Cast opposite the successful actor and performer Blaine Anderson as a romantic lead in a historic drama Kurt, a relative newcomer to the screen, has to learn to navigate his relationship with his character – and with his co-star.
PG-13 (NC-17 overall); 8,000 words this part (60,000 overall)
Kurt Hummel had always known his life was going to be amazing.
Author’s notes (some spoilers included):
I came across the original Letter to a G.I. one day at work about a year and a half ago, and I cried right there at my desk (if I ever need to make a quantity vs. quality argument, with regards to writing and word count - that letter is 300 words. Just. Wow.) Because I am a fangirl, the idea of ficcing the story instantly came to mind, but right on the heels of that idea was the thought that just doing a WWII AU wasn’t quite what I wanted to do. These, after all, are real people; an AU based on this real story just wouldn’t be enough. And so the idea of Kurt and Blaine co-starring in a movie version of the story was born.
I feel like a story like this needs a big author’s note; there are certainly enough disclaimers that need to be made. Brian Keith and his G.I. Dave were real people; their story here, as told in the fictional novel and in the movie, is not. It’s based on the original letter, of course, but I made up a lot. Since, as far as I could tell - and I did do research - no one really knows who Dave and Brian actually were (there are conjectures, and guesses, but no consensus), I did take a lot of liberties. None were at odds either with the real history of World War II, or the spirit of the letter. This whole fic is a labor of love, and it’s meant as a tribute of love and respect to these two men.
This is far and away the biggest story I’ve ever written, and I could not have done it without my amazing team of betas and cheerleaders - kaelri, who encouraged the idea from the day I had it, put up with me making him read draft after draft, put his massive geekbase of knowledge to use when I needed a WWII-picker (any remaining errors and inconsistencies are totally my own; I am a history geek too but WWII is not in my wheelhouse) and made that gorgeous gorgeous poster; mtonbury who miraculously didn’t laugh at me when he found the open gdoc on my computer, and whose knack for character development helped immensely with the early parts of the story; and wordplay who workshopped and brainstormed and cheerleaded like an absolute champion, and always made sure I made them laugh.
One last disclaimer: everything I know about film and movie prediction I learned from behind-the-scenes videos and documentaries from Lord of the Rings and Game of Thrones, because I am that kind of nerd, and even that knowledge I gleefully ignored for the sake of plot. Discrepancies and wild inaccuracies are inevitable; just roll with it?
Brian and Dave, wherever you are- this one is for you.
This is in memory of an anniversary – the anniversary of October 27th, 1943, when I first heard you singing in North Africa. That song brings memories of the happiest times I’ve ever known. Memories of a GI show troop – curtains made from barrage balloons – spotlights made from cocoa cans – rehearsals that ran late into the evenings – and a handsome boy with a wonderful tenor voice. Opening night at a theatre in Canastel – perhaps a bit too much muscatel, and someone who understood. Exciting days playing in the beautiful and stately Municipal Opera House in Oran – a misunderstanding – an understanding in the wings just before opening chorus.
Drinks at “Coq d’or” – dinner at the “Auberge” – a ring and promise given. The show 1st Armoured – muscatel, scotch, wine – someone who had to be carried from the truck and put to bed in his tent. A night of pouring rain and two very soaked GIs beneath a solitary tree on an African plain. A borrowed French convertible – a warm sulphur spring, the cool Mediterranean, and a picnic of “rations” and hot cokes. Two lieutenants who were smart enough to know the score, but not smart enough to realize that we wanted to be alone. A screwball piano player – competition – miserable days and lonely nights. The cold, windy night we crawled through the window of a GI theatre and fell asleep on a cot backstage, locked in each other’s arms – the shock when we awoke and realized that miraculously we hadn’t been discovered. A fast drive to a cliff above the sea – pictures taken, and a stop amid the purple grapes and cool leaves of a vineyard.
The happiness when told we were going home – and the misery when we learned that we would not be going together. Fond goodbyes on a secluded beach beneath the star-studded velvet of an African night, and the tears that would not be stopped as I stood atop the sea-wall and watched your convoy disappear over the horizon.
We vowed we’d be together again “back home,” but fate knew better – you never got there. And so, Dave, I hope that where ever you are these memories are as precious to you as they are to me.
Goodnight, sleep well my love.
Kurt Hummel had always known his life was going to be amazing.
The reality of that amazing is something he’s not sure he’s ready to cope with. It will end eventually, he supposes, in failure or disgrace or death, and he tries not to brace himself for that, tries instead to live in the now, but…
Quite frankly there is quite a lot of now to take in.
Auditions had been something out of a dream, callbacks had been a blur. When the phone call came he’d stammered through his response and then sat down right there on the kitchen floor for a full five minutes before he felt like his legs might actually work again. And then this morning he’d gotten into his car and driven here, somehow, and then walked into the building and found the right room, somehow, and now he’s sitting at a conference table in a chair with a sticky wheel and the director has just passed him a script with a grin that’s welcoming and excited and Kurt has to grin back, a little breathlessly, because this is his life now, apparently, and it is amazing.
“Alright, everybody here?” Johnny looks around the table and then at his assistant, who nods, and then creases his script open. “First, introductions.”
