The watch on Blaine’s wrist hadn’t stopped ticking since he got it on his eighteenth birthday.
If it had been a regular watch, that would have been a good thing. But it wasn’t. It was his watch, the watch, the one he’d been anticipating getting since he knew that he would. It was the watch that would let him know when he’d met the person he was going to spend the rest of his life with, the watch that would signal the end of his stagnant waiting, stuck in the limbo of being eighteen - because that was how it worked, after all.
His eighteenth birthday had been two years prior, and then again the following year, and then again. Blaine was stuck in the limbo of being eighteen until that watch stopped, until he found that person, and then he could move on - they could move on together.
It wasn’t as though he’d been waiting a remarkable long time. He’d only been eighteen for two years. His brother, Cooper, had been eighteen for eleven years and counting. His dad had waited for twenty years, his mom for seventeen. Not everyone kept track, because it’s not like it had any impact on them physically how long they had to wait. Mentally was a different story. There were stories of people waiting for centuries - the longest on record was 350 years - and others of people going insane from how long they’d been stuck, been waiting, relegated to hospitals to try and recover if they could.
Blaine tried not to think about that.
He was young, both age-wise and mentally. It’s just that he was a romantic at heart, and desperately wanted the day to come where he didn’t feel like he was waiting and looking every minute of every day for that one person he was missing.
There were advantages, ways to keep busy. He’d graduated high school, moved to New York City and started college right on time with nothing to distract him - and used his classes and school work as distraction from thinking too much on what was always in the back of his mind.
It was hard to not think about it when he had that watch on his wrist, ticking away. Sometimes, Blaine thought he could feel it resonating throughout his entire body. That wasn’t possible, he knew it wasn’t, but that didn’t stop the thoughts from being there. Tick, tick, tick - the seconds counting by and keeping track of the minutes, hours, days passing by without anything changing.
That was why he was glad to be living with roommates, he supposed, even though he was jealous of them. He’d been friends with Brittany and Santana back home, and they’d moved to the city together.
Living with them was much preferable to living alone, and he didn’t think he could have found a better pair of roommates if he tried. Santana was blunt but honest, Brittany was a dreamer, and between the two of them they kept his head on his shoulders and his mind from wandering too far into itself. Brittany, in particular, was far more intuitive than most gave her credit for.
“Blaine? It’s Friday!” she announced, as though he didn’t know, coming into his room and flopping onto his bed beside where he was stretched out.
“All day long,” he replied, looking over at her with a soft smile and setting the book he’d been reading on the nightstand next to him. “Have fun plans?”
“No, but you should,” Brittany said, propping up onto her elbows and looking at him. “When was the last time you went to a mixer?”
Blaine’s expression fell slightly, his brow furrowing in thought. It wasn’t as though he was opposed to mixers, it was that he’d gotten burned out on them. When they’d first gotten to the city, he’d gone to at least one every week - mixers where the whole goal was single people potentially meeting the one . It had only taken so many nights of going out with high hopes and coming back with nothing to show for it for him to dial it back, slow down his trips out to them - once every two weeks, once a month, every so often maybe if he was bored and feeling adventurous, but it never worked out.
“If you and Santana want the place to yourselves, you can ask me to go away for a while,” he said, only half-teasing. Santana never had a problem telling him to get out, but Brittany usually used a lighter touch. “Give me a few minutes to put myself together.”
“No, that’s not it,” she replied, shaking her head and frowning in a pout-like manner. “I don’t want you to go away, I want you to be able to go out if you want instead of staying here. You don’t go out like you used to, and it kind of feels like you gave up.”
“I haven’t given up, Brit, I promise.” Blaine sat up a little straighter, pulling away from the pillow he’d been using for support against his headboard. “I got a little tired of going out all the time, but I know better than to give up.”
“Because you are great, you know,” she continued, reaching up to poke him in the middle of his chest. “You are a wonderful guy, and anyone would be so lucky to have you.” Brittany paused, biting at her lip before going on. “I know it’s probably hard sometimes, because of me and Santana, but I think that’s probably not a normal thing that happens. And I don’t mean to make you feel bad.”
Blaine knew what she meant, because he considered her and Santana two of the luckiest people he knew. On Santana’s eighteenth birthday, she’d been presented with her watch and as soon as she’d put it on her wrist, it stopped. Her parents assumed there was something wrong, some kind of technical malfunction, but it wasn’t. It was Brittany. They’d known each other for years, since they were kids, and they said they’d known long before any kind of landmark birthday rolled around where they would have proof. Sure enough, when Brittany had her birthday a few months later, her watch was still just like Santana’s.
There hadn’t been any waiting, no limbo, and they’d even had extra years together. Which is why Blaine thought they were so lucky.
“You don’t make me feel bad, Brittany,” he replied softly. “You don’t, and Santana doesn’t, and I’m happy for you - you know that, right?”
“I know, but I feel bad sometimes because I want you to be as happy as we are and I don’t want you to feel bad.”
“Brittany,” Blaine said, looking down at her, and lifting up a hand to tuck her hair behind her ear. “I don’t feel bad, and especially not because of you and Santana. You two make me happy, make me hopeful - if anything. I get to watch you two be so happy and in love all the time and I can’t wait for when I get to do that too, but it’s not my time yet. I know that.”
“But it could be, you never know. Maybe your person is out there waiting, and you’re in here.”
There wasn’t much Blaine could say to that, because she was technically right. He was never going to find them if he stayed in, and it had been a while since he’d made the effort to go out and try. Considering his plans for the evening were to finish the book he’d been working through, and maybe watch a movie to finish off the night and fall asleep to, going out was a far better option.
“Alright, I’ll go…”
“Yay!” Brittany pushed back to be sitting on her knees and bounced. “Here! I found a list of mixers that aren’t that far from here tonight, I thought maybe that would be a good place to start!”
Blaine chuckled as she thrust her phone toward him, the browser opened to the promised list of mixers. It would have been easy enough for him to find them on his own, but he appreciated the thought she’d put into it. A quick glance over the places made it easy to choose one, not too many subway stops away to make it a huge trip out, but far enough that it wasn’t just around the corner. For his first time out in a few months, it would work fine.
“Thanks, Brittany,” he said, offering her phone back once he’d committed the name of the place to memory, smiling as she pressed up to give him a kiss on the cheek. “You’re a really good friend, you know that?”
“Yes, I do,” she replied, grinning and giving him a nod before hopping off his bed and sauntering her way out of his room, leaving him to his own devices to change and get ready to leave - but he more than preferred to do that on his own.
Getting ready to go out for the first time in a while, Blaine took his time. He was always particular about how he presented himself, but especially when it came to going somewhere like a mixer, anyplace where there was the express purpose and want to find who he was waiting for. That’s why he took the extra care to lay out a few different outfit options on his bed to examine closely before landing on what he wanted to wear, putting it on piece by piece and being even more aware of the ticking on his wrist than normal.
Tick, tick, tick…
It was one of those times when it felt as though the ticks were sounding against his skin, resonating throughout his body, but Blaine chalked it up to being hyper-aware of where he was headed. The ticking was easier to not think about as he left the apartment, going out to the noisy and usually busy streets of the city, down into the subway station where the whoosh of the train and the echos of voices where he wasn’t likely to focus on anything as small as the ticks.
By the time Blaine got to the stop he knew was closest to the place, he had managed to get his hopes up more than he’d wanted. The problem was that the gentle rocking of the subway car and the anticipation of knowing where he was going, it had been too easy for his mind to wander. But wasn’t that why he was going in the first place? Because of hope? He’d barely had years to be looking, but he knew that didn’t matter. Maybe he would get lucky, though not quite as lucky as his roommates. The shorter amount of time spent waiting, the better.
Connections - that was the name of the place for the mixer, and Blaine had been there before. He remembered the font of the sign, the way the letters swished together and lit up, and that he’d met someone there who he’d dated for a while despite the both of them knowing they weren’t right. Blaine shook that memory from his mind as he crossed through the doorway, showing his ID to the bouncer by the door and making his way further inside.
There were people everywhere, conversations filling the air and bouncing off the walls of the room. Blaine stopped by the bar and got a drink, partially for a bit of courage but also for something to do, something to hold as he let his gaze scan over the room.
He was hoping for a jolt, some kind of sign when he looked at someone, a pull inside him that told him clearly - yes, that’s the one. Maybe he was being too romantic, dreaming beyond what actually happened, but he didn’t know what to expect. In his head, it was a grand moment of a feeling coming over him, of music playing and rose petals raining down from the sky as a sign that the wait was over. That couldn’t be real, he knew, but that didn’t stop him from wanting it.
