Summary: After the events of "Boys In Uniform", Blaine sets about making things up to Kurt. But that's not without its consequences.
Warnings: Swearing. Canary metaphors. Canon!Dalton and Wes.
Note: Sequel to "Boys In Uniform". Scared I got a little cartoonish with Dalton at points, but was enjoying the scenario too much not to do it. BICO is shoehorned in a completely unrealistic way for the sake of this not being an AU because I hate doing those, so apologies in advance for that.
The first rule of being a gentleman was that you never gave less than one hundred percent.
Not that you should be loud or overbearing - which was good, because even before the transfer Blaine had been the quiet type. It meant everything had your complete devotion. When someone spoke, you listened. When a new guest came to the party, you greeted them and made sure that they were comfortable. Social graces, of course, weren't the only time all this applied; it was why Blaine treasured every song he performed, because as far as he was concerned, music was about telling a story. If you didn't feel the notes you were singing in your very bones then you were doing it wrong, especially if you were blessed enough that the story you got to sing was your own.
When you'd failed to deliver one hundred percent, you atoned by giving one thousand percent. This was what Blaine reminded himself when Kurt Hummel dragged him about an inch from a kiss, made his stomach turn cartwheels, and then calmly walked out without satisfying either of them. It kept him centered enough to not crawl after the other boy immediately, like a needy puppy - because "I'm sorry" would smooth this over, but it wouldn't fix it, not right down to the foundation.
Kurt didn't want Blaine to just man up and kiss him. He wanted Blaine to be Blaine, and to do something about that. And even when he was undone and completely smitten, Blaine was, in fact, a gentleman.
So he hopped to it.
He gave Kurt about twelve hours for the bad air to settle before he sent the single red rose - classic, subtle, unambiguously romantic - along with the worst attempt at poetry he'd made since middle school. Kurt's text in response seemed to try and capture the finer points of sputtering in alphanumeric form, and Blaine was pretty sure he'd used every affectionately derogatory term in the English language and possibly some in French.
The key word, of course, being affectionate.
He saved Kurt a seat in the choir room the next day, and they spent a rather unprofessional amount of time bumping shoulders and leaning together, sharing covert smiles whenever Matt said something ridiculous or Wes was insufferable. When he disagreed with an idea, he was diplomatic but made a point of saying so. When Kurt made a joke, he laughed - genuinely laughed, out loud - and watched Kurt's eyes light up at the sound.
He realized, slowly, that he hadn't exactly been seeing Kurt as a little brother (who could, if your supposed little brother looked like that?) but he'd been so caught up these past few weeks in giving the right advice and wearing the right expression. He'd forgotten how funny Kurt could be, how smart. He'd forgotten how he brightened at the little things he loved, and how adorable he looked even when he scowled, and how beautiful he was when that tentative fear dropped from his shoulders and he wore his fierceness like a weapon.
How could he have thought, for even a moment, that protecting that meant constraining it?
Towards the end of the meeting, he let his hand hover right next to Kurt's, their fingers brushing like an invitation. But Kurt didn't take it. He didn't pull away, either; he let fingertip press against cool fingertip, teasingly. Blaine tried to look at Kurt's face, initiating some kind of silent communication - what are the rules right now, what do I do? - but Kurt was suddenly very attentive to something David was saying, except there was this little smirk at the corner of his mouth.
The smirk was still hovering there, growing even, as practice ended. They made dinner plans for that night, and popcorn-and-Love-Actually plans for Saturday, and Kurt's eyes practically glittered as Blaine squeezed his hand but he only squeezed back once before breaking away to go...do something inane, "wash his hair," maybe, Blaine hadn't been paying attention for once because his head wouldn't stop its happy buzzing.
Oh. So this was what they were doing.
He left the choir room grinning like a fool.
Blaine added a picnic during the day before Saturday's movie night, quietly thanking Westerville for having some scenic little lakes and vistas where he could create an atmosphere. When the sandwiches were done they curled up close - but not explicitly physical, not yet spooning - and just talked a while, moving from something as cliche as the shape of the clouds to naked honesty about their past histories and back again.
