Pairings: Blaine/Rachel, Kurt/Blaine, Kurt/Blaine/Rachel
Word count: 11,633
Warnings: Dub-con, emotional manipulation, general uncomfortableness
Spoilers: Through 2x16 (Original Song).
Notes: Begins just after the events of 2x14 (BIOTA), and ends post-2x16. Posted in two parts due to length.
Summary: Blaine can’t choose between them.
fill in the words.
It’s been more than a week since the Rachel Berry debacle, but Blaine hasn't forgotten Kurt’s dismissive comments. Not yet.
Sure, it’s pointless to keep rubbing at something he should let heal; Blaine gets that. There’s a whole litany of reasons why he needs to move on. Kurt hadn’t really meant anything bad by those remarks. And after the great job Blaine’s done presenting himself to Kurt as Mr. Confidence, it must’ve been disconcerting for Kurt to hear about Blaine’s sudden confusion. And, okay, fine, maybe he’d been a little insensitive by going on a date with Rachel, of all girls. There’s some weird history between Kurt and Rachel, some tension between them he can’t exactly pin down.
But after how supportive he’s been, through Kurt’s whole bullying crisis? Blaine thinks he’s been a fantastic friend, and for Kurt to just be a complete jerk like that in return wasn’t okay.
If he’s being honest, he’s pissed off at himself, mostly: for lying to both of them, even if he didn’t have much of a choice. The stress of Kurt’s eyes watching him were just as much a part of that second kiss as Rachel’s mouth was, and Blaine’s never really been good with certain kinds of pressure. Still, though. Dumb, dumb, seriously freaking dumb to lie like that, even if it was the easiest way to get them out of their weird triangle situation. He’s actually kind of amazed Kurt bought his goofy-ass explanation. But it’s easier, probably, for Kurt to believe. Simpler.
Blaine wants to believe it, too.
It’s like he’s opened Pandora’s box, though, and now he can’t stop thinking about Rachel Berry and her weird clothes and her fabulous voice and the intense way she kisses, like a coil of energy snapping against his face. Her lip gloss tastes terrible, some weird mix of aloe vera and menthol.
He wants to kiss her again.
“Earth to Blaine,” Kurt’s saying. Blaine suddenly focuses in on Kurt’s impatient hand, waving wildly in front of his face, and just like that, he’s back in the dull racket of Lima Bean smells and noises: coffee addict conversation, the clatter of dirty plates, the reek of wet grounds. “Come back. You didn’t hear a single word I just said, did you?”
“Of course I did,” Blaine blurts, and immediately regrets it.
Kurt raises an eyebrow, straightening in his chair. “You did. Right. I’m sure.”
Blaine hunts quickly through the rubble of their recent conversation, finding a few key words in the wreck. “Finn. You lost Finn under the hood of a car. Wait. I don’t – that doesn’t make sense, Kurt.”
"He somehow managed to get stuck in between the intake manifold and the coolant tank,” Kurt says, stone-faced. “We had to use a tub of Vaseline and a dozen cans of WD-40 to get him loose. Finn just slides off the couch now when he tries to sit down. It’s tragic.”
The corners of Kurt’s mouth stretch, then, and Blaine realizes he’s been played. “It was a pin, Blaine. I lost a pin. And get that wounded look off your face. Serves you right for not listening to me. Where were you, anyway? Thinking about Regionals? Shifting through possibilities for your next solo? I have some ideas, if you’d like to hear them.”
There’s that tone again in Kurt’s voice, the little lilt that sounds like an invitation. The problem is, he’s not sure what Kurt’s offering him in the first place, exactly, or how much, or even if he wants to accept it. It’s just – well, it’s a lot easier, right now, to pretend like he’s not hearing the suggestion.
“Sure,” he says, and he takes a sip of his over-roasted coffee, seeing Rachel. She’s grinning, twirling in her terrible dress, bedazzled microphone clutched in one hand. “I’m always happy to hear your ideas, Kurt.”
a funny kind of proposal.
“I’d like to thank you,” Rachel says, on the phone that night, “for the inspiration you’ve given me. Just so you know, I’ve added you to my list of people I’m going to thank when I win my first Tony. You’re the fourteenth, right after Betty Buckley.”
