said it started the day he caught Kurt with Chandler, saw the way his head was thrown back against the pillows as Chandler mouthed his way down the broad planes of Kurt’s chest. It was a flashbulb, burned bright into his mind’s eye as if he’d been staring at a lamp for too long, the impression of it blurring before his eyes as his gaze slid sideways. An intelligent person might have said that the reason he wanted Kurt to take his arm or his hand as they walked down the street was a sign that he wanted more from Kurt than just his friendship, that he shouldn’t fight something that felt about as natural as taking breath. An intelligent person might have said that it was the push he needed to finally see this man differently, open his eyes to the Kurt-shaped figure that had been in front of him for years, only he’d been staring at the sun too long to take note.
Blaine decided that it was just a sex thing. And that was fine. He could put the sex out of his mind, because sex only ever complicated things. He didn’t even need to have had it—aside from those two fumbling encounters back in London—to know that. Just look at what happened to his parents when his father had decided that his mother wasn’t enough for him anymore, that none of them were.
No, what he and Kurt had was special, sacred, the kind of friendship that just didn’t come along every day, and both of them worked hard to keep it exactly what it was.
So why did he feel that this thing, whatever it was, that had begun to simmer in his gut was only the beginning?
“Have you been listening to a word I’ve been saying?” Kurt asked exasperatedly, burying his hands in his jacket pockets as they continued their ambling pace around downtown Providence, walking through City Hall Park towards the river.
“Sorry, I was just…” Blaine trailed off, not knowing how to finish the sentence. He shook his head. “What were you saying?”
“I was saying that there are all these movies where Death appears as a person, an entity, but what about Life?” Kurt asked. “Where are the stories where Life appears and coaxes someone back from the edge, or wakes someone up to all of the possibilities that it has to offer?”
Blaine considered the notion for a moment. “I think that’s kind of our job, you know? We’re the ones who’re living, who’re supposed to seize the day, and do all of it in the face of everything else.”
“Hmm. Maybe you’re right,” Kurt conceded. “Did you like it? You didn’t really say anything when it was over.”
“Yeah, it was great. A little slow in parts, but I felt like that was kind of necessary, you know?”
“Yeah, I know what you mean,” Kurt agreed. “It didn’t really get to that point where the story got diluted by the length, either.”
“I mean, I felt like they could have wrapped it up in maybe two-and-a-half hours tops, if some of the actors hadn’t taken so long to deliver their lines,” Blaine said, though the words felt harsh as soon as he said them. It was a problem of his, actually, how every time he watched a movie he dissected it in his mind, broke it into its component parts and thought about how he would have done things differently were he the director.
“At least they managed to do it without stuttering or looking constipated, which is more than I can say for the Twilight saga,” Kurt countered, and Blaine couldn’t help but chuckle.
“What was your favorite part?” he asked.
“Any time Brad Pitt wasn’t wearing a shirt,” Kurt said wistfully.
“I’m being serious.”
Kurt leveled him with his best sardonic look. “So am I.”
“Okay, favorite line, then,” Blaine tried—at some points during the movie, he’d wanted to sit up and punch the air at some of the lines in the script. The writing, at least, was stellar.
“His one candle wish,” Kurt answered after a few moments, eyes fixed straight ahead of him. “That he wants his friends and family to wake up one morning and say, ‘I don’t want anything more’. Wouldn’t that be amazing?”
“Never wanting anything? I don’t know. Going after the things we want… It’s what drives us, what defines us.”
“No, that’s not what defines us. What defines us is the choice of whether or not we do go after the things that we want, because either way, your life ends up changing,” Kurt said thoughtfully, and Blaine had to admit that there was hardly room for argument.
“I’m not sure if I’ll ever be done wanting things. Done… baking,” Blaine said.
“That’s a good thing, B. Trust me,” Kurt replied.
“You’re done baking when you settle.”
“Like… Settle down with a family?” Blaine asked, and Kurt shook his head, focusing on some point in the middle distance.
“When you settle for all you think you’re ever going to get out of life. That’s the timer going off,” Kurt said. “Anyway. What was your favorite line?”
“Oh, uh…” Blaine began, reaching up to scratch at the back of his neck as if he were thinking. Really, it was to buy himself time to remember anything other than his favorite line of the entire movie, spoken just sixteen minutes in by Anthony Hopkins himself. He couldn’t say that that was his favorite line; what would Kurt think? What would he say? Kurt would know. He would know straight away what had been going through Blaine’s head for the past couple of days and then things would just become super-awkward, and they had over three months to go. No, he had to think of something else. The problem was that he couldn’t. All he could remember were the words that had hooked him:
“I know it’s a cornball thing, but love is passion. Obsession. Someone you can’t live without. I say fall head over heels. Find someone you can love like crazy, and who’ll love you the same way back. How do you find ‘em? Well, you forget your head and listen to your heart. I’m not hearing any heart. Because the truth is, honey, there’s no sense living your life without this. To make the journey and not fall deeply in love, well, you haven’t lived a life at all. But you have to try, because if you haven’t tried, you haven’t lived.”
“Blaine, seriously, what’s up with you tonight?” Kurt asked, stopping to face him with concern in his eyes. “Are you coming down with something?”
Blaine swallowed. “Don’t blow smoke up my ass; you’ll ruin my autopsy,” he said, with as genuine a smile as he could muster.
Kurt looked puzzled for a moment, and then the corners of his mouth turned up ever so slightly. “Of all the great lines in that movie, you pick that one?”
Blaine shrugged, and Kurt shook his head.
