Sarah (hedgerose) wrote,

Fic: (Def)inition (part 15/?)

Media: Fic
Title: (Def)inition (part 15/?; WiP)
Rating: NC-17
Pairings: Eventual Kurt/Blaine, platonic Kurt/Quinn, past Quinn/Puck, past Blaine/other
Spoilers: General spoilers through aired episodes of season three, but this is a fairly radical AU.
Warnings: For the story as a whole: non-con, consent issues, explicit discussion of suicide, slavery, disordered eating.
Betas: idoltina. <3
Word Count: 6416
Summary: Fifty-three.

A few notes:

Thank you so, so much to everyone for their patience with this. I know that it's been a long time coming, and I really appreciate the fact that I haven't gotten any nasty messages and have only made a few people cry. Thank you to my betas and the rest of the inner circle for making me keep writing. Thank you to stultiloquentia's playlist and what's out of the Struck by Lightning soundtrack for getting me to actually finish this. I love you all so much, and even though getting this chapter out was a bitch and a half, it's been totally worth it to me. I can't promise that the break will never be this long again, but I will do my best not to let it happen. :)

Secondly, the American political system is seriously weird, and this chapter deals a lot with that, so I'm going to do the cheap thing and point you at Wikipedia and this tumblr post that I made. I am going to blame any inconsistencies between this fic and the actual American political system on the fact that this is an AU, and things developed a bit differently in the Def-verse than they did in our world.

* * *



* * *

It's strange: things are good.

And they keep being good, which is the weird thing. Blaine feels like he's reached some sort of equilibrium, like the tightrope under his feet has stopped bouncing and he can finally walk forward, like he can slide his feet along the cable.

He makes breakfast for Kurt and Quinn, smiles at them over the kitchen table and feels momentarily guilty when Kurt winces and stretches. "I'm so sorry about the couch," Kurt says. "As soon as we move, you're getting a real bed."

"I don't mind," Blaine says, resolving to do his best not to let Kurt sleep on the sofa-bed again. "I think it's because you're taller than me."

He keeps expecting to see Micah and Emily overlaying Kurt and Quinn like ghosts, like they had back at the beginning, when he'd first arrived in New York. But they don't-- Kurt and Quinn remain Kurt and Quinn. The tightrope that he's walking is steady and even beneath his feet.

"I called Marco back, after you went to bed last night," Kurt says, and Blaine puts his biscuit down. "He wanted you to know that he's okay-- he lives in Dayton, he got married last year-- he's okay."

Blaine expects it to hurt, to know that Marco is free and alive and okay in a way that he himself may never be, and it aches a little, but not like he'd thought it would. It's the good hurt, the kind that comes from a healing bruise, and he nods, sips his tea.

"Are you okay?" Kurt asks, and then he winces, like he thinks that maybe he shouldn't have asked.

Blaine puts down his cup of tea and looks into it for a long minute. "I think so," he says. "I'm not going to freak out and stop functioning right now, at least." The corners of Kurt's mouth twitch up in a smile and Blaine feels himself mirroring it.

"Call me?" Kurt says, voice raising at the end of the sentence to make it like question instead of a command. "If something happens-- if you feel off, or anything, just give me a call, and we'll talk through it."

"I will," Blaine promises, and Kurt's smile is full and genuine, this time.

After they've both left for another day at Humm, he calls Paige. She's already dropped the girls off at school, but she won't be seeing her first client until almost eleven. He busies himself in the kitchen until Paige arrives, carrying Beth's overnight bag and a coffee from the place at the end of the block that he secretly likes more than Starbucks. "You're a lifesaver," he says, smiling crookedly and taking Beth's bag and the coffee from her.

"Good morning to you, too," she says, taking advantage of the fact that his hands are full to give him a quick hug. "How are you doing?"

"All present and accounted for," Blaine replies. "I'm so sorry about what happened yesterday."

Paige shrugs and runs a hand through her dark, curly hair. "I didn't mind getting Beth," she says cautiously, "but are you sure you're all right?"

"No," he replies, almost surprised at his own candor. "I don't think that I'll ever be really sure, but right now things feel okay."

"That's good to hear," she says. "I mean, you must be on edge, with the election coming up, and everything."

"I-- no, I'd forgotten. Is that this week?" he asks. It can't be that soon-- his sense of time can't be messed up that badly.

"Tuesday," Paige replies.

"There's not enough time," Blaine says, his mouth suddenly dry.

Paige looks confused. "Time for what?"

"It hasn't even come up for a vote yet," Blaine says. It's just a few days away, if the election is on Tuesday, and there's no way that anything that charged will make it through the Senate and to the president before the polls open. "The bill. The manumission bill, the one that we've all be working on."

