Spoilers (if any): None.
Warnings (if any): A secondary character's internal monologue contains a moment that's somewhat transphobic.
Word Count: ~4,100
Summary: Kurt and Blaine go back to Ohio for a few weeks of summer vacation. Assumptions run rampant.
Author's Note: Now with fatal HTML error fixed!
This continues from:
Following Home | These Thousand Names for Gratitude | All the Honesty of Politics | Circles as the Dark Winds Down | The Distance Between Ohio and Boston | All the Pretty Little Horses | Languages You Don't Even Know | Fauna and Flora
They arrive at Kurt's parents' house so late no one waits up for them. Blaine is almost relieved; they're both exhausted from a drive that's involved far too many thunderstorms and some frankly unnerving road conditions. But he can also tell that Kurt, who'd been frustrated, bored, and occasionally gritting his teeth against franticness during the drive, is disappointed.
“At least someone will be awake at breakfast,” Kurt says tartly.
“Let's get some rest,” Blaine says, guiding him towards the stairs.
They find a note from Carole left on the bed: Sorry we didn't wait up, figured you'd want to get to bed straightaway. Sleep in; we'll see you at dinner.
“Did she just tell us to spend the day in bed?” Kurt asks, waving the note around.
“I think so,” Blaine says once he finally manages to read it.
They spend the late morning fucking in Kurt's old room, Blaine's legs wrapped around Kurt's waist and both of them collapsed the wrong way on the bed after.
“Welcome to summer vacation,” Blaine says with a laugh before his breathing even settles down.
Kurt flings an arm across his eyes. “This room reeks of sex.”
Blaine shrugs. That might be a problem for Kurt, but he's feeling just fine.
Kurt fixes them lunch while Blaine leans against the counter steadily working his way down their list of somewhat bizarre social planning phone calls.
Blaine pulls the phone away from his ear for a second. “Dinner with my parents Tuesday?”
Kurt gives Blaine a look but nods. Interesting like an ugly hat isn't going to even begin to cover that experience, he's sure.
“Don't forget to call Santana back,” he adds once Blaine cancels the call.
“Are you joining me for that?”
While Kurt knows that their tentative friendship from high school blossomed at some gay student leadership conference thing Blaine had gone to last year in Pittsburg, he still prefers to pretend it's not happening.
“Is this paintball or Blaine's Advice for the Lovelorn Lesbian?” he asks.
“Would it make a difference?”
“No, not really.”
Kurt stands in the kitchen gesticulating fiercely as he tells Carole the long, sad and somewhat hilarious tale of a student senator who's just dropped out of school after getting busted via cellphone video cam using an anti-gay slur during a student union meeting.
“We've got one of the largest arts programs in the region,” Kurt says. “Who even does that?”
Blaine, who's watching from the living room while a ballgame drones on in the background, smiles. It's a crappy topic, but Kurt is grinning. When he'd first told Blaine the story, he'd said that bigots are like weather for gay people.
“You're really in this, huh?” Finn asks, startling him.
“You're always watching him, even though I bet you've heard that story a hundred times. He's it for you, isn't he?”
Blaine glances at Finn, almost suspicious, but Kurt's step-brother just has that look he always gets where he seems pleased to have made some sense of the world.
“Yeah. He really is,” Blaine says quietly.
“Is there something you two want to tell us?” Burt asks over dinner as Carole passes Kurt a bowl of peas.
Kurt freezes, clutching the bowl awkwardly over the table like he's been caught out at something; Blaine's response is to stammer, but not knowing what Kurt's father is talking about, fails to form actual words.
“I think he means the ring, sweetie,” Carole says.
“Oh!” Kurt exclaims as he sets the peas down and laughs.
Blaine deflates with something like relief before they both stop and look at each other.
“Do you want to or should I?” they wind up asking at the same time, triggering another burst of laughter.
“Sooner rather than later,” Burt says. He's not growing more patient.
“It's not what it looks like,” Kurt says hastily.
“It sort of is,” Blaine counters.
Kurt shoots him a sharp look. “I seem to recall the words 'I'm not proposing,' were involved.”
