Title: Where There's Smoke [5/12+]
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: 9300/100,000
Warnings:Mentions of homophobic treatment by a parent, stories of fires - no one dies. :)
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]
This is Blaine's fire station, btw. :) [eagle eyes will notice someone's bike.] And artwork! Made for
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Kurt spent a stressful night tossing and turning, his mind unable to settle on either replaying sweet moments from the night or a constant loop of horrifying thoughts where people were hurt. He couldn't bring himself to think worse than that. Foolish, he knew, but there it was.
He sat at the table with his coffee, barely focusing on the crossword today. He couldn’t stop thinking of how wonderful it felt to share himself with Blaine. How touched he was that Blaine would share his stories with Kurt. Connecting with someone on such a personal level was exhilarating and frightening at the same time, because under all of the giddy elation was real worry. We die. He just didn’t know what to think about that, could barely wrap his head around the fact that when Blaine and his coworkers went to work, there was the very real possibility that they would never come back.
Rachel came out of her room after Kurt had filled his second cup of coffee. She had finally come home after one in the morning the night before. Kurt had heard her tiptoeing through the house, just in case she might be disturbing something. Kurt was no longer prudish, but he also wasn't the type to hang a handkerchief on his bedroom door knob on a first date.
I like that about you. Kurt smiled to himself at the memory.
Rachel dropped a kiss on his head and shuffled to the coffee pot. “After I wake up, I expect a full report, Mister.” Rachel plopped into her chair, laying her head on her arm, still yawning. She reached out blindly for her mug, Kurt helpfully nudging the handle in her direction.
After a few minutes, she got to business. “Spill it. Is he an amazing kisser? Did he hold your face; sometimes I like that, but sometimes I feel like I'm about to be eaten, like in that painting by Goya.”
Kurt blinked at her. “I...hmrph. Drink more of that,” Kurt said, waving a finger at her mug. “Goya,” he muttered. “Well, yes, it turns out that he is an amazing kisser--”
He was cut off by Rachel's squeal of excitement, her hands in fists working up and down as she wriggled in her chair. “I knew he would be! He seems so...passionate.”
Rolling his eyes, Kurt waved his hand dismissively. “Yeah, yeah, you know everything.” He sighed unhappily, flicking the ball point on his pen in and out, distracted by his thoughts about Blaine.
“Okay,” Rachel said, her authoritative, leader-that-will-be-obeyed voice coming out. “What gives? These are not happy sighs; these are not 'I met the man of my dreams and we're going to run off and get married and adopt a beautiful baby girl and name her Rachel after my dearest friend who encouraged me in the first place' sighs.”
“I am not naming my daughter after you, Rachel.”
“It's--” he paused, looking off in the middle distance. “You know what he does for a living.”
“Rachel.” His jaw dropped, irritated by her flippant attitude when he was turning himself inside out with worry and want. “Yes, let’s just ignore the fact that he’s a death-defying hero for a living. He's-- Rachel, he's amazing.”
She slid her hands across the table, taking his. “I know.”
“And I had the best time with him, but it's all so fast; everything is happening so quickly. It's almost more than I can deal with.”
“Kurt,” she said quietly, waiting for him to look at her. “When it's right, you know it. It doesn't matter when it happens. Just that it does.” She gave his hands a squeeze and then wrapped hers around her coffee mug for a sip, returning one back for him to hold while he thought. “Besides, life-threatening situations count as like, three dates. You two are on your fifth date by now, emotionally speaking.”
He snorted indelicately at that, then slipped back into feeling frustrated. He really was trying to be adult about this, to not give into the wild emotions and impulsive actions of his youth but make smart decisions that wouldn't hurt him in the end. It really sucked.
“Rach, and I'm sorry for what I'm about to say, but it's important. You felt that way about Finn.”
Her hand spasmed in his, taken aback, but she didn't let go. “If there was a way to make Broadway and Hummel Tire & Lube exist in the same city, I'd still feel that way.”
“No, we're talking about you. I'm okay. Really,” she stressed seeing his look of disbelief. “And that is an entirely different situation. Finn is there. For good. Blaine is here. I'm sorry, but with everything David has told me about Blaine, he seems perfect for you.”
That piqued his interest. “And what all has David told you?”
“Nothing juicy,” she laughed. “He seemed to realize that I would tell you anything he told me, so I only got the Readers Digest version of Blaine Anderson, The Man, The Myth, The Cutie.”
They compared notes, and she was right; she didn't know anything Blaine hadn't told him already. He felt slightly disloyal, trying to get information from anyone other than him. Blaine would tell him things when he was ready.
Rachel in turn filled Kurt in on her night with some friends from last year's summer stock. They lapsed into comfortable silence, finishing their breakfasts. Kurt wanted to talk to her about Blaine some more, how solid he felt with him, how he could see a future they could build together, saw them progressively aging and being happy and fulfilled, but it felt silly to have such feelings after only one proper date. It also still felt too precious to share, those feelings of contentment and longing.
Kurt spent the day unpacking the rest of his things in the closet-turned-bedroom-turned-workspace. He installed a series of floating shelves along one wall to hold all of this costuming supplies, patterns, fabrics and notions, pleased to finally have a place as his official office and workroom. Tomorrow he would have to contend with Giovanna and her refusal to maintain the same costume during the show's full run, so he pulled out his patterns to sew yet another garment for her, cleverly disguising support panels under the thick satin.
