Title: Jazz Hands (1/2)
Rating: PG-13 (for light swearing)
Spoilers: Blaine's existence
Warnings: Unrepentant AU
Word Count: 5,010 in total
Summary: Blaine is a master of fitting in. After all, he's gone a year and a half at McKinley without anyone realizing that he is gayer than a treeful of canaries. Then he sees Kurt Hummel and, suddenly, fitting in isn't everything it was cracked up to be.
A/N: This is a fill for mad_half_hour over at the Kurt/Blaine prompt post! I had the hardest time ending this, you don't even know. My brain was just screaming at me "you can't give Kurt a legitimate love interest before he encourages Finn to screw up everything with Quinn's parents, what about the plot, you fool?" But then I remembered that Glee doesn't actually have a plot and it was all okay again. Also, I apologize in advance for how terrible the quality of some of the linked clips are, but they were the best I could find!
Episode 1: Don’t Stop Believing
“I bet they locked Artie in a port-a-potty again,” Tanner said gloomily, fingers dancing jerkily along the neck of his saxophone. “They’re probably going to kill him this time, and we’ll never find another guitarist, and our winter concert will be shot straight to hell.”
Rick pantomimed tossing his drumsticks at Tanner’s head. “Thanks, Sunshine,” he said, voice mockingly bright. “That’s exactly the sort of attitude we need. Good God, what would we do without you?”
“If he’s not here in five minutes, we’re going to send out a search party,” Derek announced. “I’ll take the football field.” There was a moment of silence as the rest of the jazz band mentally applauded his bravery. “Blaine, will you take the gym?”
Blaine flinched upon being addressed, glancing up from his bass guitar. He shook his head a little, mess of curly bangs shifting just enough so he could see out from behind them. He smiled, or tried to. “Uh, yeah. That’s fine.”
He let out a deep breath as the attention was taken off of him. He hated to be singled out. Being singled out got you thrown into dumpsters, or swirlied, or locked into port-a-potties like poor Artie. He’d been at McKinley High for a little over a year now, and the worst that had ever happened to him was being splashed with the residue of a slushie someone had thrown at Tanner because Tanner had dared to say that he loved Thelonious Monk while walking in a public hallway.
Blaine would never do something that dumb. He barely talked in hallways at all, if he could help it. Or in class. Or in rehearsal, usually, though the odds of a football player listening in to the jazz band rehearse were practically microscopic.
He might have to deal with the uncomfortable spotlight at home, where his parents talked to him about how they respected his right to choose so he should respect that they were just going to wait patiently until he got through this “phase,” but at school he could fade into the paint on the walls. He gritted his teeth and absently stroked the face of his guitar.
Why couldn’t everything be as easy as music?
“False alarm,” Paul called out from behind his keyboard, interrupting Blaine’s thoughts. “Artie’s here.”
Blaine looked up through the shadow of his hair as Artie wheeled himself into the room.
“Where’ve you been, man?” Tanner asked. “We were seriously this close to sending a search party.”
“Yeah, sorry about that. But I think I managed to get us a gig.”
“Really?” Rick paused in his drumstick juggling. “Like, paid?”
“Well, no,” Artie conceded. “But the glee club needs someone to play back up on ‘Don’t Stop Believin'.’ It’s a song we all know and they’re talented, trust me, so it can only be good publicity. What do you think? Help a brother out?”
“I don’t know,” Tanner mused. “I mean, we’re at least still above the glee club in the school’s mind right now—no offense, Art—and working with them would probably ruin that.”
“Don’t do it!” Blaine begged in the safe quiet of his mind. He looked down at his bass, silent. “Please, please, please—”
“Are you kidding me?” Artie asked. “Look, guys, I know the glee club is as uncool as it comes, but they’re people too. Are you telling me you can’t man up and step up to help them out when they need you? You’re worried about you, but could it seriously get any worse for them?” Artie smirked, obviously on the verge of laying down what he considered to be his trump card. “Plus, Finn Hudson has joined the glee club.” He raised his hand, cutting off Rick’s sound of shock. “Yes, that Finn Hudson. It’s only a matter of time before the glee club is higher on the food chain, and I don’t mind telling you that those are some coattails I really wouldn’t mind riding.”
Rick began flipping his drumsticks again, more enthusiastically this time. “Sounds like a great idea to me!”
“You’re only saying that because you’re a Journey whore,” Tanner muttered.
“Well, I think we should do it,” Derek said. Everyone else immediately fell silent. “Even if it does backfire, we need to do it for the music, guys. People like us need to stick together. Without each other, we have no one.”
The practice room filled with murmurs of agreement.
Blaine stayed silent. It was what he did best.
