When Sea Levels Rise, Kurt/Blaine, NC-17
Spoilers (if any): None.
Warnings (if any): None.
Word Count: ~3,400
Summary: Kurt starts to have something resembling a career.
Author's Note: I've tried to avoid putting song notes into the front of these, because most references seem obvious to me or aren't important if you don't know them. However, in this story the unnamed song Kurt sings in the piano bar is Tori Amos's "Pretty Good Year," and a song mentioned later, "My Simple Christmas Wish," probably needs the context of you hearing it. I assume you all can find "Rainbow High" on your own if you don't already know it.
This continues from:
Boston: 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 | Where Water Doesn't Speak | Under Glass We Are Expected to Blossom | You Were Someone Else Before We Came Here
D.C.: Strategies and Tactics | The Many Shades of Sugar
They're at brunch – Kurt and Seanna, Henry and George – on one of those strange too warm days of early spring. Blaine's with them too, because no one who's actually in his program will really talk to him anymore. After all the drama, even the cabal members' partners would rather not be seen with him in public. Henry's wife is almost an exception, and Blaine has found a certain comfort in being such an overtly adopted stray.
“All right, time for me to go,” Kurt says, pushing back his chair and grabbing his dance bag from under the table.
He leans down to give Blaine a kiss.
“Be good,” he says softly, and Blaine nods as if pleased to be the subject of that vague control. “Don't wear anything I wouldn't wear,” he calls to the rest of them with a little wave as he goes.
“Anderson, while I love Lizzy, there's no universe in which I'd wear anything he wears.”
Blaine smiles and take a sip of his free watery brunch mimosa. “I can't believe he lets you call him that.”
“How do you all feel about sangria?” George asks.
“We feel yes,” Seanna says, and he flags down their waiter as she turns to Blaine. “So how's he doing?”
“What do you mean? You see him all the time.”
She shrugs. “He won't talk to me about his other dance classes. I think he thinks it's like cheating or something.”
“Oh,” Blaine says, slightly startled at the observation. “He might, actually.”
She smiles. “Does that means it's going well?”
“I think so, yes. I --” Blaine starts and then stops. “Never mind.”
“You were about to say something about sex,” Henry states.
Before Blaine can reply two pitchers of sangria appear in the center of the table. He intends to say something about that being excessive for only four people, but with George as the instigator it hardly seems worth the trouble.
“I'm glad,” she says as George reaches across the table, grabs the remains Blaine's mimosa and downs it in one long swallow.
“All right. Now that we've resolved that, red or white?” he asks.
“I cannot believe you're all still here,” Kurt says when he swings back into his seat beside Blaine three hours later.
“We've been drinking,” George says.
“Yes, I can see that,” Kurt notes at the three empty sangria pitchers on the table.
“How was class?” Blaine asks.
“Yes, Lizzy, tell us how class was,” Henry adds in a tone that makes Kurt arch an eyebrow.
“Watch it, or you might stop being my favorite,” Kurt says replies. “Good,” he adds turning to Blaine. “Actually, really, really good.”
Seanna smiles. “Did someone just discover he likes class?”
“Oh my god, can I have some of your nachos?” Kurt asks, ignoring her question and reaching across the table towards her plate.
“I think,” Henry says after another hour and another pitcher, “we're starting to reach the you don't have to go home but you can't stay here point.”
“What do you want to do?” Blaine asks Kurt.
“Can we go to the piano bar?” Kurt murmurs, but Blaine understands that the question is actually slightly different than the one Kurt asked. What Kurt means is Do you think we should? and Should I let our new friends see me sing? It's like coming out, Blaine thinks, but for possessing too much beauty.
“Yeah,” Blaine says as Kurt sits next to him close and quiet, “I think that's a great idea.”
They're there for an hour before Blaine finally pushes himself out of his chair.
“Okay if I go first?” he asks, knowing that no one, least of all Kurt, is going to protest.
“I warn you all, he's going to do something Top 40 and appalling,” Kurt says as soon as Blaine is out of earshot.
“But he's good, right?” George asks.
“He's fantastic, he's just --”
They all pause for a moment trying to take in what's happening as Blaine snickers to himself when the pianist starts playing.
“Is he seriously singing 'Papa Don't Preach?'” Henry asks.
“Define seriously,” Kurt says.
