Fic: Ad Libitum (chapter 4)
Rating: still all audiences. Still will go up in later chapters.
Summary:What if Kurt and Blaine had never met in Ohio? What if Blaine, just starting his first year at NYADA, instead happens to run into him in a hallway of a performance school in New York? This is a story about how they meet, and everything that brought them there, and everything that happens from that point on.
A/N: Pretend I'm saying something smart and insightful here while I hide in a dark corner until this damn migraine goes away.
My biggest thanks to mixed_berryjam for the beta! Betas are the best! Also, ca_te, thanks for the virtual hand holding on Gmail chat while I was writing this!
Kurt stretches his arms over his head, muscles still loose and heavy from sleeping, and yawns as he shuffles toward the kitchen area where the coffee maker is. It's really too early to be up. He had stayed up longer than he'd intended the night before, working on his assignments. But his dad had called and he'd spent an hour with him on the phone – he never gets to talk to his dad enough. And schoolwork is never more important than family.
He rubs his eyes, wakes himself up enough to remember where the coffee is, and starts filling water into the machine when a familiar voice interrupts him.
He spins around, the coffee pot almost slipping from his fingers as he fumbles with it for a moment, water sloshing over the sides and onto the floor and his bare feet before he has a firm hold again.
“Santana.” He tilts his head, processing this new bit of information. “Good morning.”
She barely glances up from where she's sitting on the couch – his and Rachel's couch – and goes back to reading something on her phone, a cereal bowl with a spoon sticking out of it in her hand. “Going somewhere?”
“What are you doing here?” He assumes it's one of those times she has decided she lives here again. It just sort of happens. Has happened every few weeks since she moved out. Even if it's been a lot less frequent lately, which leads him to assume she's here for one of two reasons: either she's run out of food again, or she's had a fight with Hayley.
“Having breakfast,” she supplies helpfully.
“Where does your girlfriend think you are?” He takes a carefully measured step forward, assessing the situation like a bomb squad approaching an old aircraft bomb. She seems calm enough, but that really doesn't mean a whole lot.
She shrugs. “What girlfriend? If you're talking about that bitch Hayley, she can -”
“How many other girlfriends do you have, Santana?” He turns back to getting the coffee ready, not too worried about her after all. It's just ice cream in that bowl. If anything serious had happened, it'd be a mug of whiskey or something equally disgusting.
“Right now?” she pretends to think about it. “Not a single one. I'm a free woman!” She shoots him a grin that looks more aggressive than joyful, wriggling her hips as well as she can manage from a sitting position. “Totally and completely free, it feels awesome! I feel like celebrating. What do you say? Clubbing tonight? Single's night out? Just us gays?”
Kurt stares at her incredulously. “Absolutely not!”
“I'm a kick-ass wing-woman. Seriously. Buy me a tequila and it's gonna be pick-your-dick night for you for as long as you can walk.”
He tries not to cringe too obviously at her crudeness. “No, thank you.”
“Aw, come on, Porcelain. Booze, a little public dry humping, even you can't say no to that.”
“I can, and I will,” Kurt informs her, sitting down at the table and opening a magazine to signal that this conversation is over. So over.
“I can't go with Drama Queen Berry, no one will come near us! She's like a sad Jewish clown poodle. Besides, she tried to make me sing about my feelings last night, I can't be in the same room with her, seriously. Not gonna happen.”
Kurt sighs, closes his magazine. It's no use when Santana gets like this. The coffee maker has started making that gurgling noise anyway which means it's gonna be done any minute now. “How about you call your girlfriend and ask if she wants to go with you?”
“…Because she's a self-centered, annoying bitch with big ugly man-feet?” Santana glares at him.
He gives her a stern look, making sure she knows he's not joking about this. “If you're moving back in, you're paying rent this time.”
“Personally, I think you should pay me for providing the pleasure of my company.”
Kurt pushes his chair back and gets up from the table, taking a deep breath as he pours himself a cup of coffee, considers it for a second, and then pours Santana a cup as well. He hands it off to her on the way back to his partitioned-off corner of the apartment, and she takes it with a shrug.
