Title: Be Positive
Pairing: Kurt/Blaine past relationship, Kurt/OCs, Kurt/Adam (main)
Warning: HIV plot. Hints of depression in later chapters.
Summary: As Kurt slowly tries to piece himself back together after the break-up, he and Adam circle around one another in New York without truly meeting. When Kurt comes home for Christmas, a prank and poor bookkeeping result in Kurt getting the shock of his life. Reeling from the news and still trying to be strong for those around him, Kurt returns to New York with baggage of a diagnosis he never expected weighing heavily on his shoulders that will complicate his life more than he thought possible. Then, he runs into Adam at NYADA.
Kurt’s fingers moved slowly through the side of his hair, and his lips pursed, slightly, as his brow furrowed in concentration.
“Better make the right choice,” a deep, merry voice said.
Kurt jumped practically a mile. He touched his chest and laughed as the man behind him stumbled backward, surprised by Kurt’s surprise.
“Sorry. I was deep, deep in thought about which crazy breeds of nonfat latte I’m supposed to be bringing back to the office.” Kurt gave the tall, muscular man an apologetic smile.
The barista curved her plump lips as she watched them.
“Office? Surely you mean schoolyard,” the man teased. It was then that Kurt caught the bright whiteness of his teeth and was convinced that this man must be a toothpaste model. Or he could be another kind of model, since he didn’t seem to have brushed his hair, and quite a few of the pretties came into their shoots with the ‘homeless chic’ look.
Alternatively, he could have been a lumberjack.
“Who has schoolyards anymore? Don’t the kids all have guns these days?” Kurt suppressed a shudder, and then he licked his lips slowly, flicked his eyes to the barista’s name tag, and pointed to the menu. “Sherry, could I get two Americanos, one cinnamon dolce, one almond milk vanilla spice latte no whip, one nonfat soy milk sugarfree amaretto latte with only TWO pumps-’’
The man behind him was chuckling. Kurt made a show of taking a deep breath.
“And one drip, Italian roast.” Kurt took out the office card reserved for specialty lunch and coffee runs. He stepped aside while the girl at the cart swiped it and looked back at his observer.
“Hm. So which one are you?” the man asked. He put his hands on his hips.
Kurt’s eyes bulged as the song crashed into this thoughts, and he forcefully shook it from his mind. This man’s waist was slim, but his shoulder were quite broad. Kurt could easily imagine him tossing bales of hay or lumber or livestock or something.
“Care to make a bet?” the man pressed.
“What kind of bet?”
He leaned his head in slightly. “If I guess right, you give me your number.”
Kurt tilted his head to the side and looked back for a moment at Sherry furiously trying to complete his order. She was alone today for some reason, and while no one had been there when he’d come up, there were people lining up now. Apparently everyone needed their coffee right away. Kurt took another step to the side to give them some room, and his admirer stepped with him.
“Just a minute!” Sherry called as the customers grumbled. Her cheeks were flushed, and not from the cold.
“My real number?” Kurt replied cheekily, leaning back against the cart and looking up at the handsome man. God, he was as tall as Finn.
“Preferably.” His strong shoulders rolled backward, as though shrugging off a heavy weight.
I cut down trees. I eat my lunch. I go to the lavatory! On Wednesdays I go shopping and have buttered scones for tea! Ooooh, I’m a lumberjack and I’m okay-
Kurt bit his lip, fighting a grin.
“Hey! I have to get to work!” a middle aged man with graying red hair spat at Sherry. “Maybe you could move your fat ass a little faster-”
“Yeah, it’s a pity there aren’t a thousand coffee places in New York where you could hassle the baristas,” Kurt snapped. “I mean, I guess you could just get up earlier, but that would just be hell, right? Not like this girl’s been here since six am, or people have bigger problems than slow coffee service during the prime time for business people to send their minions out for coffee.”
“The hell...? Don’t you talk to me like that!”
“You want teenagers to bow to your whims? Get thee to a Starbucks, you 60-year-old brat.”
“Same difference to me. You might want to consider a hair treatment for those stubborn grays, because, Mister? That’s not your natural color. That’s not anyone’s natural color.” Kurt shrugged and looked away from him.
The older man stared at him for a long minute while the people behind him in the line started to chuckle just a little.
“Outta line, ya douche,” man in a scruffy ballcap and jacket said loudly.
The man let out a huff and stormed off in the other direction.
The handsome man who had been talking to Kurt stared down at him, blinking slowly.
“Hm.” Kurt raised a brow. “Still want that number?”
Big, toothy grin. “You look like a vanilla spice, to me.”
Kurt sucked in his lower lip, smiling as he watched the merry brown eyes drink him in. “Sorry. I’m a regular joe today.”
“Oh.” The man’s smile faded. Then disappeared. Twin spots of red lit up his cheeks. “Okay. Sorry to bother you.”
Sherry set his drinks in a carrier and set a bag of the usual pastries beside. “Have a good day,” she said, giving him a bright smile. The man stood there awkwardly for a moment as Kurt tried to get the coffee in hand, and then he plucked the bag from the counter.
“Oh... Thanks,” Kurt said. “You could put that in my bag-”
“Or I could just help you carry it.”
“I uh... sure. Thanks.”
His lumberjack followed him. “I’m Gio, by the way.”
“Where are we headed?”
Kurt indicated the Vogue building across the street with a free finger.
“Not that impressive. I’m just an intern.”
“I don’t think you’re just anything.”
Kurt waited at the light, humming to himself.
Gio looked down, a frown creasing his furry brows. “Is that like a new pop song or something?”
Adam clapped his hands and did a jazzy side step, moving his hands in front of him as he sang cheerfully:
“Hear the snow crunch, watch the kids bunch! This is Santa’s big scene! And above all this bustle you’ll hear!”
He clapped his hands again and pointed at the girls, who looked at him skeptically.
“It’s silver bells,” Adam said. “That’s what you hear.”
“This isn’t going to work,” My said with her hands on her hips.
