misqueue: Blaine smiling at Kurt on stage after apologizing in 3x05 "The First Time" (glee - kurt/blaine - shared smile)
misqueue ([personal profile] misqueue) wrote2013-12-22 08:00 am

[Fic] And I Breathe (klaine advent prompt #8 Human)

Day 8 finally! \o/ I’m 1/3 done! (And Xmas is in 2 days. Ahahaha. I tried?) Extra large thank you to Multicorn for helping me unstick myself with this one. ♥

And I Breathe

Kurt/Blaine, Kurt/Adam, with appearances by Sebastian and Trent | T | Set during 4x12 "Naked" | Drama | light angst, introspection | Title from Erasure’s "Breathe" | Lonely, Blaine goes to Scandals looking for a human connection, but what he finds isn’t what he expects. | ~3,200 words



January 2013


Friday night, Blaine stands with a linen dish towel in his hand in the Hummel-Hudson kitchen. Finn rinses the apple-green enameled Dutch oven and passes it to Blaine. Methodically, Blaine sweeps the towel around the inside of the pot. He steals another glance at the clock over the door. Just past eight. Which means Kurt will be with Adam, out on their first official date: dinner and a show in New York—perhaps even a walk beneath the lights of Broadway.

The knowledge is like a deep paper cut somewhere vital: acute and focused—a constant stinging ache he can't quite banish from his awareness for long. It had been their dream first New York date together. But now, as Blaine hefts the heavy pot up to hang it by its handle on the pot rack, five hundred miles away, Kurt's longstanding fantasy date is being fulfilled with someone else.

It's possible Kurt hadn't exactly meant to tell him. It came out at the tail end of one of Kurt's now nightly rants about Brody and Rachel. About how she hadn't even asked Kurt before inviting Brody to move in, and Brody's appalling and inappropriate lack of modesty, and how he was defiling every surface in the loft with his bare ass. "I swear, Blaine," Kurt said. "I'm going to have to sign up for a monthly subscription of Lysol disinfecting spray. Amazon sells it by the three pack." Blaine had laughed at that, but then Kurt had said, "Ugh. I need to get out more. Thank god I've got a date with Adam tomorrow."

"Oh," Blaine said, to which Kurt replied, "Crap, I'm sorry?" and all Blaine could think to say next was, "Please don't be." They talked about it a little bit, to keep things casual and friendly, to try to defuse the tension and awkward fumbling with words. Blaine wonders when this will get easier, or if it ever will.

Finn nearly startles Blaine when he hands him the lid to the pot, and Blaine takes his time making sure there's not a drop of water left on the glossy surface. "Did you want to sign the calendar I'm sending to Kurt and Rachel?" Finn asks him. "Or would that be too weird?"

"Too weird, definitely," Blaine says.

They work in silence for several minutes, Blaine attends to drying each dish thoroughly to keep his mind from wandering too far: what's Kurt wearing? Did Adam bring him flowers? How did Kurt smile when he answered the door? Pointless details that are none of his business. He hopes Adam makes Kurt smile, even if that hope feels more like an especially pointed regret behind his sternum.

"Everything okay, dude?" Finn asks him. "You've been kinda quiet tonight."

"Long week," Blaine says with a quick smile to reassure Finn. "Sam really wore us out."

.

Burt and Carole invite him to stay for a game of Scrabble after the dishes are done. Normally he would remain for the board game or movie or cards or whatever. But it's hard to be here tonight. Harder still to be accepted here when he knows Kurt is moving on, right now, as the clock ticks. He made a promise to Kurt that he means to keep, and he loves Kurt's family—was grateful when Burt invited him back to regular Friday dinners. He would love Kurt's family even if Kurt were never going to speak to him again, but it's a bitter reminder that he once hoped this family would become his in-laws.

So Blaine says good night, and makes his way out into the cold night. And he wonders, if Kurt ends up with a new boyfriend, what does that make Blaine? The idea of their best friendship is predicated upon a kind of intimacy that comes from their history, and that can't continue if Kurt is in a relationship with someone new. The distance between them is growing again; he can feel it expanding by inches with each flicker of the glowing numbers on his dashboard. It feels like he's losing Kurt all over again. He thought he was ready for this, has sincerely wished Kurt well, but none of his imaginings allowed for this fuller sense of his own loss.

