He sat up, arching like a cat and popping his spine, and retrieved a bottle of water and a handkerchief from the trunk of the car. Blaine bit his lip as Kurt twisted the lid off of the water, took a sip, and then wetted the cloth. There was something about having come cleaned off of him with something that he associated with gallantry and class that made Blaine flush hot.
The soft cotton, damp with cool water, was a relief against his sweaty, sticky skin. He laid back down and let Kurt attend to him: manhandling his limbs as he wiped it off; gently lifting his cock out of the way as he mopped up his stomach, which always made Blaine hiss and flinch, no matter how careful Kurt was, but he had also learned how to be swift; encouraging him to roll onto his side so that he could swipe up the come that had rolled into the crease of his thigh and buttock, and then patting his hip to have him shift off of the blanket completely.
Blaine cranked one of the windows down, sighing as the warm summer breeze wafted into the car and dried out his damp skin. He fletched his own handkerchief from the pocket of his trousers and dabbed at his face, neck, and chest. Kurt handed the bottle of the water and he took a grateful gulp, feeling parched. He didn't want to put his clothes back on just yet, and watched Kurt move around the backseat on his knees instead.
Kurt folded the blanket, concealing the handkerchief in the center of it, piled the tube of K-Y and the water on top, and tucked them deep into the trunk and out of sight. Then he gathered his scattered clothes together and began dressing, finding Blaine's eyes on him and smirking.
With Kurt dressing Blaine stopped dawdling and began to as well. He pulled his underwear and pants up his legs and fastened his fly.
Kurt always had more trouble with his jeans. As Blaine slipped into his shirt he watched with some amusement as Kurt struggled, shoulders and feet planted firm against the floor, body making an arch as he slowly dragged the denim back up his legs and over his ass, finally collapsing flat and pulling up the fly with a zppppt of finality, cock tucked away for the night. The equestrian boots went on easier, though they still required some tugging. "What time is it?" he asked, still on his back on the floor.
Blaine glanced over the seat to check the clock in the dash. "Only nine-thirty," he said. Technically, Blaine had no curfew, as his father had little care about what he did as long as it was what all the other boys were doing, but Blaine usually made it home by eleven o'clock.
"Good, then we have time," Kurt said, beckoning him down. Grinning, Blaine stretched out on the upholstered car floor and snuggled into Kurt's side, offering him the last of the water. Kurt finished it off, chucked the empty bottle through the open window, and turned into Blaine. His hand began idly stroking Blaine's chest, his palm running down from his shoulder to his abdomen and then back up. Blaine let himself drift, caught up with the feeling of Kurt's breath on his cheek and his knee resting over his shin. He caught his roaming hand and laced their fingers together.
"It could be like this," he murmured, "just like this, every morning."
"You just don't quit, do you?" Kurt whispered into the scant space between them. Kurt looked as blissed out as Blaine felt, lax and loving in his arms.
"I fight for the things that are important to me," Blaine said.
Kurt's eyebrows drew down sadly. "It's not that you're not important," he said, his eyes tracing over all the angles and curves of Blaine's face. "It's not that you're not the most important thing to me, Blaine. It's that the choices I make… I can't make them just for me."
Blaine curled their joined hands up against his heart and stared at Kurt for a long time, frustrated with himself for not knowing the words to fix this, hating feeling like even when Kurt was right here in his arms he'd already been taken away from him, like he was somehow wrong about the only thing in his life that felt right.
Blaine tightened his grip, leaned in, and kissed Kurt with every slow ounce of determination that he had. When he pulled away again Kurt looked just the littlest bit dazed, flushed, breathless - and Blaine clung to the belief that if he could do that to Kurt Hummel he could do anything.
"I'm not giving up," he whispered.
Kurt sighed, and instead of replying he leaned in to recapture his lips, kissing him again and again like it was everything that he had.
"Hey!" a voice boomed out of the night. "Hummel!"
Blaine had never experienced quite so violent a shock. Everything went sharp as his heart leapt to his throat and his breath stopped.
Kurt grabbed the sides of Blaine's face, trying to make him focus, and whispered, very quickly and very severely, "Blaine, I swear, everything is going to be alright. I won't let anything happen to you. I love you."
Then Kurt was up, throwing his body over the front seat and yanking the glove compartment open.
"Kurt -" he hissed, reaching out a hand to grab his ankle and yank him flat again, but Kurt was already plopping back down, seated cross-legged on the floor, with a tin of… something in his hand. Blaine's face scrunched up in confusion. "What -"
"Brittany left some bunk," Kurt said, and if Blaine hadn't been in the grips of such a blinding terror he would have been impressed by how steady Kurt's hands were as he flicked open a lighter and touched the flame to the contents of the lid…
"Is that marijuana?" Blaine hissed, sitting bolt upright for the first time and scooting away until his back his the door.
