Word Count: ~3000
Pairing: About as Kurt/Blaine as canon.
Spoilers: Everything up to 2x09, "Special Education."
Summary: "Somehow, when Kurt told him that he was used to having to shout for solos, Blaine hadn't realised that he meant it literally." Or, a visit to see New Directions in their native environment proves itself an eye-opening experience.
Author's Note: This... sort of came out of nowhere; I have not written fanfic since the heyday of Stargate: Atlantis. And if you haven't already heard it, you can listen to The Beatles' "Ob-La-Di Ob-La-Da" here.
Disclaimer: If I owned these characters... actually, not a lot would be different. You keep doing what you're doing, PTB.
Until this morning, Blaine's not sure he really grasped the true meaning of "organised chaos".
The McKinley High choir room is a riot of noise right now - not the musical kind - and Blaine is right in the middle of it, sitting amid a sea of burgundy plastic chairs with Kurt on one side and Wes and David on the other, goodwill ambassadors in foreign territory. Which would make Kurt their native guide, and Blaine is really thankful for that right now, even if Kurt has spent the last ten minutes being mobbed by former team-mates. That full-body smile he's got going on makes Blaine's heart clench a little - Mercedes is sitting between him and an adorable goth girl called Tina, and the three of them are laughing at an improbable-sounding story this mohawk-wearing football jock (Puck, apparently) is telling; Kurt is practically glowing. Blaine hasn't seen him this happy since their teams tied for Sectionals, and it occurs to him that unless he finds something else to look at, someone's going to notice him staring really soon.
"Uh oh," David murmers, and Blaine, relieved, looks around to see two girls in cheerleader uniforms just about prowl over to him and Wes.
"Danger, Will Robinson," Wes agrees in a whisper.
Since Blaine demanded Kurt tell him their names about thirty seconds into "Valerie", they're instantly recognisable. Even off the stage, Santana and Brittany move with predatory grace, like sharks circling a school of tuna. Sexy sharks. It's awesome to watch - David is squirming already. Blaine feels like he should have popcorn.
"So," Santana says, "What's it like in gay Hogwarts? Do you sleep in four-poster beds?" She flutters her eyelashes dangerously. "Do you need someone to tuck you in?"
"Uh," Wes says intelligently.
"Are there unicorns?" pipes up Brittany.
After a confused second, Blaine decides that she must be an awesome poker player.
From the front of the room, Mr. Schuester is calling for order - though from the way he laughs and spins on his heel when the chatter rolls right over him, he doesn't seem all that interested in getting it. "Guys! Any ideas for practice today?"
Every so often, Blaine runs up hard against the realisation that not everyone sees the world the same way, and has to adjust his brain accordingly. It's not necessarily something big and world-defining, like thinking women are inferior to men, or that homosexuality is an epidemic tragedy (though he's encountered both those views, and left such encounters wide-eyed and with a logjam of comebacks on the tip of his tongue). No; they're usually just little details, like how Wes has been brought up with a huge aversion to talking on the phone in front of other people - fascinating things that make you question your own tics.
Like: Blaine grew up in a fairly calm house. When his family holds conversations, no matter how lively, they happen in full sentences, with everyone taking turns to say their piece. (Dalton's a lot like that - it's the polite and moneyed way to do things.) He had assumed everyone's family communicated like that, right up until he was ten years old and they visited his grandmother for Christmas.
Blaine's mom is the youngest of seven, and as it turned out, she'd had to learn about letting other people finish a sentence - because in Grandma's house, no-one ever did. Seven kids, two parents and a maiden aunt made for an awful lot of talking, and steamrolling other people's conversations was often the only way to get a word in edgewise. The visit ended with Blaine's grandmother commenting with some concern over how quiet he was, which was frankly hilarious to anyone who knew him and is still one of his standout memories of her.
All of which is to say that Blaine had just assumed that other schools choirs operate the same way the Warblers do, right up until they got a day off for Dalton Founders Week and Kurt managed to wrangle an invitation to see how the other half lived. Somehow, when Kurt told him that he was used to having to shout for solos, Blaine hadn't realised that he meant it literally.
Blaine came along kind of expecting a good-natured show of power. As it turns out, New Directions haven't even decided what song they want to sing today - although, as the slight ringing in his ears will attest, it's not for lack of suggestion. Mr. Schuester is occasionally scribbling down a song title and nodding happily, even as his students start hurling insults at each others' ideas. It's like watching a tennis match, if tennis had thirteen players on the court at once. It's pandemonium, and apparently it's totally normal.
Rachel manages to raise her voice above the din (Kurt must be right about her vocal control). "Mr. Schuester! I, for one, think we should pick a song we can all join in with - something fun." There's a cacophony of agreement, and she exchanges a smile with Kurt. Beside them, David is shaking his head and grinning, Wes tugging on his ear with a wince.
