Title: Where There's Smoke [1/12+]
Rating: PG-13 generally, but moving to NC-17 in places (will point out, accordingly, for those averse)
Pairing: Kurt/Blaine, Wes and David friendship, mentions of former Finn/Rachel
Word Count: 7000/100,000 [<-- oh my god.]
Warnings: None, really, aside from future mentions of homophobic treatment by a parent (I never use slurs. Never.)
Summary: Fireman AU, set 7 years after graduation. Kurt is Kurt, except that he never met Blaine Anderson. Blaine grew up in Brooklyn with his mother and firefighter father. Rachel and Kurt have graduated NYADA, Kurt gained a Masters from Tisch, and now they're in their first post-college apartment together ready to tackle their dreams. Unfortunately, Rachel never learned how to properly cook and almost sets their new house on fire. Enter Dreamy McFirepants.
A/N: This wouldn't exist without the most amazing editor a person could ask for, flaming_muse. Any remaining errors fall squarely on
Previous Chapters: [Masterlist + One] [Two] [Three] [Four] [Five][Six] [Seven] [Eight] [Nine] [Ten] [Eleven] [Twelve] [Epilogue]
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Burt finished giving the front room a once over, nodding approval at Kurt. Kurt had gone through the place before his dad's arrival, making minor repairs to the door frames and patching a hole in one wall where a door knob had punctured the plaster. He wanted his dad to see that they could do this; they could have their home and be responsible, and his dad stop worrying about them living in the Big City. Any chance Kurt had to reduce his father's stress, he took it.
Rachel stood in the doorway with her pink tool kit in hand - still unused, but decorated with gold stars for positive reinforcement. Kurt had appreciated the effort, even if she couldn't tell the difference between a shim and a shimmy.
“All right. You kids-”
Kurt folded his arms and rolled his eyes. “Dad.”
“Sorry. Hey, forgive me, I'm getting old.” Burt smiled indulgently at his son, scratching his thinning hair under his ball cap. “All right, you grown, mature, fully capable adults. Remember to change those batteries every Day Light Savings, you hear me? Batteries are easy to come by; you two aren't.”
Rachel beamed at Mr. Hummel, “Yes, sir. I even wrote it in my calendar for the next two years, Change batteries in smoke detectors.”
“Good girl. Now, Kurt?” He clapped a hand to his son's shoulder, blinking for a moment as if just realizing that he was reaching up to do so and had been doing so for more than four years now. “You take care of this pretty lady, you hear me?”
Rachel preened and turned to put her tool kit in the cupboard under the wet bar that divided the kitchen from the main living area.
“And Rachel? You take care of my boy, okay?”
Kurt smiled and pulled his dad into an embrace. “Thanks, Dad.”
“No problem. Just don't forget to check in every now and then. I know you two are all grown up now, but I'm still a dad, okay?”
Rachel ran at Burt and threw herself at him in a tight hug, knocking the wind out of him. “Thank you, Mr. Hummel! My dads have your number, and Monday night is family phone night, we've already decided. In case Kurt and I get any big parts, that's the night we'll usually be free.”
She reached up on her toes to give Burt a kiss, who looked flummoxed at the affection. Kurt opened the front door to offer him an escape, leaning in for one last hug on their stoop before Burt headed back to Ohio.
His dad stopped at the bottom of the stairs, turned back and said quietly, “Don't forget Finn'll be up here next Saturday with the rest of your things. Make sure, uh...” Burt looked past Kurt into the house to make sure Rachel was out of earshot. “Make sure those two don't have any opportunity to fight, okay? Last time they saw each other, I had to replace two air compressors in the shop.”
Kurt laughed softly. “No problem. Rachel has a meeting with one of her clients, so we timed it just right.”
Burt rolled his eyes and nodded, and he waved a final goodbye to Kurt as he walked away and hopped in his truck to make the long drive back to Ohio. Kurt stood watching until the truck turned and was gone. With the exception of some of his books, some odds and ends furniture, and his winter wardrobe, he was all moved in to his first post-graduation home. No more shipping off-season clothes back and forth due to minuscule closets, no more dormitories, efficiencies, or studio apartments with nonexistent kitchens. They had lucked out - anyone who manages to get a decent apartment in New York City lucks out - when a former cast member of Rachel's got a part with a touring company and had to give up his place.
