Title: Where There's Smoke [7/12+]
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: 7800/100,000
Warnings: Dealing with the grief of loss due to loved ones perishing while fighting fires.
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]
This is Blaine's fire station, btw. :) [eagle eyes will notice someone's bike.] And artwork! Made for
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Kurt sprawled on the small sofa - the mud mask presently drying on his face would make sure his skin was in perfect condition before seeing Blaine tonight - flipping through a magazine as he waited for the timer to ding when Rachel came in.
Well, stormed in was more like it.
“You know Sister?”
Kurt stiffly turned to face her, conscious of how immovable his face was. He forced just the tiniest of lip movement when he asked, “Huh?”
“Sister. Sister the weird homeless man fixated on your from the number 3 train? Ooh, is that the new avocado mask you got last week? Is it good?”
Kurt gave her a thumbs up, nodding, then made an impatient hand gesture to get her back on topic. “An'?”
“Oh, right.” Rachel dropped all of her things in a huge pile at her feet, earning an irritated huff of displeasure from Kurt.
“I'll get it in a minute.” She sat at the other end of the sofa, pulling Kurt's legs into her lap. “He basically chased me through four cars wanting to know where you were. I assume so, because he kept asking for the pretty Sister lady-man.”
It wasn't easy to look disgruntled and offended when your immobile face was in varying shades of green mud and your bangs were held back with a terrycloth headband, but Kurt was fairly certain that he managed it. “Wha a weer'oh,” he hissed through his frozen lips.
“I was horribly traumatized by it. A very nice older man stepped in front of me and told him to leave me alone, it was incredibly chivalrous.”
Kurt turned and fixed her with a blank stare, only because his face wouldn't move into the sarcastic smirk he was thinking. “How chi-uhl-ous?”
“Kurt, no offense, but why don't we save this until you've washed that off? And he was old, so that kind of chivalrous.”
She kicked her shoes off, flinging them towards the growing pile of work materials she had shed, and sighed, resting her head on the back of the sofa. She turned her face to look at Kurt. “I didn't get the understudy role.”
It's been long enough, to hell with this. Kurt forced his eyebrows into a sympathetic expression, wincing slightly at the crackling sensation. “I'm sorry, Rach. They're idiots if they can't see how much more talented you are than whatever undeserving bimbo that got the part.”
She smiled thankfully, massaging his calves a little. He gave her hand a sympathetic squeeze, then headed off to the bathroom to clean his face.
“Hey,” Rachel shouted, “what's with the mask? Oh, I know! Someone has a da-ate,” she sing-songed.
Kurt dropped the washcloth in the sink and poked his head out the door. “Don't be childish, Rachel.”
He patted his face dry, hung up his towel and walked calmly back to her before doing a little shimmy. “I do! I'm going to meet him for karaoke tonight.”
Rachel clasped her hands together, beaming up at him. “You're going? Oh, good. David asked me to come, too, but I didn't want to go by myself.”
Kurt sat next to her, his thoughts all concern for her. “Not having fun anymore?”
“Oh, no, I am, I just want to keep things nice and light like they've been. Is Blaine coming to get you?”
“No, I'm meeting him there.”
“Even better. I can walk with you, and then it'll feel more casual.”
“You're so weird.”
Rachel giggled and tugged on Kurt's arm. “You love that about me.”
Kurt had a brief moment of deja vu as he and Rachel rounded the corner to Smokey’s. He ran through a mental checklist of his outfit's components and accessories. No, he wasn’t repeating anything. Rachel happily picked up any slack in the conversation from his end by filling him in on the next audition she had at the Barrow Street Theater.
As they started down the stairs to the sub-street pub, Kurt saw Blaine standing off to the side just at the bottom, waiting for him, and felt his heart rate speed up.
“...but I know that I have far more experience than...those chickens wearing rubber boots.” Rachel elbowed him and said, “I guess we’ll finish this later.”
“Sounds like a real challenge, Rachel, you can do it. Get some chicken boots of your own,” Kurt sighed, not listening at all. “Hi, Blaine,” he exhaled, not paying attention to anything or anyone but the person right in front of him. Kurt loved that Blaine was impeccable outside of his uniform, traditionally preppy and undeniably handsome. The soft expression and tiniest of smiles, All for me, were the particular elements of Blaine's appearance that he loved best.
Blaine pulled him into a warm, full body hug and kissed his cheek. “I'm glad you came. Come say hi to Wes and Emily.”