“I would’ve thought you’d pick something like… Hey, do you hear that?” Kurt asked, inclining his head towards the direction of the river. Blaine mirrored the motion, meeting Kurt’s eyes when he also heard it—music, faint and uplifting.
“Free gig?” he asked.
Kurt lifted his head, delicately sniffing the air, and a slow grin curved along the line of his lips. “Tell me you can smell smoke, too,” he said, his eyes sparkling in the yellow glow of the streetlamps bordering the park, lighting their way to the water.
A quick, deep inhale and Blaine was nodding—a fragrant, aromatic scent of wood smoke was barely detectable but just there, undercutting the smell of the freshly cut park grass. Kurt grinned even wider, tucked his fingers into the crook of Blaine’s elbow and then they were running, faster and faster, towards the river. Kurt’s grip on his arm faltered but their pace didn’t, and Blaine called out, “Kurt, what’s going on?”
“I heard about this but I didn’t think there was going to be a show today!” Kurt called over his shoulder, beckoning Blaine onward with a wave of his hand. “You’ll see when we get there!”
It seemed like no time at all that they were coming to an abrupt halt on the bridge just past Exchange Terrace, Blaine slotting himself into the teeming crowd next to Kurt. A band was set up behind them on Citizens Plaza, the song they were playing one that Blaine recognized from one of Lucy’s study playlists—Ashes, he thought with a brief, nostalgic smile. It soared over the heads of the people gathered to watch what was happening out on the water: heat, and light, and fire.
Stately, torch-lit gondolas glided along the water, past floating braziers that burned and crackled brightly in the night. Leaning slightly over the edge of the bridge, Blaine could feel the heat on his face and he could see the long line of bonfires stretching off into the distance, thousands of spectators lining the banks of the river and all lit up by the flames.
Jostled by people wanting to get closer to the edge, he moved closer to Kurt, standing half behind him with one hand resting either side of Kurt’s body on the bridge wall. They were pressed closely enough together that Blaine could smell the spicy top notes of Kurt’s cologne over the scents of cedar and pine infused in the night air, and once again he tried not to feel like too much of a creep when he leaned even closer to speak into Kurt’s ear.
“Kurt, what is this?”
“WaterFire,” Kurt told him breathlessly, head turned towards Blaine but eyes still fixed upon the events below. “It’s a non-profit arts thing they do through summer and fall, but I was sure we were going to miss it. Isn’t it beautiful?”
Blaine nodded, swallowing thickly—the sense of magic and enchantment in the air was tangible and heady. For most of the song they simply watched, and when he felt Kurt beginning to stand straight and turn around, Blaine quickly stepped back. He caught his breath for a moment, taking in the sight of Kurt gently back-lit by the fire show and having never looked quite so alive and joyous, and then Kurt was tugging on his elbow again, saying something about going to sit out on the end of the stone platform that tapered out from the bridge and into a point, so that they could see the gondolas close-up.
As they were seating themselves at the end of the platform, legs dangling over the edge, the band started the next song on their set list. The crowd’s attention was momentarily diverted away from the water as they let out a cheer for the quieter, folksy introduction of a song, and Blaine’s breath hitched at the first lyric, the singer’s voice ringing out clear over the cheering.
“I am the boy your mother wanted you to meet, but I am broken and torn with halos at my feet…”
He was caught, captured as he took in the beatific smile on Kurt’s face, flames reflected in his eyes and flickering across his pale, lightly freckled skin. The crowd joined in with the chorus, hundreds and thousands of voices winding around him as they vocalized and sang the words, “what a crying shame, a crying shame what we became.”
The bright yet bittersweet mood of the song juxtaposed against the slow progression of the gondolas along the river somehow buoyed Blaine up, filling him with a sad sort of happiness. Everything was pure and beautiful, Kurt most of all, and he wondered if they had missed their chance, wondered if they had ever been destined for anything else, anything more than what they had confined themselves to in order to hold onto one another for as long as possible. Were they meant for something more?
Kurt was reaching out to a woman clad in floaty white robes gliding past, standing up in her gondola, and she handed him a white carnation that he held to his nose, eyes flicking to Blaine over the top of the petals. Without conscious thought of what he was doing, Blaine slid his arm around Kurt’s waist, shifting closer and never once letting his gaze waver. Strings layered through the song’s second chorus, a beat kicking in, and Blaine could feel himself leaning infinitesimally closer, tongue darting out to wet his lips. Kurt tensed beneath his arm and let the flower fall to his lap, wide eyes flicking down to Blaine’s mouth and back up again, and oh, how had Blaine never seen him before? Was this moment, this single, suspended moment, exactly what Carole had meant?
The song, the water and the sound of fire crackling became nothing but the score to their wonderful, unexpected, perfect movie moment, and at once it felt like something inevitable. He moved in even closer, tilting his face slightly upward, and his breath was leaving his body in a single, shuddering exhale as his eyelids fluttered closed, and—
Cheering, louder even than the singing throughout the song had been. Blaine’s eyes snapped open once more and he reared back, realizing that the song had ended abruptly and without warning. Kurt blinked at him owlishly and cleared his throat, finally dropping his gaze to the flower in his lap, the pristine white petals a shock against the dark material of his jeans. Blaine mentally shook himself.
What the fuck was that, Anderson? Your life isn’t a goddamn movie; way to go about alienating your best friend a week into the trip.
There was applause, rousing and loud; Blaine took his arm from around Kurt’s waist and joined in just to give his hands something to do. He wanted to slap himself silly; what had he been thinking? In the space of twenty bottomless seconds, he’d almost ruined everything, and judging by the confused expression on Kurt’s face as he slowly, dazedly clapped his hands, he might have already succeeded.
Distance: 805.8 miles