That feeling never came, either. No matter how many people he mingled with, started up conversations with, moving around the room and doing his best to speak with as many as he could, there wasn’t even the tiniest hint of a spark. That didn’t stop him from having good conversations, making a new friend who was going to the same school as him but that was in a different year. That wasn’t unexpected, though. Blaine hadn’t ever been to a mixer where he didn’t walk away with a new name and number in his phone, someone to add to a list of friends that was in flux - growing with every meeting, and dwindling when the other person found themselves moving on with purpose after meeting their person.
Still, Blaine spent hours there, hoping and waiting, trying to ignore the watch on his wrist - both because he didn’t want to know how long he’d been there, as he didn’t want to acknowledge that it was still ticking away.
It was late when he got home, feeling mentally exhausted. It had been a lot of interaction, being present, being aware, and Blaine had been expecting a quiet night at home with nothing of the sort. He could feel his body craving his bed the closer he got, and by the time he was unlocking the door to go inside the apartment, his fingers felt almost uncoordinated holding his keys. The apartment was dark, and he went in knowing to be quiet, but he stopped inside the doorway when he saw a faint glow coming from the couch.
“Have a good time?” Santana’s voice carried over to where he was, despite the fact that she was speaking quietly. Blaine could see her face, lit slightly from the screen of her laptop - the source of the only light in the room, but she didn’t look over to him until he turned to lock the door behind him.
“Could have been better.”
“Bummer,” she responded, her nose wrinkling as she let her gaze move back to her laptop.
“I shouldn’t have expected any different, right?”
“Well you definitely shouldn’t with your plan of staying in all the time.” Santana shifted her laptop onto the coffee table so it illuminated more than just her face, and Blaine walked over to join her on the couch, sitting in the glow of the screen. “I know it sucks.”
“No you don’t,” Blaine replied, only slightly teasing.
“I didn’t say I knew firsthand , Blaine.” Santana rolled her eyes and gave his shoulder a nudge. “But I know. I know it can’t be easy going out there not knowing if it’ll be the right time or place or any of that.” She paused, raking her hair back away from her face. “Brit was glad you went.”
“I assumed you sent her.”
“So what if I did?” Santana grinned as she glanced over to him, and Blaine rolled his eyes. “What? I didn’t say I did, but… if I did, what would it matter? We both care , you know.”
“Right, but if you sent her it was less about caring and more about the place to yourselves.”
“Why can’t it be both?” Blaine shook his head with a chuckle, and Santana’s grin grew into more of a smirk. “We can want you to socialize and want to have some uninterrupted sweet lady kisses all at the same time. Brit and I are very good at multitasking like that.”
“As long as someone enjoyed their night,” Blaine said, nudging her as he got up from the couch and stretched his legs. “But now I need to sleep.”
“Sweet dreams of pretty boys, Anderson.”
Blaine offered Santana a parting tired smile before making his way across the dark to his room, only bothering to turn on the lamp on his nightstand to see by as he systematically took off the clothes he’d so carefully chosen earlier in the evening. That was a part he didn’t like, how it felt like a waste of something he’d put so much thought into. Wearing it again with the same purpose felt like it would be a betrayal, a lack of effort for a moment so important.
His mind was too tired to think much on that as he sorted his clothes into the laundry hamper by his closet, nudged his shoes into their place near the door, and slipped under the covers of his bed. The comforter was perfectly fluffy and warm on top of him, and Blaine sunk in against the pillows as he brought his wrist up above his face.
There it was, ticking away. Blaine ran his thumb over the face of his watch before easily unfastening it, fingers working nimbly from habit. He set it on his nightstand, looking at it a few seconds more before reaching up to turn off the lamp and let his room fall into the darkness he wanted to be able to fall asleep more easily.
As he began to drift to sleep, he couldn’t help but smile slightly as he remembered what Santana’s parting words had been. She didn’t know she was right, because Blaine knew better than to tell her, but he almost always dreamed of pretty boys - or rather a pretty boy, singular. Well, Blaine assumed he was pretty. There was never enough detail to know, never a distinct or feature for him to recall in the morning and try to place in his normal, everyday life. The only detail that ever stuck out in Blaine’s mind was one that he loved every time.
His dreams were always silent, despite the ever present watch on his wrist as well as whoever the boy was. There was no ticking, no sign of moment on the face, nothing. It was silent, and perfect, and Blaine knew that was the dream. That was why he fell asleep with a smile on his face, despite the way the rest of his night had gone.
Blaine decided to try more often after that night. There was something about waking up with that dream still on his mind, and Santana’s words sticking with him. He wasn’t going to have any luck while he was willingly shutting himself away rather than try.
There were mixers everywhere, every night, every afternoon, sometimes in the morning if a person knew where to look. Blaine wasn’t willing to go that deep, especially so quickly, but weekend nights were something he could do. He started slowly, locally, with a lot of the locations Brittany had presented with him that first night. There were plenty around their neighborhood, and he made the rounds with them before stretching his legs any further.
All he wanted was for his watch to stop ticking. Blaine knew he wasn’t as bad off as he could have been, and that minimal waiting had been done, but with the effort he was putting out he wished it would stop. Every person he met, he would steal a glance down at his wrist, almost like it was a nervous tick that had developed - and maybe it was. It wasn’t just at the mixers, though there it happened even more. At school, standing on the subway, ordering his coffee in the morning, he was constantly looking to see if the hands were still moving. And they always were.
“Don’t worry so much,” Brittany offered one day as they stood at the end of the counter, waiting for their drinks at the local cafe. “It’ll happen, and you’ll know when it does.”
“How did you know?” Blaine asked, looking away from her to pick up his coffee when it was set beside them, and he murmured a thanks to the barista. “When…”
“I just knew,” Brittany said with a shrug, fiddling with her necklace. “I knew before I should have been able to know.”
“Mhm, because you cheated.”
“I did not cheat!” Brittany stuck her tongue out at him, a grin spreading across her face. “Not really!”
“I know, I know,” Blaine replied, rolling his eyes. “How about you let a little bit of that luck rub off on me, alright?”
Brittany’s arms were around him before he was done talking, snug around his waist as she pressed against his back, her chin tucked on his shoulder and her cheek against his neck. She nuzzled against him until he chuckled, and then hugged a little tighter. Blaine leaned back into her hold and closed his eyes for a few seconds before she let her grip loosen, moving from behind him as her drink was called out.
“There, now you have some.”
The more Blaine went out, the further he started to go. It took months before he made his way out of their borough to try his luck, but once he did there wasn’t much going back. Manhattan was busier, had more opportunity, and also more people - which was both a help and a hindrance. More meant more possibility, but also more difficult to sift through. Still, the feeling of hope grew with each time he walked into a place and saw a crowd of people unfamiliar, a room of possibilities.
There were occasionally faces he recognized, because they were all trying to do the same thing, and people he’d made friends with before - conversations held over evenings out while they tried to ignore that it had been a bust. Seeing them again never phased Blaine, it always brought a smile to his face, both from the familiarity and then also a slightly more selfish feeling of knowing he wasn’t the only one working through the same thing. Generally he knew that always, but it had a certain legitimacy to it that came from seeing people repetitively.
Seeing a familiar face never made Blaine pause, until it was because it was a face he recognized not because he’d met them before, but because he knew who they were.
It was at a mixer on the Upper East Side, an area normally out of Blaine’s scope since he was a relatively young eighteen and a student, definitely not the expected demographic for the neighborhood, but when it came to matters like why he was there, none of that mattered. He had started purposefully going out of his norm, broadening his horizons with the hope of having more luck, and that was why he was there, and how he saw him .
Blaine had done his normal quick scan of the room when he’d walked in, taking in the general vibe and electricity of the people gathered, before heading toward the bar. His routine was second nature by that point, and the only thing that brought it to a halt was when he saw a man sitting at the bar, a profile of sharp jawline and cheekbones that he recognized in an instant. Blaine’s breath caught in his throat as his brain caught up with his gaze, and two words - a name - flashed through his mind.
Immediately, Blaine felt self-conscious of what he was wearing. Kurt Hummel was one of the biggest names in fashion, a top name designer who had secured his place in the industry decades ago and proved why he had that spot every time a new season rolled around. His clothes were always perfect, setting trends and having just enough of an edge to set them apart from anything else. Blaine had managed to go to Kurt’s show at Fashion Week the year before, thanks to a friend with an extra seat to their name, and he’d been blown away even more than he’d expected.