“Call Hayley,” he says. “Seriously. Call her.”
“You're the last person who should be giving out relationship advice, Ladyface, you've slept with one guy since you moved here,” she snaps.
It kind of stings – the comment as well as the nickname – and he thinks about snatching the coffee back out of her hands. But he's a bigger person than that. “So you're happier than me because you've had more sex? Because you don't look so good right now.” He raises an eyebrow challengingly, regretting it as soon as Santana looks up at him, a cold, calculating look in her eyes.
“At least I'm honest with them and dump them when I'm done,” she shoots back.
It's a low blow, even from someone who's obviously hurting right now, and he doesn't know how to defend himself. She is, unfortunately, right about it. So he just turns and walks off, ignoring her sulking form on the couch. She doesn't mean it. That doesn't mean he has to like it or take it.
He dresses quickly, trying to shake off the feeling of shame and regret. Damn Santana for bringing this up. He probably deserves it, though, he thinks. If there was one thing he could change about himself -
Maybe, with a bit of luck, he'll have the apartment to himself this afternoon and get to simply relax for a bit. The partitions they have put up provide a mere pretense of privacy, he knows that Rachel (and whenever she's living here, Santana) can hear every phone call he makes and every movie he watches. For the brief time he and Rachel had both had boyfriends, they'd had to work out a rather elaborate schedule of who got the apartment on which nights during the week. Even if Kurt hadn't really needed it much at all, so mostly he'd been the one who had been out to many, many karaoke nights and dinners with Michael and Janet. And, once, just once, to a club with Santana, but that had really not been one of his better decisions.
By the time he's dressed and heads for the bathroom to brush his teeth and do his hair, he hears the pipes creaking as the shower turns on. Poking his head around the partition, he sees that Santana's spot on the couch is now empty, coffee mug and ice cream bowl abandoned on the coffee table.
“What the -” He strides over to the bathroom door, hammering his fist against the wood. “Santana?”
He sighs audibly, keeps punching the door with his hand. “Santana, get out of there! Use your own damn shower!”
Her voice is muffled through the door and the sound of the water. “Jeez, calm the fuck down. I'll just be fifteen minutes or so!”
“Which is exactly when I need to leave!”
“Sucks for you.”
“But you don't even live here.”
She snorts. “Rude!”
“Santana, I swear, if you're not out here in ten seconds...”
But she doesn't even answer anymore, instead he hears her humming 'Valerie' under the shower. He bangs his head against the door, slaps his palms against the wood next to his face. Then, he takes a deep breath, slowly counts to ten in his head. It doesn't really work.
He'll just have to text Blaine and tell him he's going to be late.
...Except he doesn't have Blaine's number. Oookay. He'll just have to … be really quick getting ready and hope that Blaine won't mind him being a few minutes late.
Blaine is quiet getting up, because Jonas is still asleep, snoring softly (and a little annoyingly) into his pillow on the other side of the small dorm room.
It's Saturday morning. Blaine assumes a lot of the students are still asleep at 8am on a Saturday morning, at least this early in the semester.
He gets ready quickly, makes his way to the dining hall to grab a quick bite just so that his stomach won't rumble too loudly during his dance lesson with Kurt. He'll have real breakfast later, he doesn't like to eat before a workout and even if he doesn't know how much they will really do today, if it's even half as exhausting as Ms July's classes, he knows he'll be hungry after.
Well, at least Kurt is going to be a lot kinder that Ms July, and probably a lot more helpful.
Blaine is surprised to see that the dining hall is actually quite well populated for a Saturday morning. Apparently, he's not the only one at this school who's getting an early start today. Or maybe, he thinks, it's a college thing. He doesn't know how it was at Dalton on the weekends, because he never boarded there.