Kurt took the steps up to the door three at a time. He shut the heavy wooden door, whirled on one foot and clapped his hands together once, beaming at Rachel. “Our first grown-up apartment!”
They held hands and bounced up and down, not caring how childish it looked. They both had spent four hard years at university with never-ending coursework and performances, then Kurt had a grueling but exciting three years getting his masters in costume design at Tisch, while Rachel spent that time auditioning and taking any role she could land.
Finally, finally they had their dream-ish New York City apartment. It was in Brooklyn, not the Upper West Side, and one of the three bedrooms surely had been a closet in a previous life, but it was theirs. It had a kitchen that barely fit more than one person at a time, but there was a dining nook, the ceilings were high, the front room was large enough to hold an upright piano, sofa and chairs, it had an honest-to-god claw-foot tub that meant that Kurt could be fully submerged to his shoulders when used, and it was theirs.
Their apartment was in a quiet, friendly neighborhood. Trees lined the street, and some ambitious person had planted pansies in rings under each one on their side. The buildings were mostly red brick in the Federalist style, with two stories plus a large basement for storage and laundry. Each floor was a unit, and they had wide stoops at each door. Upstairs tenants had their own entrances in the back. Even better, there were clear spaces between each building, so no more headboards banging into thin plaster walls keeping them up or barely muffled arguments from fighting neighbors.
Kurt was only two transfers from the theater where he was the costume designer; it was right in the center of Broadway, walking distance to any auditions he might get. Rachel could work from home; she did the books for a few small theater companies to provide steady income while auditioning for everything she could get in her spare time. Their New York City dreams awaited them.
They were both unattached, Rachel and Finn having broken up a few months prior, and for good, it seemed. Kurt had dated a few guys since moving to New York after high school, but nothing long-lasting that had fed his romantic nature. He still had high hopes for being swept off his feet; he mostly encountered pretentious fellow actors looking for one-night stands, something Kurt wasn't interested in, or older men that simply liked how young he looked. There hadn't been anyone that challenged him, no one fun and thrilling and romantic. Well, he had waited this long for love; he could wait until it was right.
His stomach rumbled. He wrapped his arms around his torso, made almost concave from the lack of food and the exhausting labor of moving.
“Let's go out to eat!” Kurt moved towards his bedroom to change out of his jeans and t-shirt when Rachel grabbed the belt loops at the back of his pants.
“Are you kidding? I ran down the street to get ingredients earlier! We need to christen our new kitchen!”
Kurt paused nervously. He didn't have a problem with vegan fare philosophically; it was more nervousness at what Rachel Berry did to vegan food that stopped him in his tracks. Rachel wasn't known for her culinary skills, even though she attacked the task with enthusiasm. This would be their first apartment with a full kitchen, and not just a hot plate and a microwave.
“Your dads had an induction range, and this stove top looks like it used to run on coal. Are you sure you know what you're doing?”
“Absolutely!” she beamed.
Sirens blared up the street, signaling the firetrucks' arrival.
“I cannot believe you almost burned down the kitchen, Rachel. We've not even been in this apartment for four hours.”
Rachel wiped at her tear-stained cheeks with the corner of her pink, frilled apron. “I'm sorry! I thought blackened tofu sounded like a nice alternative!”
“Whiskey flambe. You tried to make tofu a blackened whiskey flambe? Those two styles of cooking don't go together for a reason, Rachel.” Kurt sighed, trying desperately for patience. “At least we know the detectors work; my dad will be happy about that.” Kurt froze in place on the front stoop, panic-stricken. “My dad! We say nothing about this to him, okay?”
Kurt shuddered, remembering the visual of flames almost exploding from the skillet where Rachel was torturing some perfectly innocent tofu. At the first sign of fire, Rachel had begun screaming like a tea kettle. Kurt reached past her, switched off the gas and shoved the skillet to one of the back burners. He hadn't unpacked the baking soda yet, so he couldn't do anything that wouldn't make the fire worse.
They had raced to the stoop; the klaxon-warning bells of the smoke detectors screeched too loudly for them think clearly, let alone stay inside. Kurt had almost dropped his cell phone down the subway grate out front before taking a calming breath and dialing 911. He told the very bored lady at dispatch that the kitchen stove was on fire and to please have someone hurry.
“Oh, okay then,” a voice sassed, “because I usually tell firetrucks to take their sweet-ass time. Who are you talking to?”
