Title: Tender Years
Word Count: 19,200 (so far)
Warnings: Intense amounts of fluff
Summary: AU. Kurt and Blaine are single dads to seven year olds in New York City. When Kurt’s son invites Blaine’s daughter out on a date, it kicks off a day that Kurt and Blaine will never forget.
A/N: This fic is inspired by this Humans of New York Tumblr photo of two incredibly adorable kids in NYC. I wrote a little ficlet, lots of people flailed and demanded more, and so…here it is! Title is nabbed from lyrics from the song “Teach Your Children” by Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, which kind of embodies my vision of Kurt and Blaine as kickass parents.
Now posted on Scarves & Coffee!
“Dad,” Elliot began, his voice solemn and far too adult-like for a cherub-faced boy of seven years old. “I have something important to tell you.”
Kurt put his fork down beside his plate, dabbing a napkin at the corner of his mouth before speaking. “Okay. What’s up, Ell?”
Elliot drew in a deep breath; his chest puffing up like a balloon before his words rushed out on an exhale. “Ihaveagirlfriend.”
“There she is!” Elliot exclaimed, shattering Kurt’s cool demeanor and causing him to jump with surprise. Before Kurt could react, Elliot yanked his hand away and took off, leaving Kurt scrambling after him.
“Elliot! Wait!” But Elliot didn’t stop for a moment. The straps of his backpack bounced against his shoulders as he dove into the thick, noisy street crowd.
Blaine couldn’t help himself. He blinked at Kurt in surprise, just as he’d reacted when the man had introduced himself as Elliot’s father. His father. This lovely, effortlessly sophisticated man who’d stood out like a beam of light among a nameless mass of thousands was a young dad, just like Blaine.
He was also – unquestionably – flirting with him.
Kurt had seen fireworks displays that weren’t quite as dynamic as Maya Anderson.
“Finn, I know Rachel’s in a show tonight and you’re sitting at home by yourself in your underwear watching Transformers – or lord knows what else – so get your ass over to my apartment and babysit Ell for me so I can go out to dinner with a man for the first time in a year!”
The feeling rushed back as soon as Blaine spotted Kurt standing on the brightly lit sidewalk outside the stage door, biting his bottom lip as he watched for Blaine’s figure to exit the theatre. It was like a thousand frantic butterflies had emerged from their hidden cocoons and all tried to fly at once, bumping against Blaine’s stomach and his windpipe and his heart. They threatened to burst through his skin and soar up, up to the stars when the two locked eyes and Kurt beamed at him, then offered his simple greeting.
“Hey.” Blaine’s voice was breathless, revealing his anxiety, and the way he’d sprinted through his post-show routine so he could get here – right here, in front of Kurt. Finally.
He tried, so hard, not to leer when he let his gaze drop down the front of Kurt’s body. Kurt had changed clothes since Blaine last saw him that afternoon. Now he wore dark, slim jeans – perfectly molded to his thighs and hemmed to end at a precise length against lighter-toned denim lace-ups – and a gray blazer that did nothing to hide his strong, toned arms. A navy silk scarf with pastel print – skulls, McQueen; Blaine knew something about designer fashion – gave his outfit the perfect touch of personality.
All traces of the casual, effortlessly stylish dad Blaine met that morning had vanished. This was a man: urban and chic and independent, someone who knew exactly how to make himself look good. Who was trying to look his best. For Blaine. For their date together.
“You look fantastic.”
“Thank you.” Kurt’s upturned lips twitched with amusement. “I like your bow tie.”
Instinctively, Blaine’s hand went to the navy bow tie at his neck – the one he’d had to re-tie twice in his dressing room, just five minutes earlier, because his trembling fingers wouldn’t cooperate. “Too much?” he asked, wrinkling his nose self-deprecatingly.
Kurt simply shook his head: slow, exaggerated swings back and forth, with his eyes fixed on Blaine’s the entire time. “So, where to?”
Blaine knew the place. He’d been there twice with some of his fellow cast members after their shows. He’d stored it in the back of his mind as the perfect spot to bring a date, if he ever got the chance.
Kurt was his chance.
“As long as there’s no kids menu in sight.”
Blaine grinned. “No kids tonight. Just us. Follow me.” He dared to place a hand at the small of Kurt’s back and push, ever so lightly, guiding Kurt in the direction of his own movement down the sidewalk. The contact of his rough skin against soft, warm fabric was brief, but left a scalding burn on Blaine’s palm that he clutched in his fist as they walked.
They strolled together over eight blocks, light conversation and jovial chuckles peppering their journey, until they reached the tiny tapas lounge with its quiet, charming back patio that belied its location just blocks from bustling Times Square. It looked exactly the way Blaine remembered it – even better, actually, because now Kurt was in it.