The inside of his car is slow to warm, and Blaine's woolen gloves slide smoothly upon the steering wheel. Heading straight home on a Friday seems a waste. Sam is at Brittany's, and while Blaine knows he'd be welcome to crash, the last thing he wants is to be the third wheel. Being around Sam when he's feeling as he is, is hard too: a reminder of things unattainable.

There's Tina, but he's not after the company of girls tonight. He's weathered the week well, responded with smiles and genuine, flattered gratitude to the blushing flirtations and fluttering eyelashes of McKinley's female population. Signed so many calendars his wrist aches. The tadpole gays, as Kurt called them, were sweet enough when they came for his autograph, but clearly more into each other. Even if they weren't, they're young in a way he's not sure he's ever truly felt. He can't find what he's looking for there.

Tonight, he wishes for a connection that's substantial—tangible. Something he can do something with—something to satisfy. Kurt is moving on, this time for real. It's not happening in Blaine's anxious imagination. The irony is not lost on Blaine, that his fear of this very thing is what created it.

The loneliness has returned throughout the day, stealing through the cracks of his carefully managed contentment. It's the same crawling desperation rooted in a place he cannot reach, the same restless need that sent him on the blind stumble into Eli's bed.

Unfortunately, Blaine can't think of any romantic options within his reach—the list of other local gay guys his age is pretty short, and none of them appeal. But he still wants what he misses: connection, affection, and visibility. It doesn't have to be serious or made for forever, but he wants it to at least be honest and reciprocated. He needs to meet someone new, find a new place to begin. He's let go, now it's time to move on. So when Blaine gets to the main road, instead of turning in the direction of home, he heads toward Scandals.

.

It's dingier than Blaine remembers. The windowless, decades old contemporary design that had once charmed Blaine with its nostalgia now seems tired. The night last fall with Kurt is lit with bright lights and color in his memory: the glamor of being on the verge of something new with Kurt, the enchantment of finding a place of affirmation. And possibly, also, the pink-tinged glow of alcohol.

Which then reminds Blaine of walking home in the chill of the night and how Kurt kept pace in his car, until, after a cold two miles in the wrong shoes, Blaine's dented pride finally relented. He got in the backseat, and Kurt drove him home. They hadn't spoken much on the drive—or throughout the next day—and it's not a memory in which Blaine wishes to dwell tonight. Old conflicts with Kurt contain few new insights, none of value anyway.

The commercial steel door gives way to shabby wood paneling and the mingled smells of beer, cologne, and wood varnish. The guy at the door barely looks at him, only cursorily checks his ID, but Blaine looks at him. He looks tired, so Blaine offers a bright, "Thank you," in the hope of cheering the man., but there's no discernible change in his demeanor.

Blaine unfastens his coat and moves toward the blue light of the bar. The eighties continues to live on here; the smooth synth and snaky, pulsing bass of The Pet Shop Boy's "West End Girls" tell him that much. There's a guy who could be Willie Nelson's twin—complete with bandana and braids—sitting at the bar. Blaine leaves an empty stool between him and the man, who looks at him, long and with disinterested appraisal. Blaine smiles reflexively, but turns his attention quickly to the bartender and orders a ginger ale.

"Sure you don't want something stronger, sweetheart?" the bartender asks. He's younger, but not young, with blond hair clipped short and an engaging smile. "You look like you could use it."

"Thanks, but I'm driving," Blaine says, and wonders what's making him look like he needs a drink. A glimpse of himself in the mirror behind the bar shows he is perhaps too wide-eyed, looks a little over eager, so he tries to relax his face and his shoulders into nonchalance.

While Neil Tennant chants about girls and boys trapped in their dead end urban world, Blaine glances around, attempting a discreet surveillance of the crowd tonight. It's busier than when he came with Kurt. He recognizes the guy dressed as Ginger from last year, but doesn't see any other familiar faces—or anyone his age. The youngest guys there are college age, and judging by the collection of beer bottles on their table, they're well on their way to wasted. A few, diverse men are looking his way with open curiosity and appreciation. Blaine flushes warm under their attention and turns his gaze to the glass of sparkling soda the bartender places before him.

