Set My Soul On Fire for kbl_reversebang 2012

Jun 07, 2012 20:13

Title: Set My Soul On Fire for kbl_reversebang 2012
Rating: PG-13
Word Count: 7,600
Summary: Kurt Hummel never intended on becoming a lounge singer alongside his two best friends after college, but that's the hand he was dealt, and he’s pretty happy working for the swanky Las Vegas casino he, Mercedes, and Rachel call home. When a new pianist enters their mix, he’s not expecting to find love, but things always have a way of working out how he least expects.
Author's Notes: So many thanks. Thank you to wordplay, mybriefeternity and hedgerose for being early sounding boards, colfer for helping fill a pretty serious gap, ccmskatechick for betaing and putting up with my bitchery, and ileliberte for creating the most LOVELY art for me to draw inspiration from as well as co-running kbl_reversebang. There's been a week of submissions so far, and five more to go if memory serves me correctly, so do check them out! In a bizarre twist of fate, I was supposed to be on a flight to Las Vegas immediately, and I like to think writing this lessened the blow just a tad when it didn’t work out (okay, it totally didn't, but it was a nice sentiment, right? :D)


“Life is like a game of cards. The hand you are dealt is determinism; the way you play it is free will.” - Jawaharlal Nehru

“Brad what?” Kurt squealed as he turned on his heel, following Mercedes into their rehearsal space. Rachel was already tinkering at the piano, and the hotel talent manager, Stanley, was hunched over his laptop in the corner. “He left? Why didn’t you all tell me? I know I was on vacation, but really.”

Kurt had been back in Ohio for a week for his dad and Carole’s tenth wedding anniversary. It had been a lovely break, getting caught up with his parents and stepbrother and his sister in law and his nephews - he didn’t get to see them nearly enough. It had been somehow relaxing - who knew flying back home to Ohio would one day be relaxing?

He hadn’t expected to come back to Las Vegas with his pianist missing.

For the past four years, Kurt, along with Mercedes and Rachel, had been one of the star singers at The Sophisticate’s swankiest lounge, Aurora. Mercedes had gotten a job at The Sophisticate’s other lounge, Hideaways, not long after high school graduation, after she’d relocated to LA in hopes of making it big. Shortly after Kurt and Rachel graduated college in New York, Stanley had earmarked her to headline Aurora, their newest project. Aurora was pegged to be classier, more refined and exclusive - something for the high rollers at The Sophisticate to retire to at night (which, true to its name, The Sophisticate was a fairly chic hotel to begin with). Mercedes had insisted to Stanley that Kurt and Rachel were the classiest singers she knew, and that September, after lots of persuading, the pair had loaded up Kurt’s old Navigator and had driven cross country.

Sure, it wasn’t Broadway, and at no point in his childhood did he ever say, “Hmm, I think I’ll be a lounge singer today,” but the fact that he got to sing songs he loved to people that actually wanted to listen to him five nights a week - well, it was pretty perfect. He, Mercedes, and Rachel rotated through solos and duets for eight hours a night, Wednesday through Sunday, Brad accompanying them dutifully on the piano.

Brad had been with them only two of the four years. They’d been looking for a replacement for their former pianist, Daly, when Mercedes had been back east visiting her own family. She ran into Brad at the grocery store, found out the Lima Public School District forced him into early retirement, and convinced him to join them.

(Vegas had been good to Mercedes - she’d clearly mastered the art of persuasion in the eight years she’d lived there.)

“It all happened so fast!” Rachel said excitedly, bursting out of her seat on the piano bench. Rachel still loved a good story, after all. “Santrelle hit a decent jackpot over - thirty-two million, I heard - and she and Brad were married and on a plane to Hawaii in forty-eight hours.” Santrelle was one of their regular patrons who’d taken an interest in Brad in the past few months. She was a semi-wealthy divorcee who insisted on spending her alimony checks at The Sophisticate just to spite her ex-husband. “The three of us went to the chapel with them, it was so romantic,” Rachel added with a sigh, but from Mercedes’ stifled laugh, and Stanley’s eye roll, he gathered romantic wasn’t quite the right adjective to use.

“That’s all lovely, but more pressing matters - it’s Tuesday, who is going on with us tomorrow?” Kurt asked, glaring at Stanley whose attention was returned to his laptop.

“Deb agreed to work Wednesday and Sunday, and I’ve got Alex coming in the other three days.” Kurt tried not to groan at the mention of Alex. Alex was one of the regular pianists at Hideaways, and every time Kurt was in his presence, he was reminded why he rarely joined the other Hideaways regulars on their long standing Monday night adventures, even though he never worked Mondays. Deb was one of the pianists The Sophisticate had on hand to use for weddings, and Kurt did enjoy working with her. She reminded him of Carole in some way - motherly and kind.