They sat at a table in the back corner, ensconced in the vaguely humid air of that balmy June night, sharing plates of chorizo and clams and shrimp and stuffed mushrooms, and a seemingly bottomless pitcher of fruity, ruby-red sangria.
“So I don’t meet many dads like you,” Blaine began, breaking a lull in their banter with what he hoped was a smooth opening to the talk he was dying to have.
Kurt’s eyes were a prism of blue and green and gray and gold in the soft, sparkling glow of fairy lights strung around the garden’s perimeter. “How so?”
Blaine shot him a knowing look. “Come on.”
An adorably coy smile played on Kurt’s lips. “I have no earthly idea what you mean, Blaine. Please, tell me…” He propped his chin on his hand and leaned forward, closer to the flicker of candlelight in the middle of their table. “What am I like?”
Blaine inhaled a shallow breath. “You know. Another single dad my age.”
“Mmmhmmm?” Kurt’s light, teasing murmur prodded him to elaborate.
“Who’s…like me.” Why was it so difficult to form words? Was it the effect of the alcohol flowing warm through his veins? Or was it those damn eyes on him, piercing through him, fueling his adrenaline and stealing his ability to think?
Kurt arched a questioning eyebrow. “You mean, dads who bring their young children to gay pride parades?”
Blaine opened his mouth to respond, but his intended words somehow morphed into a burst of laughter. “Yes,” he said with a nod.
Kurt hummed again, cocking his head and letting his gaze roam over Blaine’s face. “If I recall, you only went because my son invited your daughter.”
“Yes. Well, you know. The point is…ah…”
Blaine laughed, blowing out a short, quick puff of air. “Jesus. Why is this so hard?”
“Well, if you’re anything like me – which, I’m pretty sure you were just trying to tell me I am –” Kurt winked at him, setting another round butterflies free inside Blaine’s gut “– it’s because you haven’t been out on a date in, oh, maybe a year? And you can’t remember how to talk to another adult about anything but what a rip-off babysitters are.”
Blaine couldn’t help himself – he grinned, hugely, until his cheeks ached. “Aren’t they, though?”
“It’s the biggest scam in the city. They make ten dollars an hour to sit and watch The Real Housewives while Ell snores in bed.”
“Ten? Try twenty!”
“Twenty!” Kurt clucked his tongue. “You’re being taken for a ride, Mister Anderson.”
They both laughed together, the merry sounds of their voices mingling over their little table. But Blaine kept grinning at Kurt as he reached for his sangria.
“What?” Kurt queried, pulling his glass from his lips after taking a long, slow sip.
“What you said.”
Kurt’s eyes rolled upward as he searched his memory. “What did I say?”
“That we’re on a date.”
Instantly, Kurt’s characteristically cool composure vanished. “Oh. Did I say that?” he asked, his eyes growing huge and round.
“I-I mean, if-f you want it to be…” he stuttered, a rosy blush blooming on his pale cheeks. He looked exactly how Blaine felt, and for the first time that day, Blaine wondered if Kurt was experiencing the same wild, nervous flutter of butterflies inside his own chest.
Kurt snapped his mouth shut, staring quietly, intently at Blaine with those eyes: big and clear and blue-green and gorgeous in the candlelight. How in the world could Blaine not want to date him?
“I definitely want it to be.”
“Okay.” A beat. Then he smiled – slowly, until it filled his entire face. “Good.”
“I just thought it was cute when you said it,” Blaine admitted as he reached for his drink, gripping the cool, smooth glass in his palm. He needed to hold on to something, because he was dangerously close to lunging over the table and clinging rather embarrassingly to Kurt. He somehow managed to take another sip of sangria through his goofy grin, enjoying the delicious, sweet-and-tangy explosion of flavor on his taste buds. It was so good. Everything was so damn good right now.
“But there’s just one thing,” Blaine added as he rolled a wine-soaked apple cube around his tongue.
“I don’t believe for a second that you haven’t been on a date in a year.”
Kurt barked out a laugh. “Oh, I swear it. The last date I went on was last summer. One and done. Men…” he trailed off, shaking his head. “They don’t want to date a single dad.”
“I have the same problem. Guys I meet, they…you can see the fear in their eyes when you tell them you have a kid.” Blaine imitated a look he’d received once: a quick, wide-eyed flash of panic, then a slow turn of his face down and away.