“But...” Adam pouted. “Silver bells. They’re pretty.”
The others laughed around him. He smiled in spite of himself. The Apples were fairly good sports about him coming in with a random concept and no idea of how to execute it. Joey leaned over the piano, looking at the sheet music.
“I hate to say this, bro, but this song only has a couple of lines. If you speed it up, it’ll be like half a second long.”
“You’re crushing my lovely Christmas dreams,” Adam said with a mock pout.
Kiera came over and hugged him around the waist. She barely came up to his chest, but her comfort was appreciated. “We could mash it in with something,” she said.
Adam petted her short blond cap of hair.
“Yaruki Switch,” My suggested. “Setsugekka?”
“A Christmas song.” Kiera narrowed her eyes at My.
“Oppan Gangam Style!” My grinned madly and threw up jazz hands.
“She’s having a stroke again,” Joey said. My picked up the frilly pink umbrella she’d brought with her today and Joey took off just before she whacked him with it. “So we’re thinking just ‘silver’ as the connection or...” He huffed and ducked just before she got him. “Or thematic?”
Adam deepened the corners of his mouth and strolled over to the piano bench to take another look at the score. “Themes... We’d could go with the city as the theme? Or bells, I reckon.”
My stopped her quest for revenge and tilted her head to the side. A few of the others frowned, as though they were thinking. Kiera pulled out her journal and started sketching ideas. For a moment or two, there was a lot of scribbling and little organization, until Adam rose and moved them into groups so they could bounce ideas off of one another.
The Adam’s Apples didn’t get many chances to shine. The school administration was not in the least supportive of their group, and so entering into competitions, while something they’d discussed originally, had fallen by the wayside a few years ago. That was all well and good, because Adam was not very competitive anyway. Now, they settled on finding venues where they could perform, and this Christmas, Adam was happy to have them performing at a fundraiser for the Ali Forney Center. There were a lot of homeless teens in New York, and Adam felt keenly blessed to be able to do something for them.
“These are old town bluuuues... They have all melted away. I’m about to make a brand new start of it, right here in old! New! York!” Joey sang to himself.
“Christmas time is here,” Kiera sang with My and Annabelle. “It’s Christmas time, in the city.”
“And I find it kind of funny, I find it kind of sad. These dreams in which I’m dying are the best I’ve ever had.”
“Hark how the bells, sweet silver bells, silver bells, it’s Christmas time in the city, all seem to say, throw cares away. Merry merry merry merry Christmas.”
Adam sighed. They could make it pretty, but he wasn’t sure if he could make it upbeat enough. And if not upbeat, at least positive sounding. They were allotted a window of time that meant they could do three to four songs. He wanted the songs to be fun and light. There would be kids from the center there, and he was sure that most of the other performers were going to milk the audience with “Do They Know It’s Christmas” and “River” and every dreary, weary Christmas song they could dredge out. Even the very pretty Christmas songs tended to sound a bit melancholy.
“Guys, I would like us to be somewhat positive. I don’t mind if we mash Gary Jules at another time, but I honestly associate that song with...” Adam made a circular motion with one hand as he tried to think of a delicate way to say it.
“I associate it with suicide,” Jinx said bluntly.
“‘Silver Bells’ doesn’t exactly lend itself to pep,” My said, looking at him closely to see if he was upset.
“I suppose not.”
“I think we need to consider our overall theme for our setlist.” Jinx scratched the bare side of her head underneath the line of mohawk. “Because right now, I’m confused as to what we’re actually trying to convey with this performance. We could go all artsy. We could write some of our own songs, although I don’t think we have the time. We could really just do a bunch of silly off-brand Christmas songs. The Big Voodoo Daddies’ version of ‘Heat/Cold Miser,’ and ‘I Want an Alien for Christmas,’ things like that. And that would at least add some cred to this ‘event’, because everyone’s gonna be doing the same old boring-ass Jesus-y buy-our-crap nostalgiafuck standards.”
“But do we wanna do funny songs? Because people already think we’re a joke,” Beltre said. Joey nodded slowly.
“I dunno, actually. Maybe we need to go back to concept on this. I just....” Adam spread his hands. “A lot of people have a very hard time around the holidays. These kids have a harder time than most. They’ve often been abused, and driven out of their own homes, and lived on the street. Many have been forced into prostitution and turned to drugs. Some of them are living HIV. I... I want to give them something beautiful and hopeful and...”
He shook his head and frowned. Maybe he was asking too much. There was candy bubblegum consumerism Christmas and weepy nostalgia(fuck) Christmas. Maybe there wasn’t a non-canned approach to this to reach out to the lost and lonely.
“So no ‘Blue Christmas’?” Joey deadpanned.
Adam smiled and looked at him. Joey had been with them for two and a half years now, and was as dedicated as ever. Joey pressed his lips together and made an exaggerated shrug.
“Let’s mash a couple of songs. Not just two,” Jinx suggested. “My suggestion is to start with Rent. Most people aren’t gonna go Broadway.”
“For a reason,” My said.
“If we do that, and the admin gets wind of it, they might bring heat down on us for not being good enough,” Kiera warned.
“Not the whole song, but ‘Christmas Bells are Ringing’ has good parts to it we could weave in and out without overwhelming the melody. Have people singing some of the parts as we go, and maybe add in another, and simple mind, song,” Jinx said. “The admin can’t complain if we’re making something beautiful. Tibs always says she wants ‘Artistes’ And anyway? Fuck them. I don’t fucking care what the cannibals think.”
A few people clapped, and Jinx shook her head, then smiled and bobbed her head from side to side and raised a hand to wave off the praise.
Adam bit his lip and played a few bars of “Christmas Bells.” It had been a long time since he gone to see Rent.
“Kiss me it’s beginning to snow,” he sang softly.
“Can that be the ending?” Annabelle asked. She flounced into a seat and started messing with one of her dark, disheveled rehearsal pigtails. “I think that’s sweet.”
Adam nodded and started to play again, but not the Christmas song this time. He needed to see how well he could blend a pop song into this.
