Rating (art/fic if different): G/R
Word Count: 14,000
Warnings (if any): none, unless you don't like fluff, summer, or Hummelberry friendship. Or Klaine, but then you wouldn't be here anyway.
Fic Summary: Kurt just wants to get some work done, Rachel just wants him to relax, and Blaine shows up and makes everything even more complicated than it is already.
Link to Art: Here, with a beautiful additional drawing, also made by the wonderful dreamingpartone.
Author's Notes: Phew. This one really did take a village. First of all, so many thanks (my eternal gratitude) to my two fantastic betas who did so much more than they had to: mixedberryjam (not only for the beta, but also for letting me freak out in her ask box at all hours and being an endless source of advice) and wingsofwriting (also not only for the beta, but also for her constant cheerleading and her incredible attention to detail). You guys are The Best and I love you so much. Additional thanks goes to coffeegleek - she knows why. Also to holywine for explaining the US to a European who's never left the continent. I LOVE YOU ALL. And of course, I'd like to thank dreamingpartone for her amazing art work which inspired this story in the first place, and for the additional second drawing, which she made based on this story (something I am so excited about, because ART WORK. For my story. Thank you, darling!)
Lastly, I would like to mention that this is just the beginning. Of a 'verse. The next part is already all planned out, and since I'm going on vacation in two weeks, I'll have lots of time to write. Looking forward to it. ;) And now enough with the rambling, and on to the story:
Three Weeks of Summer
Kurt is skeptical. Very skeptical. It's not his usual way of coping with things, that's for sure. Usually, he works his way through it, exhausts himself until he can't think. After his mother died, he spent the entire summer learning how to ride a bike and perfecting the art of it when it turned out it was indeed far too easy. When people started looking at him and shoving him into lockers, he worked on his vocal technique and learned to bake. When the bullying got worse, he started redecorating his bedroom and taught himself how to sew. After his father's heart attack, he became an expert on alternative treatments for heart disease. Kurt Hummel has never been one to idly sit and cry in his breakfast cereal when life doesn't go according to plan.
He'd only been with Roger for a year. Not even quite that. And while he'd been happy enough for most of that time, it isn't like being without him is completely destroying him. So he ignores Rachel's pitying looks and glances at his book again (The Complete Guide to Home Plumbing) before rearranging the tools on the counter. How difficult can it really be? He grew up working on cars; this kitchen sink is not going to defeat him.
“You should really, really think about it, Kurt,” Rachel insists.
He doesn't answer, because, no, he shouldn't.
“A change of scenery would be good for you,” Rachel keeps pushing and Kurt sighs, turns a page of his book, carefully examining the step by step instructions.
He feels Rachel's eyes on the back of his head and he knows she won't give up so easily—they have been friends for far too long.
“It's okay if you're not, you know?” Rachel pats his shoulder before turning to go—her shift starts in twenty minutes. “You guys were together almost a year. You're allowed to miss him.”
“I don't.” (He does.) “I'm glad he's gone.” (He is. He really is, because no one appreciates being cheated on, however “innocent” it was or wasn't, and however not-serious their relationship was). It still fucking hurts, and the only thing that's going to make it go away is fixing this damn kitchen sink.
“Kurt.” Rachel slings her purse over her shoulder, looks back at him with one hand on the doorknob. “Classes end in two weeks. You have time to find someone to cover some of your shifts at the restaurant. Just... think about it, okay?”
Rachel rolls her eyes, yanks the door open. “Fine. I have to go. But we're not done talking about this.”
“Yes, we are,” Kurt yells after her, knowing she can't hear him anymore.
He doesn't want to go on a vacation. He wants to work until he's too tired to think, he wants to audition for every part in every production in the greater New York area and get a head start on his course work for next term. And learn about plumbing. It might come in handy someday. Today, for example, when the sink is acting all funny. The time between semesters is the busiest time of the year for him with extra voice lessons and extra shifts at work (which he has to pick up because New York is expensive and so is his wardrobe).
There is no way Rachel will convince him this is a good idea.
“I'm so glad I could convince you this was a good idea.” Rachel bounces in the driver's seat of the car they managed to borrow from one of her dads' New York friends and Kurt stares out the car window glumly.
He'd lasted three days, three days of Rachel chatting away about the lake and swimming and summer and how good it was to just get away from everything sometimes. There had been brochures left on his pillow when he got home and little notes with suggestions for different locations and silly smiley faces turning up in his school bag. The fridge had been decorated with postcards depicting lake shores and docks and beautiful sunsets all of a sudden.
There was only so much he could take.
So, finally, figuring it was probably easier to just go away with her for three weeks than put up with her incessant pouting all summer, he had caved and taken over the majority of the planning—if he was going to spend a good portion of his semester break at some mosquito-infested lake in a moldy old cabin, he at least wanted some say in where they were going. And here they were, on their way to Michigan.