He gets himself a small bowl of cereal – he'll get a coffee from the good kiosk in a while. It's where he's meeting Kurt anyway. He looks around for a familiar face, but it looks as though his friends are actually all still asleep. He had figured as much, and he won't be staying long anyway. So he finds himself a table and eats quickly, he does not want to be late for this. Especially since Kurt is coming all the way from Bushwick just to help him out.
By the time he arrives at the kiosk it's almost 9am and he's getting really excited. Not only about spending time with Kurt, being excited about that is pretty much a given anyway. He's still hoping that all this hanging out they are going to do is going to bring them closer to actual friendship. No, but, he's also getting really excited about the dancing itself. Blaine loves to dance. Being in The Warblers, he had mostly just moved to the music, their dance steps simply complementing the songs. They had been safe, well-coordinated, but it had never been about doing anything really fun or out of the ordinary. Well, except during rehearsal when Blaine had suddenly felt like dancing on a table or the armrest of one of the heavy old leather couches. But he also remembers countless Warbler parties in someone's basement or living room, all the boys out of their blazers, some of them with their girlfriends in tow, and all of them jumping around to the music like complete maniacs. Blaine loves to dance.
He stands near the kiosk, hand clutching the strap of his bag that holds his dancing shoes, and waits. He tries not to check his watch every few seconds when 9:05 rolls around and there's still no sign of Kurt – he probably just got held up somewhere. And not everyone is as obsessively punctual as Blaine. He likes being early, doesn't like to have to have to rush to be somewhere on time.
By the time it's getting close to 9:10, Blaine decides to sit down on one of the benches and wonders if maybe Kurt had meant for them to start next Saturday. They just made their plans for this two days ago, it is awfully short notice and they hadn't been really clear about starting this week...
At 9:18, he sighs and decides to wait another five minutes before he goes back to his room. It's funny, he doesn't really take Kurt to be the type to just forget or change his mind, he just hopes that nothing bad happened – and, if he's being honest, he's just a little bit hurt, too. At being stood up like this.
He checks his phone, which he knows won't do any good, because he never gave Kurt his number. Well. He could just find a studio anyway and practice a bit on his own, now that he's up already. It won't be as much fun as practicing with Kurt, but he doesn't want to let a perfectly good Saturday morning go to waste like this.
It's 9:27 when he finally decides to stop waiting. He gets up to get himself that cup of coffee he'd been looking forward to – by now there's a short line of people waiting to place their orders and he gets in the back, waits patiently as the people in front of him make up their minds. He will not let this get him down. There's probably a perfectly good explanation. Maybe he just did get the time wrong...
“I'm so sorry!”
He turns around, and there's Kurt, face flushed, his hair a bit flatter than Blaine has ever seen it before, and he's panting, out of breath.
“I'm so, so sorry,” Kurt repeats. “Oh my god, my roommate – well, she's not even really my roommate – but she locked herself in the bathroom and I couldn't get in and then I realized I'd forgotten my wallet when I was halfway down the stairs and I ran all the way here from the subway, and … Blaine, I'm so sorry, I didn't know how to contact you -”
“It's okay,” Blaine says, because Kurt looks like he accidentally kicked a puppy and he's still trying to catch his breath and it really is okay. Kurt's here, after all. And he's sorry.
“It's … I didn't mean to, I swear, I was going to -”
“Kurt,” he interrupts him. “It's fine. You're here now.”
“You must have thought I forgot, I'm so sorry, Blaine, -.”
“I – no.” Blaine shakes his head. “It's okay. Really. I figured you'd got held up somewhere.” He smiles at Kurt, not wanting him to feel bad. It wasn't Kurt's fault, after all and he's not feeling hurt anymore. He hadn't been forgotten.
“Okay.” Kurt actually smiles back now, and Blaine feels his own smile widen, because that's just what his face does when Kurt looks at him like that. “I'm still sorry, and I promise it won't happen again.”
“I believe you,” Blaine reassures him.
The line in front of them has moved, and Blaine realizes it's their turn to place their orders. He takes a step up, retrieving his wallet from his pocket. “I'll have a medium drip -”
“And a nonfat mocha.” Kurt interrupts quickly, loudly, before gently pushing him aside. His fingers close around Blaine's wrist softly, stopping him from raising his arm to pay. “No,” he says softly. “I've got this.”