Kurt picks at the corner of his own script as they go around the table. He knows the story, loves the story, has since an author turned a three-hundred word letter into a novel sometime in his junior year of college. He’s got a copy tucked into his bag at his feet right now, battered and dog-eared, the book he’d spent a lonely spring and summer reading and re-reading. It’s left him with strong feelings about the narrative and stronger feelings about the characters, and as he looks around the table he wonders who is going to be who, and how they are going to - how he is ever going to - make this story on film as good as the one he has in his head. This is important, and he’s going to work hard for it.
It’s not a big cast, really; Dave and Brian, mostly, and Paul and Helen, and a handful of others. Marley is Helen, of course, and she catches his eye as she introduces herself and gives him a sweet smile. Marley’s the reason he’d even heard of this part - he’d never known her at McKinley, but years after they’d both graduated they’d run into each other at a show opening in New York and had been in touch on and off since. How strange the webs that high school weaves. Paul turns out to be the guy sitting next to Marley, Charlie something or other, which means that the guy next to him must be -
“I’m Blaine,” must-be-Brian says. He looks around the table with an easygoing smile, and when his eyes meet Kurt’s they light up like Marley’s had, except -
Except not like Marley’s at all, and Kurt might just have forgotten to breathe for a second. “And I’ll be playing Brian Keith,” Blaine says, and he keeps looking at Kurt and then fucking winks and Kurt had thought he’d been done with blushing in high school but, no, nope, not at all. “So you’re my Dave?”
Curly dark hair, eyes warm and bright and gleaming with the force of his grin; this is a story about whirlwind romance and a love against all odds. Perfect.
“Yes,” Kurt says, and he should look at someone other than Blaine, he really should. “I’m your Dave.”
The coffeeshop is air conditioned about three degrees cooler than it really needs to be, and sweat prickles cold and uncomfortable on the back of Kurt’s neck as Blaine slides into the seat across from him and passes him a cup. Their fingers brush, and Kurt can feel Blaine’s skin, cool and damp from the condensation, before he sits back.
“Thank you,” Kurt unwraps a straw and pokes it through the lid and then isn’t sure what to do, or say, next. Sitting in a California coffeeshop opposite your really rather gorgeous co-star for your debut film: things life growing up in semi-rural Ohio does not prepare you to handle.
“So,” Blaine smiles and Kurt smiles back, he can’t help it. “Have you ever done a film like this before?”
Kurt shakes his head. “Not in a big role like this.” It still feels like more of a guilty confession than he knows that it is, and he chases the grit of undissolved sugar at the bottom of his coffee with his straw.
Blaine’s eyebrows go up. “This is your first part? Wow. Congratulations.” It’s sincere, not even a hint of sarcasm or disdain in his voice, and Kurt is more grateful for that than he wishes he were. It’s intimidating, working with such practiced actors - even Marley has a longer film resume than he does - and Kurt’s confidence that he can do it doesn’t entirely ameliorate
“Well, not my first first part. I’ve done little things before. I did Broadway before I moved out west, and I’ve done a little film here. Nothing like this, though. It’s -” there’s something open and eager in Blaine’s face, and it makes Kurt able to be honest, at least a little. “It’s kind of scary, actually.”
“How’s that?” Blaine leans back easily in his seat; everything about him is easy; relaxed, sure. And Kurt, as much as he has worked for and dreamed of a job like this, can’t help feeling like a small fish in a very, very big pond.
“Well, it’s just, I mean - kind of a lot. This is a big story. It means something to a lot of people. And if we do it right, it will mean something to a lot more people. And that’s amazing, it really is, but it’s also…scary. I mean, what if I screw it up? No one’s going to be inspired by oh-hey-that-movie-with-Blaine-Anderson-and-that-other-guy-I-didn’t-like-him.” Kurt quirks a grin and crushes another bit of sugar with his straw.
“Hey, none of that,” Blaine smiles and nudges at his foot under the table. “I saw your tapes, you’re really good.” Kurt raises an eyebrow. “What? You are. And they wouldn’t have cast you if they didn’t want you in the part. I have faith.” He grins around his straw and Kurt has to duck his eyes again.
“So what about you? Have you ever done anything like this?”
Blaine lifts a shoulder, the easy modesty of someone who has something to be modest about. “Sort of similar, yeah. It should be so much fun - and if you ever want to practice or do extra rehearsals or anything, just let me know.”
“Oh, I - I won’t intrude, or take up any of your time or anything,” Kurt rushes to interject, and now his really-rather-gorgeous-costar-in-his-debut-film thinks he’s a helpless charity case who needs leading by the hand, wonderful.
“It’s not an intrusion, really, Kurt,” Blaine smiles again, and Kurt thinks he feels the press of his foot again under the table, but he can’t be sure. “Besides, I think we should spend time together anyway. Brian and Dave, well - you know the story. You and I should at least be comfortable with each other.”
The inflection he puts on “story” makes Kurt’s blood run warm. He twirls his straw in his coffee and makes himself hold Blaine’s gaze, even if he’s sure the force of his blush is showing. And maybe it’s not what he’d normally do, and maybe he has no idea what’s going on here, but - it’s a new year, a new project, and he has no reason not to. So, trying to ignore that low hum of warning in his chest, the threat of things getting out of hand, out of control, Kurt says “sure,” and lets his voice go just that little bit lower. “I’d love to.”
Definitely Blaine’s foot this time, against Kurt’s ankle. “Great.”
Costume fittings, Kurt thinks sourly, as he has to change shirts for the fourth time in a row, are the worst.