Kurt reared back and looked at his phone. Before he could get himself worked up in full Lorell, “Effie, I'm tired!” mode, he heard the sirens off in the distance, a few blocks away. Apparently the dispatch didn't tell them to take their sweet-ass time. He huffed out a crisp, “Thank you,” and abruptly ended the call.
Now they stood huddled on the stoop, Kurt trying to keep his pats “there, there” and not “I want to strangle you for almost getting us killed.” The upstairs tenants milled about a few feet away, clearly upset that their Saturday night football had been interrupted. Their beer bellies, gruff faces and Michigan jerseys kept Kurt at a distance. If there was one thing his dad had taught him, no self-respecting Ohioan – or even a mutinous, unpatriotic Ohioan like Kurt – ever trusted someone who pulled for Michigan.
Kurt smiled apologetically and shrugged at them, but they were too focused on watching the game on the tiny screen of their smart phones to pay attention to the new tenants.
The sirens shut off, but the whirligig lights continued to splash their kaleidoscope glow on all of the brick walls as the truck pulled in front of the apartment. Three men dressed in heavy tan coats and black boots piled off the back and briskly walked to the front door. One of them approached Kurt, who was anxiously bouncing from foot to foot. Rachel was huddled in the corner of the stoop, trying to stay out of the way, completely mortified.
“We had a call about a small kitchen fire?”
Kurt cleared his throat and tried to keep on task, but damn. He never would have thought that he had a thing for firefighters, it was so cliché after all, but this particular firefighter.... Well! About as tall as Kurt was, hmm, maybe just a touch shorter, with broad shoulders, a bright, open face, sensuously full lips, Don't stare at his mouth he'll think you're deranged, and a clean, regulation-hairdo crowned with the loveliest wavy hair Kurt had ever seen. It was a humid night, and Kurt could tell those tendrils curling over the man's forehead had fought whatever torture the owner had tried on it, and won.
Kurt blinked and shook himself out of his fantasies of wrapping those dark curls around his finger, pulling the owner in closely for a better look at those nice, rosy lips. “Oh, uh, yes. Small fire.”
The firefighter signaled to the other men at the truck, who were unloading a hose. “Oh, gosh, I don't know that you'll need all of that,” Kurt exclaimed. “We just moved in, and I don't know if we even have a fire extinguisher, come to think of it,” he finished lamely, feeling embarrassed.
The firefighter made a noncommittal grunt and gestured at one of the men who grabbed an industrial-sized extinguisher. He handed it over, and the lead firefighter signaled the others with his eyes towards the door.
“Right this way,” he led the firefighter to the door and pointed towards the back. The billowing smoke from the frying pan would have been enough to lead the way, but Kurt couldn't turn off his helpful gene, it seemed.
“Stay here until we've determined any danger, please,” the fireman said, holding his hand out to stop Kurt from entering.
Heat spread across Kurt's chest where the fireman's hand had almost touched. Every nerve in his body was thrumming with excitement. Well, duh, your new dream home is on fire. Mm hm, that's what it was. Kurt's eyes followed the firefighter's every move as he directed the other two men into position. Kurt stood in the doorway and called out, “Tofu. It was meant to be blackened, ha ha,” Kurt's forced laughed turned into coughing from the acrid smoke in the air. He stepped back and wiped at his streaming eyes. “It's Rachel's first time in this kitchen, and she's not used to gas stoves, I suppose.”
Mr. Luscious-Curls Fireman bent forward to avoid most of the thick smoke billowing out of the small kitchen. “You shut the flame off; good thinking.” The fireman handed the fire extinguisher to his team member and said, “It looks like this is just smoke, not any danger of re-ignition.”
Kurt slumped against the door frame. The fireman waved him in. Kurt attempted a genial tone, saying, “Well you know what they say about there being smoke. I thought it was better to err on the side of caution.” One of the other firefighters muttered, “'Scuse me,” as he walked a large ladder in, gently resting it against the wall. He climbed up to switch off the alarm on the vaulted ceiling after opening the case and checking the batteries. Kurt spared him a glance but couldn't help but turn and follow the wavy-haired firefighter as he moved about the kitchen, directing the other man to spray foam into Rachel's non-stick skillet and over the whole surface of the gas range.
