Spoilers (if any): None.
Warnings (if any): None.
Word Count: ~3,200
Summary: Summer is difficult; Blaine is destroying America; and there's a reason Kurt's never been to the beach.
Song Note: Kurt sings along with Florence + the Machine's "Cosmic Love."
Author's Note: Sorry for the long delay. We were moving house in somewhat emergency circumstances. We're settled now, and updates should continue at a more regular pace.
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 | When Sea Levels Rise
Blaine starts an internship with a lobbyist group at the beginning of June.
“I feel a little bit filthy,” he says as Kurt fixes his tie before his first day of work.
It's not, of course, that Blaine, Dalton-boy, can't tie a tie. It's that he doesn't do it with enough flair for Kurt's standards, and so nearly every time he puts one on, his boyfriend pulls it off him with annoyance, criticizing how he fails to dimple the fabric below the knot. Then he fixes it for him. In a way that feels old and married and, well, heterosexual.
Blaine loves it.
“There,” Kurt says, taking a step back from him. “Now you don't look like you're playing dress up.”
“I didn't --”
“Because of a tie dimple?”
“Less disgust, Blaine; tie dimples are important.”
“Why do you feel filthy?” Kurt asks, all too aware that Blaine's nervous comments are never really idle.
“Oh, you know, today I get indoctrinated into the system of mass influence and favors that's destroying America,” he says, trying to be light and failing.
Kurt tilts his head and tries not to laugh. “Blaine?”
“Hate yourself less.”
For a moment, Blaine toys with being offended but laughs instead. “That's your advice?”
Kurt shakes his head, laughing. It's not entirely kind. “Consider it an order,” he says, tone gentle and hopeful.
“I'll try?” Blaine offers.
“I'll take what I can get,” Kurt says, kissing him. “Be brilliant today.”
The internship sucks. And not because the internship sucks; it's fantastic, actually, and involves Blaine having real work and real meetings and even a real title other than intern, and Kurt ties his tie every day so that he never looks like he's playing dress up.
It just sucks because it puts them on completely different schedules with one or the other of them always sleeping in odd blocks so they can at least pretend to start and end each day together. It's ridiculous and exhausting. Kurt knows reasonable couples just do things like not making sure they take thirty minutes each night to chatter with each other in the dark regardless of whether or not they also take time to fuck.
But he and Blaine aren't reasonable couples.
“Blaine, you have to be up before seven,” Kurt says.
“Yes, and I have to drive you to the bus station at two.”
“You don't,” Kurt sighs. “At least take a nap. You'll be exhausted.”
“I'm not tired,” Blaine says, petulant in front of their television.
“I can change that,” Kurt says, skimming a foot along the floor behind him as he kneels and slides Blaine's zipper down.
Blaine laughs at the way Kurt is delightful and pointed and coy, his tongue flicking over Blaine's slit as if he doesn't know exactly what he's doing.
After, in retribution, Blaine, sated and still amused, pulls Kurt's hands away from himself.
“Later for you,” he teases, dragging Kurt back up onto the couch.
He holds onto him tightly then, arms around his middle, and Kurt shifts and whines and huffs, half-hard and restless, until it's time for him to get ready to go: another bus ride, another audition, another practice run for the rest of his life.
Some auditions are better than others. There is – as Rachel says, smug and jealous but not wrong – no straight line to yes.
Kurt notices he tends to do worse at calls for men only and suspects it's more his nerves – all these beautiful New York boys with their gossip and kisses and brunch plans and he's still some kid from Ohio – than his talent.
But even so, by god, if nothing else, he is learning to smile. What other choice is there? At a call for Wicked replacements he's told, “I'll call you when I'm casting La Cage.”
Kurt would rather die than be a Cagelle, but wonders, not for the first time, if he could ever get away with auditioning in drag.
“I'll call you when I'm casting La Cage,” Kurt mimics viciously when he gets home, sweaty and tired with stiff legs from the bus ride and pissed off, but Blaine wants to know how it went.
“Awwww, I like that show,” Blaine says.
“If you were me, and you got told that, how would you feel?” Kurt asks.
“Less flattered than I'd feel if I were me?” Blaine offers.