It’s not that he minds being, essentially, a prop to be manhandled and stripped and rebuilt as the Powers That Be deem necessary. It’s how he uses his own body, after all; a tool, something to put clothes on and look good with. It’s just that he likes having clothes on, or having them off, and this constant on-off-on leaves his skin feeling weirdly chafed and always drives him crazy hours before the costume people are done doing their job.
Blaine pokes his head around one of the dividing screens, one shoulder conspicuously bare. “That’s not a happy sound. What, tired of being a human pincushion already? Joke, that was a joke Anita, you know you guys are the best.” Blaine puts his hand over his heart as the costume mistress turns to glare at him.
Kurt just wriggles his shoulders uncomfortably and steps down off the stool so Pat can start making adjustments to his collar. “No. Just bored.”
“Well, let’s see if I can help with that.” Blaine disappears behind his screen again, and when he reappears he’s tugging his own shirt back down over his head. He snags Kurt’s script off the table and then props himself up on a stool. “Alright,” Blaine flips it open and starts flipping through it, ankles swinging back and forth. “Shall we start at the very beginning?”
“They very best place to start,” Kurt deadpans, and Blaine grins at him before he starts reading.
“Act one, scene one. Aerial shots of North Africa, circa 1944. F4F Wildcats in the sky, characteristic army tents on the ground to set the period. Sun is low on the horizon, rising - or setting. Slow fade in of camp sounds - voices, motors, horns. Somewhere a piano is playing. The text of a letter appears onscreen,” Blaine clears his throat, and when he speaks again, his voice is lower, his inflection slower. “‘Dear Dave, This is in memory of an anniversary – the anniversary of October 27th, 1943, when I first heard you singing in North Africa.’ Are they actually making you sing?”
That last part is in Blaine’s usual timbre, all quick enthusiasm, and Kurt looks up in surprise from where Pat’s now tacking a hem on his trouser leg. “Of course they are. It’s in the character description, isn’t it?”
“Well, sure, but you never know. You sing, then?”
“Yes, I actually sing. And not just that celebrity-who-sings-for-a-part-singing, either,” he says, with the lift of an eyebrow, before Blaine can ask. “I was a national show choir champion in high school.”
“Oooh, show choir, that’s the real deal, then.” Kurt barely restrains the urge to stick his tongue out at him, and settles for a smirk instead. Blaine goes on: “What year did you win nationals?”
“I think it was - yeah. Senior year. So, 2012.”
“2012.” Blaine stares up at the ceiling, counting something on his fingers. “McKinley High. New Directions, right?”
Kurt realizes his mouth is open, and closes it. “…how did you know that?”
Blaine shrugs easily. “Dalton Academy Warblers. You guys beat us at Sectionals that year.”
“…you were a Warbler? You’re from Ohio?” Kurt’s not sure which of those is the more surprising piece of information. It’s a twofold shock - the small-world aspect of finding himself with someone from so close to home so far away from home, and the one of finding someone so apparently successful who grew up practically next door to him. Kurt’s always known it could be done, and, more importantly, that he could do it, but still, he’s never known from Ohio who has actually succeeded the way Blaine has. It’s disorienting, in an odd way, and at the same time Kurt feels vaguely cheated. He was supposed to be Lima’s great success story, the first one to really get out and make his mark on the world. And now here Blaine is, speaking in easy L.A. tones over midwestern vowels, and for a brief moment Kurt is wildly, irrationally jealous.
“Westerville,” Blaine affirms. “I moved out here as soon as I could, though. Where’d you go to school?”
“You’re done, Kurt,” Pat says, and takes the shirts she’s been working on and disappears with Anita. At Kurt’s raised eyebrow Blaine stands up and ducks back behind his screen so Kurt can change back into his street clothes.
“I didn’t, actually,” he says to the screen, and at Blaine’s interrogative noise he pulls on his own jeans and sits down to lace up his boots. “I didn’t go to school.” It stopped stinging a long time ago, NYADA and rejection, and Kurt is fiercely proud of what he’s done on his own since then. It had been crushing at the time, but now it’s just one more victory, one more challenge overcome. “I used to want to do musical theatre.” Kurt rebuttons his cardigan and picks up his bag from the corner, and rounds the corner of the screen to find Blaine sitting on his own dressing table, feet propped on a chair, arms crossed on his knees. “But this is not exactly a face that inspires great romantic leads.”
Blaine tilts his head, assessing him frankly, and then flicks his eyes down to the script dangling from Kurt’s hand. “No great romantic leads, hm.”
“Well,” Kurt leans so he can fix his hair in the mirror over Blaine’s shoulder. “That’s because Johnny’s an open-minded director. And I didn’t shave for a week before the audition.” He falls back on his heels and finds himself unexpectedly close to Blaine, who’s grinning up at him with those big brown eyes sparkling with amusement, and jealousy and pride and a weird trickle of want are making soup of his equilibrium right now.
“Is that why?” Blaine asks, picking up his own bag as Kurt heads for the door.
“Why this is your first big movie? Like I said, Kurt, you’re…really good. But I can see how you could be - I mean maybe -”
“Typecast?” Kurt holds the door open for him. “You could say that. It’s fine,” he smiles to reassure Blaine, who looks kind of like he wants to backpedal. It’s not like it’s not true, or that his luck hasn’t started looking dramatically up recently. “There are plenty of roles for the baby-face gay, but they weren’t what I wanted to do. So I didn’t!” he sings, and starts down the stairs.
