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1 | 2 | Optional Author's Notes | Fanmix by [livejournal.com profile] queenofgoat



“So,” Kurt says. He curls his fingers around the warm mocha in his hand and settles back into his chair, watching as Blaine stirs a packet of sugar into his medium drip.

“So,” Blaine answers back. He grins, takes a sip of coffee, and then suddenly all of his focus is on Kurt.

“Are you ever going to tell me anything about yourself?” Kurt asks. “At all?”

Blaine chuckles self-deprecatingly and shrugs. “If you want. I’m just not my own favorite topic of conversation.”

“And what is?”

“Lately? You, apparently. Puck said—well, I’m not going to repeat what Puck said, but it wasn’t flattering for either of us. Or the entire gay community, come to that.”

“Yeah, it’s best to just ignore him. Or only speak to him when Lauren is around. She makes him more tolerable, somehow, despite not being a particularly stunning specimen of humanity herself.”

Blaine rests one hand on the lid of his coffee and reaches out with the other, covering Kurt’s hand with his. He watches Kurt for a moment, like he’s checking to be sure that it’s okay, and then he asks, “What did you want to know?”

“I don’t know. Anything. Where you grew up, what your family’s like...why the hell you decided to audition for Will Riker in a workshop production of Star Trek: The Musical. There are a lot of options here, Blaine, since I pretty much know nothing about you.”

“Sorry. In my head, we’d have had about eight meaningful conversations by now, but...between the clusterfuck that was karaoke and just...this show, it hasn’t...happened the way I thought it would.”

“So make this one count,” Kurt suggests, and Blaine smiles.

“All right. I auditioned because I needed the job. I got fired from my last job as a singing waiter.”

“How on earth did you get fired from that? Your voice is lovely.”

“I...I have this habit when I’m performing of hopping up on things. Tables, chairs, couches...once I hopped up on one of those turnstile things in the subway and nearly got arrested because they thought I was trying to get on without paying.”

“So you hopped up onto one of the guest’s tables?”

Blaine cringes his answer. “I stepped in their food. They asked to speak to my manager. It wasn’t pretty.”

Kurt tries very hard not to laugh at Blaine’s misfortune, but...what?

“Yeah,” Blaine says wryly. “I deserve that. Anyway. I needed a job because I couldn’t ask my parents for help, so—”

“Pride?” Kurt suggests. He knows that, as much as he loves his dad, he wouldn’t ask him for money for all the Marc Jacob jackets in the world.

“No. They...” He shrugs. “I don’t know. We’re not really close.”

“Because...?”

“I don’t know. We never really were to begin with, and then I came out and that seemed to make it worse because when my dad wasn’t trying to ‘fix’ me, he was yelling at my mom that it was her fault. He printed out like, these studies or something and I don’t think the science was valid, but it doesn’t really matter because he blamed her and she resented me for causing problems, so...it just kind of got worse. And that was before I even started dating.”

“It got worse?”

“Well...” Blaine bites his lip. “I was in my room with a guy. My boyfriend at the time. Mom and Dad were out and weren’t supposed to be home for a few hours so he and I—I mean, it wasn’t like we were having sex or anything. Just kind of making out. He was on top of me and he had his hand under my shirt. I mean, there’s worse on primetime TV, you know? But anyway, they came home and Dad found us and I guess that’s when they realized that there wasn’t any fixing it and I went from ‘our son who says he’s gay’ in an objective sense to ‘our son who is gay and is going to do gay things, probably under our roof’ in a definite sense and it all just kind of went to hell. They didn’t kick me out or anything, but they were glad to see the back of me when I moved to New York. I think they’d have even paid for my apartment if I’d asked, just to be sure I would stay here.”

Kurt squeezes Blaine’s hand in his. “Sorry. I—I shouldn’t have asked you to talk about—”

“Hey, you told me about why you stopped singing.”

“That so isn’t the same thing.”

“True,” Blaine says easily, and shrugs. “It’s no great loss, Kurt, I promise you. We weren’t close to begin with. Our family just...wasn’t like that.”

“I guess. Sorry. I’m just...trying to imagine what it would be like to be that way with my dad and I can’t.”

“I was like twelve or something before I even figured out that it wasn’t normal, so. Anyway. I am also a great cook.”

“You’re just trying to distract me.”

“I am, but you look like the kind of guy who can appreciate fine cooking.”

“A little.”

“Then let me cook for after we do that next showcase production. We can either celebrate our success or mourn the loss of our jobs, but either way, it’ll be a party.”

“That’s awfully presumptuous, Blaine Anderson.”

“What? That we’ll have a good time?”

“That we’ll be going on another date when we haven’t even finished this one yet.”

“Oh. That.” Blaine grins at him and suddenly he looks like an eager little boy, all bright eyes and unmasked admiration.

“The answer is yes, though,” Kurt adds as an after thought, and Blaine squeezes his hand tightly.

***


Whether or not to kiss Blaine good night never even manages to be a question in Kurt’s mind. It’s just sort of inevitable and when they break apart, Blaine trails his fingers over Kurt’s cheekbones like a promise.