“Kurt...” Blaine tries to object, but Kurt gives him a firm look.
“I made you wait out here for half an hour. Just let me pay for your coffee. Please?”
Blaine shakes his head weakly, unable to resist Kurt's pleading eyes. “I – okay. Okay.”
“Thank you,” Kurt says, and turns back to the kiosk to pay for their drinks.
Blaine can't believe that five minutes ago, he'd been feeling mildly upset and a little abandoned, because now all he feels is kind of warm and content in Kurt's company. “Thank you,” he says as Kurt hands him his coffee. “This is really nice of you.”
“It's the least I can do,” Kurt says. “And if I can give you one more piece of advice for surviving as a student here? Never turn down free coffee. College can be expensive.”
“I'll keep that in mind,” Blaine promises. “Did you want to sit down for a while? You've been running here, and...”
“Might as well go and secure ourselves a studio before they're all occupied,” Kurt says. “I already made us late enough.”
“You didn't mean to,” Blaine reminds him.
“Okay. No, I didn't. We still should get going, though, people are waking up, and I don't want you to experience the full crazy of two sleep-deprived ballerinas going twenty rounds to fight out who gets the one with the bigger mirrors. No need to scare you away this early.”
Kurt takes a sip of his mocha and they start walking, slowly and next to each other and Blaine grins at him over the brim of his paper cup. He can't help it. He's in a good mood again.
“So, your Not-Roommate locked herself in the bathroom?” Blaine asks.
Kurt sighs, nods. “She's – she was in glee club with me and Rachel back in high school. Came to New York out of the blue one day and told us she was living with us now -”
“That's actually one of the saner things she's done. She's … well, you'll have to meet her to understand, there's no way to explain Santana with words. But, well, apparently she had a fight with her girlfriend – the two of them have the most exhausting relationship I have ever seen, I think for them, yelling at each other is actually a way of showing affection – anyway, she was just there this morning, acting like it was no big deal. And because it isn't enough that she ate the last of the ice cream and will probably stay a week or more without paying rent, she also hogged the bathroom and no amount of shouting at her through the door could get her out of there. And that's why I'm so ridiculously late,” he finishes his story, an apologetic look on his face.
Blaine feels stressed just listening to all of that. “Thank you for showing up anyway. That sounds … exhausting.”
Kurt smiles at him. “Thank you for waiting. I was kind of afraid you'd have given up by the time I got here.”
“Nah, it's no big deal,” Blaine assures him.
“We should -” Kurt hesitates before putting on a business-like face and staring straight ahead. “We should probably exchange numbers in case anything like this happens again. So we can contact each other.”
Blaine nods, starts digging for his phone in his pocket. Because, of course, yes! It makes sense for them to have a way to contact each other if they'll be meeting regularly. He's still feeling a little thrill as he hands his phone over to Kurt, receiving Kurt's phone in exchange. This is a great idea. Another step closer to friendship successfully accomplished.
They actually find a studio easily enough, and Kurt seems surprised by that, so Blaine figures they must usually be in high demand during weekends. Well, everyone at this school is driven or they wouldn't be here. It makes sense for them to use their free time to practice.
Since they both don't need to change more than their shoes, it takes them barely a minute to get ready and then they're standing there, almost on opposite sides of the room, and Kurt looks as unsure of where to begin as Blaine feels.
“I've never actually done this before,” he admits, a little sheepishly. “Tutoring someone. I don't know -”
“I've never actually had a tutor before, so it's okay.” Blaine grins, wanting to get rid of some of the awkward tension that is suddenly between them.
“I guess...” Kurt thinks about it for a minute. “Just tell me what you want to work on and … we'll go from there? After we've warmed up,” he adds quickly.
“Okay.” Blaine takes a breath, shakes his shoulders to get them loose. Kurt is already stretching and he quickly turns away, makes himself not stare at the way Kurt's sweatpants cling to the perfect shape of his thighs and his ass as he bends down almost effortlessly.