"I completely agree, Rachel," Mr. Schuester says. His smile turns sheepish when he turns it on the Warblers in their midst. "Especially since I'm not sure we're making the best impression on our guests."
"Well, they are here to see how you do things," Kurt says drily.
Mercedes catches Blaine's eye and laughs. "Boy, you are definitely getting that."
Blaine grins at her. He knows Kurt's probably told her all about what the glee club at Dalton is like. She's Kurt's best friend; whenever Blaine sees her, he gets the weird urge to promise he's taking care of her guy. Which is possibly condescending and presumptuous and not the right attitude at all, hence his restraint so far. It's just a neurosis he'll have to live with.
Tina bounces in her seat. "Oh! I have the best idea," she says, and that's how everyone settles on Ob-La-Di Ob-La-Da.
It's amazing to watch. They trade off lines and throw in harmonies wherever they feel like it, every one of them up and dancing and not one of them the same. Kurt is leaning forward on his seat, mute but with longing in his eyes, until Mercedes rocks into his orbit long enough to perch her fedora on his head and yank him into the throng, where he laughs and spins her as they launch into the chorus. It should be a mess: it's a room full of unrestrained divas, and it shouldn't work. But it does, it completely does, and when Kurt turns back to Blaine, eyes shining, and beckons him onto the floor, Blaine doesn't resist for a second.
"Wow," Blaine huffs.
"Seriously," says David.
"Is it always like that?" Wes asks.
Kurt looks evasive. "Well, it's not usually that chaotic..."
"Nah, it totally is," says Puck, clapping Kurt hard on the back. "Although there's usually a lot more drama, too, so that was a nice change."
Blaine looks to Kurt for denial, but only sees him nod in fervent agreement.
The period seemed to go by so fast, full of jams and squabbles and challenges to the Dalton boys to give as good as they got. Now that it's over, they've got an honour guard through the swarming halls of McKinley, made up of Puck, Mike, Sam, Mercedes, Kurt's step-brother Finn, and an aggressive-looking girl called Lauren who Kurt assures him is on the school wrestling team. It's really sweet of them, but Blaine, personally, feels freaking untouchable right now. He feels like the music is still vibrating through him, still wants to dance like he just danced in that choir room. He looks at Kurt, at the flush on his cheeks and the spring in his step, and knows he must feel the same. Blaine loves this feeling. It's the whole reason he performs.
And he can't help but compare the whole experience to the Warbler meetings. Different, Kurt had called it. Not bad, just different. Yeah, he can see that now. "So, how long does it take you guys to put together numbers for competitions?" he asks.
"Hey, no fishing!" Mike says, all mock-stern.
"Oh, he doesn't mean to fish," Wes promises. "He's just high on all the songs. It makes him sort of obnoxious."
"I'm just curious, I swear!" Blaine laughs. "It's just, obviously things are a little different with an a capella group - it can take us weeks to make a song work just right. And as for our setlists...."
"Okay, I'm going to stop you there," David interrupts, "because you are about to reveal privileged information and I wouldn't want the rest of the guys to find out and kill you."
Blaine huffs; Kurt catches his eye, clearly stifling a laugh. Blaine has to resist the urge to stick his tongue out.
"Huh," Finn says. "Mr. Schuester starts talking about how we have to figure out a setlist about a month before competition, but we don't seem to ever decide on anything until, like, a week before it happens."
"Wait, what?" David says, eyes bugging.
"It is a pattern with him," Kurt acknowledges.
Blaine feels something a little hysterical bubbling in his throat. "So, that number Santana did..."
Mercedes snorts. "We were still figuring out the dance steps with Brittany the night before Sectionals." Mike nods. Kurt, Blaine notes, is not calling bullshit on any of this.
"What," Wes says.
"It's true," Lauren puts in. "These losers can't figure out time-management for shit."
Sam and Finn start protesting, and Kurt and Mercedes are laughing, and Wes and David are still sputtering too hard to form complete sentences, which is why it nobody sees Dave Karofsky and his hulking friend coming around the corner until Puck and Sam are covered in slushie.
There's a stunned moment where the whole group stumbles to a halt. Karofsky's friend hollers, "What up, homos!" as he passes, and all Blaine can do is stare dumbly at the two of them. His stomach twists at the way Karofsky stares at Kurt in naked surprise, like he never figured he'd see Kurt again and doesn't know what to do with the information. Blaine doesn't even realise he's moved as if to shield Kurt until his hand is on Kurt's shoulder, feeling the fine tremors running through him.
Kurt hasn't even turned around; he stares fixedly ahead at Puck and Sam, and finally takes a deep breath. "I see they reinstated the 10 a.m. slushie."
"They didn't appreciate my Springsteen pitch," Puck says mournfully. Icy purple goo drips off his chin. Beside him, Mercedes mutters a curse and wipes some collateral splatter off her binder.