"Stay in the car," Kurt said.
And then Kurt was getting out of the car, God, no, no no no, Blaine had only vague ideas of what would befall them if they were caught but none of them were anything he would ever let Kurt face alone. His hand scrambled for the door handle, and then he yanked it open and stumbled into the night.
"- doing out here?" Kurt was in the middle of asking, a calm if somewhat irritable expression fixed firmly on his face, nothing from his steady hands on his hips to his clear voice giving away any hint of distress, as Puck and Lauren walked up from the road toward them.
"Thought that was your car, bro, and - what's Anderson doing here?" Puck asked, catching sight of Blaine, who'd frozen.
Kurt glanced at Blaine. His expression was very tight. "The same thing I am, genius - we were lighting up."
"Really?" Puck asked, looking at Blaine with newfound interest and respect. Blaine tightened his grip on the car door, instinctively put on edge by any sort of close scrutiny. "Didn't know he had it in him."
"Not surprising," Lauren grunted dismissively. "Those preppy types are always wound so tight."
"You got enough to share?" Puck asked, as he and Lauren came closer and peered into the car. Blaine thought his heart was going to beat right out of his chest.
"Dirt weed," Kurt said, shaking his head. "I got it from Brittany."
"Half the time she turns up with actual weeds," Lauren commented.
"That's a bummer, man," Puck said. His expression had brightened. "Hey - I know something that'll pick your evening up. Give us a ride?"
"To where?" Kurt eyed him suspiciously. "You still haven't said what you two are doing wandering around in the middle of the night."
"His piece of junk broke down again," Lauren said.
"While we were on our way to Lima Heights," Puck supplied. "Come on, man, she's got your favorite."
There was a flicker in Kurt's expression that Blaine couldn't place, but when Kurt's eyes slid over to meet his he was as reassuring as he could be with his grim face on. "I don't think that's such a good idea."
"Aw, come on, dude," Puck said, punching his shoulder. "You're letting your boss ride you too hard."
"I'm my own boss, Puck," Kurt said flatly.
"All the more reason to let lose a little!"
"You only want me to tag along because you need a ride," Kurt said with a roll of his eyes.
"So? You owe me; you'd be a bona fide family man by now if I didn't have your back."
Blaine tried not to react at the mention of the prophylactics that Puck supplied Kurt with by the boxful. Since he and Kurt had stopped using them he'd stopping thinking about them, but it sounded like Puck was still handing them off to Kurt at regular intervals. Blaine supposed that was necessary; it was all about preserving the right fictions. And Kurt had spent years crafting a reputation to keep everyone arm's length. Blaine understood that Kurt's surliness and open contempt for other people was as much a guard as Blaine's own friendliness was - different approaches toward the same end.
And now here was Kurt, turning them down, all to keep Puck and Lauren away from Blaine, or Blaine away from whatever misdeeds they were alluding to. It was contrary to his usual behavior, maybe suspiciously so, and it made Blaine's heart clench up to know that Kurt would risk scrutiny like that for him.
As much as it pleased him to know that Kurt was trying to protect him, he couldn't curb his own instinct to do the same. Puck and Lauren were a couple of miles out of the main part of town without a ride if Kurt didn't take them. They would be persistent to the point where they might get angry with Kurt for refusing them. And Blaine couldn't have that.
"Let's go," he spoke up, forcing himself to maintain his breezy composure when all of the focus turned on him. Kurt was frowning, caught off guard and confused, and Blaine gave him a smile that was hopefully reassuring. "It sounds like a blast."
"That's what I'm talking about!" Puck whooped. "I guess Anderson's not a total square after all, huh?"
"I wouldn't be spending time with him if he weren't worth it," Kurt said in a quiet, dispassionate tone, and Blaine clamped down on the urge to grin as warmth unspooled inside of him.
"Dibs!" Lauren called, stalking past where Kurt and Puck were situated beside the bummer and heading for the passenger side.
"Awww, come on, baby, don't you want to lie down in back with me?" Puck coaxed, shooting a hopeful look her way.
Lauren snorted. "Yeah, right. I know what you get up to in that backseat," she said to Kurt, who gave her a tightlipped and purposefully smug smile back. Blaine knew that boys could be unfortunately vulgar about such topics, but he was rather taken aback to hear a girl speak so coarsely. Of course he knew she and Puck were steadies, of a fashion, but Blaine still didn't think such things should be talked about so openly. Obviously he and Kurt couldn't, but even if things were different Blaine would still want to keep such a private matter private.
Kurt reached back into the backseat, pulled out the tin, tipped it out into the dirt, and ground the burning remains out with the toe of his boot. Lauren slid into the passenger seat, and Puck laughed as he climbed into the backseat and noticed, "The window's rolled down? You trying to hot box like that? What is it, the A-lister's first time here?"