“Goodnight,” he says, chest heaving like he’s just run a mile, and Kurt has to actually nudge him into his own apartment building before Blaine finally heads inside.

It’s not often that the pieces of Kurt Hummel’s life fall into place. He’s feeling pretty smug about it the rest of his walk home.

***


“Matt quit.”

Kurt stares at Mike’s terrified face, then over at Tina, who more or less confirms that he’s telling the truth.

“What?”

“He called me last night to tell me that he was quitting the show because he got offered a part in Hairspray and it was easier than putting on the Worf prosthesis every night.”

“I—but—we need a Worf,” Kurt says, though he’s not sure why because from the look of panic in both of their eyes, they know that, too.

“Figgins is freaking the hell out,” Tina sighs. “Schuester’s trying to get him to calm down now, but last I heard before they went into Schuester’s office was that Figgins wants to cancel the whole show.”

“He can’t do that,” Kurt protests, and then glances over at Mercedes and asks, “Can he do that?”

“He’s the producer,” she reminds him, and loops her arm in Tina’s for support.

Blaine jogs over to them, looking worried and breathless. “Hey.”

“Hi,” Kurt answers, and damn it, as much as he’s worried and upset about this, he can’t help the little smile that tugs at the corners of his lips.

“What do you think is going on in that office?”

“Death,” Tina says gloomily. “Destruction. Doom.”

“The end of our careers,” Mike suggests, just as accurately.

“We can do this without Matt, can’t we?” Blaine asks.

“There’s no time to have Artie re-write the entire script to remove Worf,” Kurt sighs. “We have—had—another workshop production in three days.”

“I didn’t say without Worf,” Blaine corrects him. “I said without Matt.”

“Blaine, you do realize that we don’t actually have the hologram technology from the show, right?” Mike asks, and shrinks back a little when Kurt gives him a stop insulting my potential boyfriend, even though it’s actually a valid question look.

“We can get someone else to play that part,” Blaine says. “It’s an inconvenience, but—”

“Who?” Tina asks. “We don’t have time to put out a casting call, hold auditions, get the person to memorize the script, choreography, and songs, and do a whole new head piece for them.”

“So we don’t do a casting call,” Blaine says with a shrug. “We work with who we’ve got. Puck has definitely got the aggression to play a Klingon.”

“Worf was really never about raw aggression, though,” Mike starts, and Kurt can tell that they’re about to get into an argument about Trek canon, so he cuts them both off.

“Guys, let’s just not, okay?”

And they don’t, because Figgins and Schuester are emerging from the office and the entire cast and crew are rushing forward to meet them.

“It’s over,” Figgins says, and Schuester’s face falls despite the fact that he had to have known that already.

“But—” Rachel starts, but doesn’t seem to know where to go from there.

“We can get a new Worf,” Blaine repeats. “Matt wasn’t the only person ever who could play that part.”

“There isn’t enough time between now and the performance.”

“Let us be the judge of that,” Mike suggests. “Please, Mr. Figgins.”

“My mind is made up, now—”

“Just give us the few days until the performance,” Blaine begs. “That’s not too much to ask.”

“It is, considering how expensive this space is.”

“You’ve got it paid until the end of the month,” Schuester says plaintively.

“I was hoping for a refund, William.”

“I don’t think they give those,” Tina says.

Figgins looks around at them, then shakes his head. “Fine. You have until the performance. This is ridiculous.”

He storms out looking like a tiny tyrant and when he’s gone, Schuester spends the first minute looking around at them, helplessly.

“All right,” he says finally, “anyone want to offer themselves up to play Worf?”

“I’ll do it,” Sam says, and Santana scoffs.

“Please. No one would believe you as a Klingon with a mouth like that. They’d be too afraid you were about to unhinge your jaw and swallow them whole.”

“You’re not a nice person. Do you know that?”

Puck pats him on the arm comfortingly and shoots Santana a look.

“What about me?” Finn asks after a moment. “I’m big and tall and I’ve got aggression.”

Schuester considers that for a moment, then gives a quick nod. “I can definitely see you as a Worf, Finn, but we need you for Wesley Crusher.”

“Someone else could play Wesley,” Rachel says. “It’s much more fitting that Finn play Worf, anyway, because Troi had a love triangle with him and Riker.” She wraps both of her arms around one of Finn’s and beams up at him proudly.

“Okay, but...that still brings us to being one actor short,” Schuester says. “Not to mention trying to teach Finn all of Worf’s lines.” He pauses, then, horror-struck, adds, “And the choreography.

They all look around at each other helplessly until suddenly, Kurt feels a warm hand at the center of his back, pushing him forward.

“Kurt can be Wesley,” Blaine says, and Kurt’s entire body runs cold.

“What? No. No, I—”

“That’s actually...not a bad idea,” Schuester says, looking him up and down. “You’re thin and tall and look kind of young...I mean, you’re not a dead ringer for Wheaton, but neither was Finn.”

“Mr. Schuester, no. With all due respect, I don’t—”

“Can you sing?”

“I...”

“Yes,” Mercedes answers for him. “Very well, actually.”

Kurt shoots her a glare and then sends one at Blaine for good measure.

