Title: Where There's Smoke [8/12+]
Rating: This part R for intense action and nudity [zomg nekkid butts]
Pairing: Kurt/Blaine, Wes and David friendship, mentions of former Finn/Rachel
Word Count: 10,500/100,000
Warnings: Kurt finally hangs out at the fire station. Guess what happens? (Be prepared, my firefighter daughters, for intense situations)
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
(Speaking of flaming_muse - if you think you like how I write Kurt and Blaine, you really should read everything she's written. I learned at her knee.)
This is Blaine's fire station, btw. :) [eagle eyes will notice someone's bike.] And artwork! Made for
Previous Chapters: [Masterlist + One] [Two] [Three] [Four] [Five] [Six] [Seven]
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Kurt spent the next morning floating from task to task, unable to keep his mind focused. He’d sent a text to Blaine as soon as he’d woken up, “I thought it would be weird if I stayed, but it was nice letting you fall asleep in my arms. More than nice, actually.” Blaine texted him back while he had been in the shower. It had simply read “Thank you for that.” Kurt had stared at his phone's screen, chewing his lip until the water from his hair had begun dripping down the back of his neck.
He sighed and pushed his sketch pad away. He couldn't think about Elizabethan costumes while his mind was so cloudy. He checked the clock on the wall, knew that his dad would just be settling in at his office at the back of the shop, hopefully with a cup of decaf and granola, but Kurt had long since given up those daily battles to Carole. He had discovered she could be as formidable as he had been, more so, in some instances.
Smiling faintly, he dialed his dad's office number, waiting for the familiar gruff voice.
“Shouldn't you be fighting city traffic or winning an award for dressing the homeless or something?”
“Ha. Very funny, Dad.”
He could hear the familiar squeak of the ancient chair Burt had in his office for almost twenty years, refusing to give it up for something newer and ergonomic. “I like this chair,” he'd told Kurt on one of his last attempts to redecorate his dad's office. “Your mother picked it out, you know.”
Now, the sound of that squeak meant home. It meant family, love, things that carried on as they had for years. Kurt was almost overcome with gratitude for his dad, just hearing that familiar sound.
“Pretty early for a call, Kurt. You doing okay?”
“Oh, yeah, I'm fine. Busy, you know. The usual.”
“Mm hm. You gonna leave me guessing? Or can you just cut to the chase?”
Kurt smiled, happy that he could talk like this with his dad. “Well...I've met someone.”
“I wondered when you were going to tell me about him.”
Kurt gasped into the phone, unsure of what to say to that. How the hell... Am I sleep-texting again? “How did you--”
“You forget your brother? He spent days talking about how he wanted to drive one of those damn trucks until Jim told him to shut up already.”
“Pretty big stuff, kiddo.”
“Yeah, it's--” Kurt sighed, “Yeah.”
“So what's the problem? He doesn't treat you right? He wear those shirts with the tattoo crap on them?”
Kurt laughed. “As if I would have even dated someone like that, Dad. I have standards.”
He settled into a chair, feeling safe and loved at the sound of his dad's laughter from several states over.
“Well, you know what Blaine does, I take it. It's...well, like you said. Pretty big stuff.”
“Blaine, huh? Why don't you tell me about it. What's eating you?”
Kurt told him about Blaine, about his character, how every one of his men seemed to adore him, how Kurt adored him. He told his father how Blaine was a gentleman, was kind, but before he told Burt about Blaine's father, he said with quiet passion, “Dad? Thank you.”
“Sure. What for?”
“For being such a good father. Sometimes I forget how lucky I am.”
Burt was quiet for a moment, then cleared his throat. “Well, it helps when you end up with a good kid, I guess. Kinda makes my job easy.”
As he told his dad Blaine's history, with his father's distance and disdain, the constant example he made of his son to his coworkers, and then the final moments, unable to fully explain how Blaine's own father used hateful slurs. Burt was very quiet, hanging on every word, and carried the silence over for a moment when Kurt had to stop himself.
“His old man said that to him? You know, those words? That word?” He could hear Burt's breathing quicken, could hear his anger in his voice. “Some people aren't fit for the job, they just-- Hm.”
“I'm just really, really glad I have you, Dad.”
“Yeah, well, that makes two of us. Kurt?”
“You love this guy? Is that what this is about?”
Kurt sighed, closing his eyes and slumping back into his chair. “I don't... I don't know, Dad. How do you know something like that?”
“Are you scared?”
“God, yes,” Kurt said.
“Mm hm. Scared for yourself? Or for him?”
“For him. Well, and me. I...when things go bad for him, they go bad. I don't know if I can deal with that.”
“Kurt, things can go bad for anyone. I'm not saying you shouldn't worry about that, those guys, they have a tough job, one of the toughest. But--” Burt sighed. “--you know it's love when trouble comes and you run to deal with it, not away from it.”
Kurt bit the end of his thumb, listening intently.
“Take me, for example. Think back to when I got kind of sick your junior year of high school.”
“Okay, I when I got really sick. You don't get much more trouble than a heart attack and coma, for crying out loud. And where was Carole? We weren't even married then, yet she was there every day, talking to me, sitting with me, trying to be there for you, too. Ya stubborn mule.”
Kurt smiled tremulously. He still could feel that icy, bottomless pit in his gut remembering when Ms. Pillsbury and Mr. Schuester had called him out of class almost a decade ago to tell him his father was in the hospital, the absolute fear of isolation and having to go through the rest of his life alone if the worst came to pass.
“All I'm saying is that when it's love, when it's real, you'll do anything you can to make the other person know it. And that means sticking around through the rough times. That's what you gotta figure out: do you want to stick around through that?”
“But Dad, I remember what you were like after Mom died. For years after Mom died. It was like you weren't really living.”
“Yeah. That's true. But then I got a second chance with Car--”
“But I don't want a second chance. I want this chance. I want it to be always.”
Burt laughed, a sharp incredulous sound. “Hey, we all want that, Kurt, but guess what? Tough. Life doesn't come with a guarantee. You know life is just a, what's that thing, the Latin buyer thing?”