That ought to hold her for at least a week.
He was snipping loose threads later that night when his phone buzzed.
Hey. Thinking of you. B
He held the phone in both hands, delighted at the impromptu message. His thumbs blazed along the keypad after a moment. And just what were you thinking? :)
He set the phone down and made himself walk to the kitchen to refill his water glass. He was not going to sit in a chair waiting for a text. He only filled his water glass halfway and was back in his chair quickly because he was tired from all the unpacking and building, that's all. He even made a point of putting his thread back on the spool rack before picking the phone up after he saw another text had come through.
How much I enjoyed last night.
Kurt couldn't help himself, he held the phone to his chest and gave himself the chance to just smile and feel happy for a minute. He sat back in his chair, twirling one foot in the air as he worried his lip, thinking to himself, Come on. Just go for it.
He typed back, Me, too. How about a repeat? Wed or Thurs?
Kurt grabbed the dust pan and tidied up his space, put all the costumes on the garment rack, zipped them up so they would be ready for transport, and tried to not glance at his phone too often, which wouldn't have mattered because there wasn't a response.
He set the kettle on to make some tea and a little snack, not paying attention to the continued lack of response on his phone. Then, he sat at the table; he put his phone on the nearby counter just in case of emergency, that was all, and filled in the rest of the crossword that Rachel hadn't been able to solve. Again, not checking his phone, which would have been a waste of time because there still wasn't a reply.
There probably wasn't a reply because Kurt was being really forward and that was maybe unattractive and why couldn't he just play coy and relaxed and not excited about seeing Blaine, because the first thing he wanted do would be to pull him into his arms to kiss him and wrap his body around Blaine's and smell him and just be there and that was why there wasn't a response, because clearly Kurt was some kind of sex maniac. What had Blaine said? “I'm a little old fashioned, too.”
How about a repeat? Kurt may as well have texted: Come naked and bring belts.
Then he couldn't stop wondering how all of that training and exercise would make Blaine look when he was naked and what would he look like if his hands were over his head, stretching out the muscles in his chest and arms, and that's when his phone buzzed, snapping him out of his quickly deteriorating mental hold on himself.
Clearing his throat, he calmly picked up his phone, smoothing the hair above his ear before reading Blaine’s message.
Sorry, admin. stuff kept me from you. Thursday is perfect.
Kurt couldn't help himself, besides, Rachel was out. He let out a ridiculously happy noise, then calmed himself before replying. I'll call later in the week with plans?
Almost immediately, Please. Be sure to tell me the dress code. 'Nite. Sweet dreams.
Dress code. Blaine wanted to dress appropriately. For Kurt. Oh, he was just too good to be true. Kurt sent him back a smile and this time, he was able to follow through on the dreams.
The week went on as usual, Giovanna was a nightmare, the weird homeless man that always called him “Sister” on his subway ride home still smelled, well, homeless, the NowCasting sheets continued to specify male parts that Kurt couldn't get in a million years with his lithe build and higher-pitched voice, but somehow it just didn't seem as stressful as it had the week before.
Every now and then Blaine would text “Hi” or “Looking forward to Thursday.” Each time it would thrill Kurt to his Gucci loafers (hard won on Ebay, still in the original velvet bags, a fraction of the original price), knowing he had something to look forward to. Someone to look forward to.
He had bounced around a multitude of ideas for their date, and settled on the old stand-by of dinner and ...? He wanted to spend time talking, getting to know Blaine as much as he could. A movie or show wouldn't give him that opportunity. He informed Blaine that the dress code would be “dressy casual – interpret as you will.”
He sent quickly on the heels of that, NO synthetic fibers. ;)
Blaine wanted to meet at the fire station, since it was closer to Kurt's than his own apartment. That took care of any romantic gestures such as bringing flowers; Kurt wasn't prepared to waltz into Blaine's place of work with a bunch of calla lilies. Besides, Blaine probably didn't keep proper vases in his office. Not many people did, which showed a real lack of imagination on their part.
He had dressed carefully, wanting – as always – to appear effortlessly chic, yet was practical enough to think about...well. Where the night could go. Slim slate grey trousers that hung low on his hips, a silk and cotton blend, blue-striped boat-neck sweater that showed how broad his shoulders were, and his accessories were simple, as well. Nothing that poked or stabbed was key. They were perfect for crowded subways, not so much for dates where you hoped to end up in someone's arms.
Blaine had messaged him that he would be downstairs waiting for him, so Kurt walked the short distance to the station house and saw Blaine talking with a few of the men on duty. Kurt wouldn't have known if the two men were tall, short, had all their limbs, or were speaking in Swahili, because he only had eyes for Blaine. Dark wash jeans, rolled at the ankle - ankles again - pale pink Oxford, Kurt had always found it to be a good sign when a man was confident enough to wear pink, topped with a sandy-colored, linen blazer.
Blaine hadn't seen him yet, so Kurt had a chance to watch him, how he naturally was with his coworkers and friends. The two men appeared to be hanging on his every word, Blaine laughing and giving one a brief shoulder squeeze. He turned then, catching sight of Kurt walking up the block, and Blaine's eyes softened, his smile brighter.