And Kurt was sitting there, right in front of him, looking like a dream. From the tip of where his hair was swooped up away from his forehead all the way down to the toes of his shoes, black boots that laced up his legs to just below his knees, he was put together so neatly that it looked like every piece was tailor made for him - and maybe it was. Blaine couldn’t help but take in the way Kurt’s shirt sleeves were rolled up to his elbows, uniformly and neatly, how his vest hugged in at his waist, and his slim pants disappeared into the tops of the boots.
Blaine drew in a deep breath as he took the final few steps toward the bar, his hands pressing against the edge of the counter as he leaned in. He ordered a drink and made himself stay focused on the bartender making it to keep from looking, staring, at the man sitting a few stools down. It wasn’t until he’d taken a couple sips for fortification that he moved over toward Kurt and cleared his throat.
“Excuse me, I don’t want to bother you, I just wanted to say I love your work. Your designs, I mean.”
When Blaine had been at the show at Fashion Week, the only time he’d seen Kurt himself was when Kurt had come out to introduce the show, and then again at the end. His seat had been so far away from the runway, Blaine had barely seen him at all. So when Kurt turned to look at him then, jaw tilting up and eyes locking with his, Blaine felt like he was seeing him for real for the first time.
“You’re not bothering me,” Kurt replied, giving a slight shake of his head and smiling. “Thank you, I appreciate hearing that. I’m Kurt,” he paused as he held his hand out to Blaine, “but you knew that.”
A thrill ran through him as he slid his hand into Kurt’s, taking in the press against his palm as they shook lightly - but it was less of a handshake than it was a brief handhold, and Blaine was more aware of how cold the glass in his hand was after feeling the warmth of Kurt’s hand in his. “And yes, I did know. It’s so nice to meet you. I saw your show last fall. I especially liked the jackets you did.”
“Thank you,” Kurt replied, his smile spreading enough to make the corners of his eyes crinkle. “Are you in the industry?”
“Me?” Blaine’s eyebrows raised and he gave a quick shake of his head. “No, I’m not. Definitely not my skill set.”
“Then what is?”
“Music,” Blaine said, a smile taking over his features. “I’m in school studying it right now, but it’s always been a passion of mine, especially performing. That’s what I want to do.”
“That’s a good passion to have. I’ve always loved music.” Kurt paused before offering, and nodding to the stool next to him, “You can sit if you want.”
Blaine hadn’t missed the appraising way Kurt’s gaze had moved over him while he was speaking. He hadn’t expected to have a conversation with him beyond saying his piece, so they had already surpassed that, so Blaine certainly hadn’t been expecting an invitation to join him. Expectations didn’t matter in a situation like that, and he wasn’t about to say no, so he murmured a thanks as he slid onto the stool, setting his drink on the bar and letting his body stay turned toward Kurt.
“So, talk to me about music,” Kurt started, taking a sip of his drink and smiling to himself as he shifted in his own seat to resituate more toward Blaine. “What specifically are you studying?”
If there was anything Blaine could go on about for hours, it was that. He’d shown interest and talent in it from a young age, then once the piano lessons were prominent in his life he’d moved on to singing. Middle school and high school productions of musicals, being in the choirs, he’d done it all - and he found himself spouting it all to Kurt as though they were old friends catching up on what had been missed in the time since they last met.
All the nerves from the initial approach were gone as Blaine went on, and Kurt couldn’t have been a better audience or conversation partner. He had his own background in music that Blaine hadn’t realized, but he wasn’t surprised considering how long Kurt’s name had been big in the fashion industry - it was bound to be that things he’d done in the past would fall by the wayside after so many years of fame in something else. But it made him easier to talk to, less of having to explain bits and pieces that the lay-person might not catch, and that was as much a gift as anything to Blaine, keeping him from having to pull out of his train of thought to clarify and lose momentum.
Despite the ease and comfort of conversation, Blaine never quite lost sight of the fact that he was talking to Kurt Hummel . It would have been hard to forget, especially with the way Kurt’s eyes seemed to pierce into his with rapt attention, how every detail of his clothes was just so and so perfect, even easier to see with how close they were sitting. He could see the seams lined up snugly on Kurt’s shoulders, the way the brooch pinned to his lapel caught the light and glistened when he moved, everything placed so precisely that.
Blaine was so intent on taking in what Kurt was wearing that when Kurt’s hand lifted so close to him, it almost made him startle. He looked down quickly to see what he was doing before his gaze shifted up to watch Kurt’s face as his fingertips traced over the edge of the bow tie he was wearing. Kurt tilted his head, his brow furrowing for a moment before his features relaxed.
“Oh, lions,” Kurt said as he drew his hand away, and Blaine exhaled slowly. “I kept thinking they were octopi.”
“Lions,” Blaine confirmed with a soft chuckle, absently bringing his hand up to smooth over the folds of the bow. The lions were so small, so traditional in form and not necessarily right side up, that he could see why it would be hard to figure out what they were - but Kurt had. A world famous fashion designer had been looking closely enough at his bow tie to notice what animal was embroidered against the solid, rich color of the fabric. “I don’t remember where I got it, I’ve had it for years.”
“It’s beautiful, and it goes so well with everything else you’re wearing, too.”
As much as Blaine had always enjoyed his own sense of style, the way he embraced a slightly more formal wardrobe than others might, he’d never felt more secure in it than when Kurt said that. It washed away the self-conscious feeling he’d had lingering in the back of his head since he’d made up his mind to say something to Kurt. He felt like he might never feel self-conscious again after that.
“Thank you,” he murmured, taking a sip of his drink in an attempt to cover up the smile turning his lips, a smile that felt like it might be too big but he couldn’t help it. His smile only seemed to make Kurt’s grow as well, and there were several seconds of quiet between them as they sat there smiling, the conversational buzz of people in the background the only thing keeping it from being completely silent.
Their conversation flowed on, along with several drinks each as they sat comfortably at the bar, sipping slowly while listening to one another, moving from music to more of Kurt’s forte, then back again. Blaine got the feeling Kurt didn’t like to talk about his work much while he was out, though he indulged Blaine well enough with some of it. It wasn’t as though Blaine cared about the clothes or the designs, but rather he cared about getting to hear Kurt talk about them. There was something so special about listening to someone so thoughtful and masterful describe what they do, and he could have listened to Kurt for hours.
That was another thing he noticed about Kurt. It would have been easy for him to steal the conversation, to overpower it and talk endlessly about whatever he wanted, but Kurt asked as many questions as Blaine did, if not more. He seemed more interested in what Blaine had to say than he was in discussing himself. Either way, Blaine kept thinking he was going to have to pinch himself, not just getting to meet Kurt but also having the chance to spend so much time talking to him.
By the time the crowd started thinning to the point that Blaine noticed, he’d completely lost track of how long he’d been there. It had to have been hours, and it had managed to feel like forever and mere seconds all at once. He watched as Kurt slid his phone out of his pocket to check the time, giving a shake of his head at the numbers lighting up the screen.
“As sad as I am to say it, I have to be going,” Kurt said, standing and slipping his phone back into his pocket in one fluid movement. Blaine shifted his stool back from the counter so he could rise as well, already feeling like he was missing Kurt despite that he hadn’t gone. “It was so nice to meet you, Blaine. Thank you for keeping me company.”
“Thank you for that,” Blaine replied, laughing as he gave a shake of his head. “It was definitely my pleasure.”
Kurt held his hand out again and Blaine gladly shook it, though once again it was less of a handshake and more of getting to take in the press of Kurt’s fingers against his skin, long and warm. And then it was over and he was gone, a parting smile sent Blaine’s way before Kurt walked out of the building and Blaine was left standing wondering if he’d dreamed the whole thing up.
That feeling stayed the whole subway ride home, as Blaine let his back rest against the hard seat and his body moved back and forth with the rock of the train as it went along the tracks, taking him from Manhattan to Brooklyn and back to his apartment.
It hadn’t been a dream, and he knew that. Kurt had been right there , had spoken to him, had complimented his bow tie and the rest of what he was wearing. It hadn’t been a dream. They’d talked, laughed, shared drinks and carried on like old friends rather than strangers, and Blaine doubted anyone would believe him if he told them but that wasn’t the point. He knew it was real, and that was what mattered.
The apartment was completely dark and quiet when he got there, and Blaine did his best not to make much noise as he got inside and made his way to the bathroom to brush his teeth and wash his face before he headed for his own room. Seeing his reflection in the mirror had only made him smile again, his gaze fixing on his bow tie as he brushed his teeth, studying the way the lions legs did look a bit like they could have been the arms of an octopus. He was sure that tie would always come with that memory, from that day forward.