“Hey, you're still the one who wanted to everyone in Italy to think you were married.”
“And you're still the one who insisted on buying it for me!”
“I thought they were supposed to make more sense when they got out of high school,” Burt says to Carole.
“No, not really,” she replies.
“Wait, did you two get married and not tell anyone?” Finn suddenly asks.
“Could you be any later to this conversation?” Kurt says. “And no. We didn't. In what universe would I elope? Really?”
“So are you, like, engaged then?” Finn asks.
“No! It's a ring. Blaine gave it to me. I wear it. The end.”
“People are going to make assumptions,” Carole says.
“That's the point,” Kurt says huffily; he's not a child.
Blaine places a hand on Kurt's thigh.
“And you,” Burt says, gesturing at Blaine with his fork. “No eloping and no breaking his heart.”
“Already clear on that, sir,” Blaine says in a desperate gasp that renders it all one word.
“So awkward,” Kurt says after dinner when they've climbed into the car to go to a movie just because they have to get out of the house.
“It was sort of funny.”
“They were laughing at us.”
“We were laughing at us,” Blaine points out.
“If you're going to keep wearing that, we should come up with an answer about it.”
“Do you not want me to?” Kurt says sullenly.
“Didn't say that,” Blaine says, trying to keep his irritation at Kurt's passive aggressiveness out of his voice.
“You gave it to me; what do you want me to tell people about it?”
Blaine's silent as he maneuvers the car through the local streets on the way to a main road. “Do we want to talk about this in terms of dinner with my parents or in terms of the five year plan?” he finally asks.
Kurt attempts to answer and just makes a strangled sound instead.
“We kind of need to figure this out. I've got to do my abroad semester --”
“Yeah, where are you going?”
“Working on that,” he shoots back quickly, before continuing where he'd left off. “We both need to do grad school apps if we're doing that. I don't really think we're going to get a repeat run of my father's generosity if we don't stay in Boston; I don't even know how viable it's going to be for us to stay in the same city --”
“What?” Kurt says, his voice pure ice.
Blaine glances over at him. “I take it that's a vote against being apart.”
“Of course that's a vote against being apart. Did you want to be apart?”
“No, but I think we have to talk about it. We just... we did't really talk about this.”
“Yes we did.”
“For like fifteen minutes, Kurt.”
“Okay. Look, in the world where we just do your plan, what do we do?”
“Finish school, move to New York.”
Blaine raises and eyebrow. “No grad school?”
Kurt shakes his head. He knows he's supposed to want grad school, but Rachel will already have a four year head start on him in New York by the time he gets there, and somehow, in his head, they're still in competition for the same roles.
“Okay. Well. I need to do grad school,” Blaine says, regrouping. “And I can apply to some in New York, but even assuming that works, life's going to be harder if we give up the apartment.”
“I know that.”
“So, five year plan?”
Kurt takes a deep breath. “Apply where you need to apply. We'll figure it out.”
Blaine gives him a slightly skeptical look.
“You may be inconvenient, Blaine, but if you want us to break up or stop living together you're going to have to say so.”
“That's not happening,” Blaine says simply, even as he grips the steering wheel a little tighter. Living apart, which would actually be sort of normal, is clearly no longer an option for them; it's not a surprise, but the realization feels heavy nonetheless. “What are we going to do about the ring?”
“So is this about dinner with your parents or the ten year plan?” Kurt asks coyly.
Blaine smiles. “Okay, that's interesting.”
“I have no interest in getting married until it's legal on a national basis. I expect you to propose. I expect there to be a new bit of shiny involved, and I expect you to wait until you finish school,” Kurt says primly. He's sitting with his legs crossed, hands on his knees, and his body turned away from Blaine's, his nervous reflection visible in the window.
“I can do that,” Blaine replies. Now that he's been told what's expected it feels easy and inevitable.
Kurt breaks into a grin that could power nations. He also sags with relief. “And I refuse to say we're engaged until we're at a setting the date stage.”
“What's with the ring, Hummel?” Santana asks when she swings by the house before her and Blaine's paintball escapade.