They don't talk, but Blaine can hear Kurt's breath, the soft rustling of his clothes on the other side of the room. And he's nervous without really knowing why. This is safe. This is actually … this could be fun. He knows he's in good company, this isn't class and this isn't a seedy bar where his movements could be misinterpreted in any way. And still he feels his heart race and his face heat up all of a sudden and he wishes Kurt would say something. He wishes they could fall back into the effortless conversation that had carried them all the way here. Kurt is so easy to talk to. So he tries to think of something to say, but nothing comes to mind. Instead, he keeps warming up, acutely aware of Kurt's presence without having to look at him. He can feel him almost, stretching in silence just a little to his left.
When he's finally done and turns around, Kurt is leaning against the wall, arms crossed in front of his chest, watching him with a look in his eyes that Blaine can't quite make out from the distance. His face is a little flushed, though, and he quickly looks down when Blaine tries to catch his eyes.
“Done?” Kurt asks, and Blaine nods.
“I think so. Yes. Good to go.” He laughs, still nervous, but then Kurt smiles and he feels better. Kurt's presence is calming. Kurt is a friend. This is fun.
“Okay. Do you have music?”
“Hold on.” Blaine kneels down on the floor by the wall where he left his bag, fishing the CD case out of it. Kurt holds his hands out and Blaine tosses it to him, Kurt catches it with a spin and walks over to the CD player that is situated on the one shelf along the wall.
“It's not the song she used in class, but it will work,” Blaine explains.
Kurt nods back at him, hits play, and smiles. “Okay. Show me what you've got.”
And Blaine stops thinking and dances.
Kurt doesn't actually think that Blaine needs a lot of help. To be honest, he wonders if maybe Blaine isn't better than him already, even though he's a year ahead of Blaine. His technique needs work, but he moves almost instinctively, and his energy is … captivating.
For the first few minutes, Kurt simply watches, listens to Blaine's own running commentary to his steps, nodding and smiling whenever Blaine points out something he has difficulties with. He wonders if he'd notice if Blaine didn't point it out. He also realizes that there really isn't a whole lot he can actually do to help Blaine, except practice with him.
“You seem to know what you're doing,” he points out when Blaine stops, coming to a halt just a few feet away from Kurt.
“Well.” Blaine beams, panting just a little. “I've had lessons when I was younger, and I actually do love dancing.”
“It shows.” Kurt takes a step closer, thinking this through. Everything he wants to correct about Blaine's posture, his movements, are minor details. And he's probably not really qualified to do so anyway.
“I'm mostly -” Blaine shrugs. “When I have to do this in class, it's just -”
“We need to make you feel so comfortable doing these steps that you won't even think about Ms July criticizing you,” Kurt says, because suddenly he understands what it is that Blaine needs.
“If you can help me achieve that, I'll buy you a coffee from the good kiosk every day until graduation,” Blaine promises, looking excited.
Kurt laughs. “My graduation or yours?”
“Mine,” Blaine decides. “But if you get me to be good enough that I won't even think about criticizing my dance moves, I will … oh, I know: I'll carry you to all of your classes until your graduation. Because afterwards you won't have classes anymore, so. Every single class. I swear.”
“At least that way you'd never have to go to the gym again,” Kurt jokes back, and finds himself wondering whether he could lift Blaine and carry him himself. He's shorter, but his shoulders are broad and he looks – well-muscled. Like he takes care of himself. “Let's go over it again? Together this time?” he suggests, and Blaine nods excitedly and does a little excited spin right where he stands.
“Yes. Let's do this.”
They practice for over an hour without so much as a single break. Kurt is helpful, his advice worded kindly and his hands directing Blaine's arms when they don't want to move right, pushing on his shoulders until he remembers to let them fall back all the way. He's patient and so focused, and still breaks into loud, uncontrolled laughter when, after they decide it's enough for today, Blaine just wraps an arm around his waist and leads him across the floor in a silly little waltz that has nothing to do with the music blasting from the tiny speakers on the shelf. He just goes along with it, his arm across Blaine's shoulders and his feet finding the rhythm easily enough without even stumbling once.