When Love Actually made Kurt sniffle that night, Blaine squeezed his shoulder and offered a handkerchief. Kurt gave it a look before teary sniffs dissolved into teary giggles, and off Blaine's bemused look he laughed: "Nothing, it's just - you would," before dabbing at his eyes with it. They curled up closer, after that.
They cared for Pavarotti together, noting that he'd molted nicely and his feathers were brighter than ever. It was a game to try and match his whistles, to buy him increasingly outlandish toys to see which of their gifts he preferred. It was domestic, and more than a little ridiculous, but if it let them play out silly married-couple games while still wooing each other, well, so much the better.
Blaine serenaded him one night in the senior commons - except neither of them called it that, of course, they were just talking (with Blaine's arm slung around Kurt's shoulder) when he had developed this spontaneous need to pick at the piano in a way that sounded like he'd been rehearsing all week. And if the song was lush and romantic, if it said things like "I will be your solid ground" and "I need you in my life", well, he was just that kind of guy.
When he looked up from the keys to find Kurt staring at him in that way, that sweetly vulnerable way he craved, he wondered if now was when he could finally kiss him. But Kurt had complimented his playing, allowed a far-too-lingering hug, and then politely, reluctantly, excused himself.
Second rule: A gentleman lets his lover set the pace. He lets him play the stupid little romance games someone devised a long time ago, lets him enjoy him power over the one doing the wooing - because really Blaine loved it too, this thing they were doing, and he loved the quiet understanding between them of what it was, and what it was building to.
They were connected. They understood each other, they always had. And so Blaine decided that The Courtship of Kurt Hummel was probably going to kill him - but it would be a very nice way to die.
The third rule of being a gentleman, he knew, was that you fit into the situations you saw before you.
That didn't mean you were fake, it didn't mean you lied. He could woo Kurt in the most classic fashion without ever slipping that robotic mask back on. The problem was that everything around him seemed to slip away when Kurt was there. He forgot harmonies and was half a step behind in choreography. He got all caught up in Kurt's eyes, that green-blue-something he kept trying to think of a name for, and missed it when he was asked a question. His grades weren't slipping. His tie was still immaculately straight. But he wasn't - he laughed helplessly at the thought - he wasn't trying so hard. He suddenly didn't feel like he had to.
He knew he should feel like it was becoming a problem. About the third time Wes had interrupted their background chatter and made a speech about devotion to the group's success, he knew he should feel guilty that he was becoming one of those people, who started dating and suddenly ignored everything else. Except he'd probably done more for the Warblers than anyone except the council this year. He'd been so quiet and thoughtful and devoted, so perfect, that it was like a vacation whenever Kurt made him smile. They could cope without him, if he just wanted to sit in the background with his own happiness for a bit.
Fitting in wasn't about falsehood. It just meant you highlighted certain aspects of yourself, like a job interview, or a part in a song. You didn't use your head voice to sing Mack the Knife, not unless someone rearranged the music drastically. And you didn't tell Wes that you were going to take that gavel and feed it to him if he didn't stop giving you the stink-eye because he didn't like your boyfriend.
No matter how much you desperately wanted to.
"I need you to sing with me."
He studied his face in the mirror, and it was too desperate. Which is how he felt, and Kurt did want to see him, but for the sake of their teasing courtship he didn't want to show his hand too completely. Besides, Kurt should be the one swooning under his confident flirting, once in a while.
"I need you to sing with me. I need you to sing with me..."
The duet was accepted without a hitch, though, and it was glorious. He couldn't have imagined a better song - a game between pursuer and pursued, knowing what was happening, playing at refusal but eventually surrendering to the warmth of the other person at your side. Kurt's voice was clear and beautiful, and he let Blaine's eyes linger on his mouth before whirling away with shining eyes.
He looked thrilled just to be chased, to be wanted, by someone who wasn't going to punch him in the face for it. Blaine didn't know why no one had stolen him away ages ago.