“What do you think?” he shoots back as much out of habit as out of the fact that he still doesn't really trust her.
“Did Mr. After School Special finally make an honest man out of you?”
“I refuse to say we're engaged until we're at a setting the date stage,” Kurt says, just like he's been practicing. “Have fun, dear,” he mutters to Blaine, kissing him on the cheek.
“You are perfect,” Blaine replies, finding his lips.
“Blaine, stop sucking face and get in the car before I fucking yak,” Santana hollers.
“Call me if she strands you on the side of the road,” Kurt says pleasantly.
“So this thing with Santana doesn't freak you out?” Mercedes asks as they stroll through the mall.
“Oh, it totally freaks me out, but at least paintball means he's armed.”
“Plus I bet he's all hot and sweaty when he gets back.”
“You have no idea.”
“So what's with the ring?”
Kurt actually tells the whole story, including his flower shop lies, and Mercedes still says congratulations when he gets to the end of it.
“You tell him yet?” Santana asks as she slams her back against the tree Blaine is crouching against. No one would ever believe that when they do this they usually choose to be on the same team.
“What? About Shanghai?”
“He's going to go nuclear,” she says with no small amount of satisfaction as she shoots the asshole who'd asked them if they were dating in the leg, twice. Siblings is an acceptable, not infrequent, and somewhat amusing mistake when they hang out. But anything involving her lady bits and Hummel's getting confused? Not on.
“Yeah. I know.”
“The longer you wait....”
“Who the fuck does the five-, ten-, whatever- year plan discussion but neglects to mention hey, going to China for a bit?”
“Your awesome incestuous fake brother,” he says.
“I am so not above taking you out with friendly fire.”
“Oh god, everything hurts,” Blaine says, flopping down on the bed.
Kurt resists the urge to demand he shower before he messes up the duvet with all his paintball nastiness.
“Tell me none of these are from her,” Kurt says, pushing up his boyfriend's shirt to look at the bruises forming from, he assumes, paint pellets taken at close range.
Kurt raises an eyebrow.
“We're like... Team Rush Into Danger.”
Kurt shakes his head. He does not even want to know.
“I have to tell you something,” Blaine says abruptly.
Kurt makes an interrogative sound as he continues to poke at the bruises.
“I'm going to Shanghai.”
“No, really,” Blaine says.
“Are you fucking insane?” Kurt hisses.
“No. No, you are not doing that. Are you out of your mind? Do you even know what they do to gay people there? How are you.... how do you not even talk to me about this?”
“I'm talking to you about it now.”
“No, you're telling me, Blaine. And I'm sorry, but I think stuff that's actually dangerous should probably involve my informed consent.”
Blaine sighs. Kurt is both so wrong and so right all at once. “It's not illegal, Kurt,” he says with all the patience he can muster. “It's been removed from the legal codes and their version of the DSM for ages. There's been discussion of marriage rights. On things like employment people are actually more positive towards gay people there than here, and I need international experience.”
“Um? Europe? Europe's international. I thought you were going to go to Europe. And I could visit you. And – ”
“Kurt,” Blaine says, sitting up and taking both of Kurt's hands. “Look at me. One day we're going to go to Europe, together. But we have got to learn how to grow up together without each other and --”
“Is this what that crap the other night was about?”
“'I don't know if we're even going to wind up in the same place.' That crap!”
“Well, it was a reasonable question.”
“No. It wasn't.”
“Are you really going to let an incredibly impulsive choice we made in high school dictate the rest of our lives without questioning it?”
“I don't need to question it, Blaine!”
For a moment, Blaine doesn't say anything, mesmerized by the tears forming in Kurt's eyes as he tries to calm his breathing. The whole situation is awful in an entirely different way than he anticipated.
“Well, I do,” he says softly.
“Blaine, if you're not --”
“I'm sure. Kurt, I'm so sure. But I'm sure because I keep double-checking.”
“I'm going to marry you,” Kurt says after a long silence; it's not quite a question, but he needs it confirmed.
“And you're going to go to China.”
“Yes. Although.... not in that order.”
“I don't want you to,” Kurt says. He sounds so young.