Kurt had his hands clasped in front of him, nervously smiling as Blaine, his hand on Kurt's waist, introduced him to the two men. His stomach twisted in knots, thrilled but worried, as Blaine casually kissed Kurt's cheek, murmuring, “You look wonderful.” Kurt, face flushing pink, chanced a glance at the two men to see if the little PDA was too much. Evidently not as one of them wished them a nice night and the other went back to testing equipment.
Okay, then. He really is out, and they're all okay with it. His shoulders dropped a little of the tension he'd been carrying since that night at the pub. Blaine kept his hand at Kurt's waist, an intimate smile all for Kurt. “Where to?”
Kurt hooked his arm through the crook of Blaine's elbow and led him down the street. “Remember our little tour last week?”
“As if I'd forget,” Blaine chuckled.
Kurt hummed happily. “Well, to show you that I was paying attention, I made reservations at the Thai restaurant you kept talking about.”
“Rambled about, more like.” Blaine was practically bouncing with excitement next to Kurt.
So I guess I picked the right spot.
“Really, Kurt, they have the most amazing duck in red curry sauce...”
Blaine filled Kurt in on all the best dishes, squeezing his hand and pulling him in even closer as his enthusiasm built. Kurt couldn't help but laugh; Blaine seemed so buoyant and fun tonight, where as the last few times they'd seen each other, he had come off as more self-contained. Not immune to fun, more like Blaine had forgotten he was allowed to have any and was finally remembering that it was okay.
“Hummel. For two,” Kurt told the hostess. She led them to a cozy table tucked in the back where a few other couples were seated. They had a moment where they both moved to pull the chair out for each other, laughed, and sat themselves.
“We'll have to coordinate who gets to be more genteel before the next date,” Blaine said, his eyes sparkling with good humor as he laid his napkin in his lap.
“Then I call tonight. Prepare to have doors opened for you like you've never had them opened before,” Kurt said with one eye brow raised. “But you're on your own if any horse-drawn carriages splash mud on your petticoats. I'm wearing silk, so it's every man for himself.”
Blaine smiled at him and held Kurt's gaze to the point where Kurt felt self-conscious and dropped his eyes to his menu. He felt Blaine's foot nudge his under the table, which eased his worries that there was something hideous on his face. Kurt was out of practice at feeling attractive. He knew his clothes were stylish and fit him impeccably, but he always thought of himself physically as something abstract. Something to dress nicely, like a mannequin. He wanted to look nice because that's what one did. He hadn't spent much thought beyond that to the “someone is noticing how I look and likes what they see” aspect.
It was a little unnerving and a lot exciting.
“So,” Kurt said brightly. “How was your day, Captain?”
Blaine laughed quietly and bit his lip. Kurt made a mental note to keep the nickname; embarrassing Blaine was turning out to be one of his favorite things. It was up there with seeing Blaine, kissing Blaine, and Blaine.
“It was just fine. No cats in trees, Timmy didn't fall in the well.” Blaine set his menu down, clasped his hands on the table and asked, his expression and voice softening. “And how was yours, dear?”
Dear. Kurt had been given nicknames throughout the years, almost all of them hurtful. Princess, Porcelain, every gay slur known, and some just made up on the spot. His dad called him “kid,” everyone special to him simply called him “Kurt.” On the surface he knew it was Blaine being funny, but deep down, he felt like a tap had been turned on and he was filling up. The thought of being someone's, this someone's dear made him feel more than a little weak-kneed.
He flashed to one of his few and faded memories of his mother, kissing his father when he came home from work, asking him, “How was your day, darling?” and they'd hold each other and sway and kiss and smile and he was such a happy little boy then. Everything was right in his world. His mom was Sweetheart and his dad was Darling and everything had felt perfect to little seven year old Kurt. For the first time in his adult life, he knew that he could be, would be happy, would be that happy again.
Kurt looked at the handsome and kind man sitting across the table from him; the one that was giving him that burgeoning hope for a potentially blissful future. It would be wrong to sweep everything off the table with his forearm, throw Blaine onto the white table cloth and ravish him right then and there. That wasn't something that Kurt could do, he told himself in a very stern voice. It came incredibly close to happening, though.
Instead, he quietly cleared his throat and buried his face behind his menu, giving his cheeks a moment to cool. “It was just fine. I managed to avoid the cat hoarder - I can only assume he is, given the pungent smell that follows him like a cloud - that calls me 'Sister' on the subway this week. I haven't decided if he thinks I'm his relative or a nun.”
The waiter took their orders and quickly returned with two martinis, something light he had promised would go well with their dinner. Kurt found he had a hard time catching his breath, and it seemed timed with each nudge of Blaine's foot against his.
“So tell me, Captain; what's the funniest, most ridiculous call you've had at the station?”
“You mean besides burned tofu?'
Blaine chuckled. “Let's see, fake Santa or fake family, which one?”
Eyes wide, Kurt replied, “Uh...let's start with fake family.”
“We got toned out, um, got a call, just before midnight about a year or so ago. Older woman, six apartment walk-up, her family was trapped in the upstairs storage where a fire was melting them alive.”