“Buyer Beware, that's it.”
“But-- Dad, this isn't buying a refrigerator, this isn't a condo; this is my life. With someone.”
“Yep. It is. Sucks, huh, being in love?” Kurt could hear Carole calling his dad's name at the shop. He heard the sound of the old chair squeak again and a muffled kiss. His dad muttered something to her then came back to the phone. “It's pretty great, too. In fact, the great stuff is a whole hell of a lot better than the bad stuff, if you pick 'em right.”
“I...I think I did, Dad.”
“Then what's the problem?”
“I'm just not sure. How do you know it's love, how... And not just, I don't know, just that he's really handsome and charming and nice and likable?”
Burt chuckled, and Kurt could just see him lifting his hat, It's Friday, he's wearing the green Hummel Tire and Lube, and scratching his head.
“Kurt, I knew the first minute I laid eyes on your mother. The very first minute. I saw that pretty woman sitting there and I said to myself, that's my wife.”
Kurt closed his eyes, wishing he wasn't hundreds of miles away.
“And I knew in five minutes with Carole. I was a little out of practice, otherwise I would have known the first time she spoke. Look, Kurt, we Hummels...we know what we want. We don't pussyfoot around. But you gotta know this: I wouldn't have traded one minute of life with your mom, even if I had known ahead of time that she wasn't going to be around for the rest of mine. Not one minute would I wanted to have missed.
“I didn't want anyone after she died, not for a long time. Nothing could compare to her, you know that. And believe me, I could have gone on dates, there were plenty of ladies that liked what your old man had to offer.”
Kurt barked out a laugh. “Gross, Dad.”
Burt chuckled. “But it wasn't right with any of them. And if it wasn't going to be what I knew love was, why waste my time? I didn't mind waiting. I like to think that it was well worth the wait.”
Kurt could hear the joy in his dad's voice, imagined he was watching Carole through the office door talking to Finn, maybe bringing them some food for their lunch on her way to work.
“Kid, it's in your gut. It's in your heart. You know, or you know it's not it. I think that's just how we're wired, you and I.”
Kurt sighed, toying with the piping on the chair's cushion. “Thanks, Dad.”
“Anytime, Kurt. Love you.”
“I love you, too.”
Kurt switched off the call and sat there, tapping the phone against his chin. That's what you gotta figure out: do you want to stick around for the tough times?
He looked at the texts on his phone, seeing the simple “Thank you for that” from Blaine. He typed back, “Are you working tomorrow?”
He pushed himself to his feet to stand in the doorway to his workspace, looking at his sketch books, fabric samples – all of the work he had to tackle today, but not really seeing it. His phone buzzed. Afternoon shift. ?
Can I see you?
Blaine's reply was almost immediate. Always. Come have dinner with us at 6.
“Well, I guess we're on the introducing each other to our families stage,” he muttered, a thrill of excitement at the thought. Should I bring anything?
Just you – it's all I need. :)
He stood in the doorway, smiling at his phone and feeling really peaceful, sure that he was making the right choice.
Kurt had spent most of the past 24 hours working around the clock to finish his proposal for a group of producers, a weight that he'd carried on his shoulders gone. He felt light, inspired, and excited for what was to come, both with his work and for his dinner with Blaine. Rachel had come and gone, her own work load and audition schedule keeping her busy as well.
Kurt hadn't wanted to show up empty handed, so he brought a basket of muffins wondering if any of them would notice he'd used egg substitute to keep them healthy. His dad had never been the wiser, so he felt pretty confident about his recipe. Thinking of his dad, how he'd cared for him for all those years, and how a part of him missed that when Carole took over, gave him a warm, nostalgic feeling, one that carried a touch of loneliness, if he was honest with himself.
He liked taking care of his family, taking care of people that mattered to him. He had lain in bed for some time, thinking about how his natural instinct had been to protect Blaine, to hold him, to soothe him. He didn't want to run away.
Bill and David were out in front of the station, hosing down one of the big trucks. He gave Bill a nervous smile, not sure of how to react around him now. David, his hands full with a soapy brush, gave him a “Hey, man!” but Bill held out one hand to Kurt.
Kurt considered it for just the briefest of moments, and shook his hand. Bill seemed genuinely pleased to see him, so that was good, right?
Bill asked, “Hey, Kurt, right? You know how to find the offices upstairs? I know the Captain is expecting you.”
Was that...a wink? Okay, so Bill wasn't a bad guy like Blaine's dad had seemed. Blaine respected Bill, so that should be enough for Kurt. He laughed at himself for his protective, wary regard. “Oh, I brought these for you all; I thought you could always use something to snack on. I hope that was okay?”
He held the box of muffins out for inspection and Bill smiled even wider, the tips of his handlebar mustache twitching. Kurt really wanted to clip the ends; they must get filled with food. Quit being snotty, he's trying to be nice.
“Yeah, that's okay; we're never one to turn down free food! Want me to take that for you?”
Kurt handed him the box with a grateful smile and made his way through the garage towards the back staircase. A few of the men from karaoke night were on shift and waved hello, one guy pointed at him and said, “Hey, Blackbird!” It was wholly unexpected and, if he continued his streak of being honest with himself, felt rather gratifying. This was Blaine's family, and he wanted them to like him. His heart gave a stuttering thump at that thought.
He walked swiftly up the stairs to Blaine's door. He knocked twice, opening it at Blaine's distracted, “Yeah?” Blaine was at his desk, which was covered in papers, one hand mindlessly rubbing through his hair as he pored over some documents.
“Hi,” Kurt said, not sure if he should come all the way in or leave Blaine to his work. He was a little early, but he didn't want to show up right at dinnertime if it was promptly at six. A little jolt of pleasure shot through him when Blaine realized it was him and his expression shifted to mild annoyance to one far more congenial.
Blaine sat back in his chair, papers dropping from his hands as he smiled. “Kurt.” He stood and held a hand out for Kurt, pulling him into a warm hug. Blaine buried his face in Kurt's neck, his warm breath tickling the exposed skin. Being hugged by Blaine was a total body experience; he wrapped his arms around Kurt's torso, their bodies were flush to their knees. As far as greetings went, it was at the top of Kurt's “all-time favorite” list.