“You will not regret this, I promise.” Rachel smiles at him, barely able to contain her excitement. “This is going to be great—a chance for you to forget about Rog—”
“Don't even mention his name,” Kurt warns. He's done with that jerk. “I'm serious.”
“I'm sorry. “Rachel leans over as far as she can while keeping her eyes on the road, patting his hand. “But I think you do need to talk about it, you know, come to terms with what happened. He did cheat—”
“Stop talking right now.” Kurt holds up a hand, effectively ending the discussion. “I already wasted a year of my life on him, okay? I'm over it. Moving on. I'm not going with you to talk or clear my head, I'm going on this vacation because you wouldn't shut up about it and I'm a good friend.”
“Okay, okay.” Rachel sighs, her face full of that infuriating kind of compassion that had driven him mad over the past few weeks. “We won't talk about it. Just know that I'm here whenever you change your mind, okay?”
“Fine.” Kurt slumps back in the passenger seat—they're taking turns driving, it's going to take a while—opening the magazine he's brought along for the journey and hiding behind it. He's done talking about this.
The cabin is actually quite beautiful, Kurt has to admit. It's small, just one L-shaped room that serves as kitchen and living room, two small bedrooms and a tiny little bathroom with the smallest shower he has ever seen in his life, but there's a huge deck off the front door and Rachel lets him have the bedroom with the view of the lake—which Kurt does appreciate. Sometimes, being dumped or cheated on does have its perks, apparently. Especially when you're not too heartbroken about it. He's still just mostly angry.
It's early evening when they arrive, the scenery basked in the soft light of a slowly fading sun, and Kurt unpacks quickly before heading back outside, taking in the surroundings in which he's going to spend the next three weeks.
He's still somewhat on the fence about this—he had plans for the summer. He wanted to pick up a few extra voice lessons and more shifts at work to save up for Christmas. But it's 'only' three weeks, and since the next cabin is a few hundred yards away, no one is going to complain if he does some vocal exercises on his own every day. He can do this. Relax. Be away from everything. It's three weeks. He'll find things to keep himself occupied.
Sitting down in one of the plastic folding chairs, he props his head up on his hands and tries not to think.
The grass-covered ground falls away in a gentle slope toward the lake shore, and a giant weeping willow is growing next to the dock that they, unfortunately, share with the next cabin.
Kurt would have liked a cabin with a private dock, but they're always operating on a tight budget and this is the best they can afford. He still hopes the other cabin is going to stay empty for the few weeks they're here. He doesn't feel like making friends with strangers.
“Are you hungry?” Rachel asks, appearing suddenly behind him. “Because I am.”
“Not really,” Kurt answers. All they have left are leftover sandwiches from the trip—and since they arrived late in the day he doesn't quite feel like shopping right now. Actually, he feels more like sleeping. He has been here ten minutes and already all the oxygen in the air is making him sleepy after the fumes of New York. He feels like he hasn't breathed this deeply in years.
“I think I'll drive into town anyway, see if I can pick up some things for breakfast tomorrow,” Rachel suggests.
“Do you want me to come with you?” Kurt offers, more because he feels like he has to than because he really wants to. Not having to move sounds great to him right now.
“No, that's okay.” Rachel shakes her head. “I figure since you're going to do most of the cooking anyway, I can take care of the shopping.”
“Thank you.” Kurt accepts her brief hug before she bounces down the front steps, disappearing around the side of the cabin. Kurt hears the car start, listens to the sound of the engine fading into the distance and then it's completely quiet again.
He keeps sitting right where he is for another few minutes, his mind blissfully empty of all thoughts except “God, it's quiet here,” and “I should check whether I have cell phone reception.” It's nice. It doesn't take long, however, before his brain kicks back in, going at a hundred miles an hour, reminding him why he doesn't really have the time to be here.
Well. Maybe that was to be expected. It feels like days since he left the city and months since he's had any real time to himself.
With a sigh, he gets up and starts walking down the grassy slope toward the lake shore. If he can't make it five minutes without starting to make lists of all the things he has to do once he gets back, this vacation is going to be really fun. But no, he'll find things to distract himself. Like swimming—it really does train every muscle in your body. He's been a bit indulgent with food lately, so maybe he could use the time here for some rigorous kind of work-out routine. And long walks—he could attempt that too. Maybe he'd take up writing. He's doing well at NYADA and everything, but you never know. If it doesn't work out, he might need an alternate life plan, so maybe he should really look into literature as well.
He walks along the lake shore until he gets to the dock, eyeing it suspiciously for a moment, searching for any kind of decay before setting foot on it. He doesn't want to accidentally go swimming tonight and definitely not in his clothes. It looks fine, though, so he walks to the end and sits down, legs hanging over the edge.