“Christmas bells are ringing,” Joey started. The boys followed in harmony, and then the girls. “Christmas bells are ringing. Christmas bells are ringing. On TV- At SAKS.”
“City sidewalks, busy sidewalks, dressed in holiday style,” Adam sang, working the melodies out on the piano as the others sang behind him, some following “Silver Bells” and some singing from the “Carol of the Bells.” They could organize it all later. “In the air, there’s a feeling of Christmas...”
He took a breath, held up a hand to signal a chance, and kept playing. “The storm is coming, but I don’t mind. People are dying; I close my blinds.”
“Can’t you spare a dime or two,” the Apples sang, with Jinx guiding them. He could almost feel her eyes on him. “Here but the grace of God go you. You’ll be merry, I’ll be merry, tho Merry ain’t in my vocabulary!”
“Children laughing, people passing, meeting smile after smile. All I know is that I’m breathing, now. And on every street corner you’ll hear...”
“Can’t you spare a dime or two? Here but for the Grace of God go you,” the Apples sang, with one or two chuckling at the juxtaposition.
“Silver bells,” Adam began with the chorus, and they followed in behind. They could work out harmonies later. “Silver bells. It’s Christmas time, in the city. Ring-a-ling. Hear them ring. Soon it will be Christmas day.”
“Kiss me it’s beginning to snow!” Kiera and My belted out suddenly.
“All I know is that I’m... breathing, all I can do is keep breathing...” Adam continue to sing softly. “All we can do is keep breathing now...”
Jinx gripped the back of his shoulders. “So... our target audience here isn’t the deep pockets so much... or it is, but who we really want to sing to... It’s the kids, isn’t it?”
“They need...” Adam pressed his palms together in front of him and drew in a breath. It was hard to speak to this, even in front of the people he felt closest too. “They need something to get them through the holidays. Every holiday.”
The image of Aude’s half-frozen, bruise mottled face as she huddled on the corner flashed in his mind. It was the first time he’d seen ever her. She had been sixteen, then.
“We’re gonna have look at all these songs really carefully,” Kiera said. “‘Christmas Bells’ is harsher than the other two, by like a lot. ‘Carol of the Bells’ is okay, but overwhelming. We’ll have tone issues.”
“Then we’d better balance them right,” My said softly. “And practice a lot.”
Adam turned to see them watching him. “Not so fun, I guess?”
“Just because it’s serious, doesn’t make it not fun,” Annabelle said with a shrug. She pulled her loose t-shirt back onto her shoulder. “This is the most creative thing I’ve tried all semester. The Mainstreamers just want me to sew costumes for them. And not even interesting ones. Blah, blah, tailored suit, blah blah, shiny ho dress.”
Adam clapped his hands together. “Right then. Well, we have this to work on. I think Jinx’s suggestions were good for other songs we can do. I’m not certain we have time to remix another number, but I’m up for whatever you guys think.”
“We should spend the bulk of our time working out this number,” Jinx said. “But we should get the rest of the set list down first. We have to make sure that everything blends.”
“Will it BLEND??” Joey yelled, throwing his fists in the air.
“It’s not too late for your beating,” My said.
“Save the beating for after rehearsal. We’ve work to do,” Adam said. He looked to them all. “Okay, let’s... vote on our other numbers, if anyone has any other suggestions?”
Kurt wiped his palms on his server’s apron and lifted up a tray of salads and appetizers.
“This is for seven, right? I don’t see the ticket, but they had the kale and kimchi, and the meat and cheese plate.”
Jason lifted his head up, then looked around his area. “Okay. Okay. Here it is.”
He stretched up and placed the ticket on counter. Kurt peered over it and identified his own handwriting.
“Oh, great. Thanks!” He scurried off to get the food to the table. That group of friends had already been short with him about the wait. As though a Friday night in any bar in Bushwick would be empty. It didn’t help that they had two people out that evening, and that’s why they called him in.
“Okay!” he sang as he approached the late-twenty-somethings. “Here we have the large kale and kimchi-- and I brought some extra bowls and plates-- and the cheese & charcuterie.”
He laid out each of the plates as quickly as he could, then straightened up and looked around. “I can bring over some more water, too. Is there anything else I can get you?”
“I’m still waiting for my Brooklyn Fizz,” the woman with the bangle earrings said with just a tinge of impatience.
“All right!” Kurt said with an eager nod. “I’ll check on that for you.”
“And my Sierra Nevada,” the tall man with a goatee said. “Make it two, since it takes so long to get one.”
Kurt raised his brows, but nodded again and headed for the bar. Brathattanites. The scourge of Brooklyn’s waitstaff.
“Tandy? Did Jill get around to that Brooklyn Fizz and the Sierra?” He leaned forward against the bar and gave him a helpless, pouty look. He didn’t have the training yet to make drinks, which meant he was at the mercy of the bartenders.
“No, kiddo, she had to go take some tables.” Tandy shot a few drinks over to people, then went over to grab the gin.
“No problem. Sierra?”
“Times two.” Kurt flashed two fingers in the air.
“C’mon around.” Tandy motioned with his head to the case behind him.
Kurt jogged around and grabbed the two beers, opening them on the bar, then accepted the Brooklyn Fizz from Tandy and hurried out to the table. All five of the Manhattanites looked up at him, and his heart raced as he set each one down on a coaster. On his first night, he’d spilled three drinks and dropped a whole tray of appetizers.
“There we go. Flag me down if you need anything else, okay?”
“Do you have any fruity girly drinks?” a blond guy asked.
“Oh, um.” Kurt shrugged. “Well, Tandy can make you anything you want. The bar’s fully stocked. Did you have something in mind?”
The guy winked and grinned. “Surprise me. Do you have a favorite?”
“I’m nineteen, and I work constantly. I don’t really drink a lot.”
The woman with the bangle earrings burst out laughing.
“So, maybe a Fuzzy Navel, a Sex on the Beach, Cosmo?” Kurt suggested.