“What about a long term replacement? Are you anywhere on that?” Kurt asked, tapping his fingertips against the smooth piano top. He knew his tone was a bit icy, but there was nothing worse than coming back from vacation to the world falling apart.

“There’s this kid I saw at a dueling piano bar when I was in LA last month. We exchanged info, I’m going to give him a call,” Stanley replied calmly, not tearing his eyes away from the laptop for a second.

“Well, good,” Kurt retorted with a huff, sitting down at the piano bench. He wondered if he could convince Stanley to just let him play until they found someone permanent - that would be preferable to Alex.

To Kurt’s delight, the week passed without any major problems, and Stanley had been in touch with his piano dueler, Blaine. He was arriving on Monday, and if rehearsals went well, he’d stay for a week trial run. Stanley mentioned there were probably YouTube videos out of the guy, but Kurt didn’t want to go in with any preconceived notions of him.

Sunday was slow, as it normally was, and while Deb was lovely, singing with her accompaniment wasn’t exactly thrilling. Between that, and the fact that he’d been thrust back into things at a hundred miles an hour after his vacation, Kurt’s heart wasn’t really in it. His first set was perfectly fine - but that’s all it was, fine. Kurt expected better of himself. By the time he walked out on the stage to duet with Mercedes before his second set, he knew he needed a distraction.

He and Mercedes bantered back and forth a bit before launching into ‘I’ve Got You Under My Skin,’ and while Mercedes took the first bars, he found one. A man about his age, sitting in a booth all by his lonesome, nursing something with ice in a short glass. Slicked back hair, warm eyes, handsome, dressed simple but classy in a grey suit, cream shirt, and grey and purple plaid bow tie. He was watching both Kurt and Mercedes with rapt attention, no phone or book or company to distract him. Their eyes met briefly, and Kurt gave him a small smirk before launching into his part. I have tried so, not to give in. I've said to myself this affair, it never would go so well but why should I try to resist when I know so well that I've got you under my skin.

They finished the song, Kurt throwing one last meaningful glance towards the booth with only one occupant, and Kurt went out of his way to thank Mercedes, kissing the back of her hand. Her eyelashes fluttered, and she pretended to be flustered at his praise as the guy Kurt had singled out grinned and applauded politely with the rest of the patrons.

Kurt had been performing long enough to know when someone’s eyes were on him without looking to confirm - it was a sixth sense. He continued his set without as much as a sideways glance towards the booth, but he could feel his gaze on him all the same. Now that someone was watching, really watching, well, it was infinitely more enjoyable. He exchanged quips with Deb between songs, teased one of their regulars, Mr. Andros, about not paying attention, and knew he was just radiating off the stage. Only during his closing number for the set, ‘Call Me Irresponsible,’ did he finally lock eyes with the man at the booth once more. Call me irresponsible, call me unreliable. Throw in undependable too. Do my foolish alibis bore you? Well, I'm not too clever, I just adore you. When Kurt lifted his eyes above his microphone to meet his, he could see the fire behind them, how the man’s lips were slightly parted - he had definitely not missed a single second of Kurt’s performance.

Kurt couldn’t wrap his mind around what his next move should be before Rachel was floating from the wings, asking the audience to give it up for him, and he took a short bow at their applause. “Boy, have you got an admirer or what?” Mercedes whispered fiercely, grinning as he stepped backstage.

“Do I? I hadn’t noticed,” Kurt replied airily, waving her further backstage so they could chat. “He is cute, huh?”

“He’s more than cute,” Mercedes teased. “I was tempted to come out of the wings and offer him a napkin for his drool.”

Kurt swatted at her shoulder, the beads of her dress clashing harshly with his hand. “Oh, stop it. You’re horrible.”

“Horrible or not, you should totally get his number.”

In the four years Kurt had been in Las Vegas, the amount of phone numbers he’d gathered after a performance could be counted on one hand. Tips were fairly common, gamblers quick to share their newfound wealth while they had it, but not numbers. It was all for the best, because of the numbers he had gotten, he hadn’t been compelled to call a single one.

Kurt hadn’t exactly been celibate the past few years - he just preferred not to mix business with pleasure, and it’s not like Las Vegas was lacking in places to meet people.

“We’ll see,” Kurt replied before changing the subject.

It didn’t even matter, because by the time Kurt went onstage for his third and final set, the man was gone.

“He’ll be back,” Rachel insisted the next afternoon as they left the hotel coffee shop and wound their way through the sprawling lobby towards their rehearsal space. They were almost immune to the dinging of slot machines and the shuffling of cards and the general chaos going on around them. “You didn’t see his face,” Rachel added as they waited at one of the elevators. “He’ll definitely be back.”

Kurt didn’t expect to see him a mere five minutes later, standing next to Stanley at the piano, discussing paperwork.

Of course.