There's a moment on the couch where he thought it should happen then, that he should draw Kurt closer and kiss him, finally, kiss him the way he should have been kissed ages ago. But his heart was pounding in his ears and his stomach was in knots, and he looked away maybe a moment too early, because oh God, he was in love. Completely and utterly. It was this wonderful painful ache to even look at him.
And it looked like Kurt had a visitor anyway. So he lingered just long enough to hear himself called a friend - in line with the game, he supposed - before slipping away to plan their next little rendezvous.
Where he was going to kiss Kurt Hummel if it was the last thing he ever did.
Of course, it didn't happen exactly like that.
Warbler practice was rescheduled, for one thing - a half hour later, which was going to mess with the surprise dinner reservations, and on one of the verandas of the dormitories instead of in the choir room. For some reason, on his entry, all of the upperclassmen were already there and unusually quiet. Wes seemed even more irritable than usual.
And Kurt wasn't in attendance.
About twenty minutes after the call to order, he asked about it. "I really hate to be a bother, but he was planning to come before. Maybe he's sick - you guys will be okay, right? I should go check-"
"Kurt's not going to be here today," David said quietly, and he sounded a little regretful. But only a little.
"What do you mean? He still has to learn the falsetto part for Kiss The Girl-"
"The council had a talk," Wes said calmly. He kept his eyes locked on Blaine's, and Blaine had a feeling, suddenly, the hair standing up on the back of his neck - like when he was back in middle school and he was waiting to get harassed at his locker, except he'd never felt like that at Dalton before, not even during his first week.
"And then we all had a talk. And we decided it was the best thing for the team if we made some adjustments."
"If you..." Blaine's eyes widened as Wes nodded slowly. "Oh no. No way."
"Blaine, you've done some incredible work for the Warblers since you first came here. You're invaluable to the team. We'd all been hoping - well, I'm graduating next year, and so is Ethan, and we've been looking for people to step up. People who show real leadership, who can really present the Warblers to Ohio and see us taken seriously. We could take Nationals under you, Blaine."
This was the time for a poker face. This was the time for a mask, because it was how Wes expected to be spoken to, how things would get done around here - diplomacy, careful restraint. Except Blaine couldn't clear his head long enough to plan the words. "That's very flattering," he said, his voice too sharp, "but I don't see what this has to do with Kurt at all."
"Let's look at the timing, then," Ethan noted. "Hummel comes here - spying, might I add - and suddenly you're taking day trips all the way to Lima to chat with our rivals. He transfers and we get a talented countertenor, so we're willing to let that go. Suddenly he bursts in, doesn't feel he has to pay his dues-"
"I talked to him about that."
"And the results, while stunning, essentially insulted us to our faces."
"I just... I don't understand." Blaine knew he was a better talker than this. He knew he could charm smiles onto the faces of Buckingham Palace guards. Why did he feel so small, so put on trial? "He has done everything you've asked of him, we've both-"
"You've been distracted," Wes insisted. "You've been sloppy and disorganized and more invested in your personal life than in this institution."
"So we've been a little into each other. We can dial it back, if you need better work from me - and it's me you're mad at, right? So leave him alone."
"That won't be enough. You are," and Wes's mounting frustration made the therapist in Blaine sit up and take notice, "you are the picture of what Dalton should strive to be, and ever since he walked through the door-"
"Wes," David said warningly, as if this were a conversation they'd had already.
"Kurt Hummel isn't the face of the Warblers, Blaine. He's overbearing and unprofessional, he's - for lack of a better word -"
"It's not to his face, David. Kurt Hummel is swishy."
It was like being punched in the stomach.
"When you stop following after him making cow eyes, you're exemplary. But he didn't fit here from the start, nor did he really want to. He'll be happier without us, you'll both see that in time."
This needed diplomacy. It needed charm and careful wording and possibly a noble speech or two. But Dalton Blaine and Sarcastic Blaine were getting mixed up in his head, and White Knight Blaine was poking his way through, and the fourth rule of being a gentleman was that you defended people who had been wronged, except this didn't feel like defending. It was too small and bitter and disappointed to be anything that noble.