“Oh my god!”
Blaine, eyes closed, shook his head. “No, hang on. We roll out with full truck and engine crews, EMTs, race up to the top floor, bust the door to the attic, which was locked from the outside.” He took a sip from his drink and continued. “We see smoke, and there's this horrendous smell. Have you ever smelled burnt sugar? It's awful. The whole room was filled with that smell plus burning plastic. We find that she's stuck some old dolls up there and was having a birthday party for them. With a cake. We never figured out why she left them, but she did; the candles caught the whole thing on fire and the dolls were warped and melted into the cake. It took all of five minutes to contain and report back in. She told us that she didn't think we'd give her dolls the 'respect they deserved' if she'd told 911 they weren't actually people.”
“Well, now I'm terrified to hear about fake Santa.”
Blaine laughed, his fingers flicking the end of the cocktail napkin close to Kurt's hand. Kurt could feel the warmth from his fingers. At least he imagined his could. His hand was right there, it would be nothing to just hold it. Just go right on ahead and touch it. Reach right over the inch or two separating them and just lace his fingers with Blaine's. Any minute now. He could do that. Maybe.
Instead, Blaine reached his index finger out and traced the tip along the edge of Kurt's fingers. Or this is fine, this is totally okay with me.
“Fake Santa was my first year at the station. Chimney fire, and in these old places that can be really dangerous. I'm one of the two on the roof, the rest are manning the truck or inside, locating the floor. Flames are shooting out of the top of this thing. We hear on the comm that the guys downstairs found the source and are blocking off the air flow. The fire was actually inside the chimney tower, not in a fireplace. We get the hose down and blast at it for a minute until it's just smoke.”
Kurt can't imagine standing on the roof of a tall building, standing next to flames shooting out of something, and being able to analytically break down what's happened. Then again, Blaine probably couldn't deal with three tenors getting into a cat fight in the wings before tapping out for “One” from A Chorus Line, so they each had their strengths.
Kurt slid his fingers forward, trapping Blaine's with his. “What was it? In the chimney?”
“Well. We fed down a hook to pull out whatever had been the incendiary, and I see this charred red coat with white fur. I won't lie to you, I got sick to my stomach and my knees buckled. Turns out that it was one of those life-sized, store-front Santa Clauses, though. The owner of the house had stolen it previously, jammed it in the chimney to excite his kids or something, and forgot about it. And then built a fire.”
“Blaine, that's...that's kind of scary. People could have really been hurt.”
Blaine pulled his hand back, his features smoothing out a bit to cool politeness. “That's what I do, Kurt. These are the calls we laugh at.”
He was trying to tell Kurt something, Kurt understood that, but he didn't know what to do with it. The ones Blaine thought of as “funny” or “ridiculous” still left Kurt filled with dread. What if Blaine had fallen off the roof? What if the people in the attic weren't dolls but were real?
Kurt blinked; Blaine's face looking so tired and sad all of a sudden. “Kurt, this is...this is the reality. But--” Blaine sighed. “--we're really good at what we do. I'm really good at what I do.”
Kurt held one hand out, palm up. Blaine took him up on the offer. Kurt traced his finger along the callouses on the pads of Blaine's fingertips, along the edge of his palm. “The thought of you getting hurt...” Kurt said softly, “That's--” He exhaled sharply, looking into Blaine's eyes. He wanted Blaine to know that he mattered to Kurt, his well being, his being around for a long time. It was completely selfish of Kurt. He was completely okay with that. He just didn’t know how to say it yet.
They sat like that, touching, but distant, until their food arrived. Kurt had never felt less like eating. Blaine didn't have the same concerns, it seemed, as he immediately began spooning curries and vegetables onto his plate, encouraging Kurt to try the Pad See Ew.
Kurt was able to shake off the dread that had crept in during Blaine's stories and focus on what was happening now. He was out with a gorgeous and charming man, they were eating delicious food-- Blaine had definitely been right about that-- and when Kurt wasn't worried about possible horrendous outcomes, found that he was really enjoying himself.
They finished their meal with far more relaxed chatter. Blaine spent several minutes trying to convince Kurt to read some dystopian novel that he had found at the fire station.
Kurt laughed. “Clearly you’ve never been to Ohio, or you’d know that I’ve already lived a dystopian novel. And you know...” Kurt wiped the corner of his mouth and laid his napkin on the table. “I’ve always much preferred the romances where they have a happily ever after.” He flashed a cheeky grin at Blaine as he moved aside for the waiter to remove his plate.
Blaine smiled down at his hands resting at the edge of the table, murmuring a “thank you” as the waiter removed his plate as well.
Kurt paid the check, pleased yet slightly embarrassed by the sincere thank you from Blaine. They headed outside; streetlights and billboards weren't as romantic to gaze at as the stars would have been, but that was one of the prices you paid for living in the city.
Kurt looked up at the sky for a moment before asking, “Feel like walking?”
Blaine shrugged his jacket on, seemed to think better of it, and pulled it off again to drape over one arm. “Yeah, that'd be nice.”
Kurt smiled and smoothed the front of Blaine's shirt, made bunchy from pulling off his jacket. Blaine caught his hand and held it to his chest for a moment, stealing a quick kiss from Kurt's cheek. “I'm sorry if I've ruined your plans, I didn't mean to make things uncomfortable for you earlier.”
