To say things are awkward as Burt ushers them inside the apartment and into the main living area is understatement of the year. Kurt is still looking anywhere but at Blaine, mainly at British-guy to be honest, and Blaine wishes he’d never got on that plane. The thing is, now that he’s here, there’s no way he can leave without creating a scene and he doesn’t want to ruin Kurt’s Christmas any more than he already has.
Burt gives him a look and he realises he’s still clutching the suitcase; he unclenches his fingers and it thumps onto the floor. The noise snaps Kurt out of his stupor and he rushes about introducing everyone and making drinks. Apparently British-guy is called Adam and he goes to NYADA—he sounds way too accomplished for Blaine’s liking, especially when Kurt mentions that they’re in a singing group together. Glee club was always Kurt’s thing with Blaine and now…well, now it’s not anymore.
He nods along and offers a polite “nice to meet you”, shaking the strong hand that Adam extends. The irony of the words make him want to curl up and die, but he can’t be that inconvenience, not during the holidays, so he does the only thing he can do: he plays his part.
He helps Kurt put the last few decorations on the tree but doesn’t attempt to flirtatiously reach across him, or wrap tinsel around him; he watches some football documentary next to Burt on the couch, answering Burt’s comments and pretending that Kurt and Adam aren’t sat behind them discussing something else; he declines Kurt’s offer to go to the store for extra mince pies, allowing Kurt and Adam to have some alone time; he showers and changes for dinner, but he doesn’t put his stuff in Kurt’s room, not even temporarily, tucking his rucksack next to the couch; he makes an effort to look put together with his outfit, but he doesn’t wear the bowtie that Kurt bought him for Christmas last year, even though he picked it out specially.
He doesn’t just arrange his facial expression, putting a mask in place. No, he creates an entire layer underneath his skin, lining his chest and pushing the despondency back just enough that no one suspects. Or at least he hopes no one does.When the four of them are seated around the table, passing round bowls of food, he thinks he may have succeeded in convincing the audience.
Dinner is horrific, but he manages. Kurt tells his dad about the stuff he’s been up to, Burt tells them about business at the shop and Carole’s new obsession with scented candles, Adam talks about his own family in the UK. To be honest, Kurt couldn’t have found a more perfect boyfriend. Plus, logically, Blaine knows they must be serious if Kurt invited him round on Christmas Eve.
God, they were probably sleeping together already and here Blaine was clinging on. Just loosen your grip and let go of the rock already; fall. No, you can’t think like that anymore, stop it!
He takes a careful sip of his drink, willing his stomach to stop churning as he keeps his eyes on the table. It’s funny because he had believed all that crap Kurt had spouted about giving him time to heal and waiting with outstretched arms in the distance. Turns out, Kurt had just strategically placed a cardboard cut-out of himself so Blaine would think he was waiting, all the while floating out of Blaine’s grasp to bigger, better things. He feels like the world’s biggest idiot.
“So, Blaine, how is Glee going? Bet it’s much nicer without Rachel seizing every solo!”
Blaine’s heart sinks as everyone looks at him; he’s got away so far with saying the bare minimum, but he can’t not answer Kurt’s question.
“Oh…It’s ok, I think. Marley gets quite a few solos instead.”
“Marley? Is she one of the new people?” Kurt looks interested, but now Blaine can see the fake edge to the whole thing.
“Yeah, she’s actually really lovely.”
“Aw that’s nice.” Adam says and it sounds so strange in his British accent, almost insincere, although Blaine is probably just being paranoid. He fights to keep his thoughts off his face and it partly works as Kurt remains oblivious, but Burt is side-eyeing him. Stupid, perceptive Burt.
“’Course, it’s an exciting time of year for you, Buddy. All your college applications in?” Burt asks through a mouthful of cabbage, and Blaine doesn’t know whether this is a welcome change of topic or a trap.
“Um, yeah, they are now.”
“Big Apple here you come, huh?”
“I’ve actually only applied to NYADA here.” He replies honestly. “I mean, I sent that one off months ago and I haven’t heard anything back—I probably won’t get in anyway, but I just thought it—I’ll probably stay in state.“ He finishes lamely, physically clamping his mouth shut before he can say the ‘sorry’ that is burning on his tongue. He can’t quite explain why the fact that he applied to college in New York—and NYADA of all places—makes him want to drop to his knees and beg for Kurt’s forgiveness, but it does. He feels like he’s somehow doing Kurt yet another wrong by even contemplating an intrusion into the world he’s built up here.