Outside the setting sun is glaringly bright after the cool dim of the dressing rooms, and Kurt squints and fishes his sunglasses out of his bag.
Blaine’s holding up a hand to keep the sun out of his eyes, and is looking at Kurt with an odd expression. “You mean, you - got parts? You’ve had offers, you just -”
Kurt shrugs and starts walking towards his car. “I knew what I wanted to do. And I wasn’t going to waste my time doing something I knew wasn’t going to make me happy. And as long as I wasn’t starving, it worked pretty well as a philosophy.” It’s one of the things he’s most proud of in his career, if it can even be called that, so far. He hasn’t loved every part he’s done, but he hasn’t starved, and he’s never done anything he’s been ashamed of. It’s not the world’s greatest kind of achievement, but it’s some kind of one, and one he’s glad to have.
After a moment, Kurt can hear Blaine’s footsteps catching up to him, and then his voice, sounding younger now, more midwest than west coast. “I don’t know if you’ve got, ah, plans for the weekend, but do you want to come to my place? I can - cook something up, we can work on our parts if you want?”
Kurt turns to face him, fingers curling around the strap of his bag. “You cook?”
Blaine grins. “Of course I cook.”
“Sure,” Kurt says, and gives Blaine a wave before he turns away. “I’d love to.”
Set. Lights, equipment, people, eternal hurry-up-and-wait. During a lull Kurt drags a chair to a quiet corner and takes a moment to just breathe. There’s nothing new to him about this, not yet, except the idea that after today or this week or even this month his part isn’t going to be over, that he has months of this left. It’s an exhilarating thought. It’s also exhausting, and a little bit intimidating.
“Hey, Kurt.” He feels arms resting on the back of his chair, a chin settle itself on his head. He cranes his neck around to see.
“Hey,” she drapes herself more comfortably over the back of his chair, and Kurt reaches back to pat at her arm. “How’s the first day going?”
“Can’t complain. Oh, did they finish your costume? Come around here, let’s see.”
The bounce in Marley’s step makes him smile. Whenever she’s working she never looks anything less than utterly joyful, like she knows without a doubt that she is doing exactly what she wants to do with her life, and is thrilled about it. It’s one of the things that they’d bonded over, the night they’d run into each other in New York years ago, after the tentative rounds of excuse- me-are-you? and don’t-I-know-you-from-? Art is the wonderful. Performing is amazing. And slipping into different clothes and hair and bringing someone else to life on stage or on film is fucking heaven.
Marley looks beautiful, as always, and when he compliments the stitching on her collar (they have a 1938 Singer in the costume shop, which is a beast of a machine but Kurt appreciates the attention to detail) she just smiles, something a little wicked in her eyes.
“Speaking of historical accuracy. Have you seen Blaine today?”
Kurt shakes his head, and Marley just grins wider. “What?” he demands.
“Oh, nothing.” Marley clasps her hands behind her back and twists a little, back and forth, a schoolgirl with a secret.
Her eyes flick up over his head. “Hi Blaine!” she chirps, and then shrugs happily at Kurt. He glares at her until Blaine comes up and gives her a one-armed hug, which she returns, because apparently Johnny has managed to cast the two people who make friends the fastest in the world.
“Hi, Marley, Hi, Kurt, wow, you guys look amazing.”
Kurt lifts his arm at the elbow from the chair to wave, while behind Blaine Marley raises a pointed eyebrow. Well - there’s a reason the man-in-uniform is such a cliche.
Blaine’s mouth is twitching at the corner and he looks like he’s about to say something when there’s a shout across the room. Blaine glances over at it and then down at Kurt, and holds out a hand. “That’s us. Ready to rock this?”
Kurt lets his smile go ironic, and takes his hand. “As I’ll ever be.”
Blaine’s house is small but light and airy, and the kitchen is bright in the lowering dusk. Kurt perches himself on a stool at the island, and watches Blaine as he moves around the space, opening cupboards and singing along with the music on the iPod. (Red city kiss and your black eyes roll back, midnight organ flight - ) It’s hard to sit still, though, when there are food preparations going on, and eventually he hops off the stool to stand at Blaine’s shoulder, where he’s frowning into a bubbling pot. “Can I help with anything?”
Blaine considers the array of ingredients on the counter, and then Kurt. “Can you handle the pasta?”
Kurt raises an eyebrow. “Blaine. Please.”
“Hey, you never know.” Blaine puts a hand on Kurt’s shoulder to stand on tiptoe and pulls down a colander from the cupboard. “The peanut butter’s in the cupboard next to the fridge.”
Dinner is peanut tilapia and noodles and a plate of cantaloupe from the farmer’s market down the street. “You have to come some weekend,” Blaine tells Kurt, nudging his hip aside to reach for a melon baller. “They have the best fruit selection, and there’s this one baker with molasses cookies to die for.”
L.A. is cool but not cold in January, but still not nice enough to be outside once the sun goes down, so Blaine pushes the sliding glass door open to let in the breeze. They sit at the table and eat while the purple dusk fades to black. The iPod keeps playing (can you see in the dark, can you see the look on your face?) and Kurt settles into the rhythm of conversation and laughter and the sweet bite of the wine, and follows Blaine into the living room when he pads off to fetch his guitar.
The room is - a mess, actually, and Blaine looks up guiltily from shifting a stack of notebooks off of a battered guitar case. “Um. Sorry. I didn’t really get a chance to clean up in here.”