“Mr. Schuester, as much as I appreciate the vote of confidence, I really don’t—”

“I think it’s a great idea,” Schue says finally. “In fact, I’m kind of shocked I didn’t think of it before. It seems so obvious now.”

“I can’t possibly learn all the lines and choreography in time for the show and keep up with my hair and makeup duties. Especially not now that we have to re-do Worf’s headpiece, so—”

“I can do that,” Tina offers. “And I promise not to forget to put releaser in the mold this time.”

“Guys, stop—”

But they’re all talking now, and sizing him up, critiquing him in their minds. He can feel their judgement and honestly, most of it isn’t even bad. But it’s too much after what happened the last time he sang and he shrinks back away from it.

“Come on,” Tina says gently, right at his ear. “What was it you were telling us about team work? And respecting each other’s talent? This is a group effort, Kurt, and we all have to contribute in the way that we’re needed.”

“Not this,” he pleads, but then Blaine is pressed against his other side.

“It’s just one workshop performance,” Blaine wheedles. “After that, we’ll have time to hold an open casting call. We just need to get through this one workshop performance to get enough money to keep the show afloat."

"I can't."

"Why? Because of what someone else said?"

"Because I'm tired of fighting."

"You don't have to fight this time, Kurt," Mercedes says from behind him, and with Mike in front of him, he's effectively surrounded.

"Guys—" he says helplessly, but they're all there, practically begging him, and he knows in his heart that if he doesn't say yes, they're all going to lose their jobs.

He makes the decision and forces himself to say, "Okay," out loud before he can change his mind, and then suddenly what feels like the entire cast and crew is pressing in on him in one giant group hug. He even distinctly hears Santana's voice in the mix, which is disturbing and terrifying all at once.

“It was never really that plausible that a guy Finn’s age could play a teenager, anyway," Schuester says above the din and Kurt laughs despite himself before he's finally released.

"Okay, someone get Kurt a copy of the script," Rachel says happily, and Mercedes curls her hand around his wrist.

"Wardrobe, boo," she says smugly. "Your turn."

"Hell," Kurt says to no one in particular, and lets himself be dragged into his hair and makeup room.

***


"Hey," Blaine says that night as Kurt is walking out of the theatre, shiny new script in hand.

Kurt very seriously considers ignoring him, but decides that's trite.

"Hello."

"Want to come to my place and practice? Riker was kind of a mentor to Wesley on the show, so—"

"Blaine," Kurt cuts in, "I am doing this because my crew needs me and I decided a long time ago when Schuester first got us all together that I was going to do whatever it took to make sure this production worked. I am not doing this to make you happy and it sure as hell isn't making me happy, do you understand? You just purposefully triggered a lot of painful stuff, so—"

"But now you can prove them wrong!" Blaine says cheerfully. He's practically bouncing next to Kurt.

"It really doesn't work like that," Kurt hisses.

Blaine suddenly seems to realize that Kurt is serious and his smile falters. "Oh. I—I thought that maybe…I mean…you didn't fight back then, so I thought maybe you could—"

"So you decided to toss me back into the ring without my permission," Kurt finishes for him.

"But—but you said you loved performing."

"I did," Kurt snaps. "But not anymore, all right? What gave you the right to make that decision for me?"

"I—I'm sorry, Kurt. I just."

"You wanted to be the hero, just like I said, didn't you? The white knight who swoops in and gets me a part and now I'm supposed to be grateful that you gave me my dream except it's not my dream anymore, is it?"

"It's not your dream anymore because you let someone else take it away from you!" Blaine answers desperately, and Kurt actually has to take a step back away from him to keep himself in check.

"Let?" he asks quietly. "Let?"

"That's not what I meant."

"It's what you said, though."

"Kurt…please. I didn't—I didn't mean to upset you. I just thought—"

"You assumed," Kurt says, almost to himself. "But you don't really know me that well, do you, Blaine Anderson?"

"No. But I really, really want to."

Kurt sighs. "Look, I—maybe we should back off this, okay? Maybe—maybe we should do your eight meaningful conversations before we try to—"

Blaine grimaces. "If—if that's what you want. But…it's not what I want, Kurt. I still want to cook for you. I still want to run lines with you. And—"

"Maybe after this stupid performance is over." Kurt shrugs. "I just…I can't right now. This is—awful."

Blaine looks like he's desperate to change Kurt's mind, but he nods, acquiescing.

"Okay," he says quietly. "I'll…see you at rehearsal, then."

Kurt nods and turns away, taking off at a jog up the street.

***


The next day is a whirlwind of being shoved into his own makeup chair white Quinn smooths out the lines on his face and Santana styles his hair in a way that makes him nearly want to gag. He really does gag when Mercedes manhandles him into a sweater so horrible that Kurt actually sends a Tweet to @wilw that simply says, “I hate whoever dressed you on Trek.” Perhaps not entirely surprisingly, he receives a reply several hours later that states, “It’s been well-documented that I hated them, too.” But by then, Kurt’s already being put through his paces by Brittany as he tries to pick up the choreography. Thankfully, that had at least been kept simple in deference to Finn’s ability or lack thereof. He sends Mike a sympathetic glance because the poor guy has been tasked with teaching Finn the Bat’leth Boogie. In Matt’s hands, it had looked masterful. In Finn’s, it just looks awkward.