Kurt squeezed back, laughing slightly at the open mouth kisses Blaine trailed up the column of Kurt's neck, ending with one on his mouth. Kurt, cheeks already beginning to pink from the attention, spent a moment putting Blaine’s hair back in place to give his heart a moment to slow down.
He backed up a step or two when he realized that running his fingers through Blaine’s hair wasn’t the best way to pull himself together. He cleared his throat and asked, “So, Captain, am I interrupting? I can walk around the block, or something, give you enough time to finish?”
“Don't you dare leave,” Blaine said, swinging their hands a little between the space Kurt made. “The guys are glad you're coming. A lot of the wives and girlfriends pop in from time to time, it's nice.”
Kurt had a flash of performance anxiety; he definitely felt like he was being put on stage.
Blaine laughed, “Don't be nervous, they're going to love you. They're good guys. David is on tonight, so you already know him. The others just look scary, but really, they're all a bunch of teddy bears.”
“With huge muscles and scary faces? I don't think I ever had any teddy bears that looked like they could bench press a small building.”
Face positively aglow, which went a long way to calming Kurt's nerves, Blaine opened his door and walked over to the fire pole. “Come on, it's time you did it.”
Kurt gaped at him.
“Kurt, I'm not taking no for an answer.” Blaine's face shifted from all-serious to more sheepish, continuing, “Well, if you have like an unnatural fear of heights or something, I'll accept a no. But if it's just your pride, then nope: you're going down.”
Kurt leveled a withering gaze at him, smoothing the front of his shirt. With his eyes locked on Blaine's, he reached out with one hand, grabbed the pole and whirled himself onto it, sliding down with ease and landing gracefully on the floor below.
He continued to maintain a cool, unfazed expression until he heard David whoop a few feet behind him. He jumped, and almost missed seeing the huge smile on Blaine's face as he slid down and joined them.
Blaine squeezed his shoulder and was as giddy as a puppy. “See? Told you it was fun. Half of us became firemen just for this.” Kurt rolled his eyes but laughed. He would need to either be very drunk or very stoned on medication to admit it, but yes, it was fun.
David walked off to the main common room, as Blaine – standing behind Kurt – squeezed Kurt's shoulders and walked them on to the common room as well.
“I really didn't think you'd do it. Have I told you how amazing I think you are?”
Kurt sniffed, faking that he was perturbed. “No, you haven't, and I know you didn't think I would, which is precisely why I did.”
Blaine chuckled to himself, running one hand down the back of Kurt's shirt, leaving it at the small of his back. Kurt wanted to curl back into that touch, forcing himself to remember that they were in public. And at Blaine's work, for crying out loud. Blaine whispered into Kurt's ear, “Well, you are amazing. And adorable.”
He gave him a quick kiss and led him in the room. “Guys? You all remember Kurt, right?”
The group of about fifteen men gathering at the long dining table, setting out dishes and silverware, all gave individual variations of hello; no one looked surly or bothered, they all genuinely seemed – if not happy to see him, interested in his being there. Kurt exhaled, forcing himself to relax.
His offers to help with the preparation all were turned down, but it seemed like everything was taken care of. One of the huge biker-looking guys was bent over at the waist, plating medallions of pork loin. Another man was next to him spooning a Marsala sauce over each plate and adding a wee garnish.
Kurt stared open-mouthed. Blaine sidled up to him and said, “We like to eat well. Why do you think I pack my own dinner when Tony's on deck as chef, when I get to eat like this the rest of the time?”
Kurt worked his mouth open, unable to think of anything to say. The giant biker-looking guy tipped him a wink. “I was a line cook in high school, moved up to being a sous chef. This job is way less stressful.”
Well, one thing is for sure, I'll never be bored with Blaine.
Dinner was a jovial, friendly affair. The men had known each other for so long they were like brothers, ribbing each other mercilessly, but underneath it all, it was obvious that they were a solid team, a family. Blaine slipped his hand under the table to give Kurt's knee a squeeze every now and then, and Kurt realized that he did so every time Kurt interacted with one of the others.
Kurt dealt with the expected commentary on how unusual his higher-pitched voice was, but there wasn't any malice in their questions; they seemed genuinely interested. One of the older men shook his head, muttering something to himself. Kurt was used to it; he didn't need everyone's approval, certainly not from a man that thought a flattop did anything but make his face look like a fleshy brick. However, the other biker-guy, one of the Jims, said how much he enjoyed hearing Kurt sing the Beatles the other night, earning him a wide grin and a heartfelt thank you from Kurt.
David brought his glass to his mouth, and said, “Funny how you two disappeared right after, though,” before taking a sip.
Kurt's face was beet red; he could sense the heat radiating off his skin.
Blaine took it all in stride. “What about that private concert I heard you giving Rachel outside the other night?”
A few other of the guys started singing “Shoo doop, shooby doop,” as Blaine closed his eyes, hand to his heart, singing, “In the still, of the ni-hight!”
Kurt couldn't help it, he laughed loudly, joining in with half of the table, the other half (minus David) adding to the doo-wop back-up vocals. Blaine caught Kurt's hand under the table and gave it a squeeze, eyes shining. I could get used to this.
One of the Johns and two Daves cleared the table after dinner. Kurt rolled his sleeves up and walked to the sink. “I can't just sit here and not contribute something. Let me at least help wash the dishes.”
He noticed one of the Daves giving Blaine an appreciative look out of the corner of his eye. Blaine came over and set out the drying racks, gently bumping Kurt's shoulder with his. Kurt loaded up the industrial sized sink with warm soapy water and looked around for gloves.
Blaine watched him for a moment with a quizzical expression.
“Blaine,” Kurt whispered, “where do you keep the gloves?”
“Um, Kurt? We don't use them.”
Kurt looked down at his hands, long fingers perfectly manicured, flawless. He bit his lip.
Blaine swapped places with him. “I'll wash, you dry.”
“Don't you laugh at me, Blaine Anderson.”