“Are any of those pink?” the guy asked.
Kurt felt his ears starting to burn. He really had no idea, and he wasn’t entirely sure if this guy was making fun of him. “I’ll ask. We’ll getcha somethin’ pink.”
And that was his next three hours. He managed to get to his other tables, set them up with drinks and appetizers, and some dinner, but the one table of Manhattanites kept him running back and forth so that he didn’t have a spare minute to himself. Not to check his messages, not to bolt down dinner, not to even go pee. When they’d finally left, the table was in such disarray that Kurt felt the need to pile some of the plates for the busser coming in behind him.
They’d only left him a small scattering of coins. Kurt ran a hand over his mouth. And there he stood for nearly a full minute, not moving. Then he let out a breath, went to check on the other tables, then excused himself to stand out back for a minute, rubbing his arms and watching his breath cloud in front of him.
He’d never been that rude to waiters. And he always budgeted so he could leave a tip. Snapping his fingers at a waiter once or twice didn’t equal this treatment. Snapping fingers still left them with a decent night’s wages at the end of their shift, and when people snapped at Kurt, at least that meant he could give them attention and try to get them what they wanted.
He swept a look around the alley and turned to head back in. He pulled on the cold, metal handle. It didn’t budge.
“Oh... Come on!” Kurt jerked the door again and let his arms drop to his sides. He pounded on the door. “Come on!”
He blinked quickly, puffing out his cheeks, and stepped back, looking around. Well. Nothing was insurmountable for Kurt Hummel. He ran around the building. God. How many tips was he going to lose tonight?
When he came around to the storefront again, his cheeks were bright red with cold, and he pulled the front door open and stumbled inside. He caught his breath, then went over to the couple on table six.
“Some more water?” he panted.
“Oh, God. Did... Didn’t you just go...” she pointed to the back.
“Got locked out,” he laughed, still out of breath.
She pressed her hands together in front of her lips and smiled. “More water would be great. Thank you.”
Kurt hurried back to the kitchen, washed his hands, and got back to work.
It wasn’t the worst night he’d ever worked, but it was a fair contender. He’d gotten stiffed twice. Locked out. Reamed out for bringing a table the wrong wine and again at another table for there not being enough bacon in the mac and cheese. (Gross.) By 10:30, he was sore and exhausted.
As he collected his tip from the sweet but very slow couple at table six, Kurt lifted his eyes and saw a familiar face at the front door. His tall, broad-shouldered Lumberjack. Gio Torregrossa. He spoke with the hostess for a minute, and she guided him over to a table in Kurt’s section.
Gio scanned the bar, then sat down at the table. He spotted Kurt and flashed him a wide, toothy grin as he shucked off his heavy brown leather jacket and plaid flannel shirt, revealing a tight, forest green sweater underneath. Of course, big, tall, and ruggedly handsome would come in looking so bite-able and put together, while Kurt was a hot mess of sweat and grease and stains and chapped cheeks.
“Hiya.” Kurt strolled up and pulled out his notepad. “Whatcha doing down in Bushwick?”
“Hm. Why in the world would I go bridge and tunnel to slum on down to Crooklyn?”
“‘Ey, naw.” He pointed at Gio with his pen. “You in the ge-hetto naw, boy. You betta watch it.”
“That sounds a little more like a N’awlins accent than Brooklyn.” Gio leaned back in his chair and touched his lips.
“Well.” Kurt shrugged. “I’ve only lived here since September. I’m not enrolled in the stage accents class yet. What can I get you?”
“When do you get off?”
Kurt’s cheeks went red. They’d met up a couple times for coffee since meeting Monday morning, once for lunch. Kurt couldn’t say that he didn’t like the guy, but it was confusing to like someone else when his heart was still so mixed up over Blaine. They were supposed to be kismet, fate; they were supposed to be forever.
But they weren’t. Obviously.
“Well, it depends,” Kurt said. “The kitchen closes at midnight, but people sometimes hang around until closing, so I have to wait on them.”
“You have to wait on customers here? Straaaange place of business...”
Kurt rolled his eyes. “Well, if you’re not gonna order anything, I should check on the hipsters in the corner.”
“Hipsters?” Gio touched the table, rocked his chair onto its back legs, and peered around Kurt. “Wow. Those are some skinny jeans.”
“They’re just kinda tacky.” Kurt grimaced. “It’s not that I’m inherently opposed to hipster fashion.” He raised one hand. “As someone who works at Vogue, I have to respect the innovation of any movement, and I’m always for any group that promotes boys wearing girls’ jeans. Not to mention that I actually love to wear skinny jeans, or any pants that are tight enough to leave loving imprint on my legs for hours afterward, but! Sometimes it just seems a little too fake and cliquey for me to bother with? You know? Like sometimes I make up fake band names to see if they’ll tell me how amazing their sound is.”
Gio leaned forward as a deep laugh rolled out of him.
Kurt fetched a menu and put it in front of Gio. “My ex was a legit hipster, y’know.”
“Oh? What’s a ‘legit’ hipster?” Gio stared up at him with that perfect row of white teeth flashing.
“Oh, I don’t know. I just feel like they do things just to be cool. He was not trying to be cool. I’m not sure he could if he tried.”
Gio laughed loudly.
“No, he just genuinely likes old stuff. The old as dirt bands that he loves? He really does love them. There was no pretension or pretending about that kind of thing. Though he has a tendency to blend into whatever he’s paired with. Not unlike tofu in many ways.”
Gio bit his lower lip and crossed his big arms.
Kurt looked down at his notepad and licked his lips. “Sorry. Babbling about my ex is probably the most attractive thing I could do, right?”
“No, it’s okay. It’s what’s on your mind.” Gio rested his chair back on the floor and looked up at Kurt seriously. “You were dating him for a while, weren’t you? It can take a long time to move on completely. My sister always said that it takes half the time you were dating to get over someone.”
“Oh.” Kurt pushed his hand through his hair. “Oh, no, no no. I don’t think so. I don’t think I can live through a full year of mourning here.”