He immediately felt silly, until he reminded himself that the man had played along - Blaine had been playing along too, after all. “Ah, good,” Stanley said, looking up from his papers and pushing the glasses up his nose. “Blaine, this is Kurt Hummel and Rachel Berry. My starlets, this is Blaine Anderson, your new pianist.”

Kurt wanted to say something about how Blaine was only supposed to be there for the next few days, on a trial basis no less, but with the way Blaine was smiling at him kindly, he bit his tongue and outstretched his hand for Blaine to shake. Blaine’s handshake was firm, but gentle at the same time, and his smile extended all the way to his eyes. “You guys were amazing last night. I look forward to working with you both.”

“Some more than others,” Rachel stage whispered to Kurt before turning on her megawatt smile and offering Blaine her hand. If Kurt had possessed quicker reflexes, he would have nudged Rachel, or possibly smacked her upside the head without Blaine seeing, but as it stood, he settled for a light laugh and the hope that Blaine hadn’t hear a word she’d said.

Blaine was nothing but professional during their rehearsal, and it was easy to see how he’d been a hit wherever he’d worked last. Blaine was charismatic and charming without pulling complete focus away from whoever was singing. Kurt could see why Stanley introduced him as their new pianist - they didn’t need a week. There was no doubt Blaine would be able to integrate into the group seamlessly without a single problem. They all left rehearsal feeling wonderfully giddy and accomplished, and Kurt was going to have to kill both of his costars, because it was Mercedes who asked what Blaine was doing for dinner the moment they stepped out into the hall.

“What are you doing?” Kurt whispered at Mercedes as Rachel and Blaine stepped into the elevator, Rachel blathering on about dining options.

Mercedes ignored him completely, nodding and grinning at Rachel’s suggestions, following them into the elevator and hitting the button for the lobby.

Dinner had actually been interesting, finding out more about Blaine. He was originally from the Midwest as well, but had been living in California for almost a decade, where he had an older brother and the requisite pair of parents. He’d always taken piano lessons as a kid, fell out of it when he was in high school for show choir (of course once more, because Stanley would find the only other show choir refugee from the Midwest). He only found his love for piano again when he was in college, landing the job at the dueling piano bar when he realized he had no idea what he wanted to do with his life and his World Arts and Cultures bachelor’s degree from UCLA.

Rachel told him practically every sordid detail of their four years in New York and how they were destined for Broadway, but New York was expensive and roles were scarce, and they would have been stupid to jump at the opportunity to move west. Mercedes and Blaine talked about LA for a bit, since she’d driven her car there after high school graduation with the promise of some background vocal work, where she’d stayed for six months until she landed a job at The Sophisticate. Kurt was probably too quiet, letting the three of them lead the conversation and only interjecting when necessary, but if Blaine had noticed, he hadn’t said a word.

Their first few weeks with Blaine were busy, coming in on their Mondays and Tuesdays off for extra rehearsals, but as predicted, Blaine was the perfect addition to their routine, never faltering once during their live performances.

The Monday before Thanksgiving was the first full day off that Kurt had been able to enjoy since his vacation, and unfortunately, it consisted of getting caught up on boring errands like laundry and grocery shopping. Aurora would be open on Thanksgiving, so the five of them had planned on having a potluck in the rehearsal room before they went on, and Kurt needed to figure out something to bring. He was wandering in the produce section at Von’s for inspiration, when his shopping cart rolled away from him, hitting another. He looked up to apologize and saw Blaine, looking just as surprised to see him as Kurt felt.

“I can’t have one day away from you, can I?” Kurt teased, tossing a bag of green beans in his cart. Blaine laughed and he tilted his head to the side like he did sometimes when they were rehearsing, when Kurt would say something particularly witty or amusing. Kurt rolled his cart next to Blaine’s and reached over him to grab a pack of mushrooms. “What are you up to on your day off, aside from adding vegetables to your diet?”

“There’s some sort of joke in there that I’m not going to touch, I think,” Blaine replied, turning his cart around so he could follow Kurt down the aisle. “I signed a lease on an apartment today, so I figured I should stock it with actual food. No more hotel rooms and room service for me!” Blaine elbowed Kurt’s arm as he came up beside him. “I guess you’re actually stuck with me for a while now, huh?”

Kurt honestly didn’t mind one bit, but managed to school his face into a neutral expression. “However would I live without your daily weather updates?” Blaine liked to talk about the weather a lot, how it never changed, and he knew Blaine was new to the area, but he was pretty sure he wasn’t as invested when he and Rachel moved out (though, looking back he may have chronicled the changes in his skincare routine - dry air didn’t do his face any favors). Blaine laughed again, and Kurt couldn’t help cracking a small smile. He’d grown to enjoy Blaine’s laugh, the way he was truly delighted with whatever he’d just heard.

“What about you? What are you up to on this lovely mild day?” Kurt smirked at Blaine’s weather reference as they turned out of the produce department.