"We were airing out the car," Kurt said loftily. "My father's not so much of an idiot he doesn't recognize the smell. And like I said, it was no good." He walked around the back of the car, heading toward the driver's seat, and he sent Blaine a look as he passed him, missed by Lauren and Puck already in the car - one that tried to be reassuring while tinted with worry - and then his face was back to cool detachment as he opened up the car door. "So, do I even have to ask where we're headed?"
Blaine took a deep breath before he slid back into the car. The smell that met him was strong and sickly, and he pressed his hands tight against his thighs to keep himself from covering his nose. That, he was sure, would give away the fact that he had never done drugs in his life, which would fly in the face of Kurt's impromptu cover.
Frankly, he was a little scandalized that it had been sitting in the glove box a mere foot away from him.
But as Blaine sat there and tried not to breathe too deeply, and to subtly take his air from the open window beside him, a second reason for Kurt's quick action occurred to him. Because the scent was obscuring everything else in the car - namely the soiled blanket that had been pushed into the corner.
As the car rumbled to life and Kurt backed out of their enclave and back onto the road, Blaine shifted over to the right until he was sitting between Puck and the blanket as subtly as possible.
"Who else is going to be there?" Kurt asked with careful disinterest as he pulled back onto the road and turned his DeSoto toward the train tracks that unofficially separated Lima from Lima Heights.
"Just us, you know she doesn't like sharing much," Puck said. His expression darkened some and he added, "Maybe the brother. She said she was looking for another piece of man candy since Puckzilla was officially off the market."
"Damn right you are," Lauren commented from the front seat, pushing at the buttons on the radio and muttering when they couldn't pick up a good station.
Blaine swallowed an squeezed his legs a little tighter. He was never entirely comfortable around the subject of Puck's brother. The gossip he heard about the Puckermans were the closest thing he came to imagining what people could say about him, and it made his skin crawl.
As Kurt made small talk with Puck and Lauren - if it were to be called that, for it contained none of the pleasantries Blaine typically associated with smalltalk, and instead was full of innuendo and sarcasm and what he assumed was good-natured ribbing - Blaine tried not to work himself up with too much anxiety. He'd always considered Kurt's car - both of their cars - to be their private sanctuaries. Puck and Lauren's sudden inclusion was a rude reminder that there was no real, stable place here for them.
It was just one more reason to go to New York. They could have a place together there - a home, all to themselves.
It was clear that Kurt knew whoever this "her" they were referring to was, because he drove without any directions from Puck, and soon the car was bumping over the train tracks and rolling into the bad part of town. It made Blaine uneasy - not so much as it had before he'd gotten to know Kurt, but Blaine couldn't help but feel nervous as they slowly passed by all of the houses, smaller and over-all shabbier than the landscaped yards that he was used to. He was accustomed to living in a certain lifestyle, where everyone was pressed and starched and well put together. And for every moment of his life since his father had let the truth slip during one of his bad days, Blaine had understood how tenuous it all was. How it all felt like it could be taken away from him from any second, if he spoke wrong or acted wrong or looked wrong.
Driving through this side of town, he had the paranoid feeling that people would just know he was an impostor.
Kurt finally turned off into a driveway of one of the larger houses (though smaller than Blaine's own). The lights were off and Blaine allowed himself a moment to hope that Puck and Lauren were mistaken and that they could just turn around and leave, but neither Puck, nor Lauren, nor even Kurt looked surprised by this turn of events, and as Kurt turned off the ignition they all opened their car doors and climbed out. Blaine followed a little more slowly, peering around, half-expecting someone to leap out of the shadows.
Puck and Lauren headed for the gate to the backyard. Kurt hung back to run his thumb over Blaine knuckles and breathe "sorry" out of the corner of his mouth. Blaine wanted to say something reassuring - that it wasn't Kurt's fault, anything to ease the grimace from Kurt's face - but Kurt was striding after Puck and Lauren and Blaine matched his pace. They walked one by one into the backyard, letting the gate creak closed behind them, and came around the side of the house to find, to Blaine's surprise, a rather nice in ground pool, lit up by lamps just below the water line. Floating idly over the top of the water on a large inflatable raft was a severe-looking girl that Blaine had never seen before, wearing nothing but a two piece.
She arched an eyebrow at them as they gathered at edge of the water and called out, "Pretty sure this is past the bedtime of respectable people. Did someone get lost on their way home, Soda Jerk?"
Her eyes narrowed. "You know I don't like strangers, Babyface."
Blaine blinked. He'd thought Puck was the only one that got away with that.
"This is Blaine," Puck put in before Kurt could answer, or Blaine could introduce himself, for that matter. "It's okay, he's cool. He vipes with Kurt."
Blaine wasn't quite sure what the expression on the girl's face meant, but Kurt was sending her the same one back. "Really," the girl said, voice heavy with something like sarcasm. "This bromide?"
