Title: Where There's Smoke [12/12+E]
Rating: Fer Errbody
Pairing: Kurt/Blaine, Wes and David friendship, mentions of former Finn/Rachel
Word Count: 5100/100,000
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
Previous Chapters: [Masterlist + One] [Two] [Three] [Four] [Five][Six] [Seven] [Eight] [Nine] [Ten] [Eleven]
[And I've been posting links to updates on my Tumblr, if you'd rather find chapters that way. Let's be BFF and share cookie recipes and pics of silly things. *chinfists*
Wanna see what I see? I made a scrapbook back when I started writing. Here's their world.]
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Kurt had dropped his family back at their hotel with meticulously written instructions for how to get on the subway, how to behave on the subway, who to not speak to on the subway, and how to get to the area by Turtle Pond where his performance would be held.
Back at his apartment he took a long shower, warming up his voice in the humidity. He pulled on some lounge pants to begin the long process of prepping his skin and applying his stage makeup. He had three serums, two creams for under his eyes, and a pore “undefiner” that had to be applied before his foundation could even go on.
Rachel had returned somewhere between the concealer and foundation, her checklist in hand, pencil with a star for an eraser in hand. Kurt had teased her for years about her insistence on decorating everything with her name and stars, but stopped when she pointed out his tackle box of rhinestones and that his signature sparkle was every bit as much of a signature as her putting “Rachel Berry” in pink glitter on a custom phone cover.
They had developed the habit of singing scales as they spoke to each other before stepping out on stage to keep their voices as limber as possible.
In C, she even struck middle C on their piano beforehand, Rachel asked, “Do you have everything here?”
She hit D, waiting for his response. “Yes, I do look on the chair,” as he powdered his face.
She played D to E and sang, “Will Blaine Anderson be there?”
She struck F with an eye waggle as Kurt, with a serious look on his face replied, “Yes, also Finn will be there,” he carried it up to G, “with my folks out on the lawn.”
Rachel’s hand spasmed over the keys, hitting a discordant chord before schooling her expression. “Oh.” She no longer sang her responses. “Well. Good! It will be good to see him. We can be friendly.”
It seemed to Kurt like she was trying to convince herself as much as him. “Rach, you don’t have to see him if you don’t want to. The park is huge, plenty of ways for you to avoid anything unpleasant. Don’t feel pressured.”
Rachel nodded and busied herself with her tote bag filled with lozenges, an atomizer, a recyclable bottle filled with lemon water, wet naps, and a makeup bag for touch ups. They had made a pact in college to support one another if they weren’t both on stage. Kurt had been the toter of the bag more often than Rachel, lately. It would feel good to not have the reminder that he wasn’t performing for once.
He grabbed his garment bag, double checked his sheet music -- backups in case the stage director lost the ones he’d already given him -- and grabbed his cellphone. He waited on the front stoop for Rachel as she made her final run through the apartment and sent a quick text to Blaine reminding him of where his parents would be, sending Finn’s phone number in case they lost contact, and a final message, “I love you.”
Blaine must still be on his call or sleeping as there wasn’t the usual quick response. Kurt wasn’t worried - Rachel had touched base with David that afternoon, so nothing dire had happened, or he would know by now. Without the worry for Blaine’s safety, he was able to focus on the fact that the first major hurdle in his road to stardom was about to be cleared. And he would have someone to share it with.
They headed off to the subway, Kurt’s feet barely touching the pavement.
“Now, make sure that you find someone on the first row to sing to. Barbra always ignored the crowd and focused on one person. Well, until she got stage fright and stopped performing altogether, but anyway--” Rachel excitedly rambled on as she squeezed Kurt’s shoulders in his cordoned off “green room” behind the stage set up on the edge of the field.
Kurt ran through his set list in his mind, the transitions between them, his fingers walking the basic choreography he planned as his eyes were closed. His shoulders felt cool - he opened one eye to see Rachel bounding to the edge of the black proscenium, peeking from behind it to see the crowd.
“Is anyone even here? God, they probably saw that a man was singing Broadway hits and decided to see Smash Car Fire Bomb Forty, or whatever blockbuster is playing.”
Rachel shook her head, her smile massive as her eyes sparkled with unshed tears.
“What? Oh my god, no one came. It’s just my parents sitting on a blanket in the middle of a field...”
“Kurt,” she whispered, her voice sounding hoarse, “it’s packed. There are hundreds - hundreds of people out there! Maybe thousands.”
She grabbed his hands and gave them a squeeze, laughing and crying a little. “I’m so happy for you. If I didn’t love you so much, I’d shove you in a closet and take the stage myself.”