“Oh, I'm not. I'd hate for anything to happen to your hands. I'm growing quite fond of them.”
Grinning helplessly, Kurt turned to the task, fluffy towel in each hand as Blaine passed dishes over, properly scrubbed and rinsed. Most of the group had dispersed by now, with only one or two men still left to mop the floor and straighten things back to ship-shape, leaving Kurt and Blaine to their task.
He lowered his voice, making sure it would be just quiet enough for Blaine to hear and purred, “If you even think of splashing any of that dirty, soapy water on me, I will make you pay a harsh penalty. One you will not like.”
He smiled sweetly at Blaine, batting his lashes, laughing at Blaine's stupefied and slightly fearful expression.
Chef John stuck his head in, saying, “Uh, don’t touch my pans. I have a special cleanser, so, thanks. Just...don’t.”
Blaine whispered to Kurt, “He brings them from home, won't let anyone touch them.”
Kurt leaned across Blaine to check out the pans: copper-core All-Clad. Kurt gave an appreciative whistle to Chef John, saying, “I wouldn't let anyone touch those, either, if they were mine.” John looked down at Kurt with a respectful smile. He clapped Kurt on the shoulder with one of his enormous hands as he walked out, almost knocking Kurt to the ground.
“I think that gave me shoulderankleitis,” Kurt murmured.
Laughing, Blaine asked, “What?”
“A serious medical condition where your shoulders are driven straight into your ankles? Can't you boys say 'Thanks' or 'I like you' without beating each other up? I've never understood that.”
Blaine rested his hands along the rolled steel edge of the sink smiling fondly at Kurt. Kurt's cheeks were aching from all the grinning he'd done since arriving; his heart was full, and he just felt...happy.
“They really like you, Kurt.”
Kurt made an amused gesture as if to say, “Well, duh, I'm fabulous.”
“I really like you, Kurt.”
Beaming, Kurt bumped his hip into Blaine's. “I really like you, too.”
If anyone had told him earlier that one of the happiest nights of his life would be spent in a noisy room as he did manual labor without protective gloves, he would have laughed himself hoarse. And yet.
Unfortunately, there were a lot of dishes. Kurt almost regretted offering, except for how much he was enjoying the chance to spend time with Blaine. As they worked, some of the different men would interrupt, needing to ask Blaine certain questions, always leading off with, “Cap,” or “Captain.” Kurt made a point of watching how Blaine reacted to the title, knowing that he hadn't purposely set out to advance to that rank.
At first it seemed like Blaine was a little embarrassed, especially when some of the older men addressed him that way. But after a few more of these interruptions, Kurt realized that Blaine was beginning to carry himself differently. Not stiffly, like he had back on their first night at the sing-a-long, but with pride. Chest out, shoulders back, an easy confidence in his answers.
Leadership really suits him, Kurt thought to himself, feeling a rush of pride for Blaine, that this was the man he was interested in.
The last dish was washed and dried, and Kurt realized that as much fun as he'd had, these men were still on call for their shift. He hung the towels on the towel bar, turned, and leaned back against the counter.
“I should probably go, huh? Let you all get back to your duties for the night?”
Blaine inhaled slowly, exhaling in a drawn out sigh. “Probably, but you don't have to leave just yet, do you?”
Kurt bit his lip. “Well, no, but I don't want to be in the way.”
Blaine ran a hand up Kurt's back, squeezing his shoulder. “You're not.”
“Oh, well.” Kurt felt giddy, wanting to wrap himself up in Blaine, in these feelings, and just roll in them. “It's good that it's such a slow night, then.”
Blaine's jaw dropped. “Kurt. You just jinxed it.”
“We get pretty superstitious around here. You never say it's a slow night.” Blaine closed his eyes, sighing, and leaned back against the counter on his hands.
Kurt felt his stomach drop, “I'm sorry, I didn't...”
Blaine cracked an eye and winked. “It's just a silly superstition, Ku--”
The alert system blared out three loud bell tones, followed quickly by three more. The lights in the ceiling began to swirl and flash. Over the sound system the dispatch called out, “Code 10-75, Engine Co 204, response is requested for a 10-75. Ladder Co 18 response is requested...”
Kurt's heart was in his throat as he pressed himself against the counter; the repeated bell clangs in triplicate with the addition of the lights flashing was almost overwhelming. Blaine looked at him significantly, squeezed his arm and said, “Gotta go to work.”
Kurt nodded, watching as Blaine quickly raced into the garage, other team members running in from various points in the station to the far wall where everyone’s gear was lined up. They each hopped into their breakout pants, pulling on their boots, suspenders, and heavy tan coats trimmed with reflection tape. Kurt walked to the doorway once he was sure he wasn't in the way of anyone needing to be somewhere, watching as everyone moved like a well-oiled machine
There was a chalkboard on the wall of the garage, everyone on shift listed for a specific job in case of emergency. David was “Irons,” and Kurt saw “Outside Vent” next to Cpt. Anderson. He had no idea what that meant, only that Blaine had swung up onto the side of the ladder truck on the metal step-up, his face intent as he looked over the men, giving information into a walkie talkie.
He locked eyes with Kurt as the truck's lights switched on, and covered his heart with his hand. All too quickly he was gone, the other truck with the hoses following closely. The whole thing had taken less than two minutes.
The sound of their sirens faded off in the distance and Kurt was left standing in the empty garage, completely alone.
It turned out that Kurt wasn't completely alone; the support staff was still at the station, clearing out the garage so the trucks could come back safely. He could hear dispatch instructing the truck on the location of the fire over the loudspeakers, and his stomach dropped when he heard the reply from Blaine.
“Copy that, dispatch, Battalion 3 is mobile.”
He didn't know if he should leave, if he should wait, if he should sit with dispatch and make sure that everyone knew to keep Blaine safe. He didn't understand half of what was pouring over the intercom system; it was mostly codes, addresses and requests to “copy.” He pulled out his phone and texted Rachel.
Blaine just got a call for a fire. I'm freaking out a little.
