Title: We Make a Pair of Parentheses
Spoilers (If any): let’s just say all of season 2 just to be safe!
Warnings (If any): none
Word Count: 2,241
Disclaimer: I don't own Glee, this is a work of fiction. Title from “Parentheses” by the Blow.
Summary: Kurt learns about love in eleven stages and nine ages of his life. Here at kurt_blaine.
With a Carole King cassette playing in the tape player, she steadily paints bright pink stripes on her son’s toenails. He smiles down at them, baring both rows of tiny white teeth, and wiggles his toes in the air in admiration. Clomping across the room in a pair of her old heels, he swipes a lipstick from her dresser and runs back to her as fast as he can in the overlarge shoes. The little boy holds it eagerly up to his mother’s lips, swiping a messy stripe across her mouth. Glittering eyes, darkened lashes, she gazes down at her son with a winsome intensity- his eyes are wide-open bright and his lips are pressed firmly together, curled up into a smile. She kisses a bright red mark on his forehead, Kurt smears a lipstick line onto his own mouth, and she simply looks on fondly, not even thinking of stopping him. This is the only kind of love Kurt knows, lipstick kisses and eyes that twinkle when they catch his- just his mother.
His heart is heavy, weighted with a stonelike force that he’s never before felt. He heaves and shakes and trembles and lets more tears fall than he ever has. Unable to wrench foggy eyes away from the lowering casket, he clenches his jaw with the attempt to keep more tears from falling. His father takes his wavering hand and squeezes it- for a minute, just a minute, the love in Kurt’s life doesn’t feel like it’s collapsing.
The boys at Kurt’s middle school have learned the word “fag” and revel in spitting it out at him as often as they can. Some tug his bowtie off in the locker room when they’re changing for gym. He gets crumpled up paper to the back of his head and “homo” scratched into his desk, tangible evidence that here, he’s not the prized little boy that his mother had raised him to think he was. He’s ashamed- even more so when his one friend catches Kurt looking at him for half a second too long, then stops speaking to him entirely. And no, he wasn’t in love with the kid, but the tiniest scrap of affection that he showed was instantly cowered away from, insulted, laughed at. He wears his mother’s old silk scarves sometimes- they still carry notes of her scent, lavender and vaguely gardenia. They’re as soft as her skin ever was, as richly fragranced as the perfume on her neck ever was- they are her. A kid Anthony, the worst one, yanks his mother’s scarf off his neck one day, drops it to the dirt, and Kurt just cracks. On reflex, Kurt raises his hand and smacks a red welt on the side of Anthony’s face. Kurt’s chest hitches, freezes, halts- he’s never slapped anyone before. He doesn’t leave any time for retaliation, just turns on his heel and swiftly walks away with fingers pressed tightly to his temples.
It’s beginning to baffle Kurt how love actually happens. He just can’t see how it can be two-sided- how one person can be in love with another person and that other person, out of billions in the world, just so happens to be in love back. Marriage is bizarre to him. He wants it, he craves it, he dreams of himself on an altar holding the hands of an amorphous man-shape that comes to him when he’s loneliest, but he just can’t wrap his head around the fact that so many people loved and were loved back. For Kurt, this kind of love has always been unreciprocated, and he can’t understand it any other way.
Kurt knows that he falls hard. He gets too infatuated and too starry-eyed and too foolish over boys. After Finn, there’s a series of almost instantaneous crushes he gets on guys that he meets anywhere and everywhere- the cashier at the grocery store was pretty cute, the waiter at Breadstix had really nice arms. He didn’t remember the names or faces of any of these guys afterwards- he thinks it was just a sort of rebound, a rebound from something that was never really there to begin with. But with Blaine, Kurt thinks, it’s something so completely different, so completely perfect. Kurt’s broken when they meet, hanging onto fragments of composure by a thread. He lets himself start to cry and it surprises himself- he never lets himself be seen so vulnerable, especially not in front of this (gorgeous, concerned, empathetic) boy he’s met twenty minutes ago. He hopes with every last thing in him that he won’t screw this up. Heart-dusted eyes and fluttering lashes were the standard. But as much as he wants to press his lips to Blaine’s, cup the back of his neck and learn the taste of his mouth, more than anything, he just wants a friend. Love could come in a friend.
After the words “The guy I like is a junior manager”, Kurt feels sick and stupid and spiteful. It’s February- it’s been four months since he met Blaine, and Kurt had felt fairly confident that he loved him. He’s fairly confident he still does love him. The thing they had is turning out the same as any romantic endeavor Kurt had ever embarked upon. But Kurt thought this one was different. It didn’t feel like Finn. With Finn, Kurt always thought he sort of knew nothing would or could ever happen. When he was with Blaine, the air seemed to glow with the impending possibility of something more. But Blaine. Was Kurt actually out of his mind in thinking that he had had some sort of feelings for Kurt? Him with his knee pats and coy little eyes that he made during their duets. On the day of love, it is making the least sense it ever has.