(Three hours into this endeavor, Schuester decides that they’re going to go with Finn’s awkwardness as an artistic decision, since yes, it probably would be rather awkward if Klingons ever tried to boogie. Kurt thinks that was probably a good decision, not necessarily for the play, but for all their sakes—Mike’s in particular.)

Then there’s running lines with Rachel until he’s got the emotions of the scene down, if not the actual lines yet, and then he’s being shoved into a scene with Blaine and forced to spout lines about how he looks up to him like a mentor and it’s all so very much not what he needs right now. He would almost rather jump into the song rehearsals, but he can’t yet because they’re tweaking his solo to fit his key rather than Finn’s. There’s nothing to be done about his part in the group numbers, apparently, so he’ll just have to make that work, but Kurt is pretty sure at this point that using his lower register during a group number is the least of his worries.

“How you feeling, boo?” Mercedes asks, and Kurt rubs at his temples before shrugging. He’s sitting on the edge of the stage, trying to ignore Finn’s actually quite good portrayal of Worf in the scene where he commands the ship in the captain and first officer’s absence.

“It’s not as bad as I was expecting,” Kurt admits, “but I haven’t had to actually sing yet, so...”

She nods and sits down beside him, kicking her heels back against the stage.

“I owe you an apology, don’t I?”

“Kind of.”

She considers that for a moment, then says, “I’m sorry I helped push you into this, but I’m not sorry that I’ll get to see you perform again. And I know how performing makes you feel, so I’m not sorry for that, either.”

“So basically...you’re sorry I’m being stubborn?”

The corners of her lips twitch, but she doesn’t actually smile. “No. You had your reasons for quitting, Kurt, and I can’t imagine how it felt to be told that time and time again. It’s—I understand giving up looking for the dream. Hell, I did that, too. Eventually you gotta face reality, you know? I understand that. But I still sing for people. You closed up this amazing part of you that made you really happy and I don’t understand that part of it. But it’s your life and your decision and I didn’t think—I wasn’t thinking about how serious this is for you when I jumped in yesterday. I was thinking—”

“You were thinking about when you’re in school and your friend likes someone but doesn’t want to tell them, so you push them into it and there’s lots of giggling and lady chats. Or like what you did when Blaine first auditioned.”

“Pretty much.”

“This isn't like that, though,” he tells her quietly, and she nods and pulls him into a hug.

He lets her because she’s his best friend and he will forgive her, same as he knows he’ll forgive Tina and Mike. Hell, same as he knows he will forgive Blaine even, although that one may take longer, if only because Blaine has to get over the idea of himself as the white knight before Kurt can let this go. If there’s one thing Kurt has learned from spending so much time with this specific group of people, it is that he has a near infinite capacity to see the good in people and their intentions, and to forgive. He’s had to because as good as he knows each and every member of his cast and crew to be, every single one of them—himself included—can be absolutely horrid sometimes.

“I gotta go run though the choreography to Bye, Bye Enterprise again,” he tells Mercedes after a moment. “We can finish this conversation at home.”

She releases him with a soft kiss to his forehead and he laughs before hopping to his feet and joining Brittany on the far side of the stage.

***


When Kurt gets to the theatre the next morning, Blaine is waiting for him by the door with a cup of coffee held out in penance.

Kurt takes it, sniffing gingerly, and raises his eyebrows.

“You know my coffee order? We’ve gone out together once.”

“I have a good memory,” Blaine explains. “Comes in handy for memorizing scripts. Also, I just...pay a lot of attention to you.”

Kurt tries not to sigh in exasperation, but he doesn’t manage to keep it in very well.

“Look, I—you said you needed time and that’s fine,” Blaine says. “I screwed up and you have every right to be mad at me. But we have to work together. We have scenes together where you’re supposed to...you know...”

“Look up to you.”

“I was going to say not hate me, but...yes.”

“I don’t hate you.”

“Well, it’s not coming across on stage, and the production is tomorrow night.”

“We’re ridiculous for thinking we can pull this off, aren’t we?” Kurt asks, trying to change the subject.

Blaine doesn’t let him. “Yes, and it’s going to be a disaster, but Finn tells me disasters kind of work for this crew so let’s go with it. Kurt, I just—I want to fix this between us but if we can’t, then please let’s fix it between us and the audience.”

“We’ll fix it,” Kurt says, shrugging. “Between us. I don’t hold grudges very well. Especially not against someone who is clearly sorry and wants to make it better.”

Blaine sighs with relief. “I do. I want to fix it so badly. Please tell me how.”

Kurt lets out a little laugh that he refuses to consider a snort. “I think the entire point is that you’re the one who has to figure that out, but...I don’t hate you, Blaine. I’m pissed off, but it’s one night and then it’ll be over, and once I’ve had a few days to deal with it, I’ll be fine. I think so, anyway. I constantly forgive Puck for, you know, everything that comes out of his mouth, so I’m pretty sure I can forgive you.”

Blaine nods. “Okay. I’ll—I’ll work on it. The whole...”

“Saving people thing.”