"It's on the house, kid."

It's pleasant to be looked at so openly. The candid expressions of interest linger upon his back, trickling warm down his spine, set a deep thrill in his belly. Best of all, he doesn't need to do anything to earn it. Which is for the good, because he's not really sure what to do. Wait for someone to approach him? It seems awfully passive, but while he learned how to be Kurt's boyfriend, he's never learned how to do this.

The wait isn't long. A body settles upon the empty stool beside him, and a handsome, well-groomed man with long, meticulously styled sideburns turns his attention to Blaine. Too old, is the first thing Blaine thinks. The guy looks old enough to be his father, and the gleam of a wedding band doesn't encourage Blaine to return the man's smile.

And then, from behind him comes, "Hey, is that Blaine Anderson?" The voice is, in this context, unexpectedly, reassuringly familiar. Blaine releases a deep breath and swivels on his stool.

"Sebastian Smythe," he says. "Hi."

"Won't you join us?" Sebastian asks, gesturing toward a table by the wall, near the dance floor, where Blaine sees a nervous looking Warbler Trent taking off his jacket and hanging it on the back of a stool. Trent? He looks up and waves tightly at Blaine; his anxious expression gives way to a delighted smile.

"Yeah, that'd be great," Blaine says, relieved to see two familiar faces—at least one of them safe and friendly. And he is curious.

No sooner have they sat than Sebastian is plying Blaine with a line, "So what brings a nice boy like you back to a place like this? Trying to make the most of your single man status?" It's delivered with a self-conscious facetiousness that makes Blaine shake his head with a laugh.

"Something like that," Blaine says. "But... you two?"

"Oh, we're not together," Sebastian says, raising his hands as if to defend himself from the possibility.

Trent rolls his eyes, and says, with a put upon sigh, "Apparently I need to get outside my comfort zone once and a while."

"Yeah, well, this place'll do it," Blaine says, smiling. "But I didn't even know you were friends."

"Well, we're co-captains of The Warblers now, along with Nick," Trent says, and then proceeds to get Blaine caught up on all The Warblers' news since the scandal of Hunter Clarington's court date and expulsion.

The Dalton gossip isn't as interesting as it used to be—there are several names he doesn't recognize—but Blaine listens attentively, though he has to resist an eyeroll when the conversation turns to Sebastian and Trent arguing over which one of them is Octavian and which is Marc Antony. At least they agree Nick is Lepidus. And then that turns into a heated discussion over the historical accuracy of the HBO series Rome, which Blaine has not seen, and so his attention begins to wander.

It's a short trip back to Kurt. His mind goes there so easily, and he's not vigilant enough to resist the familiar pathways. He pokes the ice in the bottom of his empty glass with his straw. He knows little about Adam beyond being a fellow NYADA student, a senior, founder and leader of his Glee club there, handsome, kind, funny, English—and Kurt likes him. It's more than enough for Blaine to know this isn't a rebound fling for Kurt. He's looking to fall in love.

Blaine didn't expect this to happen so soon. He thought he'd have more time to... And there he stalls. Time to what? He's no longer pining. He and Kurt are on good terms. He's able to move past it when he thinks about his mistakes. His heart is mending, but this still hurts. Another man taking Kurt's hand, making Kurt laugh, leaning in to kiss Kurt. The way Blaine knows Kurt's breath will catch and his cheeks will flush—the way he'll reach back. For all the ways Kurt knows to touch Blaine, and the way Blaine knows to touch him, and all the time it took to learn each other, it doesn't seem fair or possible for it to fade into inconsequence.

It pains Blaine that whatever he's feeling tonight, it's been worse for Kurt. With Eli, he violated the sanctity of their intimacy first. The guilt that lingers is like nausea in his heart, a sickness he wishes he could purge, but all he can do is swallow it. Perhaps the hardest thing here, now, is that Kurt is moving on without forgiving Blaine, which makes the notion of ever receiving Kurt's forgiveness seem even more unlikely, and without it, Blaine's not sure he'll ever be able to breathe properly again.

