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Jitters - Chapter 4
whatiknew




The bowties have become a standard part of Blaine’s work uniform. Even if Kurt isn’t around to appreciate them, he’s gotten a lot of compliments; mostly from middle-aged women, who call him adorable, and old women, who say he looks sharp (the leaf print had been a big hit), but still. It’s nice to be appreciated.

“Morning, Dorothy,” Santana calls as Blaine walks in Monday morning and he’s about to comment on her laziness for using such a common slur but then he remembers he chose the blue gingham bow tie this morning and well, that’s actually pretty clever. He isn’t awake enough to formulate a comeback so he just salutes tiredly and clicks his heels as he starts grinding beans for the air pots, chanting “There’s no place like bed” until Santana snorts and goes back to counting down the cash register.

Jitters opens at 6 and there’s usually a small, early wave of customers soon after, mostly businessmen heading down to the financial district to get a jump on the day. 9 to 10 tends to pass in a blur, college kids and retail managers stopping in before they start their days. But in-between there’s almost nothing, just a stray customer here and there to break up the monotony of Santana snapping her gum in between regaling Blaine with tales of her latest sexual exploits and unsuccessfully trying to goad Blaine into doing the same.

Kurt and Rachel used to come in at 8:30, and before Blaine had run him off, Kurt had started showing up closer to 8 to draw. But that’s over now, so Blaine doesn’t have much hope for the day. He’s pretty sure every moment until the cast list is posted is going to feel like an eternity.

Blaine doesn’t look up from where he’s artfully stacking bagels in the display case when he hears the bells above the door; it’s just a little past 7 - they’ve officially entered The Lull and Santana can handle it on her own.

“Large nonfat mocha, please,” Blaine hears over his own humming (Without Love has been stuck in his head all morning), and he jerks up so quickly that he knocks over the tower of bagels he’d just finished.

It’s Kurt.

He looks terrible.

He looks beautiful, of course, in the grand scheme of things, but on the Kurt Scale, he looks awful. Tired, with dark circles under his eyes, and not really paler than usual but without the glow that usually accompanies it. His hair is drooping a little, bangs falling over his forehead in a way that makes Blaine want to reach out and brush them back.

“I’m sorry,” Kurt sighs. “I mean - double--”

“Don’t worry about it,” Santana interrupts. Her voice is kind and from the look she gives Blaine, he knows that she sees it too. “I’ve got your back. Extra shot?”

Please.

Blaine scurries to the espresso machine to start pulling shots, ignoring Santana’s muttered “Nope, not Dorothy. Toto” because yeah, Santana can handle the order on her own, but he wants to talk to Kurt. Wants to ask if he’s ok, where he’s been, if there’s anything Blaine can do to help.

But when he looks up and Kurt is standing right across from him, normally sparkling eyes a little dull, the questions die on his tongue. They barely know each other, no matter how much Blaine missed seeing him last week it doesn’t mean they’re - anything, really. It isn’t Blaine’s place to ask.

“Hey, stranger,” Kurt says, hiding a yawn behind his hand. “Long time no see.” Apparently talking is a thing they do now, ever since Blaine made it an option that day on the sidewalk. It’s alright; he is a grown man who is actually quite personable and charming. He can talk.

“Hi,” Blaine smiles. “Welcome back.” See? Talking.

“I like your bow tie.”

“Thanks.”

Crap.

This is where a normal person would offer up a compliment of their own. “I like your everything” is what immediately springs to mind and makes Blaine suck his lips into his mouth with the force that he bites back the words just in time. He tries to think of something less insane, and everything Kurt is wearing is praise-worthy but the longer he thinks the more pressing the silence becomes. Kurt is fidgeting a little now, and Blaine can feel Santana’s eyes on him, and he really wishes there was even one person besides the three of them in the shop because this is the longest silence in the history of the world and anything he could’ve said would be better than this.

“Are they, uh,” Kurt speaks again, his voice cracking a little before he clears his throat. “Are the bow ties a new thing?”

“They’re a very old thing,” Santana chimes in, and Blaine has never been more grateful for her eavesdropping. “A very old man thing.” She snickers as she sidles over and Blaine feels the familiar shape of a Sharpie being pressed against the side of his hand. “You should see his bow tie drawer. It’s adorable.”

“She doesn’t know anything, don’t listen to her,” Blaine says to Kurt, his tongue magically loosened now that there’s another participant in the conversation. He wants Santana to stay right here forever.

“They’re arranged by color. In rainbow order.”

He wants Santana to go far, far away.

“Tina sent me a picture she took when you two moved into your new place,” Santana says when Blaine shoots her an incredulous look. She jabs the marker into his hand one more time before she moves back to the register to take care of the woman who just entered, and Blaine scowls at her one more time before turning back to Kurt.