The first time Blaine saw Kurt Hummel, he was standing in the bright lights of the auditorium, wearing something red and smooth-looking that made his face positively glow, not to mention jeans that did really nice things for his backside. Blaine was glad that the handful of wedding gigs the jazz band had gotten meant he knew his part to “Don’t Stop Believin’” like the back of his hand, because he couldn’t stop staring at the boy in front of him.
Minus a short-lived, ill-fated love for Tanner that was based entirely on appearance and musical ability and had died practically the second the other boy had opened his mouth, Blaine had never had a crush on a guy at school. Sure, he had lusted after enough actors to know that he was as gay as a Victorian ballroom, but he had spent so much time at school staring at his own shoes that he was more likely to trip than to meet a guy he liked.
But something about Kurt Hummel called out to be looked at. He shone with a sort of inner light, even when he was singing back-up.
Blaine’s mind tried to remind him that he didn’t know this kid at all.
Blaine’s heart tried to beat in 64/64 time.
After the song was over and the glee club had had whatever bonding moment they needed with their coach and Artie had come back over to help pack up the instruments, Blaine struggled with himself for less than a second before leaning down next to Artie, pretending to check that his guitar case was properly clasped. As quietly as possible, he said, “If the glee club ever needs back up on any songs, let me know.”
Artie looked at him, eyebrows flying up almost to his hairline. “You know, I think this is the first time you’ve ever talked to me,” he said. “But thank you.”
Blaine flushed and stepped back, dragging his bass with him.
Kurt Hummel had already left. Blaine took a deep breath, looked down at his feet, and headed for the door.
Episode 2: Push It
When Artie had asked the jazz band if they’d be interested in playing back up for the glee club at the school pep rally, the band had taken even less time than last time to convince. Which was why Blaine found himself slouching a little in the shadow beside the stage, bass in front of him like a shield as Principal Figgins slowly meandered through his announcements.
It was the first time he had performed in front of a group so big, especially a group of fellow students, and Blaine would have been more nervous if Kurt hadn’t been standing less than six feet away, waiting patiently to ascend the stage. He looked good in blue, too. Blaine figured the shadows where he was standing were too dark for anyone else to figure out what he was doing, so he took his time drinking in the sight. He was pretty sure Kurt was taller than he was, though not by much, and it was easy to imagine him cornering Blaine in the hallway, leaning down to brush the bangs out of Blaine’s eyes and then kissing him, so strong and sweet that the rest of the world wouldn’t matter.
Blaine realized that he was daydreaming about being kissed by a boy he had only seen twice and had never even spoken to and he blushed, staring back down at his bass.
Then the song started. Blaine had to pay more attention to this one than “Don’t Stop Believin’” but he also managed to sneak quick glimpses at the stage every once in awhile. One such moment led to him nearly missing a note as he watched Kurt move, hands gliding smoothly down his chest before dipping temptingly below the belt line. Blaine realized his mouth was dry. He looked back at his fingers, watching them walk across the neck of his bass like he had never seen them before.
Unfortunately, the next moment he managed to catch was Kurt smacking Finn Hudson on the ass.
Blaine’s heart immediately plummeted into his shoes. Why was he always such a moron? Not only was he half-convinced that he was in love with this random kid he had never even so much as spoken to, but he was deluding himself. Even if Kurt was gay, who’s to say that Blaine was his type? Kurt was gorgeous; he could probably have any girl or guy he wanted. There was no way he was going to go for the loser with the gross mop of hair, the classic band t-shirts, and the over-sized cargo pants.
Blaine didn’t look up again for the rest of the song.
Episode 5: Somebody to Love
Blaine spent the next few weeks being even quieter than usual, even when the rumors spread all the way down to the jazz band and the first question out of Dan-the-trumpet-player’s mouth when Artie made it to rehearsal was, “Dude, is it true that Kurt Hummel guy from glee club is gay?”
“Yeah, but why does it matter?” Artie had responded, and Blaine had smiled a little before biting it back. Dan-the-trumpet-player had shrugged and no one had killed anyone or said anything terrible, and maybe, maybe, maybe Blaine would actually be able to come out at school one day.
But he wouldn’t be able to ask Kurt out. He knew that. He just wasn’t good enough. Kurt was a shining light in their drab little brown spot of a town, and Blaine would never be able to reach him.
The next time they played back-up for the glee club, Blaine didn’t look at Kurt once. There was a scratch on the front of his bass, though. He should probably fix that later.
Episode 6: It’s My Life/Confessions
By the time the band helped the guys of glee club in their little mash-up contest thing, Blaine had given up on his resolution to give up on Kurt. There was nothing wrong with looking, after all, and Kurt was so happy and into the music that he’d never notice.