Kurt just glared back. Blaine had the distinct impression that he and the girl were having an entirely different conversation than the one the rest of them were hearing.
The girl's expression finally broke into a smile. "Well," she said, "I suppose we all have to unwind somehow, and there are only so many options."
"Is Jake here?" Kurt asked, voice nettling.
The girl threw out a wide smile and said, "Oh, he's already come and gone," she said with heavy emphasis, and Puck made a face. "You all took so long. Though probably better that you did, or you would have seen a whole 'nother side of your baby brother, Puck," she purred.
Blaine fought the urge to fidget uncomfortably. She was more than talking about it - she was actually bragging about it. Like she wanted everyone to know she entertained men. What sort of girl sought out that kind of reputation?
"Enough chit chat," Lauren said. "Santana, did we come out here for nothing, or is there some left?"
The girl - Santana then, Blaine supposed - paddled her way over to the stairs and climbed out of the pool with a smirk. "As it so happens," she said with a smirk, "there is. The genius almost suffocated so we had a few wine coolers instead." She gestured around the yard. "Wait out here, I'll be back."
With actual clothes on, Blaine hoped.
Lauren plopped down on a chaise lounge, toed off her shoes, barked, "Get over here, Puckerman - my feet are still aching from that mile we had to walk from your broken down piece of crap," and Puck sat down and started rubbing her feet. It was a little bizarre to see.
Kurt remained standing, so Blaine did as well.
"I can bring the tow truck out tomorrow for it," Kurt said.
"On the house?" Puck asked hopefully, and Kurt gave him an unimpressed look.
"Do you think I'm running a charity, Puck?"
Puck grumbled, "It's probably not even worth the repair fees…"
Blaine shifted on his feet uncomfortably, thinking of his own car sitting in the garage.
The back door slid open again and Santana reemerged, still underdressed, with a bag held in the crook of her arm. "Alright, boys and giants," she said, reaching into the bag and pulling out…
Blaine blinked. It took him a moment to process the inflated, clamped-off prophylactic that she was holding.
"Really?" Puck snorted. "You expect us to suck it out of that?"
"If you don't like it you can feel free to leave, Puckerman," Santana said matter-of-factly. "Easier to explain if you get caught with a box of rubbers in a doctor's office than balloons."
Blaine bit his lip. He wanted to ask what exactly it was, and what it did, but he didn't want to draw any more attention to himself than there already was. The whole situation had him on edge, between the way Santana was flaunting sex like she was almost brandishing a knife at them and the strange tension between her and Kurt.
"Fetch," Lauren said, smacking Puck on the shoulder; he set her legs aside, got up to grab the inflated rubber from Santana's hand, and returned it to Lauren. Santana reached into her bag, fixed Blaine with an unpleasant smile, and pulled out another.
"Here you go, Wholesome," she said with deadly sweetness. Blaine's lips parted soundlessly - until that moment it hadn't occurred to him that he would be expected to partake in their drugged debauchery, as preoccupied as he was with everything else that was going on, though he supposed it ought to have.
Before he could say anything, however, Kurt tugged the clamp off, and inhaled. All of it.
Santana laughed as Kurt bent forward, grabbing his knees as he breathed in and out heavily. "Not all at once," she teased, though there was nothing lighthearted about it, and she strolled back over toward the pool. She bent down and pulled a pack of beer out from underneath a plant, set her bag down, pulled out a beer, worked the cap off, and took a swig.
Blaine took a step closer to Kurt, eyeing him carefully and biting his lip. He'd never felt so out of sorts before - nothing about this was his element, from the place to the people to the activity, and Kurt was the only familiar thing he had to latch onto… even if Kurt had just inhaled some sort of drug and was possibly out of his mind right then.
But after a few deep breaths Kurt seemed to be as collected as he usually was. He gave Blaine a small, reassuring look, and tilted his head toward the unoccupied pool chair. Blaine sat down, hands folded tight in his lap, and Kurt sat down on the deck beside him, his shoulder an arm's length away. He lounged casually, and Santana gave him an ugly smile over the neck of his bottle.
"So what have you been up to since graduation, Hummel?" she asked, as Puck and Lauren giggled in the background, apparently in their own little world and unaware of the strange drama that was unfolding in front of them. Blaine felt like he was watching some foreign play. "Doing a lot of work in cars?"
Kurt fixed her with a cold look. "Keeping busy," he said shortly. "You?"
She met his cold stare, and then some. "Not as busy as I'd like."
"There's shit all to do in this town," Puck grumbled, apparently having heard the conversation after all. Kurt and Santana both drew themselves up as Puck snagged two of the beers and offered one to Lauren. He added, "That's why me and my lady are heading for LA."
Santana scoffed. "I'm sure. By the time you've finished walking there, Zizes here might be fit for the camera."