Kurt chewed on the end of his thumb pad for a minute, arms crossed tightly around his slim frame. He made a decision; he climbed the back staircase and let himself into Blaine's office. He'd wait there so he could make sure that when Blaine came back, because he would, Kurt could see with his own two eyes that Blaine was just fine.
Blaine's office had an older, well-worn sofa up against the far wall; Kurt imagined it was good for catching naps during long shifts. Blaine had a private restroom, complete with a shower and changing area. A spare set of uniform pants, a pair of dark grey sweat pants, and FDNY t-shirts were hung on a peg board over a wooden mat for shoes.
When Kurt realized that the overhead commentary from dispatch wasn't turning off, he decided to try and tune it out. If he just sat there worrying, it would drive him crazy. When his dad was in the hospital, he spent time talking to him, finding alternate therapies, anything to keep him from sitting in their empty house imagining the worst.
He had no idea what else he could to do provide any assistance, so he decided to keep occupied by looking through Blaine's bookshelf. Lots of manuals, a few news-oriented magazines, but the lower shelf had several novels, most in the thriller-mystery genre, and a few science fiction books. Kurt smiled at that, My brave nerd. He ran his finger over the spine of one that looked well-worn, pulling it off the shelf. He jumped a little when he felt his phone vibrate in his pocket.
A picture of Rachel, her hands thrown over her head and eyes closed, flashed on the screen as the chorus to “A Star Is Born” jangled out of the device.
“Kurt, are you okay? What’s going on?”
Kurt could hear the sound of a crowd, people laughing and glasses clinking. “Well, I’m fine, I’m just sitting here, waiting. But it was really intense, I’ve never seen anything like it, they all just ran, dressed, and drove out in like, nothing. I could feel the siren in my teeth, it was so loud.”
“What are you going to do? Do you need me to come there?”
“No.” Kurt waved his hand out of habit as he sank into the sofa. “I don’t even know if I should be here, but I can’t bring myself to leave without making sure...”
“Kurt. They do this all the time. Of course he’ll be fine. Hmm, something’s coming on the news here at the bar.”
Kurt opened the flap of the book, smiling at the tight block print written in blue ink: Property of Blaine Anderson.
Rachel exhaled sharply into the phone. “Kurt? Can you promise me something?”
“What? Rachel, you're scaring me.”
“Promise me that you won't turn on the television.”
It was like icy fingers ran down his spine, and metal bands wrapped around his chest; he couldn't breathe. “Rachel. What is going on.”
“It's just... the news cameras showed up and are at a huge apartment fire on Degraw and Clinton.”
Kurt dropped the book on the cushion next to him, holding the phone in both hands. “Tell me. Rachel, tell me what's going on.”
He could hear Rachel moving through the crowd, presumably to get somewhere a little more quiet to talk. “There are a bunch of trucks there, they've got one of those ladders going up high with two men in the little bucket thing. Oh my gosh...”
“I'm sorry, I'm sorry! It's just...you can see the flames in some of the windows.”
Kurt buried his face in one hand. “Can you see...anyone?”
“No, they keep showing the news reporter talking about this being a possible illegally converted residence.Um, she's saying that means that there aren't clear fire exits, or there are no fire exits? Oh, okay, they're putting another of those bucket things high up by the roof and they're spraying now.”
Kurt stood, pacing nervously, phone pressed so tightly to his ear, it was almost going numb. “Is it...do they have it under control?”
“I can't tell; oh my god, the water from those hoses is like, ripping off the shutters on the front of the building.”
Rachel screamed, a single, sharp noise that went straight through Kurt's heart.
“I'm sorry, I'm sorry! There was a big booming noise and everyone on the street ran back a little; those idiots are just standing there, watching!”
“Rachel! What is going on?”
Over the intercom, the dispatch voice changed to something higher pitched, a little more forceful. “Code 10-66, all ears on, all hands on, immediate request for a rescue squad...”
“Okay, Kurt, the newscaster is saying this is one of the bigger fires they've had in a long time, but it looks like they've gotten things under control.”
Kurt sighed, his muscles trembling like he'd just run a race. This is what his job is. This is what he does. Kurt tried to control his racing thoughts, trying to remember what Blaine had said: “We're good at what we do. I'm good at what I do.”
Rachel interrupted his thinking. “Kurt? Are you sure you don't want me to come? I can come. I can leave here and get a cab, and I can be there in a few minutes. Do you need me?”
It had taken them a while to find their way to friendship, but Kurt honestly couldn't imagine what life would be like without her. Sure, Rachel was bossy, ego-maniacal at times and could be completely selfish, but when she knew someone was in need, she would drop everything to be there for them.
“I love you, you know that?” Kurt said, shaky still, but the adrenaline beginning to ebb from his body. “No, I'm fine, I just panicked. I've never heard sirens go off when I'm right next to them; it was a lot to take in. I guess I'll just have to stick around to learn how to not freak--”
“All hands are ordered to respond to the request for a rescue, repeat Code 10-66, all hands...”
The person running communications was practically shouting into the system. It sounded nothing like things were under control, not at all.
“Rach? Are you sure--”
She made a strangled noise, then said quickly, “Kurt. I'm on my way.”
He could hear the noise in the background change from the boisterous noise of a bar to the car horns and life of a busy NYC street before the phone call was cut off.
He thought about Emily, the wives and girlfriends he’d met, wondered how they handled these situations. Probably they didn’t have to deal with it while waiting in the station; Kurt made a mental note to not do that again. He used the fact that those women dealt with this all the time as a touchstone. And they were still in happy and fulfilling relationships with their men. He reminded himself that it could be done.
“All I'm saying is that when it's love, when it's real, you'll do anything you can to make the other person know it. And that means sticking around through the rough times. That's what you gotta figure out, do you want to stick around through that?”
“Well, I think this might be as rough as it gets, and I’m still here,” Kurt muttered. You were right, Dad. Love sucks.
Kurt jammed his phone into his front pocket and stood outside of Blaine's doorway looking around the garage below. Everyone still there was in the communications center, he assumed, but he didn't feel comfortable going in there. He remembered there was a television in the commons room where they had dinner, so he walked briskly down the stairs and into the room, looking for a remote to switch it on.