A world away from you, his brain decides to remind him and his eyes involuntarily flick up to Adam who is looking at him like he’s a crazy person. To be fair, Adam has a point since he can barely hold his fork properly right now.
“What?” Burt asks, and Blaine notices that Kurt hasn’t commented, but he doesn’t dare look to see his reaction. “I thought you were definitely coming to college here?”
“I just think staying in Ohio would be…better.” He finishes lamely, wishing the conversation hadn’t been brought round to him in the first place.
“Hmm.” Burt says, and suddenly Blaine can’t look him in the eye either. “Well, guess we’ll have to get you into NYADA then, won’t we?”
Blaine smiles, forcing the mask into place, and continues eating. Thankfully, Adam starts talking about his singing group again and the spotlight shifts off him. He feels so sick but he eats everything on his plate anyway, not wanting to appear ungrateful. When dinner finally finishes, they all take their plates over to the sink and create a pile of dishes.
“Kurt, why don’t you and Blaine pick a movie while Adam and I wash up?” Burt says, tone curiously firm.
“That’s ok, dad, I’ll do them later. We can all pick the movie.”
As Blaine follows Burt over to the chairs, he feels strangely like he did when no one would pick him for their team in gym class. No one wants you here.
Burt picks some inoffensive action movie (I can’t deal with any of that singing stuff tonight, Kurt) and Blaine realises with horror that he can’t go to bed until everyone else does as he’s sleeping on the couch—the same couch that Kurt and Adam are currently sharing.
Blaine fixes his eyes unseeingly on the screen and refuses to look at them cuddling. He practically shivers with the desire for someone to snuggle around him, too, but he knows he lost that privilege the second he cheated. He feels so small and stupid right now—pointless, really—as he awkwardly wraps his arms around himself and tries to ignore Burt’s eyes on his face from where he’s sat in the chair next to him. He doesn’t want anyone’s pity.
When the movie finishes, after an hour and a half of what can only be described as torture, Kurt flicks the lights on and Blaine blinks in the sudden brightness, eyes suddenly even more tired.
“Well, you’d better show Adam out before we all hit the sack.” Burt says somewhat pointedly and Blaine’s ears prick up despite himself at the news that Adam won’t be staying over. He doesn’t miss the glare Kurt shoots his dad though; he feels it like it’s directed at him.
Once Adam has left, Kurt makes up the bed for him. He is perfectly nice, chatters away about mundane stuff, but Blaine still can’t meet his gaze for fear that all the apologies he’s holding back will trip from his mouth.
“Kurt, can I just have a word in here for a second…about, um, that last minute thing…for Carole…?” Burt calls from the cordoned-off area of Kurt’s room and it’s so obviously an excuse, it’s almost laughable. Burt wouldn’t be organising Carole’s present on Christmas Eve when they aren’t even in the same state.
Kurt rolls his eyes and slips behind the curtains. At first, all Blaine can hear are indistinct whispers and he tries hard not to eavesdrop. Seconds later, though, there’s no mistaking Kurt’s words, his voice forceful despite the lowered volume.
“I just don’t understand why you wouldn’t tell me…”
“Because it was meant to be a surprise. I didn’t know your friend would be here.”
“Well he wouldn’t have been if you’d just told me! And I’m perfectly within my rights to hang out with who I like.”
“Geez, Kurt, didn’t you see him all evening—he looks like a lost puppy that’s been kicked. Repeatedly. By you.”
So there it is. Burt’s pity, just like Blaine knew it would be.
“That’s not fair!” Kurt sounds really annoyed now. “I’ve been trying really hard here. And in case you’ve forgotten, I’m not the one who destroyed our relationship in the first place. He cheated!”
Blaine’s stomach drops to the apartment below and he’s intensely grateful as he feels the familiar numbness creeping in.
When Burt awkwardly reappears a moment later, Kurt noticeably not in tow, he nods at Blaine sympathetically and wishes him goodnight before using the bathroom and heading into Rachel’s room to sleep. Blaine sits on the couch, knees hugged against his chest and staring into space until he hears Burt get into bed, and then goes through the motions of brushing his teeth and using the toilet, climbing into his own makeshift bed.
He just about fits because he’s so weirdly short and he tugs the blanket up over his face, hiding from the cold air of the loft. He doesn’t feel hidden enough from anything, though. Not from the chill, or Kurt’s words, or his own piled up mistakes; the numbness might have learnt to control the pain, but it can’t stop the guilt gnawing at his insides. He feels the burn of hot, guilty tears against his too-cold skin and allows his face to become claustrophobically stuck against the inside of the blanket, wonders how easy it would be to just suffocate here. Not easy enough, probably.