"Watch it, Lopez," Lauren said, chugging her beer and wiping off her mouth.
"Weren't you going on about how you were heading off for big fame the second school let out?" Puck said, arching an eyebrow at her.
"Yeah, well," Santana huffed, taking a big gulp of her drink and then setting it down with a hard clink. "Things change. Take Kurt, for example," she said as an aside to Puck and Lauren, tossing her hair back. "All he's interested in anymore is being respectable with his respectable friend."
The line of Kurt's shoulders was getting squarer and squarer. "We can all be the children of doctors, Santana," he said cooly. "Some of us have to think about other people."
"How unselfish of you," she said sarcastically, pulling a silver case out of her bag and opening it to reveal a row of cigars. She took one out, tapped it, and lit it with what looked like a very expensive lighter.
Blaine's eyes widened as it occurred to him.
After all, how many girls were there that smoked cigars? That were acquainted with Kurt? And the weird tension that he'd been picking up on, that made him think that everything she was saying was code for something else…
He held himself still as he absorbed his epiphany, not letting on to the others there that his head was churning. Did she know about him?. She must, mustn't she? But she wouldn't tell, certainly - because she had a secret, too. It didn't give him the same sense of camaraderie that he felt with Kurt (but then, he didn't expect to feel with anyone what he felt with Kurt), but there was some comfort to be had there.
By the time he'd worn down his initial panic, Santana had gone through two cigars, Puck and Lauren had finished the last of the "giggling gas," as they called it, and they had all finished off the case of beer. Blaine felt like an observer among natives - he'd never seen this side of Kurt's life, not really. The Kurt that Blaine knew listened to records with him in his room and talked about what he planned to embroider on his jackets next and held him so tenderly that he took Blaine's breath away.
Blaine was sure that that - that all of that - was the real Kurt. But he felt like knowing the facade that Kurt put on, the lies he chose to tell about himself, were just as vital to understanding him completely.
He had to wonder if this was what had occupied all of Kurt's nights, before he had approached Blaine. If instead of the relief they'd found in each other he'd tried to smoke his thoughts out or drown his wants with drugs and beer.
He wondered what had made Kurt finally come to him. He'd told Blaine that he'd seen an opportunity in his car, but certainly he could have thought up a pretense before that if he'd put his mind to it. Kurt was the most creative, intelligent person that he knew.
There was one clear conclusion that he'd come to: the videos they showed at school weren't quite right about drugs. In his mind he'd imagined frantic, destructive energy to mirror the videos' discordant soundtrack. But there was no one falling into the pool, going mad, or even fornicating - Lauren still had Puck rubbing her feet, but she hadn't even taken her socks off, and for all that Santana was lounging around in an indecent swimming suit, she wasn't trying to… entice anyone. In fact, everyone seemed quite mellow and was talking, laughing, and most of all griping about what a nowhere town they were trapped in was.
Santana finally stubbed out her second cigar and told them all to leave - though she used much less polite terms than that as she started picking up bottles and pitching them over the fence into the neighbor's yard.
The ride back was mostly quite; Lauren took the front seat again, and when Kurt pulled up in front of Puck's house, both she and he got out.
Blaine silently climbed into the front seat and stretched out there as they drove along the quiet streets. His felt wrung out - in the pleasant way that he always did after he'd had Kurt inside of him, but also mentally exhausted from everything that had transpired before and past that.
"I'm sorry," Kurt said softly, after he'd put two blocks between them and Puck's house.
Blaine turned to look at him. He was sitting stiffly, holding the wheel hard and staring straight at the road. The tension was pouring off of him now that they were alone.
"I was the one that said we should go," Blaine pointed out, sitting up and sliding a hand up Kurt's back to squeeze his tight shoulder.
Kurt licked his lips. "I didn't want you to have to meet Santana. She's… unpleasant on a good day. Vicious on a normal one."
"It's her, isn't it," Blaine said. "She's the girl that parks with Brittany."
Kurt's eyes slid over to meet his briefly before they returned to the road.
"She knows about me."
Kurt pulled up to a dark patch of curb at that, killing the headlights. He turned toward Blaine, face serious and sincere.
"I didn't tell her about you."
Blaine blinked. "I know. I know you wouldn't." His hand slid down from Kurt's shoulder to his waist and he scooted closer across the seat. Kurt sucked in a breath and let it out slowly.
"She knew of you. Brittany… she's not the best secret-keeper, you know that, she doesn't get sometimes why she needs to keep her mouth shut about things. She told Santana that I have… someone. Special." He pursed his lips. "Well, she didn't use that term, but that was the gist of it."
"Why was Santana mad at you?" Blaine wondered.