“Tina?” Kurt asks, brow furrowed. “Girlfriend?”

“God no,” Blaine says immediately. “Roommate. Her parents won’t let her live with her boyfriend, but the gay best friend thrills them.” He puts a little emphasis on ‘gay’ because it’s been a long time since he was mistaken for being straight and of course it had to be by the person he most wants to understand how very, very gay he is.

“Ah. So rainbow, huh?” Kurt raises his eyebrows, the concerned lines smoothing out on his forehead as he grins while Blaine finishes steaming the milk for his drink.

He should say something witty, maybe a little flirty, like “You can come over and see for yourself.”

“Well, I need a standard metric, otherwise I’ll just keep rearranging them,” he says instead. “Light to dark and dark to light and fabric weight and pattern density.” This is too much information. “Not that putting them in rainbow order is that helpful, because I have so many multicolored ones and where do those go?” Oh god stop talking. “And don’t even get me started on the reversible ones, god, it’s an absolute nightmare.”

“RED EYE!” Santana yells, far louder than necessary considering the only sound in the entire coffee shop is Blaine’s psychotic monologue on the difficulties of neckwear organization. He shoots her a grateful look as he finishes Kurt’s mocha with the customary heart and then destroys the evidence as he secures the lid.

“Enjoy,” Blaine says as he quickly pushes the cup across the counter.

“Th-thanks, Blaine.” Kurt looks a little startled by the abrupt end to the conversation, but Blaine doesn’t trust himself to say anything more, because he just remembered the time he tried to integrate his bow ties and regular ties into one organizational system and what a disaster it was and these are not stories normal human beings want to hear at 7am. Or ever.

Kurt retreats to his usual table and Blaine manages to resist banging his head against the counter, but only barely. He hands off the red eye with an apologetic grimace and stumbles forward when Santana passes behind him and flicks his ear really, really hard.

“Jesus, Anderson,” she mutters, stooping to pull out a replacement bottle of vanilla syrup. “It’s like you’ve never spoken to another human being. If I were you I would’ve locked that down weeks ago.”

“I don’t even know if he’s interested,” Blaine mumbles, ducking down to Santana’s eye level in hopes of keeping their conversation from drifting out to the lobby.

“He’s interested,” Santana rolls her eyes. “He’s been here almost every day and our coffee is not very good.” It’s true; the espresso tastes like ashes. Blaine only drinks it when he’s desperate.

“But--”

“No buts,” Santana interrupts. “Except yours on his dick. Or his on yours. God, I don’t even care if you give me the details anymore, that’s how anxious I am for you to just do this already.”

“San--”

“No. You go talk to him. You go and string together sentences like the man I know is hiding somewhere under this layer of weird you’ve affected lately, and make one of those sentences ‘Can I have your number?’ or I swear to god I will schedule you to work with Tom for the rest of your life. I cannot watch this anymore, it feels like my eyes are going to jump out of my head in protest and--”

“Okay, alright,” Blaine says, holding his hands up in surrender. Other than the fact that the longer she talkd, the crazier she’s starting to look, he would do pretty much anything not to work with Tom. Tom stares at Blaine like he wants to eat him. Blaine would prefer not to give him the chance to pursue that line of thought.

It’s hard for two people to casually stand up from where they’re crouched together behind a counter, but Blaine thinks they manage it pretty well. The man waiting patiently at the cash register only gives them a slightly confused look, at least, and Kurt doesn’t seem to have--

Oh.

Kurt doesn’t seem to have noticed because the door is closing behind him, his phone tucked between his ear and shoulder and one arm in the jacket he must have taken off after he sat down. As much as he hates to see Kurt go, Blaine is relieved he’s been reprieved. Santana scoffs as she heads back to the register, turning the full power of her steeliest glare on him.

“My ultimatum stands.”

*

Kurt’s still on the phone when he barrels through the door the next morning. Well, probably not still, just on the phone again, but the point is that it seems like Kurt is always on his phone lately, and he always looks stressed. He doesn’t even come up to the counter, just sets his bag on his table and stands there, shoulders hunched. He’s doing more listening than talking, and though Blaine overhears him try to cut in a few times (he’s not listening on purpose; they’re in The Lull and it’s not a big lobby) it doesn’t seem to get him very far.

“I have to go,” Kurt says, finally, much louder than he has been so far. “I have a class. I’ll - yes, right after.” He drops his phone on the table a moment later and presses his hands into his lower back, arching against them. Blaine has managed to avert his eyes by the time he turns around.

“Can I get it for here?” Kurt calls to Blaine as he hands Santana his credit card, nodding toward the mugs hanging from the back wall. “I need to just...it’s not a cardboard day.” Blaine nods in understanding as he spins to get a mug.