“It's going to suck.”
“The time difference is different, that's all.”
Kurt tugs his hands away from Blaine's, remembering his dismay. “They censor the Internet!” he shouts, and gets up to pace, almost relieved to have found a new, more factually accurate source of outrage.
“So does, like, Australia,” Blaine says.
“Okay, in terms of overall human rights violations, that's a terrible comparison.”
“The world is really fucked up, Kurt.”
“I know that.”
“And it's impossible to change that without getting your hands dirty. I don't live in the US because it's perfect, and I'm not going to China because it's perfect. I just need to see more.”
“You don't even speak Chinese!”
“Yeah, well, now you know what I'm doing the rest of the summer.”
Kurt deflates. “I'm not changing your mind, am I?”
“How long have you been sitting on this knowing I was going to freak out?”
“A few weeks.”
“You tell Wes?”
“Who else?” Kurt asks, prepared to reach door slamming levels of angry if he's been the last to know.
“I hate that. I hate that you tell people stuff before me because you're afraid I'm going to freak out.”
“If I tell you things first, Kurt; you will always, always be able to talk me out of them. And sometimes I need to know I'm not going to let that happen.”
Kurt frowns, thinking.
“You have so much power over me,” Blaine says softly, voice awed.
Kurt gives him a crooked smile, even if everything in his chest aches with tears he knows will eventually come. “You still need a shower.”
It's an awkward change of topics, but Blaine's nothing if not grateful for it. He groans as he pulls his shirt over his head.
“You did it to yourself,” Kurt says with forced good humor; he feels justified in being a bit cruel right now.
Blaine doesn't tell him that it wasn't Santana's nagging, but the pain, like punishment out of order, that finally made him able to talk with him about his plans. Somehow, he figures Kurt already knows.
He jumps when Kurt, naked, pulls back the shower curtain and joins him in the spray. This isn't something they do, and he'd assumed Kurt had urged him into the shower so that he could sulk, or, worse, nurse his anger with a little bit of privacy.
Blaine's about to comment to that effect when Kurt presses his thumb hard into one of the bruises on his thigh. Blaine hisses from the pain, but doesn't pull away, and Kurt keeps pressing while watching him curiously. Between the tilt of his head and his eerie eyes and how different their bodies are – he's so hairy, and Kurt so isn't – it's almost like they're two different species. Blaine feels like he's being studied.
“You like that,” Kurt says when Blaine's dick, already more than half hard, twitches.
“I like you,” Blaine tries.
But Kurt crowds him back into the cool tile and presses on the same spot, harder this time, and Blaine moans. Kurt smirks at him, smug.
“Are you still angry?” Blaine asks. Is that why you're doing this?
“It's nothing I won't get over,” he says. “That makes me angry,” he adds, fingers alternately tracing light patterns on Blaine's leg. “I will always be able to change your mind and you will always make me want to give in. And I hate it. I think most people do. I think that's why most relationships are disasters. And I think I can live with it, even if I need to pretend I don't want to and I really, really don't want you to go to fucking Shanghai.”
It's a weird monologue, but that doesn't mean Blaine's not appreciative of it anyway. “Thank you,” he says softly, and Kurt's smile is crooked, almost shy.
Later, when Kurt's on his knees, thumbs digging into bruises again, and sucking him off, Blaine finally understands why this is happening; water covers many sins and after, in bed, Kurt curls close and small.
“Blaine's going to China,” Kurt announces at dinner, after their nap.
Everyone freezes. Kurt's tone is just brittle enough that, while they are unsure as to whether they should take him seriously, they are at least certain he is not entirely pleased with Blaine.
“For my study abroad,” Blaine clarifies, his voice serious and calm.
“When was this decided?” Burt asks, and Blaine thinks this man and his son are more alike than either of them realize.
“I've been thinking about it for a while, but Kurt and I just talked it through today.”
“Kurt?” his father asks.
“Unexpected. Not something I can veto. I'll adjust. I know Blaine certainly suffered when I was in Italy,” he says breezily.
Kurt's trying. It's awkward, but he is trying. They both know it, and Kurt squeezes Blaine's hand under the table.