Kurt threw his head back and laughed in agreement. “I know! It’s like telling them you have an STD or something.” He chuckled again, then gave a little shrug of his shoulders. “So for the most part I just don’t…I guess I kinda don’t bother? I don’t…I would rather not deal with the rejection.” He shook his head determinedly. “I don’t deserve that. Ell doesn’t either. I’m used to it being just the two of us, anyway. I’m happy with how things are.” But the way he smiled after he said it, far weaker than he had all day, told Blaine that, maybe, he wasn’t.
Blaine couldn’t hold back his curiosity any longer. “Tell me about…how you wound up with Elliot?”
Kurt was quiet for a long time, gnawing nervously at the corner of his mouth as he poked at a lone mushroom with his fork. “I was eighteen when Elliot was born, like I told you,” he finally said, his gaze still fixed on his plate. “My senior year of high school, I was still trying to…I don’t know…hide myself from the world. Everybody knew I was gay. I mean, it was Ohio; there weren’t any other boys like me in my town. But I didn’t want to…I couldn’t come out and say it. Because then all those…names they called me? They’d be real.
“So I just…I told myself I would wait until after I graduated, and then I could escape. I was dying to come here. Somewhere people wouldn’t care what I wore, or what my voice sounded like. But still…getting through each day there was…hard. Seemingly neverending.”
Blaine bit down lightly on the tip of his tongue, forcing himself to keep from interrupting Kurt with a million questions. He was fascinated to hear Kurt’s story, already unfurling in a way that was eerily similar to his own.
“There was this girl, Brittany. She was a cheerleader. She…” Kurt’s face ducked lower, further away from Blaine’s stare, and his teeth worked at his lower lip for a moment before he continued. “She offered to hook up with me because she had, and I quote, a ‘perfect record’ with all the guys in the senior class that she didn’t want to ruin before we graduated. I figured being on her conquest list could only help me.” Kurt laughed humorlessly. “Stupid, huh?”
The only response Blaine gave was in his expression, softening with compassion and understanding. But Kurt never saw it; he carried right on, as if he couldn’t stop the flood of words now that Blaine had poked a hole in the dam that kept them locked inside.
“Brittany wasn’t the brightest girl. Apparently – this is what she told me – she confused her birth control with, I don’t know, Pez or some candy. It was the only time I–” Kurt suddenly stopped short and flicked his gaze up to meet Blaine’s. It was like an invisible sheath had been pulled from in front of his eyes. Raw, intense emotions swam in those pools of blue, and Blaine dove in without hesitation. Because he knew. It only took once. The culmination of fear and self-doubt rolled into a single, irreversible act.
He gave Kurt a subtle, encouraging nod to show that he understood, that he’d been there, that he wasn’t judging or leaving. Kurt’s gaze shifted down again, and he resumed his story.
“As soon as I found out, I drove straight home from school. I-I still don’t even know how I made it back. I sat there in the living room, and I just waited. I practiced what I was going to say to my dad, over and over, until he finally walked into the house, like, hours later. When he came in the door I stood up and I just blurted it out before I could lose my nerve.”
“What did you say?”
“I said, ‘Dad, I have bad news. I’m gay, and I got a girl pregnant.’”
Blaine blinked at him once, then burst out laughing. “Oh my god. You are fearless.”
“Oh, it’s hilarious now,” Kurt said through his own mortified chuckle. “But then? I thought I was going to die.”
“What did he say?”
“Well, after the color returned to his face, he said–” His voice halted, and he cleared his throat before finishing his sentence. “He said, ‘Only one of those things sounds like bad news to me.’” The corners of Kurt’s lips turned up in the barest hint of a smile, relieving the sudden cold prickle of dread in Blaine’s stomach. “He told me he knew I was gay. Had known it since I was three years old. And that he accepted me for who I was. ‘Nothing I can do to change it,’” Kurt said, mimicking what Blaine assumed was his father’s gruff tone.
“But the baby…that changed everything, of course.” Kurt paused to take another sip of his drink, holding the liquid in his mouth for a moment before swallowing. Blaine watched its course, from lips to cheeks to milky white throat covered by far too many inches of silk scarf; all the while contemplating the abstract thought that they’d both trudged separately down twin winding, prickly paths of experience that somehow, wonderfully, happened to converge here: on this day, in this city, at this table, together.
“She…all along, when Brittany was pregnant, she told me she didn’t want it…him, Elliot. She was going to give the baby away. And I agreed with her. I didn’t want anything to do with her, or this…this awful mistake I’d made. I was supposed to get out of there, you know? I was supposed to escape from that stupid town, and all those people who made me so miserable.” His voice crept higher, shriller with each phrase, as if he was reliving the terror and regret of those months, seven long years ago and hundreds of miles away. Then he exhaled a deep sigh, one that seemed to rise all the way from his toes. “But it wasn’t that easy. I couldn’t stop thinking about it. It just spun around and around in my head, like, oh my god, Kurt, you’re gonna be a father.