It reminds him of a summer several years ago when he'd gone on a vacation like this with his dad. He'd liked it back then, even if he had spent a good portion of it convincing his dad that he really didn't want to learn how to fish. He should call his dad, he decides. If he has cell reception here in the middle of nowhere.
He sighs, looking back to the shore and freezes as he sees someone walking toward him from the other direction—so the second cabin isn't empty after all. And the stranger, upon seeing him, makes no sign of doing the polite thing and turning back but keeps strolling towards the dock, hands in his pockets, like he doesn't have a care in the world.
Kurt quickly considers his options—he's tired and he's cranky and he doesn't feel like being friendly right now. On the other hand, it is already too late to get up and leave without making it seem like he's avoiding the person, and that probably wouldn't be the most comfortable start of a peaceful coexistence between dock-sharing vacation neighbors. He doesn't want to hang out with random vacationers, but he also doesn't want to have to awkwardly avoid his neighbors for weeks.
He spends the next minute torn between the desire to run and resigning himself to small talk, careful not to look in the direction the stranger is coming from (in the hope that maybe he'll ignore him if Kurt seems thoroughly uninterested and lost in thought, but he has no such luck). All too soon, he hears footsteps on the dock behind him and, suppressing a sigh, turns around.
He's glad the sun is in the stranger's eyes, because that way chances are pretty good he won't see the way Kurt's eyes widen as his breath hitches when he comes face to face with the most ridiculously attractive man he has seen in a long, long time.
“Hi,” the man says, grinning in the most adorable, sunny way, hands still in his pockets.
“Hi.” Kurt hates that he sounds breathless and high-pitched, especially compared to the warm, rich tone of the second-cabin renter's voice.
“So. You living in 21?” The stranger asks.
“Yeah... yes. I guess you're number 22, then,” Kurt replies, his voice firmer, more like his own now.
“Yup. Looks like we're sharing a dock for the summer. So... nice to meet you.”
“Yes.” Kurt kicks himself mentally, extending a hand far too late to still be polite. “I mean, nice to meet you too.”
“My name's Blaine,” the man says, shaking Kurt's hand firmly before dropping down onto the planks next to him.
“Kurt,” Kurt replies, ignoring the tingling in his palm where the guy—Blaine—has just touched it. He's not twelve anymore, for crying out loud.
Oh great. Maybe he should never have left New York.
“So, already making new friends?” Rachel grins at him over the brim of her tea cup.
“I have no idea what you're talking about,” Kurt huffs, continuing to chop carrots with such vigor the knife is leaving small indentations in the chopping board.
“He looked cute.”
“I hadn't noticed,” he lies, trying to sound completely uninterested (and failing miserably. But seriously, he's mad at the world and tired of relationships. He's not blind or anything).
“Aw, come on, Kurt, you're allowed to have a little fun.” Rachel puts down her cup and he just knows she's giving him that look again. “We're here for three weeks. You should think about it.”
“He's probably not even gay,” Kurt answers before he can censor himself, then kicks himself mentally. “I mean, not that I would care. Because I'm not interested anyway.” Oh. Good. That had sounded convincing. It's essentially true, though—random hook-ups are really not his style. He has way too much self-esteem for that.
“Whatever.” Rachel sighs, sitting down at the table. “You're probably right, though—you were with Roger for quite a long time. Maybe you should take a break from guys for a while.”
“I thought we had agreed to never mention his name again,” Kurt reminds her sternly.
“You know I still think that you should talk about—He Who Shall Not Be Named.”
Kurt rolls his eyes at her. “No. I mean it, Rachel. Just drop it.”
“Okay, fine. Just—”
“For the last time, I'm fine,” Kurt assures her, resisting the urge to bang his head against the kitchen cabinets. When will people stop bothering him about this? He's doing okay. He is.
“I'm your friend, Kurt. I care about you. And if you're unhappy...”
Kurt drops the knife and turns around, facing Rachel. She means well, he knows. And he doesn't want her to worry. “Okay, look. I'm not heartbroken. And you don't need to treat me like I am.” He shrugs, resigning himself to the fact that he's explaining this now. “I was thinking about breaking up with him anyway, because we weren't... happy. We hadn't been for some time. But every time I tried, he begged me to reconsider, to give it one more try, and I... I liked him, you know? I really did. I didn't want to hurt him. So I caved, every time. And then—”
“And then he was the one to kiss someone else,” Rachel finishes his sentence. “He was the one to hurt you.”
Kurt nods. “It's just not a very nice feeling, being cheated on. Especially by someone who just begged you not to break up with him the day before. I'm... angry, I guess. I think I was just convenient for him, nothing more. And I have no right to be upset about this, because I didn't really want it anyway, but still...” He lifts his hands, sighing helplessly. This is why he didn't want to talk about it in the first place. It's all so fucking complicated.