“Yeah. That.”

“Good.”

Kurt starts to head into the theatre and he hears Blaine following. After a moment, he glances over his shoulder and sees Blaine biting his lip to stop a grin.

“What?” he asks finally.

“I realize this may make you angrier,” Blaine says slowly, but then he can’t seem to hold back anymore and he beams at Kurt, “but I really can’t wait to hear you sing.”

It does annoy him, but not much. “Vocal fetishist,” he grumbles, and Blaine makes no argument.

***


The first half of the morning is yet another run through of the choreography, which Kurt manages to master by noon since Wesley isn’t in that many numbers, while Finn runs through Worf’s songs. Worf fits him better, Kurt thinks, as he listens to the emotion Finn puts into the character as he sings, and then it’s his turn.

“Okay, Kurt,” Schuester says, “this is the scene where The Traveler comes to take you away and you resign your commission. You’re basically leaving these people forever.” He lowers his voice and then adds, “Aside from that weird appearance in Nemesis but no one can really figure out what the hell that canon is supposed to be so we’ll just ignore that for now.”

Kurt snorts until he hears the opening strains of the song start to play, and then all he can see is Blaine sitting in the front row, chin in his hands.

My mother, she is crying
What more is there to say?
She feels like I am dying
Not just going away.


He sees Mercedes nodding her encouragement and he swallows before continuing.

This ship has been my home;
Her crew my family.
No matter where I roam
I love her dearly.


He inhales sharply and forces his voice to release the power he knows he has.

Bye-bye, Enterprise.
Goodbye, my friends.
Bye-bye, Enterprise
For though this is my journey’s end
Bye-bye, Enterprise
May we some day meet again.


He glances down into the audience in the quiet pause before he starts the second verse and feels like he’s being punched in the chest. Not a single person in the audience—and the entire crew is there, plus half the cast—is looking at him the way casting directors used to, even before that awful day. Most of them look impressed and one or two actually look jealous. And Blaine—well, Blaine’s looking at Kurt like he can’t believe he gets to be in the same room as him. It’s the look he’s seen on couples around the city, when they’re staring into each other’s eyes like no one else exists in the world. It’s ridiculous and terrifying and they’ve only known each other for a week but Kurt thinks he could get used to having that look directed at him. In fact, he’s pretty damn sure he could grow to love that look.

He finishes the rest of the song much stronger than he started it and flushes when a few of his friends applaud lightly. Blaine doesn’t clap, he notices, but only because his mouth is hanging slightly agape and he doesn’t quite seem to remember how to move.

“I think you killed him,” Mercedes whispers in his ear as he steps off the stage to allow Finn to rehearse one of his new scenes, and she nudges him in Blaine’s direction as he heads into the audience to find a seat.

Kurt considers not going to him, but Blaine looks so eager and Kurt has always found it hard to hold a grudge in the face of such open admiration.

“That was—” Blaine starts, then shakes his head. “Angel. You have the voice of—oh my God, Kurt.”

“You’re rambling,” Kurt says quietly, and flicks his eyes around to check if anyone is paying attention to them. They are, but there’s nothing much he can do about it, so.

“I’m sorry,” Blaine says, without sounding sorry at all. “I just—I don’t have that thing. The filter that keeps people from saying—when I like something, I can’t—wow Kurt, that was amazing. You are amazing, actually, and I know you’re mad at me but I am so glad I got to see you do that, so—”

“Blaine, stop talking.”

Blaine stops.

“You—you really can’t control yourself, can you?” Kurt observes idly. “Like...there is nothing in your brain that says maybe it’s not a good idea to look at me the way you are right now.”

“No,” Blaine answers honestly. “Sometimes it takes me awhile to realize that I like something, but once I know, I—I can’t not talk about it. And show it. And talk about it some more.”

“You’re making it really hard for me to stay mad at you over something that, by the way, was a huge fucking deal.”

“I’m sorry,” Blaine says, abashed. “I can try to—”

Kurt sighs. “No, it’s—I think I prefer this.”

“What? Me being so besotted over you that I’ll happily follow you around like a lost puppy dog instead of trying to act like I actually—”

“Have your shit together? Yes. Besotted puppy dogs don’t try to white knight me.”

“Would you find it charming or disturbing if I tried to make a sexy woof sound right now?”

“Disturbing. But also kind of endearing. It’s hard not to like someone who’s obviously trying so hard.”

Blaine grins. “I swear I’m not always this bad. Just...your voice. Give me like, a few hours to get over it and I’ll try to back off a little.”

“You are coming on a little strong,” Kurt says agreeably, “but I’m told I do that, too, so let’s call it even.”

“Does that mean we’re back on for that dinner date at my place?”

“Let’s just...get through the performance tomorrow and see, okay? Singing in front of you guys was big, but it’s not—that audience tomorrow doesn’t already love me.”

“They will by the time you’re finished,” Blaine says firmly, like it’s not even a question, it’s just fact.

“We’ll see,” Kurt says idly, and then, “Come on. Let’s go run the lines for that scene between Riker and Wesley. I think I can do it now without the whole...” he waves a hand, and Blaine nods.

“I thought you’d never ask.”