“Don’t worry about it,” Kurt perches on the arm of the sofa, the seat of which is cradling a keyboard, its cord coiling loose and unplugged. “You should see my brother’s apartment. Actually, no, you shouldn’t. It took him years to realize that you need to change the bag in a vacuum cleaner.”
Blaine gets the guitar out of the case, and folds his knee underneath himself to sit on the desk chair and check the tuning. Kurt pushes the keyboard aside to give himself enough room to slide down on the couch. “I didn’t know Brian played.”
“Sure he does. How else is he going to win the handsome boy with the wonderful voice?” He grins at Kurt’s arched eyebrow. “Although,” Blaine traces a string thoughtfully with his thumb. “Probably not guitar, though, not in the forties.” He tucks his chin in to look down at the instrument, and lets the strings jangle still for a long moment.
“Would piano do it?” Blaine keeps his head tipped down, but looks up at Kurt through his eyelashes. The evening’s been friendly and sweet so far, but Blaine’s eyes are glittering and dark, and they bubble something low in Kurt’s stomach.
“A real piano, maybe,” he says, when he’s sure his voice isn’t going to crack from how dry his mouth suddenly is. “Not just -” he slides his fingers along the silent keys of the keyboard next to him, and doesn’t miss the way Blaine’s eyes follow his hands.
“Dave needs proper wooing. Got it.” Blaine winks at him, and Kurt’s fingers slip on the imaginary song.
They do actually work, a little - much more than a little, really. It’s easy to discuss motivation as they rinse the dishes, easy to debate tone and delivery as they pack away the leftovers, easy to go for Blaine’s battered paperback (not as dog-eared as Kurt’s but more written in, and some pages are nearly illegible for the scrawling and underlining in every color ink imaginable) when they get into an argument over some finer point of the story , easy to sit side-by side at the kitchen island, bumping elbows as they drink coffee and flip between their favorite parts.
“The dramatic first meeting. I love that scene.”
“Mmm, yes.” Kurt smooths the wrinkled page fondly.
“Think you’ll be ready to play it?”
Kurt considers that. To be honest, he is nervous. This won’t be the stage, he knows, there will be multiple shots at this, he knows. But this will be the first moment of something important, and it needs to go well, it needs to feel right, to make the rest of it be all it can be. Blaine, he knows, can do it. It’s remarkable how easily, already, he can slip between Blaine and Brian, like they’re two different people who just happen to exist in the same body. Kurt still doesn’t feel as sure in Dave’s skin; there are gaps in him, things Kurt doesn’t know and doesn’t understand.
“I will be,” he says firmly, because no matter what else, he does know himself. He can do this, because he has to, and more importantly, because he wants to.
Blaine tips his hand towards Kurt’s, and Kurt hands him the book. “Have you ever had a moment like that?” he asks, and when Kurt doesn’t answer right away his eyes flick up to him. “When everything just stops, and you just - know?”
Kurt leans his head on his fist, looks at the book in Blaine’s. “Once or twice.”
“Was it like with -?” Blaine tilts his hand, and the book with it.
Completely honest, apparently, is the answer. “In some ways. Better, in some ways. Not so much in others.”
“How was it better?” Blaine’s eyes on him are oddly intense, and Kurt’s not entirely sure what he’s trying to ask, or why.
“Well, it wasn’t in the middle of a 1940s warzone.”
Blaine chuckles, but his eyes fall from Kurt’s face back to the book. “And how was it worse?”
Kurt waits to answer until Blaine looks up at him again. “They didn’t exactly outlast me. Not really any loves for the ages. Unfortunately.”
“And that’s what you want?” The mood is too heavy, suddenly, and Kurt doesn’t know how to read the look on Blaine’s face. It’s on the tip of Kurt’s tongue to say “yes,” because he does, always has. But Kurt is not immune to temptation and maybe, just maybe, this man can be his exception.
“Who doesn’t?” he finally says, and the moment keeps hanging there. Kurt thinks about it, is suddenly very aware that it is very late at night by now, and that they are alone, and together. Blaine doesn’t say anything else, just looks at him, and Kurt knows that all he would have to do is say the word, to reach across the narrow space between them and touch Blaine’s hand, for this night to get much more intense.
But the moment stretches, and thins, and then Blaine blinks and Kurt feels it, with its promise and its tension, slide away. He looks at the wall over Blaine’s shoulder, anywhere but at Blaine, and his eyes fall on the clock on the wall. He startles.
“Oh my god, how did it get so late?”
Blaine cranes his head around to look. “Oh, wow.” Kurt can see his throat working as he swallows and turns back to him. “I - will you. Do you want - will you be okay getting home?”
“I’ll be fine.” Kurt slides off his stool; he’s been sitting cross-legged for so long that his foot is asleep, and he works his ankle against the sudden flare of pins and needles. “Thanks. For dinner. It was - really nice.”
“Anytime. Really, Kurt.”
Blaine walks him to the door and flips on the porch light for him, and waits in the doorway while Kurt waves and gets his car unlocked. Once he’s set his GPS for home and waited for the door to close again behind Blaine, he slumps back in the seat and wonders just who he thinks he’s kidding - and wonders what the hell he’d almost done.
His coworker Blaine Anderson: talented, successful, sexy as hell, and, apparently, interested – just maybe not in a great romance. Exactly and nothing like what Kurt wants, and nothing Kurt can have, anyway.