Kurt smiled a little. "She doesn't really need a reason, and she doesn't like anyone that's taken a tumble with Brittany - or once intended to, in my case," Kurt added, sucking on his bottom lip and looking out the window. "But she's a little ticked at me at the moment. I don't have so much free time to chauffeur her and Brittany around. And she's just angry in general - she had plans, about leaving town with Brittany after graduation."
"She did?" Blaine asked, sitting up, his fingers curling a little tighter around Kurt's abdomen, warm through the thin t-shirt.
Kurt glanced at him. "It didn't work out," he said. "Brittany got held back and - it brought Santana to earth, I guess. Don't worry," he said, switching topics, "she won't tell, about you. She's a viper, but she's not that heartless."
Blaine's fingers scratched idly at Kurt's side, noting the way that the muscle shivered under him. He digested that and found that he was not worried. "Have you been giving her the prophylactics that Puck gives to you?" he wondered.
The corners of Kurt's mouth turned up. "I couldn't very well let them stack up in my bedroom. Dad's only just been convinced that he's not going to have to rush me through a wedding before Finn's."
"Everyone does what they need to," Kurt said levelly.
Blaine's hand smoothed up to the small of Kurt's back and rubbed there absently. Kurt sighed and leaned into it, finally beginning to unknot. "Can I ask you something?"
"Of course," Kurt murmured. He sounded exhausted, now that he was finally letting himself go, and it made him want to wrap Kurt up in his arms and lie down with him. But they were out on the street, and even what Blaine was doing now was verging on suspicious. It was late enough that all of the house lights on the street were out, so Blaine thought there was little chance of them being seen, but it said a lot about how tired Kurt was, that he wasn't pulling away.
"That - what you took -"
"Giggle gas," Kurt supplied.
"That. What does it do?"
Kurt looked a little surprised that he was asking, but answered all the same. "It's just - a roaring in your ears, and patterns on the edge of your vision for a couple breaths, and then it clears out. It's not dangerous," he promised. "Not as long as you remember to breathe air, too. It just comes on strong and shakes you, and then it leaves just as fast."
Blaine nodded thoughtfully, still kneading his fingers into Kurt's back. "Did you… do that a lot?"
"Sometimes," Kurt said slowly, trying to work out where Blaine was going with this. "Sometimes Santana swipes it when she visits her dad at work. Obviously she can't make off with it all the time."
"And the marijuana and the alcohol?" Blaine asked.
Kurt was eyeing him like he wasn't sure if Blaine was going to berate him or something else. "I didn't care for that. It sort of… put everything in a prolonged haze, and I didn't like it. Those dregs in the dashboard - that really was Brittany's. She loves the stuff and she and Santana use it sometimes, despite my repeated requests for them not to stink up my car," he volunteered, voice picking up some speed. Blaine nodded along thoughtfully.
"What?" Kurt finally said. "What, what are you getting at? Just tell me, because I hate having to try to guess. Are you scandalized?"
"A little," Blaine admitted. "Mostly by Santana."
Kurt cracked a smile at that, and Blaine continued.
"But I guess… I guess I was just thinking about what you did before I knew you. I know you weren't really a… a low-life deviant, but -"
"Hey," Kurt interrupted, reaching back to grasp Blaine's hand from his back and pull it into his lap, where he laced their fingers. "Being a deviant isn't so bad," he said with a smirk.
Blaine answered him with a soft smile and pressed, "I was just wondering why you stopped trying with - with Brittany and highs and why you tried with me."
Kurt was silent. Blaine looked up from their joined hands and saw that Kurt's face was pensive, like he was fighting with the urge to close off. After a long pause he let out a sigh and said, "Santana cries when she gets really drunk."
Blaine blinked, his eyebrows rising, unsure of where Kurt was taking this. Kurt squeezed his hand and met his eyes.
"A couple weeks before - more like three, I guess - Puck bailed on us because he was trying to woo Lauren, and Brittany wasn't there because it was cheerleading Nationals, and no one else showed up because - I don't know. Better things to do, or maybe Santana didn't invite anyone. But it was just me and Santana and a whole lot of alcohol, and - well, I won't repeat everything she said. But when she cries she really cries, and it was probably the most awkward experience of my life."
Kurt looked down at their hands. "Anyway… in between causing irreparable water damage to one of my favorite jackets, she said some stuff about her life that got me thinking, and I… Damn, Blaine." He let out a long, low, pained sigh. "You don't know how unhappy I was until I met you. Properly. I didn't even know how unhappy I was."
Blaine swallowed. "Me too."
"I just…" Kurt took a fortifying breath. "I didn't want my whole life to pass me by without ever being really happy."
"Are you?" Blaine whispered.
Kurt tightened his grip on his hand and covered it with his other. "More than I thought there was in me to be," he said with quiet ferocity.
Blaine smiled shakily. "Me too." He licked his lips. "You know what I'm going to say now."
