Word Count: ~3,200
Summary: Halfway home. Elephants on tables may be closer than they appear.
The series so far:
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 | The History of Sand | Tales of Minor Gods | A Little Bit Ruined | The Numbers Held by Ghosts | Weights and Measures | Anamnesis | Hello, I Must Be Going | And I Have Heard You Speaking | More Honored Than the Other Animals | Melissa, Mellonia, or Deborah | On the Throwing of Stones | What the Spiders Wove
Blaine scrubs a hand over his face as he fidgets with the unwieldy tag attached to the key of the rental car he’s just picked up at the Omaha airport. It’s strange, he thinks, the things he’s gotten particular about in Kurt’s absence. Rental cars have definitely become one of them. They always smell weird, and the tags on the keys are seriously annoying.
When he gets there, the latest of Kurt’s hotel rooms is different than he expects, and not just because it’s unreasonably nice for a Best Western. Kurt’s unpacked and hung all his clothes, which he doesn’t always do on the shorter stops anymore.
There’s also a framed picture of them together on the nightstand, and another on the desk of Burt and Carole and all the New Directions kids from a party the summer before the start of their senior year.
As Blaine picks up the group shot to peer at it more closely, he’s shocked by how young they all look. Kurt has a roundness to his face Blaine’s nearly forgotten, and he finds himself surprised to realize he might even miss it. But the complexities of that are quickly squashed when he lays eyes on himself, overeager and in an excessively tight polo that yeah, would totally work for him now, but was actually pretty dumb when he was sixteen.
He shows up outside the theater with flowers, even if it’s the sort of thing he’s not exactly supposed to do anymore because Kurt needs space. But it’s the first time he’s seen Kurt since the upgrade and the moment needs to be marked. Besides, there’s something magical about watching people actually want his autograph as opposed to making do with the random chorus guy before the real stars come out.
Kurt will, Blaine knows, roll his eyes when he explains this later.
“It’s a tour, Blaine,” he’ll snap. “There are no stars here.”
Not yet, Blaine thinks. Not yet, and it’s slightly vicious.
They don’t, actually, get a chance to have the autograph conversation. Kurt far too fascinated by Blaine’s beard.
“You said scruffy; you didn’t say this,” Kurt says, flapping his hands at his fiancé not caring that they’re having this ridiculous conversation in the cold and kind of in front of an audience.
Blaine shrugs. “I can shave it if you hate it.”
“I haven’t decided yet,” Kurt hisses, touching his cheek again, and Blaine gets it then, that this might just be one of his good choices as opposed to one of his self-indulgent ones.
“Okay,” he says good-naturedly.
Kurt narrows his eyes. “You’re humoring me.”
“I’m enjoying you. How was tonight?”
Kurt exhales and pauses, like it’s something he’s forgotten about entirely, even as the sweat from it is still cooling on his body. “Good. Really good.”
“Good. Want to get dinner?”
“I’d like that very much,” Kurt says, linking his arm with Blaine’s.
“So,” Blaine says. “Thanksgiving.”
“Do you have a plan?”
“Do you have a plan?” Kurt echoes back at him before giving a pointed look to the fries in the milkshake thing he’s doing again. So gross.
“I could have a plan, but I didn’t want to intrude on tour traditions and you incredibly superstitious actor types,” he teases.
“Ah,” Kurt says, thrown for a moment by Blaine not considering himself in that category even if that’s nothing new. “I was maybe hoping you’d intrude?”
Blaine frowns. “That doesn’t sound like flirtation. What are you trying to avoid?”
“You should go,” Blaine says cheerfully.
“I asked if you could come,” Kurt says.
“I shouldn’t come.”
“They said you could.”
“Is anyone else’s boyfriend coming?”
“So you’re here so we can spend Thanksgiving together and –”
“And we will spend Thanksgiving together. But I’m not adverse to amusing myself for a couple of hours while you put in an appearance with your colleagues that aren’t as lucky as us.”
“Blaine – “
“Look, it’s your call, I’m just saying, it’ll make you seem like a really, really good guy.”
They table the conversation when they head back to the hotel, but nothing takes its place. The silence isn’t comfortable, and Blaine doesn’t understand why until they’re back in Kurt’s room and he’s dragging his fingers up through Blaine’s beard as they kiss.
“You’re so funny about this,” Blaine says.
“Did you really expect me not to have an opinion?”