While Kurt desperately wants to continue with his annoyance, he can't help but laugh.
“What?” Blaine asks.
“I was just thinking about you shaving your legs.”
“I'd sell my soul to do it, you know,” Kurt says into the dark that night when they go to bed early, wrapped up in each other and completely uninterested in sex.
“What?” Blaine asks, carding his fingers through Kurt's hair, knowing he may well stay ruffled from this audition for days.
“La Cage. Anything really.”
“You can't be sure.”
“But I am.”
“You don't know what it's like.”
Blaine takes a deep breath to stop himself from replying to that. His dreams are, in their way, just as impossible as Kurt's, but this is hardly the time to say so.
“I like this,” Henry says, and gestures from Blaine, who, still in his suit with his tie loosened and mangled, is twisting in his bar stool, to Kurt, who's picking up an order at the service bar.
“Why?” Kurt snarks, exaggerating the motion of his hips as he turns away from them, tray in hand.
“It's very narrative,” he tells Blaine after Kurt's gone to deliver his drinks. “Weary businessman, cocktail waitress –”
“Waiter,” Blaine corrects automatically.
“– in need of rescue.”
Blaine chuckles, but it sounds tired.
“He's been prickly lately,” Henry says.
“You're both exhausted.”
Blaine shrugs. It is what it is. He and Kurt both know it's not personal.
“What are you two doing for the Fourth?”
“As little as possible,” Blaine says.
“He working?” Henry asks.
Blaine shakes his head.
“Come to Virginia Beach with us,” Henry says lightly, as if suggesting they have another beer.
“Kate's parents have a place there.”
“I don't think we want to impose on your in-laws,” Blaine says cautiously.
“Why?” Henry asks with a laugh. “It's not like they're going to be there.”
“I didn't think he'd be the type enjoy this so much,” Kate says a week later as she and Blaine watch Kurt and Henry race across the sand and through shallow waves.
Blaine's not sure what the game is or if there even is one, but they've been at it, shouting and laughing, for a good twenty minutes now.
“Me either,” he says, mellow from the sun, as he lets his hand dangle off the edge of his lounger and brush against hers. “We've never been to the beach together before.”
“In some other world, they are totally dating each other,” she notes as Kurt dives across the sand to tackle Henry and misses, managing only a loose grip on his ankle that quickly slips before they're up and running again.
Blaine shrugs and chuckles. “He has a wife in Rome,” he says, his voice sun-drugged.
“What?” Kate squeals and sits up.
Blaine barks with laughter, proud suddenly of freaking her out so badly. It'll make Kurt happy later. “Not really. But he apparently talked a lot of shit when he was in Rome and people believed him.”
“Ah,” she says, knowing there's something to get, but not quite knowing what it is.
“I'm very used to his other universes,” Blaine says. “He has a lot of them.”
“And you?” Kate asks.
“Oh, you know,” he says, grabbing her hand properly. “Even in the place where I marry you, I'd still be having an affair with him.”
“It'd break Henry's heart.”
“I'm sure, but you'd understand.”
She squeezes his hand. “Always.”
“You surprised me today,” Blaine says as he watches Kurt slather aloe over his chest and arms before a strictly scheduled pre-dinner nap.
“Why?” Kurt asks, his guard instantly going up.
“I've never seen you like that around other people.”
“Undressed,” Blaine says with a shy chuckle.
“I was wearing trunks.”
“You know what I mean.”
“80 SPF, once an hour. Worth every penny. You should send Neutrogena a thank you note.”
“I don't disagree,” he says, reaching out to him and grazing his knuckles down along Kurt's back.
“But that's not what you meant,” Kurt says, slumping just slightly in defeat.
“No. It's not.”
“Well?” Kurt says.
“Why haven't we been to the beach before?”
“Because no one's ever asked.” Kurt says tartly.
“I always thought you wouldn't be comfortable with it,” Blaine mumbles. He feels like an asshole now that he's said it aloud.
“I'm not ashamed of my body, and I'm not afraid of the sun,” Kurt says primly, as if he's had this speech prepared for a long time. “But when you grow up being told it's too forward to even speak to one of your classmates, there are things you learn not to do. Being around so much flesh is one of them.”
