Blaine dreams he’s in his bed at home, lying like a starfish on top of his double duvet. He’s rocking ever so slightly from side to side, his head still on the pillow as his body rhythmically shifts his weight. He’s suspended in that hazy, tired state that he’s come to know so well. He’s always gotten over-emotional when he’s tired—it was the cause of many pointless fights with Cooper when he was little. Yet, now, he’s learnt to control that raw, overwrought feeling and it affords him a strange sense of clarity. He still becomes upset really easily, but the superficial and reflective ideas of happiness are also stripped away. Thoughts of pleasing anyone else, or conforming to societal expectations, or even conforming to his own ideals, they all disappear; this is about him, fragile and vulnerable, paradoxically both powerless to affect his emotions and completely in control of them. Of course, since he doesn’t actually sleep, he’s even more exhausted when he stirs, but he’s used to that, too.
Suddenly, Blaine is reminded that he is actually asleep and dreaming as the walls of his bedroom fall outwards like cardboard components of a film set exploding. He finds himself sat cross-legged on the deck of a boat, the rocking motion not from his own body, but from the waves underneath. He sits there in a trance until he starts to feel nauseous and then stands up, takes in his surroundings properly. The boat is smaller than it had seemed sitting down and then, just like that, it’s nothing more than a rubber dinghy, dwarfed by the body of water it’s resting on.
There’s a seagull to his left, frantically ducking under the water again and again. Is it attempting to submerge itself or wash something off its back? Strangely, Blaine feels more connected to this seagull than he has to any person in weeks. He can understand its overwhelming desire, bordering on panic, to overcome its own skin, to cleanse without being submerged, to breathe air and water simultaneously. The bird looks up and its eyes are too familiar so Blaine blinks and turns away.
Across from the bird, on a distant embankment, a wedding ceremony is beginning. A blurry blot in a white dress walks across the sand, between rows of white wooden chairs, faceless guests perched atop them, their blank heads swivelling to catch a glimpse. He can’t tell from across the water, but he imagines that she is smiling as she clutches her father’s arm, blushing under the gazes of adoring friends and family. He wonders whether she has felt the same displacement that he and the seagull have at some point in her life, whether this union is the way she has chosen to overcome it. Or, perhaps she has contented herself and her husband-to-be is just someone she has swept up along the way.
With a splash, the seagull dips its head under the rippling surface for such a long time that Blaine feels sure it has drowned. It hasn’t. Its beak pops up again, none of that coughing and spluttering that a human does. He thinks how beautifully a seagull could die if it so chose – if it simply decided to stop struggling on the surface and surrender to nature’s murky depths. For a fraction of second, he feels jealously simmering up in his chest, but then movement on the other side of the water catches his attention. His eyes and thoughts turn back to the wedding where the newly-weds are walking back down the aisle as man and wife.
And then he feels someone’s gaze on the back of his neck and spins precariously to see there’s somehow a food vendor in front of him, shouting too loudly about bagels and cream cheese. He can smell coffee, it’s strong, overpowering almost—
“Mornin’ sleeping beauties!” Burt’s voice is deliberately just a notch too loud as he leans over the bed, holding a cup of coffee, and Blaine wakes with a start.
Kurt groans next to him and—oh—apparently Kurt is right next to him. Blaine blushes instinctively as he realises that Burt knows they shared the bed. Kurt, however, seems apathetic as he nuzzles against Blaine’s arm, murmuring at his dad to leave them alone.
“Kurt, it’s eleven,” Burt tries and receives a muffled grunt from Kurt which cuts off as Blaine sits up, attempting to flatten his hair with one hand. “And it’s Christmas Day.”
“Sorry, sir, it’s my fault, I kept him up and—not like that!” Blaine is mortified at Burt’s raised eyebrows. “I just—I wasn’t—we were just talking, I swear—”
“Hey, relax! I know you were; I’m only messing with you, kid.”
Blaine looks down, waits for the heat in his cheeks to fade and wishes Kurt would say something.
“Is that coffee?”
Blaine had sort of been hoping for something a bit more enlightening than that, but he’ll take it.
“Yup, here you go.” Burt passes the mug to Kurt. “Yours is in the kitchen, Blaine, and I’ve made brunch. I figured we can just eat the beef later and fill up on that.”