“I expected you to be pissed, actually,” he says, breathless and mouth still practically on Kurt’s.
“No,” Kurt breathes, rubbing his face against his. “I don’t think I am.”
“I can’t tell if you’re being predatory or submissive,” Kurt gasps out as Blaine rubs his face all over him. Even the soles of his dance-abused feet are not exempt as Blaine slides to the floor and follows the bristles of his cheek with the drag of his lips and the slip of his tongue.
“Ugh. God. Why is that slimy and hot?” Kurt asks as Blaine sucks on a toe.
Blaine laughs, they haven’t been in this place in a long time.
“So you really don’t mind, about the dinner?” Kurt asks after they’re done and Blaine is walking his fingers across every mark he’s caused that seems likely to linger.
Blaine shakes his head against Kurt’s hip.
Kurt eyes him suspiciously as if he’s just realized how strangely they’re currently sharing the bed. “What are you doing down there?”
“What do you want me to be doing?”
On what is barely Thanksgiving afternoon, Kurt kisses Blaine goodbye one, twice, three times, outside the restaurant just down the street from the hotel. It’s not a lot more than a diner, but it’s open and willing to have them. The cranberry also sauce isn’t out of a tin, so there’s not a lot to complain about, even if Kurt has always secretly loved the unnatural horror of the canned and gelatinous variety, and not just because it reminds him of his mother.
When he walks in, their table for twenty-something half filled and in the back, cheers. Kurt actually turns to look behind him to see who the enthusiasm is for before he figures it out.
“I thought your boyfriend was here,” someone says as he sits down.
Kurt shrugs and decides the only option here is to channel his dad. “He really wanted to see Omaha. Now how’s the stuffing?”
Blaine actually drives to Lincoln. It’s only an hour, but it’s something to do, and when is he ever going to be in Nebraska again? He ignores the traitorous voice in his head that’s ready to answer that question with a long list of things he either doesn’t want or has promised Kurt he never will.
Without anything resembling a plan, he winds up sitting at the entrance gate of a winery on the edge of the city, because if you’ve seen one Midwestern downtown you’ve seen them all, and it’s not like he finds that sort of thing less depressing when it’s all closed down for the holidays.
It doesn’t occur to him that maybe he shouldn’t be idling his car in the driveway of what’s also someone’s home randomly singing along with shitty pop on the radio until a guy in a puffy vest knocks on his window. Blaine has a brief hysterical moment where he fumbles frantically to turn off the music and wonders if the beard makes him look less gay.
The Kurt that lives in his head totally sneers at him for that, but Blaine has no time for it, because this guy is asking Blaine, in a pretty judgmental way, if he can help him, and Blaine’s just stammering something incoherent about not being lost, broken down or criminal.
The guy seems amused, if still annoyed. In the process of forming complete sentences, since Blaine apparently can’t, he somehow surmises that Blaine’s late for Thanksgiving and without a hostess gift. The winery’s closed today; Phil – they’re on a first name basis now – makes that perfectly clear, but somehow, because it makes more sense than anything else, Blaine winds up with a case of their “Gypsy Red” in his backseat.
He hates himself a little, but he’s sure Kurt’s tour can find something to do with it.
“You drove to Lincoln… and bought a case of wine,” Kurt repeats dumbly staring in the backseat of the rental.
“It really seemed the lesser of several evils,” he says. Although now that he’s back, watching Kurt shiver in a thin Henley and an adorable pair of mittens as he just stares, he admits it is pretty weird.
“Do you think it’s any good?”
“Do you think your esteemed colleagues care? I’m not shipping it back.”
“Take one home with you,” Kurt says, still looking at the case. “We’ll drink it on the honeymoon or something.”
“Did you miss it?” Kurt asks when they’re in bed later, curled together for warmth and ignoring a Say Yes to the Dress: Atlanta marathon.
“What,” Blaine hums sleepily, although he’s not really tired just content.
“Thanksgiving,” Kurt says, a little irritably.
Blaine shrugs. “Not really.”
“Oh,” he says startled and starts to sit up, but Kurt pulls him back down. “We could have gone if you wanted to.”
“I did not need two dinners,” he says swatting at him a little. “And that’s not what I meant anyway.”
“What did you mean?”
“Home. My dad and all his disapproval,” he smiles. “Cooking.”
“Yeah,” Blaine says softly. “That was nice.”