“I remember, I went with her to a doctor’s appointment and we found out it was going to be a boy and I…that’s when I knew. It was real, then – a him, a boy, a baby – I just…I couldn’t let him go. He was my son. I couldn’t just hand him to a stranger and forget all about him so I could go off to gallivant New York and chase my dreams. I had to be in his life. And I knew…I had to stay. For him.”
“So you stayed there?” Blaine was completely transfixed by Kurt’s mellifluous voice, spilling its tale of courage. He placed both elbows on the table and leaned in as close as he could, anxious to hear the rest.
Kurt nodded. “I had already been accepted to college here – The New School. The day I called and canceled my enrollment was…that was one of the worst days of my life. I cried every night…every moment I thought about it, for weeks.” Kurt shook his head sadly. “No, months. Years. Every time it rained and I didn’t have my umbrella, or I dropped a pen in class, or they were out of whole wheat pastry flour at the grocery store. Anything remotely bad, and I just…collapsed.”
He looked so forlorn, so vulnerable, that Blaine ached to reach across the table and take his hand, wind their fingers together and give him something to hold on to. He didn’t – he was afraid it was too soon – but his gaze kept dropping down to where Kurt’s fingertips toyed absently with the gleaming silver handle of his fork, right beside his empty plate.
“Elliot was born in July. Two months to the day after graduation. As soon as Brittany was out of the hospital she just…handed him over to me. Told me she knew I’d do a good job raising him, and that was that. I was eighteen, and I was a single parent. Stuck in Ohio, for what I figured would be forever.” Kurt’s voice softened, even as his features set in a deep frown. “Part of me was trying to be positive and care for this thing I was responsible for bringing into the world, and that I said I wanted. But at the same time, I couldn’t stop mourning the loss of my own life.”
“I—I know exactly what you mean,” Blaine stammered. How many times had he felt the same way – bitter resentment seeping into his soul, threatening to cloud the love and utter delight he experienced whenever he looked at his beautiful daughter?
“We lived at home with my dad and my stepmom. They were…in the end, they totally supported my decision to keep Elliot. They were amazing. I never would’ve survived that first year without their help. I mean, I had no idea what I was doing with a baby. They taught me everything – how to change him and give him a bath. They would wake up with me in the dead of night and help me feed him, or –” Kurt cut himself off with a short burst of laughter as he stared into empty space, reliving a memory Blaine could only try to imagine “– drive around the neighborhood while I held him in the backseat until he finally fell back asleep.
“But they told me they wouldn’t let me sacrifice my future because I had a baby. So they put me through college there – OSU, the Lima campus. Maybe it was that, or maybe…gosh, I don’t even remember exactly anymore.” Kurt looked up at Blaine, eyes bright, and shrugged. “I just…eventually I made peace with everything that had happened. I realized my life wasn’t over. I was only, what, twenty? I had my family – helping me, motivating me to push forward. So, slowly, I started dreaming again.
“My stepbrother and his wife – she’s my best friend from high school – had moved out here after we graduated. We were all supposed to come together, of course, before I found out about Elliot. I started visiting them – just for the weekend, once or twice a semester. Then I came for spring break, and then a week in summer. My parents would take care of Ell, and I would fly here and just…enjoy for a few days. Rachel and I, we’d rush for Broadway tickets, or window shop on Fifth Avenue, or go out for ice cream at two in the morning.”
“That sounds amazing.” Blaine could envision Kurt so clearly: laughing freely as he strolled down the streets of Manhattan, reveling in his brief bout of freedom. He suddenly felt a shot of longing deep in his chest that reverberated all the way down in the pit of his stomach. He’d been here, in the same city, at the same time. If only he’d known Kurt then…
“It was. I’ll never forget those days as long as I live. Coming here was like…like recharging my battery. I never took time for myself at home. Ever. It was school, work, Ell. Every day.” Kurt let out a little laugh. “Of course, being away for a weekend didn’t stop me from being a parent. I swear I called to check up on him at least five times a day. I remember, Carole started hanging up on me to get me to stop calling!” Kurt laughed again, and the sound enveloped Blaine in a hazy glow of pleasure, inviting him into the warm, precious inner fold of Kurt’s most sacred memories.
“The next summer, I landed an internship at a magazine in Midtown. I was here for two months. It was awful being away from Ell for that long. But I was so happy here.” Kurt grinned at Blaine, and he looked so sure, so content that Blaine instantly returned his smile. “That’s when knew…I had to come here for good. This was still where I was meant to be, and it was where I wanted to raise Ell. It was wonderful being close to my parents and having their help, but it was time for the two of us to make our own life together. I wanted him to be exposed to…diversity and new ideas. And I didn’t want him to have to deal with…looks from people who didn’t approve of a young, single gay guy raising his son.”
