“Would you say you’re a bottom or more of a power bottom?”
Blaine scowls at the countertop as he furiously wipes away the milk he spattered at the unwelcome (but, unfortunately, no longer unexpected) question. They’ve only been here for an hour, only had a few customers, and he’s been trying to look busy in hopes of avoiding what has become a frighteningly regular occurrence over the past few months.
He likes Santana, he really does; she’s the best boss he could ask for, really. Gives him all the hours he wants because he’s “not an idiot like the other two,” respects the fact that he cannot physically function before he’s downed a cup of coffee (or five), and she’s only a year older than him (how she’s running the place at 20 is a question he isn’t sure he wants the answer to - words like “accomplice” keep running through the back of his mind) so she can actually be fun to work with.
Except for times like this.
“S-Santana, you can’t just ask someone that,” Blaine says, cursing the way his voice wavers at being caught off-guard and frowning down at the cup he’d been pouring milk into; he’d been so close to finally making a daisy.
“It’s been bothering me all morning,” Santana shrugs.
“Whatever. I’m just trying to figure it out. Because there’s no way you aren’t taking it up the - Goooooood morning,” Santana’s voice changes abruptly, suddenly falsely cheery as the door opens. “Welcome to Jitters, what can we get you?” She raises an eyebrow as Blaine takes his place at the espresso machine, the look clearly stating “This conversation isn’t over” and Blaine starts brainstorming possible escape opportunities as he pulls shots.
Usually the latte art preoccupation thing works; she teases him and calls him a dork for doing it but she respects trying to master a skill and isn’t mean spirited enough to actively try to mess up his concentration. Today though, today it apparently isn’t enough to deter Santana’s latest round of questioning (it’s almost always sexual in nature, with the exception of one discussion about the social constructs of body hair maintenance that had been surprisingly interesting, even though it had led to looking down his shirt “for science”). And now he’s visibly reacted to her question, and he knows she won’t drop it. Escape is the only option.
His apron is already halfway off as the door closes behind the customer, but a sharp pull on one of the strings has him falling backwards until he’s staring at Santana’s upside-down smirk from the floor.
“Where are you scurrying off to?”
“I’m going to take the deposit to the bank.”
“It’s 7am. I haven’t even done it yet.”
“Oh,” Blaine frowned, pulling himself to his feet. “Well, you should go do that! I’ll watch the counter.”
“Aw, so helpful. Nice try, Anderson. But we’re barely going to have any customers for the next hour. It’s chattin’ time. Now, where were we?” Santana taps her chin thoughtfully and Blaine stares at the front door, willing another customer to interrupt them, but no one comes to his rescue.
“San,” Blaine wheedles, trying to dart around her and maybe go hide in the walk-in freezer or something. He’s pretty good at handling Santana, has her figured out after a few months of working together most every morning. He knows that she doesn’t mean any harm and just likes to get a rise out of him, but today is not the day.
NYU’s fall term is starting today. And with the beginning of term comes the release of the planned production list. He barely made it out of the chorus last year, half a dozen lines scattered across three shows, but that’s to be expected for a freshman at Tisch. Especially a freshman who is apparently the spitting image of the most talented senior in the program.
But Tim is gone now and Blaine is more than happy to step up and fill the Tim-shaped hole in the cast lists until everyone says, “Tim who? Oh, that guy who kind of looked like Blaine?” And if that leads to talking about Blaine’s lead role in the fall musical or Blaine’s prospective lead role in the spring musical, well, Blaine can’t really help that.
“Ah, right!” Santana taps Blaine on the nose, breaking him out of his reverie. “As I was saying, with an ass like that it’s a crime against humanity if you aren’t taking it on the regular, but I can’t decide if you’re taking it or...demanding--”
“That’s enough,” Blaine snaps, voice loud enough in the silent coffee shop that Santana actually jumps a little. “We’re not talking about this. Not here, not today. Actually, not ever. Drop it.” He finishes pulling his apron over his head, balling it up as he pushes through the swinging doors that lead to the kitchen.