Kurt happily allowed himself to be towed through the pub, taken aback, but in a pleasant way, when various people from the fire house waved hello to him.
“Hey, Kurt, glad to see you made it,” Wes greeted. “This is my fiance, Emily. Emily, this is Kurt.”
A petite woman with the most gorgeous black hair that fell down her back in a silken sheet hopped off her stool to give Kurt a hug. “I've heard so much about you! Oh my God, are those Paolo Pecora trousers? Where did you get them?” she shrieked, tugging Kurt into the stool next to hers. “We don't even have those yet, who is your supplier?”
“Well, I think it's safe to say they'll get along,” Blaine drawled, laughing with Wes.
Emily and Kurt caught up on all of the latest fall designs starting to turn up, even though the summer wasn't even at the half-way point. Within moments Kurt had decided that she was fabulous, and it wasn't just because she offered to get him a discount within the first few minutes of chatting. But it didn't hurt.
Blaine slipped an arm around his waist, an eyebrow cocked as he leaned in as if to make sure Kurt wouldn't mind. Kurt, eyes downcast as he fought back a smile, leaned into Blaine's arm, rubbing the flat of his hand briefly on Blaine's chest, getting a slightly bashful smile of his own in return. Blaine pressed his lips close to Kurt's ear, sending shivers down his spine. “Would you like something to drink?”
His insides were bubbling and sparkling, and a flush spread across his cheeks at the contact so freely given among Blaine’s friends and co-workers. “Whatever you're having is fine.”
Blaine nuzzled Kurt's hairline behind his ear for a brief moment before continuing. “I'm having a beer, are you sure?”
Well, I'll hopefully be tasting that from your lips tonight, so... “Yes, that's fine.” He wasn't completely comfortable in this environment for a PDA, but he was hungry for attention from Blaine after their forced separation of the past two weeks and it was pretty dark in the pub.... He dashed a small kiss to Blaine's cheek, hoping he wouldn't be offended.
Blaine's eyes sparkled with amusement as he walked backwards to the bar, giving Kurt a wink before turning to talk with the bartender.
Kurt turned back to Emily, who was fanning herself and smirking at him.
“Well, what?” Kurt asked, slightly embarrassed to have been watched.
Emily looked to Wes, but he was engrossed in conversation with someone else. She spun Kurt in his bar stool so their knees were touching and pulled him over close so he could hear over the din.
“Oh! I...okay, I'm looking this way now, I guess.”
“Kurt. What have you done to Blaine!”
Nothing yet! “Um, what do you mean?”
She narrowed her eyes, laughing. “You just got Blaine to wink. Salaciously. In public. In front of the guys.”
“Is that not...he doesn't do that?”
“To who, David? Blaine doesn't-- Hmm, how do I put this...”
Wes leaned in between them and said, “Blaine doesn't flirt,” and went back to his conversation. He seemed to reconsider something and leaned back, quickly adding, “Anymore.”
Kurt felt like he was getting conversational whiplash. He held Emily's hand and asked, “When's the last time Blaine dated someone?”
Emily sat back, a thoughtful look on her face. “It's been a while. He wasn't seeing anyone seriously before his dad and Jerry died in that apartment fire last year. As far as I know, he's not seen anyone since.”
Kurt watched Blaine at the bar, chatting easily with his co-workers, laughing and relaxed. He chewed on his bottom lip before asking, “So how he is right now? That's not how he always is?”
Emily twisted around to look at Blaine over her shoulder before sighing and turning back. “He used to be. Wes has known Blaine since high school, and I met Blaine when Wes and I started dating four years ago. Blaine was so fun; the guys all loved him. It makes sense that they pushed to make him captain after his father died. He'd been their leader in one way or another for years.”
Kurt couldn't pull his eyes away from Blaine, now listening intently to another co-worker, squeezing his arm and clapping him on the shoulder. “His dad was captain?”
“No, his dad was Chief. Jerry was the captain, but when he died... Has Blaine not told you any of this?”
“Well, no. I knew his father had died, obviously, but it seemed like something he didn’t want to talk about. I knew he'd tell me in his own time.” Kurt said simply, “I didn't want to push him into anything that would be uncomfortable.”
Emily gave him an evaluating look and nodded to herself. “I see what it is.”
“I beg your pardon?”
She patted Kurt's hand. “What it is about you. Come on, let's put our names on the singer's list.”
“Oh, nonono,” he begged, helpless against this tiny whirlwind of determination. She's worse than Rachel!