“I already did my laundry, very exciting, and now, like you, I’m restocking my pantry. Though, I guess you’re just stocking.” Kurt watched as Blaine grabbed a variety of fresh herbs to add to his cart.

“Well, I haven’t cooked a real meal in almost a month, and I’m looking forward to making one for dinner. I don’t have any furniture, but you’re free to join me if you’d like to eat off of plastic plates on the floor.” Blaine flashed Kurt a smile, and really, it was a credit to Blaine’s charming nature that Kurt was even considering it.

“Fine, fine. Finish your shopping, I’ll finish mine, and text me your new address and when I should be there. Your floor better at least be clean.” Kurt narrowed his eyes at Blaine but the corners of his mouth were upturned slightly, which didn’t lend him much credence.

“I cleaned before I came,” Blaine said proudly, before pushing his cart down the next aisle and jumping on the bottom rail to ride it. “See you at five!” he called out as he sped away, and Kurt couldn’t believe he was willingly agreeing to spend time with this man.

Blaine’s apartment complex was easy to find. It was older, but it looked like it had been updated recently, and Kurt noticed that the patio contained two plastic deck chairs and a small side table that looked suspiciously like the ones they sold at Von’s. He shook his head and rapped on the door.

He heard Blaine call out that the door was open, and he walked inside, the smells of garlic and butter wafting his way, Blaine hunched over the small stove in the kitchen. “I realized I didn’t even ask you about food - I hope you’re not allergic to shellfish.” Kurt walked further into the kitchen to find Blaine sautéing shrimp and scallops, a pot of water boiling in the back with pasta.

“No, it smells wonderful,” Kurt replied, walking up to the built-in bar and leaning over the side, since as Blaine pointed out at the grocery store, there was literally no furniture. “I’m sure you’re an excellent cook,” Kurt added, grinning, and Blaine glanced over his shoulder to grin back at him.

“I’m good at following directions. I have a few things I’m decent at.” He turned back to the stove, and Kurt asked if there was anything he could do. “There’s a bottle of wine in the fridge. You can open it and pour yourself a glass.”

Kurt found the bottle Blaine spoke of, and spotted two wine glasses sitting off to the side of the fridge on the counter. “You don’t have furniture, but you have wine glasses?” Kurt asked, his tone already a little cheeky, and he knew the wine would probably further that.

“I realized if I was going to make dinner, pots and pans would help, so I picked up actual plates and glasses and silverware too.” Kurt filled both of the glasses, setting Blaine’s on the counter next to the stove. Kurt sipped at his, leaning against the opposing counter and watching Blaine work as he chattered on about the move in process, and meeting his new neighbors, how the lady next door had two dogs, really just random rambling filling the air. Kurt marveled in how animated Blaine became that he just let him, almost getting lost in it and only snapping out when Blaine stopped talking, staring at him with an amused expression.

“I’m talking too much,” he admitted while Kurt clutched his wine glass, “I do that sometimes.” Blaine’s expression was a little too earnest, as if he’d left off a qualifier to his sentence, but Kurt didn’t pry.

“It’s fine,” Kurt replied, offering him another smile, figuring he could babble on about his and Rachel’s own moving experience when they first got to the city. Before he could even get to the story about Rachel almost burning down the kitchen, because she wasn’t used to a non-temperamental stove after their gem of an apartment in New York, Blaine was tossing the pasta together and pulling a salad out of the fridge and handing Kurt a plate.

Blaine insisted on pulling the patio furniture inside to eat, even though the night was mild for November in the desert, citing that a view of the parking lot wasn’t the most appetizing. Kurt balanced his plate on his knee as he ate, resting his wine glass on the side table, and complimenting Blaine’s cooking every chance he got. Since they worked through dinner, a full meal at this time was rare for Kurt. It was one of the things he missed by having to work nights. Breakfast and lunch were usually too rushed, and if he waited to have dinner until he was off, it interfered with sleep.

Kurt offered to wash the dishes, since Blaine cooked, rinsing them and loading them into the dishwasher, and while he did, he noticed a pack of cards at the end of the bar. “Did you pick those up with the wine glasses?” Kurt asked, and Blaine shook his head.

“Stanley gave them to me one night. He said if I lived in Vegas now, I could at least learn a card game or two.” He picked up the deck while Kurt dried his hands on a towel, and shuffled them. “My brother taught me to play Spit and War as a kid, but somehow I’m thinking that’s not what he meant.”

“You didn’t play Kings in college?” Kurt asked, and Blaine shook his head. “No Poker either? Texas Hold ‘Em? You have to know how to play Poker if you live here, Blaine.” Kurt laughed and picked up his wine glass, grabbing the bottle from the fridge and motioning for Blaine to follow. Kurt situated himself cross-legged on Blaine’s floor, holding out his hand for the deck of cards. “I didn’t want to necessarily learn either, but since I did, I’m teaching you.”