It figures that she’s called him, because of course Blaine’s spent most of his evening trying to stop thinking about Rachel. Thanks to an intervention by Jimmy Stewart and Kim Novak, he’d nearly succeeded, but then there her name was, flashing on the screen of his buzzing cell. Almost like she’d known he was winning his battle, and decided this was exactly the right time to step in.
“Inspiration?” he asks, hitting the remote’s pause button, and struggling to sit up in bed. Kim Novak freezes on his screen. She’s waiting for Jimmy to confess, her beautiful face wide with horror. He guesses Kim’s going to have to wait a little longer.
“Our brief, doomed love affair. And I’ve been listening to a lot of early Marvin Hamlisch – specifically, his pre-The Way We Were oeuvre. The two combined have been very helpful. I’ve written ten lines so far. Would you like to hear what I have?” She doesn’t wait for an answer. “The pain of disappointment fills my soul/Like soup poured into a bowl/Oh, cruel fate that chance dealt/I know the grief that Liza felt–"
“Great, seriously great,” he interrupts, wincing, unable to listen any longer. He really wants to be able to praise her convincingly, and if she keeps reciting, he won’t be able to keep up the necessary enthusiasm. “Very, uh, poignant. I like the way you really, you know, force similes to work for you.”
He hears Rachel exhale with satisfaction. “Thank you, Blaine,” she says. “I know I have a natural sense for effective symbolism. But I have to be honest with you. I didn’t just call to read you my work.”
His stomach cramps with a sudden rush of adrenaline. “Why? What is it?”
“I know that when you attended the party at my house, it must’ve looked like I’m a very popular person, judging by all the people that were there. And really, I feel very lucky to be part of the glee club. But –“ Her voice wavers, just a little bit. “I’m not that close to many people. Especially since Finn and I have – ended things. And I think we, you and I, could be good friends. After all, it’s not often that you meet someone who understands the incredible influence Ali MacGraw’s hair had on the rest of the 1970s.”
“Absolutely. I mean, Farrah Fawcett wouldn’t have been possible without her,” Blaine says, sitting up straight, back pressed against the headboard of his bed. “Rachel, of course we can be friends. I’d love to be friends with you.” He’s not lying at all, unless the definition of ‘lie’ includes lies of omission; he really does want what he’s saying, and more, too.
She exhales again, a quick rush of air into his ear. “You don’t know how good that feels,” she says. “I’m so glad, Blaine. Thank you.”
“You’re very welcome,” he answers, automatically, because he’s glad his friendship means that much to her. Once the words have left his mouth, though, he feels awkward about them. He should’ve said you don’t have to thank me, or your friendship means a lot to me too. It’s what you’re supposed to say, right? Something gracious.
Blaine slides down against a pillow, pushing his cheek into the fabric. On his screen, Kim Novak stares at him, her blonde hair frozen in a tight swell. There’s not a strand out of place. Blaine knows it’s pointless to envy a woman who's clearly been styled to an inch of her life by professionals, but he still feels a pang of mild jealousy at how intentional her hair is, when his own efforts always seem to fall short. He'd like to be one of those people who always get things right on the first try.
“Remember the end of Casablanca? ‘This is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.’ That could be us, Blaine. You can be Rick, if you want. I don’t mind being Louis. I’ve always admired Ilsa’s quiet strength, but I don’t see how I could be Ilsa if we’re going to be friends instead of romantic partners.”
“Yeah,” he says, quietly. He’s a total coward. “That’s us, all right. Rick and Louis.”
“We should do something to celebrate our new bond,” she continues. “There’s a revival of Mame playing at the Coronet. Or we could meet for coffee and make lists of the things we have in common. Or you could help me with my songwriting. Are you any good at internal rhyme?”
“I don’t know what that is. Hey, Rachel –“
“That’s okay. That’s fine.” Her voice is stitched with excitement, and he licks his lips, instinctively. “Whatever you’d like to do. I know it might not always seem like it, but I’m very flexible.”
Oh, he thinks, swallowing. Well, in that case. “Let’s get coffee. Tomorrow. Although maybe we could just talk, instead of make lists?”
“I can do that,” Rachel says, happily. “I’d be glad to just talk.”