Kurt stood shell-shocked. He hadn’t gotten his head around the fact that people--strangers that were not his family that had been threatened with their lives if they didn’t come--were there to hear him sing. He felt frozen in place, his heartbeat roaring in his ears.
Rachel rolled her eyes, and tugged him towards the curtain. “Look for yourself!”
He snapped out of his stasis and edged the curtain aside enough to peek at the left half of the crowd. Oh my god. He had thought his stint off-Broadway with an audience of 300 was huge, nothing like their performance at Nationals in high school, but this... And they were all there for him?
He felt like he couldn’t hear anything, like his stomach was going to crawl its way out of his chest. His mouth went dry. Okay. So this is what stage fright is. I really don’t like it.
Rachel was rummaging around in the tote bag behind him, then pulled out his cell phone. “This won’t stop going off, Kurt, it’s buzzed nonstop for the past minute.”
Kurt grabbed the phone, worried something had happened to his parents. He instead felt his shoulders drop and the tension begin to recede as a huge smile spread across his face. Blaine.
I’m here! W/ parents, we shoved our way up front. <3
Kurt - don’t freak out. Tons of people. They’re going to love you!
I love you.
Oh! Break a leg!
Kurt drew his finger across the screen to bring up the picture he had taken of Blaine where he was smiling, head titled to the side. Courage. Kurt took a deep breath, nodded to no one, and held his chin high as he began humming the opening bars to his first song. He had wanted to make a splash as his debut, and he certainly was taking a chance with the audience, but Kurt didn’t know how to do small, how to do quiet. Not on stage.
An elderly woman with a perfectly styled bob, an impeccable outfit and huge black framed glasses approached him. Rachel whispered in his ear that she was one of the directors for the festival. Kurt smiled his widest and took her hand when she offered it.
“Kurt Hummel, is it? Pleasure. I’ll remember this as your big debut; just remember us when you accept your first Tony.” She winked at him and swanned on stage, ready to announce him. The small orchestra was in place on risers at the back of the stage; Kurt could hear a few of them still tuning their instruments making a noise that Kurt found bizarrely comforting in spite of it being so discordant. It was the sound that signaled that it was real, that this was happening: he was about to go on stage.
He reminded himself that he was a star and they just didn’t know it yet. “They’re about to find out,” he murmured, his cheeks pinking a little from the excitement. Rachel kissed his cheek gently and melted away to join the crowd. He bounced his knees and smoothed the front of his waistcoat as he stood at the edge of the wings, waiting to be called out.
As the crowd gave a nice round of applause, he stepped out to center where a single microphone on a stand waited. The stage was back dropped by the pond itself and the beautiful Belvedere. The Delacourt Theater to stage left hadn’t been rented, as the program coordinators didn’t think it could be filled to capacity. Kurt laughed, waiting for the cheers and applause to die down. At least the first two softball fields of the Great Lawn before him were filled, if not just beyond. He felt like Diana Ross doing her amazing Central Park concert, the one where she wore 10 karat diamond studs in each ear. At least it wasn’t raining. He wouldn’t have sniffed at the jewelry, either.
He scanned the crowd and saw his family and Blaine, close to the front on the left and almost gasped when he recognized groups from various theater companies he’d worked with, a few of the men from the station waving and whistling at him with their fingers in the corners of their mouths, Rachel with a group of fellow actors from her stint doing summer stock, and more and more faces that began to blend into a multi-hued kaleidoscope of humanity.
The orchestra began playing the opening notes to the Cole Porter standard, “I’ve Still Got My Health,” and Kurt slipped into his performance persona as the piano bounced out the jazzy melody. No fears, no doubts about his ability, just a never-ending fire to prove to the world that he was someone and that he had something special, something no one else had.
It was a fun, lively song and he vamped it up on the appropriate lines, playing the crowd. He hadn’t anticipated needing to project quite so far back, but he had faith that what he couldn’t belt out to the cheap seats, the sound techs would make up for it. As he framed his face on the line, “Your face is your fortune, so some wise man spoke,” he caught a little movement to the right and saw Rachel pantomiming along with him, bouncing on her knees on the blanket her friends had brought.
He closed out the last line in a snappy manner, the final piano note timed with a miniature curtsy on his part. Genuine happiness and a whole lot of triumph filled him as he looked out and saw the crowd cheering and clapping. He pulled the mic off the stand, and with a small bow, introduced himself to the crowd.
“Goodness! Who knew there were so many Broadway fans out there?” He held a hand to the side of his mouth and stage whispered, “Certainly not the cast of Bonnie and Clyde.”