Blaine nods, his left ankle cracking embarrassingly as he shuffles out into the living area. He looks at the mussed-up couch from last night and carefully folds the blanket up, placing it neatly on top of the pillow at one end. He surveys the food littering the table, the croissants and pancakes and fruit and bacon, the latter looking somewhat depleted — Burt has presumably eaten more of that than the other stuff. Blaine might never have subscribed to the whole Bible thing, but the idea of the forbidden fruit is undeniable. Kurt doesn’t let Burt have bacon so naturally he wants it more; that’s just the fatal flaw of human psychology.
He wonders if that’s why Kurt always seems to want Blaine more when he doesn’t have him. Kurt was pining over Blaine long before Blaine got his head out of his ass and realised he had feelings for Kurt too, and when Sebastian was texting him, Kurt was desperate to hang out with Blaine all the time, to outdo the competition and keep the trophy. But then, when Kurt left for New York, Blaine missed him too much, clung too tightly — he was clingy, whatever Kurt says to the contrary — and suddenly he wasn’t the forbidden fruit anymore. He tried too hard and became a mundane apple from a run-of-the-mill grocery store.
By that logic, he only became appealing again because he stopped trying so hard—he stopped trying completely, to be honest. He shakes his head as he tears a piece off a croissant; he’d told himself he would stop the overanalysing.
It’s only because he’s worried about the conversation going on behind the curtains. It’s suspiciously quiet, but Blaine doesn’t need burning ears to know they’re talking about him. Part of him is still mildly concerned that Burt has the wrong idea, but that’s sort of eclipsed by the other part of him which is, well, panicking. He is worried that Kurt will actually think things through now that he’s fully awake and realise that he extended too much to Blaine last night. He’s scared that everything that passed between them last night—the hurt and the forgiveness and the newfound secrets and soft touches—all of it will mean something different in daylight. Or, worse, it won’t mean anything at all. His life can’t be void of meaning just when he got it back; please, God, don’t let Kurt snatch it back.
Right on cue, Kurt opens the curtains and moves to the table, eyes narrowing at the sight of the bacon.
“Did you eat some of this?” He asks, gesturing at the offending meat before pouring himself another cup of coffee.
“Yes.” Blaine lies. It slips off his tongue so easily.
Blaine can’t tell if it was the answer Kurt wanted or not. He puts the remainder of the croissant down for a moment, his appetite tapering off.
“You alright?” Kurt’s voice changes suddenly, becomes more alert as he peers at Blaine’s face. “You look sort of pale.”
Blaine shrugs, picks up his croissant again. “Just tired.”
Kurt doesn’t answer for a moment and Blaine thinks he’s lost interest, but then there are fingers on his own, pulling them away from his plate. He glances down and notices that he’s done that thing where he shreds all his food into little pieces but doesn’t eat any of it.
“Don’t worry about it; you don’t have to eat if you’re not hungry.”
“Really? Because at home I’m not allowed to leave the table unless I’ve eaten everything, especially the vegetables.”
Kurt snorts, but cuts himself off when he realises Blaine isn’t really joking. “Well, you’re not at home.” He empties the shredded croissant onto his own plate and begins eating the massacred remains. “Did you have anything in particular you wanted to do while you were here? In the city, I mean?”
“Oh, um, nope.” Blaine watches Kurt dip a piece of croissant in Nutella, the spread curling temptingly around the flaky pastry.
“May I make a suggestion?” Kurt waits for Blaine to nod before continuing, Burt pulling out the chair next to him and oh-so-casually reaching for another slice of bacon.
“My friend Caleb from work owns a penthouse in midtown Manhattan—yes, he’s a trust fund baby, dad, don’t start—and he sort of said I could use it while he’s out of town for the holidays. I mean, I was going to take you up the Empire State, but it’s crazy busy and expensive today so I thought we could just take in the view from Caleb’s apartment instead…if you want to?”
Blaine nods, cheering up considerably at the idea. Kurt still wants to spend time with him; that’s a good sign, right? He watches as Kurt spreads Nutella on the last piece of croissant and holds it out to Blaine who raises an eyebrow.