“Like in Ohio.” Blaine had been on the receiving end of looks like that, even though he only ever made brief visits home.
“Like in Ohio,” Kurt repeated with a nod. “So when I graduated the next year, I packed us up and we moved here. Four years late and with a lot of extra baggage.” Kurt stopped to laugh, and Blaine joined in when he pictured all of Maya’s clothes and toys and girly things, stacked and stowed in bulging closets. “There were…a ton of bumps in the road, and I was broke, but…we did it.” Blaine’s pulse pattered with pride when Kurt smiled brilliantly, the motion carving cute, crinkly lines into the corners of his eyes.
“So he never sees his mother, then?”
Kurt shook his head; his sunny smile shrinking into a tight-lipped line of pale pink. “No. Brittany doesn’t…” He trailed off with a cynical laugh. “I seriously don’t think she even remembers she has a kid sometimes. I email her with updates every once in a while, but she rarely bothers to respond. She’s…kind of a mess. Just…no purpose, wandering. I don’t want Elliot around her, and she still doesn’t seem to want to be involved. So it works out for all of us.”
“But still hard to be on your own.” Blaine gave him a weak, honest smile. “I know.”
Kurt mirrored Blaine’s expression – worldly and a little weary, weighing heavy with meaning. “Yeah,” he sighed. “Finn and Rachel still help out a lot, when he’s not playing with his band and she’s not in a show.”
“Oh, your friend is an actor, too?”
“Yes. She’s fabulous. You’ll have to meet her.”
“I hope I get a chance to.” Blaine’s tone edged toward flirtatious again, testing the waters after Kurt’s emotional story. He watched Kurt’s smile shift, then grow; the years of experience in his expression melting away and leaving only the simple joy of youth, sparkling with interest and excitement.
“I don’t regret any of it,” Kurt told him, reaching for the pitcher to refill their glasses: Blaine’s first, then his own. “It’s not…it wasn’t a path I ever dreamed I would take, but in the end I got where I wanted to be. And so much more. I can’t even imagine my life without Elliot.” His oversized grin revealed a tiny peek of white teeth that glinted in the candlelight. “I’m happy,” he added, echoing his own words from earlier. But now he sounded confident and self-assured; more like the man Blaine had met that morning. Though Blaine hoped, selfishly, that their date was a tiny part of the reason Kurt was feeling so good.
“So, do you guys go back to Ohio a lot?” Blaine asked him.
“A few times a year, usually. In the summer for Ell’s birthday, and then again at Christmas. And my parents come here for Thanksgiving and Easter.”
“Maya and I usually go out there for Christmas, too,” Blaine told him. “We’ll have to…I don’t know…share a ride to the airport or something next time.”
Kurt arched an eyebrow, his lips still curved with the remnants of a grin. “Or something?”
Blaine quirked one shoulder, suddenly bashful again. “You know. I’d say we could fly together, but…who knows. You might be sick of me by then.”
“That seems unlikely,” Kurt said, his gaze steady on Blaine’s. He held it for a beat, silent, before continuing. “If anything, you’ll be the one tired of me talking your ear off like I just did. That was probably way more than you ever wanted to know.”
“No. I want to know everything about you,” Blaine blurted out before he could give his words an ounce of thought. He winced when he heard his own overly earnest tone. “Sorry,” he exclaimed with a quiet chuckle. “I’m not exactly smooth, am I?”
Kurt smirked – rather happily, Blaine noted. “That makes two of us,” he laughed.
“I’m serious, though,” Blaine insisted. “I like listening to you. I want to hear…everything. Anything. But especially all this. It’s…it means a lot to me. ”
Kurt watched him for a moment before speaking, his voice gentle and reflective. “I haven’t told anybody that story in a long time.”
“Thank you for telling me.” Blaine leaned back slightly in his seat. “Do you feel like listening to my version now?”
Kurt’s eyes grew rounder, and he nodded faintly, as if he’d just been offered something he’d been desperately waiting for. “Maya had some…interesting things to say about her mom this afternoon,” he commented, referring back to their short chat after Blaine’s show that afternoon.
“What did she say?”
“Well…she called her by her first name, first of all.”
“Yes. She said she ran away to Europe, and that you don’t like her.” Kurt frowned. “But I couldn’t tell if she was confused by you not liking women at all, or if you specifically don’t like her mom.”