As the laughing and good-natured moans began to die down, he said his name and had to hold the microphone away from his mouth to laugh and marvel at the catcalls and whistles. Even if it was just his family and friends responsible for it, it still felt pretty amazing.
As the second number on his set list began to play, a gasp came from a group of people near the middle of the crowd, clearly familiar with the song. It wasn’t the first time Kurt had encountered that reaction, people not believing that a male could sing it, but he would show just how well he could.
The pianist moved through the opening of “Defying Gravity” as Kurt locked eyes on his family, his dad smiling, Carole crying a little, and Finn leaning back on his hands, grinning for all he was worth. And to the left of Finn sat Blaine, legs crossed as he sat on the blanket, hands folded neatly in his lap and a mixture of pride and maybe amazement on his face.
Kurt had practiced the opening number at Blaine’s home, but hadn’t gone full out on vocals for the final notes of this particular piece, both to keep the neighbors from complaining and because the small room didn’t lend itself acoustically. But here, outside...the sky was the limit, literally.
He used the stage, connecting with groups of people in the audience as he sang, as he poured his heart and childhood frustrations into every lyric, willing them to understand. It embodied everything he was. He pictured every failed audition, every side glance and double take as his voice picked up momentum for the final stanza.
“And you won’t bring me down!”
He was here. He was on a stage, singing, a willing audience there for him - or at least for the spectacle of something different - and the people he loved were there. His fingertips were tingling, every hair on his head felt electrified as the orchestra let him sing the final five notes alone, his voice - mocked, teased, misunderstood, underused - soared out over the crowd.
He vaguely noticed that several groups of people had jumped to their feet, applauding. Kurt was only interested in one group. Finn was standing, a huge smile on his face as he clapped, but his dad... Kurt felt the tears stinging in his eyes, even as he laughed and smiled and blew a kiss to his dad, who maybe didn’t see it because he was trying to knuckle away tears of his own.
He segued right into his final number, “Make Someone Happy,” without preamble. It was just the piano and Kurt for the opening bar, singing every word with a new meaning, overjoyed to sing, “One smile that cheers you, one face that lights when it nears you.”
The strings came in, their lilting sound floating over the audience. Kurt scanned the crowd as he sang, but this song wasn’t for them, it was for someone very special that happened to be sitting a few people back, just off center stage. Blaine had been sitting on the edge of the blanket with his family, his weight back on his hands. As Kurt continued singing, “Fame, if you win it, it comes and goes in a minute,” Blaine sat up, smiling, his face open and surprised.
Kurt only had eyes for him, for this person that believed in him, that wanted him to succeed and be his best, that trusted Kurt with his heart.
“Love is the answer, someone to love is the answer, once you’ve found him, build your world around him.”
His voice was clear, his heart in every word. He was vaguely aware of his father and Carole, their arms around each other, swaying to the music, of Finn looking sheepishly down and nudging Blaine with his shoulder, but really, he only had eyes for a certain someone. Blaine looked, well, a little surprised, maybe just a touch embarrassed by the attention, but more importantly, he looked happy. Everything melted away and it was just the two of them, Kurt trying to express in the best way he knew how just how much Blaine meant to him, that he’d finally realized just how much he wanted a life with Blaine, come what may. That no matter what, they’d face life together.
He finished out the song, half of the crowd singing along at this point (and several couples, both gay and straight, swaying with their arms around each other, some parents with their children in their laps.) “Make just one someone happy, and you’ll be happy, too.”
Blaine covered his heart with his hand, and Kurt could see him say his name, even if he couldn’t hear it over the crowd. He made his hands into a heart around the mic and mouthed, “I love you,” before stepping back to center with the microphone stand.
“Thank you New York City!” More than just for the opportunity to sing and perform, although that was a huge part of it. He was thankful for the ability to be himself, thankful that he had met someone as wonderful as he had, and that they were free to say they loved each other, even in a crowd of people in the middle of a park. Everyone wouldn’t be accepting of this display, of course, but those people would go off and live their lives and Kurt would be able to keep living his. With Blaine.
The crowd continued to cheer and clap as he bowed, and he sang a few bars, “If I can make it there, I’ll make it anywhere!” which meant that every New Yorker sang the rest of the bar back to him, “It’s up to you, New York, New York!”
He laughed and bowed again, thanking them as he clipped the mic back in the stand. The elderly posh woman from before came out and gave him a dry kiss on both of his cheeks, rubbing at one of them as if she’d gotten her lipstick on him in the motherly manner of an older woman.
She offered him to the crowd again, giving him a chance for another curtsy before scurrying off stage. Rachel was backstage waiting, tote bag slung over her shoulder and bouncing on her toes. She flung herself into his arms, bouncing and laughing and crying, and to hell with it, so was he. He picked her up off her feet a little and swung her back and forth before putting her back down.