“Are you alright?” Blaine asks when Kurt is finally in front of him; it takes him far too long to cover the distance between the cash register and the pickup counter, like he’s moving in slow motion. He just looks so tired that Blaine can’t not ask him anymore, regardless of whether it’s his business.

“I look that bad, huh?” Kurt asks, absently flicking at a lock of hair that’s already fallen out of place. He doesn’t seem upset by the question though, so Blaine figures it’s okay to continue.

“Not bad. Just...exhausted. After you disappeared for a week. I’m just worried.”

“Worried? About me?” Kurt looks a little more alert suddenly and his voice has gone a little higher. Blaine tries to hide his sigh; he went too far and now Kurt is uncomfortable.

“You’re okay, though, right?” Blaine asks, rushing through making the drink and hoping that if he just ignores the question, so will Kurt. “Not sick or...whatever.”

“Just stressed. Work stuff,” Kurt shrugs. “Things were supposed to be calmer after Fashion Week ended but they’re still riding me pretty hard and there just aren’t enough hours sometimes. I was so busy last week that I literally became nocturnal and started sleeping right through the morning. I missed,” he pauses, cocking his head a little. Blaine can see him from the corner of his eye as he pours the milk. “Coffee,” Kurt finishes finally. “I missed coffee.”

“Well, miss it no longer.” Blaine slides the mug to Kurt, finally looking up from the counter to meet Kurt’s eyes.

Before he gets there, though, the mug catches his eye. More specifically, the foamy heart topping off Kurt’s drink. He’s so used to the safety net of a plastic lid that he’d just made the heart out of habit and now it’s sitting there like a blinking neon sign that says “Creeper.”

Kurt’s quiet “oh” tells Blaine that it’s too late to accidentally knock the drink over or set the coffee shop on fire to force evacuation, so instead he tries to explain. Because talking has gone so well for him thus far.

“Oh, I, I’m learning latte art. There’s a...barista competition. Next month. I’m...practicing.”

“Ah,” Kurt nods. “Sounds intense.” He’s biting his bottom lip but Blaine can still see it twitching; Kurt’s probably trying not to laugh at him and his stupid hearts.

“Yup. Intense,” Blaine echoes, already turning toward the kitchen. Santana is busy with a customer so she doesn’t stop him as he heads for the swinging doors and calls back to Kurt over his shoulder, “I have to get a catering order ready, have a good day!”

There isn’t a catering order. Blaine doesn’t stop when he hears Kurt call his name; he doesn’t stop until he’s within the safety of the walk-in cooler, taking deep breaths and staring at a box full of tiny cream cheese tubs.

He’s starting to get cold, but he’s not quite shivering yet, when Santana pulls open the door. She must not have been looking for him, if the way she jumps and yells in surprise is any indication.

“You have got to stop hiding in here,” she moans, reaching around Blaine to grab a jug of skim milk. “It’s probably unsanitary. It’s definitely weird. Why aren’t you out there making moon eyes at your boy? He’s doing a whole lot of completely obvious furtive glancing at the kitchen.”

“I messed up.”

“What, did you insult his hair? I might side with him on that one, that looks like it takes time. There’s a whole infrastructure up in there.”

“Ugh, no,” Blaine scoffs. “I...hesawtheheartIputonhisdrink.”

“In English.”

“I’ve been making a heart in the foam on his mocha since I learned how. But I always hid it with the lid!” Blaine insists when Santana’s eyes widen in judgment. “But then today...the mug...I forgot. And he saw it.” He lets his head drop, leaning against the wire rack and staring at his feet through the spaces in the shelves.

“Well isn’t that just fucking precious,” Santana sighs. “Alright. I’m assuming that since Kurt’s still out there doing his best flamingo impression trying to get a peek into the kitchen, he is not as adverse to your 4th grade attempts at flirtation as you might think. So you’re going to go back out there and be as normal as you can, not that I have high hopes for that, and you’re going to get his number like we agreed.

“San--”

“Nope. Not up for discussion. I’m going to the bank anyway, so you have to.” She turns and jogs out of the kitchen and probably out of the shop, Blaine figures, before he can argue, and he rolls his shoulders back as he follows. Damn dedication to being a competent employee.

Kurt is, indeed, still at his table when Blaine emerges. Blaine catches him staring toward the kitchen for a moment before his eyes snap back to the sketchpad in front of him, a small smile on his face.

Alright. Maybe he didn’t completely freak Kurt out. But that doesn’t mean he should go bother him while he’s working. So Blaine busies himself with wiping down the counters even though they’re always immaculate since that time Santana accidentally stuck her hand in a caramel syrup spill and then brushed her hair back with the sticky hand. Blaine doesn’t want to ever hear a reprise of that rant.