“Thank you,” Blaine says, coming to a stop just next to the full-length mirror in the corner.
Kurt smiles, sweaty hair falling across his forehead, and tugs on Blaine's arm where their hands are joined, lifts it and twirls Blaine away from him. “My pleasure.”
“That was fun!”
“It was.” He sounds quietly pleased about it, and Blaine grins at him.
“You're an excellent teacher.” He thinks about asking Kurt to have another coffee with him, even if he doesn't know whether Kurt would maybe prefer to go home and change or...
“So, next Saturday, same time, same place?” Kurt asks.
“If that's okay for you.”
“Of course it is!”
“Then yes, sounds great!” To be honest, Blaine hadn't been sure until this morning when Kurt had asked him to exchange numbers whether this was a one-time thing or not. But dancing with Kurt even just for an hour has made him feel so much better about this part of his curriculum, and he thinks that if they repeat this a few times, he may actually be able to not only pass Ms July's class, but also not feel like a complete idiot during her lessons. And if he passes, he'll buy Kurt the largest and fanciest cup of coffee he can find in New York. Or cake. A really big, really beautiful cake. If Kurt even likes cake. “Do you like cake?” he asks, more thinking out loud than actually meaning to ask.
Kurt lifts an eyebrow, clearly surprised. “I love cake!”
“Cool.” Blaine suddenly realizes he's really hungry now, and also, he should probably go somewhere with that question or it will seem entirely weird. “Would you like to have some? I'll buy. I haven't actually had breakfast yet, just half a bowl of cereal. And this was exhausting.”
Kurt laughs. “Cake for breakfast?”
“Why not? I think we deserve some cake after dancing our asses off while everyone else was still asleep. Also, it's more like an early lunch by now anyway.”
“You have a point,” Kurt agrees, straightening his shoulders. “But I pay for my own cake. And I think most people weren't really sleeping anymore by the time I showed up.”
“Okay. Deal. And whatever.” Blaine grins, bouncing a little on his feet. This is a great Saturday.
“Would you mind sitting outside somewhere, though?” Kurt asks. “I've been dancing for an hour and I don't really feel like inflicting my sweaty presence on a bunch of coffee shop patrons.”
“Oh, no, that's fine,” Blaine hurries to say. “I'm not much better. Probably worse than you. And you actually – I mean, I think you're okay. For all the dancing we've done.” He feels himself blush, deciding it's probably a good idea to think before he speaks right now. When he's excited, his brain tends to shut off all his filters. Like now when he was well on his way to telling Kurt he smelled nice. Who says things like that? He doesn't know what's wrong with him sometimes.
Turns out the cafeteria actually has cake at this time of day. Blaine goes for chocolate and Kurt chooses a large slice of strawberry cheesecake. They take their paper plates and find an empty bench outside where the sun is shining on them, sitting down side by side to eat.
“...Should have bought another cup of coffee,” Blaine says, sighing a little.
“You weren't kidding when you said you had a problem, were you?” Kurt asks, but there's an amused glint in his eyes as he looks at Blaine.
“I could quit any time,” Blaine defends himself. “You'll find that I'm actually not drinking any right now.”
“And still you wish you were.”
“True.” He sighs again. “What can I say, Kurt, I have thought about joining a support group.”
Kurt laughs, that bright clear laugh that he only ever seems to use when he's feeling comfortable. Blaine likes that laugh. “This was a great idea, by the way,” Kurt says, lifting his cake to indicate what he's talking about.
“Having cake for breakfast is seriously underrated,” Blaine agrees.
“It is! And you're right, we've earned this.”
“See? I told you!” Blaine grins, because the sun is shining and he's been dancing all morning and they have cake.
“Even if it's technically an early lunch,” Kurt reminds him, grinning back.
They eat in silence for a few minutes before Kurt speaks again.
