The fire fades as Blaine gets ready for Kitty’s party, unable to settle on an outfit. All his clothes seem to be too big, swamping him and making him feel like a cartoon character, or too small, restrictive and uncomfortable against his skin. He sinks down onto his bed, lets his arms sag heavily at his sides, fingers stroking uselessly over the duvet. The soft fabric is sort of comforting, but also a reminder of how rough his fingers are getting; he really should start moisturising again.
He looks at his clock and decides he doesn’t have time to change yet again. He’ll settle with this silly polo top which makes his arms look pathetically small because everyone there will be too drunk to notice anyway. He gathers his phone and his wallet and waits for his dad to shout up the stairs. He feels uneasy with the persistent feeling that he’s done something wrong yet wouldn’t go back and change anything if he had the opportunity to do so. It manifests itself in the beginnings of a headache and just a hint of nausea, his body handing him a ready-made excuse to bail on the whole thing. But he promised himself he’d make more of an effort, that this time he wouldn’t push people away, so he takes a painkiller mainly for the placebo effect and goes downstairs to wait for his dad instead.
When he first arrives, most people seem to have had a head start on the whole alcohol thing. Either Sam gave him the wrong time or there’s been some serious pre-drinking going on. He snags a beer of his own from Kitty’s stash and makes his way into the front room where everyone seems to have congregated. He almost panics when he doesn’t immediately recognise anyone (apparently Kitty invited her more popular cheerleading buddies as well), but then he spots his Glee friends in a corner and makes a beeline for them. To be honest, the first hour is incredibly dull and Blaine considers calling his dad to come and pick him up again. He doesn’t want to look rude and he’s doing his best to smile and wave his beer in time with the thumping music whenever anyone looks in his direction, but time is passing torturously slowly and he’s just not feeling it.
And then, somewhere between a bad rap battle between two cheerleaders and the latest Katy Perry song blasting through the speakers, Blaine stops pretending to have a good time and actually starts to enjoy himself. He dances with Tina and Sam and laughs at the antics of people who have definitely had more to drink than himself. Somehow each time he finishes a drink someone offers him another which he accepts gratefully. He’s not smashed, he is definitely still aware of his surroundings and the room isn’t spinning, but he does feel buzzed and he can’t think of a reason not to climb on the sofa and dramatically sing along to the stereo.
As he jumps down rockstar-style to the laughter of his friends, he feels like a balloon, but not a shrivelled one. He’s weightless in a good way, soaring upwards as someone pushes him into Sam to take a picture. He smushes his face against Sam’s and grins as widely as possible, Tina giggling somewhere to his right. Blaine is a balloon and it’s awesome.
Kurt wakes the next morning to Rachel’s infuriatingly loud vocal exercises and lets out a snarl of frustration. He got approximately three hours sleep last night because every time he dozed off, his subconscious dragged him back into alertness. It’s not that he’s worried about Blaine—they’d agreed that if they were to rekindle their relationship on any level, Kurt couldn’t keep walking on eggshells—but it is the first time they’ve fought since things got back to normal. And maybe it’s a little selfish, but Kurt doesn’t want to have more guilt forced upon him. Okay, maybe it’s very selfish, but he loves Blaine and he hates being the cause of Blaine’s pain, even if he is an oblivious idiot sometimes.
When it’s clear that the pillow isn’t going to block out Rachel’s (albeit tuneful) screeching, Kurt heaves himself out of bed and over to his laptop, deciding he’s not hungry for breakfast just yet. He mindlessly logs onto Facebook as his work email account loads and is instantly bombarded with pictures of his high school friends mingled with some unfamiliar faces. He clicks on the album, noticing that it was Tina who uploaded it, and scrolls through the pictures. He bites his lip, but he’s unable to stop the smile from forming when he starts to see Blaine in the pictures halfway down the page. Some of them are a bit blurry and it’s clear that everyone’s more than a little tipsy, but Blaine’s happiness filters off the screen and inside Kurt, making his heart lurch. There’s one of him dancing with Sam and then with some girls he doesn’t know, one of him holding a green-coloured drink in the air, one of him jumping off something and posing mid-air. In all of them, he’s grinning broadly, his eyes crinkled and his teeth on show.