“Kurt, you got something for us?” Blaine asks into the mic when he's done and everyone is laughing.
Kurt shakes his head. “Not yet.”
But the thin crowd – it's still early – led by the bartender and the cocktail waitress on duty, holler his name and cheer for him to go up to the mic anyway.
Kurt laughs, shakes his head again, and actually blushes, mouthing not yet again to Blaine.
“He'll be up later,” Blaine says to the room. “Sorry. I might have shaken him up a little bit with the pregnancy news.”
Kurt punches one shoulder and Seanna the other when he sits down.
“I cannot believe you,” Kurt hisses.
“Come on, you loved it,” Blaine says and kisses him.
“I love you, but that has never precluded murder.”
When Kurt does finally gets up to sing, he gives Blaine a little kiss first and murmurs something so softly his boyfriend doesn't even catch what it is.
But when the song starts, the song Kurt's been fighting with for weeks at their piano for no reason Blaine's been exactly sure of, he understands why. There's a gentleness to it and a rage in the middle, and because of the way New Directions always was, Kurt has always made a point to tell Blaine when a song that might seem like it's about him isn't.
By the second line, Seanna gives a little gasp and puts a hand over her mouth in a gesture that actually reminds Blaine of Kurt. He doesn't know if she recognizes the song, is startled at the lyric, or hasn't previously realized that Kurt sounds like this. George and Henry are mesmerized too; Blaine can tell, because Henry is drinking fast, and George is just frozen, his glass inches away from his lips.
Kurt has his eyes closed as he reaches into the lower part of his register for the song's odd bridge and Blaine can't help but flinch as Kurt sings it because there is so much anger there. But of course there is. That's why he sings, and why Blaine is killing himself in grad school instead.
“Sorry about that,” Kurt mumbles into the mic when the song is over and everyone applauds ferociously after an uncomfortable pause. He gives one of his funny little curtsies, and then adds more confidently. “I'll sing something sweet later. I promise.”
Seanna whips her head around to face Blaine. “They love him,” she says. She sounds oddly startled.
“Why is he even here?” Henry adds.
“Because Blaine's in grad school, and I'm learning to dance,” Kurt says lightly, sliding into his chair beside Blaine and taking his hand.
“I had no idea,” George says.
“Yes, well,” Kurt says not knowing what else to offer. “Me too.”
Blaine rubs his hand up and down Kurt's arm. “Are you happy with it?” he asks.
Kurt tilts his head from side to side, uncertain, but enjoying the attention. “It's closer.”
“If you can do that why the fuck are you slumming around with all of us?” Henry asks.
Kurt peers at him curiously, like he doesn't even understand the question. “Love.”
Later, despite the fact that it's 80 degrees out and George has just embarrassed them all with a thoroughly charismatic, yet oddly terrible rendition of “Ring of Fire,” Blaine convinces Kurt to sing “Baby, It's Cold Outside,” with him.
“You promised them sweet,” Blaine says as he tries to talk him into it.
“Yes, and the very charming date rape song you didn't even use to hook up with me when we were sixteen is a perfect choice,” Kurt says acerbically.
“But it really is,” Blaine says.
Kurt doesn't protest further, but when they get up beside the piano leans into the mic and says, “Just so we're clear, I was cajoled into this.” He doesn't even mean it to be funny, but it is, of course, in the way it suits the song.
At the end of it, they kiss, chaste and theatrical, grinning at each other instead of the audience for just a hair too long.
Yet before Blaine can lead him back to their table, the cocktail waitress -- Jody, if Blaine remembers correctly – links her arm with Kurt's and leads him away towards the bar.
“I need to borrow him,” she says, leaving Blaine looking slightly befuddled.
“Your boy's been kidnapped,” George says, when Blaine gets back to their table.
Blaine nods, unsure of how to respond to such a statement of the obvious.
“Let us know if we need to rescue him for you,” Henry says.
“Er, thanks,” Blaine says. “I can probably handle it.”
“He can probably handle it,” Seanna says.
“Yes, that too,” Blaine says sheepishly. Kurt's never been the one with a problem finding his way back home.
When Kurt bounces back to their table twenty minutes later, Blaine knows he has news, but can't figure out what it could be.
“Jody just got a tour,” he says.
“The tour's six months.”
“Which means this place is going to be down a cocktail waitress,” Kurt leads.