Kurt glanced down at himself, glad that he at least wasn't wearing some horrible shape-obliterating sweats for the move. Rachel had teased him for wearing designer jeans for hauling dusty boxes and furniture to Brooklyn-- “They're last season, Rachel” -- but at least they showed off his slim yet athletic frame. His chest and shoulders had filled out in college, the last vestiges of gawky childhood gone, with the exception of his youthful face. He knew that he would love that when he was older, or so everyone constantly said to him. The thread-bare, heathered blue t-shirt stretched nicely across his toned arms and chest. Not too skinny, not beefy. Musical theater's dancing obligations had its perks for keeping him in shape.
He hoped Mr. Crinkly-Eyed Fireman wasn't into burly linebackers. Or mammaries, come to think of it. His gaydar had improved since living in NYC and attending art school, but still. He'd made the occasional (and embarrassing) mistake in the past.
Doesn't hurt to be prepared in case he plays for my team, though.
Mr. Possibility, who Kurt would swear looked about the same age as he was, stood in front of Kurt with his helmet tucked under one arm.
“Well, your partner-”
“Roommate,” Kurt corrected with a grin. “She's just my roommate.”
The firefighter looked down to hide his smile for a moment. “Yes, well. She did a great job of achieving blackened tofu, but next time I'd recommend she order take-out. Wok-n-Roll around the corner has some great vegetarian options.”
McQueen said to be self-confident and fearless... Kurt smiled openly at him. “I'll make sure she knows, Mister..?”
They shook hands, and it was all Kurt could do to not bite his lip to hide his grin when he felt the firm, strong hand in his.
“Captain? You seem awfully young to be a captain.”
Captain Anderson narrowed his eyes for a moment before his features smoothed back into Officer Friendly mode again. “It happens.”
Kurt quickly realized he had made an error and tried to bring things back around to something more light and conversational. He stepped his weight back on one foot and crossed his arms against his chest. “Hrmph, you know, I wanted take out, but she insisted.” He chuckled and rolled his eyes as if to say that the captain would totally understand how girls could be.
Oh my god you are on eleven, turn it down to five. Hm, he is seriously cute, make it six.
Anderson smiled, nothing more than a polite reflex and not equal to the silly grin Kurt knew was plastered on his own face. The fireman pulled his walkie talkie from his belt clip and held it up to his mouth. “Roger that, Dispatch. We're secured, heading back.” He switched it off and said to Kurt, “Well, at any rate, it's good to know that your smoke detectors work, right? Make sure you change them every-”
“Day Light Savings, I won't forget! I wouldn't want to burn the place down and not give you a chance to come save me. Us. Save us, I meant. Obviously.” What is wrong with me? Kurt thought to himself. He couldn't help it, those damn curls were just begging for Kurt to run his hands through them.
The captain cleared his throat and looked at his boots for a minute. “Just make sure that you air the place out tonight, the smoke should clear soon enough.” He looked at Kurt seriously, all hint of jocularity gone. “And first thing tomorrow, buy a fire extinguisher.”
“Oh. Yes. Right. First thing. I'll do that right away,” Kurt babbled, flustered for a moment. He could have kicked himself for acting like such a giggling school girl; hadn't he gotten over that back in Lima? Most likely Captain Anderson was straight and had a beautiful girl waiting at home for him. Of course there wasn't a gorgeous firefighter that just also happened to be gay, had come to his rescue, and was presently standing in his house, just waiting to woo him.
Kurt needed to tone it way down. Besides, he could imagine Captain Hot Pants on his leisure time instead of making a fool of himself in front of said Hot Pants with all of this blatant flirting.
Pull yourself together.
“Thank you, all of you!” Kurt made a point of shaking everyone's hands, not just the captain's, as they packed up their gear to put back onto the truck.
Rachel stood quickly on the front steps and shook their hands as well, tucking her hair back over one ear and smiling demurely up at one of the other firemen, now in just his break-out trousers, uniform FDNY tee and wide, red suspenders. Kurt felt her squeeze his arm, but he was too busy watching Captain Anderson swing up onto the side rail of the truck, talking to the station house on his walkie.
Kurt turned to look down at her remembering, oh right, Rachel exists. She narrowed her eyes at him, then asked the captain, “If someone wanted to send cookies as a thank you, which firehouse would they go to?”
Kurt froze, wanting to pinch the hell out of her arm for being so obvious.