He tries not to think about that word, flexible, after he’s off the phone with her, but it’s a lost battle, and the resulting images loop furiously in his mind even after he presses play on the remote. By the time Jimmy’s running up the San Juan Bautista bell tower, chasing after Kim, Blaine’s given up, his hand gently edging against the swell of his groin. He sees Rachel’s legs parting in the stairwell on his screen, Rachel’s slick, open mouth in the stones of the tower. Nothing’s where it should be.
try a little tenderness.
It’s awkward for him, when they’re together, even if she doesn’t seem to notice, and it doesn’t get easier quickly. When they don’t talk, though, that’s his favorite time with Rachel. When they sit together in companionable, unlikely silence, that’s when Blaine feels less anxious. Like maybe it’s not something he needs to figure out right away, why the line of her jaw and the slope of her shoulders make him ache.
The first time he kisses Rachel (the third time, really, but he doesn’t count the first two: one was experimental, the other monitored) she makes a surprised squeak against his face and freezes. It’s not the response he was expecting, and he pulls back, quickly.
“I thought you were gay,” she stammers. “You told me you were gay.”
They’re in his bedroom, sitting on his carpeted floor, a game of half-hearted Monopoly quickly becoming irrelevant in front of them. He’s still got his hand cupped over her jaw, because he’s wanted to do that for at least two weeks now, maybe three, and she looks at him, clearly apprehensive. “You said that,” she repeats, and there’s a note of accusation in her voice. “If you just kissed me because you feel sorry for me, after what I told you about Finn and Quinn –“
“No,” he says, immediately. “It’s not pity. It’s you. I can’t stop thinking about you. Your face, and the way you tap a pen against your mouth when you’re deep in thought, and your voice, and your collages, and, I don’t know, your posture, it’s all – it’s everything, Rachel. You’re what I’ve been looking for.” He pauses. “I didn’t know it, but you are, and – here you are.”
His fingers slide a little against the skin of her jaw, and her hand reaches up to meet his, pressing over it. “I don’t understand. You’re – straight?”
“Look, can we please not try and figure that out right now,” he says, roughly, and leans in to kiss her again. This time, she doesn’t freeze, and he tastes aloe vera from her mouth; vertigo, too.
break it to me gently.
Blaine considers it, for almost a whole day, after the first time they make out. Maybe he really might be straight. Maybe his fantasies about guys are aberrations; something he’ll look back on years from now with a fond, vague recognition. Believe it or not, I used to think I was – isn’t that funny? Teenagers, huh?
But it doesn’t feel right, in the end. Jake Gyllenhaal and Chase Crawford seriously make his heart race and his palms sweat, and then there’s the fact that sometimes he can’t stop staring at Wes, at the way his slacks press against his thighs, and honestly, he can’t disregard the ample contents of the carefully hidden folder three layers deep in the hard drive of his laptop, labeled PHYSICS HOMEWORK, just in case. Blaine says a firm goodbye to straight, after cataloguing this evidence, and he does it with a small twinge of regret that makes him feel a little ashamed. He shouldn’t regret not being straight, right? He should be proud of who and what he is, whatever that ends up being. Once he figures it out.
In the meantime, he doesn’t see any reason why he can’t keep hooking up with Rachel, as long as he’s enjoying it.
Kurt has no idea that Blaine’s spending any time with her, and he definitely doesn’t know what Blaine’s doing with that time. Blaine avoids bringing her up during their conversations, mostly because he’s not sure he can talk about Rachel without giving something away. Sure, Kurt’s not the most observant person in the world, but when it comes to Rachel Berry, the kid’s clearly got a competitor’s nose for untold stories. He’d sniff it out.
Blaine doesn’t want to hurt him with the truth, even though he’s still a little sore about Kurt’s snippy dismissiveness. It’s pretty clear, how Kurt feels about him, or at least Blaine thinks it’s pretty clear. There’s always a chance he’s misreading signals. But that look on Kurt’s face when he first told him about his date with Rachel, way back when all this started – that hurt, defensive way he pinched his mouth shut, lifting his chin – there’s got to be something behind that look.
He talks about everything but Rachel with Kurt, when they hang out, hoping that the more he says, the better he'll feel about everything. It doesn't really matter that some of his topics make Kurt’s eyes glaze over and his smile widen in a polite mask, because, well, at least they’re on safe territory. The Buckeyes. Blaine's mother's frustration with baking puff pastry. Finding jeans that he doesn’t have to get hemmed.