It was Kurt's turn to steal his own kiss as he rubbed his thumb across Blaine's chest where his hand was still held. “You didn't ruin anything. Now,” he chirped, sliding Blaine's arm through the crook of his elbow. “Which direction is your place? Because I need to see pictures of you in high school. There has to have been an awkward phase, something to make you seem more human.”
Laughing, Blaine pointed across the street, towing Kurt along. “Awkward phase? I don't know what you mean.”
Kurt cuddled in a bit, letting Blaine lead the way, and said, “Then I demand to see pictures of you as an ten year old Cary Grant.”
They had easy conversation on the long walk to Blaine's apartment on the other side of the neighborhood from where Kurt lived. It was starting to get a little muggy, so Kurt was grateful when Blaine pointed at his home. His apartment felt cozy. It wasn't Kurt's first choice in furniture and style, but it suited Blaine. Dark wood, well worn leather chairs, old pieces of furniture that looked as if they had been thoughtfully collected over the years.
Kurt excused himself to freshen up; if there was one thing Kurt Hummel hated, it was sweating. It felt so undignified. He was pleased to see that the hallway was tidy, as was the restroom.
So he's not a secret slob...
There were two doors on the right, the first led to the facilities, the other – and the door was open, he wasn't being nosy, well, not too nosy – was to Blaine's bedroom. He filed away the fact that the bed was large, looked incredibly comfortable, and wasn't overly crowded with pillows. It was hard to get to bed quickly when you had to spend a few minutes moving decorative pillows.
Mostly he was just concerned for Blaine's ability to get a good night's sleep, that was all. He didn't have any other thoughts about how Blaine’s sheets would feel against his bare skin, or how warm and inviting the whole bedroom looked. He certainly didn’t think of sneaking in there to test the mattress’s comfort level with a few bounces. He didn’t have any thoughts like that. None at all. That would be pushy and nosy, and Kurt was never--
Okay, he was pushy and nosy, but he knew he shouldn’t be. So he didn't peek in the medicine cabinet, he didn't open any drawers; he washed his hands, face and neck, smoothed his hair as much as possible, and felt filled with virtue. He tried to make up for the lascivious thoughts he’d had about that bed. Except for how he hadn't had any. He cleared his throat and patted a little cold water onto his cheeks to cool them down.
He found Blaine in the kitchen pouring them glasses of ice water. “I have other things, beer... I can make you a drink if you'd prefer?”
“No, this is fine, thank you.”
There was a photograph on the fridge of an older woman that must be Blaine's mother. She had the same big smile, the same pale olive complexion and wavy hair; she had her arms wrapped around Blaine's waist.
“My mother. We took that at the end of the summer last year.”
Kurt smiled at Blaine before turning back to the picture. “I'm going to have to ask her what she uses in her hair to get that shine.”
Blaine laughed. “Well, next time I talk with her, I'll ask.”
“Does she live close by?”
Blaine looked over Kurt's shoulder, chewing on the inside of his cheek. He ran his hand down Kurt's arm, tugging him towards the living room. Kurt settled into the Chesterfield far enough to the middle that he could accidentally on purpose bump knees with Blaine, except for how Blaine sat in the large chair next to the sofa, instead.
“She does not live close by,” Blaine replied coolly. “She's about twenty-one hours away when you're lucky to get only one stop-over.”
Kurt sat there, not sure how to broach the topic. Either Blaine would want to tell him or he wouldn't. He thought about having his dad be so far away and felt a shudder. Even after eight years of not living in his dad's house full time, he still thought of it as home, and it was because of who was there waiting for him.
Blaine looked as if he was carefully choosing his words. “After my father...died, living here was too much for her. Oh, this was my house growing up.”
That's why it feels so comfortable and lived in.
“It was just...too many memories here. Her life was pretty wrapped up with my father. Her family back in Manila wanted us to move in with them. Family's important, and back there families all just live together. That's weird here in the States, I know, but...” He trailed off with a shrug.
“But you stayed.”
Blaine shifted in his chair, sinking down into it. Kurt had another of his heartaches for him; he looked so alone.
“Well, yeah. I had my job, the guys – oh, and Sonja's one of the guys, she told us to call her that – and they've been my family since I can remember. I grew up playing in the fire station; the older guys were like my uncles. We didn't have enough money to fly back to the Philippines often, so I didn't really know those people. Like I said--” he hesitated for a moment, then took a sip of water. “--family is important.”
Kurt curled into the side of the sofa, facing Blaine and propping his head on his hand. “When my mother died, it was really just the two of us, my dad and I. I have a distant aunt, but my dad can't stand her, so...” He shrugged. “It was just the two of us. When I was in high school, he had a heart attack and was in a coma. Then it was just me. He had been dating a woman, they're married now, Carole, but she was just the woman my dad was seeing, because she hadn't been there since I was little, you know? She was nice, I liked her very much, but I had been the one that made sure he ate vegetables, I had been the one that made sure he wasn't killing himself with work, I was the one that had always been there for him like he'd always been there for me.”
Blaine traced his finger along the edge of the glass, staring intensely at the ice cubes.