His bow tie was the first piece of his outfit to come up, hung carefully in the closet before the rest of his clothes started to get undone and find their way to the laundry hamper. It barely took Blaine any time at all to be rid of everything he’d been wearing and crawling into bed, sighing softly as he settled in against his pillow and stretched his legs out underneath the comforter on top of him, getting comfortable before drawing his arm out from underneath the blanket to undo his watch and set it on his nightstand. He turned onto his side to reach over and turn off the lamp, the only source of light turned on in the entire apartment, but he stopped before his fingers turned the switch.
Blaine’s eyes fixed on his watch, his body frozen in a half-turned position facing the side of the room. He felt like he couldn’t move, couldn’t breathe, couldn’t even think as he looked down at the small accessory, the most important piece he’d ever owned, and let it register that he wasn’t seeing things.
The hands weren’t moving, it wasn’t ticking - it was stopped.
All Blaine could hear was his own breath, shallow inhales and exhales sounding so loud to his ears. He slowly lowered his hand from the lamp to his watch, fingers curling around it and bringing it to him, his thumb rubbing over the face and missing the familiar vibration from the gears moving inside. Except he wasn’t missing it at all.
He got out of bed, kicking the sheets from around his legs when they tried to tangle him up, moving without much thought as his mind was still clouded with pure disbelief at what was happening, walking over to the doorway of the other bedroom in the apartment and skimming his free hand against the wall until his fingers brushed against the lightswitch, and he turned it on.
“Fuck, Blaine!” Santana may have sounded groggy, but she also sounded mad, and Brittany whined from wherever she was buried under the blankets, the only part of her visible being her hair spread across her pillow. Blaine’s gaze moved from his watch to their bed, watching as Santana sat up and threw a pillow at him, her eyes only half-open. “What is your problem?!”
“It stopped,” Blaine said, the words sounding wrong on his tongue but he knew they were right. He’d expected to notice when it did, expected to witness it, but it had taken until he was staring it right in the face to see. It had stopped.
“What?” Brittany popped up, blinking rapidly and not waiting for her eyes to adjust before she was crawling down to the foot of the bed and hopping off to close the distance between them. Santana wasn’t far behind, almost stumbling to try and get to him first. They both grabbed the watch, tugging it from his hand easily and pulling it closer to them so they could see. “Blaine!”
“Who is it? Where is he? Why... are you here?” Santana demanded, not giving Blaine any time between the questions to answer. He didn’t know what to say to any of them except the last one, which was that he hadn’t known. But then he thought about her first question, and his breath caught in his throat.
“Oh my god,” he mumbled, bringing his hand up to his face and covering his mouth. “Oh…”
“Use your words, Anderson.”
“It’s Kurt,” Blaine said, more to himself than either of them.
“Kurt,” Brittany repeated with a nod, practically beaming.
“I didn’t know, I didn’t…” Blaine trailed off, looking between the two of them. “Not until I got home. That’s real, right? It didn’t just…”
“They don’t stop for no reason,” Santana replied, a bit more softness in her tone than there had been before. “It has to be real.”
“I need to go find him.”
“It’s two in the morning,” Brittany said, wrinkling her nose. “Do you know where he lives?”
Blaine’s expression fell, because he certainly didn’t. He didn’t even have Kurt’s phone number, which he normally would have for anyone he struck up a friendship with at a mixer, but Kurt was… Kurt. Brittany stepped forward and hugged onto him, resting her head on his shoulder.
“That’s okay! But maybe then you should wait until the morning to go find him. There are too many doors to knock on and people are sleeping.”
“Brit’s right,” Santana joined in, holding Blaine’s watch out for him to take again. “Too late for anything right now, but tomorrow… we can help. Even though you did wake us up.”
“I’m not sorry,” Blaine replied, a wry smile turning up the corners of his mouth. The helpless feeling he’d felt moments prior had already moved on, knowing he wasn’t imagining things and that he had his friends and roommates ready to help him find Kurt once it was a normal time of day again. “You would have been mad if I didn’t.”
“That’s true,” Brittany confirmed, giving him an extra long squeeze before letting go.
Blaine wasn’t sure he’d be able to fall asleep once he left the girls’ room, the light turned off with a triumphant sound from Santana, going back to his own and settling into bed for the second time that night. Even with his own light turned off, he felt like there was energy coursing through him that he couldn’t dampen or slow down. He stared at the ceiling through the darkness, the fingers of his hand still curled around his watch as he started to blink - normally at first but then slower, and with longer pauses between when his eyes were actually open. Eventually, his body succumbed to sleep, but even still the last thought he had before drifting off was tomorrow , and he felt that one last breath of hope before he slept.
The next morning, Blaine woke with a start. It was like a jolt had gone through him, a current of electricity to tell him to get up. His half-open eyes glanced toward the nightstand, a habit he’d never had to break until that morning, because his watch wasn’t there - and he was awake enough to remember that even if it had been, it would be of no use. He could feel it in his hand, fingers still curled around the metal back and the glass over the face, warm from being held for so long and quiet, still and silent.
“That’s going to take some getting used to,” he mumbled to himself, bringing his watch up to hold closer to his face, examining the motionless hands and rubbing his thumb over the face of it.
It might not have been working anymore, but that didn’t stop Blaine from fastening it to his wrist like he had every morning previous. In fact, all his movements for getting out of bed were the same, which didn’t come off as strange to him because they were all habitual, but as he wandered his way to the bathroom to take a shower and get the lingering grogginess out of his body and mind, he realized he expected maybe a bit more difference after such an eventful night.
That was all he could think about as he stood in the shower, letting the hot water run over his body. That was why he had been concerned the night before, that something had gone wrong and it hadn’t been real. Why hadn’t he felt anything? Why hadn’t he realized in the moment, or in the ride home, or in any of the spaces and silences between when he’d met Kurt and when his eyes had finally locked on his watch at the end of the night, when he was already in bed? He’d always imagined noticing at the exact second, normally so aware of that ticking that he had to notice when it wasn’t there, but he hadn’t.
None of that mattered. All that mattered was finding Kurt, which would hopefully be easier than it seemed. Blaine didn’t even know what to expect Kurt’s reaction to be, since obviously he hadn’t realized either, but they could work that out once they found each other. That was the important part, the finding.
By the time Blaine was done getting his hair styled and clothes carefully picked, he could smell coffee brewing in the kitchen. He knew he must have taken more time than usual if Santana beat him to making coffee, but he’d wanted to take his time. As carefully as he’d selected each outfit for when he’d gone out to mixers, hopeful to meet someone, he had been even more aware and particular with what he was wearing that day. After all, it was an important day.
“Morning, sunshine,” Santana greeted as Blaine made his way into the kitchen, still wearing pajama-type clothes to avoid spilling coffee on his impeccably put together outfit, raising her mug toward him. “Sleep alright?”
“Surprisingly,” Blaine replied, a smile turning up the corners of his mouth as she nudged another mug toward him, already filled with coffee and doctored the way he liked. “Thanks, San.”
“So I know I said we would help, which we will,” Santana said, absently stirring her coffee, “But do you have any idea where to start? Like, any ideas at all? Or are we in for a wild goose chase?”
“I… might have some leads,” Blaine replied after a moment, pausing to take a sip of his coffee as he mulled over the options.
“I have breakfast!” Brittany announced as she came through the door of the apartment, holding up a bag triumphantly and making her way over to the counter where they were standing.
“What kind of breakfast?” Blaine asked, raising an eyebrow and raising up on his toes as though he’d be able to see into the bag.
“The best kind,” Brittany replied, setting the bag in front of him and opening it to reveal half a dozen doughnuts, all covered in chocolate glaze and sprinkles. They each removed one from the bag and Blaine had just taken a bite when Brittany grinned at him. “Now! Tell me everything.”
“Yeah, like… does this Kurt have a last name?” Santana probed as she tore a bite-sized piece off her doughnut.
“Where did you meet him?” Brittany chimed in, her eyes lighting up.
“Is he as hobbit-sized as you?”
“Oh! What does he look like?”
“Do you actually have an idea of where to start?”
“Did you kiss him?”
“Can you stop?” Blaine interjected, a light chuckle underneath his words. “I can’t try to answer if you keep asking.”
“The last name question is important,” Santana said airily. “So we aren’t just trying to find every Kurt in the city.”
“Hummel.” Blaine set down what was left of his doughnut to rest his hands against the counter, unable to keep still with the thought of Kurt so present in his mind. “Kurt Hummel.”