"I… I can't, Blaine," Kurt said. He squeezed his eyes closed and then dug the heel of his palm into them. "I can't not choose my family, they're…" - a hard swallow - "they're the only one I'm ever going to have."
Blaine swallowed, feeling his hands go numb. And then Kurt was grabbing his arms by the elbows and pulling him in close, their heads low and together, and there was clear distress on his face. "Blaine, please. We still have a year. We still have your whole senior year. You… You shake me, Blaine, I feel like you…"
"Move me," Blaine whispered, and Kurt was nodding.
"Please, this doesn't have to happen yet."
"I love you," Blaine said desperately, because he couldn't think of what else to say. He'd come up against a wall every time, and… and why wasn't that enough? Why did there have to be anything else but that?
"I love you, too," Kurt said with tender fear, eyes so wide and watery and wounded on Blaine like he was the one that was doing this to them, breaking his heart, and Blaine almost wanted to resent him for that but it just hurt so badly - everything hurt, as the suffocation of resignation began to settle on him.
It wasn't that he couldn't find the argument. It was that there was no argument.
So what were their options? To keep on as they were, to love each other so dangerously as they watched the end rush toward them? Blaine didn't know if he could survive that. But the other option - to pull away now, first, to try and recover now - to do what Kurt had begged him not to? He couldn't. He couldn't, he loved Kurt so much that he knew hurting himself would be more bearable than hurting him.
"I love you," Blaine repeated, cupping his face, fingers curling in his hair - "God, I wish I could kiss you."
"Please," Kurt said, eyes squeezed closed again and - he was crying, Blaine realized. He'd never seen Kurt cry before. "Blaine, please try to understand. I have a responsibility…"
He was - he really was. But he couldn't imagine choosing his father over a life with Kurt - even a chance at a life with Kurt. He couldn't help the sting of rejection, the creeping anger that he wasn't being given in return the love that he'd put in. How could Kurt claim he made him happier than anything else if he were willing to let him go?
"You're the love of my life," he said finally, helplessly, hopelessly.
"Blaine -" Kurt's voice broke, and he sucked in a breath, tried to speak steadier, "you are everything that I wish I could have. You're everything."
Everything after that passed in something of a haze for Blaine.
They sat there in silence on that street for a long time, at opposite ends of the car, just trying to steady their breathing and look presentable. Kurt finally wiped his eyes, drove Blaine to the corner of his street, out of sight, and dropped him off. They didn't touch, didn't speak - Blaine was sure that if he did he would fly apart again. Kurt was right there and he already felt like he'd lost him.
But as he slid out of the car without even a "goodnight" or a secret brush of fingers and walked down the block to his house, the fresh summer air drying his face as he approached, Blaine tried to imagine staying in Lima, and he couldn't. He knew his father wanted him out of the house - out of his life - as soon as possible. He wanted Blaine to be successful so that he had accomplishments to be proud of in lieu of a son that he was always going to be ashamed for having. But he wanted him to be successful far away from him.
Blaine thought that he could maybe understand it, as he climbed the steps and let himself in (the lights were on, but there was no sign of his father; retired to his study, Blaine assumed, preoccupied with his work), if the force Mr. Hummel exerted on Kurt was as powerful as the one his own father exerted on him - except his father was compelling him to leave, while Mr. Hummel was reason enough for Kurt to stay.
He stayed up very late that night, trying not to think about anything. He still felt numb all over, like he'd been bled of all sensation.
He still made himself get up on time to catch the bus, go in to work, smile at customers, smile at everyone, act normal, always act normal, no matter how much he wasn't. He wiped down counters and took orders neatly and assembled meals with aplomb and he still flirted with the Crawford girls and preteens.
He didn't sing, though. He could never really fake it when he was singing.
At noon there was a rumble of a familiar engine, and when Blaine looked up from the milkshake canister he'd been washing, he saw his Impala pull up in the parking lot. Kurt came in the door with a jingle, walked straight to him, and set the keys on the counter. He didn't look at him, and once Blaine had reached out and closed his hands over the keys, Kurt turned and walked out.
Blaine wished now that he'd stopped pushing the issue like Kurt had wanted, but he knew that would have been impossible. He couldn't just make himself not worry, or ignore things. But he'd had so much hope, and God, that was a loss of its own worth mourning…
He went through the motions as the afternoon dragged on and his thoughts spun around the seemingly impossible choice before him - how to maximize pleasure and minimize pain? Was there a way, or did the degree of one determine the degree of the other? Did he really have to choose between a life of not truly feeling anything but a vague absence, and such extreme lows to pay for the highs?
Blaine stared at the car and methodically cleaned the counters and fingered the keys in his pocket and stared, and when Puck and Lauren came into the shop ten minutes to closing and tried to coax free shakes after hours, Blaine knew what he had to do.
