They go back to Kurt’s and have some sandwiches before spending the afternoon alternating between browsing fashion blogs and making snarky comments about the contestants on America’s Next Top Model. When it gets to four o’clock, Kurt suggests that they should stop being mean human beings and do something else.
“How about some Rummy?” He asks, and Blaine remembers when he taught him how to play the card game, an activity used to fill many an empty evening when Blaine had been boarding at Dalton. He feels instinctively excited at the prospect, a little shot of happy exhilaration sparking through him.
Kurt goes off to find the cards and Blaine stares around the room, eyes jumping between trinkets. So familiar, yet so distant. A flash of red catches his eye and he leans forward from his spot on the floor to pick up the little piece of paper where it’s peeking out under the bedside table. It turns out to be a gift tag—a festive one probably, given the colour. He feels the cardboard between his fingers, then flips it over to its non-shiny side. To his surprise, there’s unmistakable writing on the otherwise unblemished white rectangle. Why did Kurt keep a random tag he wrote? Blaine tells himself not to read it, his heart beating a little too fast in a different kind of anticipation, the card suddenly seeming heavier in his palm. Of course, he reads it anyway.
Wishing you the best of Christmases ever to exist —You really do mean the world to me!
I love you,
Blaine’s pretty sure he can’t breathe and his ears are ringing with the sound of absolutely nothing. He’s empty; a balloon with no air.
He doesn’t even hear Kurt come back into the room until he’s stood right above him.
The voice sounds strange but all Blaine can think of is that word—his name—scrawled across the tag in his hand. Kurt apparently registers what Blaine is holding because he slowly bends down and takes it out of his grip; it doesn’t require much force.
“I—I wrote this in September and then—I wrapped things way too early this year—And I didn’t know— I couldn’t bring myself to get rid of it.” Kurt explains unnecessarily. Blaine is pretty sure his heart is pulsing at an unhealthy speed.
“I’m sorry, I didn’t realise I left it lying around…Are you, um, okay?” Kurt sounds worried, and Blaine remembers vaguely that he’s considered a hazard to himself at the moment, and that Kurt’s worry is technically justified. But his rational thoughts are usurped by a sudden desire.
“Can I keep this?” He stares at the wall as he says it, disproportionately terrified that Kurt will say no.
“Yes, of course you can.” Kurt pauses, flicks something invisible off his jeans. “It was for you.”
Blaine doesn’t know what to say as he takes the little piece of cardboard back, but he feels that Kurt’s statement needs a response of some sort. A recognition, or an acknowledgment that you’re a good person and I don’t deserve this, or you for that matter—and your handwriting is beautiful—I don’t think I’ve ever told you that before, but I should have—it’s so beautiful.
He turns his face back to Kurt’s, catching the shimmering eye, and wonders whether Kurt is about to cry or whether the lamp light is just illusive.
“I have to go back to New York tomorrow night.”
The words come out of nowhere and hang in the oxygen particles between them, sucking Blaine’s breath from his chest.
He nods and drops Kurt’s gaze again, the fire starting to burn unpleasantly.
“I’m sorry—I swear I tried to get more time off, but Madam Tibideaux is adamant I don’t miss any more classes and I think it would be best.”
Blaine nods again, insides slowly blistering. “I understand.”
“No, you don’t.”
“Your education is important; you worked hard to get into NYADA and you shouldn’t just throw that a way.”
“Told you that you didn’t understand,” Kurt smiles and sits down on the floor beside Blaine, their knees brushing. “You think that I’m going back because otherwise I’ll be kicked out of school; because I have a whole life waiting for me in New York that I’ve already abandoned for too long; because graduating and pursuing my Broadway dreams are incredibly important to me; because my future plans are much more important to me than you are.”
Blaine shrugs. “You care about me, I know that—that’s why you came back in the first place. But you can’t afford to screw up your life over some messed-up high school ex who you can’t even trust anymore.”
Kurt doesn’t attempt to interrupt him or make any physical gestures of negation, he merely listens to Blaine incredibly carefully, in a way that no one else seems to do anymore.