For no rational reason, Kurt feels the sharp sting of rejection, like somehow he wasn’t cool enough to be included, that he was deliberately not invited to this gathering. It’s ridiculous, of course it is; he doesn’t recognise the house where the party was held, nor half the people there, but the idea of spending an evening with his old friends and looking after an adorably giggly Blaine is appealing. It looks innocent and fun and a little silly and everyone is clearly enjoying themselves.
More to the point, Blaine is enjoying himself and Kurt knows that is a good thing, that after months of Blaine not being able to smile, he should be thrilled at this display of simple happiness. But there’s also a small part of him, a vicious, whiny part he tries his hardest to suppress, that is vexed at this turn of events. Kurt had spent the whole night tossing and turning in bed and for some reason, he had just assumed that Blaine had been doing the same thing. He had never imagined that Blaine would be out enjoying himself, carefree and grinning, and Kurt is a little jealous that he is no longer the only cause of that beautiful smile.
He tells himself to snap out of it because that is definitely bordering on controlling, psychotic boyfriend territory and instead likes his favourite picture of the lot. Blaine is stood on what looks to be a couch, with his arms spread wide on either side of him, his head tilted back slightly and his bowtie a little loose as he smiles coyly down at the camera. It’s as close to a peace offering as Kurt feels able to offer right now so he stops himself from liking all the pictures with Blaine in them and shuts his laptop.
Naturally, he only manages half his reluctantly poured bowl of cereal before he is checking his phone for a message from Blaine. His irritation limps into sadness when the screen remains blank and he pushes his phone away from him.
“What’s the matter?” Rachel asks from across the room where she’s now stretching against the units. “Because I need to leave on time so if you’re about to have an emotional crisis, it needs to happen quickly.”
“Get your feet off the units where we prepare food!” Kurt snaps in response, stomping back into his partitioned room. He is so far from being in the mood to deal with her today that it’s not even funny. If he has to watch her rotating her wrists while leaning to touch her pink sneakers one more time, he might just slap her.
A few hours later and it’s still radio silence from Blaine. Kurt wonders what on earth he’s doing, whether he’s still out socialising, whether he even went home last night. But for the first time in a while, Kurt has absolutely no idea what Blaine might be up to which leads him to the realisation that usually he doesn’t have to wonder about these things; usually Blaine just tells him. Kurt never asks about Blaine’s upcoming plans—what he’s doing right now when he rings late in the evening and the dull light makes his chest ache with longing, but never what he is getting up to next week, or next month. Not unless Blaine volunteers the information, usually after listening to Kurt tell him all about his own life.
Even if Kurt has made a point recently of asking Blaine how his day was, he never asks him to elaborate which, he realises, makes him the worst sort-of-boyfriend ever. The guilt he’s spent the better part of a morning fighting flares hot and heavy in his gut, but he doesn’t mind anymore because he deserves it. He’s falling into the same traps over and over again, and whilst Blaine is learning from his mistakes, turning to his friends instead of a random stranger, Kurt is stuck on repeat in his own little selfish bubble. It’s ironic that he’d basically accused Blaine of being immature last night when he himself still manages to trip over his own feet while taking baby steps.
What he really wants is to call Blaine until he picks up and then apologise a lot and then maybe cry, but he feels like he doesn’t have the right to bombard Blaine at the moment. Instead, he waits until Rachel slams the door on her way out, still in a huff with him, and logs back onto Facebook. He scrolls back through the album until he finds the picture he likes and then types a comment underneath, hoping that Blaine will in some way understand. It’s not about a peace offering anymore, it’s about Kurt letting Blaine know that he loves him so much even if it is in a horrendously imperfect, selfish way sometimes, and that if Blaine wants to reach out, he would grab a hold of him.