Blaine’s hands are angrily red from the scalding water he’s using to wash the five gallon cambro from last night’s catering order before his breathing calms and he deflates. He shouldn’t have yelled at Santana. She’s obnoxious and she pries and she pushes but she’s his boss and...well, kind of his friend. Maybe if he hadn’t spent the entire weekend moving everything he owns up five flights of stairs into his new apartment, or stayed up so late with his roommate last night, or if he wasn’t so anxious about the start of the semester or had just had more coffee when he first got in he wouldn’t have been so quick to take Santana’s bait. And now he’s in a terrible mood and it’s going to be a terrible day.
He turns the cambro upside down in the sink and wipes his hands on his khakis with a sigh before walking (with much less speed and crashing of doors into walls) back to the counter, ready for Santana to ignore him or yell at him or - oh god, she’s his boss, she can fire him - demand an apology, which is already on his tongue as he ties the apron back on.
Before he can open his mouth, though, Santana looks up from where she’s restocking the pastry case, one side of her mouth just slightly quirked.
“Power bottom, then.”
Blaine rolls his eyes at her, standing a little straighter when the bell over the door signals the entrance of a customer.
Maybe it won’t be a terrible day.
It’s a terrible day.
Both people running the second shift at Jitters are late, some malfunction on the A-C-E track that has midtown all the way down into the village backed up, and it’s not like Blaine can just leave, not when there’s a rush of customers even though Santana’s all but shoving him out the door.
He runs, panting, into his Accents and Dialects class. 87 seconds late. He knows he’s 87 seconds late because the professor is standing at the front of the room with a stopwatch and informs him, and the entire class, that he is 87 seconds late. Then, even though she asks Blaine for his name and tuts at her class roster, she proceeds to call him Tim for the entire class.
Well, she calls him Tim until she starts calling him Braveheart. She says it like it’s an insult but they’re supposed to be trying Scottish accents and Braveheart is Scottish and Blaine just wishes she would get off of his back and wonders if the Braveheart thing is going to stick all semester. Given that two classmates call it out as they part ways, probably.
He’s so flustered from the class that he knocks over the entire stand of fencing foils in Intro to Stage Combat and that professor decides he’s a klutz, which he isn’t, he’s actually very agile and has even done stage combat before. But it doesn’t matter, because he’s relegated to the Sword of Shame, a neon foam rubber monstrosity that is apparently the marker of whoever is deemed a hazard that day.
He spends the afternoon in the lobby of the Tisch administrative offices, playing Angry Birds on his phone and empathizing with the birds more than is probably healthy (He would love to be able to fly at a shoddily constructed building and tear it to the ground right now. His A&D professor does have kind of a piggy nose) while he and a few dozen other students sit vigil waiting for the production list. There’s a loud, nasal girl somewhere behind him nattering about Murder She Wrote and how she’s the Gerber Baby (actors, really) and it’s already an hour past scheduled posting time and he just wants to go home and lay on the couch and maybe convince his roommate to rub his neck until his headache goes away.
It’s another twenty minutes before Marcia, the program administrator, appears in the doorway.
"Sorry kids," Marcia says, and she actually does look apologetic somewhere behind the general disdain that seems permanently etched into her lined face. "It's not going up today. Paulson's really determined to get the rights to a show for spring and he won't finalize the rest until it's done." She holds a hand up when the murmuring escalates and it almost immediately quiets again. "I'll send an email when I know. Don't come bothering me before then."
Blaine sighs, hauling himself to his feet and trudging toward the front door with the rest of the grumbling group. Of course. Today's already been awful, the show list the only thing convincing him to keep going rather than just go home and hide under his duvet, so why wouldn't it be delayed?
When he finally walks into his apartment, he beelines for the empty side of the sofa and faceplants into a throw pillow with a groan.