He’s wiping down the syrup bottles when he hears a delicate “ahem” and looks up to see Kurt back at the pickup counter. He’s biting his lip again, just the corner, but he doesn’t look like he’s suppressing laughter this time, which Blaine counts as a win.

“I...last week when I was busy, I was stress sewing, which seems illogical since sewing was what was stressing me out in the first place,” Kurt pauses, taking a deep breath and shaking his head before he starts again. “Anyway, it’s nice to find someone else who appreciates a bowtie, so I...made you this.” He lays a strip of fabric on the counter, drawing his hand back like it’s on fire.

“You...made this? For me?” It’s gorgeous, a deep maroon with a barely discernible paisley pattern. It even looks soft, and Blaine can’t imagine how it would feel against his skin. Then he remembers that he does, in fact, have fingers, so he reaches forward and picks it up.

Yup. Soft.

He does manage to resist rubbing it against his cheek.

“Not to wear with this, obviously,” Kurt grimaces, gesturing vaguely to Blaine’s shirt. “I’m actually really impressed that you’ve managed to find anything that remotely goes with that. I just thought...with something else.”

“Thank you,” Blaine grins, looking down to where he’s running the fabric through his fingers. “Y-it’s beautiful.” He’s proud of himself for catching that one.

“I have to go,” Kurt says after a moment. “I’m actually late already, I just wanted to make sure I gave it to you before I...forgot.”

Kurt’s out the door before Blaine remembers Santana’s ultimatum. He really doesn’t want to work with Tom. He debates making up a fake number to appease her, but she’s clever and he’s a terrible liar; she’ll call him out on it and then the consequences will probably be even worse. He sighs, finally giving in and bringing the bow tie up to his cheek, nuzzling into it and letting his eyes close. It feels as good as he knew it would.

*

He’s still toying with strip of fabric when Tina gets home that night, tossing her backpack across the room with far more force than necessary. Blaine gets up immediately, walking into the kitchen and returning with a can of Pringles he tosses to her without a word, winking when she gives him a grateful smile and patting the space next to him on the couch.

“Just annoyed with my developmental psych group,” she says in response to his unasked question. “It’ll blow over, it was just...a really long day.” She pulls a few chips out of the can, shoving them all into her mouth before asking, “Whuzzat” and almost spitting crumbs all over Blaine.

“You’re gross,” Blaine frowns, shielding his new accessory from harm as Tina giggles through her attempts to swallow. “It’s a bowtie.”

“I know that. Why are you...lovingly stroking it?”

“Kurt made it for me. He made it, how cool is that? It’s really well done, too, look,” he shoves it too close to her face, her eyes crossing as she tries to focus. Blaine sighs as he pulls it back, wrapping and unwrapping it around his hand. “He’s so talented. If he was my boyfriend he would probably make them for me all the time. I would always be perfectly coordinated.”

“Wait, Kurt-Kurt? Jitters Kurt? Santana said you still hadn’t sealed the deal! This is great--”

“There are no deals,” Blaine interrupts with a hand over Tina’s mouth, only removing it when he feels her open her mouth because she has licked him before, he’s sure she has no qualms about doing it again. “And why are you and Santana talking about this?”

“Santana and I talk about lots of things,” Tina shrugs. “Well, lots of things about you.”

“Awesome.”

“So what happened, why didn’t you tell me this was going on?” Tina asks, slapping Blaine lightly on the arm.

“Nothing’s ‘going on’, Tina.”

“He made you a present. That’s a lot further than ‘I think he might be a spy’, Blaine.” She stares evenly at him until he gives in, sinking into the couch and staring at the ceiling as he catches her up from the day on the sidewalk to this morning’s heart incident and bow tie.

“You have to ask him out,” is all Tina says when Blaine finishes.

“No, I don’t.”

“He totally likes you.”

“Then why hasn’t he asked me out?”

“Well,” Tina holds up one hand, ticking reasons off on her fingers. “For weeks you wouldn’t even say a word to him. You barely even made eye contact. Once you did manage to talk to him, you started running away whenever he tried to start a real conversation. You’re not exactly giving off positive vibes. He’s testing the waters. With adorable bow ties.”

“He was talking about Fashion Week and he made me a bow tie. He’s probably some hot new designer at like, Ralph Lauren, and he spends all day surrounded by models and all night hobnobbing with celebrities. Why on earth would he want me? Unless...”

“Stop right there,” Tina warns, mimicking his earlier action and covering Blaine’s mouth, though she also pulls away quickly because he isn’t afraid to lick her, either. “I can’t handle hearing all about how Kurt is coming to the coffee shop every day because you’re the muse for his spring line and you’re going to accidentally turn the male modeling world on its head and then move to Paris together.”