Kurt pets his fingers through his hair. He knows, even with the rapprochement, it’s unlikely Blaine finds it difficult to be away from his parents this time of year. But their constructed family of friends is another matter; Blaine must know it is unlikely he’ll ever get to spend Thanksgiving with them in quite the way of last year’s strange and terrible and very funny Christmas.
“You gonna call in all your holiday greetings tomorrow while I’m at the theater?”
Blaine nods against him, and the prickle of the whiskers on his cheek make goosebumps flare all along Kurt’s left side. He laughs and blows a little puff of air across the ridges of them.
“I can’t keep it, you know,” he says.
He makes an interrogative noise. Because it’s interesting, but not that interesting. Blaine, however, clearly has some narrative about it that Kurt knows he needs to be at least marginally attentive to.
“It’s considered untrustworthy.”
“What are you even babbling about?” Kurt asks.
“How many politicians have you ever seen with beards?” Blaine asks.
Kurt rolls his eyes. “About as many as I’ve seen who are also in grad school. Also, dead ones and that random governor.”
In the morning it’s clear that Kurt has a routine, and that he’s done letting Blaine interfere with it. He wakes, without an alarm as the sun comes in through the windows around 11. He stretches before he showers, and Blaine watches him clandestinely through slit eyes, trying not to wince when he hears joint after joint crack and pop as if Kurt were a doll coming to life through a grind of porcelain and thread.
After his shower, Kurt kisses him awake, mouth minty and hair dripping water into the bed.
“Are you coming to the show today?”
“Do you want me to?”
“Yes,” he says in a voice that clearly disapproves of Blaine not finding his duties quite as obvious as Kurt thinks he should.
They spend the day wandering around hand-in-hand half-heartedly looking at Black Friday sales. If anyone looks at them twice, Kurt doesn’t notice it, and it’s nice being with Blaine, even if he’s bored by both the crowds and the sales.
“Just think, next year, we’ll be doing this in New York,” Blaine murmurs pressing into his side.
Kurt grins. Sometimes it feels like they’ll never get there. “Just think,” he echoes back, “in two weeks, we’ll be doing this at home.”
Blaine squeezes his hand at mention of the thing they’ve been resolutely not talking about.
The Orpheum is a deco palace that feels enough like old Hollywood that Blaine is reminded of all the strange conversations about boys and romance and self-hatred he and Kurt had while the tour was in Los Angeles.
Settled into the crimson velour and surrounded by all that gold, Blaine wishes he’d shaved. He’s known since high school how eerily spaces like this suit him -- it’s his lips, his jawline, the way he sometimes slicks his hair, just that hint of young Elvis, and his perhaps excessive fondness for slim suits – and he’s a bit regretful not to be playing to it now.
But when the lights go down and a chill runs through his body like the press of the world when the plane takes off, Blaine’s fine. He’s fine and invisible and playing the only parts he’s ever really known, those of awed spectator and little boy and Kurt’s, Kurt’s, always Kurt’s. And maybe he’s not getting as far in therapy as he should if it’s like that, but he’s happy here, twisting a Playbill in his hands in the velvet dark.
Kurt gets him backstage, and Blaine’s kissing him open-mouthed and wet, hands tight on his biceps, before he can even get out of his costume or ask what he thought.
“Oh god, I’m sorry, do you need a moment?” Blaine finally asks pulling back, and Kurt shakes his head at him in wonder.
“Now that I’m him, all the time,” he says softly, “he’s so much easier to put away.”
Blaine smiles, but feels bad for Simon.
“Thank you for this,” Kurt says that night, holding hands as they lay fully clothed and horizontal across the bed, knees bent over the side.
Blaine just squeezes his hand.
“I’ve been incredibly scared about coming home.”
“Me too,” Blaine says, even though what he means is that he’s incredibly scared about Kurt coming home.
“And now I feel like it’s going to be okay, at least with us.”
“It was always going to be okay with us,” Blaine says.
“Yes. But I didn’t know how. It’s not really home to me anymore,” Kurt says.
Blaine hums and feels sad.
“It can’t be. I’ll… you’ll be gone and packed up for New York before I even get back. And I just have to trust you to get us there.” He pauses. “I loved that stupid apartment, Blaine. I don’t want to give it up. And yet I already have.”
“Do you want to stay in the hotel?” he asks, meaning when Kurt’s tour arrives in D.C.