“Kurt...” Rachel just looks at him for a second before stepping forward to pull him into a quick hug. “I get it,” she promises. “And we don't have to talk about it again. I just hate that you got hurt.”
“I know.” He hugs her back before turning to his cooking again. “And I love you for it. But I'll be fine, I swear. And now tell me about our plans for tomorrow. You're going to make me go for a swim, aren't you?”
Kurt is lying on the dock, reading one of the few books he'd brought along, ignoring Rachel's shouts from the lake to join her for a swim. It isn't quite that warm yet and the water looks incredibly cold. Plus, the story is just getting interesting and he still has three more weeks to subject his skin to whatever is in that lake water.
“Oh, hi again,” a voice to his left greets him and Kurt looks up, a cross between annoyed and surprised.
“Blaine. Hi,” he answers. “Jeez, you should wear a bell around your neck, I didn't even hear you.”
“Sorry, I didn't mean to interrupt your reading,” Blaine apologizes. “Just going for a swim.”
“Oh, it's fine.” Kurt smiles up at him, not sure why it's fine exactly. Not that he's anti-social or anything, but he never understood how people think it's a good idea to talk to you when your face was hidden behind a book. “I wasn't getting much reading done anyway, with the way Rachel keeps shouting at me.” He waves a hand towards the water in Rachel's general direction.
Rachel, who has been swimming away from them, chooses this very moment to turn around and yell “if you're not in here in thirty seconds, I'm going to come out there and push you in.” Her face takes on a curious and way too pleased expression upon seeing that Kurt is not alone, and she starts speeding in their direction as fast as her short arms let her.
“Girlfriend?” Blaine asks, looking curious in a way Kurt can't quite place and is entirely too afraid of.
“God, no.” He shakes his head. “Not exactly my type, if you know what I mean.”
Blaine just tilts his head, giving him a slightly puzzled look.
Kurt laughs out loud, shutting his book and putting it down on the planks. It's not often he needs to spell it out for people. “Because she's a girl.”
“Oh.” For some reason, Blaine seems relieved. “Same here.”
It's Kurt's turn to look puzzled now and Blaine grimaces, sitting down awkwardly a good distance away from Kurt. “I mean... I'm not a girl, obviously. I just meant not my type either. Because of the girl thing.”
Kurt can't quite help the grin spreading across his face at the endearing ridiculousness of the stranger.
“You... must... be... Blaine,” Rachel pants, climbing up onto the dock after making it back to the shore in record time. “I've heard... so much... about you.”
Kurt rolls his eyes as the two shake hands politely and hurries to put Rachel's words into perspective. “Oh, yes, we spent a whole thirty seconds on 'hey, I met our neighbor down by the lake' and 'oh, that's nice, what's for dinner' last night.”
“Really?” Blaine raises his eyebrows at him, pretending to look hurt. “I didn't leave more of an impression?”
Kurt blushes, cursing his fair skin that gives away his emotions too easily sometimes. “Anyway. If you want to go swimming, don't let us keep you.”
“You have to help me convince Kurt to go too.” Rachel turns to Blaine, leaning down to him conspiratorially, like they're old friends or something. “I made him go on this vacation to help him get over some things—”
“—and so far he has proven to be rather resistant to having any kind of fun at all. So, I'm counting on you.”
Kurt, torn between getting up and walking all the way back to New York right this instant and just shoving Rachel into the lake and let that be his revenge, hides his face behind his hands. “I am having fun out here, or at least I was until you two decided I wasn't allowed to read in peace.” Wow. Didn't that just sound mature.
Blaine's face falls and Kurt feels bad instantly. “I didn't mean to keep you from your book, I'm sorry. I just saw you and I thought—”
“No, no, I'm sorry.” Kurt reaches out, touching Blaine's arm, ignoring how warm it feels under his fingers. “You didn't—I mean, I like—no, I mean, it's okay. And maybe swimming doesn't sound so bad after all.”
Blaine smiles at him and Kurt can't do anything but smile back stupidly because the corners of Blaine's eyes crinkle when his smile gets really big and who smiles like that with his whole face at people he just met and Kurt feels himself losing this battle before he's even started fighting. It's immensely unfair.
Rachel jumps up suddenly and Kurt gives her a warning look, guessing what's coming next. He knows her far too well. “I totally forgot—I promised my dads I'd call half an hour ago. I better go take care of that right now, you guys just go ahead with the swimming. I might be a while, so don't wait for me, okay?”
And with that she's gone, hurrying up the path to the cabin, Kurt glaring after her but unable to do anything without letting Blaine know that he isn't actually too thrilled about the idea of being alone with him.
“She's...” Blaine begins, looking after Rachel.