Fortunately New York made it easy to get local news; he switched over to Channel 1 where the screen filled up with a dark, tree-lined street, water misting behind the newscaster as she reported that the entire block was being evacuated for safety reasons, that this was the first three-alarm fire in the area in almost two years, and that they'd had received report that there were people trapped on the third floor.
Kurt sank into a chair, watching helplessly.
“Earlier reports of an illegal conversion into a multi-residence were confirmed. One resident described the mayhem a few moments ago like--” The reporter consulted a note book in her hand. “--rats trapped in a maze. There were no operational sprinklers on that floor. Firefighters are still trying to contain the blaze, which has now spread to the neighboring building. We're being told that all local fire battalions have been dispatched and...”
Kurt almost shouted at the screen to get back to the “people trapped on the floor” portion of the report instead of a history lesson on greedy property owners and response times in the area. His eyes scanned the background as the reporter droned on, unable to recognize one firefighter from another in their tan gear and face guards. The flames were now visible out of multiple windows as thick, black smoke poured out of holes burned through the roof. Bright embers floated several feet above the building, drifting on the heat waves.
Kurt noticed the newscaster was moving away from the building and could see officials in the background guiding people behind a makeshift barrier as another truck moved in where the news truck had previously been situated. Kurt could see yet another truck roll in behind that, having no idea what was going on until the news reporter started back on actual reporting.
“...water cannon being deployed as it has been determined that the conditions inside have deteriorated rapidly, making it unsafe for the firefighters to be inside of the building. We've heard one of the Battalion chiefs call in a Code 10-66, which is indicative of personnel down or possibly critically injured while still inside the facility. All residents have been evacuated and are being contained one block over where they are being provided with first aid treatment. Smoke inhalation is being reported as the most common injury. We'll bounce this back to you at the station and will report back when further information is made available...”
It was maddening. He had no idea what to do with himself, desperate to know if Blaine was okay, if the “personnel” that might be injured was someone from the station house, or another one, or just...
He heard Rachel race through the garage, her voice echoing off the empty cement walls. He stood and waved at her. She ran up to him and threw her arms around him, burying her face in his chest, her voice muffled as she said, “It's going to be okay, he's going to be okay.”
They both sank onto the large sofa, Rachel keeping her arms around Kurt, patting his chest, resting her head on his shoulder, rocking him slightly. She gently took the remote from his hand and hit the mute button, setting it back on his leg in case he needed to turn the sound back on.
Kurt closed his eyes briefly, glad for her solid warmth pressed into his side, for the soft crooning as she held him. After a period of time, Kurt inhaled deeply, held his breath for a moment, and let it out slowly, leaning back to get a little space. His eyes never left the screen, which had a picture-in-picture of the action at the fire as the regular news broadcast continued.
He blindly reached for her hand, closing his eyes momentarily when she took it.
“He's going to be fine, Kurt. They all are. He's going to be fine,” she finished in a fierce whisper.
Along the crawler at the bottom of the screen, they read “FIREFIGHTER EVACUATED TO KINGS COUNTY HOSPITAL FOR TREATMENT OF FIRE-RELATED INJURIES” as Kurt fumbled to turn the volume back on.
“...where a small child was found hiding in a closet. The child and the firefighter are being treated by EMTs on the scene, but they don't appear to have life-threatening injuries. The other man that was injured is reported to be in critical condition. A beam fell from the roof, trapping one...”
A roaring noise rushed in Kurt's ears. He slowly turned to Rachel, saw her concerned face, saw her mouth moving, but wasn't able to understand anything she said. He kept hearing the matter of fact inflection from the reporter, “A beam fell from the roof, trapping one.”
Rachel was tugging on his arm. He blinked a few times, trying to focus.
“He's fine; look. Kurt, look!”
Kurt turned to the screen and saw the back of an ambulance where they were loading a gurney with a small body strapped down. A woman was holding the child's hand, crying, but Kurt was able to recognize that she was smiling.
The news reporter was backing towards the ambulance, talking rapidly about the child, how he must have hidden in a closet, afraid.
“But the team that had been originally deployed to the roof, and had become trapped, were able to make their way back into the building, where they heard report that a child had not been evacuated. Company Commanding Officer Captain Anderson and Fifth Class David Thompson were able to extricate the child and eventually make their way to safety.”
Rachel gasped; David was sitting on the curb, his jacket off and helmet pushed back, coughing. Blaine stood near by, shaking his head in response to questions from another fire officer. Kurt let go, then, let himself breathe properly. There he was, safe, Kurt could see him, see that he looked to be alright. Blaine looked completely exhausted, his face almost totally coated with soot, barring the area over his eyes where he must have wiped with his coat sleeve.
The camera focused in on the reporter, losing the tight shot of Blaine and David, and Kurt wanted to hurl his shoe at the screen in his frustration.
“...are now reporting that the fire has been contained. Fire investigators will spend the next several hours combing through the debris in order to determine the cause of the fire. This is Angela Casteñedas, live on the scene. Russell?”
The program switched back to other news. Rachel, her hand shaking slightly, grabbed the remote and shut it off. Her eyes were wide and shining with tears, but she was smiling. She reached up and ran her thumb under Kurt's eyes; he wasn't aware that he'd even teared up; he couldn't stop his mental refrain of, “Please let him be okay, please let him be okay,” long enough to be aware of anything he himself was doing.
Kurt exhaled a shaky breath. “Okay, am I going to look in the mirror and find that I've gone completely grey?”
Rachel laughed, too bright, too energetic; her own adrenaline rush must be coming down as well, Kurt thought. “Well, we sure know how to pick them, huh?”
Kurt looked sideways at her. She had her head back against the sofa, smiling at him.
“He's okay, Kurt. They're both okay. See? I told you.”
He closed his eyes, running a shaking hand over his eyes. “Yes, you're a regular Nostradamus.”
Rachel played with the hair at the back of Kurt's neck. “Are you still going to stay? Do you want to come back to the house with me, catch your breath?”