“Ooo, Kurt Hummel,” Brittany echoed, twirling on her toes. “I like it! What does he look like?”
“He’s tall, gorgeous…”
There weren’t many words Blaine could come up with to accurately describe Kurt, once he was put on the spot to. Because Kurt wasn’t just gorgeous, he was so much more. How was he supposed to describe Kurt when he’d felt like it had been a dream to see him? He’d even seen him before, but that hadn’t been for real - not face to face like it had been the night prior, nothing to prepare him for what it would be like to take Kurt in, close and in person.
Blaine slid his phone out of the pocket of his pants, quickly unlocking the screen and pulling up the browser to search Kurt’s name. He knew no words would do Kurt justice, but he didn’t have to find them when there were bound to be plenty of pictures waiting to be found so he could simply show them. It took a quick scroll through the image search results before Blaine came across a picture he thought showed Kurt best, and he set his phone on the counter facing his roommates. “Like that.”
“He’s pretty .” Brittany snatched up the phone to be able to look closer, and Santana peered over her shoulder to be able to see too. “Blaine!”
“Why are there so many pictures of your boy on the internet?” Santana asked as she watched Brittany scroll through the search results. “There are so many.”
“He’s kind of… famous,” Blaine said, trailing off as he brought his mug up to his mouth and took a long drink of coffee. Both girls stared at him until he lowered his mug with a sheepish grin, giving a shrug of his shoulders. “He’s a designer. So that’s where I thought we’d start looking today - at his building. I can’t think of anywhere else he might be that I would know.”
“Get dressed, let’s go!” Brittany demanded, bouncing on the balls of her feet. “You had breakfast, you’re ready!”
“Yes, go get dressed,” Santana agreed, reaching over and giving Blaine’s shoulder a shove in the direction of his room. “Hurry up.”
“I don’t know why I live with the two bossiest girls on the planet,” Blaine mumbled, mostly teasing, as he grabbed the rest of his doughnut and finished it off in two bites as he walked the short distance to the doorway of his room, veering off at the last moment to stop in the bathroom to wash his hands so he didn’t risk getting a smudge of chocolate on his clothes.
The truth was, Blaine’s heart was racing the entire time he was getting dressed. It felt like he was going to explode from waiting, from still being at his apartment, but he didn’t want to seem like he was crazy. Blaine wasn’t even sure he was going to be able to find Kurt that day - and what if Kurt was looking for him ? Kurt had a presence in the world, but Blaine knew he didn’t. Sure, he’d told Kurt where he was going to school, what he was studying, but those were the only potential leads he would have if he tried to find Blaine. But they would find each other, that was the important part. That was the part Blaine had been waiting for, and had missed the first time it happened. He didn’t plan on missing it again.
Every piece of clothing he put on was one of his favorite, one of his best, something he anticipated and hoped Kurt would like based on what Blaine knew about him already - and thankfully there were a lot of style cues he had to work off of. But Kurt had said nice things about what he’d been wearing the night before, so it was a similar look to that, at least, with a few little twists to make it different enough so he didn’t seem like a one note. The bow tie was the same, tiny pink embroidered lions standing out against the green and making Blaine smile as he looked in the mirror to straighten it, remembering Kurt’s comment about them looking like octopi. He almost wished they were, just because of that.
“Stop fiddling,” Santana said from the doorway, but it wasn’t in her normal snippish, bossy tone. She sounded quieter, and was using a tone of voice Blaine was more familiar hearing aimed at Brittany. He glanced over and her leaning against the doorframe, Brittany behind her with her chin resting on Santana’s shoulder. “You look great.”
“You look perfect,” Brittany corrected, hugging her arms closer where they were circled around Santana’s waist. “He’s going to be so happy to see you.”
“Thanks,” Blaine murmured, absently rubbing over his wrist where he could feel his watch beneath the cuff of the blazer he was wearing. “I’m as ready as I’ll ever be.”
“Nervous?” Santana smirked softly, but there wasn’t much behind it, Blaine knew.
“Not any more than I was last night.”
“Let’s go,” Brittany said, tugging Santana backward out of the doorway and offering Blaine a supportive smile before pulling her arms away and turning to lead them toward the door of the apartment.
Blaine supposed he didn’t need them to go with him, but still it was nice to have the support of two people who knew him better than anyone else. Plus, after waking them up in the middle of the night with the news, he didn’t think he would have been able to stop them from going with him - Brittany especially. She had been the catalyst for him starting to go out again, so if anyone deserved to tag along, Blaine figured it was her. And where Brittany went, Santana was sure to follow, so there they were, trekking their way to the nearest subway station together and riding their way into Manhattan.
It hadn’t been a lie, telling Santana he wasn’t nervous. Blaine knew he wasn’t, he was more… anxious. He wanted the ride to be over, and it was a longer ride into the city than he remembered it being - or maybe that was because he was anticipating what was at the end of the journey. There weren’t enough distractions to keep him occupied, not with Brittany and Santana holding a steady conversation beside him in a way he was used to drowning out from when they were at home, and the routine way people jammed into the car and then spilled out at each stop. There were so many stops. Even after they switched trains, there were still so many stops to go.
“Where’s his building?”
Brittany’s voice pulled Blaine out of his quiet thoughts, his focus on the steady rocking of the subway car and then white noise of people talking in the background. She was leaning against his arm, turned toward him a little so he would be able to hear her over everything else, and Blaine slid his phone out of his blazer pocket to show her on the screen.
“Near Central Park, only a couple blocks away from it. If we get off at 57th we should be right by it.”
“Are you excited?” she whispered, hugging his arm against her. “I’m excited.”
“I am,” Blaine replied with a smile, leaning into her hold and exhaling slowly. “It’s hard to believe, you know? I think once I see him again it’ll feel real. Right now it still feels a little like my watch broke.”
“But it didn’t.” Brittany’s smile grew as she gave his arm a squeeze. “It didn’t break, it stopped.”
Those two words were the ones Blaine had had trouble processing the night before, the thought of it so foreign to his mind. It stopped . It was what he’d been wanting ever since he got his watch, it had actually happened, and he hadn’t noticed. That was another part that was difficult to believe, because he’d been so sure he would realize the moment it happened, such a change from what he was used to. He supposed that was just how it went, because even then on the subway, it didn’t feel out of the ordinary to not feel the ticking on his wrist. It felt just as normal as it always had when it had been running.
By the time they got to the 57th Street stop, Blaine felt like his heart was going to beat out of his chest. The closer they’d gotten, the more he felt as though he might burst. Brittany’s hold on his arm had been a nice grounding anchor, but watching the street numbers go higher with each stop they’d made had definitely helped Blaine feel his nerves kicking in. But again he wasn’t sure if nervous was the word he would use - anxious, too much anticipation building inside him, those seemed to fit better.
“Let’s go, loverboy,” Santana said with a smirk, rising from her seat as the train slowed at the platform.
“Okay, you might not be allowed to go inside with me,” Blaine replied, shaking his head and moving closer to the door, absently smoothing the front of his shirt as he waited for them to open.
“I won’t say anything bad!”
“Yes, you will,” Blaine and Brittany said in unison, and Brittany took Santana’s hand with a smile.
“But that’s okay,” she continued, swinging their linked hands between them as they made their way off the train and along the platform, following the exit signs. “I can go in with Blaine, and then I can tell you everything after.”
“What if I promise to be quiet?”
“Is that possible?” Blaine asked, raising an eyebrow at her and getting a smack on the arm. “Hey!”
“I am perfectly capable of behaving myself,” Santana said, sticking her tongue out at him. “It’s just that I don’t like to that often.”
“Which is the problem,” Blaine replied.
“How about if you behave and don’t say anything he wouldn’t like, I will give you a present?” Brittany proposed, walking backward through the turnstile to look at Santana. “Deal?”
Once they were on the street, it was easy to find the right building. It was even closer than Blaine thought it had shown on the map when he’d looked, and it had sneaked up on him as they walked down the block. It would have been difficult to miss, the name emblazoned on the door in bold letters - HUMMEL .
“God, I hope he’s here,” Blaine murmured, his gaze locked on Kurt’s name on the door.
“Well, if he isn’t, maybe someone inside will know where he is, and then we’ll keep looking,” Brittany offered. “But he might be!”
“No way of knowing until you go in and ask,” Santana added, reaching over to give him pat on the back. “And we’re right behind you.”