He hangs on to the wheel and thumps his forehead onto his hands. Perfect.
The next afternoon Kurt tries, with varying degrees of success, to put Blaine out of his mind. It’s not even worth worrying about right now; he has a job to do, and he can’t afford to the distraction.
Dave. Who is Dave, what does he want, how does he act, how does he think… He’s been Dave for nearly two weeks already, he should know him better than this, but he doesn’t. He plucks a thread from the sleeve of his jacket - a jacket, just a jacket; a costume, not his clothes, and frets.
“Hey, Kurt?” Julianne sticks her head around the corner of a flat. “Matt asked me to give you these.” She holds out a stack of sheet music. “He said there’s a piano in the back if you want to practice.”
Kurt glances at a nearby clock; an hour until they’re due to start filming. Plenty of time to practice. Right.
The piano is easy to find, an old battered upright tucked into a corner behind a wheeled chalkboard and a stack of chairs. Kurt sets the music on the stand and scrapes out the bench and plucks out the first few notes - It’s not perfectly in tune, but it doesn’t really have to be.
Thankfully, it’s not that difficult a piece. He hums his way through the melody the first time through, and by the third time he feels confident enough to start singing along with the notes. Somewhere through the fourth or fifth time, though, Kurt can feel something - it’s not a shift, it’s not so dramatic as that, first one-thing-then-another. It feels like…dissolving. Dissolving, and reforming into something else, so gradually he almost doesn’t notice it at first.
He plays it a sixth time, and then a seventh. He emphasizes different notes, and finds different lyrics touching him in different ways. The eighth time through he lifts a hand to turn the page and knows where he got that frayed patch on his sleeve, makes a mental note to fix it later tonight, if he has time, after the show.
Nine times, ten. His posture changes. More bowed in the shoulders, straighter at the neck, he shifts his feet on the peddle and -
“Kurt?” It’s Julianne again, and his fingers jangle the keys.
“Yeah?” His breath feels short, and like it’s coming from very far away.
“It’s almost time, they need you -”
He gathers up the sheet music and follows Julianne on legs that feel numb and wobbly and not entirely like his own. Well, they’re not, really, not entirely, not now. He feels ridiculous for worrying, the part of him that is left to feel ridiculous over anything, worried like this was never going to happen, when it’s so obvious now that it had to happen. It’s the music. It’s always the music. He really should know that by now.
Up ahead he sees Brian and flicks his eyes away; it’s not time, not yet, the him-that-is-him knows. It will be soon.
The piano, this one a slightly-chipped baby grand, is on a raised stage between the silvery-gray curtains and the lights tucked in tin cans. He slides the stool back with a foot and takes a seat, flexes his fingers over the keys. Johnny says something; lights flicker on. Time to start.
It fades, after a while, and after a little while longer Kurt feels like he can actually control it, fading in and out of character at will. When the cameras are on it’s Dave, now, it never will not be, not unless he wants it, and why would he want that? Dave in his fingers on the keys, the air of a North African night in his lungs when he takes a breath. In these moments, this is who he is meant to be, this is why acting is glorious.
Blaine-Brian is there, too, Brian when they’re rolling, Blaine when they’re not, and Kurt enjoys watching the shifting of his shoulders as he slides between the two. He smiles between takes when Blaine frowns and tries to smooth down one of his curls into Brian’s tidy coif, only to get his hand slapped away by a makeup girl. Take three and Kurt forgets why he was ever worried, about Dave or about Blaine. He skims his fingers in an extra flourish over the keys, this is justfun.
By the next take Kurt’s feeling confident enough to start playing with his audience; a few extras there for the wider shots but mostly crew, and he grins and bounces his shoulders when a prop girl starts shimmying off to the side in time to the beat. He winks at her and scans the rest of the little crowd. Blaine is leaning against something, arms folded over his chest, watching him with his mouth twitched into a grin of delight and something just a little like awe. Well. Kurt had told him he could sing. Blaine shouldn’t look so surprised. Still, it’s nice to be able to prove it, and he raises his eyebrows, just a little twitch, see what I can do?
Blaine’s eyebrow goes up when he realizes Kurt’s watching him, and Kurt lets himself look, at this Brian-called-Blaine, a down-up sweep of his eyes that takes in everything. Polished boots, neat uniform, sleeves rolled up to the elbows and the button undone at the collar, sleek black hair and warm-toned skin, and eyes bright and warm and looking right back at him, and oh.
There is fun flirtation, and then there is crushing, and there is a fine line between the two that Kurt just went careening over with no chance of going back. Blaine - Brian - no, Blaine, definitely Blaine, the spark in his eyes is all Blaine - meets his eye and smiles and Kurt might flub a note, he’s not sure, the piano and the music and even Dave seem profoundly unimportant at the moment.
“That’s great!” Johnny yells. Kurt startles and sees Blaine jump too, like maybe he’d forgotten something else was going on. “One more, just to be sure -”
There’s the hum and bustle of cameras being reset, and when Kurt looks back from straightening the sheet music, Blaine’s gone.
They do more takes; they aren’t nearly as good. Kurt has a horrible feeling about which one they’re going to ultimately pick.
There are reasons other than concerns for professionalism that crushing on your costar is a terrible, terrible idea.
Blaine’s in the doorway, one hand on the doorframe and swinging a little.
“Are you doing anything Friday night?”