“Italy,” Blaine mumbles. He would really like to be able to tell Tina she’s wrong, and crazy, but she is neither of those things. Blaine, however, might be crazy, because he spent a good chunk of the afternoon googling the average height for male models and making pro and con lists for runway vs. print modeling.

“Blaine,” Tina sighs, scooting a little closer and taking his hand. “You’re doing it again.”

“No I’m not.”

“So you’re not building him up in your head? Until you psych yourself out and end up making some grand gesture that’s completely misplaced because it’s built on your imagination and not what’s right in front of you?”

“Nope. Because this one is staying safely in my imagination. No gestures, big or small, planned.”

“Blaaaaiiiine.”

“Look, I know you’re a psychology major this week, Tina,” Blaine says, standing up quickly enough that she has to stop herself from falling sideways. “But I’d appreciate if you’d stop analyzing my poor, pathetic life.” He feels bad about the dig at her ever-changing career path before he’s even made it to his bedroom, but not bad enough to turn around when she calls out to him. For the first time since they moved in, he wishes he had a lock on his door; he settles for jamming his desk chair under the doorknob, because he’s pretty sure this is one of the times Tina would ignore their rule about closed doors.

He’s right, because after a few minutes he hears the doorknob turn and the door rattle as she tries to force it open. She stops after a minute and lets the door close, but her voice still drifts through the wood.

“It has nothing to do with my major. I’m just worried about you, Blaine. I know things have gone badly, but they won’t always. I just want you to be happy.”

Blaine doesn’t respond, just falls onto his bed and buries his face in his pillows, Kurt’s bow tie still wrapped around his hand, groaning as he tries to figure out how he’s gotten to the point of barricading himself in his room to avoid his best friend’s very valid reasoning.

*

He hasn’t always been like this. He’s not sure what “this” even is, or when exactly it started.

He used to be an unabashed flirt. And not just to the hordes of middle-aged women he serves coffee to every day. He’s never exactly known what he’s doing, but he always faked his way through it pretty well. He could wink and smile at all the right moments, subtly brush his fingers along an arm or shoulder, just enough to spark interest without outright declaring himself.

Then there had been Jeremiah.

Jeremiah was older than Blaine; a lot older, actually, 19 with a car and a job and a life, so much more of a life than Blaine himself had. And sure, Blaine was only 16, but he’d been out of the closet for a few years and was starting to secure his place as one of the most popular students at Dalton Academy and Jeremiah was impressed by him, he could just tell. Jeremiah was always so nice to him, meeting him for coffee in the mall food court once in a while and talking to him like a person and not just a kid like everyone else seemed to. They’d talk for what felt like forever about music and movies and the downfalls of having curly hair in the humid Ohio summers.

Blaine knew that Jeremiah liked him. He was just nervous, worried about what their age difference would look like to their friends, maybe worried about the depth of his feelings when he’d never really been in a serious relationship before. He didn’t know what he was doing, either, didn’t know if it was worth it.

Blaine knew it was worth it. And even though he was younger, he knew he would have to be the one to take the risk, to show Jeremiah that he was worth it, that they were worth it.

He wonders, sometimes, why not one of the Warblers raised their hand and told him what an amazingly stupid idea it was for a 16 year old and all of his school friends to go to a closeted man’s workplace and sing him a song that included references to sex toys and nude photographs. Were they all just as stupid as him or was it a sycophantic thing?

How did everyone make it out of that without getting arrested?

So Jeremiah had none too gently shot him down, managed to make him feel a foot tall and so, so stupid. He’d vowed that day that he wouldn’t try to actively court anyone. Ever.

And he didn’t. It didn’t stop others from trying to court him, though.

Sebastian was, by all accounts, an ass. Privileged and pretentious and completely uninterested in anything but his own desires.

Blaine thought he could change him. He was older (only by nine months, but still) this time, and more world-weary. He would not be fooled. Besides, he’d ready plenty of books where a girl had been pursued by and resisted the new bad boy in town only to discover that it was all a front, that he was actually very sweet and all he needed was the girl’s love to be a better person.

He could be that for Sebastian.

Sebastian pursued him for weeks, tried everything from singing him songs to buying him outlandish gifts, and Blaine denied him every time. Then one day, Blaine was in the junior commons cramming for a chemistry exam and Sebastian walked by, pointing out the simple error he’d made that was throwing off his entire formula.

This time Blaine agreed to the date.