***


He’s dragging his feet when he gets to the theatre the next morning, having stayed up late to run through all his lines with first Blaine and then later Mercedes until he had them down pat. He spent his morning shower singing his solo and his lines in group numbers, and blasted the demos Schuester gave him on his iPod during his commute. He has done absolutely everything he can do to possibly pull this off in time, knowing that he’s woefully under prepared, because at least it has kept him from thinking about the audience he has to impress.

“You look sick, man,” Finn says when Kurt arrives in the hair and make up room to find Finn already there. “You sure you’re okay?”

“I’m fine,” Kurt answers, and flinches away from his reflection in the mirror. He looks even more pale than usual and he has bags under his eyes. This is horrifying.

“Sit,” Quinn says firmly, and attacks his face with powder and creams. “Schuester wants you ready for a dress rehearsal at noon.”

Kurt sits and twists his hands together, silently mouthing the words for his final goodbye.

“Dude, relax,” Finn cajoles. “It’ll be fine. We’re best when we’re loose.”

“You mean we’re terrible, so the only time we’re actually good is happy accident caused by under-preparedness?”

Finn blinks. “Um, sure?”

Kurt sighs and goes back to mouthing his lines. It’s a nice distraction for when Santana starts yanking on his hair, anyway.

***


Dress rehearsal is...rough. That’s about the kindest way Kurt can think of to categorize it, because it’s shockingly clear that Finn fits better into Worf’s skin than he ever did into Wesley’s, and in a lot of ways, the whole show is starting to gel. But while the acting may be better, there are still the forgotten lines to deal with (mostly between himself and Finn, but other members of the cast flub up, too), missteps during choreography (that one is almost entirely Finn), and Kurt forgets half of the second verse of Bye Bye, Enterprise and has to make up a new verse on the fly. Finn can claim that they’re best when they’re loose all he wants but Kurt is absolutely terrified of that happening on stage that night, of not being able to think fast enough to come up with a new verse, because he’s not sure he can pull it off in front of a proper audience.

No one else seems to notice that, though, as they all congratulate each other excitedly and head off to prepare for the performance that night.

“Mercedes,” he says, pleading for reality, “that was a mess, right?”

“A hot damn one,” she confirms, “but it...was kind of good, too. It had a lot of heart.”

“Heart does not equal actually being good,” Kurt feels compelled to point out.

She shrugs. “I liked it. It had charm.”

Kurt groans. “No one around here has standards, do they?”

“Not really.”

“Whatever.” Kurt rolls his eyes. “I’m going to go change out of this horrid sweater and go find some lunch. Care to join me?”

She turns him around gently and nudges him towards where Blaine is watching them hopefully.

“Actually,” Blaine says, “I had some leftovers last night so I thought maybe—”

“I thought we agreed you’d cool it on the cooking for me thing until after tonight.”

“I didn’t. Leftovers. Promise. And no...heat. Just lunch and hopefully meaningful conversation number three.”

“I sincerely dislike you both,” Kurt says, because he refuses to believe that Mercedes just magically figured out that Blaine wanted to have lunch with him all on her own. But he takes Blaine’s proffered hand and follows him to an empty room backstage, then waits there patiently until Blaine returns a few minutes later with the food.

“So,” Blaine says as he settles down on the floor across from Kurt, plate of food in his lap. “I wanted to apologize again for trying to white knight you. You don’t need that, and I’m sorry for thinking you did.”

“I know you’re sorry, Blaine. I believe you. And you’ve told me this over and over again.”

“Right, but I haven’t told you why I did it.”

“Because you wanted to hear me sing.”

“No, I mean, why I wanted to be your—”

“Hero.”

Blaine nods. “I told you about having a boyfriend in high school, right?” Kurt tilts his head in agreement. “Well...I mean, I was already a target before he and I started dating—we both were—but it only got worse for both of us once we started seeing each other. And it’s not even like we were trying to ‘rub people’s faces in it’ or whatever it is that they say we do. We held hands in the hallway, same as anyone else, only...”

“No one else thought it was the same.”

Blaine nods. “Anyway, there was a school dance and he and I both talked about it until we were blue in the face, arguing over whether or not we should go. He wanted to and I didn’t. But I finally agreed because I didn’t think it was right to let them scare me into staying home. So we went, and actually, we had a pretty nice time. People shot us some dirty looks, but I had a few friends from drama club who hung out with us that night even though they hadn't ever seen us together before, but they still treated us like they did everyone else and it was just so nice to have people be nice to us.”

Kurt sighs on Blaine’s behalf because he knows the feeling and he hates it, because since when is basic human courtesy a privilege, but he’s gotten far too pragmatic in the last few years to expect otherwise.

“But afterwards, we were waiting for his dad to pick us up and a bunch of lacrosse players came out and—” He sort of trails off, then shrugs like it’s no big deal, even when it so very obviously is. “I’m kind of on the short side,” Blaine continues after a moment, “and even if I weren’t, and could physically match those guys, there were just too many of them. For some reason, they were worse on him than they were me and for a long time I felt guilty that they didn’t beat the crap out of me as badly as they did him. Which I know, is fucked up. There’s a point to this, I swear.”