“Maybe you can find something to distract you.” Gio’s lips twitched, slightly.
“I’m excellent at finding distractions. I’m superb at pouring myself into projects to avoid dealing with things.” Kurt cast a look over his shoulder. “They just find ways to creep back up sometimes.”
Gio licked his lips slowly as he looked up at Kurt. “What kind of beer do you have?”
Kurt turned the menu over on the table and pointed to the list. “Do you have a particular kind you like? I’m not very good at giving advice on what kind of alcohol to imbibe.”
Gio chuckled. “Ya make me feel like an old man. No, I got it. I’ll have a Dogfish Head. You got any suggestions on what to have for a late dinner?”
“Do you eat meat?”
Gio’s dark brown eyes lifted from the menu once again, and Kurt dipped his head and scribbled the drink order down.
“Um. Hm. I like the salads. The roasted beet salad, and the Big Salad, aka a large salad with a lot of stuff in it-- and you can add tuna steak to that-- the Spaghetti Squash and Quinoa Salad-”
“Keen-wah,” Kurt pronounced. “It is the mother of all grains. It’s a mother-shucker. I didn’t even know what it was a year ago, but now that I do, it has changed my life. I can dress it up, I can dress it down. You can go sweet, or savory. Eat it with breakfast, lunch, and dinner.”
“And if I’m a fan of the meat?”
Kurt quirked his lips to the side. “I’m told the burger is really good.”
“Not just a flat bar burger patty. It’s made with bacon fat and topped with Vermont cheddar, aioli, alfalfa sprouts, pickles, and greens.”
“Sounds pretty yummy.”
“There’s also a BLT with aioli and cheese, and a pulled pork sandwich.”
Gio set down his menu and narrowed his eyes. “Call me a hick... I don’t really know what aioli is.”
“Oh!” Kurt laughed. “It’s really... just a kind of sauce. Just garlic, olive oil, lemon juice, and egg yolks. When they mention a particular vegetable, that means it’s an addition to the regular recipe.”
“Gotcha. I’ll try the burger, then.”
“Would you like the roasted potatoes?”
“Oh.” Gio leaned forward. “Absolutely.”
“Alright, Mr. Torregrossa. I’ll be right back.” Kurt turned and walked toward the kitchen to deliver the order.
He may have taken a little time on his way there. Hipsters weren’t the only ones who wore tight jeans.
Gio stayed until Kurt’s tables had cleared, and left a generous tip on his credit card. Kurt spruced up his hair in the bathroom before coming out and meeting Gio by the entrance.
“Tell me to go away, if you want to,” Gio said as he stepped out the front door.
“Why would I do that? Now I have a bodyguard to walk me home.”
Gio wrapped his big arm around Kurt. He was warm and exuded a scent of musk and crisp citrus.
“I was kind of kidding. The neighborhood doesn’t really scare me.” Kurt didn’t want Gio to move his arm, though.
“Yeah, but it gets a little rougher in the area where you live, and it’s late.” Gio directed Kurt towards the light.
“This isn’t the way to my place.”
“Yeah, but have you eaten?”
“It’s after midnight.”
“The city never sleeps,” Gio said. “You know that, of course.”
“Of course... There’s a pastry shop near our apartment that’s open all night.”
“Do you like Italian?”
“I, um. Yes.” Kurt looked up at Gio and hoped the heat in his cheeks didn’t mean his face had gone completely red. Names didn’t get more Italian than Gio’s.
The large man paused at the curb. “Do you want to go on a date? This place, Arancini Brothers, stays open until 4:00am. You won’t find ‘em in the Zagat’s guide, but they have some of the coolest, and most original food in the area.”
He released Kurt and slipped his hands into his pockets. “Or do you just want to go home? We’ll do whatever you want. I can even stop being pushy, if you say pretty please. I’m told I can be controlling.”
“I’m told I can be, too,” Kurt admitted.
“It’s just... You seem like you’re always busy. And you have a lot on you right now,” Gio reasoned. “So if I want your precious time, I’m going to have to be assertive, which I’m good at, because I’m a New Yorker, and maybe a little creative. And I do want it. You’re smart, and funny, and bold, and really...” He dipped his head slightly in a sign of shyness unexpected from such a big man. “... very sexy. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t impressed the day we met by how you laid into that douchebag harassing the barista. Guess you know what it’s like to be pushed around.”
The warmth of Gio’s chest seeped into Kurt’s body. For perhaps the first time on these streets, he ceased to be aware of his surroundings. There was only those dark, intense eyes and the rough, end-of-the-day stubble.
“Let’s go out. You pick. I could stand to be a little more adventurous.”
The bed was warm, even if the air was cold. December was making itself known. Kurt was wide awake, his heart in his throat. The sun was just cresting over the horizon, and the light flooded into the loft. He closed his eyes, listening his own breath move in and out of his lungs.
Kurt Hummel had just had a hook up. Or he thought so, since he’d just met this guy, and when they’d gotten back to the apartment, it turned out that Rachel was staying over at Brody’s. Kurt had made coffee. They talked for about an hour, and then a rogue condom appeared.
And now here he was. Sleepless but sated. Lonely but not alone. He swallowed and looked back at Gio. Well, he was out like a damn light.
Kurt breathed in and out once more, then slipped out of his bed to go to the bathroom, where he washed his face and smeared on a light bit of moisturizer. He would need it, if he was going to keep frowning like this.
A noise out in the loft. Kurt peeked his head out of the bathroom, but Gio hadn’t moved. Kurt dragged a hand over his mouth, then let out a breath and told himself to stop freaking out.
He had the morning off, and he’d done nothing wrong. He could let himself enjoy this, just for a little while.
Kurt returned to the bed, scooted closer to Gio, and smiled as Gio rolled over and wrapped his arm around Kurt. Snug. Safe.