“We don’t have anything to bet with,” Blaine said as he sat down across from Kurt, and Kurt resisted the urge to mention that’s how Strip Poker came to be.

“We’ll skip betting for now,” Kurt replied instead, and refilled his glass. He tried to explain the basics, Blaine watching him and growing fascinated with his words, and finally, when Blaine seemed like he understood what to do, he dealt them each a hand, putting three cards in between them.

Blaine reached out for one of the cards, and he was still totally clueless. Kurt laughed, his hand covering Blaine’s to stop him, and Kurt tried not to think about how warm and soft Blaine’s hand was. “Wait, you don’t pull up cards. If we were betting, we’d bet again, and then again after the turn and river cards.”

They went through a few rounds, Blaine still getting flustered and wanting to grab cards even though there was no card grabbing in Texas Hold ‘Em, and Kurt should have been annoyed, but it was actually kind of adorable. Blaine started asking questions before doing things, but his assumptions were still always wrong, and by the time the bottle of wine was empty, he wasn’t any closer to figuring out how to play.

“I’m hopeless,” Blaine cried, throwing himself flat on his back on the floor and covering his face. Kurt giggled, draining the rest of his wine and shuffling all of the cards back together.

“You’re not hopeless,” Kurt chastised, reaching over to pull Blaine back up into a sitting position, their knees brushing together. “Come on, we’ll play War. Though, the last time I played War, we didn’t have anything to bet with either, so it turned into Strip War.” Kurt could feel his cheeks blush, not believing how fast his filter had left him, and Blaine was staring at him, his eyes flickering a shade darker just like the first night they saw each other. Kurt watched as Blaine swallowed hard, his Adam’s apple bobbing as he did. Kurt panicked, not knowing what to do, so he laughed loudly again. “You … I’m sorry, I seem to have lost my filter. I’ll just … deal.”

Kurt meant the cards, but the way Blaine’s expression changed, it was as if he realized Kurt meant something else entirely, dealing with the fact that he was now surrounded with handsome, adorable, charming Blaine on an almost daily basis, and refusing to act on it. His expression softened in an instant though, and he moved back far enough to give them room between them to play, and the moment was gone, just like that.

Kurt wasn’t sure if he’d ever get used to working straight through the holidays. Even though they worked Thanksgiving, they were all off Christmas Eve and Christmas, but still, it wasn’t worth it to fly cross country for the payoff of spending a mere thirty-six hours with his family (though, in the past, he’d done it, and this year, Mercedes had). Rachel’s dads came out for a few days, Kurt joining them for their tradition of Chinese food and a movie on Christmas Day to pass the time. He missed his family, he missed having snow on Christmas, and strangely enough, he missed Blaine.

Blaine had driven back to LA for his time off to spend Christmas with his parents and brother and to retrieve a few more things, since he’d basically shown up in Vegas with a few suitcases. It was stupid, Blaine had only been with them for six weeks, and it wasn’t like Blaine had shown Kurt he was attracted to him aside from that first night in the lounge and the night at his apartment. Blaine had gone back to being his usual professional self the very next day.

Hiram asked Kurt what was new in his life over dinner, and before he could answer, Rachel blurted out, “He’s fallen in love with our new pianist, Blaine, who you’ll meet tomorrow. They’d both be adorable together if they weren’t such idiots about the whole thing.”

“Rachel!” Kurt exclaimed, elbowing her as she used her chopsticks to bring a pea pod to her mouth and Leroy and Hiram exchanged a look. “Oh, god, no you too,” Kurt added, waving a finger between them. “I get enough grief from this one and Mercedes. Just because their love lives are less than desirable doesn’t mean they get to meddle in mine.” He stabbed a piece of orange chicken with his chopstick, grumbling as Hiram cleared his throat.

“You have to put yourself out there, Kurt,” he said sagely, smiling fondly at Leroy. “You both do. You kids aren’t sixteen anymore, you’re twenty-six!”

Thanks for the reminder, Kurt wanted to say, memories of his lofty high school goal of being married by thirty legally filling his mind. He knew Hiram and Leroy meant well though, so he expressed gratitude for their advice and swiftly changed the subject.

New Year’s Eve was chaotic from the start even though the lounge was closing early at ten-thirty, giving people plenty of time to move elsewhere for their midnight festivities. Stanley asked everyone to come in early, and to add some Beatles songs to the mix that night, which wasn’t an odd request in and of itself. Kurt never questioned Stanley’s requests - sometimes it was merely a wish of a regular, sometimes it meant someone special would be in attendance. Kurt didn’t like to know either way - he didn’t tend to get starstruck anymore, but still, he didn’t like any knowledge that would throw his performance off. Sometimes record producers would show up for the night, and Kurt knew Mercedes wanted a record deal badly out of everything.

Kurt really didn’t know what he wanted anymore. He was pretty happy where he was for once.