“I don’t think so.” Kurt contemplates the stack of papers on the dressing table and tries to make himself focus on what he’ll need to take home. “Marley wanted to go down to the harbor at some point but I don’t think -”
“Will you go out with me? On Friday, I mean. If you want to.”
It’s less smooth, more rushed, than Kurt might have expected. “Um.” When he flicks his eyes up they meet Blaine’s in the mirror, wide and a little excited, and he can’t help the grin. “Do you think it would be okay? I mean, would anybody mind?”
“Kurt, this is L.A., do you really think -”
“Not like that,” Kurt stands up and turns around to face Blaine in the doorway. “I mean - I don’t want to make anything weird here, or anything, or violate any - workplace ethics -”
“Kurt.” Blaine lets go of the doorframe and starts him. “It’s not violating any workplace ethics.” He holds up a finger when Kurt opens his mouth again. “And it won’t make anything weird. I promise. We’re professionals, right?”
Blaine’s standing very close by now. Kurt makes himself look at his eyes, and not at where the collar of his shirt is open, smooth cotton against tan skin. “Of course.”
“So.” This close, Kurt can see the fine crinkles at the corners of Blaine’s eyes when he smiles. “Friday night? Eight? Or - whenever we get sprung from here?”
Kurt tries to swallow, but his mouth is too dry. “That would be lovely.”
“Hey, Kurt, what’s up? You sound - distressed.”
“I can’t go out with you tomorrow.”
“That’s fine, we didn’t even set a time - why? Are you okay?”
“I may be. Freaking out.”
“Nothing’s - wrong. Not - wrong. I’m just. Freaking out. Um. Blaine asked me out.”
Marley whistles, and Kurt pulls the phone away from his ear, wincing. “Way to go, soldier! So, where are you going?”
At that moment - of course - Blaine rounds the corner, and Kurt hisses into the phone “Sorry have to go call you later -”
He hangs up on Marley’s puzzled “Bye?” and stuffs his phone back into his pocket. Somehow, he finds an easy smile for Blaine, whose powers of observation are apparently not to be mocked and had heard him all the way down the costume trailer, where Kurt is tucked between racks of reproduction military-surplus blouses, circa 1940.
“Hey,” Blaine’s smile is puzzled and concerned, and it’s not helping Kurt’s blush. “Are you okay?”
“Yeah. Totally. Just, um.” Kurt’s fingers close around an olive-drab sleeve for support, and he nearly pulls it off the hanger. “Appreciating the craftsmanship.”
Blaine gives him one more glance and then apparently decides to roll with it. “They are pretty amazing.” He scans the rack and then - carefully - tugs out a pretty white dress, something of Marley’s, probably.
“Did you know some war brides used to make their wedding dresses out of parachute silk?”
Kurt eases his shoulders away from the rack he’d been close to trying to hide himself in. “No, I didn’t.”
“Yeah. When the paratroopers jumped into France, they had a main parachute and a reserve parachute. Since silk was so rare, with rationing and everything, some of them carried their reserve parachutes around for months until they had the opportunity to mail them back home. To be used for, among other things, wedding dresses.”
Kurt lets a finger trail along the soft-smooth fabric. “Wouldn’t it get dirty? Getting hauled through a warzone like that?”
“Oh, I don’t know. Silk’s pretty sturdy, you know.”
“I always thought it was really romantic, actually.” Blaine’s smile is soft, and he moves other hangers aside so he can carefully slide the dress back into place. “Imagine carrying that around for so long, knowing what you wanted it to be used for, just thinking and dreaming about the day you’d be back home with your sweetheart.”
Kurt adjusts the hang of a sleeve so it won’t wrinkle on the rack. “It just makes me think about all the ones who didn’t make it back. And - all the ones who didn’t have anything to come back to.”
When he looks up Blaine’s watching him, something Kurt hasn’t seen before in his eyes, something dark and a little sad and, strangest of all, a little scared. “Romance doesn’t always have to be happy,” he finally says.
Kurt doesn’t know how to reply to that, or how to keep meeting Blaine’s eyes, which are dark and, from this close - too close - richly colored, brown and green and gold. The moment settles tight around Kurt’s heart, something light turned weirdly deep and somehow strange, and Kurt doesn’t know what to do until Blaine shakes his head, just a tiny movement, and pulls another dress off the rack.
“If you think the parachutes are awesome, you should see what they could do with mosquito netting…”
Someone who understood, says the letter. Kurt tries to imagine that, imagine what someone understanding would have meant to Dave, seventy years ago. High school hadn’t been easy for Kurt but high school is never easy for anyone, and there is a world of difference between a small town in the oughts and an entire world that did not, would not, accept a difference.
It’s almost unfathomable to imagine, the depths of that isolation, and it’s very nearly painful to sink into Dave and his mind and his world and let go of the things that had kept him, Kurt-him, anchored when things were bad. Without his dad, without Carole and Finn and the ridiculous and fierce love of a high school glee club, without knowing that he could get out, move on, that things were better somewhere else, without knowing that things had gotten better, Kurt, Dave, feels lost and adrift, lonely and shockingly angry at the world that will never let him have what comes so easily to others.
And so when the uniform is on and his hair is slicked back; when Brian finds him after the show, puts a hand on his arm and takes him somewhere they can talk, leans close at the bar and offers, so shyly, a confession; when Dave takes a breath and takes a chance and reaches out a hand and feels warmth and callouses under his fingertips; when the isolation of a lifetime starts to shiver and then crack, the first disbelieving thaw of an early spring - it’s like someone took his heart and cracked it open and let promises like lifeblood flow into it: Not alone. Never alone.