Blaine heaved a sigh: long and deep, purging any trace of fear and reticence. He wanted to tell Kurt everything – even the parts he’d tried and failed to completely blanch from his memory. “So. Santana. She was my best friend in high school. Wait –” Blaine shook his head, needing focus. “Let me back up.”
He felt his eyes drift down to his empty plate, but he forced them back up to meet Kurt’s riveted stare. “I came out when I was fourteen. I went to a public school then. And…there was this…stupid school dance. I went with another guy – just a friend of mine, the only other gay kid in the school. At the end of the night we got…beat up in the parking lot by these…three big guys. You know, because we were…they just, they came out of nowhere.”
Blaine watched Kurt’s eyes widen in horror – so discordant from the way they’d glimmered with joy just moments before. In the back of Blaine’s mind, where he could still form thoughts that were fenced off from the pain of his memories, he vowed to never again put that look of fear in Kurt’s eyes. “Oh, Blaine. I’m…I’m so sorry.”
“I haven’t told anybody about that in…” Blaine trailed off, slowly shaking his head; wondering how ten years could have already passed since that ultimately fateful night – still so vivid in Blaine’s mind that he felt like he could reach through the cloudy sands of time and dab the blood from the ripe bruises on his cheeks. “I don’t think anyone in New York knows.”
Blaine saw it in the way Kurt’s eyebrows twitched upward, the way his lips came together in a tight ghost of a smile: acknowledgement of Blaine’s trust, acceptance of the burden of worry that Blaine carried through his life.
“After that happened, my parents sent me to private school – this all-boys academy. You know, tacky blazers and striped ties,” Blaine explained with an eyeroll that he hoped would clear away some of the somberness he’d released into the air.
“Ohhh.” Humor slowly trickled into Kurt’s expression. “I should have guessed you were a prep school boy.”
“Is it obvious?”
Kurt’s gaze immediately dropped down to the bow tie at Blaine’s neck. “No…” he remarked, his voice lilting sarcastically.
“Hey! You said it wasn’t too much!”
“It’s not! It’s…kind of adorable,” Kurt said, biting down on a smile.
Blaine hummed happily, feeling victorious. “I bet you would have thought I was adorable in my blazer, too,” he remarked with a smug smile that didn’t nearly let on how his heart was pattering with joy over Kurt’s endearment.
“Ehhh.” Kurt wrinkled his nose. “I’m not keen on polyester.”
Blaine’s smirk morphed into a gasp of mock disbelief. “Kurt! Here I am opening myself up to you, telling you my whole life story, and you’re theoretically turning me down during my neediest of years?”
Kurt’s eyes sparkled mirthfully. “Don’t worry, Blaine. I can’t see myself ever turning you down, even in theory.”
What would his life had been like if he’d met Kurt Hummel ten years ago? If there had been just a hundred miles fewer between them, and their winding paths had crossed sooner? They could have met a hundred times before – in Ohio, or on the streets of New York. They’d been so close – in distance and in experience – and yet invisible to one another.
But now…it didn’t even matter, did it? Because here they were, together – talking, smiling, flirting, drinking, gazing at each other as if the rest of the world didn’t exist.
“So, you and…Santana?” Kurt prompted after taking another sip of his drink. “How did that happen?”
“I met Santana at some school function my sophomore year of high school. She went to our sister school – an all-girls school about a mile down the road. She was the exact opposite of me in every way: brash and outspoken and stubborn. I guess that’s how we ended up becoming friends. I tended to be a little too…eager to please everyone after the…incident at my old school. I didn’t want to piss anybody off. Whereas all Santana ever did was piss people off. It was kind of an ‘opposites attract’ sort of thing.
“I never came out at Dalton. They had this whole ‘tolerance, no bullying’ policy, but still…after the…I was petrified to tell anybody the truth. People just assumed I was straight, and I never corrected them, or gave them a reason to think they were wrong.
Kurt’s brow knit with sympathy, etching deep lines into his forehead. He kept his gaze level with Blaine’s the entire time, listening intently as Blaine spoke.
“One night, Santana and I went to this party. She’d been drinking, and she started coming on to me. I just kinda went with it because…” he shrugged helplessly. “What else was I supposed to do? So we were, like, kissing in my friend’s basement, on the couch. I just remember, it was so awkward. And then at the exact same moment we both kinda…snapped. We pulled apart and we were both like, ‘I can’t do this! I’m gay!’”
Kurt’s eyebrows shot up in surprise. “She’s gay, too?”
Blaine nodded. “I’d had no idea until that moment.” He still remembered the way she’d sobbed out a plea into his shoulder, begging him not to tell anybody, and the tears they’d shed together when Blaine confided in her about his assault. “She kept it a secret from everybody. Her family was really traditional, so she was terrified they’d disown her if they knew.