“Come on, Kurt! I'm a terrible singer, you'll see. But it's so much fun! Also, it gets Wes excited,” she waggled her eyebrows suggestively, bursting into laughter. “And I've heard that you sing, too, so this will be great.”
Kurt pulled back on her hand, trying to get her to stop. “Emily. Emily. Wait, how did you know that I sing?”
“Please, firemen are the biggest gossips around. They sit around in a big room for hours at a time waiting to get a call, what else are they going to do?”
“Moisturize? Read? Pilates?”
She wrote their names on the list and bumped her hip into his. “Trust me. Now go back to the bar, because someone looks like they're lonely without you.”
Kurt turned back to the bar, and sure enough, Blaine was standing there holding two beers, scanning the crowd for him with a mild look of worry. He caught Blaine's attention with a chest-high wave, and Blaine's face relaxed into a relieved smile. Kurt slipped in next to him and whispered in his ear, “Worried I'd leave?”
“Mm. Hey, wait a minute.” Blaine turned to give Kurt his full attention. “Are you going to sing tonight?”
Kurt hadn't felt this nervous about a performance since high school when his glee club went to Nationals without any idea of what they'd be singing. “Maybe? It wasn't my idea.”
Blaine nudged Kurt with knee. “I'm dying to hear you sing. I'll sing anything you want, your pick, if that helps.”
“Anything, huh?” Kurt narrowed his eyes. “Because I could make this really fun.”
“You already are,” Blaine replied, pulling him into a side hug and pressing a small kiss to Kurt's cheek.
I guess I'm going to have to get used to all of this public affection if I'm going to be dating... Oh. Damn.
As Blaine was pulled off into various conversations as the evening progressed, Kurt decided it was time for him to make a concerted effort to meet the people that were such an important part of Blaine’s life. He must have met three Johns and four Daves, and all of their wives or girlfriends appeared to be named Michelle or Renee. At least he had a fifty percent chance of getting their names right. He found Rachel with David, laughing over a set list they were daring each other to sing. Kurt was amused, because clearly David didn't understand that Rachel would sing at the drop of a hat; it didn't matter what the song was.
Sometimes Blaine was pulled away for a conversation, but he always made a point of keeping an eye out for Kurt, sending him apologetic looks if it was for more than a few minutes. Kurt didn't mind; he was slowly relaxing around everyone. They all seemed to know who he was to some degree. I guess they are a bunch of gossips.
One of the Renees – wearing an unfortunate pair of track pants and frosted tips in her harshly styled hairdo and sporting a thick Worcester accent – bemoaned the way her husband dressed off duty and asked if Kurt would give him some advice. Kurt asked who her husband was. She pointed out a man that couldn't be less than 6'2” and looked more like a door with a head and arms than a regular man, and he was dressed head to toe in biker gear.
“Hm, I don't know if I could convince him to wear a pair of espadrilles, Renee.”
She sighed and patted his arm absentmindedly. “You're probably right. He only likes those tighty whities, but I'm going to have to look up on the internets what those underpants are; I bet they're wicked sexy.”
Kurt almost sputtered his beer all over his shirt.
“Hi, Renee, how are the kids?”
“Hey, Blaine! Oh, growing like weeds.” Renee patted Blaine's arm and tipped him an exaggerated wink. “You two have fun; I need to try and get John drunk enough to try to wear some ep-sadrills in the boo-dware.” She gave them a lascivious look as she sashayed off to her husband.
“What? I...” Blaine looked hopelessly confused.
Kurt couldn't help but double over from laughing. “I think she thinks espadrilles are some kind of kinky panty. I don't know, she just... wow.”
Blaine cracked up. “That should make tomorrow's shift fun.” Blaine jerked his head towards the back of the room. Kurt took his hand and followed him to a corner table, where Blaine pushed two chairs close enough together so that he ended up pressing his entire side against Kurt's. “I've been waiting to have you all to myself all night.”
Kurt took a deep breath to try and slow his racing heart. He buried his face in Blaine's neck, feeling more comfortable with physicality in the dark, quiet corner. “I've missed you.”
Blaine tipped Kurt's chin up so he could look into his eyes. “Have you?”
There was no denying how Kurt felt, he realized. All that was left was to make the decision to act on it.. He leaned forward the few inches between them to touch his lips softly to the corner of Blaine's mouth, delighted to hear the hitch in Blaine's breath. “Yes. So much.”