“Um, hey. Just... calling you one more time to make sure you got the message...” Kurt said with the most casual tone he could muster. “I’m out at a show tonight... the one I invited you to befooore. Sooo, I’ll be turning off my phone. Hope you had a good week. Maybe I’ll... catch you around the coffee cart.”
Kurt pressed end. “Ass.”
Brody leaned forward with a braying laugh. “Wow. Is this that weepy, helmet-headed teenager from Callbacks? Is that who isn’t calling you?”
“No. I broke up with the weepy teenager. This is the guy I met at the coffee shop, went on a few casual coffee dates with, and then gave it up for a couple of fried balls.”
Brody laughed again, but Rachel held her hand up to push him back.
“Wait, what? Is this the lumberjack?” she asked.
“You dated a lumberjack?” Brody shook his head in disbelief. “Dude. I wish I were gay. You get better stories than anyone.”
“He’s not actually a lumberjack,” Kurt clarified, closing his eyes slightly against the light of the train and clinging to the pole for dear life. “He was just... tall. Enormous. And somehow? Just slightly unshaven every time I saw him.”
Brody started to howl again, but Rachel smacked him.
“You two...” She flailed a hand. “...spent the night?”
“We got groiny. Yes.” Kurt nodded once.
“Oh.” Rachel pressed her hand to her chest dramatically. “Kurt, I’m so-”
“Oh, save it. I got dumped by a guy after putting out. I wouldn’t be the first to fall for that one.”
Rachel narrowed her eyes. “I don’t believe you.”
“You don’t believe men tell girls and other men things they want to hear to get into bed? Ah, well, then I have a story to tell you about my origins in the unicorn forest.”
“Stop. I mean, it seemed like you really liked him.”
“I liked Blaine.” Kurt jerked a hand into the air in punctuation. “I liked Sam. I liked Finn. I’ll survive liking the guy I’ve known two weeks.” Kurt let out a heavy sigh.
“Well.” Rachel paused, then said very, very quickly. “I’m still very sorry that happened.”
Kurt pointed at her. “Stop.”
“Sucks, bro.” Brody smirked.
Kurt tilted his head back. “So... gay guys at NYADA probably outnumber you hetero bros about nine to one. Am I really that much of a novelty to you?”
“They don’t hang out with me.”
“The entire gay population of NYADA won’t hang out with you?” Kurt drawled in disbelief.
Brody laughed softly and shrugged. “Must be intimidated.”
Kurt let his eyes drift down to Brody’s pants. He tightened his mouth and frowned critically. “No. That can’t be it.”
Rachel’s giggles bubbled up as the train came to a stop. Kurt adjusted his rhino head broach on the way out.
Adam gave a quick sweep of Callbacks. No one had begun singing yet, likely since the Showcase performers were still there, and no one had imbibed enough to be the first to sing in front of Rachel Berry.
It was odd, though. Adam had found her performance to be a bit false, if loud. Technically, she had quite a lot of skill, but not the kind of emotional connection that Tibideaux seemed to favor (though the dean had obviously liked it). Maybe it bothered him that her show faces for both her main performance and the encore she’d been allowed had been the same. Same emotional expression, same technique. Someone like her would never join the Apples, but if she did, he’d be pressing her to stretch herself a little bit.
Adam tugged on his collar and nodded to his friends, who were taking over a booth en masse. With a deep breath, he headed straight for the table where the striking young man who had braved all to get his chance to audition sat with his friends. Adam pumped himself up systematically as he forced one foot in front of the other.
It had been quite a while since he’d been so nervous about talking to a boy. Felt like he was in boarding school again. (Granted, he hadn’t tried to ask anyone out since Marcus... not that he wanted to think about his ex at the moment.) Though this wasn’t the first time he’d felt that way around Kurt. Adam just hadn’t known his name before. He’d seen him around Callbacks with Rachel, but imagined that he was just a friend, since he never gotten up to sing, despite some heavy-handed prodding. He only watched, and clapped, and sipped wine, occasionally letting out a lovely, resonating chuckle. Adam had never mustered up the nerve to just walk up to him cold and never felt a purpose to it. He wouldn’t have made anything of their association in any case. And what did he have to start off with? He rehearsed words over and over in his mind, and they all seemed to shoot out of his mouth too quickly and ineffectively.
But Kurt had been amazing up there and deserved to be told so.
Adam could speak to this handsome young man. He would. The opportunity, given Tibideaux’s obvious fickleness surrounding auditions, might not present itself a second time.
Adam could speak to him. He could. He would.
“Hullo,” he said when he reached the table.
Kurt was in conversation with Rachel Berry, and due to the noise, neither turned their heads. Brody, sitting with his arm around Rachel, saw Adam standing there, and rolled his eyes.
Adam lifted his chin, pressed his lips together, and gave him a smile. No reason to stoop to his level. Of course Brody Weston had plucked up this girl before any other guy had a chance to notice her. He had always been crafty.
“Hullo!” Adam said a bit louder.
Kurt turned his head. “Oh! Hi.”
“I just wanted to tell you that I thought your song was absolutely lovely! You’re a phenomenal singer!” Adam laughed and clapped his hands over his ears.
Kurt smiled and waved both hands around his head to signal that the noise was crazy.
Rachel straightened up to give Adam her undivided attention and launched into a full, preprepared response:
“I’m so glad you enjoyed my performance. I know that I’m just a freshman, but I’ve been spoiled in the arts since I was a toddler, and performing... is my life. I have such a personal connection with Barbra Streisand. I think our spirits might have known one another in a past life, so I have always, always striven to pay the utmost respect to her legacy-”
She went on after that, and on, and on. And Adam nodded as politely as he could, but he could hardly follow the rapid-fire acceptance speech for a compliment that hadn’t been directed at her. He started to feel awkward, and wasn’t sure how to redirect what he wanted to say to Kurt without being rude or cruel.
“Hey, Barbra,” Kurt interrupted in a dry, low tone. He picked up her drink and shoved it in her face. “Don’t let your pipes go dry.”
She nodded quickly and began to sip what looked like a cocktail. Brody must have given them the drinks. They both looked underaged.