“Blaine, I'm sorry. I didn't mean to turn this into something about m--”
“No, please.” Blaine looked up at Kurt with watery eyes. “Please, I want to know.”
Kurt sighed, staring at his hands in his lap, wanting nothing more than to reach out and hold on to Blaine, for both of their sakes. Remembering that horrible time brought all of those fears back again.
“Well.” Kurt sighed. “After a period of time that felt like forever, he finally woke up. And he knew I had been there, he knew. It was okay to share him after that. It was okay to let someone else help me care for him. She's pretty great, Carole. And you met Finn.” He glanced over at Blaine, who had the side of his face resting on the edge of the chair, watching him intently.
The distance between them was like a deep ache in his bones, the kind that was hard to reach. That, coupled with the painful memories of that horrible time in his life, made him want to connect with Blaine more fully, make him see that Kurt knew a fraction of what he felt, and help them both shake off that agony so they could move forward. Maybe even together.
“I understand, Blaine. Family. It's important. Please come sit with me.”
Blaine rose and held his hand out; when Kurt took it, he tugged Kurt to his lap. The large chair was nice, but Blaine's arms wrapped around him, holding him, that was where the comfort was. Blaine pressed his face to Kurt's neck, just breathing him in.
Blaine's voice was a quiet rumble against Kurt's skin. “You know. Other people, they don't get what it's like to lose someone. But you know.” Blaine tilted his head back looking up at Kurt as the knuckles of his hand traced pathways along Kurt's cheek, “And you're so...it sounds crazy, but I don't know how else to describe you, you're so alive. I know what it was like for you growing up back there, I know the things you've had to deal with. But you're just...”
His hand trailed to Kurt's chest, thumb working lightly over Kurt's collarbone, eyes downcast. “You're the most determined person I've ever met. You just...push forward. You're happy.”
Kurt ran his hand through Blaine's curls, tugging them a little to get him to look him in the eye. “Well, I'm a Hummel. That's who we are.” He grinned lopsidedly and continued raking his fingers through Blaine's hair.
“Your dad must be a hell of a guy.”
Kurt laughed. “He is. He taught me to not back down from what I want in life.”
“It shows.” His arms tightened around Kurt as he kissed the sensitive area behind Kurt's ear, drawing the tip of his nose along the edge of it. “What do you want in life?” he murmured.
“Nngh, for you to not stop doing that, for one,” Kurt breathed.
Blaine seemed happy to oblige. “But really. Tell me.” His mouth worked along the nape of Kurt's neck radiating shivers to every limb in Kurt's body.
“Hmm, okay I need to rethink the never stopping that, because I'm not going to able to, ahh!” Kurt jerked at the ticklish sensation of Blaine lightly running his teeth over Kurt's earlobe. Blaine chuckled, still nibbling, sending another bout of tingly chills down Kurt's arms.
Kurt played with Blaine's hair after he buried his face in the crook of Kurt's neck, evidently content with listening. “It turns out that I really enjoy design. This would come as no surprise to anyone I knew back home, but I always imagined myself on stage. The problem is getting on stage. I'm not going to stop trying, I don't know how to do that--”
Blaine murmured against his neck, squeezing him for a brief moment. Kurt would be perfectly fine with never moving from where he was, as long as Blaine kept doing that to his skin.
“Mm. But I'd love to branch out from just theater. It would be amazing to design for the next Gaga. So I want that; I want a Tony for best performance, best musical, best everything for my as-yet-unwritten one man show, Kurt Hummel: The Kurt Hummel Experience,” Kurt quipped. “There will be, of course, multiple costume changes and plenty of original music.”
Kurt felt his heart racing, a little afraid of saying out loud what he really wanted, as he was becoming more aware that he might actually be close to getting it. Blaine kissed his shoulder while his palm skimmed up and down Kurt's back.
“What else?” Blaine asked, his voice muffled as he was lightly kissing along Kurt's collarbone.
This is crazy, this is...gah. Kurt shuddered out a breath. “Someone to share it with, of course.”
Blaine's hand stilled on his back for the briefest of moments, then started its circuitous path again. “What's this someone like?”
“Oh, he's ridiculously tall, very blond, a brilliant mathematician, hideous face; I don't want him to outshine me-- Ahh!”
Blaine had tipped Kurt forward over the edge of the chair, laughing, before pulling him back and settling Kurt next to him, pulling Kurt's legs over his lap and the arm of the chair.
Kurt's grin stretched from ear to ear. “Love it, especially when it comes from a bottle.” Kurt wrapped one of Blaine's dark curls around his finger. “It speaks of vanity and insecurity, mm, can't get enough of that in a man.”
Blaine chewed on the inside of his cheek, a smile fighting to break free, Kurt was amused to see.
Blaine cleared his throat. “So let me make sure I've got it, in case I find this guy for you.”
“Very considerate of you; go ahead.”
“Blond, but fake blond.”
Kurt buried both hands into Blaine’s dark curls, massaging his scalp a little. “Mm hmm.”
“Ugly, that's key, right?”
Kurt dipped his head to kiss behind Blaine's ear and breathed, “Essential.”
“And he's smart, but only in the area of adding up numbers and solving formulas.”