“I'm sorry,” Blaine says reflexively.
“Why? It's not your fault,” Kurt says, returning to attention to his arms, which he now seems to be examining for freckles.
Blaine makes a helpless gesture, frustrated and guilty in the face of the way Kurt is so breezy about so many of his wounds.
“Stop, Blaine. It's okay.”
“How can it be?”
Kurt shrugs. “You reached for my hand first.”
“That's true of all your friends, isn't it?” Blaine says, puzzling it out while he speaks. “I mean, the ones you keep.”
Kurt smiles like a cat, eyes slitting closed with smug pleasure. “Very good,” he says, and looks up, reaching out his hand to skim fingertips down Blaine's arm.
The four of them eat out on the deck and drink too much at dinner, acknowledging that it seems sort of funny without George there, but what else is the beach for?
“God, it's not like we can fuck,” Henry says, and when everyone freezes for half a second, he clarifies. “Sand in bad places.”
Blaine laughs so hard he almost chokes, which gets Kate going until she has tears running down her cheeks and is holding her sides in pain.
“You're very naughty,” Kurt says to Henry.
Henry's pleased with himself. “It wasn't intentional. But oh, Blaine is priceless.”
Kurt spares his boyfriend a sympathetic glance, but only briefly.
By the time they're all nibbling on dessert, mediocre cannoli they find in the freezer that Kate suggests have probably been there since last summer, they've got the stereo turned up and are singing along with everything, neighbors be damned. When “Cosmic Love” comes on, Kurt uses every bit of power he's got, and it's loud and not just a little bit terrifying. He doesn't look at any of them while he sings, even as they're all singing too, and just leans over the balcony instead, sending it out to sea.
After, Blaine touches him lightly between the shoulder blades, but knows better than to ask if he's okay.
“You should use that as an audition song,” Henry says, interrupting the moment.
“He's not wrong,” Blaine adds.
In the morning, Kate, wrapped in a dressing gown and sipping a mug of coffee, finds Kurt in yoga pants stretching on the deck, legs spread and chest pushing towards the floor.
Kurt's first instinct is to apologize and scamper up, but instead he hides by pushing himself lower. “I thought everyone was still asleep.”
“I didn't mean to disturb you,” she says.
“It's all right,” he says, sitting up. He pulls his legs in and pushes his knees to the floor, his back going disturbingly straight.
“Blaine still asleep?”
“Apparently that's what vacation is for,” Kurt says dryly.
“Among other things I'm sure,” she says with just enough edge to her voice that Kurt has to bite back the instinct to ask if she and Henry were too drunk to fuck last night.
But he makes a non-committal sound instead and shifts his right leg around until he's in a hurdler's stretch.
“Does it feel good, or do you just have to?” Kate asks, sipping at her coffee and fidgeting in a way that Kurt suspects means she used to be a smoker.
A long response unspools itself in his head, about the time he and Blaine watched Farewell, My Concubine together in college, drunk, about a month before Blaine left for Shanghai. They'd fallen asleep halfway through and never finished it, but Kurt has never exorcised it from his head; he remembers a small boy being trained to perform, pushed up against a wall with his legs spread and held open by cinderblocks, a body forced to suppleness. The wine made he and Blaine lazy, but Kurt had been filled with an unreasonable rage that no one had ever hurt him in any way that was useful.
All he says to Kate is, “I just have to,” as he gives her an easy smile.
“What I wouldn't give to be out there,” Blaine says, nodding his head towards the ocean where several large sailboats are close enough in to shore to flaunt their luxury.
“You are so our little Kennedy,” Kate says.
Kurt snorts. “Just don't actually go into politics and we're good,” he says, ruffling his boyfriend's hair before launching himself out of his beach chair and running towards the water. He finishes with a cartwheel into the shallows.
“It's funny,” Kate says absently. “Somehow, I always thought he'd be the uncommunicative one.”
“It's funny,” Blaine echoes back at her. “Somehow I always thought you'd be the nice one.”
Henry, who has observed this whole thing in silence while digging through the snacks in the cooler Kurt packed in the morning, cackles.