"Um, Blaine?" Tina's voice comes from behind him. He grunts in acknowledgement, not removing his face from the pillow, and hears her stifle a laugh. "Not that I don't appreciate your ass, but it's kind of...in my face."
Blaine mumbles an apology, still more into the pillow than anywhere else, and flops gracelessly until he's sitting properly, knees tucked up to his chest and arms wrapped around them. Tina smiles at him from the other cushion of their tiny loveseat (the biggest piece of furniture they could fit in their glorified closet of a living room), her face falling at something she must see in Blaine's expression.
"Alright," Tina says, setting her bowl of soup on the coffee table and lifting her arm. Blaine tips sideways with a sigh, head landing in her lap and legs still tucked up to fit on the cushion. "Work, school, or family?"
This is why Blaine loves Tina. She doesn't bother with the formalities, Is something wrong? and Do you want to talk about it? She just wraps him up and waits, makes him talk. It's hard, usually, for Blaine to open up; he's always had a lot of acquaintances but not many friends, lots of people to have fun with but no one he would, or could, go to with the real stuff.
But then he'd met Tina in his first class on the first day of freshman year, when she'd run up to him with wide eyes as everyone waited for the professor, said "Help!" and pulled his arm around her shoulders.
"I'm Tina," the girl says, still crowding close, and Blaine tries to keep his face neutral as he looks down at her because he has no idea what's going on but she seems to and he doesn't want to blow her cover. "There's a guy over there who won't stop hitting on me so you are now my boyfriend."
"I'm gay," Blaine answers, because that seems relevant and it's the first thing that comes to mind and he's always had a tendency to blurt out whatever he's thinking. "I mean, I'm Blaine. But also I'm gay."
"And I already have a boyfriend," Tina shrugs. "I don't think any of that matters to Green Shirt over there. He was doing jazz squares, Blaine. While hitting on me. Jazz. Squares." Blaine follows her eyeline and sure enough, a guy with too-perfectly-messy hair and a green silk t-shirt (It's an 8:30am dance class. Blaine barely remembered pants. Who even owns silk t-shirts?) has apparently moved onto high kicks. Blaine sees the moment he spots Tina again, a predatory grin spreading across his face, and Blaine narrows his eyes, sliding the hand on her shoulder down to her hip and pulling her into his side. Green Shirt's eyes widen and when he holds his hands up in surrender, Blaine hears Tina sigh in relief.
"Thanks," she smiles, pulling away a little to start her own stretches. "I owe you. Coffee after class?"
And suddenly Blaine had had a friend in a way he never had before. Someone he wasn't scared to cry in front of or get mad at or be a dork with. And with Tina had come her boyfriend Mike, a dancer at Juilliard, and through Mike he'd found Santana and the job that gave him an excuse to stay in the city over the summer rather than go back to Ohio. Blaine's always believed a little in fate, and meeting Tina was definitely fate.
She'd left the theater program in favor of an as yet undetermined liberal arts degree after the first semester, her dreams of performing dissolving in light of the realities of it, but they'd remained close, and when she'd asked him about living together ("You're the only person I've met who I think I can stand to be around all the time and my parents don't think I'd be safe living with girls but also won't let me live with Mike. Come on, it'll be perfect) it had been a no-brainer because while he had friends in Tisch, he felt the same way she did. (As she'd pointed out, while her NYU friends were crazy, his were actor-crazy, which was a hundred times worse.) It's easy to share space with Tina, she cooks, and now he has regular access to hair petting.
"All of the above?" he says, and he knows he's whining but he doesn't care.
"Oh, honey. Ice cream?"
"Is there cheese?" Blaine asks, lifting his head a little to let Tina slide out from under him. She's back quickly, setting a plate of cut up cheese and a large glass of water in front of him on the table and settling his head back in her lap before she starts carding her fingers through his hair.