The cutest <3
At least, that is what Kurt hopes he gets across, but he’d understand if Blaine chose not to read anything into it at all.
It’s not until after dinner that Kurt’s waiting pays off and he frantically pauses his TV marathon to answer the phone.
“Hello?” He answers breathlessly, gripping his phone so hard that his knuckles start to hurt.
He must sound half-crazed because Blaine laughs slightly. “Hey.”
“Ok—I can’t believe you just—sorry, I’ve been planning this out all afternoon and I didn’t think—wow, you actually called me…”
“I promised to always pick up your calls, remember?”
“I didn’t call, though.”
Blaine laughs softly again. “Yeah, okay, but maybe I could sense that you wanted to, I don’t know.”
“Wow,” Kurt repeats, trying to force his thoughts into order. “I promise I did have this all worked out—what I wanted to say, I mean.”
“It’s fine, apology accepted. I shouldn’t have made the comment in the first place and I know that we’re not together so I had no right to—”
“No! You can’t just accept my apology!”
“No, not yet.” Kurt sighs in frustration, messing up his hair as he thinks of how to word everything. “Okay, just listen for a second while I get this out and then you can talk. I’m sorry, Blaine. I’m sorry that I don’t always listen to you and I try so hard to answer your calls because I know you’d drop everything for me, but sometimes it all gets so hectic and you always complicate things—in the best of ways most of the time—but sometimes I just can’t deal with that on top of everything else if that makes sense? And I know it’s horrible and selfish because you always keep your promise to answer my calls. Hell, you even know when to answer my calls before I’ve decided to call you! How is that even possible?
“Anyway, my point is that you’re perfect and amazing and—okay, you’re not perfect, but you’re always perfect towards me—and I just keep repaying you by being the shittiest boyfriend on the planet because I always talk about myself and I never ask about your plans and…I suck, basically. But I love you so, so much, I swear. Even if it doesn’t seem like it sometimes, you literally mean the world to me. And I was so proud of you last night because while I was being pathetic and wallowing in the mess I caused myself, you were finding your own happiness and not letting me drag you down again. I seem to be too good at doing that.
“I guess what I’m trying to say is it made me realise two things. Firstly, I’m a crap boyfriend—actually, I’m a crap friend as well—but I’d really like to work on that. And not just by asking about your day, but by actually listening to the response because you said once that I was the single most interesting kid in all of Ohio. Do you remember that? But you were wrong; you are the most interesting person on the planet and I was stupid enough to let my own self-absorption distort that. And—and the second thing I realised was that you don’t need me anymore. You’re so strong and you know how to deal with me when I’m being a bitch, but when I hurt you, you don’t self-destruct anymore. You know how to deal with me and you know how to deal with yourself and you have this, I don’t know…self-awareness that I just don’t have.
“It’s sort of scary because you don’t need me so there’s nothing to stop you walking away and never coming back when I’m a jerk, but it’s also less scary because I don’t feel like you depend on me anymore. I don’t feel like I’m going to take a step back into my bubble and you’ll topple over backwards. Am I making any kind of sense? It’s like you’re still my missing puzzle piece but you don’t complete my jigsaw anymore; you compliment it. We’re separate puzzles but we complement each other. I just need—okay, I’m just going to go ahead and say it and then you can—you can just be honest. I know we’re still both learning and it’s hard because we’re not in the same state, but I love you and I need you back in my life—properly, none of this uncertainty. Can you—will you be my boyfriend again?”
“Kurt.” It sounds almost like a whine, thick with tears which immediately jolt Kurt’s own tear ducts into action. It’s weird how he’s so in tune with Blaine’s emotions, but they’ve always been a bit if you cry, I cry; it has its advantages and disadvantages.