They sat together, feeling alone for all the noise and activity in the room, and just held space together, Kurt finally letting himself enjoy it without worry. “Blaine...”
Blaine traced his knuckles gently up and down Kurt's arm, his eyes questioning, filled with hope. It made Kurt's heart race to see.
“Kurt! Come on, you're up!”
Emily. Oh, he wanted to strangle that adorable, wee little hellion discount-giver for all of the designers Kurt loved. She seemed to realize that she'd interrupted something and her face was all apology.
“It's just that you're next, and this song is almost over, and I'm going after you, and I wanted you to give me courage because I really can't sing,” she raced.
Kurt gave Blaine's knee a squeeze, tried to swallow his nerves, and dropped a small kiss on Blaine's cheek. “My curtain call.”
Blaine smiled softly at him. “I can't wait.”
Emily muttered an apology to Blaine before she towed Kurt to the small platform that served as the stage. “Rachel and David picked your song; Rachel kind of insisted,” Emily said, making a small face.
I guess those two haven't hit it off.
Kurt glanced at the screen before stepping up on stage to see which song Rachel had chosen for him. Oh. David had finished his song and passed the mic to Kurt.
“Knock 'em dead, bro.”
Kurt gave him a weak smile. Well, the song's quiet enough that maybe those bruisers won't be able to hear me over their argument about the merits of Dog the Bounty Hunter, or whatever.
The quiet guitar intro to The Beatles “Blackbird” spilled out of the speakers. Kurt closed his eyes and began to sing. “Blackbird singing in the dead of night....”
As soon as he was in his moment, when the music and his voice blended and carried him away, any worries that he had about the crowd and their reaction to his higher-pitched voice, and any worries about building a relationship with Blaine melted away.
“Take these broken wings and learn to fly.”
He let go of any thought of being technically proficient; he knew he was. He wasn't hampered by fears of rejection; the music accepted him. Everything was clear, everything happened exactly as it should when he was on stage. He opened his eyes and scanned the crowd, slightly shocked yet incredibly pleased to see that most of the crowd had quieted down and were listening to him as he sang.
“All your life, you were only waiting for this moment to to be free.”
He looked towards the far right to where Blaine was saving their table. Blaine was perfectly still, watching him. This was who Kurt was: his heart, his abilities, all of it wrapped in a beautiful, clear voice, hoping as always that people would just listen and let him share it with them. Blaine was finally seeing that part of him; the intensity of his gaze led to a growing pink flush on Kurt's cheeks. He slowly scanned the audience to find Rachel, who had her hands clasped to her chest, beaming at him.
“Blackbird fly, into the light of the dark black night.”
He finished the song's final refrain and gave the crowd a watery smile. A huge round of applause erupted, pleasing Kurt more than he would have expected. It was gratifying that these men, these tough guys, had given him a moment to show what he could do, and more than that, they had appreciated it. He stepped off stage, murmuring “thanks” to people as they patted him, squeezed his shoulder, told him how lovely he sounded. He finally made his way back to Blaine, not quite ready to meet his eyes, for some reason. He just was...nervous. Kurt never felt as exposed as when he was singing – everything he was went into his performance. He wasn’t sure how Blaine would react to it, if everything Kurt was would still be what Blaine was looking for in someone.
Blaine stood, not taking his eyes off Kurt, and took him by the hand. “You should always be doing that. Singing.”
“Well, I'd like to,” Kurt exhaled, laughing a little from nerves.
“Kurt.” Blaine drew him into his arms, leaning them against the wall. “You...”
He was stock still, not sure of what Blaine was trying to say.
“You move me.”
Kurt held his breath. Three simple words, but they meant more to him than any other praise he'd received.
Blaine leaned in and kissed him, making quiet, needy sounds as his hand clutched at Kurt's side. Oh, to hell with it. Kurt cupped Blaine's face and kissed him back, his own needs and longing filling him to the point where his chest ached.
“Please tell me you're not going to disappear,” Blaine whispered.
Kurt gasped a little against the side of Blaine's neck, pleased and a little shocked at being so brazen in public, but unable to help himself. He thought about the other couples here tonight, how they faced the same challenges, the same fears, but still made a life for themselves.
“I don't think I could, even if I wanted to.”
Blaine brought their foreheads together, keeping his eyes closed. “Do you want to?”
Blaine held him close, rocking slightly back and forth. “I want... I want to go somewhere and have it just be the two of us. I don't mean to push you to do something you're not ready for; it's not about that. I just--” He sighed and held Kurt tighter. “I just want to be alone with you. Can we do that?”