Captain Anderson hooked his walkie onto his belt and pulled his jacket off, tossing it into the cab of the truck. Holy Mary mother of Bob, biceps. A family of four could live off those for weeks. Anderson swung back out of the truck and affixed his helmet. “Engine Company 204.”
The truck started pulling away. The captain looked right at Kurt with a friendly grin on his face and called out, “And the guys really like oatmeal raisin.”
One of the other firefighters yelled out, the sound barely drifting down the block, “Hey, no we don't!”
Kurt slumped to the concrete stoop, pulling Rachel down next to him. “I don't know whether to kill you or kiss you.”
“Save it. We need to get supplies, because you want to make sure to deliver those cookies before he's off shift tomorrow.”
He looked over at her. She waggled her eyebrows and said, “Hey, David was pretty cute, too.”
Kurt blinked for a moment. “David?”
Rachel rolled her eyes. “You know, one of the other guys that was here? Good lord, you have it bad. It's about time,” she chided, pulling Kurt to his feet. “Come on, Romeo, let's get all of the windows open, or we'll never get the smell of charred soy out of this place.”
Kurt stretched his arms over head to drive out some of the adrenaline-induced tension in his shoulders. “You have to clean the kitchen. And there is no way in hell I'm letting you bake anything after what you did tonight. Also, we will be using actual butter in those cookies, not that weird hemp seed garbage you keep trying to push on me. They'll think we're potheads.”
Rachel stood in the kitchen, her hands on her hips and a sour expression on her face as she looked at the huge mess waiting for her. There was a powdery residue all over the stove top and smoke stains on the wall.
“Serves you right, Rachel Berry. Flambe, indeed.”
Rachel insisted on packing the cookies – two dozen oatmeal raisin with a dozen peanut butter-chocolate cookies for variety – into a handled basket lined with a gingham tea towel. Rachel had chattered for an hour after the firemen had left the night before, rambling about how kind and heroic David was. She had to describe him three times before Kurt decided to just pretend he knew who she was talking about.
He only had eyes for one person last night, and he blushed thinking of how obvious he'd been, practically throwing himself at the fireman. Kurt “cool and detached” Hummel had disappeared with a puff of smoke, literally. Well, he'd leave further acts of embarrassment to Rachel.
Rachel pulled her red shrug over her black- and white-striped sleeveless top and checked the basket one last time.
“You're going to look like a deranged Red Riding Hood skipping into the station house with that, Rach.”
“Oh, I am not going to look like anything. We are going to look like grateful citizens, thanking the unsung heroes of New York City.”
Kurt snorted and spun around on the bar stool to continue talking to Rachel as she primped in the bathroom mirror. “You just want that fireman that checked you over for,” he made finger quotes in the air, “'possible smoke inhalation' to see your amazing house-keeping skills.”
Rachel leaned her head out of the doorway and affixed Kurt with a droll expression. “Do you want me to go there, Kurt? Because I will so go there.” She jutted her hip out and pointed her hairbrush at Kurt's face. “You said you wanted him to come back and save you.”
Kurt sputtered, “I did not! I just meant...oh, god!” Kurt covered his face with both hands with a groan. “Did I? I don't know what has gotten into me, he just... I don't have a damsel in distress thing, I don't. It's just...curls! And those pants. And that smile, please tell me you noticed that smile?”
Rachel switched off the bathroom light, and crossed the small space to give Kurt a tight hug. “He was really cute, and seemed nice. I don't blame you.”
Kurt scrubbed his face with both hands, groaning. “I can't show up, I just can't. I'm going to see his beautiful, perky girlfriend bounce in, and they'll kiss in front of me, and he'll probably propose right then and there, and it will just be further proof that I have a terrible habit of being attracted to guys that I can't have.”
Finn, Sam, the handsome and alluring Spanish boy from his sophomore year at NYADA, the incredibly sexy young man from Wyoming with a drawl that was thick like honey, and now a fireman. Football jocks, a foreigner with a vintage motorcycle, a cowboy and now a fireman. Throw in a Native American and a cop and he'd collect the whole Village People set.
Rachel slapped at his knee lightly. “Nope, no more of that. It's been too long since you even showed interest in anyone since Thomas. You just need to put yourself out there more. Don't stop now when you're just building momentum!”