Two days after he touches her breasts for the first time – over the shirt and under it – Kurt asks him over coffee how Rachel’s doing, and the unexpected question nearly makes Blaine knock over his cup. Calm down, you idiot, he thinks, and then, well, she seemed pretty enthusiastic the last time I saw her. It almost makes him laugh out loud, and he shakes his head quickly, trying to get that memory away before it reveals too much on his face.
Judging by Kurt’s frozen, alert expression, though, it might be a little too late for that. “No? No, she’s not okay, or no, you don’t know how she is?”
“She’s fine,” he blurts out, which is pretty much the dumbest thing he could’ve said, because now Kurt knows he’s seen Rachel recently.
“You’ve actually been hanging out? On a regular basis?” There’s an edge to Kurt’s tone. “I’d imagine that’d be awkward for you, considering her massive crush. She’s not exactly known for being subtle about her feelings.”
“Not a lot. I mean, I haven’t seen her a lot – just here and there. We hang out. Talk about old movies, and music, and, you know. It’s nice, actually. She’s really nice.”
“You can talk about old movies and music with me, Blaine.” Kurt flips up the lid of his coffee cup, inspecting the inside of it with more interest than it deserves. “I asked you to drive with me to Lima for that revival of Mame, remember? And you said no.”
He’d imagined sitting next to Kurt in a dark movie theater, Kurt’s heated attention trained on Blaine rather than the screen, Blaine squirming from the intensity of his focus. “I don’t want to give you the wrong impression,” he explains, quietly. It’s the first really honest thing he’s said to Kurt all day.
“Oh,” Kurt says, and then, again, in a small, punctured voice, “Oh. I see.”
“Kurt, look –”
“No, I understand. I understand, okay? You don’t need to explain it to me like I’m a child.” Kurt stands up, abruptly, grabbing his bag. “You go hang out with Rachel. Talk to her about whatever you want. Talk to her about, I don’t know, football. Talk to her about your mother’s terrible baking. I’m sure she’ll be fascinated. I’ll just be somewhere trying not to accidentally make a sexy face and repulse people.”
“You’re being overdramatic,” Blaine protests, reaching out for Kurt’s arm, and Kurt takes a large step, neatly avoiding Blaine’s grip. “Just sit down, Kurt, for crying out loud.”
It shouldn’t surprise him so much when Kurt ignores his request and stalks away, shoulders twitching insolently, but it does. It’s the first time Kurt’s ever defied him, or done anything openly that Blaine hasn’t wanted.
“Hey, just – come back, please, don’t do that,” he calls after Kurt, and when Kurt doesn’t answer, slamming through the door of the Lima Bean instead, Blaine sits back in his chair, and realizes he’s just made Kurt angry. Angry enough to lose the standard look on his face when he's around Blaine, his flat, glazed stare of adoration he’s always had. It looks good on him, that new sharpness.
There must be something wrong with him, because Blaine doesn’t feel guilty, or even relieved, nothing like that. He feels – well, he feels interested, for the first time. Curious, too. It’s the caffeine, though, making his heart pick up a little and his skin creep, it’s got to be, because any other reason for that reaction would, frankly, be ridiculous. It’s Kurt, after all. He’s the same Kurt he’s always been. Nothing's changed.
Blaine tells himself this. He’s very convincing, when he needs to be.
the last time I felt like this.
Things shift between the two of them after that, and quickly.
Kurt starts making snide comments about Blaine’s solos. Nothing much, just little remarks, tossed out with casual effort, and there’s almost enough humor in them to avoid passive-aggressiveness. Blaine looks at him with amazement after the first slight, and Kurt just stares back, his glare a challenge. What? the glare says. Come on, Blaine. Call me on it. Courage, right? Remember courage? Or is that a do-as-I-say-not-as-I-do kind of thing?
It’s a lot of words for a nonverbal sign. Blaine’s aware he might be projecting, just slightly.