Kurt traced his lips over Blaine's sideburn, hiding his smile; he made a mental note to add teasing Blaine to his list of favorite things to do. He purred, “It's the musty smell of chalk boards; it makes me go crazy,”
“Now, mrph--Kurt...” Blaine sighed as Kurt kissed the corner of Blaine’s mouth, “--when you say tall...”
Kurt cupped Blaine's face, running his thumbs over Blaine's eyebrows and leaning in to softly pepper kisses along his forehead. “I mean so long and lanky that a strong wind will knock him over. Bony to the point of being ungainly.”
Blaine sighed, closing his eyes as Kurt kissed him gently. “Sounds unbelievable.”
Kurt pulled back, hooking a finger under the crisp collar of Blaine's button-down and affecting dismayed melancholy. “Fantasies usually are.”
Blaine shook with quiet laughter. Kurt shifted in the chair so he could lay his head on Blaine's shoulder, running his finger tip along the front placket of Blaine's shirt. “What about you? What do you want?” Kurt quietly asked.
“Shouldn't I be in your lap, Santa?”
Kurt flicked one of Blaine's buttons. “Hrmph. Really, though.”
Blaine settled in, holding one of Kurt's thighs and keeping them close. “I want for my career to stay as it is now, with people I care about and trust. I'm not that interested in moving up the ladder; I didn't think I'd be where I was by now, truthfully.”
“Let's put an asterisk on that for later.”
Blaine continued petting Kurt’s thigh. “Mm. I want to finish out the spare bedroom – my old room – and turn it into a place where I could maybe play music. I have an upright piano jammed in there under boxes, somewhere.”
“So, big dreams?”
Blaine laughed, squeezing Kurt's side with one hand. “Hey, I had to hear about Sven the giant skeletal math nerd.”
They held each other for a moment, quiet and still. Kurt felt like he was on the brink of something monumental, and was facing the choice of tipping one way or the other over the edge.
When he was back in Lima, he'd felt so isolated from his friends who had dated, loved, broke up, got back together, all with what seemed a relative ease. And all while Kurt sat and watched from the outside, alone. When his father had been in the hospital, it was another huge moment in his life where he had no one to share the burden, no one that could understand what it would mean to him if the worst had happened. He'd had to deal with it all alone. His friends did their best when they remembered, even his teachers tried to help, but they couldn't understand; it wasn't going to happen to them.
When he'd moved to New York, he'd brought his simplistic and hopeful fantasy that once he was here, he would be free of all of the fetters from his small town. He would be happy, free, and able to find love in abundance. That didn't happen because that wasn't how life worked, he'd discovered. He had come close on different occasions, met new people, had life come at him hard and fast, and he'd learned a lot more about himself. He could stand strong on his own, and he didn't need to waste his time with people who couldn't do likewise. He'd realized he didn't need to be in a constant whirlwind of social events and have date after meaningless date to be happy.
He knew what he wanted, and he was a Hummel: when they wanted something, they went for it.
But. Every time he let himself fantasize about what life might be with Blaine, he couldn't help but remember we die. Nothing had frightened or isolated Kurt like the thought of losing his dad. He just didn't know if he could give someone his heart only to have it destroyed. Protecting himself from being hurt had long been ingrained in him, and he didn't know how to let that go, even when the payoff was someone as thoughtful and wonderful as Blaine seemed to be. He just didn't know.
Blaine broke the silence. “I mentioned that I hadn't really dated since my dad passed, right?”
“Honestly, I didn't date much before that. I either met guys that just liked the whole fireman image--” He looked sideways at Kurt, smiling softly while nudging Kurt's shoulder. “--or that didn't even matter to them at all. They were just looking for someone for the night. That's, um, not really my thing.”
He threaded his fingers through the back of Kurt's hair, feeling so good and warm that Kurt closed his eyes and leaned in towards the pleasant heat that just seemed to always pour off of Blaine's body.
Blaine continued. “I really want to find someone that will care for me, will let me care for them, as well. Someone kind and fun and charming. Someone tough on their own, but not with me. I want a reason to come home.”
Kurt chest ached. He let out a shuddery sigh and slipped his arm behind Blaine to hold him more closely. “Sounds like an amazing person.”
“Mm hm. He is. So far.”
“Blaine...I--” Kurt pulled back, needing to look into Blaine's eyes. “I don't know what it is about you-- Well, that's not true. You're handsome and sweet, you're a perfect gentleman, and I can barely think straight when I'm with you.”
Blaine began to open his mouth to say something, but Kurt stopped him, needing him to understand. “But.”
Blaine closed his eyes, turning his head slightly away and sighed. “But.”
“But. I have a hard time with loss. I think you can understand that. No, I know you can. You're someone I could really care about.” Kurt turned Blaine's face back, waiting for Blaine to look at him again. “This is incredibly hard for me to say this to you. I don't...I don't do this. Set myself up for hurt, I don't do that.” Well, not for a long time.
It seemed like Blaine was holding his breath. That makes two of us. Kurt inhaled deeply. “I'm trying to remember that I might not get hurt. But it's not easy for me, not after years of being proven wrong.”
“This is who I am, Kurt. This is the life I have. And I don't want to get hurt, either. Before I fall too--” Blaine sighed as he stroked his thumb back and forth along the sensitive tendon in Kurt's neck, sending chills and heat down Kurt’s spine in equal measure. “Before I get in too deep, I need to know that you're not going to turn tail and run if I have a bad day at work.”