Blaine reached for the door handle as Brittany hummed in agreement, pulling the large glass door open toward them to go inside, his gaze sweeping across the lobby as he stepped in. Everything was sleek and clean lines, ornate, expensive looking, and he gave himself a moment to take it in before moving toward the desk across the lobby from behind which the receptionist had been watching them since they got inside.
“Excuse me,” Blaine said, offering her a smile. “Is Kurt Hummel in today?”
“Do you have an appointment?”
It hadn’t occurred to Blaine that it might not be as easy to get to Kurt as he’d thought. Maybe it was because he’d been so out in the open, in a normal setting like everyone else, when they’d first met. He’d never expected to meet anyone like Kurt at a mixer, yet he’d been there all the same. Their conversation had seemed easy and normal, but Kurt was on a different level than him in so many regards, and that one question from the receptionist brought that reality down on him. He wasn’t about to panic, not yet, but he’d hoped for it to go smoother from the get go.
“You’re not going to want to keep him from going up there,” Santana cut in with her usual no-nonsense tone, leaning against the desk beside Blaine. “He’s important, even if he doesn’t have an appointment.”
“Mr. Hummel has a very busy schedule, I’m afraid I can’t let people up he’s not expecting-”
“I know that’s your procedure, and I understand that, but it’s important I see him,” Blaine started again, hoping she would be more susceptible to a gentler approach than Santana. “I’m not trying to get you in trouble with anyone, and I know you’re just doing your job, but I need to see him because I met him last night and…”
He trailed off, stretching out his arm and using his other hand to push up the cuff of his blazer and the shirt he was wearing under it, bringing his watch into view in all its stopped glory. The receptionist considered him skeptically before her gaze dropped down to his wrist, settling on his watch and taking it in for a moment before the lack of movement clicked in her mind and her eyes widened.
“Oh, I- I can let you up,” she said quickly, glancing over to the security desk by the elevator before rising from her seat. “Come with me.”
With her by their side, they were able to check in with security and get temporary badges with no problem, and barely minutes later were in an elevator headed up to the twelfth floor of the building. There was nothing but silence as they ascended, but as the numbers ticked higher, Brittany reached over and gave Blaine’s hand a squeeze and didn’t let go until the elevator stopped and the doors opened.
Blaine could feel the anxiety churning inside him growing more with every step down the corridor, toward the desk at the end. There were framed design sketches on the walls, offering enough distraction for him to pay attention to something other than how hard his heart was beating in his chest. He was moments away from that moment , the one he’d been waiting for, and the one he thought he had missed the night before. But the moment of being face to face with Kurt and knowing, for sure, was something that could happen even if it wasn’t that first second.
“Can I help you?”
“Yes, I need to see Kurt Hummel.”
Before the assistant sitting behind the desk was able to try and shoot Blaine down in the same manner as the one in the lobby, the door behind her opened and several people came out - Kurt the last of them, shaking their hands as they exchanged pleasantries. Blaine felt frozen to the spot, his breath caught in his throat the moment his gaze landed on Kurt, and he heard Brittany let out a quiet hum next to him at the same moment Santana inhaled sharply.
It felt like time was standing still, or at least moving in slow motion. Blaine had all the time in the world to take in the angles of Kurt’s smile, the way his eyes lit up as he let out a short laugh at what one of the others had said. How despite the fact that everyone who came out of the room had aged, this young-appearing person had them all captivated until the moment they turned to leave and their line of sight on him was broken. And how that moment was the same as when Kurt turned to see the three of them standing there, his brown instantly furrowing and confusion etched across his features.
“Kurt,” Blaine said breathlessly, taking a step toward him, away from the support of his roommates.
“What are you doing here?” Kurt asked, his gaze flitting between the three of them standing there but coming back to land on Blaine.
The question hit Blaine as odd, made him stop halfway through another step forward and rock back on his heel instead. Shouldn’t Kurt have known why he was there? Have been waiting for him, or wanting to go out to find him? Or had a number of other reactions rather than that one? It felt more like a punch in the stomach than anything else, and Blaine blinked a few times as he tried to gather his thoughts and run through the night before in his mind on the off chance he’d made a mistake.
“I had to find you,” Blaine started, the words feeling heavy on his tongue as a slight chill of panic ran through him, the possibility of being wrong at the forefront of his mind for the first real time. “After last night, I had to… my watch, it stopped.”
Kurt stared at him, the color seeming to drain from his face. It made Blaine’s stomach turn, and not in the twisty turny way it had from the anxiety he’d had in getting there. The silence between them felt loud, too loud, and heavy, like it was going to crush them - or at least, crush Blaine. He’d always expected it to be a happy moment, a joyous moment, the both of them excited for the future and glad to have found each other, but what was happening outside that office was none of those things.
“Listen cupcake, you’d better start talking or at least get that look off your face.” Santana broke through the silence, her tone sharp and thin in a way Blaine knew meant she was on edge. He was sure she’d been expecting it to go differently too, they all had. But there they were, the tension practically palpable. “What the hell is wrong-”
“Santana,” Blaine cut in.
“It’s not possible,” Kurt said, his voice quiet, his words overlapping Blaine’s and almost getting lost because of it, but Blaine still heard him. So did Brittany.
“Of course it is,” she piped up, shifting a step forward to be beside Blaine and rest her hand on his arm, a gesture he greatly appreciated. “Why wouldn’t it be?”
“It isn’t,” Kurt said, a little more certainty to his voice, but that didn’t make his words any more believable, because there they weren’t. “It had to have been someone else.”
“I only talked to you,” Blaine murmured, giving a slight shake of his head. “There was no one else.”
It wasn’t just that he knew he hadn’t talked to anyone else, hadn’t interacted with anyone else beyond ordering drinks from the bartender and holding the door for someone when he’d left the mixer. Kurt had been the only person, and he was the only person there was. Blaine knew it. He couldn’t figure out why Kurt was so certain he wasn’t.
“Let me see.”
It wasn’t a request, or a demand, but the words had barely left Kurt’s lips before Blaine lifted his arm and pushed up the cuff of his blazer and shirt like he had down at the desk in the lobby. Kurt closed the distance between them in a few long strides, his gaze locking on the motionless face on Blaine’s wrist as soon as he was able to see it. Blaine breathed slowly, shallowly, as though anything he did might disrupt the already delicate balance of all of them there.
There was a pause as they all stood frozen like statues, long enough for Blaine to wonder if he should say something, or if Santana was about to snap something out at Kurt again, but right when it was about to get to the point of awkwardness or being uncomfortable, Kurt grabbed his hand.
Blaine felt a rush run through him, like adrenaline surging through his body, at the press of Kurt’s hand against his. It wasn’t like the handshakes they’d shared the night before, formal and polite, but more of a clutch of fingers around his palm. And they weren’t just holding, they were pulling, and Blaine didn’t have the chance to register what was happening before his feet were moving beneath him and he found himself following Kurt down the corridor toward the elevator, not stopping until they had to wait for one to arrive and take them down.
He hazarded a glance back toward the girls, looking small at the end of the hallway by the desk, and while he couldn’t see their faces that well he could read their body language. Santana had her hand on her hip in a way Blaine knew meant she was annoyed, but Brittany had her hands clasped together up under her chin, and he couldn’t help but smile at that. She would have spent her whole day helping him convince Kurt if need be, Blaine was sure, but it didn’t look like it was going to come to that, even if Kurt was concerningly quiet the entire ride down to the main floor.
But he never let go of Blaine’s hand.
Blaine didn’t question it as they left the building and started down the street. He let Kurt lead him, walking a quick pace and weaving through people that were going too slowly in their path. It was like Kurt didn’t even register them, like he didn’t notice anything but the space he needed to go through to get them where they were going, and Blaine let his fingers flex around Kurt’s hand and hold onto it a little more as they went, almost like he was testing the waters. It felt good, but so had everything from the second Kurt had taken his hand in the first place.
They’d only gone a few blocks when Kurt turned into a building, breezing past the doorman and walking straight for the elevator. Blaine glanced around the lobby as they stood waiting, taking in the level of grandeur. It was the second building he’d been in that day where he’d been almost overwhelmed by the fanciness of it, but he supposed that was one of the differences between his life and Kurt’s. And there were so many others.
“Kurt,” he started quietly as they stepped into the elevator, and he watched Kurt press a button for the floor and then immediately the button to close the doors. “Are you okay?”
There had been such a high level of tension back at Kurt’s building, and the silence between them on their journey to wherever they were going on gotten to be too much for Blaine, especially when Kurt had seemed so unbelieving. All Blaine kept seeing in his mind was the way Kurt’s face had gone so pale, the look in his eyes when Blaine had stated the fact so simply that his watch had stopped, and the implication had stopped for Kurt. It had almost been like fear, but Blaine didn’t want to think it was that, because what was there to be afraid of?