“And?” Blaine doesn't want to leap to conclusions, but he's definitely about to.
“And, if I want, she's going to recommend me as her replacement. It's not Broadway. It's not even New York. But it's a job, singing.”
“We are going to come here all the time,” George says very seriously.
Of course Kurt gets the job, and of course they do – the cabal and even some of Blaine's classmates hanging out at the bar a couple of nights a week. It makes Kurt glad. But it also makes him wonder if the only reason anyone can forgive him for the previous semester's social disaster (even if he does sing “My Simple Christmas Wish” every single shift) is because in a way, he's working for them now. That's what performing, and slinging drinks, is.
Blaine stays home more often than not. He doesn't want his presence to make the job seem less than it is, and he can also do without seeing just how much his boyfriend flirts for his tips. The exaggerated swing of his hips as he ferries drinks between his little three song sets is one thing, but the dropping himself into the laps of older men who clearly adore him in the middle of breathy songs normally sung by women is another.
Blaine marvels that Kurt is able to work a room in this way; it's something he never expected, and it's fine, but it's more fine, and better for Kurt's wallet, if Blaine's not there staring at the ring that still makes nearly no sense on Kurt's finger.
When he does go, it's usually just towards the bitter end of the night to give Kurt a lift home. They value that time in the car immensely; their schedules now complicated and not in sync enough that it's one of the few guaranteed moments of connection they have outside of bed. But Blaine, so grateful that D.C. is no longer wasting Kurt's time and talent, doesn't complain.
“I'm going to New York next week,” Kurt says in the second half of May when Blaine's just about to descend into papers and projects and examinations.
“For?” he asks, cursing himself for actually sounding nervous.
“There's an open call. For one of the agencies that casts most of the chorus replacements on Broadway and for a bunch of the tours. Rachel told me about it.”
Blaine puts down the pencil he was using to keep his place in the text he was skimming and turns to Kurt. “Wow.”
“In D.C., yes,” Kurt says, puzzled.
Blaine stands up and grips Kurt's shoulders, stunned that he feels this terrified and envious of what Kurt has always intended to do. “Not what I meant,” he says softly.
Kurt decides not to ask for clarification and kisses him chastely instead before twirling away from him.
“So, it's Wednesday morning. I'm taking a 2am bus; Rachel's going to hold us a place in line, and I should be there with her by 8. I'll come back the other way as soon as we have our post-mortem lunch.”
“I hope you get it,” Blaine says, and means it, even though it would probably be disastrous for their equilibrium.
“I won't,” Kurt says airily. “But I do need to see how far I am from yes.”
Blaine smiles at him, so, so ridiculously proud. That Kurt can look any type of no in the eye with equanimity amazes him; the coy and timid boy he'd first met at Dalton was shattering from rejection.
Blaine takes a break from studying to drive Kurt to the bus station.
“You have your resumes? And your head shots? And --”
“And products, and a mirror so I can freshen up on the line, the snacks you packed me, and my return ticket. Yes, Blaine. Now stop fretting.”
“Okay,” he says sheepishly.
Kurt smiles at him softly and presses a hand to his cheek. “I'm sorry I won't be in bed tonight.”
“I'll survive,” Blaine says, and then reaches unceremoniously towards Kurt zipper.
“What are you doing?” Kurt hisses, head darting frantically around to look out at the thankfully empty parking lot.
“Making sure you can sleep on the bus,” Blaine says before taking Kurt's cock into his mouth. Kurt slams his open palm against the window as he tries to brace himself against the startling, absurd pleasure of it all.
After, when Blaine nuzzles against his thigh, Kurt cards his fingers through Blaine's curls and says, “I love you,” over and over again as quietly as he can, because Blaine seems to need to hear it. Kurt honestly hopes they never need to discuss why.
New York is beautiful early in the morning, and Kurt feels proud, like everyone must know exactly where he's going, as he strides down the street to the church basement where the auditions are. The line of non-union hopefuls like him wraps around the block, but Rachel's not too far back, lounging smugly in a folding chair.
Kurt laughs. “You came prepared.”
“I have sixteen bars of everything, the perfect headshot, and a folding chair. I can't lose,” she says. It lacks the grating certainty of their high school lives, but she's heard enough no by now Kurt knows. It doesn't make her confidence less lovely. In fact, in a way, this is the first time her confidence has seemed lovely at all.