"Oh," she says, and her eyes go soft. "There's still a few days, maybe--"

Blaine shakes his head. "Right now they're passing stupid feel-good resolutions that won't mean anything to anyone outside of the states they're getting re-elected in-- they're not going to push something this controversial through at the last minute. And Huntsman is our best chance of getting it through, because Connors is going to lose and there's no way in hell that Carson's going to pass it."

Paige sighs. "I know," she says. "I'm so sorry, Blaine."

"I guess I'll just-- wait and hope," he says, shrugging because he's clinging to the last inches of that hope and he can't do anything, not right now.

She reaches across the table and holds his hand for a few quiet moments, and he accepts-- appreciates, really-- the small, human comfort of her touch. It's more than he's allowed himself from anyone but Kurt and Beth in so long; he's just starting to be able to stand anyone touching him for longer than a few seconds (it's part of the reason that he doesn't take the subway, even when he's out by himself-- just imagining that crush is almost too claustrophobic). He dredges a smile up from somewhere, and Paige squeezes his fingers briefly.

"I was ‘on edge' last night because a friend of mine called from back home-- from Ohio-- yesterday, when Beth was at school," he says, looking at their hands instead of her face. Her fingers tighten around his again. "It was-- I was glad to hear from him, but it brought up a lot of things that I hadn't--"

He sighs. "It's like-- I think I know who I am, and then something comes along and just blows me out of the water, and I feel so... scattered, and it takes a long time to put all the pieces of my back together. It's why I was so out of it-- I could get Beth home, but I couldn't actually be there." He remembers Kurt saying you don't have to be okay, just be here the previous night, and looks out the window at the sun, at the skyline and the occasional tree that breaks through the glass and metal and concrete. "I am trying to be okay, but I'm learning that I can't do it all the time."

She doesn't offer him platitudes or tell him that it's okay if he's not okay all the time; she's done both those things before. Instead she pulls a cookie out of the ziplock bag in her purse and hands it to him, then asks about how Beth is doing with Breaking Through.

He follows the change in conversation gratefully, and they sit and talk about nothing in particular until they finish their coffees. She has to get in to meet with her client and he has-- nothing to do, not really, but play the piano and read all of Beth's books.

Blaine is stuck somewhere between frustrated and at peace: they're stuck on the doorway with this bill, unable to move forward or backwards until someone opens the door or pushes them out, but he feels that he is more... cohesive than he has been in a long time. The feeling he'd had when he'd woken up that morning, that he might end up being all right in the long run-- it seems to be sticking around, persistent and almost too hopeful.

He hates that just as things are starting to come together for him, personally, they're falling apart outside. He can look in the mirror and see a person, finally, but more than half of Congress doesn't see what he does. Blaine has worked to hard on this to see it fail, has shown pieces of himself in public that never should have seen the light of day, much less the camera flashes of the media.

That anger stays with him, and the fact remains that right now, there's nothing he can do but hold on to whatever hope he has left. He pounds out songs on the piano when everyone else is out and sometimes he feels the tickle of words in his throat; sometimes he thinks about singing protest songs and the furious, angry punk songs that he'd had a brief flirtation with when he'd been thirteen. Before Kurt comes home he slips back into classical, hands slow and gentle over the keys while dinner cooks in the oven, like he can will himself back into being the easy, relaxed person he can sometimes be with Kurt. For Kurt.

He smiles at Beth over dinner and tries not to think three days.

* * *

PRESIDENTIAL RACE HEATS UP

The current front-runner of the three-way race is Sean Carson, whose Tea Party nomination came as no surprise. He holds the lead in much of the mid-west and south, although his campaign is weaker New England-- especially Massachusetts and New York-- as well as in California, which holds the highest number of Electoral College votes of any state. It will be a challenge for Carson's far-right views to sway either state away from Democrat Blythe Connors, who currently holds a ten-point lead over Carson in both states.

That said, Blythe Connors will likely take California, New England, and a few scattered other states-- but don't count on a Democrat in the White House any time soon. With popular opinion polls showing Carson with a solid lead over both Connors and Huntsman, Blythe Connors is likely to make a decent showing in the popular vote, but not gain the Electoral College votes she needs to make it the rest of the way to the White House.

The current White House resident, incumbent President John Huntsman, Jr., is on his way out. Polls show him in the lead in a scant handful of states, and unless something changes drastically in the next week, he will be heading home to Utah. Huntsman was abandoned early by much of the Republican base, who then rallied around Tea Party candidate Sean Carson.

There are a few states that could swing either way come election day, but for the first time in a very long time, it looks like a third party will take the election.


* * *

"...and even with California declared for Connors, it looks like Sean Carson is going to be the next President of the United States."