He spent all of his study hall time that week thinking about it. How they’d start out at some too fancy French restaurant where Sebastian would try to order in French, only to be corrected by the waiter. Blaine would pat his hand and he’d blush in embarrassment and his ever-present leer would finally, finally soften into the sweet smile that Blaine knew was hiding just below the surface. They’d run out of the restaurant while the waiter had his back turned and end up getting takeout from a hole in the wall diner down the road. They’d eat under a tree in the nearby park until a sudden downpour would send them sprinting for the car. They would laugh through chattering teeth while they waited for the heat to kick in and for the rest of his life, rain would always remind Blaine of his first kiss.

They did go to a French restaurant, but Sebastian’s pronunciation was flawless and he insisted on ordering for Blaine without even letting him choose his own food. Blaine spent all of dinner pushing his chair further and further from the table to dodge Sebastian’s wandering foot, pulling his cardigan tighter around himself like it would hide him from the eyes constantly roving his body but rarely meeting his own.

They weren’t even back to the dorms when Sebastian tried to stick his hand down the front of Blaine’s pants without taking his eyes off the road, and when Blaine yelped and slapped his arm away, Sebastian pulled over and snarled something about virgins being a waste of time.

For the rest of his life, rain would remind Blaine of the sudden downpour as he walked the rest of the way to the dorms.

It was overly dramatic to give up on love at 17, but, well, he didn’t have the best precedent. He eventually managed to kiss boys, to go on dates even, but that was it. It was always so awkward, making small talk, keeping everything light and not getting invested, not letting his imagination run away from him. He’d met a boy, Brian, toward the end of his senior year who seemed nice, but Blaine was leaving for New York in a few months so he’d insisted on keeping everything casual. He didn’t even know how to be someone’s boyfriend, let alone their long-distance boyfriend. Brian had eventually gotten frustrated with Blaine’s refusal to talk about anything of substance, which should’ve been a good thing, would have been wonderful to 16 year old Blaine, but instead just made him feel guilty as he let the guy drift and disappear.

He’d thought college would be a fresh start, a new Blaine with a clean slate devoid of poorly executed plans and failed expectations. Then he’d been asked out by a senior in the theater program, and within days he was fantasizing about seeing their names opposite each other in lights and pictures of their new family in tabloids.

They’d hooked up twice and never spoken again.

*

So now he just...doesn’t do it. Any of it. He doesn’t flirt and he certainly doesn’t date, and his libido is a little annoyed that there is no sex to be found on the horizon but it’s easier this way. It’s too messy, piecing his heart and his mind back together every time everything goes wrong; it’s too hard to keep losing what could have been. And it’s his own fault for getting so carried away, he knows that, but he doesn’t seem to be able to shut that part of his brain down so it’s better for everyone if he just keeps it to himself.

He doesn’t think he could handle losing Kurt, not what he could be but not what he is, either. Doesn’t want him to stop coming into Jitters and doesn’t want to miss how his gaze shifts from hyperfocused on his drawings to staring distractedly into the streets. He would miss their half-conversations, even if he’s embarrassing himself half the time, and the way he sees Kurt looking at him when he’s supposed to be focusing on pouring milk into the cup in front of him.

No, if he goes after Kurt, it’s all going to go to hell. And as much as he doesn’t want to stop seeing Kurt in the mornings, he also doesn’t want to ruin everything Kurt is - and could be - in his head. He likes his daydreams, likes putting the two of them in one scenario after another and imagining how they’d get through it. He doesn’t want to disappoint Kurt, or himself; doesn’t want to ruin it with reality.

Blaine would very much like to save the world with Kurt by his side. And that’s never going to happen if he asks him on a date.

It’s a lot later than Blaine expects when he rolls over and looks at his alarm clock; apparently deep introspection takes a long time. He’s tired, a little gutted in the way he always is when he spends too long thinking about the ghosts of dating failures past, and he’s starving.

When he walks into the living room, Tina’s eating a slice of pizza from the box on the table, watching American Idol but not heckling it like she usually does.

“Extra cheese,” she says, nodding toward the box without looking at Blaine. His stomach growls in response and he leans down to take a slice, looking hesitantly at the empty space on the sofa. Tina rolls her eyes when she sees him hovering and he takes it as an invitation, plopping down and snuggling into her side.

“I’m sorry,” he says after a minute. “You know I think you can do whatever you want and you should take all the time you need to figure out what exactly that is.”

“I’m sorry too. I just worry about you. You can’t let a few stupid guys ruin everything.” She switches her pizza to her other hand when she feels Blaine pressing at her side, lifting up her now free arm so he can fall sideways into her lap. “And this may just be the fact that I am a psych major this week talking, but if it helps,” she trails off, and he can see a hint of a grin pulling at her lips. “I’m still pretty sure that hooking up with Tim last year was narcissism on his part and a misplaced attempt at self-actualization on yours.”

“I hate you,” Blaine mumbles into Tina’s knee as he pinches the skin just above it.