He doesn’t say anything to Kurt, though, even after Kurt’s eye rolling during Warblers meetings increases exponentially, because the thing is, he’s supposed to be mad at Kurt about Kurt’s comments, not the other way around. The sudden switch has him a little disoriented, a little possessive: a lot confused. That confusion’s probably why he catches himself looking at the way Kurt’s jacket sleeve rides up over his wrist, exposing the small, white nub of bone there. Or the hollow of his neck just behind his ear, so visible when Kurt tilts his head. Or suddenly discovering the nervous habit Kurt has when he’s concentrating, where his tongue edges out just past his lips, wet and flushed. It’s like someone’s picked Blaine up out of his life and dropped him back down in another part of it, changing his view of the landscape entirely.
Rachel’s growing enthusiasm neatly offsets Kurt’s dampened interest; as the latter cools, the former grows. (He can’t help but connect the two, like they’re tied together, Kurt and Rachel, in some zero-sum game with Blaine as the prize.) They still haven’t talked about the details of their relationship, but Blaine’s got a sneaking suspicion that Rachel’s already found a label for what they are to one another. He wishes she’d tell him. It’d be nice to know.
There are a lot of things he’d like to know.
She brings up Finn too often, when they’re together, and it makes him wince. Not because he’s particularly jealous, but because the pain in her voice is obvious, when she says his name. Other names come up, too, inevitably.
“I did this once before,” she tells him, less than two weeks before Regionals. They’re taking a break from kissing on his rec room couch, snuggled together. She’d needed a few minutes to rehydrate and reapply chapstick. “Last year, with another boy. He was the lead of our greatest rival show choir. It was almost exactly like West Side Story, with a few important exceptions.”
“Jesse.” He rests his hand on her thigh. He’s heard the story from her. Kurt, too, a while back, only Kurt had told it with a lush inflection appropriate for scandals. In Blaine’s opinion, that’s the only way stories like that should be told.
“I think I’m developing an unconscious pattern. I should talk to my therapist about it.” She bites her lip, and places her water cup on the floor next to the couch. “Blaine, I don’t want Finn to find out about this. Not yet. I’m sure you feel the same way about Kurt.”
He tries not to react visibly to the second name. “I don’t see what either of them have to do with anything. You’re not with Finn anymore. I’m not with Kurt. I’ve never been with Kurt. We’re not responsible for how they feel.”
“But he likes you. Kurt does, I mean.” She snuggles into his chest, raising her head to look up at him. “I know why, too. You’re extremely charming. Say something charming, Blaine. I’m feeling very vulnerable right now. I might even swoon.”
“You,” he says, immediately, smiling down at her, “are a pure force of raw talent, held together by a beautiful, beautiful container.”
“That, Blaine Warbler, is one of the most romantic things anyone’s ever told me.”
He knows she’s not exaggerating. It almost makes him sad, but he forgets to feel badly for her as soon as Rachel kisses him, her tongue overeager. She makes up in energy what she lacks in knowledge.
“I think I’ve been waiting for you for a long time,” he says, against her mouth, because he knows she’ll like hearing it, and sure enough, she wriggles happily in his arms. The little noise of pleasure she makes doesn’t sound anything like Kurt, but he’s still there, just the same, writhing inside Blaine’s grip, warm and wanting. He slides a hand over Rachel’s breast, hoping the swell of it beneath his fingers will exorcise the ghost who won’t go away, at least for now. She deserves that much.
all caught up in love.
Kurt sings Paul McCartney’s stirring tribute to the civil rights movement in front of the entire Warbler contingent, and Blaine knows he won’t ever be able to tell Kurt that the blackbird is actually a thinly veiled metaphor for racial oppression, not a reference to an actual bird. Kurt’s heart is in the right place, after all, and that’s what’s important. There isn’t a dry eye in the room; even David looks a little teary.
Blaine watches, moving his mouth automatically in harmony, and he stares at Kurt’s white face and prim hands, folded in front of one another. He thinks, unprompted, about Rachel’s light, aroused breathing, the sound of her crowding against Kurt’s song. His palm presses into his thigh, looking for resistance, and he can almost feel the pressure on his spine as Kurt shoves him face down onto a bed or a couch or a table, quickly working his uniform slacks below Blaine's hips. Rachel’s there, too, behind Kurt, her breasts against his back and her hand wrapped around Kurt's cock, guiding it against Blaine's ass –
Oh, my God, I need you to fuck me, he thinks, staring wide-eyed at Kurt, and Kurt sings back at him, blind.