Adam tried to gather his thoughts to try again to speak to Kurt. “Actually, I ah...”
“Where are the Horse Apples?” Brody asked.
Adam frowned slightly and offered him another smile as he began to motion towards the booth.
“Are you drunk?” Kurt asked before Adam had spoken. “That is the single weirdest question I’ve ever heard in a bar.”
“No, he’s just referring to my friends over there,” Adam said.
Kurt rolled his eyes. “Oh, so not drunk. Just rude. Business as usual.”
Brody grinned. “You know you love me.”
Kurt pursed his lips, then shook his head slowly, and said in a higher tone, “No... That can’t be it.”
For some reason, the three of them seemed to find that uproariously amusing. Perhaps the alcohol was the reason, or it was some kind of inside joke? It was odd for Brody to tolerate someone repeatedly insulting him to his face, no matter how charming. Maybe he did like them. He seemed to spend a lot of time with Rachel. Brody didn’t always seem to fancy the stars he hitched himself to.
“I just came over to-” Adam began again.
“Thank you so much,” Rachel gushed.
“Actually, I...” Adam looked at Kurt, who was staring straight back at him with an open, friendly expression. His heart swelled in his chest.
But Kurt was good friends with these two. There was no indication that he would ever want to associate with the likes of Adam and his Apples.
A phone rang on the table and Kurt picked it up.
“Ohhh my God,” he said, his eyes widening.
“Is it the weepy teenager?” Brody asked.
“Okay, first, his name is Blaine, not Weepy Teenager, and it’s Gio.” He paused a beat when Rachel and Brody didn’t respond and just stared at him blankly. “Fine, the lumberjack. It’s the lumberjack.”
Adam laughed in spite of himself.
Rachel bumped Kurt’s shoulder and sang, “Well, annnswer it! He probably missed your calls and wants to see you!”
“Um. I don’t know how I feel about that...” Kurt waited another second before pressing the ‘accept’ icon and turning away from the table with a wave. “Gio? Hi! I just... No, I’m just in a bar. Callbacks, the Showcase is over...” He pressed one finger to his other ear. “No, no, I just... I hoped I wasn’t calling too much... Yeah, I enjoyed it, too... I understand...”
Adam felt extremely awkward about standing there, so he gave Rachel another wave and smile and retreated to the booth the Apples had secured.
“How was it?” Joey asked through a mouthful of bread.
Adam moved his hand around like a plane and then let it swoop downward, culminating in a crashing sound. Kiera and My pulled him into their side of the booth to engulf him in hugs. It was funny that My had wanted to come to the after-party, but refused to go to the Showcase. It probably was because her ornate Lolita dress would have gotten her kicked out, like last year. Maybe she had intentions of dragging them to a club tonight.
“That’s what you get for talking to Mainstreamers,” Joey said. He chugged down some water. “Jeez. What were you expecting.”
“So, what, did he laugh in your face when you asked him to join the Apples?” Kiera asked.
“No, I didn’t get the chance. That Rachel girl and Brody were all over him, and then he got a call from his boyfriend...” Adam shrugged.
“That doesn’t mean he wouldn’t want to. We don’t know anything about him yet. Anyone who wears camo pants and a rhino broach to a formal function has to be at least part awesome,” My argued.
“True!” Joey said. “Fashion never lies.”
“Shut your gob.” My swatted Joey’s chest. “That is absolutely true.”
“I just said-”
“Boy, don’t mock me if you want your giblets intact by tomorrow.”
“Adam,” Kiera whined balling up her little fists and beating them on her short, blond hair. “Buy us drinks! No one believes that I’m twenty-one!”
Adam laughed and hugged her. “Alright, but I need you to chip in a bit or I won’t be able to take the train home.”
My pulled out her little pink Hello Kitty purse an started looking in it. “On me. I’m flush.”
“No, can you just listen for a minute?” Kurt interrupted Gio and took a breath. He looked back at the table to see Brody putting a glass of wine out for him, and he mouthed a thank you. “Look, I just got out of a really bad relationship. With a badness that I’m only just now gaining the tools to really deconstruct.” He sipped the wine and ignored the frown Rachel was giving him. “You could probably tell that.”
“I had a sneaking suspicion. But I’m glad you’re starting to see some of it. It’s a little hard to talk to you. You’re kind of an impenetrable wall,” Gio paused. “I mean that in a not completely condescending and insulting that way.”
“No, it’s fine. I kind of am right now. I had a really good time when I was with you. I hope you could tell that, too. But if you just want to be friends, I can refrain from calling you multiple times like a psycho swim fan. I’m probably not ready for anything serious anyway.”
“I’m glad you said that. I wasn’t sure how to go forward from here. I didn’t plan on...”
“Yeaaah, me neither. But it happened. Maybe we’ll see each other around? No avoidance or weirdness. We tried something and it’s not working so much right now, but maybe if you’re still interested when I’m willing to be penetra- Oh. No, I am not going to say that.”
Gio laughed loudly. Kurt relaxed a little.
When Kurt got off the phone, he took another long sip of his wine, and Rachel hugged his arm.
“Sweetie! Why would you do that?” she asked.
“I’m not ready, Rachel.” He shrugged. “I can’t pretend I am.”
“But you wanted him to call.”
“I wanted someone to want me. There’s a difference.” Kurt pinched the side of his lips together and leaned on the table.
“Aw.” Rachel pouted.
“Okay. No brooding. Rachel’s a superstar tonight,” Brody announced. “I signed us up for the first three slots.”
“Kurt! Sing with me!” Rachel pleased.
“I don’t know... I just did a really draining number,” Kurt said.
“No, something fun! Oh, let me think... I’ll pick us out the perfect song!”
Kurt finished off his wine and shook his head. He had to be realistic. She was going to have her way with this one.
“And another round!” Brody announced, grabbing Kurt’s glass.