“Kurt, that was amazing! I would have gone with the Barbra version myself, instead of Doris Day, but I respect your choice as an artist.”
Kurt just rolled his eyes and laughed. Rachel reached into the bag and brought out the water bottle for Kurt, holding the cap as he drank deeply. He felt a hand on his shoulder, turned and saw his dad, the rest of the family catching up behind him through the crowd of techs and personnel.
“Kurt, that was--” Burt hung his head for a minute, shaking it a little with his hands on his hips. “I’m just so damn proud of you, kid.”
He didn’t notice Rachel snaking her hand around his waist to grab the water bottle, nor that she recapped it; he only realized that later on. He only knew that his dad, his biggest support, his life was proud of him. He threw his arms around his dad’s neck, and held on tight, only tearing up when he felt his dad’s tears on his neck.
Kurt laughed, sniffing hard. “You’re going to ruin my mascara.”
“You didn’t use the waterproof brand?” Rachel sniffed.
Kurt pulled away to lovingly glare at her. “It’s a figure of speech.”
That little break afforded his dad the minute he needed to pull himself together, pressing his forearm against his face to dry it off. “Hell of a performance, Kurt, just a hell of a performance. If they don’t hire you down on the white walk--”
“Great White Way, dad,” Kurt laughed.
“Yeah, whatever it is, they better come knocking. With roses. And fat checks.”
Kurt felt a tissue being pressed into his hand; Rachel was still on duty. He was too thrilled and caught up in the adrenaline of his performance to register anything beyond basic motor skills. He craned his head over the crowd of people moving, looking for Blaine.
Finn and Carole caught him up in a hug at the same time, crushing the air out of his lungs. Carole let go to smooth her thumb on his cheek, but Finn didn’t stop squeezing him until he heard Kurt cough weakly.
“Oh, right. Sorry, dude.” Finn dropped his hands and tried to straighten Kurt’s shirt and vest at his shoulders until Kurt batted his hands away. “Just, that was amazing. Like, forget Nationals, that was awesome.”
Kurt patted Finn’s shoulder, still trying to see if Blaine had made his way backstage yet. “Yes, well, I’m happy that you find my solo performance in Central Park just above a high school singing competition, Finn.” He smiled to reassure his brother that he was joking. He saw Finn stiffen, his face going white.
“Kurt, you need to keep hydrating.” Rachel pressed his water bottle back in his hand, all-business, then turned, squared her shoulders, and faced the Hudson-Hummels. “Wasn’t Kurt wonderful? It’s good to see you all, Mr. and Mrs. Hummel, Finn.” Her voice softened slightly on Finn’s name.
Finn appeared as if he didn’t know where to look. His whole body shifted as he looked at Kurt, then looked at Rachel. Fortunately, no one did dignified in the face of embarrassment with as much eloquence as Rachel Berry.
“Finn, I know this must be horribly awkward for you, but for the sake of your brother, I feel it’s best if we just remain cordial and stick to light topics.”
Kurt caught sight of her face, could see the nerves just under the surface. He tugged on the strap of the tote bag and gave her a reassuring look. “Rachel, didn’t you need to introduce yourself to the director?”
She gave a start, and gratitude flooded her features. “Yes! I just need to get my P&R...” She rummaged in the tote bag and slipped out a large manila envelope, pulling out her head shot and resume. “It was wonderful to see you all!” She turned on her heel and fled.
Kurt saw Finn’s shoulders relax. He gave him a little squeeze, and then his heart rate picked up speed. Finally. Leaning against the scaffolding behind his family was Blaine, scuffing at the ground with his shoe, almost as if he was trying to stay out of the way of the family’s celebration, which was ridiculous, because he was a part of the family now.
Blaine looked up, and as he recognized who called him, his face broke into an affectionate smile. Kurt held his hand out to him, almost dizzy with the feelings of love and completeness for this moment. Blaine weaved through the musicians as they wandered off, taking Kurt’s hand. Kurt almost felt as if he should hold his breath, to not spoil the moment of finally being with him.
Blaine murmured, “I wanted to give you and your family a chance to celebrate.”
Kurt kissed his cheek and gave his hand a squeeze. “Precisely why you should be here, too.”
Burt and Carole were turned away slightly, chatting up the clarinet player with an OSU alumni pin on his sport coat. Kurt took the opportunity to wrap his arms around Blaine, forehead to forehead. “That wasn’t too much?”