“Come on, you’ve been staring at it the whole time I was speaking.”
“I have not!” Blaine protests; he can’t help it if chocolate spread on buttery pastry looks delicious.
“Have to!” Kurt singsongs, shoving it towards Blaine’s face while simultaneously slapping his dad’s hand away where it’s creeping towards yet another slice of bacon. “No, you have most definitely had enough—I don’t care if it’s Christmas!”
Blaine hadn’t been sure what to expect from Kurt’s co-worker’s apartment. Maybe more golden fountains and diamond-encrusted counters and priceless pieces of art. The owner is clearly rich—he’d have to be to own a tenth of this apartment given its location—but the interior décor is tasteful, not over-done for the sake of it.
“I’ll go get us some drinks?” Kurt half-queries, half-states, and Blaine nods distractedly, already moving towards the double doors which seem to lead out onto some sort of platform.
He wrestles with the lock for a moment and stumbles forward as it finally gives. The first thing that hits him as he steps onto the balcony is the air, cold but not unwelcome as it pours into his lungs. Then, his eyes widen of their own accord as he takes in the view; it’s nothing short of breath-taking.
New York City looks pretty in pictures and movies, but it looks impossibly prettier in reality. Up here, the traffic and crowds fade away, leaving just the buildings, magnificently stoic in the afternoon sun as they rise up out of the messiness below. People say that the city thrums with energy, and Blaine has always attributed this to its diverse, constantly evolving population, but now he realises that it’s the buildings which are alive, that vibrate with energy as they stretch upwards, perpetually craving more from the sky.
For a moment, he’s overwhelmed by it. He feels like some sort of crazed arrow spinning off into a vacuum with no direction and no magnetism to guide him. His chest tightens in triumph as his gaze ricochets between buildings; he has nothing to hold onto and nothing to aim for, like the gull currently circling the skyscrapers in a well-practised routine. Soon, Blaine will be able to vanish into the view completely, a speck amongst all this stability, and finally — finally — he’ll drift away.
He blinks and just like that, the realisation hits him: he doesn’t want to float off into the sunset any more than he wants to plunge onto one of the many spiked buildings—because that would mean he just fades away, he wouldn’t even get the chance to burn out. Slowly, he unfurls his fingers from where they’re clinging on to the railing, his white knuckles appearing to reflect the outdoor brightness.
So what if people can see the gashes and scars littering him? So what if people watch him shrivel then expand in repetitive, well-practiced motions? So what if bobbing too close makes them uncomfortable? He’s a balloon and he’s tired of fighting it, of pretending that he isn’t and drifting out of sight just to appease those around him.
He can embrace his weightlessness. The string may no longer be an anchor, but it doesn’t have to choke him either. He can be free without losing control, like the gull still circling above the buildings, out of place in the metropolis, yet perfectly at home in the fading glow of the sun.
Sometimes, when the wind drops, he can fall downwards and that’s okay, but he doesn’t have to wait for someone else to catch the string before he lands in that mangled heap, the one he spent so many weeks afraid of. All this time, he has been convinced that he’s stuck in reverse, that he needs to start moving forwards again, even if that motion is to drift off into obscurity. But he hasn’t wildly displaced himself; he has simply been hovering downwards for a while. And he can propel himself upwards just as much as he can make himself fall—and that’s what he’s going to do. Because he might have grown accustomed to the view from below, his stomach desensitised to the sickness of falling, but he prefers the view from up here.
Kurt joins him on the balcony, two glasses of something sparkling clutched in his hands, and Blaine experiences a new sort of adrenaline rush as the gull wheels out of sight. The buildings below give him a sense of invincibility and he doesn’t mind if it’s impermanent; right now, in this moment, he feels alive.
They drink a couple of glasses each and then decide it’s getting too chilly and Burt is probably hungry. They have their Christmas dinner when they get in and then open the few presents they have to exchange while half-singing carols and it’s wonderful. Blaine doesn’t have to fake any cheeriness, he doesn’t have to fix a smile in place, because he feels happy. It really is as simple as that, just like Dr Marissa said it should be. He remains suspended in this feeling all evening—no, not suspended; he’s not precariously balanced, he’s just beautifully submerged—and he barely stops smiling for the rest of the trip.