“No, you don’t get it at all.” Kurt says, reaching out and turning the tag over in Blaine’s hand so that the writing is once again facing upwards. “If it were about school or Broadway or New York, I would never, ever get on that flight—never. You have to believe me when I say this: I would choose you over any one of those things, or all of them. I don’t just care about you and I most certainly didn’t come back out of pity or guilt or whatever else you’ve convinced yourself it was; I came back to Lima because when my dad told me what you’d done to yourself, I knew I had to be at your side as fast as humanly possible. You might have been the one in the hospital bed, but we both nearly died that night. Imagining my life without performing is horrible, but a life without you in it in some capacity? I can’t imagine that. I physically can’t. You aren’t just someone I care about, you’re someone who is inextricably connected to me.”
Blaine watches Kurt’s finger trace over his own name and the subsequent row of ‘X’s.
“So why are you going back then?” He asks, feeling ridiculously immature. “…I still need you…”
Kurt’s face falls and he looks much older than Blaine again—like he’s gone away for a year and come back an adult whilst Blaine remains a perpetual child.
“I know you do, but that’s why I have to give you some space, just for a little while.”
“But why?” Has Blaine lost his intelligence as well as his mind? How come nothing is making the slightest bit of sense?
“Because we are so connected.”
Blaine suspects that eighty-percent of Kurt’s message is being communicated through his eyes, but he finds those just as intensely cryptic as his words. Suddenly, there’s a weird whining noise and it startles him before he realises that he was the one to make it, that the pathetic sound came from the back of his throat.
He feels the heat rising to his cheeks and draws his knees up, pressing his too hot face against them. His vision goes dark even though he still has his eyes wide open, tiny crevices of light visible where his legs meet.
“Blaine…?” He feels a gentle pressure on the back of his head, but he resists it, burrowing further and wrapping his arms tightly around his shins.
Kurt doesn’t say anything else, but the soft scritching at his hairline continues and he tries to focus on that.
After far too short a time, the hand retracts and he hears Kurt reshuffle himself next to him, moving just a tiny bit closer.
“When I left for New York, I had to make a lot of changes. I had to learn how to be a tiny fish in a huge pond; how to posé turn in 6/8 time; how to live away from home and deal with homesickness. Hell, I had to learn how to cook for a vegan— thank you very much for that one, Rachel!” Blaine smiles into his knees at that. “Point is, the hardest part in all of it was becoming a person who could live in a different state from you. But I managed it; I made the change. And I don’t feel any differently about you as a result—I’m still just as connected to you—but I now know how to stretch the wire when necessary. I need you, but I’m not dependent. You haven’t had that chance yet; you never got the memo that I was changing and our relationship had to readjust, and that’s my fault.”
Blaine turns his head so that his cheek is now resting on his knees and he can see Kurt.
“So you’re saying I need some time on my own to learn how to be a fully functioning individual. That for some reason, being around you makes me even more needy and clingy than I naturally am?” Blaine surmises and Kurt winces at the harsh tone, even though it isn’t directed at him.
“For a start, you’re not going to be on your own, I’m just not going to be right here. And you’re not clingy—you just like to show you care.”
Blaine bites his lip, tilting his face back into his leg slightly.
“No, I mean it!” Kurt assures. “And I think that you would get better quicker if I was here, unequivocally showing you that I care, in fact I’m certain of it. But then what’s to stop it happening again? And again after that? I can’t be your linchpin, in the same way that you couldn’t keep being mine. I’m not going to sit here and tell you that you’re feeling the way you are entirely because of me and our relationship—not even I’m that arrogant—but you must see that if I put you back together now, you’re always going to need me to keep you together. You need to do this for yourself and worry about us afterwards. I might be in New York, but I’m not going anywhere, ok? I’m just giving you time to heal so that you can be your amazing self again. You’ve done it before after the Sadie Hawkins debacle and you can do it this time, too; I promise.”
“Oh.” Blaine says, because he never thought of it like that.
“Good ‘oh’ or bad ‘oh’?” Kurt asks.
“I’m not sure, but I think I understand what you mean now.” Blaine slowly uncurls himself and slides the tag into his pocket, out of side but not out of mind. Never out of mind.
Kurt smiles and reaches over to take Blaine’s hand in one of his own. He interlocks their fingers and squeezes once before resting their joined hands on his thigh. “So how about that game of Rummy?”
Kurt goes back to New York the next day. For the first time in weeks, Blaine gels his hair.