Kurt didn’t say anything in response, merely let his grip tighten on Blaine’s hand for a few seconds before loosening again, the cliched music in the elevator keeping them from silence until they reached the floor he’d selected. Blaine walked with him as soon as the doors opened, watching as Kurt pulled out a key and opened the only door he could see.
As soon as they were through the door, Kurt dropped the key into a bowl on a table to the side, and Blaine let his gaze sweep across the room as they moved through it. He didn’t have much chance to take it in, not with how Kurt was still leading him along as quickly as they had been going out on the sidewalk, but he couldn’t help but try and take in each detail and aspect of Kurt’s apartment as he saw it for the first time. It was lavish, beautiful, lived in but immaculate, and otherwise too much to observe in the brief chance he had before he was going up a set of stairs to the next level, letting Kurt take him to wherever they were going.
Another floor, another glimpse and attempt to grab onto some details before they turned onto another staircase and Blaine focused on the back of the man in front of him instead, the view he’d had for the majority of the time they’d been together that day. Kurt’s jacket was made of a burgundy velvet that looked rich and soft, and Blaine had been aching to reach out and touch it the entire time they’d been walking down the street, but he’d resisted. His gaze stayed fixed on the seam going up the middle of Kurt’s back until they reached the top of the stairs, and that was the moment Kurt’s hand left his for the first time since he’d taken it.
Blaine didn’t stop following him, despite the lack of physical contact. He watched Kurt move away from him and through a doorway, and he gave himself a lingering moment to look around the room where he’d been left - plush, comfortable looking furniture, and frames gathered together on the wall full of pictures Blaine wanted to look at closer, but not right then - before tracing the same steps as Kurt through the doorway and into what was clearly Kurt’s bedroom.
It felt like more of a moment that should have been taken in than it was, but most of them so far had been. Blaine hadn’t been expecting to see Kurt’s apartment, especially not his bedroom, when he’d left his own apartment that day, but he also felt as though he hadn’t really seen it, not with how they’d rushed through the entire place to get to where they were. And it wasn’t as though they were in Kurt’s bedroom because it was his bedroom , but rather for some reason he didn’t know. It was the reason Kurt had practically dragged him there, and had disappeared into the closet.
“Kurt?” Blaine tried again, making his way over to the closet and peeking into it around the door that had been left open.
It was a large walk-in, though he wouldn’t have expected any less, and Kurt was standing in the back corner fiddling with a pair of boots. Blaine stepped into the closet as Kurt moved the shoes out of the way and by the time Blaine got closer to him, he could see that he was twisting the dial on a small safe that had been hiding behind the boots that had found a new home on the floor. He didn’t focus on the safe or the combination Kurt was putting in, but rather the fact that Kurt’s expression hadn’t changed since it had Blaine had caught that glimpse of fear, and that Kurt’s fingers were far from steady.
Cautiously, Blaine rest his hand on the small of Kurt’s back, his fingers finally stretching against that velvet he’d been longing to touch, and his gaze stayed fixed on Kurt’s face until he heard the latch of the safe opening and he let himself look to see what Kurt had been coming to find, what he’d been on a mission to get to. And in the moment his eyes met what had been in the safe, what was in Kurt’s hand, Blaine felt the nerves in his body that had been so tense and on edge ease off, his fingertips pressing in against Kurt’s back as he let out a slow exhale, his entire body seeming to relax.
It was Kurt’s watch, and it was stopped.
So had Kurt. Blaine could feel the stillness of him beneath his hand, the way Kurt was standing so stiffly and hadn’t moved since he’d pulled his watch out of his safe. Blaine glanced up to his face again, his thumb absently rubbing against where it was resting on his back, pressing the velvet the wrong way and then smoothing it down again with every pass back and forth. Kurt’s eyes hadn’t left the watch once they’d locked on it, and Blaine wasn’t even sure if he’d blinked. It was like he was frozen.
The quiet murmur of Blaine’s voice broke the moment, and Kurt drew in a deep breath before a broken, ragged exhale came from his lips, and he seemed to crumple.
Blaine had no chance to try and catch him before Kurt was on the floor, fallen to his knees and hunched over as his body shook visibly. The movement had been so sudden, Blaine hadn’t had time to react, but as soon as he registered what had happened he was there beside him, kneeling beside Kurt and wrapping his arms around him - gently at first, but then holding him closer as he felt the way Kurt leaned into him, felt the way Kurt’s body was practically convulsing as sobs escaped him.
All Blaine could do was hold him, his hand stroking lightly over Kurt’s arm in an attempt to soothe as they stayed knelt on the floor of the closet. He couldn’t imagine what it felt like for Kurt, he only knew what it was like for himself. He’d been waiting ever since his eighteenth birthday, hopeful every day that it would be the right day, the right time and right place, and when it had happened he’d almost missed it entirely - and he still wasn’t sure how. They both had managed to, but there they were all the same.
As Kurt seemed to calm, his body turned more toward Blaine’s, to the point where his head was resting on Blaine’s shoulder as shuddered breaths played across his lips. Blaine could feel ways Kurt’s body was relaxing, in little movements where he would shift because of a muscle finally losing the tension it had been holding, more weight being pressed against him rather than held back in how Kurt was supporting himself. His hold on Kurt relaxed with him, his arms staying around him but looser, giving Blaine more freedom to run his fingers along his arm, his shoulder, up into the back of his hair a bit, tracing down the middle seam on the back of Kurt’s jacket.
They stayed in silence, once Kurt was still. There were no more sobs wracking him, no more tremors running through his body, harsh inhales and exhales making his entire frame move. Kurt was still, quiet, and Blaine stayed quiet too, letting his fingertips trace nonsensical patterns along Kurt’s back. He didn’t know what to say, what there was to say, and he didn’t feel like it was his place to be the one to say anything at all. That was all for Kurt.
The words were so quiet, Blaine thought he might have imagined them. Except he had no idea why he would have imagined Kurt apologizing to him.
“There’s nothing to be sorry about,” he murmured, giving a small shake of his head.
“I’m a mess.”
“No, you absolutely are not,” Blaine replied, his tone not quite as soft and definitely more firm. It was enough to get Kurt to lift his head, to look up at him with red-rimmed eyes and tear streaked cheeks, but only for a split second before he looked away. Those glimpses of fear Blaine had seen before were gone, no traces left anywhere on Kurt’s features, and even with the impact crying had had on him, Blaine wouldn’t have come anywhere near saying Kurt looked like a mess. “You aren’t.”
“You… I didn’t realize…” Kurt began, trailing off and huffing out a breath as his words stopped.
“Neither did I.”
Blaine looked down between them, since Kurt had lifted away from him a little more and given him enough space to be able to see anything other than the soft swoop of Kurt’s hair and the lines of the jacket hugged against his back. Kurt’s hand was clenched so hard around his watch that his knuckles were white, and Blaine lowered one of his hands to rest over it, his thumb brushing gently over Kurt’s knuckles.
“How about we go sit somewhere more comfortable than here?” he suggested, glancing around the closet for the first actual time since he’d stepped inside. “That couch you had out there looked nice, from what I saw of it before.”
Kurt gave a nod, but didn’t move for a few more seconds, his hand staying in Blaine’s until he needed to pull it away to get up from the floor, and Blaine wait for him to be on his feet before rising to join him and following him out through the room he’d barely glanced at the first time he’d gone through it. He didn’t see much more if it that time either, his gaze steady on Kurt as he walked with him through the bedroom and out to where the couch was, settling on it beside him and hooking one of his ankles behind his opposite knee to keep his body turned slightly toward Kurt.
“I’d given up,” Kurt murmured, still holding his watch tightly but his thumb rubbing against the face of it. “I gave up so long ago, I didn’t think it would ever happen, not for me.”
“I’m sorry it took me so long,” Blaine replied softly, knowing he hadn’t had control over it any more than Kurt had, but still feeling like he should apologize. “It definitely wasn’t on purpose.”
“You know what’s ridiculous?”
“Last night, that wasn’t something I do,” Kurt said, glancing over to Blaine and making eye contact with him and holding it for what felt like the first time since they’d been at his office. “Going out, especially a place like that. I usually stay home, or work, or if I’m going out it’s someplace specific and because I’m meeting a friend, or a colleague. I couldn’t tell you the last time I went out on my own, but last night I wanted to. I left my office and didn’t want to come here, so I started walking and didn’t stop until I saw someplace I wanted to go in, and then once I did… I sat, and I waited, and I didn’t even know what I was waiting for.”