With the abbreviated time that night, they decided it would still be easiest to do a few sets each, just shorter in length. Stanley liked to keep them rotating through, just for variety (which truly meant, in case someone disliked one of them, they’d get a reprieve soon enough). They also never wanted to make Stanley’s requests obvious, so they settled for one Beatles song per set, Kurt going with his old favorites, ‘I Want To Hold Your Hand’ for his first and ‘Blackbird’ for his second. Blaine was his usual flawless self, having no issue with adding the new songs at the last minute

Aurora was packed, despite their early closing time. Every single seat was taken by Kurt’s first moment on stage, and there was a crowd of people gathered at the bar by his second round. “Well, I think some of you might be lost. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen Aurora this crowded,” Kurt joked as he adjusted his mic stand to close out his set. A ripple of laughter filled the room, and he turned to Blaine and grinned. “This is going to be my last song of the night - I know, I know,” he added at the awws and murmurings from the crowd. “It’s always been a personal favorite of mine, so I hope you like it too. Have a safe and happy New Year, everyone.”

He launched into the song, matching the grins of the lounge guests who figured out the song from the first note. He didn’t know if it was because it was New Year’s Eve or what, but he had an overwhelming sense of happiness, accomplishment - the belief that next year would be even better than the previous one going straight to his core. The white scarf around his shoulders swayed slightly as he sang, his jacket sparkling in the spotlights (because it was New Year’s in Vegas - a little sparkle was definitely necessary), and he just let go.

Kurt received a standing ovation from the crowd, not something that happened very often (after all, Aurora was a lounge, not a concert hall), and when he glanced back at Blaine, he almost fell over at the sight. Blaine’s eyes were boring into him, dark and heavy-lidded, a look of awe crossing his face. The same exact look Blaine gave him almost two months ago the night before they officially met.

Perhaps the coming year would be perfect, Kurt thought as he took his bow.

The Sophisticate was not only a hotel, but somewhat of an empire, which included a high rise of condominiums just behind the hotel. Mercedes, Kurt, and Rachel all lived there (in their own separate condos of course) because after they were built, they hadn’t sold nearly enough as they had intended and a select group of employees were offered a spectacular discount. The condos had been a steal, and the three of them decided they’d be stupid to not jump on them.

They all lived on different floors at least, and had different views - Mercedes’ and Rachel’s windows faced the mountains, whereas Kurt’s faced The Strip. The five of them headed to Kurt’s after leaving Aurora since they’d have a perfect view of the fireworks there. Every major hotel on The Strip set off their own, and from Kurt’s corner view, they’d have a view of most of them.

They still had half an hour to go before midnight by the time they arrived at Kurt’s, but he popped a bottle of champagne anyway, offering his friends long-stemmed glasses filled to the brim and letting Stanley make a toast to the coming year after most of them had shed their jackets and shoes. By their third glass, midnight was fast approaching, and Kurt was feeling fabulous. He figured he wasn’t the only one, so he decided to lay down a few ground rules.

“No kissing at midnight,” he teased, pointing his pinky finger of the hand wrapped around his flute at his friends. “There’s five of us, someone will sadly be outnumbered, and no one wants a repeat of last year.”

“What happened last year?” Blaine asked, grinning and looking at Kurt for the first time since they’d left the hotel. Blaine hadn’t been avoiding him - Kurt’s condo wasn’t that big - but he just seemed … anxious. Nervous, perhaps? Only having long, rambling conversations with Rachel and Mercedes, not paying much attention to Kurt - or Stanley for that matter.

“Oh, no,” Rachel squealed, launching herself over Blaine and Mercedes who were seated on Kurt’s couch with her to grab Kurt’s arm.

Mercedes ignored Rachel’s protests, blurting out the information. “Rachel Berry had a momentary lapse of judgment and thought she was in love with Kurt because they shared a chaste peck last New Year’s.”

“In my defense, I had had far, far too much to drink that night,” she grumbled before taking another sip from her champagne flute. Stanley rolled his eyes in Blaine’s direction, and everyone aside from Rachel burst out laughing. “Oh, shut up!”

“At least I didn’t fall for you back. That would be a travesty,” Kurt deadpanned, getting up to grab the champagne bottle so he could top off everyone’s glasses before the countdown, the TV playing quietly in the background.

“Come on, like I’m the only one! Mercedes totally fell for you too,” Rachel protested and Mercedes and Kurt exchanged a pointed look.

“Okay, I was sixteen,” Mercedes quickly explained for Blaine, his eyebrows raised in confusion. “But, yes, I suppose we have that in common. The whole room is falling in love with Kurt Hummel one by one - boys, anything to share?” She grinned wickedly, and Kurt saw Blaine’s face pale slightly.