He graciously gives up his regionals solo the next day, hoping his motives aren’t written all over his face while he does it. It’s a transparent attempt to get Kurt feeling generous towards him again, and he’s relying on Kurt’s hunger for the spotlight as a nice entryway into – well. It’s a graphic way to put it, but into Kurt.
(Thoughts like these are crawling under Blaine’s life with greater frequency, lately. He supposes he should be embarrassed by them, especially when they occur to him during class, or rehearsals, or at the dinner table, but the constant half-hard state of his cock is his new norm. When it’s not Kurt in his inward eye, it’s Rachel, and more often than not, lately, it’s both of them.)
Kurt’s expression shifts as Blaine explains his choice for a duet partner at regionals, warming with the satisfaction of being wanted. Blaine smiles at him, widely, and Kurt’s answering smile is tentative, careful in the way Kurt’s always careful. There’s promise in it, though. There’s room for Blaine there.
He takes his time over the weekend figuring out what he’s going to say to Kurt, writing out sample lines in the margins of his notebook in tiny handwriting to see how they play on the page. I love you is bold, but not believable, after all those weeks of rejection. I want you is definitely true, but not romantic enough for Kurt. You complete me makes Blaine think of Renée Zellweger. To me, you’re perfect is overkill. It’s like that story about Goldilocks and the three bears and imbalance: too much, not enough.
Turns out you move me is his slightly cooled porridge, his perfect sized-chair, his soft-enough bed: just right. Kurt’s hand comes up to touch Blaine’s jaw as they kiss, and his fingers move against Blaine’s face with a startled, fluttering need that makes Blaine think, inevitably, of Rachel.
He closes his eyes tightly and pushes Rachel out. Kurt deserves that much.
nobody does it better.
Their duet at Regionals is just barely on the right side of mediocre, and he’s being generous in his self-assessment. It’s not surprising, really. Blaine had been too distracted by Kurt’s mouth and Kurt’s shy fingers to spend much time thinking about vocal arrangements, or blending. Kurt, who usually has pitch a tuning fork would envy, trends a little sharp. Blaine slides from note to note without the finesse their number needs.
It turns out he doesn’t give a damn about trophies, after all, and he doesn’t even feel guilty about it. Blaine’s got exactly what he wants.
He watches Rachel with rapt awe from the audience when it’s her turn on stage, her mouth bright and her hands trembling with the concentrated joy of performance. Next to him, Kurt lets out a little sigh of appreciation for her voice, apparently willing to set aside any lingering vitriol for the moment. Blaine resists the temptation to take Kurt’s hand in his, to squeeze it tightly in pride: for Rachel, for the two of them, and, privately, for the balancing act he’s been able to pull off this far.
(Blaine knows he can’t keep it up forever. He knows he’ll have to choose between them, at some point. It’s not something he wants to think about right now, especially while he’s seeing Rachel grabbing at the audience with everything she’s got, feeling the press of Kurt’s arm against his.)
“We won each other,” he says to Kurt, at Pavarotti’s grave, and it sounds perfect.
He answers his phone when Rachel calls the next day, even though he’s at the Lima Bean with Kurt right across the table from him. It turns out to be a huge mistake, because Rachel wants to know if he and Kurt would please stop by her house on Sunday night. She’ll provide a little nosh for them, as is the duty of a good hostess, but she’s very sorry, there won’t be any alcohol this time. Maybe sparkling cider.
Blaine’s suddenly alarmed. Not that much, and there’s a little excitement mixed in with the adrenaline, but he thinks he can guess exactly what she wants to talk about. It isn’t promising.
“I won’t keep you very late, of course,” she informs him, sensing his unease. “I know it’s a school night. I don’t want you or Kurt to miss out on your rest. Especially not Kurt. He’s already so pale, and it really shows on his face the next day when he hasn’t had enough sleep. But it’s important that I speak with you both. Extremely important.”
“Can you tell me why, Rachel?” he asks, watching Kurt, who takes a careful sip of his coffee. “I’d kind of like to know what you want to talk about before I drive all the way out there.”
“Not over the phone. I need to say this to you both in person. Please, Blaine?”
“It’s fine,” Kurt mouths, quietly, and his face is soft with affection for Blaine, magnanimous in victory. “Just say yes to whatever she wants.”