Kurt rubbed their cheeks together softly, enjoying the sensation of Blaine's freshly shaved cheek against his. “Yes. My place is closer, but your place is, um, quieter.”
Blaine took Kurt's hand, kissed the back of his knuckles, and led him towards the front door, skirting conversations and questions and even people hollering genially after Blaine, “Where ya going?”
They hit the street level and continued on the few blocks to Blaine's home, not speaking but not feeling pressured to, either. After three streets, Blaine ducked under a business's awning, pulling Kurt flush against him and kissing him, gently at first, then more insistent as Kurt slanted his mouth and bent his knee, bringing their bodies closer.
Kurt, wondering if this was what it felt like to have an out of body experience, panted against Blaine's neck, which seemed to spur Blaine on to action. They walked swiftly, arm in arm to Blaine's home, through the entrance, and as Blaine led them to the sofa, Kurt pulled on his hand to stop him, his face aflame but his look steady as he motioned towards the hallway with his head.
“Kurt, we don't have to do any--”
Kurt walked backwards into the room with Blaine in his arms, kissing his neck, his face, unbuttoning the top two buttons to Blaine's shirt before sinking down onto the bed and pulling Blaine to him, sighing at the pleasure, the completeness of his solid weight on top of him. Blaine held himself over Kurt's body by his elbows as Kurt nosed and kissed along his neck, his shoulder, pulling Blaine's shirt open enough to kiss at his chest and collarbone.
“Mm,” he replied, running his hand up the back of Blaine's neck, burying it in his thick curls as his mouth and tongue swept up the column of Blaine's neck.
“God...” Blaine rolled to his side, lacing his fingers with Kurt's.
“Are you-- Is this okay?”
“Very.” Blaine pressed soft kisses to the inside of Kurt’s wrist, each one pushing Kurt closer to knowing what he wanted. “This all scares me, too, you know.”
“You're... Kurt, you're larger than life. I don't know if I've gotten this point across to you yet, but I really don't do this sort of thing. You're the exception.”
Kurt closed his eyes and sighed. “But I don't know why.” He curled on his side, running his free hand through Blaine's hair, down his neck and chest, circling back up to do it again.
Blaine laid on his back, pulling gently on Kurt's hand so he would drape himself across Blaine's chest. He kissed Kurt's hair, his hands trailing up and down Kurt's spine. Kurt closed his eyes, listening to Blaine's heartbeat.
“You would be so easy to love,” Kurt murmured. Blaine's hand stilled. Kurt had a hot flash of panic spike through him, he didn't mean to say that out loud.
Blaine rolled them over, holding himself up on one elbow, his free hand splayed across Kurt's chest, his eyes dark and fixed on Kurt's. “Same here.”
Kurt's heart seemed to be beating out of his chest; fortunately, Blaine's hand was there to steady him, ground him. Blaine lowered his head towards him, eyes open, soft lips parted, offering. Kurt wrapped his arms around Blaine's waist, slipping the tips of his fingers into the back pockets of Blaine's jeans, holding him close. He wasn't sure if the moan he heard was from him or Blaine; he didn't care.
Their kiss deepened, raw and slightly desperate, both of them trying to match the others' rhythm before settling into a slow rock, Kurt's hands sliding down further, holding Blaine to him more firmly. He pulled away to gasp when he felt Blaine grind against him, hard and eager.
“I'm sorry, Kurt, I shouldn't--”
“Yes, you should,” Kurt replied, grabbing Blaine's hips and pressing him close, rocking up against the wonderful friction from Blaine's body. Kurt bent his knee, pinning Blaine in place, as he threw his head back. Blaine mouthed along his neck before kissing him deeply, groaning when Kurt stroked his tongue against Blaine's.
“Kurt, I want you.”
Kurt moaned, brain shorting out a little as he sucked a kiss at the base of Blaine's throat, his hands sliding up Blaine's back, over his shoulder blades, burying his fingers in Blaine's hair, completely lost to the overwhelming sensations of being with someone that wanted him back in equal measure. “I want you, too.”
Blaine stilled his movements, pulling back slightly. “No,” Blaine smoothed Kurt's hair over his ear, worry on his face as he watched his fingers’ movement. He turned slightly to look deeply into Kurt’s eyes, his voice thrumming with intensity. “I don't mean just this. I want you.”