“Point?” Kurt asks, because what on earth is Blaine even talking about?

“About the white knight. I’m telling you this so I can explain that.”

“Blaine, you really don’t have to—”

“No, I want you to know. So...anyway. I had to go to the E.R., but they released me that night. He was in the hospital for more than a week because they ruptured his spleen.”

“Fuck.”

“Yeah. Anyway, I just...look, I admit this is fucked up and tied into masculinity issues, but...I really did care about him and I thought, ‘What kind of person am I if I can’t even protect him from something this horrible? What kind of man am I?’ because he was broken for a really long time and I somehow, miraculously, wasn’t. Not even as bad mentally as he was. And I hated myself for not fighting back hard enough, for not being able to get him to safety, for being back at school on Monday when he was still lying in that bed.”

“You went back?”

“At first. You’d think that would’ve been the thing that broken me, but it wasn’t. It was the fact that it never stopped. Being shoved into lockers daily, being called names, all of it. It just...kept going. And one day I decided I was tired and I couldn’t fight anymore and I transferred to private school. They had a no-tolerance policy against bullying and everyone there was incredibly nice. And then I came straight here after graduation and...I mean, New York isn’t perfect. I don’t think anywhere is. But when I was at that school and now here, it’s been...way too easy for me to forget how hard it is when you’re the one being called names every single day. And I fall back into that need to have protected him. And I’m sorry, Kurt. I really am because you don’t need me to protect you or to force you to fight, especially since I sometimes forget how hard it can be. I’m ashamed to say this, but it wasn’t until I heard you sing that I actually believed you didn’t need a white knight.”

Kurt clears his throat and stares down at his knees. “Blaine,” he sighs out on an exhale, and shakes his head.

“Kurt,” Blaine answers back.

“Okay. It’s—it’s not okay, but—okay.”

“I really like you,” Blaine says quietly. “And I just...it’s my fault.”

“No. It’s really not.”

Blaine stays silent, but reaches over to take Kurt’s hand. Kurt lets him.

“This count as the third?”

Kurt lets out a laugh, just a little wet-sounding, and nods.

“Yes. You’ve got five more before I let you—”

He stops and flushes, but Blaine just grins at him.

“Kurt Hummel, I didn’t think you were that sort of boy.”

“I am that sort of boy,” Kurt says once he finds his voice. “When I want to be, anyway.”

Blaine doesn’t ask the obvious question—”And you want to be that sort of boy with me?” because they both already know the answer, but he does lean forward hesitantly and brush their lips together.

“I’m sorry,” he says almost instantly. “I know you said not until after the performance and you’d had time to—”

“It’s okay,” Kurt interrupts. “Just...look, I’m probably going to ask you out tomorrow once I’m over the shock of tonight, but until then...I understand why you did it, but I still need time to stop hating the fact that I have to go through with this.”

“You keep saying that,” Blaine says softly.

“You keep doing things that require me to repeat it,” Kurt answers back.

“Sorry,” Blaine answers, shrugging, and presses his lips to Kurt’s knuckles. “You’re going to do great tonight, Kurt.”

The look on his face is so eager and honest and he so clearly believes every word that he’s saying that Kurt can’t stop himself from taking both sides of Blaine’s face in his hands and kissing him again.

“Okay,” he says, and then again, “Okay. That was the last one. No more of this.”

“Okay,” Blaine says quietly, like he doesn’t dare to so much as breathe in this moment.

“Damn it,” Kurt says, and forces himself to let go of Blaine and get to his feet. “We are going to go out there now and rehearse some more. You haven’t had much longer than I have to learn this stuff, anyway. We are not going to stay in here making out. Understood?”

“Yes,” Blaine answers, and stands up.

They stare at each other for a moment, then Kurt shakes his head, mutters, “Damn it,” again, and wrenches the door open to keep his body from acting on what the rest of him is still torn about wanting. He’s grinning, though, so hard that it starts to hurt, and he doesn’t stop until he gets to the stage and finds Finn tripping over his own shadow. The reality of just how bad tonight’s performance is going to be crashes in on him and he wills himself and the rest of the cast to shine just this once.

***


Backstage is chaos. Between Finn running around in his underwear because he can’t find his costume, Puck accidentally setting off the first round of pyrotechnics, Lauren looking like she wants to punch Sam in the face for the fact that he still hasn’t perfected how to fake doing the same, and Kurt simultaneously trying to shove Finn into a chair to get Worf’s prosthetic applied while simultaneously fighting off Santana’s efforts to wrangle him into her station so she can fix his hair, the entire backstage area feels less like a theatre and more or less like a zoo.

Kurt wonders, at first, why everyone is panicking. He knows why he is, but as far as he knows, Brittany has no issues with performing and he knows for a fact that Rachel doesn’t. But then he remembers that this is their last shot—if someone doesn’t want to invest more money into taking the show out of workshop and into actual performances, then it’s over. A lump rises in his throat and he forces it back down because he refuses to be parted from these people. He’s not sure he wants to fight like Blaine said, for himself, but he can’t imagine not fighting for them.