He does. He really can’t deny them both.
don’t know where you leave off.
She walks them down into the basement. For privacy, Blaine guesses, even though no one seems to be home. As they descend, Rachel leading, Kurt puts his hand on Blaine’s back. Mine, it says, loudly, even though Rachel’s not looking behind her to see it.
“I,” Rachel announces, when they’ve reached the bottom of the stairs. She pauses, giving Blaine just enough time to reflect on the amount of emphasis she’s put on the single vowel: Rachel’s favorite word. “I’ve called you two here for a very important reason.”
“That’s what you told me.” The basement’s even uglier than Blaine remembered. He thinks he can still smell the sharp reek of vodka, even though it’s been almost a month since the party. Maybe it’s sense memory, or something. “Where’s your dads? Out of town again?”
“Oh, no. It’s their night for dinner and drinks at the Lamplighter. They enjoy dressing up like Don Draper’s friend Roger Sterling, sipping at gin martinis, and eating medium-rare steak. It’s all wonderfully classy, and they’ve promised me that when I turn twenty-one, I can join them.”
“That sounds nice.” It sounds weird, actually. Also, he’s starting to wonder, just a tiny bit, if Rachel’s actually reenacting some musical theater version of Psycho, with her parents playing the role of Mother Bates. It’s a mean thought, but he can’t help it. Blaine sneaks a glance at Kurt, who catches his eye, and looks as though he knows exactly what Blaine’s thinking.
“Very nice. Please, Blaine – Kurt – take a seat. Can I get you anything to drink? Ginger ale, or maybe a sparkling water? I also have Chex Mix, if you’re hungry.”
She sounds like she’s googled the phrase “how to treat your guests” and memorized the first couple of results. The formality of it is oddly endearing; how hard Rachel’s trying to do the right thing. Blaine can appreciate that.
“I’m fine,” he assures her, making his way over to sit on the couch, and Kurt joins him, perching on the edge, almost close enough to signal possessive interest. “So, uh, what’d you want us to come by for, Rachel?”
“Well.” Rachel laces her fingers together, hands resting against the front of her plaid skirt. “I’m sure you’re both aware of how awkward things have been for the three of us, since the night of my party. I don’t think I need to expand on that.”
Blaine shakes his head, dreading what’s coming, wondering how she’s found out about him and Kurt. It's foolish, he knows, but he’d really just hoped they could somehow keep things going the way they’d been. At least until he’s figured out which one of them he wants more. At least until he stops thinking about one when he’s with the other.
“A little more awkward for some of us, honestly,” Kurt says, and lets out a little laugh. “But I forgive you, Rachel. I understand how seductive it must’ve been to think Blaine was interested in you.” He looks at Blaine, smiling, his eyelashes fluttering just a bit. That must be one of the faces Kurt hasn’t practiced. It doesn’t look ridiculous at all.
Rachel glares at Kurt. “Yes. A little more awkward for some of us. Kurt, Blaine, I've invited you here because I wanted to discuss your decision to take your friendship to the next level.”
Kurt looks as though he's going to ask why that's any of her concern, and Blaine, not wanting Kurt to dig a deeper hole, rushes to ask the question that's been rolling in his mind since Rachel's phone call.
“Well, I watched you perform,” she tells him, smiling a little. It’s a sad smile. “You looked at him exactly like Robert Redford looks at Barbra in The Way We Were. It’s a very telling look. I should know. Finn used to look at me like that. Also, Kurt sent out a mass text with a lot of exclamation points after the two of you kissed for the first time.”
“Oh.” He hadn’t known about the text. It explains a lot. “Look, Rachel, I don’t - “
“You did hurt me, Blaine,” she interrupts. “I felt terrible when I saw that text. It’s true that we didn’t talk about being exclusive, but I was under the impression that you and I were progressing towards something monogamous. I even used my relationship chapstick with you – the one that tastes like strawberries. That chapstick is only for people I’m in a relationship with. That’s why I call it relationship chapstick.”
It was, he has to admit, an improvement over the aloe vera.
“Blaine?” Kurt’s asking, and Blaine glances at him. “What’s she talking about? This is just patented Rachel Berry overinvestment, right? Bunny-boiler-in-training talk?”