Kurt opened his eyes, finding Blaine inches away in the semi-dark, his eyes sleepy and sensual. No barrier thrown up, no hint of him protecting himself from Kurt's refusal. Just open and honest. And Blaine wanted him. Him.
Kurt pulled back, laying his head back on the bed, as he forced himself to think and not be caught up in a haze of lust. He drew a finger down Blaine’s chest, biting his lip as he took it all in. It could be so right between us, it could.
“I want you, too.” But. He couldn't bring himself to articulate his one big fear out loud, not just yet. It would mean more than he was ready to admit, even to himself.
Blaine's eyes closed as he sighed and held Kurt tight, murmuring unintelligible sweetness as he kissed Kurt's cheek, his neck, as his nose traced along the edge of Kurt's ear. They held each other, Kurt a little overwhelmed by the enormity of emotions he was feeling, needy and daring and a little afraid of what could happen, happy to put the brakes on, if only for him to catch his breath.
Blaine rolled to his back, pulling Kurt back on top of him, settling Kurt's full weight on his body. “To keep me from floating away,” he said, laughing slightly.
This is everything I've wanted. Almost. Kurt would be the first to admit that he was greedy. He wanted it all; he wanted to be a star, he wanted a Tony, he wanted success and admiration from his peers and he wanted so desperately to have someone by his side through it all, through all the years. He shifted to his side, running his fingertips through the small patch of hair on Blaine's exposed chest.
“I know it's not easy,” Blaine said quietly, “to be like this.” He smiled at Kurt and kissed the corner of his mouth. “It's not for me, at least.”
Kurt ran the flat of his hand over Blaine's chest, watching it rise and fall with Blaine's steady breathing. “Me, neither. But...I love being with you, being here.” Blaine held him tightly; Kurt was content to let him.
It felt safe with Blaine here, calm, even though his heart was beating like a trip-hammer. He was beginning to understand that those went together. Blaine was solid, steady, seemingly sure about how he felt, and he acted on it. It had never been easy for Kurt to decide to do something. He was reserved; he'd been conditioned by bigots since his youth to be fearful and hyper-aware of how people would react to him if he acted on his impulses.
But with Blaine, he realized it was okay to let go of his reservations. If Kurt could let go of his fears, or learn how to compartmentalize them, he could maybe love Blaine without regrets. If.
“I have...concerns,” Kurt said, kissing Blaine's clavicle to keep the connection they'd made. “I feel like there's still so much I just don't know. That.... It scares me.”
He was grateful that his face was tucked into Blaine's neck, breathing in his after-shave. He knew that if he looked into those amber eyes, he'd be lost to any rational thought.
“Me, too,” Blaine whispered as he combed his fingertips through the hair over Kurt's ear. Kurt sighed and tilted his head, wanting more contact, more Blaine.
“I want to-- I want you to know me, though.” Blaine's voice was no more than an exhale. “I need you to know me...and still want me.”
Kurt went still, taking a moment to look up at Blaine's face. Blaine's eyes were closed, eyes screwed shut, in fact. Kurt's breath grew shallow with dread.
“My dad--” Blaine paused for a moment; Kurt could feel Blaine's heartbeat speeding up under his hand. Kurt kept his hand pressed against Blaine, holding them both steady but feeling like something wonderful might be slipping away.
“I'd come out of the academy with a few years under my belt already, so they made me a Lieutenant. My dad being the Chief, and all. I told you how he wasn't, um, the easiest person to be with?”
Kurt's hand flexed on his chest, knowing that this wasn't easy for Blaine. It wasn’t easy for him, either, but this wasn’t about him. He could tell Blaine needed to say this, to finally put it out there.
“He was always worried about what the other guys would say about me if they knew. Um, about me. It's not usually something that's respected in my world; in fact, some guys have been run out of other stations when they'd come out. I tried to make my dad understand that our guys were different. They'd known me since I was a kid, and I'm pretty sure most of them had known I was gay for a long time.”
Blaine fell silent for a moment, burying his face in Kurt's thick hair as they held each other, waiting.
“But I knew that it was that my dad was ashamed of me. Ashamed of what I was. It's a big part of why I followed him into this, instead of...anything else. It's a tradition in his family, his dad was a fireman, too. He was...tough, my grandpa. On my dad, on me, on my mother.
“We had a huge fight about it a few months before-–before the accident. I wanted to introduce a--a friend to my parents, and that was too much for him. I don't want to....”
“It's okay,” Kurt whispered, holding him, sad for Blaine to be so isolated from his own father, and so grateful for his own.