“Exhausting,” Kurt suggests.
“I was going to say 'interesting,' but you know her better, I guess.” Blaine laughs. “And you don't have to go swimming with me if you don't want to. I'm sorry if I'm overdoing it with this neighbors thing—I was supposed to come here with a friend and he ditched me at the last second, so I don't even know how long I'm staying. It's just that we had already paid for everything and,” Blaine shrugs, “I figured I'd just come here for a few days anyway. Don't let a perfectly good vacation go to waste, you know? But I won't bother you anymore if you prefer—”
Kurt shakes his head quickly, wondering if he really looked that uncomfortable earlier. Blaine doesn't really make him feel uncomfortable. Quite the opposite, which is kind of the entire problem here. And makes him really uncomfortable. God, why does everything always have to be so damn complicated? “No, it's completely fine. Rachel doesn't mind your company, it seems, and you live just a few yards away. You shouldn't have to be here all alone.”
“Do you mind, though?” Blaine asks, not quite looking at Kurt.
“Are you okay with me hanging out with you guys? I won't if you aren't. I mean... I don't mean to pry, it's just, after what Rachel just said—if you need the time to yourself...”
“Oh, god, no.” Kurt swallows, staring at Blaine's feet because not looking at him would be weird but he can't quite bring himself to look at his face. His handsome, handsome face that he's so not interested in. “I like—I mean, you're okay. And I definitely don't mind, it's fine.”
“Great.” Blaine slaps his knee, jumping up enthusiastically. “Let's go for a swim, then, neighbor.”
Kurt sighs, the smile already tugging at the corners of his mouth. “Oh, all right. But only because this book is boring anyway.”
“What on earth are you doing?”
Kurt turns his head as much as he can, balancing on the edge of the bathroom sink. “You're up early,” he comments, seeing Rachel blink up at him, fluffy pink bathrobe wrapped tightly around her small frame, eyes sleepy and thoroughly unamused.
“I was kind of planning on getting a few more hours of sleep, but with all the noise you're making—”
“Oh.” Kurt gives her a sheepish look, biting his lip. “Sorry. I was trying to fix the shower head and—”
“At 4:30 in the morning?” Rachel looks at him incredulously, reaching up to grab his wrist and pull him off the sink. “Are you kidding me? When will you learn to fucking relax?”
“I couldn't sleep,” Kurt tries defending himself.
“I could.” Rachel drags him with her into the main room where she finally lets go to turn around and glare at him. “If you insist on keeping up with this insomnia crap, would you maybe consider going for a run or a swim or take up painting or writing or anything else as long as it doesn't make a sound?”
“Okay, oh my god, calm down, all right?” Kurt puts both hands on her shoulders, trying to stare her down. “Go back to sleep. I promise to never do it again, okay? And a run sounds like a great idea, actually, so thanks for suggesting it.”
Rachel nods her head, deflating visibly with the prospect of more uninterrupted sleep. “Fine. Don't be back before ten a.m.”
There’s really nowhere to walk out here, so he ends up sitting on the dock until it’s officially morning.
At least, watching the sun rise over the lake is quite beautiful. Really and truly beautiful and not taking his mind off anything in the slightest.
Kurt sighs, rubbing both hands across his tired face.
Miraculously, he still isn't upset about Roger; at least not in the way Rachel and everyone else, really, expect him to be. Sure, being cheated on kind of sucked and for a few weeks, it had felt like being punched in the gut. They had been falling out of love for a long time. Their relationship had been nothing but convenient in the end—he'd had someone and Roger had had someone and they'd both been able to hang out with their friends without feeling guilty about not including their boyfriend all the time.
He'd always been leading a busy life—that was the way he liked it. Everything fascinated him and he needed to be good at everything. Singing, acting, fashion, his friends. It had taken him long enough to get to where he was, he was not risking it all by slacking off and falling behind again.
That was why he'd dated Roger in the first place—having a boyfriend had seemed kind of mandatory at the time. Part of the “having-it-all” experience he wanted his college time to be.
He'd broken his own rule, though, and this was what he got out of it. Roger had not been the best-looking guy in the world, maybe, but he had been handsome—too handsome, apparently. It was something Kurt had learned during his first few months in New York—the handsome ones usually turn out to be either extremely self-involved, or complete jerks, or both.
Granted, Roger hadn't been any of those things. Not until recently, when he'd thought it absolutely necessary to stick his tongue down a stranger's throat at a mutual friend's party. Still, it only served to prove Kurt correct—the pretty ones thought they could get away with anything.
Not that Kurt thinks of himself as particularly bad-looking. He owns more than one mirror and knows he isn't repulsive. He also isn't the typical toothpaste-ad, underwear model type either. That's okay, though—he likes himself and his appearance well enough and has it on good authority (guys at parties, guys in his classes, guys he'd dated) that it appeals to others as well.