"Blaine?" Trent asks. His voice presses through the combined haze of Blaine's thoughts and the relatively discordant peppiness of Culture Club's "I'll Tumble 4 Ya".

"Hm? Sorry," Blaine says, blinking and turning his attention to Trent, who is smiling at him with hesitant sympathy.

"Do you want to dance?" Trent asks him. His words are nervous, but Blaine knows it's not nervousness over the asking, but nervousness over Blaine's maudlin space-out. They've know each other long enough to know there's no attraction between them. Trent is a good friend, even if they've never been all that close.

"Sure," Blaine says, and he looks for Sebastian, who must have excused himself. "Where's—?"

"Trust me, you don't want to know," Trent says, and he stands to offer Blaine his hand.

Taking Trent's hand is nice. There's no charge of anything between them, and it's a simple enough act here. Two boys holding hands here are notable only for their youth. Blaine looks around and sees how they are being watched.

They don't dance close, or touch very much. But they look at each other, smile, and sing along with Boy George. It quickly turns into them challenging each other to match increasingly complex footwork. It's like a two man, playful Warblers' rehearsal. It's fun. The music is good; the company is good; he can lose himself a little bit.

But each glance he spares over Trent's shoulder, he sees the other men: all adults to his and Trent's adolescence. He sees the faded paint on the rainbow flag, the flickering neon rooster, the missing bulbs in the white lettered "BOYS", and the vintage 80's video playing on the screen over the bar. And suddenly what has seemed a haven, feels like a cloister.

Around him, he sees few couples, more pairings. It's a diverse collection of men with little more in common than sharing the same cage while looking for some kind of human connection. Blaine twirls and feels a sadness wrap around him. There's an ache in his heart bigger than himself, an overwhelming compassion for the people here. He wonders how many of them have lost love, have never truly loved or been loved at all, or how many are stuck in loveless marriages built on lies? How many are just looking for a few moments of honesty and affirmation. Blaine looks around him and he sees human beings who are lonely in the world, but they are less lonely here.

For an instant, Blaine sees a flicker of his own impossible future. It's a future for one to stumble into while blind, perhaps. Or a future for those who give up, not because they're weak, but because they don't know they're allowed to keep breathing.

They're lonely, like him. And just like that, between one step to the side and a swing of his hips, Blaine keeps breathing, and out with his breath goes the nausea in his heart. He's okay. He's going to be okay.

Gratitude floods in where the pain has been. He's grateful for his past with Kurt, all of it, good and bad. And as the DJ cycles into Madonna's "True Blue", Blaine nearly laughs out loud. He's grateful he knows what the real thing—love—feels like, so he knows what doesn't. And he realizes, that for all his telling himself it's time to move on, he's still in love with Kurt. His whole body swells with it, a peculiar joy to realize and accept. He just wants to hold it in his heart, full and true.

Of course, he doesn't know what will happen with Kurt and Adam, but he has to believe that all the times he and Kurt dreamed together, that those dreams still reside in Kurt's heart too. Their relationship had consequence for them both. Trent smiles more brightly in response to Blaine's elevating mood, and Blaine takes Trent's hand and spins him.

Sebastian joins them sporting the red bruise of a fresh hickey just above the line of his collar. His smile is sharp and satisfied, and Blaine finds no judgment in his heart, for Sebastian is just another lonely boy.

The magic of Scandals flickers within him and around him again, as he lets the music move into his body, and he moves within its thrall. Andy Bell sings of being let go and of going on while still lost in love, and Blaine breathes and tips his head back to the glittering light falling around them. He knows men are looking at them—looking at him, and they are enjoying looking at him, and that's enough. He can give this much of himself to the crowd, but there's nothing else here he wants to take home with him tonight.

.

No one is waiting up for him when he gets home several minutes past his curfew. Blaine heads straight to the shower and then to bed. In the dark he gropes for the end of his phone charger, to plug his phone in for the night. It blinks with a new text notification. Ten minutes old, it's from Kurt. Blaine hesitates before opening it.

"Are you awake?" it reads.

Blaine takes a deep, painless breath and then exhales all of it. He types back, "Yes."