Thomas had been his first real boyfriend, if dating for five months counted as a real relationship. Thomas had been the manager of Kurt's favorite coffee shop by the Tisch campus, and had pursued Kurt for several weeks before he finally agreed to go on a date. It had been exhilarating at first; someone wanted him, someone that was smart and funny and kind. But after a few months of hearing about Thomas' family and never meeting them, Thomas finally admitted that he hadn't come out to his family yet, and wasn't planning to any time soon.
Kurt wasn't willing to be someone's secret. He needed someone that was proud of who they were, and more importantly, proud of the person they were involved with. He had wished Thomas well, but knew he had to move on. A year had passed and there had only been casual flirtations, one heady night of dancing at a club with a beautiful stranger that went nowhere, and a whole lot of not dating anyone special.
Kurt had the sinking feeling that he was setting himself up again for failure. Rachel pulled him out of his chair, grabbed the basket and her house keys, and led Kurt to the door. “I seriously doubt he has a beautiful perky girlfriend.”
“What on earth makes you say that?”
Rachel replied with a cheeky grin, “Because he clearly told you what cookies he likes.”
She had a point. He double checked his hair in the mirror by the front door before being dragged onto the street.
It was a beautiful, bright sunny day in the city. The humidity from the night before had been blown away by a nice breeze, which had the added benefit of clearing out the stale air that settled into the city every June and refused to leave until the fall. They walked the three and a half blocks to the fire station, Rachel chattering endlessly as Kurt became more and more sure that this was a terrible idea.
Kurt Hummel did not chase men. He had learned that lesson the hard way in high school and had become a straight A student in not chasing males. He told himself that he was acting this way, obvious and flirty, because of his excitement over the move and last night's potential for third degree burns. He was rusty, he was a little lonely, and his house had been filled with Gay Male Fantasy #4, of course he was acting ridiculous. That's all it was. He was just going to the station to tell them thank you, and that would be it. It was the decent thing to do. It wouldn't even matter if that certain someone was there or not. Kurt ducked to check his reflection in a window, making sure his clothes still looked fresh and his hair was still in place. Not that it would matter. Much.
They rounded the final corner and stood in front of the huge garage doors that signaled Engine Company 204/Ladder Company 18's station. Two firemen in unfortunate polyester-blend navy shorts and regulation-blue short-sleeved dress shirts were hosing off the tires of one of the company's firetrucks.
“Excuse me!” Rachel chirped. “We wanted to thank the gallant firemen that came to our rescue last night with some delicious home-baked goods.”
One of the men was considerably older than the other with a thick silver mustache, grey hair at his temples and a deeply lined face. He narrowed his eyes at Rachel. “Chocolate chip? Or plain sugar?”
She looked worried. “N-no, oatmeal raisin.”
The man snorted and clapped a hand on Kurt's shoulder, almost knocking him over. He looked at Kurt, motioning with his head towards the inside of the garage, saying, “The captain should be inside; stay to the left for the rec room.”
Rachel hissed at Kurt as they walked into the expansive garage, “See? I told you there was no perky girlfriend!”
“Hmm. Perky boyfriend, then. There is no way this is going-- Oh, hello!”
Kurt pulled up short as one of the firemen from last night, David, by the looks of Rachel's massive grin, walked over to them.
Rachel beamed up at him. “We baked you cookies.”
David grinned back, and now that Kurt had no other distractions, he could see that David was handsome, too. Tall, very lean but ropey with muscle, his hair cut close as was popular with African-American men at the time, and a beautiful smile. A smile that was all for one Miss Rachel Berry, it looked like.
“Did you, now?”
Rachel leaned in conspiratorially and said, “I know your captain said oatmeal raisin, but I couldn't help myself. I put in some peanut butter-chocolate cookies, too. I hope that was okay?”
David laughed a little and replied, “As long as you let me have them all, and we keep it our little secret, that's fine by me.”
He nodded a hello towards Kurt, who stood there feeling foolish and in the way. David motioned for them to follow him back to the rec room. Rachel quickly sidled up to him, slipping her arm into the crook of his elbow. “I know we just had a silly little kitchen mishap, but honestly, what you do, what you choose to do every single day, it's very admirable.”
Kurt kept a few paces behind as they walked and rolled his eyes freely. Talk about laying it on thick. He was glad she was finally moving on from the heartbreak that her relationship with his step-brother Finn had become, he just didn't want to be in such close proximity to it. He let himself fall behind to give them a little privacy as he picked his way around the gleaming fire engines. He ended up in a room with a huge kitchen at one end, a long dining table in the middle and sofas and a pool table at the other end.