“Are you kidding? No, I'm not leaving.” He looked at her as if she'd grown a second head. Leave? He wasn't going to feel right until he'd seen not only seen Blaine with his own two eyes, but felt him with his own two hands.
“Okay. Do you want me to stay with you? I feel a little...strange staying, myself. A few fun dates, some making out, but David and I...we're not dating-dating. I don't want to seem like a groupie. Is that bad?”
Kurt kissed her forehead, stood up and offered her his hand. “No, it's not. Wait. Is it weird that I want to stay?”
She laughed and squeezed him around the middle. “I think he'd be hurt if you didn't.”
He sagged a bit, feeling emotionally wrung out. “Thank you for coming. I think I would have gone crazy if I had to watch that by myself.”
She rubbed his arm and gathered her things, turning to leave. She paused in the doorway, a tiny smirk on her features. “I won't wait up.”
He laughed, and it could almost be a qualified guffaw. He felt exhausted, imagined how tired Blaine must be. He wasn't even thinking about hands in new places, just hands on Blaine doing nothing more than simply holding him.
Kurt climbed back up the stairs and settled in on Blaine's sofa and tried to read the book from earlier. He was asleep within minutes.
A deep metallic rumbling woke Kurt up from his fitful doze. He blinked for a minute, trying to gather his senses. Those must be the garage doors. He hopped up and walked to the doorway where the upstairs opened to a loft, looking at the garage below. The huge trucks rolled in slowly; the support team came out from wherever they'd been to take over the tasks of emptying them of equipment.
Kurt took all of this in as he scanned the crew, looking for Blaine. Most of the men dropped or kicked off their gear along the far wall, not bothering to hang anything up. A few stripped away from the group to the commons room, possibly looking for food, as the remaining men headed towards the back where Kurt knew the dormitory and showers were.
Finally he saw Blaine swing down from the truck, followed by Bill. Kurt relaxed his grip on the railing; his knuckles had gone white. He watched as Bill clapped Blaine on the shoulder; Blaine dropped a genial punch on Bill's. Blaine just stood there for a moment, coat off, helmet in one hand, as he scanned the room.
Slowly Blaine walked back to the staircase and Kurt felt his heartbeat speed up. Blaine crested the top of the stairs and Kurt was almost overcome with relief to just see him. Blaine finally noticed him, and he stopped, one foot at the top of the stairs, hand on the rail.
He walked swiftly to Blaine, grabbed him by his shoulder and one strap of his thick suspenders and pulled him up against his body, crushing his mouth against Blaine's. Kurt didn't want to let go, didn't ever want to. Blaine weakly wrapped one arm around Kurt's back and eventually pulled away. Kurt could see the exhaustion in his face and something else that he couldn't define. All he knew was that at this moment, he'd never been more grateful to be covered in dirt in his life.
Blaine turned his head to cough. His voice was slightly hoarse when he said, “I didn't think you'd stay.”
Kurt took the helmet out of Blaine's hand and with an arm around Blaine's waist, walked him back to the office. “I can't believe you'd think I wouldn't.”
Blaine huffed out a breath. “Well, I had hoped you would.”
Blaine sat on the edge of his desk, arms hanging limply between his knees.
“What do you need? What can I do? Are you thirsty or...?”
Blaine smiled, looking up through his thick lashes. “I need a shower, I need about fourteen hours of sleep, and I need you. Not necessarily in that order.”
Kurt took one of Blaine's hands and started massaging the palm, earning an almost pained groan from Blaine. “Oh, does that hurt? I'm sorry!”
“No, no, it feels amazing,” Blaine replied, his voice still a raspy croak. “Those hoses can be tough to keep a hold of after that long. My hands and forearms...I can barely move them.”
“Don't, then. Stay put.” Kurt slipped into Blaine's washroom and switched on the shower to hot, then reconsidered and set it to be slightly warm. He noted a bottle of pain relievers on a counter and shook out a few into his hand.
When he came back to Blaine, he saw that Blaine had a small mini-fridge under his desk, opened it and grabbed a sports drink. “Here, take these. You'll feel better.”
Blaine struggled to open the bottle, but managed. “Thank you,” he whispered.
Kurt bit his lip. “I wish I could do more.”
“Well, help me out of these and I'll love you forever.”
Kurt started, his heart lodging somewhere in his throat. He knew it was a figure of speech, but still. Blaine didn't seem aware of anything; he continued to sit on the edge of his desk, struggling to pull his suspenders off his shoulders.
“Here.” Kurt helped him slide them down. As Blaine rested one hand on Kurt's shoulder, Kurt tugged the heavy boots off and set them out of the way. Blaine stood up, tugged on the front of his break aways and Kurt finally had that mystery solved. The sides unsnapped and fell down enabling Blaine to step out of them. He still had his regulation pants and t-shirt on. Kurt couldn't imagine how hot it must get wearing all of those layers in a fire.
“I'm just going to--” Blaine weakly pointed towards the restroom. “--take a shower and cool off. You don't have to stay; I'm not going to be any good for company, I'm afraid.”
Kurt smiled indulgently, kissing Blaine on the corner of his mouth. “I'm not going anywhere until I know you're all settled. Can I take these things somewhere? Would that be helpful?”
Blaine's shoulders dropped as he sighed and rubbed his face. “That really would be, actually. There's a chute to the left of the staircase that leads down to the laundry. Don't worry about the boots.”
Kurt gathered up the pants, smiling when Blaine said, “Kurt, thank you. I'm glad you're here.”
“I'm glad, too. Now go shower.”
He watched as Blaine staggered into the other room, pulling the door half-way closed. Kurt found the chute, dumped the trousers down, and as he walked back into Blaine's office, he heard a loud clatter and Blaine hissing, “Shit.”
Without thinking, Kurt operated on instinct. He raced into the bathroom to make sure Blaine hadn't hurt himself and stopped in his tracks. Blaine was in the glassed off shower, one arm holding himself up against the tiled wall as the water poured over his body. The body that didn't have a stitch on. Kurt hadn't registered the pile of navy clothing in the dressing area by the doorway. At Blaine's feet was a bottle of something, shampoo or soap. His forehead was pressed against the wall as he bent at the waist, staring at his hand as he struggled to flex and close it.