Kurt choked out a bitter laugh, drawing Blaine into his arms and holding him close. “Bad day?”
Blaine pushed himself back enough to take Kurt's face in his hands and look into Kurt's eyes, pleading. “That's what it is. It's a bad day. But, you know, without hyperbole.”
Shaking slightly, Kurt nodded briskly and gently kissed Blaine, just a soft pressure of lips. “Okay,” he breathed. “I...okay.”
Blaine made a needy sound and returned his kiss, hungry and desperate for Kurt to let him. Kurt snaked his arms around Blaine's neck again, drawing him as close as he could, desperate in his own way to connect. He was terrified and unsure, but he knew he wasn't ready to walk away.
Blaine broke their kiss, gasping a little before running his mouth lightly over Kurt's neck, nuzzling the hair behind Kurt's ear. He whispered, “I need you to understand.” His strong hands were flat on Kurt's back, holding him so tightly. “I need you.”
There wasn't enough air. It was that, or Kurt's chest couldn't expand enough. He just wasn't sure. He didn't know if he could trust himself to make a smart decision when Blaine held him like that, said things like he needed Kurt, that he wanted him. If he gave in to his feelings, he'd be wrapped up in fireman on the King-sized bed he'd spied earlier, pouring everything he had into Blaine, wanting to fill him up so he never looked sad and closed off again.
And what did that mean, that he was thinking of how to be there for Blaine already, wanting to support him, care for him? With Thomas it had been exciting to have someone pay him interest, to have someone to do fun things with, but it had always felt like such an “in the moment” experience. With Blaine he instantly pictured years ahead, how much his dad would like him, how to integrate him into his life. Surely that must mean something?
For all of the similarities he was finding that there were between them, the differences were even more intriguing. Kurt attacked every day like it was a battle for success, laughing at the naysayers. Blaine watched the day, looking for ways to put out his hand and help someone else. Where Kurt gauged the best time to sing and expose himself -- he was never as exposed and open as when he sang -- Blaine leaped on stage with his showman’s performance, a mask of bravado and confidence that Kurt was just beginning to recognize.
Kurt teased about his feelings, always ready to pull them back as if he was only joking. Blaine laid himself bare, hoping Kurt would accept him. And he wanted to, oh, he wanted to so much. But he was completely terrified of being shattered into pieces, pulverized by the very real “what if” that came along with falling for Blaine Anderson.
“Kurt,” Blaine pleaded. “Kiss me.”
It would be so easy to let go, to fall into whatever could be with Blaine. Kurt poured all of his wishes and needs into kissing Blaine, trying to express the feelings building in him that he couldn't yet say. Blaine gasped into his mouth, clutching Kurt's sides when Kurt slipped his tongue in, warm and wanting.
Blaine pulled on Kurt's hips to get him to straddle in him in the chair as he tipped his head back, his hands holding Kurt, his eyes filled with worry and need and desire. One of Blaine's hands skimmed from Kurt's hip under his sweater, hot and delightfully rough on the small of his back. Kurt bit back a moan as heat pooled low in his belly at the contact. Kurt held his face as he kissed him softly, pulling back and trying to not let himself get carried away.
Blaine mouthed along the neckline of Kurt's sweater, pulling it down gently with one finger to kiss along his collarbone as Kurt tried to hold on to any semblance of control he had left. When Blaine's other hand glided past his waist to grip Kurt’s backside – tentatively at first to make sure it was okay, Kurt noted – they had come to a point where a decision had to be made. Kurt pulled back in earnest, resting their foreheads together in order to give himself a moment to catch his breath and wait for the world to stop spinning.
“I...I think I need to go.”
Blaine didn't answer, but his hands continued to slide up under Kurt's sweater, fingertips lightly ghosting down Kurt's sides, just to repeat the pattern all over again.
“I don't want to go. But I think I need to.”
“I don't want you to leave,” Blaine replied, kissing the corner of Kurt's swollen mouth. “But I think I understand.”
Kurt shuddered at the touch, at Blaine's warm body, his rough and strong hands, his sweet mouth. “Please don't be mad,” he whispered, almost afraid to look Blaine in the eyes and see him upset, or worse, hurt.
“Hey. Hey,” Blaine said, pulling Kurt close for a hug. “I'm not. I couldn't be.”
“I really just can't think clearly when you do that,” Kurt said, kissing Blaine's hair. “And you deserve it. Me really thinking. I don't want to hurt you.”
They sat like that for a few moments, arms wrapped around each other, still and aware of the line they'd come close to crossing.
Kurt pulled back. “Can I call you tomorrow?”
“You better,” Blaine replied, not able to smile but tracing his knuckles down Kurt's cheek.
Kurt extricated himself from Blaine's hold, only to wrap him back up in a tight embrace at Blaine's door, not ready to leave just yet. He gave Blaine a lingering kiss outside in the hallway, followed by another lingering kiss behind Blaine's ear after promising to call tomorrow.
He turned back at the bottom of the stairs and saw Blaine standing in the doorway, alone, watching him leave. It took a lot to not run back up there and stay the night.