It’s Mike, in the end, who actually makes him feel better, by patting him on the back and crouching down beside him. He looks calm and relaxed, just watching the disaster around him with mild disinterest.

“Hey, buddy.”

Kurt glances over at him and hugs his knees tighter to his chest. “Hi.”

“So..." Mike pauses, like he's not sure that he should say what he so clearly wants to, then plows onward. "I’m not really sure why you got pissed at Blaine, but I’m glad you’re not holding it against him.”

Of all the things that Kurt expected to come out of Mike's mouth, that's pretty much last on the list.

“What?”

“I don’t know." Mike shrugs, casual and easygoing. "I watch people a lot. It’s what happens when you don’t talk very often. You notice more. And I watch you a lot because you’re one of my closest friends.” Kurt smiles without meaning to and Mike grins back at him before continuing. “So...I mean, it was never that you were unhappy before, or anything...you’ve just kind of always been in this middle ground, you know? You weren’t completely miserable, but it wasn’t...the light wasn’t in your eyes. And then Blaine walked onto this stage and it was like...a little bit of the light came back. And I thought that was it until you got up there and started singing and—”

He trails off, biting his lip, and then shrugs again before continuing.

“Look, I don’t know the details, but I gather that you quit performing for a reason. And maybe you don’t want to hear this right now, but when you started singing...I thought Blaine had made you brighter until I saw you perform. It was like staring into the sun. You came to life up there.”

“You—”

“No, I mean it. It was incredible.”

“I used to love it,” Kurt says quietly.

“I think you still do. I mean...look, I will totally support you no matter what but I really hope you keep going after tonight. You lit up too brightly not to.”

“Mike Chang, why do you make it so hard for me to stay angry and bitter and cynical?”

“Because my girlfriend is a goth and that is why she and I work so well together. Someone has to be the sunshine in the relationship.”

Kurt snorts. “Thanks.”

“You’re welcome,” Mike answers. “Just...look, whatever it was that made you stop...don’t go out there tonight to prove them wrong. Don’t—don’t let this be about spite or fighting or—or whatever it was. Make this about you and about how much you obviously love doing this.”

“Okay, seriously,” Kurt says, “go away now before I ask you to be my life coach or something.”

Mike squeezes his shoulder and gets to his feet just as Schuester comes running in, calling them all in for one last pre-show huddle. Kurt gets caught somewhere in the middle with Rachel on one side and Mike on the other, staring across the circle at Blaine. Blaine gives him a small smile and Kurt tries not to think about how good Blaine’s lips felt against his. And then suddenly everything is happening too fast, because their hands are all in the middle, stacked into a hasty pile, and Rachel is trying to infuse the entire group with enthusiasm to varying degrees of success. They raise their hands into the air and then the crew hurries backstage while Kurt joins his cast mates in scurrying into place onstage.

***


By the time the curtain lowers two and a half hours later, Kurt is beaming triumphantly despite Rachel’s immediate panic over whether it was good enough. This panic, incidentally, involves critiquing everyone's performance except her own.

Honestly, it wasn’t perfect. Finn tripped during the Bat’leth Boogie, just as they all knew he would, Mike’s fencing sword flew out of his hand during Sulu’s big dance solo and hit Rachel in the nose, and Kurt heard his own voice quiver when he stretched for the high note at the end of his solo. It was great at best, but not extraordinary, and he honestly doesn’t know if they’ll get the funding they need to keep the show open.

But he felt alive on that stage, and satisfied in a way that he’d forgotten how to feel because character designing doesn’t even come close. He feels like hugging each and every single person in the entire cast and crew, including Mr. Figgins and, even, Santana Lopez. He’s fairly sure that he’s on some kind of stage high and that’s probably why, when Blaine taps him on the shoulder, Kurt spins around and kisses him right then and there.

“Oh,” Blaine says, surprised, but he’s grinning.

“Never, ever, ever do that to me again,” Kurt tells him. “If Mike hadn’t talked to me before I went on stage, that would’ve been scarring."

“I won’t,” Blaine says earnestly. “Never ever.”

“Okay, then,” Kurt says decisively, and slips his hand into Blaine’s. “You can start planning meaningful conversation number four, then.”

Blaine laughs but the sound gets cut off by Schuester running in holding a slip of paper in his hand.

“We got it,” he says, beaming at them all fiercely. “It’s not enough to premier yet, but it’ll get us through previews. We’ve just got to make sure every show from here on out gets even better. You guys were amazing and some of you only had three days to pull that together. Let’s see what you can do with proper rehearsals.” He catches Kurt’s eye and asks, “Are you in? Or do I have to find a third Wesley Crusher?”

Kurt takes all of ten seconds to think about it, but he’s known the answer since he belted out the first note of his solo tonight.

“I’m in,” he says, and Blaine looks up at him with that same look of open admiration he had the first time he heard Kurt sing. Kurt squeezes his hand back tightly in the three seconds it takes before the entire cast and crew is crushing in on the two of them, and then Kurt just lets himself be swept away on their glee.




I have found that I can tolerate being judged far better than being of no consequence. - Mr. Spock, "World Enough and Time"






1 | 2 | Optional Author's Notes | Fanmix by [livejournal.com profile] queenofgoat
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