Someone who understood.
Dave’s voice shakes, and Brian’s hand is hot in his.
After work Kurt hurries home to shower and change and spends way too long picking out an outfit, but it’s worth it when he meets Blaine outside the club and Blaine’s eyes go a bit wide, tracking down his body and up again.
“Hi there,” Blaine’s voice is warm as he holds out an arm. “You look amazing.”
“So do you,” and he does, Blaine is gorgeous in Brian’s uniform but out of it, in well-fitting jeans and a shirt whose collar leaves all the interesting parts of his throat interestingly shadowed… Kurt has to stop himself from throwing all restraint and just touching when Blaine escorts him into the bar with a careful hand just low enough on his back to send warm shivers up Kurt’s spine.
At a table tucked into the corner out of the dance floor lights, Blaine leans forward, chin on his fist and eyes bright in the low light. “Come here often?”
“Are you always so original?” Kurt quirks the corner of his mouth and toys with his straw.
“I find the classics are usually the best. We can’t all be cutting-edge avant-garde performers like yourself.” Under the table his knee knocks into Kurt’s, and he grins.
“Yes, well.” Kurt takes a careful sip and then sets his glass back down. “It’s not a lifestyle I’d recommend for everyone anyway.” Small artsy shows, weird bit parts, aborted attempts to take his dad’s well-meant advice and write his own shows – it’s some version of the dream, sure, just not the one he really wants to live.
“Too uncertain?” Blaine’s fingers tap on the lip of his glass.
“Lonely at the top?”
“The edge, more like.” Kurt pokes at an ice cube. “You’re the one at the top.”
Blaine shrugs, that unassuming lift of a shoulder. “Hazard of the profession. Stick around too long, and someone’s bound to remember you.”
“In acting?” Kurt raises a disbelieving eyebrow.
Blaine shrugs again, both shoulders this time. Something about the movement seems to shrink him a little, but then Kurt blinks and Blaine looks the same as he always has, eager and happy. After a hesitant pause, Blaine shifts in his seat and leans towards him across the table, his grin almost too bright.
“So do you come here often?”
Kurt has to duck his head to hide his grin behind his glass, something in Blaine’s smile waking something bright in his brain. He’s in a club, in L.A., with his unfairly attractive coworker who is also oh a movie star, and he knows neither of them have named it out loud but knows that that doesn’t make it any less of a date. Kurt Hummel’s life is amazing.
“No. Um, no.” Kurt keeps tracing water-rings, but this time there’s an overawareness of the slick of the water and the smooth finish of the table, his own skin probably too-pale in the dim lighting. “It’s not really my scene.”
“Oh, god, really?” Blaine frowns anxiously. “Kurt, you should have said something, we could have -”
“It’s fine,” Kurt smiles, drags his fingertips across the table to squeak off the last of the condensation, puts his fingers on Blaine’s wrist instead. “That doesn’t mean I don’t like it.”
“Oh,” Blaine says, and bites his lip. “That’s good, then.”
Kurt gives him a surer smile, and leaves his fingers there a moment too long before he moves his hand. The fabric of Blaine’s sleeve is soft and warm, and Kurt watches Blaine as he touches his tongue to where his lip had bitten and then takes a drink. He thinks, for the first time, really lets himself think, about what it would be like to touch Blaine, and not just for a part, to kiss him and see what his eyelashes looked like when his eyes were closed, fanned against his cheeks while Kurt -
Blaine must feel him staring, because Kurt’s gaze has been caught and Blaine is staring back, something dark and too-intense there, and then he feels Blaine’s hand on the back of his, now, not a playful nudge this time but a touch, deliberate and sure.
Come home with me, his eyes say. It will be amazing, his fingers promise, skimming his skin. And it would be, Kurt knows. If he spent the night with Blaine, Blaine would look at him like that, eyes liquid-dark, and would touch him like this, like Kurt is desirable and wanted, and it would feel incredible.
But then Kurt would wake up in the morning, and then he’d have to leave.
And then he’d have to go to work with him.
He’d thought, sometimes, over the last two weeks, that he might be able to; that he could break years of precedent and probably unjustified pride in that precedent. He’d thought that maybe they could make it work; a night or two together but friends in the morning and on set; something fun, and easy, and almost expected. But right now, facing Blaine across a tiny table in a club in downtown L.A., imagining what it would be like to let Blaine take his hand and take him home, imagining sitting across from him at the lunch table knowing what he looks like under that open collar, Kurt knows that he can’t. It’s too much, too much out of Kurt’s control and in the hands of someone he barely knows. So he pulls his hand back, safely away from Blaine, and wraps his fingers around his glass, too-cold after the warm of Blaine’s skin.
The brightness in Blaine’s eyes dims. They stick to safe topics after that, polite questions and benign answers, and Blaine keeps his feet tucked under his own chair, his hands busy twisting a napkin into knots.
They part at the door, their cars in different directions, and after an uncomfortable shuffly see-you-on-Monday-have-a-good-night Kurt leans against the wall of the club and watches Blaine walk away. The bricks are gritty and cold in the cool night air, a welcome chill after the overheated air inside. In the cold white light of the streetlamps, Blaine’s shoulders look slumped.
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