Luckily, Stanley came to Blaine’s rescue, bolting from the armchair he was sitting in to join Kurt in the kitchen. “I’m pretty sure Kurt would kill me if he was forced to spend any more time than absolutely necessary, isn’t that right, sweetheart?”

Kurt passed him the nearly empty bottle of champagne and patted his cheek with his palm, smiling fondly at him. “Call me sweetheart again and I will kill you.”

The room laughed just as the local countdown began on the TV. They scrambled to Kurt’s windows, large panes of glass taking up over half the wall space, and Kurt found himself pressed up against Blaine’s side, close enough he could feel Blaine’s steady breathing on his neck. He looked back at Blaine and smiled, Blaine’s own expression blank, before turning and waiting for the light shows to start.

Finally, the TV announcer declared it midnight, and one by one bright bursts of color filled the sky, everyone gasping and oohing and awing. Kurt wondered if Blaine had ever seen such a display before; his noises of excitement were surely the loudest. Kurt was just as focused on Blaine’s reactions as he was the show. Blaine’s whispers were causing the hairs on the back of his neck to stand up.

Finally, when everything was over, a cloud of haze filling the air instead of the colorful explosions in the sky, Mercedes turned to Rachel, throwing her arms around her and wishing her a happy new year. Kurt knew he should do the same for Blaine, so he turned slowly, faced with a warm smile and even warmer arms. Blaine hugged him tightly, whispering that he hoped Kurt would have a wonderful year ahead, and Kurt breathed in sharply before returning his own wishes, filling his senses with the scent of Blaine’s cologne.

Kurt tried to read Blaine’s face once more when they broke, but then Mercedes was pulling him into a hug of her own. He made it to Rachel and Stanley after, throwing his arms around both of them at once, and he loved his friends, he was so grateful for them, but he also wanted them out of his apartment. Preferably soon.

From the moment Kurt laid eyes on Blaine’s expression after his closing song, he’d felt it. It was almost as if the slow burn that had been building between them these past few months had been switched on full blast - as stupid as it sounded, he felt the fire burning in his heart, in his soul for Blaine - he had to know if he felt the same way.

Predictably, Stanley was the first to leave. He lived twenty minutes away from The Strip. As they said their goodbyes, he saw Rachel and Mercedes exchange a look, and just this once, he didn’t care about their meddling. Rachel faked a huge yawn (seriously, she considered herself an actress?), claiming exhaustion from the day’s activities, Mercedes following suit, and in a flurry of activity, there was more hugging and then finally, there Kurt was, alone with Blaine.

“Well, they’re all lame,” Kurt joked at the same time as Blaine blurted out, “I should probably get out of your hair.”

Kurt froze. He couldn’t doubt himself anymore - he knew he wasn’t reading the signs wrong this time. Blaine laughed awkwardly, shoving his hands in the pockets of his suit pants and glancing towards the ground. “I mean - I could stay. If you don’t mind.”

A smile curled on Kurt’s lips. “Of course not. There’s still two-thirds of a bottle of champagne left, we can’t let that go to waste.” Kurt turned on his heel to find an ice bucket in the kitchen, filling it with enough ice to keep the champagne chilled. He grabbed his own flute and started down the hall, motioning for Blaine to follow. “Come on, there’s something I want to show you.”

He led Blaine into his office, past the desk which was more strewn with papers than Kurt would have liked, past the couch, to the window - again, taking up more than half the wall but this time, surrounded by built in bookcases, and in between, under the window, a window seat more than big enough for two. Outside the window was a partial view of the north end of The Strip, and then off to the left, a tiny sliver of mountains was visible.

“I would have liked a full mountain view, like Rachel and Mercedes have, but the corner floor plans have more closet space, so I compromised.” He offered Blaine a small smile as he settled against the side of the bookcase, his back flat against it, and Blaine hopped up on the other side of the window seat, their socked feet brushing in passing. “No balcony, since Las Vegas developers are scared someone is going to launch themselves from one, so I like to pretend like this is my balcony.”

“I think this is way cooler than a balcony,” Blaine admitted, repositioning the pillows and cushions behind him. They sipped their champagne in silence, admiring the view, until Blaine finally said, “Did you have a nice New Year’s?”

“I did. Tonight was wonderful - I don’t think I’ve come down yet from that standing ovation.” The corners of Kurt’s mouth turned up just slightly at the memory, and Kurt leaned over the side of the window seat to set his glass down on the floor. “I mean, I love what I do, but it’s not exactly what I intended for my life. I thought I’d be having them on a more regular basis, so it always surprises me when it happens. Quite unexpected these days.” He smiled at Blaine, his legs stretched out towards him where he was situated against the opposing bookcase, his own legs tucked underneath him. Blaine was smiling back at him, just barely, and Kurt poked at Blaine’s thigh with his toes. “Hey, are you alright?”

“Yeah, why?” Blaine asked, slightly panicked, like he wasn’t aware that his mask had been slipping slightly until this moment.