"What the hell?" Wes croaks. "They're not going to get away with that?"
"Every school's got its traditions," Sam grimaces, wiping slushie out of his eyes. "You guys might want to get going before they come back for the next round."
Sam and Puck peel off to clean themselves up as the rest of the New Directions kids flank the Warblers and march them out of the school. There's a part of Blaine that's very appreciative of their Secret Service impression, but honestly, he's mostly focused on Kurt. Blaine's hand has migrated to the small of his back, and he can feel how rigid his spine is, even as he keeps his face smooth and blank. It's weird and heartbreaking to see his expressive face so carefully shuttered, and scary to see how quickly he can do it, transforming everything he feels into what he wants people to see. By the time they reach the parking lot, Kurt's managed an inoffensive smile that doesn't quite reach his eyes. You'd have to look for the white-knuckled grip on the strap of his bag to see anything was bothering him.
At the car, Mercedes hugs him goodbye, whispering something to him as she does, and for her, at least, the smile is genuine. Mike shakes Wes' hand, then David's, then Blaine's, and says, "Thanks for coming, you guys. It was really fun."
"Yeah," Finn says, "You guys are way nicer than Vocal Adrenaline. When they visit, it's never for anything good."
Lauren, who is scanning the parking lot like a security guard, drawls, "Yeah, it's going to make it extra heartbreaking when we trash you guys at Regionals."
Kurt snorts and Mercedes rolls her eyes, and Blaine inexplicably relaxes. They leave in a hail of goodbyes and good-natured insults directed at each others' teams and relative chances, and by the time they've hit the road the mood of the quartet is buoyant again.
"So that was fun," Blaine says, and Wes laughs.
"Yeah, except now I'm terrified that they'll actually get organised and then totally crush us." Blaine nods, fearfully imagining the Warblers' discipline married with New Directions' sheer diversity of talent. They'd be a juggernaut.
"Man," David says, shaking his head. "I seriously can't believe that place. I mean, don't get me wrong, Kurt," he adds, with a hasty look in the rearview mirror, "Your friends are great, but - slushies in the hallway? And they don't get in trouble for that?"
"Coach Sylvester says that children who don't learn vigilance and paranoia are the most likely to fall prey to poor life choices and cougar attacks," Kurt says absently, staring out the window as Lima passes them by. It may be the ringing silence that greets that statement that rouses him, but he looks up and adds, "Besides, slushies aren't the absolute worst. I mean, there's dumpster tosses, and getting locked and rolled in one of the porta-potties..."
As the pause stretches out, edged with incredulity, he starts to look a little defensive. "I'm just saying, you learn to live with it."
"Nobody should have to," Blaine says. Almost without thinking, he threads his fingers into Kurt's.
Kurt looks down at their joined hands and gives a small smile. "Well, I don't," he says briskly. "Not any more."
His phone chimes, and he disentangles his hand to retrieve it, smiling at the text he just got as Blaine relaxes against the seat, comforted by the spark of real happiness he sees in Kurt's face again as he reads the message. Then his phone chimes again, and again, and again, as the screen fills up with texts from - Blaine cranes his head a little to see - Tina, Finn, Brittany, Mercedes, saying We should totally hang out this weekend. Have you seen HP7 yet? and C you @ home fri nite? Artie says hey and Cn u plz check 4 unicorns i cant cuz im not a virgin and Miss u, white boy. Hope Captain Hotty is taking care of u. x0x0
Kurt hugs the phone to his chest and smiles down at it, huge and wide but private, like he's planning to reign it in any second. Blaine sees him make that face all the time at Dalton these days. Not repressing, just subduing, making himself less obvious. And Blaine can't help but think back to the McKinley choir room, where Kurt didn't subdue himself for a second - where for one period, he was just pure, unrestrained, over-the-top Kurt and he was absolutely captivating. Can't help but wonder if that place felt like a haven, or the best part of his day. If that high was what made the incredible, dizzying lows worthwhile, right up until they started actively threatening his life.
You'd think that at William McKinley High School, where the dangers of being the odd one out were so manifold and awful, those kids would care more about blending in, about not being noticed. Instead, they seem to go out of their way to make themselves more noticeable. Blaine understands pride, he really does, but the way they put themselves out there all the time, shining as brightly as they can even knowing it just gets them even more of the wrong kind of attention - it's pure defiance. To Blaine, who's always worked hard to get everyone to like him, it's hard to wrap his head around.
And Kurt used to be one of them. Kurt used to stand out all the time. It's no wonder Dalton's such an adjustment.
Blaine watches Kurt's smile transmute into something smaller, something longing, as he starts returning those texts, and wonders if he could ever put up with having to dodge slushies and hear gay jokes in return for the intoxicating energy of Mr. Schuester's unfettered choir room. He wonders if it's going to pull Kurt back, one day.
Not better or worse, Kurt said. Just different.