Kurt tried to breathe deeply as he looked around at the clutter of faces. He wondered how many of them had seen him here before when Blaine had sung to him. The memory of that night crept along his skin, heating his face until the shame must have overtaken his cheeks and ears.
Instinctively, Kurt’s hands moved up over his cheeks, then covered his eyes. He didn’t know how to begin processing what had happened in that performance only half an hour ago, let alone what had just happened on the phone, let alone letting this near stranger near him, or rather in him, let alone...
His insides were wreckage. It was lucky that Gio hadn’t been that invested.
A hand touched his shoulder. “Hey.”
Kurt let his hands fall away. Before him stood a small young woman with short cropped blond hair.
“Are you okay?” She leaned onto her elbows on the table.
“Oh. Yeah, I’m... I’m fine. I will be.” Kurt waved his hand at her. “Thanks.”
“I loved your-”
Rachel came to his other side and grabbed his hand. “Come. We’re singing from Wicked!”
“Isn’t that a little obvious? Oof!” Kurt stumbled as Rachel jerked him away from the table. “Rude!”
He looked back at the girl and gave her a wave and a smile, then pointed to Rachel and twirled his finger at the side of his head.
She laughed and blew him a kiss, then turned to give someone behind her a big smile.
“Kurt, you are going to ruin your reputation before you even start the semester!” Rachel chided.
“Um, I’m not even accepted yet. Save the scheming until I get my letter, Machiavelli.” Kurt found himself up at the front with her, then looked back at the crowd. “I don’t want to do this right now.”
“Come on. I already have our music...” Rachel looked through the arrangement. “Hm... I need this to be in my key...”
Kurt snatched the music from her and moved over to the piano. “I can transpose it.”
He played a few bars for the sound, trying to pretend that people weren’t staring at him, then looked up at Rachel with a nod. She put her hands on her hips and grinned wildly.
“Ready, Guylinda?” she teased.
Kurt sucked in his cheeks and arched a brow high at her.
“There’s been some confusion over rooming here at Shiiiiiz,” she began.
“But of course I’ll care for Rachel,” Kurt added, playing along.
“But of course I’ll-” Rachel squeezed her eyes shut and belted the next note. “-RIIIIIISE above it!”
“For that’s how I know you’d want me to respond. Yes,” they sang together. “There’s been some confusion for you see my roommate is...”
“Unusually and exceedingly peculiar and altogether quite impossible to descriiiibe,” Rachel sang out, her voice clear and loud like a bell.
Kurt smirked at the crowd. “A diva.”
Rachel opened her mouth wide and glared back at him, but refused to miss a beat. “What is this feeling, so sudden, and new!”
“That I felt the moment, I laid eyes on you,” Kurt responded. Then he joked, “Y’know, this song is partially autobiographical for us.”
“My pulse is rushing,” Rachel sang with a bit of warning in her voice as she pointed at the piano.
Kurt kept playing. “My head is reeling- sheoncekissedmyboyfriiiiiend!”
The whole room erupted in laughter.
“My face is flushing- He gave me a terrible makeover! He made me into a sad hooker clown!”
The laughter increased.
“She told our show choir coach not to let me have solos for my own goood,” he sang.
“He...” Rachel faltered. “He said I have jowls!”
The other students had completely given themselves up to laughter at this point. With all the self-involved preening they probably saw on this stage, comedy seemed to be a rare treat.
“She let the cheerleading coach try to bully me into wearing drag for our Nationals competi-tiooooon!” Kurt added, singing the last note deliberately high.
“No one else said anything either,” Rachel protested, falling out of the song. She huffed and pointed at him while looking at the crowd. “He practically boycotted my wedding!”
“Oh, because that was what actually stopped you from doing it!” Kurt laughed and played a run across the keys. “When I ran for senior class president she threw me under the bus and decided to run against me and steal my geek vote so she could be more impressive for her NYADA application.”
“I stepped down!” Rachel crossed her arms and looked down. “He threw me a flash mob to convince me not to get plastic surgery before I was out of high school.”
Kurt chuckled and continued to play the refrain. “She got the guys in our dorky show choir to stand up to this jock who was threatening to kill me. She sang a duet with me when no one else would.”
“They dunno know what they’re missin’, buddy.” Rachel leaned on the piano and bopped his nose. “I would never have made it this far without him.”
“Oh, yes, you would have.” Kurt rolled his eyes. He bit his lip and plinked around on the keys a few times. “We’re hitting creepy ‘Wind Beneath My Wings’ territory here.”
“I COULD FLY HIGHER THAN AN EAAAAAGLE!” Rachel belted, gesturing widely with one hand.
Kurt bowed over the keys, chuckling, then played a few soft bars. “You know this one.” He took a moment to compose himself, then sang, “What would you do... if I sang outta tune? Would you stand up and walk out on me?”
Rachel smiled. “You and the Beatles, I swear,” she teased. “Lend me your ear, I’ll sing you a song, and I’ll try not to sing out of key.”
“Do you need anybody?” they sang. “I need somebody to love. Could it be, anybody? I want somebody to love.”
“What do I do when my love’s gone away?” Kurt lead the next verse.
Rachel draped herself near him. “Does it worry you to be alone?”
“How does it feel by the end of the day?”
“Are you sad because you’re on your own?” She brushed her fingers over the side of his face.
“Join in, if you know it,” Kurt encouraged, looking away from her. He played through the chorus a few times, with the NYADAns singing along.
Several glasses of wine and many songs later, Kurt staggered with Rachel towards the subway. They locked arms together, and she leaned her head on his shoulder.
“You’ll see him at Christmas,” she murmured.
“Blaine. You two are going to meet up, right? Don’t be sad. You’ll see him soon!”
Kurt said nothing as he huddled closer to her for warmth and tried to make his way down the stairs. It was hard to say what he wanted out of his visit home. Though he was pretty certain that meeting Blaine face-to-face again wouldn’t alleviate any of his problems.
Probably the opposite. Just the thought of talking to Blaine made him tired. It seemed like he was always tired, lately. He should start a vitamin regime, or something.