Rachel was artfully arranging the cookies on a platter that David had pulled out of the kitchen. Kurt noticed that about half of the peanut butter-chocolate cookies were missing and David was happily chewing on one of them. It looked like most of the firemen were out working on the engines, or just elsewhere. No sign of Captain Cutie anywhere.
Kurt leaned over and whispered to Rachel, a smile plastered to his face, “Okay! This is incredibly awkward. I'm just going to go; you can play squeeze the bicep on the fireman in peace.”
David swallowed half a cookie whole and motioned behind him. “The probie from last night is in class, and the captain is out like a light. He's had three straight 24-hour shifts, so we try and catch some sleep any chance there's some down time. I'll make sure they know you came by with these.”
Kurt groaned internally. He was nervous for nothing, it seemed. He certainly wasn't going to come back when Anderson was awake just so Kurt could see his handsome arms and torso and face and hair and the way he filled out those break-away pants, oh my god, they're called that because they break-away. Kurt fought a blush he knew was creeping up his neck and smiled at David.
“Oh, no big deal. Just, we felt bad for dragging you out for something so minor. Um, Rachel, I had promised the good captain that I would get a fire extinguisher today, so how about I get started on that very important task while you make sure that those cookies are to the nice man's satisfaction?”
David gave him a grateful smile while reaching for another cookie. Kurt saw before David did the piece of paper with Rachel's cell phone written on it and a gold star in the upper corner that had she had secreted away under the cookies. He bit back a snort of laughter and waggled his fingers in a toodle-loo at Rachel. He turned to walk back through the door to the garage and stopped in his tracks.
Sleep-rumpled hair. Sleepy eyes framed with thick lashes. A well-worn FDNY emblazoned t-shirt stretched across a very nicely muscled chest. Kurt couldn't speak for a moment, then shook himself when the captain yawned hugely, stretching overhead so that his shirt rode up enough to give Kurt a glimpse of a taut abdomen and a dusting of dark hair that trailed down to-
“Cookies! Yes! We brought them. Some. The cookies. We made cookies and we brought them but I have to go right now,” Kurt stammered knowing that he was blushing to his roots, “because I made a promise and I keep my word. So.”
Kurt snapped his mouth shut, sent a frenzied look Rachel's way, and tried to step around this man that was turning Kurt from his normal, composed and self-assured nature into a blithering idiot. He tried to keep his head up and the look of horror off his face as he crossed the threshold into the echoing garage when a voice stopped him for a moment.
“Oatmeal raisin! Thank you... Oh, I didn't catch your name.”
Kurt huffed out a breath, closed his eyes for the briefest moments of composure, turned and smiled at the captain with what he hoped looked calm, cool, and utterly available. “Kurt.”
The captain held up a finger as he swallowed a huge bite of a cookie; Kurt watched the muscles in his throat work, echoing the captain's swallow.
“I'm Blaine. It's very nice to meet you, Kurt.”
Kurt gave the briefest of nods and replied softly, “Likewise.” He backed into the garage, pointing over his shoulder and said, “But I have this thing, so...”
Blaine called out, “Thank you for the cookies! They are delicious.” Blaine had the audacity to close his eyes and moan out the last word for emphasis.
Anyone would moan over those, I put freshly grated cinnamon in the batter, but my God does he have to look like that when he eats? I wonder what he looks like when he-- Kurt stumbled into the fender on one of the big ladder trucks and stammered, “No problem! Bake them all the time. It's like a weird compulsion, my constant baking. I'm going to stop talking now.”
Face aflame, he hot-footed it out of the garage. Abort! Abortabortabort! You just told him you have weird compulsions. Now he's going to think you're some kind of baking fetishist. Real smooth, Grace under fire. Passing through the giant garage doors to the city street, he continued his mental tirade at himself under his breath. The older man supervising the truck-washing nonchalantly called out, “He likes banana bread, too.”
Kurt smiled at him, confused, embarrassed, and wondering if the market on the corner sold over-ripe bananas along with fire extinguishers.
“And he sings, Kurt! He was in his high school's Glee Club, too. I can just tell that his lovely tenor would blend beautifully in the background of my powerful yet evocative soprano.”