“We were…inseparable after that. Everybody thought we were dating, and we never denied it. We were an excellent cover for each other because we went to different schools, so we didn’t have to act like we were dating during the school day. And it was pretty common for the Dalton guys to date the Crawford girls.”
Blaine took a deep breath, steeling himself for the next part of his story. “One weekend my junior year, my parents were away and she broke into my dad’s liquor cabinet so we could try doing shots. So we were…really drunk, and we had the bright idea to see what all the fuss was about…straight sex.” He looked down at the table for a moment, shaking his head sadly. “We didn’t use anything because, you know, we were both gay, so how could anything happen?” He rolled his eyes at his own naivete.
“Been there,” Kurt remarked, twisting his mouth sheepishly.
“We thought we could do it, you know? Have the baby. We were best friends. We weren’t just gonna get rid of it. But it was…such an abstract concept. We couldn’t even begin to wrap our brains around how difficult everything was going to be.
“When her parents found out, they kicked her out of the house. My parents…they were fucking livid. They’d never been thrilled that I was gay, but getting a girl pregnant? Obviously, that was way worse. But I begged them to help, and so they let her move into our spare bedroom.
“I remember…I could hear her through the wall, crying…every night. I’d try to go in there and talk to her, but she wouldn’t open the door. She started pulling away from everyone…skipping school, that sort of thing. Although I foolishly thought everything would go back to normal once the baby came.”
“You had no idea,” Kurt murmured. “How could you? I was the same way.”
Blaine nodded in acknowledgement. “After Maya was born, Santana lasted about a month and a half before she took off. Literally…she just left me with Maya one day. Said she was going to the store or something, and she never came back.”
Kurt gaped at him. “Wow.”
“I felt like an idiot…like I’d destroyed my whole life. I’d lost my best friend and wound up stuck with a baby, of all things. What the hell was I supposed to do?” Blaine flexed his fist under the table: closed, open, squeezing his hand into a tight ball then releasing it, letting go of his lingering anger along with the movement. “I’d been holding on to all these little threads of control, just…staying positive and telling myself things would work out for the best. But when she left, it…it all came crashing down.”
“So what did you do?”
“I…my parents.” Blaine ducked his face down, feeling the burn of shame in his cheeks. “They…took care of everything. They hired a nanny so I could finish my last year of high school. They told me they still wanted me to go to college, wherever I wanted, and that they’d take care of the rest. I always wanted to perform – I sang in Glee club all through high school, and I was in plays and stuff. So I applied to NYU, and when I got my acceptance letter, I told them I was going to New York. And that was it – they let me go. The week after graduation, we all came out here, and I found a place for Maya and me to live, and we hired another nanny. They paid for it all.”
Kurt’s eyebrows nearly grazed his hairline. “That’s…wow. That was really generous of them.”
“Yeah…” Blaine could feel his entire face wrinkle with a deep frown. “I don’t want to dismiss everything they did, or make it seem like they don’t love me or something, but…I could never shake the feeling that they were anxious to…to pay for the problem to go away? Like, they had the money to do those things, so that was the easiest option to take care of the issue.”
“Well…regardless, you still ended up achieving everything you wanted.”
“Not everything,” Blaine muttered under his breath, too low for Kurt to hear.
“What about Santana? She really never came back?”
“No. I mean, I hear from her sometimes…really randomly. She’s a model in…I don’t know, I guess she moves around a lot. She’s in Paris frequently. One time she was in Singapore. She’s never in the states – or if she is, she doesn’t tell me.”
Blaine paused to gulp down the last of his sangria – relishing the way the cold liquid soothed his dry throat, willing the alcohol to calm his nerves after revealing so much of himself to Kurt. “I think she feels guilty sometimes, though,” he speculated aloud. “She sends these gifts, once or twice a year. Expensive, extravagant, ridiculous things like little high heels and purses. But for the most part, I think she just wants that part of her life to be over.”
“What do you tell Maya?” Kurt asked.
Blaine let out a quiet snort. “The truth,” he said with a shrug. “What else can I do? As a rule, I try not to…shelter her from much. So I’m honest about it. Santana left us. That’s a fact. She left me when I needed her, and she left Maya without a mother.”
Blaine had worked hard, so damn hard, to build a positive image of family for Maya – an image that didn’t include a mother. Instead, Blaine had given her his parents, his older brother. Nannies, cast mates, distant cousins who came into town on vacation, neighbors who took pity on the poor single dad down the hall and invited them over for dinners and movies and parties with families they didn’t really belong to.