“Is that—I can’t tell if that’s a good ‘Kurt’ or a bad ‘Kurt’.”
There’s another pause filled only by Blaine’s sniffles.
“Okay, I’m going to combust if you don’t give me a yes or no here.” Kurt tries, feeling uncomfortably wound-up inside.
The choked little laugh that follows is the most precious sound in the world and Kurt wishes his phone was recording it so he could replay it later.
“I think—no, I know—I’d really like that.” Blaine says eventually.
“So is that a yes…?” He hardly dares to believe it, to be honest. He had sort of expected the opposite after the hesitation and the tears.
“Yes, Kurt Hummel, I will be your boyfriend again.”
Kurt squeals and jumps up and down in his seat and almost doesn’t catch what Blaine says next.
“On one condition.”
“You’ve got to stop beating yourself up over everything. I know the distance and then the break-up really didn’t help with the stuff that I was going through, but you know I was depressed right? And I know that can have triggers and things can aggravate it and all that, but at its core, it’s not something you can control. It’s just like any other illness. So you didn’t cause it or make me feel that way, okay?”
“—Also, I concede that you handled things badly at times, but then we were—I think it was sort of inevitable. Because, well, you were right; at the start we were each other’s missing puzzle pieces, just like the song. We completed each other when we met and that was—that was amazing. But then you moved here and you became your own complete puzzle. You were looking for another puzzle to coexist with and I was still a half looking for you to make me whole like before. So put us together and we were one and a half and neither of us felt complete. My instinct was to cling even tighter, yours was to pull away—I guess we were both being selfish, really.”
Kurt thinks about it, how it all makes sense in hindsight. “I think you might be right.”
“Wow, shall I record that momentous sentence? Did you actually just say I’m right about something?”
“Shut up and dance with me!” Blaine sings back ridiculously, and Kurt can hear it when his presumably flailing arm hits his bedside lamp. “Ouch!”
“Serves you right. And I’ve had enough cheesy song references for one day.”
“Excuse me, Mr Hummel, but Teenage Dream is sacred.”
“Good job you picked an appropriate song on that particular occasion then. Imagine if I’d walked into Dalton and you’d started singing ‘When I Get You Alone’. I think my baby penguin self would’ve been scarred for life.”
Blaine snorts. “I am never going to live that down am I?”
“Nope; I’m going to make sure it haunts you for the rest of your life.” He pauses when he realises what he has just said, the implications behind it.
“I’d be okay with that.” Blaine’s voice has gone serious again, scratchy with honesty, and Kurt’s chest tightens and then feels beautifully light.
“In that case, we have a deal.” Kurt pauses, runs his free fingers over his arm. “I wish you were here right now.”
“Me too, then I could hug you.”
“A kiss might be nice.”
“Fine. Then I could hug and kiss you.”
They fall silent, listening to each other’s breathing, and it’s at least a minute before Blaine speaks again. “Kurt?”
“Can I tell you about the awesome party now?”
“Yes,” Kurt moves from the couch into his room so he can lean back against the pillows. “For a start I want to know how you managed to look the perfect combination of dishevelled and put-together. Also, who took those pictures because they definitely got blurrier as the evening progressed?”
“Oh, that was Tina. Or maybe she gave it to Jake later on, I’m not sure.”
“Blaine Anderson, are you suffering from a classic case of morning-after memory loss?”
“Well, technically it’s now evening…”
“You little rebel!”
Kurt takes a breath, opening his mouth and preparing to sing—
“And don’t you dare use my own cheesy songs back at me!”
“Damn it. You’re doing the weird physic thing again.”
“What can I say? I’m sort of a Kurt Hummel guru.”
Kurt groans, but it turns into a laugh halfway through. He almost feels too full of too many emotions; Blaine might not complete him anymore, but he still manages to top him up with feelings. He closes his eyes, lets the pillow cool his warm cheeks. “Yeah, you are. So tell me more about this party. Were you climbing on furniture again?”