“Mm,” Kurt hummed, flipping the pages of a new copy of Italian Elle, one of the benefits of living in the greatest city in the world. Rachel had talked non-stop about David for over an hour since floating back to their apartment. Thank goodness he had the double issue.
Rachel paused her counter wiping to say cagily, “He was in Glee with Blaine. Not that you're interested.”
Kurt, startled to the point of almost tearing a page in the magazine, breathlessly asked, “He sings?”
“Mm, yourself. Lead soloist at the Brooklyn New School, according to David.”
Kurt slumped back into the sofa. “There's no way this is real. He's gorgeous, he's kind, he devotes his life to helping people, he's gay-- ” He looked to Rachel to make sure, sighing when he saw her enthusiastic nod. “--and now you're telling me he sings. He has to be a secret serial killer. Or has an unholy love of polka. One person cannot have all of those charms without something wrong with them.” A dawning look of horror crossed his face. “What if he only wears Ed Hardy clothes when he's off duty? I'm a man that can appreciate sequins, but not that way.”
Rachel rolled her eyes. “I'm sure that if he did you could get him to see the Tom Ford light.”
Kurt chewed at his thumb, considering the possibilities as Rachel prattled on, “...so he invited me to join him and the other off-duty firemen at their mid-week pub night.”
Rachel threw her cleaning rag on the counter and hopped onto the sofa, shoving Kurt in the chest. “Dummy, you're coming, too.”
“No, no, no, I made a complete ass of myself today. Clearly I can't be trusted to be in control of all of my faculties when...that man is nearby.”
Rachel narrowed her eyes at Kurt, reminding him of every time they were pitted against each other in a diva-off back in high school. She poked the center of his chest, saying curtly, “We are going to the pub night, we are not going to have any more pity parties, and we are going to find boys that make us happy that also happen to live where we live, got it?”
Eyes wide and on the verge of trembling, he nodded. Rachel had her scary moments. “Got it.”
She sank back on her heels, deflated. Kurt reached over to hold her hand in both of his. He thought that this new interest meant she had completely gotten over Finn, but eight years was a long time to be in a relationship, even with as tumultuous and on-again, off-again as theirs had been.
There were two years back at the end of college where Rachel and Finn hadn't spoken to each other at all. They both had talked about moving on before, but this time it seemed truly final. No more hopes for someone changing their dreams to suit them, not with Finn really making a life for himself in Lima as Rachel continued her path to stardom in New York.
“I'm sorry it didn't work out, Rach. I really am. But you know it's for the best; you know it.”
Rachel looked up at the ceiling and blinked a few times, a little trick he knew she had to keep her tears from falling. “I know, he was my first love, and he was a good one to have. But you're right. It's better this way. Too many breakups over the years, too many heartaches.” She let out a shaky sigh and looked at their joined hands. “He's really happy there, isn't he?”
Kurt pulled her in for a tight hug, rubbing soothing circles in her back. “He is. He's found something he's really good at, and it's a huge help for my dad. You know they're opening a second shop?” Rachel sighed, burying her face in the front of his shirt as he continued. “My dad's calling it Hummel & Sons.” Kurt hummed with pleasure, giving her a squeeze. “I think it's the first time Finn has been proud of himself since high school. He is happy you're here, he always believed you'd make it.”
She let out a tiny sob, and he tightened his arms. “I thought you said no pity parties, Miss Berry?”
She mumbled into his collar, “Just a going away party for them, then, okay?”
He laughed and held his best friend tight. “Hey.” He kissed her cheek and pushed her back enough so that he could look her in the eyes. “It's been moving in this direction for a long time. You haven't even lived in the same time zone for well over seven years now.”
She nodded, wiping her eyes with the sleeve of her light sweater. “I know, we held on with the long-distance part, but he never wanted this, New York. It's just...final now.”
“Yes, it is, so there's no reason to not move forward, right? That's what you've been telling me for the past year. To put myself out there more? And Miss Berry, you sure did a good job of that today. He's pretty hot.”
Rachel laughed--her joyous, infectious laugh that he loved. “He really is, isn't he?”
He cocked an eyebrow at her and teased, “I mean, not cute enough to be a captain, but still.”
They spent the rest of the afternoon putting their house in order, giddy with the excitement the future held for them, and happy to be sharing it with each other.
[TBC - here]