He finds himself wondering what Blaine is like once you get to know him. He certainly falls not only into the Handsome category, but in the Ridiculously-Good-Looking category, which is so much worse and definitely means Kurt shouldn't be thinking about him. At all.
The problem is, he can't really stop and it bothers him. It bothers him quite a lot, to be perfectly honest.
“You're up early,” a familiar voice speaks up behind him and the only reason his pulse speeds up is because he's startled out of his thoughts, Kurt firmly lies to himself.
“Rachel kicked me out of the cabin for being an insufferable insomniac,” Kurt explains, ignoring the tingling warmth in his skin as Blaine sits down next to him, just a little too close. He has been running, apparently, and dammit, the sweaty look kind of really works for him. Which is entirely unfair too. Why can't he look gross and disgusting the way normal people do after a morning run.
“Can't sleep?” Blaine nudges his shoulder with his own sympathetically. “Man, that sucks. You should try running before bed, really tires you out. Join me tonight, what do you say?”
“Didn't you just come back from a run?” Kurt inquires, eyeing Blaine skeptically. Is he one of those annoying sports freaks on top of everything? He looks muscular enough, but not like he spends every second at the gym. Just... strong and firm. Which is utterly and completely irrelevant.
Blaine grimaces, wiping his forehead with the short sleeve of his shirt. “I couldn't sleep either. I'm not one of those health nuts who only eat egg whites and have a private gym in the basement, in case you were wondering. I'm actually really lazy, most of the time.”
Kurt nods, forcing his eyes away from Blaine's nicely shaped arms to look back over the wind-rippled water instead.
“So?” Blaine reminds him. “Running tonight? You're welcome to join me, it's more fun that way. You don't have to, but I—”
“Okay,” Kurt cuts in, surprising even himself. Because what the hell? Hasn't he just spent an entire morning trying to not think about this guy?
“Great.” Blaine jumps up, beaming down at him with this infuriating smile that makes his entire face light up. “It's a date, then.”
“Not the term I would use,” Kurt corrects him, proud of himself for not blushing.
Blaine blushes enough for the both of them, though, and Kurt takes far too much pleasure from that. “No, I didn't mean...”
“See you tonight.” Kurt laughs, relieved by the slightly embarrassed expression on his neighbor's face.
“Well, probably before then too,” Blaine answers, quickly regaining his usual (not sexy at all) confidence. “You live, like, three feet away and there's not that much to do here.”
Right, Kurt reminds himself. That's why they're hanging out. He feels less flattered, more like himself again.
Turns out that running with Blaine does nothing to slow down his overactive mind. Despite the fact that they've been hanging out all day out on the dock (with Rachel, which Kurt is entirely grateful for), Blaine makes a big show of picking him up at the cabin that evening, smiling and excited and too cute for his own good, Kurt thinks.
They break into a slow run once they reach the lake, following the path around it, and Blaine just doesn't shut up. He talks about how much he loves being away from the city from time to time (he lives in New York too, as they have discovered this afternoon), how he rarely takes the time for running when he's at home and how much he enjoys it now. He talks about his classes (he's a music major and gets ridiculously happy when he learns what Kurt and Rachel are studying, insisting they must all sing together some time), and when he's not talking, he's humming.
Kurt, who is still trying to find that character flaw that will support his theory that the good-looking ones are never worth it, finds it increasingly hard not to be attracted to him. Which is still a really bad idea, he reminds himself. He doesn't even know this guy and he just got out of a long-term relationship, however passionless it might have been for the past few months.
Blaine drops him off at the cabin afterwards and wishes him a good night, accompanied by a gentle pad on the back. Not low enough to be suggestive, not aggressive enough to be a typical tough-guy gesture. Just sweet and friendly enough to make Kurt hate his life a little bit.
They fall into a lazy-vacation routine over the next few days. Somehow, Blaine, who seems to have decided to stay for a while longer, is always with them when they hang out by the lake and in the evening, Kurt joins him for a run. It's nice, it's almost comfortable because during the day, Rachel is there and in the evenings, they're both busy sweating and feeling healthy too much for Kurt to feel seriously tempted to do anything about these complicated feelings he doesn't want to have.
It's perfect until Rachel invites Blaine for dinner at their cabin one night, about eight days into their vacation.
They're lying on the dock, the three of them, sunbathing and chatting about everything and nothing when Rachel just bursts out with it like it is no big deal at all. “You should come over for dinner tonight, Blaine. We'll crack open a few bottles of wine and Kurt can make his vegan lasagna. It'll be fun.”
Blaine's face lights up like the sun and he looks so pleased, Kurt can't bring himself to offer any kind of objection, and well, he can't think of any kind of objection anyway. Nothing polite, at least. In fact, it makes sense for Blaine to eat with them, as much as he hates to admit it.