The fact that he’s know this was coming doesn’t make it any easier now that it’s here, and Blaine suddenly feels the full weight of his careless, well-intentioned chasing. “No,” he says, unable to deny it.
Kurt’s mouth drops open. Not a little. A lot. For some weird reason, Blaine remembers that creepy dead girl from the beginning of The Ring, sitting in her closet with her jaw unhinged. It’s pretty much the most unappealing image he can think of, and he tries to push it away; tries to replace it with something else, as quickly as he can. Popsicles. He’s really into popsicles. Cherry popsicles. Rachel Berry sucking on a cherry popsicle, that little talented tongue of hers edging the top – and he’s half-hard, that quickly. Shit. Shit.
“I thought you said you were completely gay.” Kurt sounds incredibly pissed off, his voice cracking with the force of it, and what’s wrong with Blaine that he's finding that kind of hot, too? “Remember what you said? Completely gay? One hundred percent gay? You know, Blaine, I’m pretty sure one hundred percent gay doesn’t include any percent non gay.”
“I’m sort of terrible at math?” Blaine tries, and smiles at him. Maybe being cute might take the edge off their exchange, just a little. “I might have, uh. Added wrong, or something. Sorry about that.”
Kurt doesn’t take the cute bait. “Don't you dare try that tone with me. I will kick you."
“Are you serious? Kurt –”
“Guys?” Rachel’s raising her hand, waving it in the air, like she’s in school. “Guys? Can I break in here?”
“No,” Kurt snaps, just as Blaine says, grateful for the interruption, “Please do.”
“I just want to say, Blaine, that although I’m still a little hurt by your non-disclosed wooing of Kurt, I’ve decided that it’s understandable. You're clearly going through a very confusing sexuality crisis. And, as your committed friend-plus, I’d be glad to help you in whatever way I can. It’s just like Ali MacGraw says: Love means never having to say you’re sorry.” She pauses for emphasis. “I’ve always wanted to use that in a conversation. I know it doesn’t fit the moment exactly, but the emotion’s right.”
“It doesn’t fit the moment at all.” Kurt looks petulant. “And Ali MacGraw had terrible hair, Rachel. Terrible.”
Blaine sucks air between his teeth. “Low blow. Wow.”
“It also might make you feel better, Kurt,” Rachel continues, undeterred, “to know that Blaine hasn’t met me for any illicit encounters since he first kissed you. Technically, he hasn’t cheated.”
“Oh, I feel tons better,” Kurt says, flatly. “Thanks for that information, Rachel. Really.”
“You’re very welcome.” Either she’s not hearing the sarcasm, or she’s not choosing to acknowledge it. “I do think his feelings for you are legitimate ones. It’s difficult to fake that kind of stage presence during a duet. When Finn and I performed together, our attraction was completely undeniable.”
“No, she’s right,” Blaine hastens to add, because the look on Kurt’s face is making him feel increasingly guilty. It’s got to be difficult for the kid, he realizes; finding out that the guy he’s clearly head over heels for hasn’t been exactly upfront about his other side project. The last thing he’d wanted to do was hurt him, but it seems as though it’s a little late for that. “I never lied to you, Kurt. About any of it. I care about you. I care about Rachel, too, but nothing I said to you was false. You –“
“I move you. Right.”
“Yes,” Blaine says, simply, and takes his hand. “You do. Your voice, and your smile, and the way you walk. Your bravery. Your wit. Your penchant for devastatingly precise observations.” There’s a brief slice of small panic through him, as he tries to remember if he’s said any of this to Rachel, but he focuses on Kurt, hoping that Rachel’s memory is unreliable. “You’re lit from within, Kurt. You’ve got fires banked down in you.”
“The Philadelphia Story,” Kurt interjects, but he’s smiling a little, now, and he doesn’t pull away from Blaine’s touch. Blaine hasn’t underestimated just how much Kurt enjoys being needed. “Well, at least you’ve got good enough taste to steal from the best."
“It’s not stealing. It’s an homage. And really, with those cheekbones of yours –”
Rachel clears her throat, and they both turn in her direction, Kurt’s hand warm and solid in Blaine’s. She’s still standing like she’s about to make a presentation in front of a classroom, her hands primly folded in front of her, against her skirt. “Blaine,” she says. “Kurt. I think – I’d like to propose something a little unorthodox.”