"Ok, not as bad as it could be if we're only at cheese," she reasons, and Blaine huffs something between a laugh and a scoff. She'd figured out a long time ago that most of his comfort foods were dairy based and started keeping them on hand just in case (to be fair, he has a giant bag of potato chips hidden under his bed for the next time she and Mike fight), gauging his mood by which he picked, and he has to admit that she’s right. It’s not as bad as it could be.
But everything still sucks.
Blaine talks in between bites, extra careful since he refuses to remove his head from her lap. He tells Tina everything; how he'd let Santana get to him, his blunders in both classes, his disappointment in the cast list, or rather lack thereof. He talks his way through the entire plate of cheese before he finally sits up, digging the heels of his hands into his eyes and shaking his shoulders out, finally looking at Tina properly.
“So. Yeah. Not the greatest first day.”
Tina’s been mostly quiet, interjecting only an emotionally appropriate commiserating sound every now and then, and she looks thoughtful now, eyes cast slightly upward like she’s trying to figure out something important. When she meets Blaine’s eyes, there’s something glinting in hers.
“So are you?” she asks finally.
“Am I what?”
“A power bott- oof” she groans as Blaine finds the throw pillow behind him and shoves it in her face.
“Really, T? Everything I just told you and that’s what you glomp onto? Whether or not I take it up the ass?”
“More like if you demand it...” she trails off as he stands, and Blaine can just feel her eyes on his ass as he stalks down the hall toward his room.
“Come on!” Tina calls, flinging herself off the couch to follow him. “This is important information for me, as your roommate and your once and future wingwoman!” He closes his bedroom door behind him just in time for her to (rather dramatically, judging by the sound of the *thump*) throw herself against it. “Blaaaaaaiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiine.”
“Go away!” Blaine calls, voice muffled by the fact that he’s face down on his bed. “You’re awful and I don’t like you anymore!” Seriously. Girls.
“Aw, B, you know I was listening.” Blaine stays silent; he wants apologies. He wants groveling. “I was just trying to make you laugh.” Another pause, more silence. Clearly it didn’t work because Blaine is not laughing. Then, in a smaller voice unmistakably tinged with laughter, Tina reasons, “At least I didn’t call you Tim.”
That does make Blaine laugh, and despite his best efforts to muffle it, he knows Tina heard when she stops trying to muffle her own laughter. His door opens then (there isn’t even a lock on it) and he feels the mattress dip as Tina lays down next to him and starts poking him in the ribs until he rolls over onto his back.
“I’m sorry your day sucked.”
“Thanks,” Blaine sighs. “I just - I want this to be my year, ya know? I’ve done the whole small fish thing. I’m a sophomore. It’s time to move up in the pond. Besides, if I can get some good roles, maybe I can prove I’m not ‘throwing away my future to play dress-up.’” His voice deepens into the disinterested monotone of his father and he rolls his eyes out of habit.
That conversation had been a large part of why he’d done everything he could to avoid going home over the summer. His parents hadn’t made it to any of his shows (It’s such a long way to travel just to see you in the background, honey) and barely congratulated him on making the Dean’s list both semesters (You could parlay those grades into a real major, son. If the classes even count for anything in a different program). He doesn’t expect them to understand, really; his dad is a lawyer and his mom is a financial planner - not the most creatively inclined careers. But he’d like it if they at least respected his choices. Respected him.
A lead role could be the key to that. Undeniable proof that, even if they don’t approve of what he wants to do with his life, he’s at least good at it. Success is success; not even Richard and Maria Anderson can deny that.
“Thai for dinner?” Blaine suggests, once he’s shaken himself out of the madness inducing spiral that comes from thinking about his parents. He shrugs when Tina points out that he just ate half a block of cheese, jumping up from the bed with a grin and pulling her after him back to the living room. It was a bad day, but it’s just the first day of term. There’s plenty of time.
Things can only look up.