“Who makes out with someone who looks exactly like himself?” Tina yells, laughing now, and Blaine rolls onto his back so he can glare at her properly.

Fucking Tim.

*

Blaine barely sleeps that night, between the stress of the evening’s emotional overload and his sudden remembrance that the cast list for Hairspray goes up Wednesday morning. He finally manages to doze off about half an hour before his alarm clock goes off, getting just enough sleep to fully disorient him so that he startles awake with the sound, getting tangled in the sheets and almost rolling off the bed in his attempt to turn it off. He feels like Frankenstein’s monster as he stumbles toward the bathroom, too tired to care that Tina is brushing her teeth at the sink as he pulls his boxers off and practically falls into the shower.

“Morning, Blaine’s ass,” Tina says around her toothbrush. “Good t’see ya again.”

Blaine is the first person in the lobby. The building wasn’t even unlocked when he got there, but Marcia saw him “looking through the front window like an abandoned puppy” from her office and let him inside “once she saw him holding two coffee cups.” He’s pretty sure she would’ve done it even without the coffee, though.

They’d picked their Tracy the day of auditions - there was only one choice, really, a phenomenal junior who has both the look and the voice and Blaine really wouldn’t be surprised if she’s the reason they chose to even do the show - so his is the biggest part being announced today, and it doesn’t surprise him when Brian and D...something (seriously, what is that guy’s name?) show up soon after him. Brian’s pacing like he always does, sharp turns every five steps until there’s practically a big square worn into the tile, and D..an? Sure, Dan. Dan is sitting on the couch across from Blaine, staring at him in this unnerving way that makes Blaine think he’s trying telekinesis.

The lobby slowly fills with the rest of Saturday’s callbacks, everyone else probably content to just wait for the email to go out later this afternoon with the company list. Blaine figures Marcia takes pity on them, or maybe she just wants them out of the building, because the list isn’t supposed to go up until 9 but as soon as the last person from Saturday shows up at 8:30, she’s pinning it to the board.

Blaine is not the type of person who will run to be the first person in a line. He just happens to walk very quickly and might still look crazy enough from his night of no sleep that everyone is happy to give him a wide berth, though he can feel Brian and Dan right behind him. In the moment before his eyes focus, he’s so nervous that he almost covers them with his hands, but he really doesn’t want to look like he’s having a breakdown in front of so many of his classmates, so he takes a deep breath and looks.

He may not have wanted to cover his eyes in front of them, but he has no problem letting out a whoop of joy and then clicking his heels as he jumps over the couch on his way to the front door.

He is.

Link.

Larkin.

He calls Tina first, since she doesn’t have class until 10, and she screams loudly enough that people on the sidewalk give his phone worried looks. He swings by Jitters since he’s already decided he’s skipping his dance class (which probably isn’t the best idea, considering he’s now a lead in a show, but his professor was one of the choreographers at auditions and had told him in not so many words that if he found himself unable to attend class this week it wouldn’t be recorded) and all but screams the news to Santana. She mutters something about having to listen to him humming under his breath even more, but the fact that she doesn’t push him off the table he’s jumped onto tells him she’s proud.

It’s a good thing she’s proud, because he needs the entire following week off; the first week of rehearsals are at 6am, something about the director’s schedule and a last minute obligation and if Blaine thought his Wednesday morning dance class was bad, this is going to be torture.

“You owe me, Anderson,” she grumps, staring at the paper indicating everyone’s availability. “I’m going to have to work with Sam all week and he’s going to spend the whole time talking like Sean Connery and accidentally sucking customers and passing cars into that black hole he calls a mouth.”

“Whatever, you love Sam,” Blaine grins, darting in quickly to press a kiss to her cheek and pulling away before her hand manages to connect with his head. “See ya tomorrow, San!”

*

Kurt is nowhere to be found Thursday morning. Blaine is relieved, to an extent, because after his slight breakdown Tuesday night he isn’t completely sure he’s ready to face him, to follow through on his decision to not pursue him. Every time they talk he feels himself getting more curious about what it would be like, more willing to break his own rules and take the risk. But now isn’t the time for that, when he’s riding an endorphin high over the bowtie and his lead in the show; he isn’t thinking straight.

But at the same time, he finds himself desperately wanting to tell Kurt about his success. Kurt would appreciate it; he seems like someone who understands how big this is, if all the times Blaine has watched him sort through sheet music with Rachel are any indication. Kurt would get it the way Tina and Mike do, the way Santana does.

The way his parents don’t.

His mom had been happy for him, at least. He’d called her right after he left Jitters, still dancing more than walking down the street, and practically yelled “I’M LINK LARKIN” into the phone when she answered. She’d been unsurprisingly confused, and then, after Blaine’s breathless explanation of the entire process, her first question had been, “You’re not the one in the dress, are you sweetheart?”