Kate keeps her gaze on Kurt playing in the ocean, but tips her head towards Blaine. “You are so screwed,” she says, full of fond amusement.
Blaine stretches his legs and digs his toes through the sand with satisfaction, his need for Kurt's disapproval as strong and unfortunate as his need for his approval.
Kurt drags Blaine off the beach just before four. It's the hottest part of the day and almost the moment when Blaine most hates to leave. He loves to suffer through it, sweating out everything he drinks as they're wringing out the last of the day. But Kurt wants them to fuck, alone and loud in their bedroom at Kate's parents' house, and Blaine is happy to be led, their hosts waving and laughing at them as they go.
“We'll be back,” Kurt says, pointing at them and making it clear they are not to leave the beach until he and Blaine return. But Blaine has his doubts, thinking that whatever Kurt wants, they'll both be sleeping after.
Without preamble, Kurt pushes Blaine into the shower, but it feels like the sand will never come off as it collects, muddy, at the bottom of the bathtub. He is sure Kurt will make a fuss about it following them home when it's time to leave.
But for now Kurt seems happy to lean back against the cool tiles, only the faintest mist from the shower reaching him as Blaine drops to his knees to suck him off. Kurt chuckles, like he's the one indulging Blaine in this, and scrubs a hand through his boyfriend's hair. There's sand caught in the curls, and Kurt finds it fascinating; his own smoothness making the beach slip away from him with greater ease.
“Shhhhh, stop,” he says, pushing his boyfriend away.
Blaine tips his head back. “Where do you want me?” he asks jauntily from his knees.
“Am I obvious today?” Kurt he asks, reaching across Blaine to turn off the water and almost ignoring him in the process. Then he holds out an arm to help him off his knees.
“A bit. I don't mind.”
“Up against the headboard then,” Kurt says with a shrug as he pushes Blaine out of the bathroom.
Blaine kneels up on the bed, his face pressed to rough wallpaper. He marvels as he waits at the light that slips in between window shades and frame, heating the room. The first time they did this it was in the dark, and it was cold.
He comes back to himself when Kurt presses his face to his back where neck meets shoulder. It's as if he's listening for the stretch of his fingers pressing into him. Blaine gasps, sudden and sharp.
“Too much?” Kurt asks.
“Yes,” Blaine says, breathless and disoriented. “That's the point,” as if it's something Kurt hasn't always known.
He doesn't make it back to the beach; after Kurt fucks him through three different positions, all Blaine wants to do is sleep. But Kurt feels energized more than tired, and it would be rude to leave their friends after he'd told them to stay, so he takes another shower, cranks the air conditioner up and drags a blanket over Blaine before heading back down to the sand.
It's gone a bit cloudy and a lot of people have left, but Kate is reading a book and Henry is running his fingers through the sand looking for the tiniest shells he can find.
“Blaine didn't make it?” she asks, as Kurt resists the temptation to check his reflection in her sunglasses.
“Nope. Dead. Sorry,” he says, and only the way he casts a hand through his still wet hair makes it clear he's embarrassed. “I'm going to go in the water for a little bit.”
Kate and Henry watch as he wades in up to his waist and just stands there.
The four of them watch the fireworks from the deck while dipping strawberries into a shitty tub of mass-produced mascarpone. Kurt sits on Blaine's lap while Blaine tries to tell, over the sound of the explosions, some ridiculous story involving Wes's family dog and forty pounds of apples. He's manic and happy and gesturing with a half-eaten strawberry that eventually slips his grip and hits Henry in the shin.
They all pause, staring at the blotch of juice on Henry's leg and the strawberry lolling on the deck until Kurt has to say, “Don't even think it,” in order to prevent a food fight.
Kate smiles, and Kurt decides he likes her then, even if it is clear to him now that she will be the person Blaine complains to about him on all the days that are hard.
“There's still sand in your hair,” Kurt says, propped up on his elbow in bed as he plays with Blaine's curls. They've been back for three days.
Blaine hums, feeling the sharpness of the sea as Kurt presses his fingers against his scalp.
“They're like tiny, tiny rocks.”
“Sorry. It's gross, I know,” Blaine says.
“No,” he breathes, twisting the locks through his fingers. “No. I'll miss it when it's gone.”