He forgets what life was like without Blaine- without Blaine as his boyfriend, without Blaine at all. Sometimes he thinks about fate. It’s always seemed like a silly thing to believe in. But he wonders. What if Puck had decided to keep his mouth shut in suggesting that Kurt visit Dalton? What if Kurt had tapped a different shoulder to ask a question to? It makes his whole body ache when he thinks of what could have happened instead. He sure as hell wouldn’t be here, with Blaine’s arms wrapped around him, Blaine pressing kisses to the top of Kurt’s head, Blaine threading their fingers together. Kurt nudges the neckline of Blaine’s t-shirt down with his chin- he craves the feeling of skin-on-skin. Faint presses of his lips scatter across the curve, contour of Blaine’s collarbone, hot skin and smooth expanse of chest. Litanies of “I love you” are murmured against lips, necks, shells of ears. With Blaine, everything is closeness. Physical- arms around Kurt’s waist, dragging fingers along the jut of his hipbone. Emotional- because he is still the only person that Kurt can be so completely open, so unguarded with. Blaine had seen Kurt’s tears fall, from the first few minutes of knowing him, and he knows what (and what not) to say to make the tears dry a little quicker, to turn the corners of his mouth up a little more. And with this, these quiet, familiar kisses and the thousand different ways Blaine knows how to make him smile, Kurt knows what love, real love, is.
They agree to end things before they go off to college. It should be easier this way, but it’s so much harder because they planned it. There’s no explosive argument that lets them hate each other just for a little while, there are no irritating inklings about each other that they can harp on after the breakup that assuage the pain of being apart. Storming, screaming breakups were easy- Finn and Rachel had them three times a week. Kurt sees Finn come back from Rachel’s fuming, knocking things off shelves and huffing instead of speaking. He’s never sad, just…just livid. He bitches to Kurt about everything that’s wrong with her, trying to make himself feel better by convincing himself that losing her wouldn’t be the worst thing. There’s none of that with Kurt and Blaine. Everything still seems too perfect to let go of.
Knowing what’s to come is the worst part. Their relationship morphs into a ticking time bomb. Days, worthless if they spend them apart, are divided into precious seconds, minutes that can’t be left wasted, hours that seem to go by in one precious second. The day grows closer, their kisses now laced with sadness with the knowledge of what’s going to happen. Blaine ends his kisses with an idle drag of his lips off Kurt’s, trailing the edge of his mouth and pressing his lips delicately to the corner of his sad smile. Blaine looks up to see tears hanging like dew from Kurt’s eyelashes. Blaine’s eyebrows wrinkle up, he bites his lip to fight back what he knows is coming, he draws his thumb along the pale, fragile skin on Kurt’s undereye to take away the tears. Kurt shakes his head, it’s moving with such a quick, hysterical intensity and it makes Blaine start to cry too. Blaine presses kisses along Kurt’s forehead, then drops them lower and rests his cheek against Kurt’s. Kurt hates the teary layer between them. Arms weave around Blaine’s waist, treasuring the warm solidity that Kurt can never relinquish. There’s a long sigh, a shudder against Kurt’s chest.
“I can’t.” Blaine whispers shakily. Kurt shakes his head no, no, no, no- because he can’t either. They still love each other. They leave still loving each other.
Now, he knows what love is not. He has to learn it, but he’s sure. It’s not this (certainly nice, but almost sickeningly sweet) boy lying next to him in his narrow dorm-room bed with arms squeezed tight around his waist in an unfamiliar grip that turns Kurt’s stomach. When he was sixteen, he was starved for anything close to this- any touch. But this, this just feels wrong. Blaine’s touch kept him awake, made him shiver. Blaine’s touch made him want to, need to touch back. This boy’s touch is keeping him awake, but certainly not for the same reasons. It’s keeping him awake from the fully foreign feeling of it, cold iron instead of warm familiarity. Love is not the stale dates he goes on in hopes of getting over the boy he first fell in love with when he was seventeen. Toying with the fraying edges of the cheap tablecloth, he makes trite commentary about the restaurant’s choice of décor, trying not to let a certain face replace the ones sitting across the table from him. Kurt’s fully aware that it shouldn’t feel like cheating (because fuck, it’s been two years), but he can’t shake it. He wants to throw these arms off him and crawl into Blaine’s. He had love. He knows love. Love is not not-Blaine.
In the back of their heads, they think they always knew it would happen this way. They thought they had to have the amicable pre-college breakup, because didn’t all high school couples have to have the amicable (or in some cases, not-so-amicable) pre-college breakup? They were raised to believe that high school couples couldn’t, wouldn’t, don’t last. Kurt knew they were different. Blaine knew they were different. But they stuck with the breakup. That was the plan. And the plan was what they did, for the most part, until they got so completely sick of not being with each other that there was really no other choice. Then there had been a phone call and a date and a kiss and a lot more kisses and a lot more dates and I love yous being re-said and now there was a ring. Neither of them ever really doubted there would be a ring.
Long, languid breaths rise and fall steadily on Kurt's chest. There's a tiny little body sleeping on his, a tiny little head resting in the crook of his neck, a tiny little heartbeat of his daughter's against his own. His daughter. It's a kind of love he has never and could have never felt before this day. He whispers perpetual chants of "I love you" in her ear, just as he had done with the then-boy-now-man sitting next to him when they were seventeen. She stirs, and Kurt doesn't try to stop the tears from coming. But god, it's the most he's ever smiled. Blaine looks about the same- a teary, smiley mess, his teeth leaving biting white marks on his bottom lip. He presses his lips to Kurt's forehead, leaving them there longer than usual, and rests his head on Kurt's shoulder. He was his and he was his and she was theirs. And then her eyes open, wide and sparkling when they see Kurt’s, and she looks over at Blaine still settled smiling on Kurt’s shoulder, and her lips stretch out into a smile too- just toothless, smooth, newborn-pink gums. In a quiet, easy gesture, Blaine takes Kurt’s hand and squeezes it tight. Fourteen years ago, it had made his mind go hazy and the world go bright, but now, it’s a hazy mind and a bright world and so, so much more.