“No, mom,” he’d sighed. “No, I’m Link. The male lead. Remember? Ladies’ Choice?” She’d seen the movie; this shouldn’t be so difficult. She’d finally caught on, and Blaine had taken a deep breath to ask the question he’d been practicing since he’d decided this was his year to prove himself.

“You and dad will come, right? It’s the week before Thanksgiving, so I was thinking you could come to closing night.”

“It’s awfully far to travel for a play, darling.”

“Well, if you came to closing night, you and dad could spend the weekend in the city - make it a little vacation - and then we could all fly back to Ohio together.”

“Hm,” Blaine hated that he knew that sound, the considering noise that said Well, now that you’ve pointed out how I can benefit from this, it’s suddenly much more feasible. “That would be nice. Your father and I don’t have many chances to get away.”

“Exactly,” Blaine had said, tone light even through gritted teeth, mumbling, “And if you get to see your son in his first starring role, bonus,” as she begged off the call, talking about clients and meetings and telling Blaine she would take his proposal to his father and send him an email with the decision.

It’s what Blaine dislikes the most about his family. Everything is so businesslike, cold and logical and thoroughly vetted. They love him. Somewhere, deep down, he is sure that his parents love him; he has never wanted for anything material, has always been safe and comfortable.

He just wishes they were there.

He had a nanny until he could drive, and then he had a credit card and a cell phone pre-programmed with emergency numbers and a drawer full of takeout menus. They paid his tuition at Dalton but never saw his dorm room, his extracurricular fees though they never made it to a soccer game or show choir competition. They pay his rent and don’t know where he lives, or that Tina even exists.

He talks to his mom once a week, usually perfunctory calls about the state of his grades, his bank account, and his health (in that order). His dad asks from the background how his history class is going, or chemistry, or whatever requirement he’s fulfilling this semester, but couldn’t name one of his acting classes if he had a gun to his head. They hadn’t stopped him from pursuing it but they never try to understand or pretend to care all that much.

But the lead in a musical is different from just being a student in the program.

Kurt would understand that.

Except he doesn’t show up Friday, either, just Rachel literally running through the line with what looks like half a dozen pencils holding her hair up in a sloppy bun and mascara smudged under her eyes, ordering something soy with too many extra shots to be remotely palatable in addition to Kurt’s mocha. Blaine draws a smiley face on the cup as a pick-me-up just in case Kurt’s back to being busy and stressed.

Blaine is in good shape; he runs and he boxes and when he has the time, he lifts weights even though it’s insanely boring and he would rather not be bulky because it would look ridiculous on his small frame (he likes having a discernible neck). But after a week of 6am rehearsals, he is acutely aware of muscles he never knew existed. Because they are screaming at him.

Friday is Halloween, and he’s been so busy that he doesn’t realize it until he gets a cryptic text from Mike that just says, “I dropped your costume off ;)” and oh jesus he’d forgotten about their stupid bet, he doesn’t even know what the costume is, just that Mike is way too excited about it and that never leads to good things. He vaguely remembers mentions of a blowout party being hosted by Mike’s friend Brittany, though, some professional dancer he met on a music video set. Blaine’s never heard of her but she apparently has a huge loft in SoHo so she must be doing pretty well for herself.

He’s had a hell of a week, and regardless of what he’s wearing, he needs this. He’s going to have fun.

Chapter 5




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OH MY GOD THE BOWTIE AND KURT SAW THE HEART AND HE GOT THE LEAD AND FUCKING TIM AND I WANT TO MARRY THIS FIC

that is all

When are they going to get together?

Ehehehehe! I laughed out loud so many times during during this chapter! And LOL fucking Tim. And aw, Blaine's parents are dumb. And EEEE bowtie! And ZOMG “He’s so talented. If he was my boyfriend he would probably make them for me all the time. I would always be perfectly coordinated.” This is SUCH a hearteyes Blaine thing to say. Love it!

I should have been commenting on this all along, but this chapter took the fic from great to absolutely brilliant! I love Blaine's musings on loving the idea of a person vs the actual person. They're so powerful and complex and real in an otherwise light-hearted story. Not that the fluffier stuff isn't great, because my god, there are too many awesome one-liners for me to even list! And I was not expecting the Tim thing at all, but it ties in so perfectly. Also, A+ for the pacing and for grounding this so firmly in Blaine's perspective. I love that we know so little about Kurt in this fic, and that they're both so reluctant to make a first move. Love doesn't always move at warp-speed :) It works wonderfully in this story, and I'm so excited to see how things turn out!

(Sorry for the extensive comments on a fic that's nearly 6 months old! I just found it recently and I'm terrible about keeping my comments to myself!)

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