“So, any exciting plans for the rest of the day?”
Blaine sighs. “Homework. And tonight, karaoke, of course!”
“Ohh, that's right, I forgot about that,” Kurt answers. “At Callbacks again?”
Blaine swallows the bite of cake that stops him from speaking. “No. ...Somewhere else. Never heard of the place, actually, but Jonas says he knows the way. I can text you the directions if you want to join us?”
Kurt seems to consider it for a moment, but then shakes his head sadly. “I don't know. I have a class project I should really be working on.”
“Oh.” Blaine is careful not to let his disappointment show too obviously. “That's okay. Maybe some other time, then.”
“Yes,” Kurt says, but he seems far away for a moment. “Maybe some other time.” His body jerks upright a second later, as if he's shaking off some thought he was caught up in. “You have fun, though!”
Blaine grins. “When is karaoke ever not fun?”
“You make an excellent point.”
They sit and talk for almost half an hour before Kurt crumples up his paper plate and holds his hand out for Blaine's as well, getting up to throw them into the nearest trash can. “I guess I should be going,” he says, sitting down on the edge of the bench again, fingers toying with the strap of his bag.
“And I should probably shower,” Blaine says, wrinkling his nose at himself. “Thanks again, Kurt. I really appreciate you helping me out like that.”
“It's no big deal.” Kurt shrugs it off, but his smile is pleased, and Blaine wants to disagree. Because. It is a big deal. It is a really nice thing to do for someone you barely know, even if they are slowly getting to know each other now.
Kurt gets up, smiles down at him. “I'll see you around, then?”
“Definitely!” He tries to come up with something else to say, anything, because he doesn't want Kurt to leave. It's not like he'll be bored the rest of the day, he has lunch plans with Jess and Damian and karaoke plans with Jonas, he'll be fine. It's just that … he doesn't want Kurt to leave. He likes Kurt.
“Bye, Blaine,” Kurt says, and Blaine gives him an awkward little finger wave, kicking himself mentally for the extreme uncoolness of that gesture.
Kurt walks off and Blaine watches him leave, sees Kurt turn back before the path curls around the edge of a tall building, smiling back at Blaine just briefly.
Warmth floods his stomach and his heart skips a beat as he smiles back, a rush of longing shuddering through him. Seriously. He likes Kurt. It takes a second to sink in, and then he suddenly feels cold. He slumps back on the bench, groans audibly, not caring who hears it right now. Because. Damn. That was not part of the plan.
Closing the door behind himself, Kurt is almost glad to find Rachel sitting on the couch, watching TV. As much as he'd wished to have some privacy earlier, he's grateful for the company right now. He doesn't want to be alone with his thoughts today.
“Hi. Is Santana still here?” he asks, taking a careful look around. He's not sure he can handle another encounter like the one this morning, not when he's feeling so raw to begin with.
“Hi.” Rachel waves absentmindedly. “She went out to … I have no idea what she's doing, now that I think about it,” she answers. “But she went out.”
“Good.” Kurt lets out a relieved sigh before he goes to get some clean clothes and retreats to the bathroom for a long and relaxing shower. He feels better after that.
Rachel is still on the couch when he emerges again, and he settles next to her, feeling clean and a little sleepy now that he's back home. “What are we watching?”
“Nothing really,” Rachel says, changing the channel. “I'm just bored.”
“Oh, okay.” He lets himself sink deeper into the cushions, tries to make his mind go as lazy as his body is feeling right now. It's been a long week. He's still feeling restless, though, that annoying little thought nagging at the back of his mind, not leaving him alone.
It makes him jumpy, nervous. Afraid. And he can't help but think...
“ … Rachel?” his voice is quiet, like it doesn't want the question out there.
“Do you think I'm selfish?” he asks, blinking down at his fingers that are picking at the fabric of his pants.
“What?” She looks up at him, confused for a second, but then her eyes turn soft. “No! No, Kurt, you're not. You know you're not.”
He nods, unconvinced. “I don't know. I just … I don't know.”