Blaine cleared his throat. “He was a lot harder on me than the other guys at the station, whether to make a point that he didn't play favorites, or because he just didn't like me. Probably both. We'd get a call and he'd make a big deal of correcting anything I did, pointing out to everyone how they could do it better than I had, that sort of thing.
“I just...I kept trying, you know? Trying to make sure he had no reason to ha-- to not approve of me. Finally, I got to a point where I just snapped. We got a call right about then, and it was a big one, the whole station emptied out, it was pretty chaotic at the scene. He--”
Blaine let out a long exhale. Kurt sat up, smoothed Blaine's hair back, just being there for him as he waited, trying to be supportive. Blaine closed his eyes, letting Kurt pet his hair for a moment.
“He yelled out for me to follow him up the back staircase so he 'could keep an eye on me' so I didn't 'screw things up again.' One of the things he'd always say to me was that if I wasn't perfect, if I didn't do things just right, I'd have someone's life on my hands.”
Kurt kissed Blaine's lips when he paused again, whispering, “He wasn't fair.”
After a moment, Blaine seemed to gather his courage to continue. “It was me, my father, and Jerry. He was the captain, Jerry. The fire was in the walls, and we had to get up high to make a place for it to get out-- that keeps it from spreading outward. I hauled the ram up five flights of stairs, he had me break open the roof access so we could cut down through it. I saw that the fire was already eating though the roof, but when I tried to call out to him, tried to get him to stop, he, um--” Blaine closed his eyes, breathing through his nose for a moment. “He called me some things, names he'd never called me before. And I stopped. And I watched him plummet through the weakened roof into the fire.”
“I ran back down the stairs to the floor below, and got the door open. I did just like I was supposed to, curl up and away from the door so you don't get a big fireball to the face. The problem with opening doors, though, is that it brings more oxygen in. That makes the fire more intense. I could see him; he was just a few yards away, and I could see he'd hurt his leg, maybe broken it. I...Kurt, I just stood there. I could still hear those words, those names ringing in my ear. And I hated him for it.”
Blaine threw his arm over his face, pressing it against his eyes. Kurt didn't move. He almost didn't know if he could. He knew there was nothing that would make him leave Blaine's side right now, as much as he knew he could never understand what it would feel like to be hated by your father. Or...hate his dad? It wasn't possible.
“I heard something else go, and that's when I saw Jerry fall through. The fire investigators later said that he'd been trapped on a burning beam up top, that if I hadn't exited the roof when I did, I would have gone, too.”
Kurt sat up, hand pressed to his mouth and clutched one of Blaine's hands.
“Jerry fell right in front of me, he'd taken a heat blast and was pretty weak. I grabbed him, threw him over my shoulder, and ran him downstairs. I left my father.”
Kurt felt the tears running down his cheeks, but didn't let go of Blaine's hands to wipe them away. “But...you couldn't carry both, and one of them was right there. That's not your fault, Blaine.” Kurt's voice was barely a whisper.
“I shouldn't have waited. I should have run in there. I shouldn't have left--”
Kurt pulled Blaine up to sitting and took him in his arms. “You didn't make it happen. If you'd run in there, the other man would have fallen on you, you would have died, too.”
“That's what the others said when I tried to go back up there for him.”
“You tried to go back in?” Kurt asked, horrified at the thought of what the heat, the danger, the fear Blaine must have faced.
“Well...of course. And then I brought Jerry down all those flights of stairs, hearing the fire over our heads--” It was as if he'd not heard anything Kurt had said and was recounting the story by rote. “--and when I laid him on the street in front of the paramedics, everyone kept asking me 'Where's Chief?'
“I told them I was going to go back and get him. Wes and Tony wouldn't let me.” Blaine's voice sounded strange, like he was remembering something that happened to someone else as he talked. ”Tony shoved me to the street, threatened me. That's when the windows on the top floor blew out.”
“Oh my god, Blaine, if you'd gone back in...surely you know you would have been killed?” Kurt's voice was barely a whisper; he could hardly bring himself to say those last words.
Blaine shook in his arms, his voice sounding strangled as he said, “But I just don't know. I don't know that.”
Kurt didn't know what to say, so he didn't say anything; he just held Blaine, tried to give him the support he should have had all along.