"I'm sorry," Blaine said, and the voice he heard poking through was the condescending one, all faux-concern and careful superiority. "I guess I just got confused, with all this excitement, because I thought that Dalton didn't allow bullies."
"No one is bullying Kurt." Ethan rolled his eyes. "A couple of Warblers took him aside and explained he was out. Not a mean word or a hard shove to be found."
"Except behind his back. I thought people could be who they are here, Wes, call me crazy. I thought that was what you told him."
"Those weren't my words, Blaine." And now that the worst was through, Wes's voice was softer. "I said everyone got treated the same, no matter what. Do you understand?"
"Perfectly." Blaine gave them a tight smile, one that didn't reach his eyes. "Now if you'll excuse me."
A gentleman didn't get angry. Some anger was inevitable, of course, but the quiet, white-hot rage Blaine felt sometimes, a mix of disgust and self-loathing that made him want to start throwing punches, that was a different matter. He heard it in his voice sometimes, enough to make the composure slip, and it made him feel small and ugly. And real. He felt that way now.
He made it about halfway down the hall before he broke into a run, heartbeat pulsing hard, and no matter how fast he went he felt like he was in slow motion. Wes's words were echoing in his ears the same as any taunt he'd heard since he was twelve, never mind that these had been towards Kurt - hurting Kurt was like hurting him, at this point, and what was said had been like a warning.
Since coming to Dalton and deciding on the person he wanted to be, being gay had been like a shrug, something he could idly mention like his hair color. He could wear being gay like his hair color, keep it close to his chest, oh-so-very nonthreatening and straight-acting and safe... Kurt was different from that. Kurt stood out, was meant to stand out - campy, prickly, enthusiastic about everything, a game-changer wherever he went because you knew that he was supposed to be a star. Kurt wasn't someone who could just be tolerated.
"Everyone gets treated the same, no matter what they are."
Idyllic, really. Perfect. A little too perfect, to be anyone or anything.
He'd been so stupid.
His jacket was getting rumpled, and it was also a bitch to run in, so somewhere in his reverie he'd just thrown it off of him. It fell back and draped over a plush cushion, and with his arms free of the resistance he picked up the pace, up one flight of stairs, two, not even thinking of where he was going but there was really only one place he wanted to be, just then.
The door was unlocked, not that he knocked, but the room was also empty. Blaine half-expected to see a suitcase in the stages of packing, but everything was still in order, like the perfect reverie had never been shattered. Pavarotti was sitting calmly in his cage, chirping out arias, not a care in the world. Kurt was probably still making the trek back after being talked to, trying to calculate life at Dalton without being able to sing. Kurt, not singing...
Before he knew what he was doing, he was opening the window. He was struck by the faint breeze, the winter chill, which stung at his eyes and made them wetter. Then the cage was in his hands, not carefully at all, and Pavarotti's chirps turned into frightened trills as he struggled to stay on the perch. Blaine struggled to get the door open, metal biting into his hands as his hastiness made him fumble the lock.
The cage opened.
Pavarotti got his bearings on the floor of the cage, and for a terrified moment Blaine worried he'd injured a wing, but the bird was just stunned. He fluttered a little before finding the door, and all that open air beyond the window.
He chirped once, and then he was flying. His wings weren't clipped, thank God, though Blaine half-expected him to be swooped up by a hawk as if their lives were some kind of horrible farce, but no - after a few moments Blaine couldn't see the flash of yellow against the sky anymore, and the little canary was free.
He shut the window, hands shaking. And then, chest still tight with emotion, he hurled the cage against the wall, sat down on the couch, and put his head in his hands.
He wasn't sure how long it was before he heard someone come into the room. There was a sharp-but-slow intake of breath as the person took in the scene. Please be Kurt, please be Kurt, he thought, until soft footsteps came around the side of the couch, and small cool hands were wrapped around his shoulders as a face pressed against his neck (where his hair was starting to curl at the nape). And thank God, Kurt it was.