“Family is all the people who love you,” Blaine explained to Maya once in lieu of a bedtime story, snuggled up beside her in her tiny, frilly bed. “Sometimes that’s your mommy and daddy, and sometimes it’s people you aren’t really related to.”
“What about you?” Kurt asked softly. “Do you want it to be over, too?”
Idly, Blaine ran a finger through the condensation that had gathered on the pitcher at the center of their table, watching drops of water slip down polished glass to pool on the dark, rustic wood tabletop. “Sometimes,” he confessed, finally giving voice to the thoughts that often ran rampant through his mind. “Sometimes, I want to know what it would’ve been like to go to a keg party in college, or to stay out all night running around the city, ending up at any place that was open, not having a care in the world. I always had help with Maya, but I still never let myself do anything – maybe once or twice a year in four years of school. I would just go to my classes and my rehearsals. Any free time I had, I spent it with Maya.”
Blaine stared at his hands as he rubbed the pads of his fingers together, spreading the cold moisture over his skin. “I wasn’t usually… sad about it. Just…I don’t know, exhausted? Like, I’m always ten steps behind everybody else. I never feel like anything’s taken care of. And sometimes I just want to say…fuck it. Just throw my hands in the air and give up.” Closed, open went his fist again; slick fingertips curling into the weathered skin of his palm. “Why can’t I ever catch up? Why am I the one who has to carry all this responsibility around? Why couldn’t I have been the one who ran away and never looked back?”
Blaine was breathing heavy when he finished speaking. He didn’t realize how worked up he’d been getting, but now that it’d hit him, he had to blink furiously to erase the prickle of tears stinging behind his eyes.
“Sorry,” he apologized on a burst of nervous laughter. “I didn’t…I don’t let myself think about it too much. I just–”
“You just do it,” Kurt interjected, and Blaine failed miserably at keeping his features in check when Kurt slid a hand across the table to lightly cover his fist. Blaine’s wet, wrinkled fingertips warmed against Kurt’s dry, smooth skin; the touch foreign but immediately comforting. “You do it because it’s the only thing to do. Trust me, there’ve been so many times I’ve dreamed about what it would be like to give up, too. It’s…” he trailed off with a sigh. “Like the weight of the entire world is on my shoulders. But at the end of the day…you wouldn’t ever want to run away, would you?”
“No,” Blaine whispered. He didn’t want to run away from anything right now – he wanted to run toward it, laughing, with open arms. “I love her. I’d never…she’s the best thing that’s ever happened to me. The best. I can do…I know I can do anything after raising her.”
Kurt smiled at him sincerely. “It’s hard sometimes. It’s okay that it’s hard. But…Blaine, I just met you, but I can tell you’re an amazing father. She adores you. You’re doing great.”
“Thank you,” Blaine croaked, swallowing down the emotion that was building in his throat. “It’s…hard to find somebody who really understands.”
Kurt simply smiled at him; his own eyes glassy in the flickering candlelight. Here was someone who truly understood what Blaine had been through, what he dealt with every day. Who’d experienced something so rare and life-altering, just like he had. Who had wit and charm and intelligence, all wrapped up in a stunning package.
“I feel like I’ve been looking for you forever.” Blaine’s musings slipped off his tongue in a voice that was barely louder than a whisper. He hooked his thumb over one of Kurt’s fingers and tightened his grip, stroking once over Kurt’s knuckle, feeling him, firm and real in his hand.
Kurt’s face lit up, impossibly brighter than the radiant glow he’d worn the entire evening. He opened his mouth slightly – to speak, perhaps, or maybe just to stare agape – but Blaine’s body decided in that very moment to send a yawn rising up in his throat.
“God, I’m sorry,” he apologized, embarrassed, throwing his free hand over his mouth. “She got me up at six-thirty this morning to meet your damn kid.”
“Oh, well, I apologize for the inconvenience, sir,” Kurt teased in an airy voice that wavered lightly, giving away the effect Blaine’s words had on his heart. “I’m sure you wish you’d stayed in bed instead of meeting us.”
“No–” Blaine started, but he cut himself off when their waited dropped the check at the edge of their table. He released his hand from under Kurt’s and snatched up the thin black folder before Kurt could make a move.
“I got it,” Blaine said, dismissing Kurt’s protest as he slid his credit card into the plastic sleeve. “I’m the one who asked you, remember?”
Kurt huffed out a sigh. “Fine.” He paused for just a moment before the edges of his mouth slowly started creeping upward again. “But on one condition.”
“You let me get next time.”
Blaine grinned at him. “As long as that means there’s gonna be a next time.”
Kurt mirrored his luminous smile. “You found me, Blaine. There’s no way I’m letting you go now.”
reblogged from snowflakesandsunbeams
originally posted by leepbc14
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