Blaine pulled back, framing Kurt’s face in his hands. “That was single-handedly the most romantic thing in my life.” He kissed Kurt, a sweet press to the lips as his thumbs stroked across Kurt’s cheeks. He pulled back, eyes closed and cheek to cheek. “That...Kurt, you take my breath away. Just...tonight on that stage? I’m so proud to be with you.”
Kurt held him tight, swaying their bodies side to side gently, his body shaking with small laughs and the force of his happiness. He whispered into Blaine’s ear, “I hope so. I want you to be.”
They held each other for a long moment, Kurt biting his lip as if to keep his joy in. He’d sung enough for the night, he didn’t need to break into song again, no matter how much he felt like it.
A forceful, “Hem hem,” near them broke the moment. Kurt pulled back, keeping Blaine’s hands in his to see Finn, looking at a point just over Kurt’s shoulder, and beet red. “Um, sorry, dude, Kurt, just... I don’t know anyone here and Mom and Burt are talking to some old guy about boosters and I feel really weird just standing here watching you two make out. Not that I was watching! I didn’t mean--”
Blaine politely turned his head away and disguised his laugh with a cough as Kurt smoothed his hair and pulled himself back together, both physically and mentally. “No, you’re right, Finn.”
“We didn’t mean to exclude you,” Blaine said, holding his arms out.
Finn looked positively panic-stricken until Blaine laughed and squeezed his bicep in a friendly manner.
“So how about you kids let me buy us a bottle of champagne so we can toast the new star of the town?” Burt had turned his attention back to the little group, putting a hand on Blaine’s shoulder and giving him a squeeze. Kurt noticed the tiny smile Blaine was fighting to keep under control.
“It just can’t get better,” he muttered to himself, shaking his head a litte.
“What was that, Kurt?” his dad asked.
He took a deep breath and exhaled sharply before beaming at the lot of them. “Nothing. Just...it’s been a really good day.”
Finn begged the group to flag down a cab. Kurt wondered if he’d been watching “Cash Cab,” as he watched his brother look for very specific vehicles before sticking his hand up in the air to flag down a mini-van taxi.
As they gathered up their things to make their way back to Brooklyn, Blaine pulled Kurt into another embrace, whispering into his ear, “It’s not over, yet,” and nuzzled behind Kurt’s ear. They held hands the whole cab ride back.
A few hours and several bottles of champagne later, the group split off with hugs and good cheer. Kurt leaned into Blaine’s side, their arms around each other as they made their way out of the hotel bar. “Let’s go home.”
“I thought you’d never ask,” Blaine said, smiling before giving him a kiss.
They were quiet, save for a few murmured chuckles here and there as the other would tug on their hand for a kiss, or stop completely only to wrap the other in a tight hug. They climbed the steps to Blaine’s apartment, Kurt practically giggling as he kissed along Blaine’s shirt collar while Blaine fumbled with the keys, laughing and squirming too much to properly unlock the door.
Once inside, Kurt kicked back with his foot to shut the door as Blaine dropped his keys on the console table in the entry. Blaine took Kurt in his arms, holding Kurt’s left hand in his and dancing them through the house with a little waltz as he hummed, “Make Someone Happy.”
Kurt sighed and laid his head on Blaine’s shoulder, letting him take the lead. “So I picked a good song?”
Blaine answered by resting their cheeks together, and holding Kurt’s hand to his chest, their bodies flush together to their knees as they continued their slow dance through their home. Blaine softly sang, “Once you’ve found him...”
Kurt joined him for the next bit, “Build your world around him.” They quietly sang to each other, smiling at the perfect way their voices - like so many other things about them - harmonized beautifully. Each distinct, each unique, but together made something even more wonderful.
His dad had been right: life didn’t come with guarantees. Kurt had grown up knowing all too well that life could turn ugly in an instant, that it could be cruel and heartless. For Blaine, the tarnished plaque on the wall, the absence of Blaine’s mother in his life, and his father’s disdain and hate echoing in his memories were his reminders. Kurt’s mother, gone in what felt like the blink of an eye, almost losing his father, an adolescence filled with loneliness, rejection and pain; that was what life had been and could be again.
To have these few months, the few moments of happiness and love they had been able to share, were a gift. One Kurt didn’t want to waste. He thought he was beginning to understand what his dad had meant about not wanting to waste a minute, even knowing that it could all go away.
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.
There would always be danger, but then, that was true for anyone. Kurt hummed into Blaine’s shoulder, allowing himself to enjoy this extraordinary moment. One never knew when it could all fall into place so perfectly again.
They held each other, still swaying even after they’d sung the last line to each other.
“Make just one someone happy, and you’ll be happy, too.”
[epilogue + ebook file]