“You're sure this is okay?” Kurt asks, indicating his outfit as they ring the bell at Blaine's parents' house.
Blaine beams at him. “Certain.”
Blaine's mother answers the door and pulls Blaine in to a hug before doing the same to Kurt. It surprises him, and the smell of her makeup is very expensive.
When Mr. Anderson appears by her side to shake their hands, it's like watching Blaine greet a stranger, all business and charm. When Kurt shakes his father's hand, they narrow their eyes at each other, just a little, but it's almost funny, like respect amongst animals.
After dinner, over a cheese plate and a glass of port that Kurt has declined because he's pretty sure it's a test, Blaine's mother asks about the ring.
Kurt opens his mouth to give his new, usual answer, which has really been working deliciously well whenever he's needed it, but Blaine is already answering, telling the whole of the story, at least from his perspective, as it really happened. His voice is easy and confident and not embarrassed at all. Kurt thinks it's something of a marvel.
“I'm going to marry him one day, but right now it's nobody's business when. We have too much else to do. So while that's not an engagement ring --”
“I've made that very clear,” Kurt says dryly.
“-- there's really no reason for him to take it off if he doesn't want to.”
“Well, you two certainly seem to know what you want,” Blaine's father says, and Kurt can tell he doesn't even mean it to be snide.
“Blaine's going to China,” Kurt says when he realizes that he feels as if the most private parts of his life are far too on display here in this house where he and Blaine are both nothing more than guests.
Blaine helps his mother with the dishes, while Kurt is left alone with Blaine's father.
“So what do you think of this?” the man asks him.
“I certainly think the dinner invitation was a step in the right direction. You'll have to let us return the favor next time,” Kurt says primly, imagining them taking Blaine's parents to a nice restaurant and insisting, almost cruelly, on picking up the check.
“I meant Shanghai.”
“Ah, well. You'd have been very proud of Blaine. Standing up to me really isn't that easy.” Kurt says pleased at just how backhandedly complimentary this moment allows him to be.
For a moment there is silence, and Kurt thinks he's gone too far. But then Mr. Anderson barks with laughter – genuine, sincere laughter like Kurt's never heard from him before – and suddenly he can see Blaine in his smile. Kurt smiles back, tentative and awkward; he's so unsure he even feels the muscles around his mouth trembling.
“Do you know what you've taught me, Kurt?” Blaine's father asks.
“What's that?” Kurt says, and he tries not to cringe as it comes off just a bit more flirty and queer than he had intended.
“That no man can be too clever.”
Kurt turns his head away for a moment, proud and shy and certain he's blushing. In the kitchen, he sees Blaine's mother run a hand through her son's curls, and Kurt understands, finally, that this family is different from his own, and this house is a place where love comes slowly.
When they return to Boston, Blaine takes four hours of Mandarin each morning and works as a tutor again in the afternoons.
Kurt returns to his store of the previous summer, but Lisa and Odi are gone, having moved to Portland without so much as an email to him, and Kurt finds himself not just sad, but relieved, as he remembers himself shaking and fucked out in Blaine's arms.
He calls Alex in Rome and without preamble tells her that Blaine is going to Shanghai.
“I'd ask you what you've done to deserve that, but it was probably something resembling being a perfectly reasonable adult,” she says.
Kurt laughs; they both know it isn't true.
When the evenings are warm, he and Blaine sit in the grass by the river, watching the sculling teams come in for the evening, tired and sweaty and part of some mythos of their adopted city that has never quite grabbed either of them.
By the water they don't talk much, but sit close and share food and, occasionally, wine. One day, they now know, they will leave this place together. That's far bigger than Blaine going to Shanghai and, in some silent truth, scares Kurt more.
As the sun sets, Blaine tends to ghost his fingers over the back of Kurt's neck, playing with the hair there, gentle and fine. Kurt's response is simply to smile out over the water and slide his hand onto Blaine's thigh where he digs his thumb into bruises he has refused to let heal until Blaine gasps softly and suggests they go home.
Next: Under Glass We Are Expected to Blossom