“That sounds wonderful, Rachel, thank you so much. I'd love to.” His eyes meet Kurt's for a moment and Kurt forces his mouth into what he hopes is an encouraging smile, but Blaine's expression turns unsure all the same. “If it's okay with you,” he directs at him.
“Oh, of course.” Kurt nods emphatically, hoping it doesn't look too fake. He's been doing so well these past few days, doing the smart thing even though fate had decided to dangle this beautiful stranger in front of him, reminding him of all the things he can't have or shouldn't want. “That's a great idea.”
“Okay.” Blaine seems unconvinced, but smiles at him anyway. And, by all the higher powers who seem to be conspiring against him these days, Kurt swears to himself he has never seen whiter teeth or prettier eyes in his life.
Kurt decides hating Rachel isn't going to solve anything, but it will still make him feel better if he just goes with it for a while.
“I can't believe you invited him,” he grumbles, putting the finishing touches on the lasagna before putting it in the oven.
“I don't understand.” Rachel feigns complete innocence. “I thought you guys were friends.”
“We're friendly. There's a difference.”
“So, you don't like him?”
“I never said that.”
“So you do like him.” Rachel looks entirely too pleased with herself and Kurt just wants this night to be over already.
“I never said that either.”
“Okay, look.” She walks over to him, taking his hand so he has to face her. “You don't have to marry the guy or anything. I honestly didn't mean anything by it. It's just... he's nice and he seems to enjoy hanging out with us and he's over there in his cabin all by himself every night. I just thought inviting him over would be a nice thing to do.”
Kurt doesn't buy the innocent act, but decides to let it go for now. It's no use arguing with Rachel when she gets like this. It's just that he enjoys sitting around in his pajamas and not giving a fuck about how he looks once they get back from the lake at night. And it's not like he can't do that when Blaine comes over, but... Well. Maybe he just should. Wear his oldest pajamas and let his hair go wild and not care in the slightest. Or... at least... just resist the urge to fix his hair.
So, five minutes later when he spills tomato sauce all over his clothes and has to go change into something different, it's completely by accident. As is the fact that his only clean pants are the tight ones that make his ass look amazing.
The wine helps, he finds out soon enough. The first bottle gone after dinner, they open the second one which Blaine has brought and move the party out onto the deck. It's not even that late, but Rachel keeps yawning openly and Kurt keeps giving her furious looks, knowing exactly what she's doing here. And, predictably enough, they have been sitting outside for maybe half an hour when she finally empties her wine glass in one big gulp and pushes back her chair.
“Well, guys, I think I'm going to call it a night,” she announces, stretching her arms over her head. “I don't even know why I'm so tired today. Must be the air. Anyway, good night.”
She hugs Kurt, who can't resist pinching her side and whispering “I hate you” in her ear. She ruffles his hair in return and waves at Blaine. “It was lovely, having you over. Maybe we can make this a recurring thing. If you want.”
“Thank you. It was nice of you to invite me,” Blaine answers, always the gentleman. Kurt hates him so much. And Rachel. He hates her too. He just kind of hates everyone tonight.
And then they're alone. And Kurt is completely lost. Because he hasn't had that much wine, but he does feel a little light-headed and Blaine smiles at him with his entire face and he smells so good, Kurt even notices it from several feet away. He moves his chair further away under the pretext of needing to stretch out his legs and takes slow sips of his wine so he doesn't have to speak. He's not quite sure what to say anyway.
“It's such a beautiful night, isn't it?” Blaine sighs, motioning toward the lake that is glimmering in the almost-dark of the late evening.
“Mm-hmm,” Kurt agrees, very eloquently.
“I love being here,” Blaine continues. “I really like New York, but it's so good to get away from the noise and the fumes every once in a while.”
“It is.” Kurt feels awkward, just wants to say something witty and funny and seem relaxed and completely nonchalant like Blaine.
“I guess I'll never get completely used to it,” Blaine continues. “The city, I mean. It's quite an adjustment, after Ohio.”
“Wait.” Kurt sits up straight, almost spilling his wine in the process. “You're from Ohio?”
“Westerville,” Blaine confirms. “Why?”
“I'm from Lima.” Kurt laughs. “Wow. Small world.”
“Oh my god.” Blaine leans forward in his chair, beaming. “That's crazy. But kind of cool, if you think about it.”
Conversation is easier after this and soon Kurt really does feel relaxed—they're sharing childhood memories about growing up in small towns and seriously, what's more innocent and unsexy than awkward high school tales, right?
“I can't believe this,” Blaine announces half an hour later, refilling first Kurt's and then his own glass with the last drops of wine left in the bottle. “And you were in glee club too. Too bad we never competed against each other.”
“How so?” Kurt accepts his refilled glass back, swirling around the contents inside.