After she interrogates him about what he's singing (“I haven't decided, yet,” he says, even though he knows it's going to be “Rainbow High”) and is catty about the the top-ten American Idol finalist from three years ago who's about 20 feet behind them online, Kurt tells her about Blaine's little send off.
“Do you know,” Rachel says, “you have never once dished to me about your sex life once in all the time we've known each other?”
“That's not why I'm telling you this.”
“No, I know,” she says, turning serious.
“I don't think he's ever really bothered to think about what will happen if I succeed.”
“He probably hasn't,” she says. “Most people don't.”
“He's always been sure, but....”
“You'll figure it out,” she says, her voice turning brittle. “You two always do.”
Kurt nods, not knowing what else to say. The truth is he's a little bit angry at Blaine.
They get inside the building just before noon, and Kurt finds himself singing Evita to a sole auditor in what looks like little more than a broom closet sometime around one.
“Interesting choice,” the man says when Kurt's done and then staples a little yellow card to the top corner of his resume and hands it back to him. “You're past the first round; take this up to the check-in table and they'll point you to the next line.”
Kurt is breathless and shaky in his thank-yous and half crashes into the room's door as he leaves.
“Oh god, oh god, oh god,” he says, bouncing up and down when he finds Rachel on that next line.
“I should have warned you,” she says. “There was no way you weren't going to get past that first one,” she says. “I always do.”
“This is my first time,” Kurt hisses at her. “Don't make it small.”
She takes his hand as they wait, but says nothing else.
In the next room, there are three auditors behind a table, and Kurt has a moment of uncertainty about his song choice. Yesterday, he'd thought it was funny, but now it seems just smug and weird to him, and he's no one, with a resume that only lists his job, his degree, his dance classes, and, god help him, high school.
“You live in D.C.?” the man seated in the middle asks.
“My partner's finishing school there; we'll be moving to New York as soon as he's done,” Kurt says, fudging the two years Blaine has left.
“And you --”
“Took a bus up here at 2am, yes.”
“Committed,” she says.
“Always,” Kurt says, like it's slightly embarrassing.
“All right, what are you going to sing for us?” asks the man on the end.
When he gets a raised eyebrow in response, Kurt gives the auditor his most flirtatious smile, takes a breath, and sings.
After, he tries to stop himself from twisting his torso back and forth while he waits for their response, but he can't; he's giddy and singing that song has always felt good; it is one of the first that ever granted him the right to exist.
“You have an amazing voice,” says that man in the middle.
“Thank you,” Kurt says, suddenly shy, hoping this man is the most important of his auditors.
“But you're not ready for this; and you're going to be a hard fit for a lot of shows.”
Kurt takes a deep breath and nods. He knows this, or at least he knew this, but he can feel the tears in his eyes.
“But if I don't see you back here with more on this resume, soon, I think we're all going to be seriously disappointed.”
Kurt nods furiously. “Absolutely. Thank you. Thank you so much,” he says breathlessly before giving them a wide grin and running out of the room. This time he doesn't crash into the door.
Outside on the street in front of the church Rachel is waiting for him, and he picks her up and spins her around.
“Oh my god, DID YOU GET IT?” she squeals at him once he puts her down.
Kurt shakes his head. “No. No. But one day I'm going to. Oh my god,” he says still shaking. “How did you do?”
“They'll let me know,” she says tightly. “That means no.”
“Let's go get lunch?” he asks, mainly because he just needs to sit down.
When she nods, he picks up her folding chair and slings it over his shoulder, a courtesy learned from Blaine.
When Kurt gets home, Blaine opens the door for him before he can even finish fumbling with his keys. Kurt drops his bag on the floor and pulls Blaine into a tight hug.
“Was it good? Was it... what happened?” Blaine asks, the tension in him acutely obvious.
“I pretty much got the best no a person can get,” Kurt says, setting Blaine away from him.
“I am so proud of you,” his boyfriend says for what seems like the dozenth time in two days.
Kurt smiles. “I sang 'Rainbow High.'”
Blaine smiles. “I bet you sold the hell out of it.”
“Arms and all,” Blaine adds, trying to stifle a laugh.
And Kurt smiles indulgently, remembering Blaine's reaction to his audition for the Warblers. “Arms and all,” he says and takes Blaine's hand, kissing the center of his palm.