“Blaine, let me help,” Kurt said, trying to not blush, trying to actually be helpful and not let his eyes wander over ripped abs and indentations on the outside of glutes or, good lord, Blaine's thick, strong thighs with pronounced quadriceps and just focus on the bottle of shampoo lying at Blaine's feet. Which were also naked.
“I'm too tired to be embarrassed, Kurt.”
Kurt cleared his throat. “Um, you do not have a single thing to be embarrassed about.” My...god.
The shower head was one that could be turned into a hand held, Kurt noticed. He couldn't help his voice going breathy and a little higher than usual when he said, “Here, let’s get your hair wet.” He squeezed some shampoo into his hand and watched as Blaine stood under the spray, resting on his forearms against the wall. The muscles in his forearms were trembling, his hands dangling limply.
Kurt gently pulled one of his arms down, tugging him closer to the opening in the glass wall where Kurt waited. He started massaging Blaine's head, using his thumbs to work the shampoo in well.
“Kurt,” Blaine moaned.
“Shh, just let me.” He worked his fingers over Blaine's scalp, a shock of want pulsing in him with every moan or murmur from Blaine. “Turn around, let me get the back.”
Blaine whimpered slightly and leaned his side heavily against the tile as Kurt massaged the back of Blaine's neck, clucking his tongue at the huge knots in the thick muscles of Blaine's shoulders and neck. Careful of the spray, he leaned forward and placed a tender kiss above one of Blaine's shoulder blades.
“Can you step back under the water?”
Blaine didn't step, more rolled one way, eyes closed as the soap ran down his face and neck, Kurt following the trail of bubbles as they slid down Blaine's side and legs. He looked back up and saw Blaine watching him, heat and desire in his eyes.
Blaine leaned forward, his hand cupping Kurt's face clumsily, kissing him, tracing his tongue over Kurt's lip, begging him to let him in. Kurt whimpered into Blaine's mouth, hand snaking around his neck, not caring in the slightest that he was getting wet. Blaine took a step closer pulling Kurt flush to his body, reminding Kurt that Blaine was completely naked and completely wet and well on his way to becoming completely aroused.
Kurt pulled back with a breathy laugh, resting their foreheads together. He jerked his head towards the doorway. “I almost forgot that all of your coworkers are just out there.”
“I don't care about them,” Blaine said, closing his eyes and leaning in for another kiss. Kurt returned the kiss, but briefly, stepping back a few paces to gain some kind of control over the situation.
“Well, I care about you and you getting clean and refreshed, and then coming back out here where I can take you home.”
Blaine rested his forehead on the shower wall, tilting his head to look at Kurt. “Give me a minute? I'll be out quick as I can. And Kurt?”
“Of course, Blaine.” He dropped his eyes to the floor, trying to not look at Blaine who was facing him, totally naked, in a shower. Blaine looked like he was ready to drop where he was standing, and there was no way that Kurt was going to finally take things to another level with Blaine just to have him fall asleep halfway through. There was a very vocal part of Kurt that would have been okay with only getting halfway, now that he knew what Captain Anderson had under that uniform.
“I'll just be right outside. Just call out if you need me.”
Blaine managed a grin, saying, “Just call out? All right, then. Out.”
Evidently Blaine wasn't too tired for a goofy joke. He let out an enormous yawn. No, I was right. He’s exhausted. Kurt smirked and laid out a fresh towel close enough for Blaine to grab when he was finished and left him to it. Back out in the the office, he hunted around the sofa for any blankets or pillows.
Sure enough, within a short matter of minutes, Blaine stepped into the office in a loose pair of sweat pants, toweling his hair dry. Kurt couldn't help but stare at the dusting of hair on Blaine's chest, noting how toned his abdomen was, especially the sharp outline of the V-shaped muscle stretched over his hip bone, disappearing under the waist band of the sweats.
Blaine yawned, snapping Kurt out of his lustful inventory. Kurt jumped to his feet and spread the blanket over the arm of the sofa.
“I'm sorry, here, is this where you lay down? I found this blanket for you.”
Blaine smiled and pulled Kurt into a hug, burying his face in Kurt's neck. “I'm so glad you stayed; have I said that yet?”
Kurt laughed, running his hands over Blaine's bare back, enjoying the sensation. “You did, but you can say that as much as you'd like.” Kurt rubbed his cheek against Blaine's, so pleased to just be here, holding him after the stress of the night. Blaine yawned again, rocking on his feet, getting a laugh and tight squeeze from Kurt. “Okay, you really need to get some sleep, you're about to fall over. I'm going to leave you to it.”
“In the top center drawer of my desk on the left are a set of keys. The brass one is to my place. If you'd like, you can go back there and wait for me. I have to stay until shift change at 7 am.”
Kurt glanced at the clock on the wall, noting that it was well after 2 am. No wonder they were both so tired. Well, Blaine had a far better reason than Kurt, but still.
“Are you going to be okay here?”
Blaine shook a little in Kurt's arms, laughing quietly. “Yeah, I've done this once or twice. I'm going to catch a little sleep here, though.”
Kurt pulled back, smoothing Blaine's wet hair off his forehead, twining a finger around one of the curls as he kissed Blaine softly.
“See you soon?”
Blaine splayed his hands across Kurt's back, pressing their bodies together tightly. “I'll be home before you know it.”
Kurt's breath hitched. Home. Oh, that had a nice sound to it. He nodded, stepping back so Blaine could get situated on his sofa. He smiled at Kurt, and fell asleep almost as soon as his head hit the throw pillow.
He tip-toed over to Blaine, placing a soft kiss to Blaine's mouth, pleased at the tiny sound of pleasure Blaine made.
You know it's love when trouble comes and you run to deal with it, not away from it.
Kurt pulled out the drawer, found the key where Blaine said it would be, smiled one more time at the sleeping figure on the sofa, and carefully shut the door behind him. He'd see him soon.