“I would have met you earlier. Maybe we'd have been friends. I could have used a friend back then who knew what it was like to grow up the only—”
“The only openly gay kid in town?” Kurt finishes his sentence. “Yes. I could have, too. But,” he shakes his head, grinning. “Who knows. Chances are we would have hated each other, being on rival glee clubs and everything.”
“No, I don't think so,” Blaine disagrees and his answering grin twists something in Kurt's stomach and forces him to look away. He's not going there. He's so not going there.
“Wow, I'm really starting to feel the wine,” Blaine speaks up after a few moments of silence.
“Same.” Kurt sets down his glass, missing the easy flow of conversation from before.
“Want to go for a short walk?” Blaine asks. “I hate going to sleep feeling all dizzy like this.”
No, not a good idea, no, no, not a good idea, the voice inside of him warns. “Sure,” he hears himself say.
They walk in silence for a while, down to the lake and along the path they use for their evening run every day. It's such a peaceful, quiet night and Kurt isn't sure whether he desperately wants it to end or live in this moment forever. He never knows, with Blaine. It's a problem. It's awkward and weird until it isn't, and then it gets too comfortable, something he could lose himself in far too easily.
He knows Rachel insists on pushing them together because she believes in this whole rebound crap. Get back in the saddle and all that. He's just not sure Blaine is the right guy for the job. Somehow, he doesn't seem like the type, despite his great looks and charming personality. Usually, he'd be exactly the kind of man Kurt would be looking for, were he the type to do this kind of thing—randomly hook up with a stranger to get over someone else.
He can't do that with Blaine, though, and he wonders why, wonders why Blaine doesn't feel like a stranger to him even though they've really only known each other for a little over a week. This just doesn't happen outside of badly written teenage rom-coms.
It's not long before Blaine starts chatting away again, telling him more about his old school and his time in glee and Kurt politely inquires about the uniforms and shows himself appropriately impressed upon hearing Blaine had been his school's lead soloist for almost three years. Another few minutes of effortless conversation later, he feels completely at ease again, all thoughts of I can't do this and this is entirely weird so far from his mind he barely remembers them at all.
Until he drops Blaine off by his cabin on their way back and there's a moment, a moment where they're both standing a little too close, Blaine on the top step leading up to his deck and Kurt on the one below, giving Blaine the height advantage for once and making Kurt feel entirely too hot in his own skin.
It lasts only a few seconds during which he notices Blaine's gaze flickering down to his lips, but then Kurt clears his throat and moves another step downward, putting a safer distance between them.
“Thank you for coming over tonight, we should do it again sometime,” he says, staring at his hands which he has folded in front of his body, unsure where they would stray if he didn't control them.
“Kurt—” Blaine starts, but Kurt shakes his head, looking up at him briefly.
“Not a good idea, trust me,” he says, knowing exactly what Blaine is suggesting. It's impossible not to feel it in the air around them, the most subtle shift in their easy acquaintance, and it shakes Kurt down to his bones how much it affects him.
“Okay.” Blaine nods, his eyes never leaving Kurt's face. “I understand. I'm sorry, I thought—”
“No, you don't understand,” Kurt cuts him off. Okay. Enough with the playfulness, he decides, he needs to lay his cards on the table if he wants the remaining two weeks to be as light and easy as the past one. If that requires laying down some ground rules, better get it over with while he's slightly tipsy. “You don't understand. It's not about you, I promise, it's not. It's just... I just got out of a complicated relationship and—” he breaks off, shrugging. It's a bullshit explanation and he almost expects Blaine to see right through it. They've hung out for a week and not for a second of it has Kurt acted like someone who's just had his heart broken. Because that hasn't happened. He's been hurt, but only in his pride, not his heart.
“I'm—I didn't know.” Blaine reaches out as if to touch him, drops his hand halfway to Kurt's shoulder and Kurt hates himself for feeling disappointed.
“It wasn't that bad,” Kurt explains. And why can't he just shut up? He's made it clear he doesn't want this and he doesn't owe Blaine an explanation, he doesn't owe him a thing, actually. “I didn't—it wasn't serious. Which sounds weird, because I just told you it lasted a while. But that was more out of habit than anything else. It's just that I—I need a break right now, you know? Before I—I can't just...” He shrugs helplessly, finally regaining control over his mouth that seems intent on spilling out things he didn't even mean to share. With a guy he barely knows.
“Hey, it's okay. I do understand.” Blaine smiles at him, and dammit, but that smile always, always makes Kurt's insides do the strangest things. None of them unpleasant, if he's being completely honest. “We've all been there, one way or another. We can just be friends, okay?”
“I'd like that,” Kurt agrees, smiling back. Because friends is good. Friends are even allowed to kiss other people without making you feel like crap.