“Just checking to make sure you had a good New Year’s too.” Kurt watched Blaine relax, deciding not to mention how he’d noticed how jittery Blaine had been since they left Aurora.

“Of course!” Blaine said, finally fully grinning. He reached over to set his glass next to Kurt’s and said, “It was amazing. You were amazing.”

In that moment, it all clicked in Kurt’s head. Blaine was trying to work up the courage to make a move … and he was nervous about it. Somehow, Kurt found it endearing and adorable. His eyes grew wide and his breath caught in his throat.

Maybe living in New York for so long, and then Las Vegas after had made him jaded. When the butterflies in his stomach started, he realized he’d almost forgotten what they felt like. What it was like to not just feel wanted, but to be wooed. It reminded him of first kisses and handholding and driving down dirt roads in Ohio, feelings he hadn’t felt in almost a decade and didn’t really expect to feel ever again.

“Can I tell you something?” Blaine asked, leaning forward on his knees towards Kurt just a tad. Kurt slowly nodded and he continued, placing a hand over Kurt’s where it was resting on his knee. “I really hoped I’d be able to kiss you at midnight.”

Kurt breathed in sharply, his eyes trailing to Blaine’s lips. “Well, it’s not midnight anymore, but -“

Kurt didn’t even have time to finish before Blaine’s mouth was on his, warm and open and inviting. Blaine’s hand moved further up to Kurt’s cheek, rubbing his thumb across his cheekbone as they kissed, and Kurt’s hand opened and closed involuntarily at the lack of contact. The fruity, bubbly taste of champagne lingered on Blaine's tongue, and Kurt felt a little thrill down his spine as it moved against his own. Kurt felt Blaine's smile against his own similar grin, making a little satisfied noise low in his throat as he moved away.

"I should -" Blaine started, eyes focusing on the floor where the champagne glasses sat. Was he blushing? "We should -"

Kurt couldn't think of anything that could be more important than kissing Blaine again, so he tugged at his rumpled shirt, whispering Blaine's name brokenly, and that's all it took, their lips crashing back together. Hands found their way under shirts, both of them leaning into each other’s touch, only parting when their noses knocked together and they couldn’t help laughing at their predicament.

“I should -“ Blaine started again, but before he could finish, Kurt covered his lips with two fingers to shush him.

“You should stay,” Kurt said softly, his words insistent and firm, brimming with anticipation. “Just … stay.”

Blaine didn’t have to nod; his smile gave Kurt all the answer he needed.

“Good evening everyone,” Kurt said to the crowd at Aurora a few days later, their first day back since New Year’s Eve. Kurt usually didn’t go on first, Stanley preferred him in the middle to split up the girls, but tonight, Stanley must have noticed the extra spring in his step (as well as Blaine’s). “I’m Kurt Hummel and I’d like to welcome you to Aurora. I assure you I won’t be offended if you tune me out. Much.”

He glanced over at Blaine and smiled as he waited for the tittering coming from the crowd to quiet so he could continue. “I hope you all had a wonderfully fabulous and safe New Year’s, and I wish you a most prosperous year ahead, whether it be financially, or simply in the matters of the heart.”

Kurt noticed Blaine wink at him out of the corner of his eye. “This right here is our lovely pianist, Blaine Anderson. He’s been with us for a few months now, and he neglected to inform us that he had a beautiful singing voice as well. I’ve almost convinced him to sing a little duet with me to start us off, but I think he could use a bit more encouragement?” The room began to clap, and from the look on Blaine’s face, he would kill him later, but it would be worth it.

Blaine adjusted the microphone by the piano so he could speak. “Just for the record, I don’t know if any of you should gamble with Kurt here, it seems as if he has a few tricks up his sleeve,” he teased, and the crowd laughed as they bantered back and forth.

“My dear Blaine, I do believe we’ve kept these lovely people waiting for a song long enough,” Kurt finally said, fluttering his eyelashes in Blaine’s direction and Blaine just chuckled before starting to play.

Kurt launched into the song, making a point to sing to the crowd, and not Blaine, but when Blaine reached his last verse, he couldn’t help but divert his eyes momentarily, and his breath caught in his throat at the look of sheer joy in Blaine’s eyes. Fools rush in where wise men never go but wise men never fall in love, so how are they to know?

Kurt froze for a moment, missing his cue, but Blaine’s swift fingers made it seem like the extra notes were supposed to be there, so the audience would never know. Kurt smiled tenderly at Blaine before launching into his last verse. When we met I felt my life begin, so open up your heart and let this fool rush in.

The crowd launched into polite applause and Kurt took a quick bow before joining in and encouraging the audience to clap more for Blaine. Blaine motioned for them to stop, and Kurt couldn’t keep the grin off his face. The coming year was certainly going to be more exciting with Blaine at his side - and he couldn’t wait.

future!klaine, klaine

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