Kurt definitely rocked the leather and jeans look. Blaine had spent several months of his life inexplicably devoted to Danny Zuko, but Kurt knocked that infatuation out of the water. Danny had been kind of an asshole, after all, even the ten-year-old-and-totally-in-love Blaine had known that, and Blaine didn’t think Kurt had a cruel bone in his body.
God, his body. While he definitely knew how to accessorize, he shouldn’t be allowed to wear the number of layers he normally did. A tight white shirt gave Blaine all sorts of hazy mental images, mostly of the taking-it-off variety.
Pulling himself out of his thoughts, Blaine shook his head. The path of such thoughts was certainly not the path of laying low and staying safe.
But the path of such thoughts evidently was the path of muttering, “hey, great job, Kurt,” as Kurt walked past.
If Blaine hadn’t been frozen solid in fear of what he’d just said, he probably would have been at least a little amused by the way that Kurt swung back towards him, eyes so wide that Blaine could see the whites.
His irises were so blue. Or, possibly, green. They were as gorgeous as water, like one of those beautiful ponds you’d find in a piece by Monet, and Blaine looked back down at his shoes before Kurt’s eyes could make him do something stupid, like stand up in front of everyone and sing “I Honestly Love You” or something.
By the time he looked up, Kurt was shaking off his moment of confusion and leaving.
Blaine watched him go for a moment, confused himself, before realizing that Kurt had thought he’d imagined the whole thing.
Wow. That kind of sucked.
Episode 7: Keep Holding On
“You have a thing for that Kurt kid,” Tanner said as soon as the glee club was gone and all that was left was packing up for the night.
Blaine stopped moving. Since he had been in the middle of putting his bass away, this was probably not the wisest way to prove his innocence. He forced his muscles to respond, sliding the rest of the way to his knees and gently laying the instrument down. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
He tried to convince himself that this was true. He didn’t “have a thing.” So what if he knew that Kurt lived alone with his dad, the owner of Hummel’s Tires? That was the kind of thing anyone could figure out, if they paid enough attention. And it wasn’t like it was his fault that he knew Kurt returned to his locker exactly four times a day to check his hair. He just took really conveniently timed bathroom breaks. And it didn’t mean he “had a thing” if he just really liked Kurt’s sardonic sense of humor. He always stopped himself before laughing, and no one noticed, so it’s not like it counted. Plus, was having a sense of humor such a crime?
“He’s way too sparkly for you,” Tanner said, still frowning. “Like, you’d need to upgrade your fashion majorly before you’d even stand a chance. We’re talking +5/+5 clothing of hotness, here.”
“Why was there a Dungeons and Dragons reference without me being invited?” Artie asked, wheeling his way back in to collect his guitar. Mitchell, the freshman they had recruited to play lead guitar when Artie had glee club obligations, had been borrowing it for the day.
“Nothing, no reason,” said Blaine at the same time as Tanner said, “Blaine’s being a quiet martyr to one of your glee friends and it’s depressing me.” He shrugged. “Well, depressing me worse than usual, I mean.”
Artie made a soft sound of understanding. “Look, Blaine, I know Santana is almost literally sex on legs, but, trust me, you don’t want to go there. Just think of what else has been there, okay?”
Tanner snorted but Blaine flushed. “Okay,” he said softly. “I can handle it, I promise.”
“Oh, good God.” Tanner groaned. “Give up your cross, kid, we need the wood.”
Blaine brushed his bangs out of his eyes and picked up his guitar. “I’m going to be fine,” he said.
He had never noticed that someone had drawn a little heart next to the auditorium door handle before. That was kind of cool.
Episode 8: Sweet Caroline
Blaine spent the whole time they were playing for that one obnoxious jock, Luck or Muck or whatever, watching Kurt. He was really too adorable to be believed. When he started mouthing along to the lyrics, making his face as ridiculous as possible to match the cheesiness of the lines, Blaine had to bite back his urge to laugh out loud.
Then Artie caught his eye. Blaine immediately looked back down at his hands. He didn’t look up for the rest of the song, but he didn’t need to. The flash of knowledge in Artie’s eyes was the sparkle of the fluorescent lights on the polish on his bass.
Unfortunately, he couldn’t avoid Artie forever. Jazz band was his only extracurricular and, while Artie often missed due to glee club these days, it meant that Artie also knew exactly where to find him after school had let out.
He rolled in front of Blaine just as Blaine was about to reach the practice room door, effectively blocking him.
“It’s not Santana,” Artie said.
Blaine’s mouth immediately dried. His tongue felt like a useless lump. He nodded, mute.
Artie studied him for a second. “Why don’t you just tell him?” he finally asked.
Blaine shook his head furiously. When Artie’s only response was a raised eyebrow, Blaine hurriedly unstuck his tongue from the roof of his mouth. “I’m not good enough,” he said, though the state of his mouth and the speed of his talking probably made it nigh incomprehensible.