“I don’t know. Maybe. I don’t want to feel like I’m coming home to do laundry and switch out clothes.”
“You totally are,” Blaine huffs.
“Look,” Blaine says turning onto his side and trying to get Kurt to focus on him as opposed to whatever dissatisfying futures he’s imagining. “Come home, sleep in our bed, say goodbye to it properly. Cook, for Christmas. Get utterly, utterly wrecked with me and our friends and our old life for New Year’s. Write me little notes about how to pack when it’s time to move. And, assuming I find a job and can get us there as fast as you think I can, lets strategize this whole temporary housing thing.”
Kurt nods at him vigorously. “Okay.”
“Okay,” Blaine says. “Just, try to remember you don’t have to be, yeah?”
Kurt nods again. “I never thought this would be so hard,” he says.
“Well, you were always a little bit naïve,” Blaine says, but wonders if he’s gone too far even as it leaves his mouth.
Kurt smiles softly, attention still on the ceiling. “I always will be.”
Kurt barely sleeps before their travel day from Omaha to the District, packing his hotel room up and then sitting in the darkened lobby staring out the windows all through the black morning. No one’s as excited as he is, no one really can be, but some of them come close. Lovers and husbands will be coming down from New York; and hitting the mid-Atlantic, there’s the intimation that reviews might really mean something. Christmas is coming and New Year’s, and the city’s fireworks will be on PBS.
Lucy comes in drunk, and Stefan wanders past him for the ice cream vending machine, both of them oblivious to Kurt in the shadows, as he debates hosting a party for everyone and inviting all of this, after everything, into his home. He wonders what Jay would tell him to do, thinks about and refrains from calling him as he waits for the dawn that comes way too late in December’s grey places.
His flight’s at nine and he’ll leave for the airport as early as he can.
“Do you make people take off their wedding rings?”
Even as Kurt says it, he’s not sure why he’s being belligerent. He’s been through enough airports these last months that he’s usually not only efficient, but well able to achieve some sort of trance-like peace with the indignity of the whole thing, but the hippy dippy stoner contingent of the tour was singing Ani DiFranco’s “The Arrivals Gate” badly and loudly in the shuttle over, and now he’s just pissed off and filled with nostalgia for a world he doesn’t even remember.
“Pardon?” the TSA officer says.
“Do you let people get scanned with their wedding rings on?” Kurt repeats, working hard and failing to sound less bitchy.
“Right, so same thing, and I am not taking it off.”
That totally earns him a scan – what does a bee look like, Kurt wonders, naked and down to its bones, white hot on grey -- and a bonus pat down, which Kurt grits his teeth against and finds more unsettling than he anticipated. He’s just not used to being touched off-stage by anyone who isn’t Blaine or Brittany, Henry or even Wes, and Alex, so far away. He feels not unclean, but as if a vow has been violated.
He remembers when Blaine offered to let no one touch him, even on accident over things so small as an exchange of bills over coffee. Kurt wonders how Blaine would have fared had he taken him up on that. How would all his politics and affability survived not being able to shake hands?
The security search lingers with Kurt through the flight and their descent into Regan National. It makes him relieved that Blaine is not there at gate or at baggage claim and that he can check in to the hotel room he intends not to use so that he can shower the matter away.
He changes his clothes, drifting into beige and winter white, before slinging one of his bags up onto his shoulder. Blaine will worry if he doesn’t appear lugging something, but Kurt also doesn’t want to burden him unduly in surprising him at school.
As he steps out of the hotel, the brilliant sunlight of this place he never wanted to live makes Kurt grin. For as much wariness as he has about returning to the home left behind, he’s weirdly eager for the rest of it.
In an hour and change he’ll knock inappropriately on the window of Blaine’s class, earning a quiet and beatific smile from this man he has tried desperately, and failed, not to drag around the country with him. He smiles when he thinks of how Kate will probably squeal, more for Blaine’s sake than his own arrival.
But Kurt also pictures later at the bar. There’ll be a lingering hug from Henry, and Seanna’s hands tight on his hips as she spins him close, and George, lips wet with scotch, kissing across his cheek, like that’s somehow appropriate. Maybe he’ll bring some of the cast after the show one night and everyone will hail him as a hero. And a stranger.
But it will keep Kurt safe and hold him down and remind him, in a way that Blaine is often afraid to, of how brilliant he has always been when can’t breathe.