No one could say that Blaine Anderson was not a man who was willing to take risks. Most of the time he played things safe because he wanted to be safe, but there were things he wanted more - things essential to his character, to his very soul. He could lie about everything, but there were some things that he couldn't deny himself and still be himself. There had to be something about who he was that could hold up against every concealment, denial, misdirection, and lie and still believe he had an identity that transcended it all.
And for him, that was taking chances - big chances, with big gestures - for the things that he believed in. It was like when he'd stumbled out of the car last night to help Kurt face down the unknown. It wasn't a choice that he made about how he presented himself. It wasn't any choice at all. It was just something that Blaine Anderson had to do.
Blaine pulled up to the Hummel garage. This time he knew that only Kurt would be there - it was past closing, and Kurt would want to stay late tonight. Generally when he wanted to take his mind off things, he became very preoccupied with the minute details of simple tasks. (Looking back, he had bedazzled a lot of things as his own graduation had neared.) Blaine knew that he would be in there after the not-fight they'd had.
Somehow it was worse that it hadn't been a fight - that what they had might fall apart while proclaiming to love one another more dearly than anything else in the world.
He climbed out and walked to the front door, rapping smartly on it with his knuckles. He waited a minute, and when there was no response he knocked again, wondering if Kurt would simply ignore a visitor past closing. But presently there was movement from inside, and then Kurt's face was in the window, looking surprised, then apprehensive, as he opened the door. "Blaine…"
"Can I come in?" he asked politely.
"…Yes," Kurt said, stepping aside. He closed the door behind him. Blaine considered the reception room, but it was too bland, designed to be universally appealing.
"Can we go into your office?"
Kurt's head bobbed and they walked there together; the light was on in there, but the rest of the garage was dark as they passed through it.
As soon as Blaine had crossed the threshold he turned to Kurt and said, "I'm selling my car."
Kurt blinked, looking thrown off. "What?"
"To Puck and Lauren."
Kurt still looked confused. "Did he rob a bank?"
Blaine shrugged. "Well, it's not happening right now. There's still a year before I leave for New York. He said that would be enough time to come up with the money."
Kurt crossed his arms, a wrinkle appearing in his brow. "You're just going to sell your car."
"I wouldn't be able to keep it in New York. It's sensible."
"Okay…" Kurt said slowly. "Why are you telling me?" His eyes flickered away. "Is this some sort of… symbolic gesture?"
It took Blaine a moment, and then he blinked and raised an eyebrow. "You mean because this started in my car? No."
Kurt's shoulders relaxed a fraction. "Then I don't understand why you came here to tell me this."
"Because," Blaine said, rocking on his feet, "it'll be more than enough for you to find an apartment in New York."
Kurt's mouth sagged open. "You… Blaine, you cannot give me that much money."
"It's for us," Blaine said.
"You… God, I thought you were coming here to break it off between us," Kurt said, hunching a little. "Blaine, it's not just money. I've told you…"
"Listen," Blaine said, grabbing his hand and pulling him over to the small love seat that was pushing up against one of the walls. He sat down and pulled a hesitant Kurt down next to him. "Your dad had his heart attack almost two years ago, Kurt. He hasn't had another since."
"Once was too much," Kurt said, biting his lip.
"No, please… Just listen. Finn can run the garage. You remember that he and I used to run in the same circle, right? I happen to know that he wants to run the garage. He's planning a wedding, he's probably going to start having kids soon - he needs a career. And I know… I know that they're your family, but Kurt, I need you more than they do," he said, voice breaking a little, Kurt's eyes suddenly concerned and aching as they stared into his own, and he took a shaky, steadying breath and powered through: "And I think you need me, too."
He swallowed. "You don't have to be here to be responsible. You could make more money in New York than you can in Ohio. You could send it to them." He looked up at him and swore fiercely, "This, us, isn't some escape from the dreary reality, and I'm not some high, Kurt, I'm not going to fade away. You… I hope you know that you have my heart, wherever you are," he whispered. "Please be with me."
"Blaine…" Kurt's hand slid around his collar, trembling when he fingered the edge of his bow tie. His breath came in shallowly and Blaine was holding his own, waiting, praying desperately like he never had before.
"Okay," Kurt breathed. He closed his eyes and tipped his head forward until theirs were touching. "Christ, Blaine, there's only so many times I can say no to you. Okay. I'll go to New York."
Blaine sucked in a shuddery breath, grasping the sides of Kurt's face. "Yes?"
Kurt smiled at him. "Yes."
Blaine threw his arms around him, wrapping around him as tight as he could while Kurt's arms came around to cling to his shoulders. "I love you," he whispered. "Thank you, I love you. This will work, you'll see. We've got each other, Kurt."
Kurt's hand slipped up from his shoulder to cradle his head. "I love you," he breathed against his lips, and kissed him for a very long time.