“Those places, I started hating them so long ago,” Kurt whispered, blinking a few times before looking away and down to his watch. “Always the same story, promising hope but delivering disappointment. Even last night, seeing all those people there, I felt bad for them. I felt like I was beyond them, because I’d accepted my fate. But then there was you.”
Blaine felt like there was so much he should say, but none of it mattered. Not when Kurt was talking, not when Kurt had been waiting so long and he’d only been stuck in a limbo for a few years. That was a fact Blaine felt ashamed of, because he’d felt so restless about his wait and it only amounted to seconds compared to what Kurt had been through.
“I didn’t realize, but I think part of me did, or at least wanted to, because you made me smile in a way I thought I’d forgotten. And even when we were sitting there I thought, I wouldn’t mind listening to you talk about anything.” A light blush crept into Kurt’s cheeks as he paused, pursing his lips for a moment. “Then you said you were a singer and I wished I had a chance to hear you because even just from hearing you talk I could only imagine how nice your voice would sound…”
“I thought I was being the biggest intrusion,” Blaine murmured, a chuckle tripping over his lips in a huffed out breath. “You’re not someone I ever imagined meeting, and you had such better things to do, more important people to talk to…”
“Clearly not,” Kurt interrupted, reaching over and wrapping his hand around Blaine’s wrist, his fingers tightening over the cuffs of his blazer and shirt and pressing down against the watch beneath them, and his gaze came up to meet Blaine’s again. “There’s no one more important.”
“You know what I mean. You’re… you , and I’m just me. I didn’t want to interrupt you, or be rude, but you gave me so much of your time and all I could think was how lucky I was to get to sit and talk with you for as long as I did. It felt surreal, but so perfect and right, and at the time I thought it was because of who you were but looking back I have to imagine it was because of who you are.”
“You made me forget I was anyone,” Kurt replied, giving one last squeeze over Blaine’s wrist before letting go and allowing his fingers to drift down to hold Blaine’s hand instead. He was holding it lightly, but the weight of his hand was something Blaine felt familiar with already, and he loved the way it felt in his. “Sitting there, talking to you, I felt like anyone. I felt like… how it must be to be anyone else and have that moment happen, but without knowing it was happening.”
“I never could have dreamed it would have been you…”
“I kind of hoped it was.” The admission fell from Kurt’s lips so quietly, Blaine thought he hadn’t heard him. Their whole conversation had been soft, hushed, but Kurt had managed to make it more so. “I know it sounds ridiculous, and it felt even worse to me, but I did. When I left, I thought if anyone ever actually existed for me, it would nice if they could be like that.”
“But you still didn’t check?” Blaine raised an eyebrow, nodding down to Kurt’s watch.
“Why do you think I kept it locked away?” Kurt blinked a few times, staying quiet a long moment before swallowing thickly and letting his fingers flex against Blaine’s hand. “I gave up. I felt like I was going to go insane, turn into one of those people who had to be taken away and be nothing more than a cautionary tale. I couldn’t stand to hear it, to see it, so I put it where neither of those things would happen. Checking it, that would have been worse - proof I was right to stop looking, a reminder I was on my own.”
“I’m so sorry, Kurt.”
“There’s nothing to be sorry about,” Kurt replied, giving a shake of his head. “Nothing.”
“I feel like there is,” Blaine went on, bringing his other hand over to rest on top of his, sandwiching Kurt’s slender hand between both of his. “As much as you hoped last night, I never would have been so bold as to hope you were it for me, because you’re so… beyond anyone I ever could have hoped for. When I got home, when I realized, it was like my mind couldn’t process it because there was no way it could have been true. You’re so accomplished, and poised, and have an entire life built for yourself, and I’m just a student-”
“We were all students, at one point or another,” Kurt teased softly, but the blush was still there in his cheeks. Blaine was sure his were pink to match, but he didn’t care. “Sometimes more than once, or over again. I’ve been a student plenty of times.”
“I haven’t,” Blaine said, drawing in a deep breath. “This is my first time.”
It wasn’t what he was trying to say, but he felt like Kurt would get the meaning behind the words. They were both eighteen, but not really. Kurt had lived lifetimes without aging a day, but Blaine had only lived years. He had the advantage of knowing that, because he knew Kurt, but Kurt had no way of knowing that about him. That was what made him nervous, more than anything else. Kurt didn’t make him nervous, Kurt made him feel like maybe he could fly. But they were sitting there, talking about how Kurt had locked his watch away because he’d given up and not wanted to go insane, and Blaine had only been dealing with that ticking so briefly in comparison.
“How many years?” Kurt asked, the teasing gone from his voice and his eyes fixed steadily on Blaine.
“Two,” Blaine replied, almost wincing at how small it sounded. It was actually more like two and a half, but such clarification wasn’t going to help. “Just two.”
A laugh escaped from Kurt, and it looked like it caught him off guard when it did. It bubbled up inside him and tripped off his tongue in a giggly, bell-like laugh that made him pull his hand from between Blaine’s to bring up to cover his mouth. Blaine’s eyebrows raised in response, because it was far from the reaction he’d been expecting, but he wasn’t sure how to take it.
“Two,” Kurt repeated before laughing again, biting his lip in an attempt to hold it back. “Just two.”
“I know, it’s horrible and unfair,” Blaine started, but before he could say anything else, Kurt’s lips were pressed against his and he felt like his head was spinning.
The kiss didn’t last, but it managed to feel like it went on so much longer, and Blaine felt like the only thing keeping him from melting into a puddle on the couch was the way Kurt’s hands were resting on the sides of his face, cupping his jaw and holding him steady. Somewhere along the way, Kurt had let go of his watch for the first time since he’d gotten it from the safe. Blaine let one of his own hands drift up, his fingertips tracing against the line of Kurt’s jaw until they met the hinge and slid around to rest on the back of his neck as they both pulled back, and Blaine took in a breath that felt like it would never be deep enough.
“You waited so long,” Blaine whispered, still wanting to get the rest of his apology out despite the fact that Kurt seemed to not care about it - and with kisses like that, Blaine was sure he himself wouldn’t care much longer either. “You had to wait, and you gave up, and I didn’t have to go through anything.”
“Blaine, you think I wish you had to go through any of that?” Kurt asked, gently resting his arms on top of Blaine shoulders and his gaze softened as he looked at him. “You think I want for you to have given up? If we’d both been in the same place like that, neither of us would have realized what was going on.”
Blaine could feel himself relaxing with the obvious acceptance from Kurt, the lack of big deal made about the major difference in their experiences. They weren’t the first ones to have that situation, and they certainly wouldn’t be the last, but that didn’t mean it was guaranteed to go smoothly. Blaine had already been smiling, unable to help himself, but the reminder of the way Kurt had laughed made his smile grow. “We both had a hard enough time realizing it anyway, I guess you’re right we didn’t need anything else helping us miss it.”
“Back when I thought about it, I always expected fireworks,” Kurt mused. “Some kind of giant sign or feeling so there was no possible way to miss what was happening.”
“A moment,” Blaine agreed, nodding and pausing for a moment before reaching up to move Kurt’s arms from around his neck.
“What are you doing?” Kurt asked, arching an eyebrow.
“Just because we missed it last night doesn’t mean we don’t get to have it,” Blaine said, standing up and moving toward the bedroom door, glancing over his shoulder at Kurt before ducking behind it and giving himself a few seconds of waiting before walking out again. Kurt hadn’t moved, but the smile threatening to overtake all of his features was enough to tell Blaine he knew what was going on as Blaine stopped in front of him and extended his hand. “Hi, I’m Blaine.”
“Kurt,” he replied, slipping his hand into Blaine’s and giving it a firm shake, his smile growing and making the corners of his eyes crinkle.
“Oh,” Blaine murmured, resting a knee on the couch and lowering down to sit, his hand pulling out of Kurt’s so he could brush his thumb over the apple of Kurt’s cheek, like he was tracing the effect of the smile on Kurt’s face. “There you are.”
Kurt tilted his head into Blaine’s touch, his eyes closing for a long moment before he let them open, eyelashes fanning in a way that made Blaine’s stomach flip like he was seeing him for the first time. By the time Kurt actually looked up at him, their eyes meeting again, Blaine couldn’t believe he’d sat so close to him the night before and not known exactly who he was sitting beside, talking to, but he knew there would never be any question in his mind ever again.
“I’ve been looking for you forever.”