She turns off the television, curls her legs underneath her body to face him fully on the couch. “What brought this on? What's wrong?”
He sighs. “Nothing. It's nothing. I've just been thinking. About … stuff. About how I don't always … I don't know. Santana said something this morning and it's been on my mind all day, and …” he shrugs, not sure how to explain. “You know how I don't always make the best choices. I'm … I can be a little difficult, and I know it.”
“Oh, Kurt, no.” Rachel leans forward, hugs him, and he lets her. It's comforting, and even if that's not what he's looking for, he'll take it. “You're not difficult. You're just you! And if someone doesn't like you for that, screw them, who needs them!”
He nods against her shoulder, hugs her back briefly before leaning back. “Thank you.” She doesn't get it, but at least she's trying. He wonders how she deals with these things. He wonders how other people do it. He knows Rachel has been through some difficult stuff too, her ups and downs with Finn, the Brody disaster. Maybe he's putting too much weight on his own failures. Still, he should be a better person. He had always believed he was a good person until things had started to crumble and break and he'd watched helplessly, unable to stop it from happening.
“Do you want to talk about it?” Rachel asks, and he's seriously glad she stayed around through all those years. She can be the best friend whenever he really needs her.
He starts shaking his head, then changes his mind and rubs a tired hand across his face. “It's just … I guess I'm afraid of repeating past mistakes. That's all.” He attempts a smile, knows that Rachel will see right through it.
“Is this about a boy?”
He sighs. “No. Maybe. I don't know. I don't think so. God, I hope not! I just don't want to hurt anyone else.” In fact, he never wants to see a person's heart break again and know it's his fault. Not ever again. And he curses Santana for bringing up memories he wanted to bury and thanks her for it at the same time, because if he wants to become a better person, he needs to confront this and make sure he never does it again.
“Kurt, none of what happened with Adam was your fault. You weren't ...”
“It was horrible.”
“You didn't know! You're not required to stay with the first person you date for the rest of time!”
“I wasn't honest about my feelings,” he reminds her. “I brought on that entire mess.”
“It wasn't such a mess, Kurt. I've been through at least five messier break ups. All of them with Finn, actually.” She smiles at him, rubs his shoulder soothingly. “Even though Jesse was quite spectacular as well. Literally messy,” she adds. “You're being too hard on yourself.”
“And Chandler wasn't my fault either?” He doesn't like how resigned he sounds. He doesn't like how resigned he feels. He had so much fun this morning. But this is important. He needs to get this sorted out.
“No, actually, it wasn't.” Rachel gives him a stern look. “Kurt, you're a good person. And if you ever mention this to anyone, I'll deny it, but you're a much better person than I am. The fact that you're worrying about them like this proves that.”
He shakes his head, leans back against the armrest. “Thank you, Rachel.”
“I don't think Santana has left us any ice cream, but I can go out and buy you some, if you want?” she offers, and this time when he smiles at her, it feels genuine.
“That's not necessary. But I appreciate the offer. Can we just watch something and forget about boys for a while?”
“Of course!” She punches his arm affectionately. “What are you in the mood for?”
He thinks about it. “Something old. Not really old, just … older.”
“When Harry Met Sally.”
Rachel squeals, slides off the couch to find the movie.
Kurt tips his head back and smiles at the ceiling. The tight feeling in his chest is still there, but it aches a little less. And he decides to not feel bad for lying about a class project to the sweet, excited boy with the pretty eyes and warm smile. It's for Blaine's own protection. It's better for everyone involved if they don't get too close. And that's that. Things don't always go the way you want them to and sometimes what you want turns out to be the opposite of where you're going. That's just life, he supposes.
“Ready?” Rachel snuggles in beside him, and he rests his head on her shoulder, truly grateful for the company and this one true friend who has stuck with him through every single time he veered off course.
“Yes.” He'll spend the rest of this late morning watching Meg Ryan and Billy Crystal getting it wrong. Maybe this movie is a better life lesson than he'd ever given it credit for.