Artie took a moment to work it out before snorting and saying, “Are you kidding me?” Then he seemed to really think about it. He shook his head a little. “Okay, so yeah, I was going to give you a whole list of your virtues, but this is only, like, the third time we’ve talked, so I don’t really have one prepared. But seriously, dude, being alone sucks. If you liked him at all, wouldn’t you want to fix that for him?”
He rolled away before Blaine could respond, which was good because Blaine didn’t really know what to say.
He looked at his shoes. They weren’t really helpful. He looked at his hands instead, and realized that all he could see was how Kurt’s fingers would fit between his own, how soft and strong and perfect they would be, and thought, yeah, he had it kind of bad.
Maybe there were worse things than being noticed. Like not being noticed, for example.
Episode 9: Defying Gravity
The jazz band wasn’t asked to play back-up for the glee club’s “first ever diva-off.” Mr. Schuester had asked Stacy Hanover’s amateur band to play for it instead. Stacy was in Blaine’s Home Ec class and, the day of the competition, Blaine cornered her while they were supposed to be picking out fabric squares for their quilts.
“I know you already have a bass player, but I can play the part for ‘Defying Gravity’ in my sleep and I really, really want to be able to play for the glee club.”
“Um, hi,” Stacy said. “Blaine, right?” She gave him a slow once-over. “Weird. I thought you were mute.”
“I can pretend to be,” Blaine said, so honest that it hurt. “If that’s what it takes to get you to let me play.”
“So just crazy then,” Stacy decided. She tapped her chin with one dragon claw of a fingernail. “Morgan was kind of nervous about the social suicide of playing for the glee club anyway, so he probably won’t mind if you fill in. Can you promise you won’t go all Charles Manson on us?”
Hope was bubbling in his chest, making him light and giddy. “The most I will do is go a bit John Paul Jones,” he blurted out before he could review the sentence at least three times in his head, the way he normally did.
He nearly stumbled backwards as Stacy smiled at him, a real smile, quick and bright like lightning. He honestly couldn’t remember the last time he had made someone smile.
“Have you ever considered talking more often?” she said. “I think that could really work for you.”
Artie seemed to be the only member of the glee club to notice that he was there despite not being with the jazz band, which wasn’t really surprising. Blaine was pretty sure none of the other members of the glee club even knew his name. They seemed to think the band just sort of showed up when the music started playing, which was kind of weird, if not terribly surprising. Seriously, sometimes the glee club kids were so diva-y that Blaine was honestly surprised it had taken them this long to have a diva-off.
Except for Kurt, of course. Kurt wasn’t a diva. He was just adorably self-absorbed.
Blaine hadn’t been lying when he had said he could play his way through “Defying Gravity” in his sleep. He spent the entire song watching Kurt instead. If he had ever had any doubts that he was totally and irrevocably in love, seeing Kurt sing the same song that had given him an almost-straight-but-ultimately-platonic crush on Idina Menzel would have destroyed them for good. Kurt gave life to the song, every word infused with new meaning and emotion. It felt raw, heartfelt, and Blaine almost felt the shivering crack run through his heart at what Kurt must go through to make him sing like that. He looked at home in the song, comfortable the way he seldom looked outside of glee club.
Until Kurt glanced at Mercedes, looking pained.
And then he threw the high F.
Only the power of muscle memory kept Blaine playing until the end of the song. When Rachel came up for her turn, he stopped even pretending to pay attention to what his hands were doing.
Why had Kurt thrown the note?
There was the chance that he hadn’t thrown it, Blaine mentally acknowledged. But the chance was so small as to be nearly nonexistent. Kurt didn’t lie when it came to his voice, and, if he said he could hit the note, he could definitely hit the note.
So why had Kurt thrown it?
Blaine watched Kurt as Rachel continued to sing. He looked strong, composed, but Blaine could see the glimmer of tears underneath it all. The aching crack that had been sending pain through his heart ever since Kurt had begun to sing grew wider.
Kurt was fitting in. Kurt was doing what was expected of him.
Blaine hated it.
After the diva-off ended and the kids of New Directions had started packing up to leave, ignoring the band just as the band ignored them, Blaine crossed that invisible line. Artie rolled over to meet him halfway.
“I want to join the glee club,” Blaine told him.
Artie smiled at him, and it was the second real smile he had gotten that day. Blaine felt almost drunk off the power of it. Or maybe that was just a mixture of heartbreak and fear, the unpleasant cocktail of emotions flooding in his gut as he threw off the sheltering mask he had spent the past year and a half perfecting.
“I’ll see what I can do,” Artie said, still smiling. It helped push down the nausea a little. “I do have some pull there.”