He felt those incredible eyes look over the room again, the poorly-shut window, the hurled cage.
"I love you too," Kurt said.
So Blaine pulled Kurt onto his lap to kiss him, again and again. It wasn't the first kiss he'd wanted to give him, but it was the kiss he had in him - something cracked open with longing and devotion, and the need to feel courage again. Their mouths worked against each other, tasting and drinking in, taking breathy gasps of air in between, not separating even when Blaine realized both their eyes were a little bit wet. If anything, it made Kurt hug him tighter.
And in kissing Kurt - proud, witty, sparkling, selfish, naive, wise, fierce, loud, take-charge, beautiful, brave Kurt - Blaine was home.
They curled up together, fingers intertwining. Blaine's free hand was stroking down Kurt's side, gently squeezing his hip, as he enjoyed the little mewls he created with just his touch. Kurt nuzzled against his neck, murmuring something relaxed and comfortable. It was like they'd never been anything but this. In a way this really was what they'd been, from the very first.
"They're probably going to kick you out," Kurt realized after a while. "For breaking their, uhm, pedigree."
"They always have a few other birds in case something goes wrong. We're teenage boys, they learned that fast." Blaine chuckled wryly. "Plus I kind of...quit."
Kurt raised his eyebrows and whistled.
"Yep. Stormed out like a diva."
"I'd have paid money to watch that." Kurt kissed him again, smiling against his mouth. "I'm...really flattered, but you're so happy performing, Blaine, you didn't have to do that."
"It was such a messed-up idea to me, not letting you sing. You."
"They're going to go down in flames without us," Kurt noted, trying not to sound too happy at the idea. "They're out of their minds."
"Completely." Blaine grinned, slipping both arms around Kurt's waist and spooning up against him. "Your old school's going to walk all over them. And we'll be...watching and grinning, I guess."
They were silent for a moment. Then Kurt slowly turned in Blaine's lap to look at him, eyes darker and a little thoughtful. He didn't have to ask the question - Blaine already knew. But he didn't know what his answer was, not yet. It was such a huge thing to consider - that after Kurt had shown up at his dorm room one day, eyes wide and hopeful that Blaine wouldn't call him a coward for leaving, either of them would ever think about re-entering a warzone like McKinley.
Blaine's eyes fell on the birdcage, the window. "Maybe I was kind of stupid," he said quietly. "Metaphors aside, how's he going to make it out there? Dead of winter, birds of prey, no internal compass..."
"Maybe he'll make a friend," Kurt said, and they smiled.
"Or a mate," he agreed.
"Both. Best if it's both."
"We have a new student auditioning today," Mr. Schuester informed the choir room, "so I want everyone to give him a warm welcome, and make him feel as at home in glee club as I know you all do."
"Mr. Schue, you're acting like you've already let him in."
"We've all heard him sing, Noah," Rachel said pointedly, eyes glittering with all the new chances for duets. "This is just a formality."
Blaine grinned, head dipping in faux-bashfulness. "Please, it's okay. It's only fair I pay my dues."
"Showoff," Kurt deadpanned from the front row, his smile reaching all the way to the little hearts dancing in his eyes. Blaine winked at him.
"I know I'm pretty much outing myself right away with Sarah McLachlan, but bear with me, okay?" He kept the intro going a few bars longer than usual, until the impressed whispers of how he could actually play piano died down, and then he began.
"I will be the answer at the end of the line -
I will be there for you, while you take the time.
In the burning of uncertainty, I will be your solid ground,
I will hold the balance if you can't look down
If it takes my whole life, I won't break, I won't bend
It will all be worth it, worth it in the end
Cause I can only tell you what I know:
That I need you in my life
And when the stars have all gone out,
You'll still be burning so bright.
Cast me gently into morning,
for the night has been unkind..."
He didn't have to look to know the expression on Kurt's face - the same one Blaine had worn during 'Don't Cry For Me Argentina', all awe and sadness and swelling pride. And when the room burst into genuine applause, he had the feeling that his wings were opening at last.
It was going to be just fine.