Blaine pulled back, his head hanging. “I feel like I killed-”
His hands squeezed Blaine's shoulder, trying to get through to him. “The fire killed him, Blaine. I don't know how you can think anything but that. You didn't. Blaine, you ran to him to help him, it's not like you walked away and did nothing. You tried to go back. Don't you see that?”
It was like Blaine had checked out; he just felt empty to Kurt, spent. “They told me he was gone, that I couldn't have helped, but...”
Kurt grabbed his face, forcing him to look at him. “Wasn't he?”
A small moment of recognition seemed to flicker and then fade in Blaine's eyes.
“What does your instinct tell you? If that had just been anyone, what would you have done? If it wasn't your father, just someone? And you had two people in that situation?”
Blaine blinked for a moment. “Get the person closest; send help for the other if it's possible.”
Kurt drew his fingers down Blaine's cheek. “Was it?”
So much remorse, so much sadness in Blaine's eyes, he seemed like he was drowning in it. “No.” Kurt could barely hear the response. They sat together, Kurt holding Blaine, waiting for him to speak when he was ready, Kurt's heart aching for him.
“Everyone treated me like I was a hero, when I hadn't been able to make them see that I needed to go ba-- And then Jerry didn't make it, too much smoke inhalation plus the burns.... It was a mercy, really. A couple of other guys got sick, but those were the only two that died, my father and Jerry.”
“It was Bill that decided I should be made captain after he was made Chief. He said it was something my dad had always wanted for me, that he'd be proud of how I handled myself that night.” Blaine looked at Kurt, then, really looked into him. Kurt could see so many years of anger and hurt in his eyes. “Bill is a good guy. He knew what my dad had thought about me. Knew how my dad hadn't really...been kind to me. I've been trying to live up to Bill's expectations ever since. I don't know what I'd do if I let him down, too.”
“Blaine, you didn't let anyone down. You did everything you could. It sounds like you did everything you could. Would Wes have stopped you if he thought you could have helped?”
Blaine pulled away, elbows on his knees and hands buried in his hair. “He--. No.”
Kurt sat on the edge of the bed feeling a million miles away from whatever place of grief Blaine was stuck in. It explained a lot, his heavy, self-imposed work load, his no-nonsense demeanor around Bill. Kurt was sure that somewhere there was something good to be said about the elder Anderson, but for now he wanted nothing more than to strangle him for causing so much self-hatred in his son. Especially when it was clear to everyone that knew Blaine that he was a good person, a good man.
Kurt kicked his shoes off and moved back to the headboard. “Blaine.”
Nothing, just his continued tugging on his hair.
Kurt reached out, laying his hand on Blaine's broad back. “Blaine.” He extricated one of Blaine's hands from his hair and tugged him towards the pillows. He sighed with relief when Blaine let him, and again when he propped himself up on the pillows, tucking Blaine's body next to his, wanting nothing but to hold him.
After a moment, Blaine spoke, his voice muffled by the front of Kurt's shirt. “I'm sorry. Kurt, I didn't mean to...fall apart like that.”
Kurt stroked his fingers through Blaine's hair, down his back and shoulder and back again, over and over, wishing he could push away all of the ugly, lonely feelings Blaine had been trained to believe about himself. “Don't say that. Don't tell me you're sorry.”
Tightening his arms around Kurt's waist, Blaine shuddered briefly. Kurt lost track of time sitting there, holding Blaine. After a while, he felt Blaine's body relax. He pulled away and found that Blaine had fallen asleep, the worry lines in his face that deepened as he told Kurt his story were beginning to fade. Kurt tried to pull away, but Blaine's arms tightened again. He muttered, “Just a little more,” and nestled deeper into Kurt's arms.
Kurt smiled, dropped a kiss onto Blaine's hair, humming when he heard the pleased noise from Blaine. He stayed there holding him for a while longer, replaying Blaine's story in his head. He was shocked again by the guilt and doubt that Blaine kept bottled up inside, completely sure that it was totally unfounded. He knew, he knew that Blaine didn't deserve to think that about himself.
Blaine's breathing eventually leveled off; he was totally out. Kurt slipped Blaine's shoes off and found a throw blanket, covering him up with it. He kissed Blaine's temple softly in order to keep from waking him, and whispered, “It wasn't your fault.”
Blaine curled up on his side, clutching a pillow in his arms. Kurt flashed briefly on slipping in with him, letting Blaine hold him. Instead, he found a piece of paper and a pencil in the front room, drew a heart on it, and laid it on the other side of the bed and quietly slipped out. The entire walk back home he wondered if he shouldn't have just stayed.