"Are we calling it?"

"We are-- the official MSNBC call for this election is Sean Carson, the Tea Party candidate from Arkansas. With a likely total of 351 electoral college votes, he has handily beat out John Huntsman, the Republican candidate, and Blythe Connors, the Democrat."

"It's an expected result-- Huntsman was largely abandoned by his party early on, and it's no surprise that Connors couldn't muster enough support to carry the Democrats to a victory-- although it's worth noting that she carried the entire West Coast, as well as most of the electoral college votes from New England."

"This is the first time that we've seen this kind of three-way split, isn't it?"

"It's going to be an interesting four years, especially sin--"

The television clicks off, screen going black and empty. The four of them in the living room are still and silent, still starting at the screen. The remote is in Kurt's hand, and he looks at it almost in surprise.

"Fucking shithead," Quinn says venomously, staring at the television screen. "What the fuck does he--"

"Quinn," Kurt snaps, and she looks at him, eyes wild and furious.

"Fuck you, Kurt-- we just lost, and this whole fucking thing is--"

"Bedroom. Now." Kurt's voice is uncompromising, and it's the closest thing to an order he's given in a long time-- but Beth doesn't need to hear this, not with how infuriated Quinn is right now. Kurt is all for kids learning about the democratic process, but she's watched the vote, and it's almost eleven o'clock. Quinn stands up stiffly and stalks off to her bedroom, blonde hair flying out behind her.

"Beth, why don't you get ready for bed?" he says, gently. "I'm just going to-- I'm going to talk with your mom for a minute." Beth looks over at him, eyes wide. "It'll be fine, Beth-- your mom's just--"

"--she's angry, Kurt," she says. "I'm not five."

He smiles. "Goodnight, Beth."

"Goodnight, Kurt," she says, and she leans back against Blaine.

Blaine, who still hasn't really moved since Kurt turned the TV off. Kurt bites his lip and thinks about saying something, but Blaine turns to him and nods. "Come on, Beth-- you should go brush your teeth. I'll grab your book, okay?"

Kurt shoots a grateful look at Blaine and heads to the front of the house, where the bedrooms are.

He can hear Quinn from outside her door, yelling at nothing and throwing her pillow against the wall. "Quinn?" he calls, knocking on her door.

"Fuck off," she says, and wow, he hasn't heard that tone of voice since they were eighteen and Quinn had been going through a thankfully-brief pink-hair-and-black-clothes phase. He sighs and pushes the door open anyway.

The fury on her face doesn't match her sundress or her haircut. Quinn spends so much time being acceptable and appropriate and passionate, sure, that he forgets how angry she can get sometimes. He catches the pillow that she flings at him when he comes in through the door and tosses it back to her.

"I hate this," she says, looking at the floor and gripping the pillow too tightly. "I just want to be free, Kurt, and I thought--" she stops, breathes, puts the pillow back on her bed-- "I thought that this was going to be our chance to do that."

"It's not over yet," Kurt offers. "Huntsman is still in office, he might--"

"--he might do nothing, Kurt, just like he has been doing nothing for the last two months." All of her anger seems to drain out of her, like water through a sieve, and she sits heavily on her bed. Kurt sits next to her, wrapping one arm around her waist, her head resting on his shoulder.

"I'm sorry," he says into her hair. "We tried."

She laughs bitterly. "We tried, sure. We could have done more, we could have gone to Washington and made them see--"

"See what, Quinn? Something different from what they see at home? What they see in the halls?"

Quinn rubs her hands together in her lap. "I know," she says. "I just wish that-- however frustrating Huntsman was, at least we had a chance, with him still in office."

"I liked Blythe," Kurt says.

"Of course you liked her," Quinn says. "She has good style."

"Any woman who wears Vivienne Westwood on the campaign trail gets my vote," Kurt says, only half-joking. He'd voted before he'd gone into Humm that morning with Quinn waiting for him outside the voting booth and hoped that his neighbors back in Lima were thinking of Quinn when they cast their ballots, that the people in Nevada and Idaho and North Dakota had Blaine on their minds-- but even if they had, it wasn't enough.

It's fairly dark in Quinn's room; there's just enough light from the bedside lamp for Kurt to see the edges of the photograph of Quinn's mother that she keeps tucked into her mirror, just barely in sight. Judy calls on Quinn's birthday and on Beth's, but Quinn never actually speaks to her. He pulls her in just a little tighter against his side. "We're going to get you out of this-- both of you. All of you."

"I think you've used up your fifteen minutes of fame," she says, smiling crookedly. "And neither Blaine nor I had any to begin with."

"Maybe I'll go into politics," he shrugs. "I don't know, maybe I'll-- chain myself to the gates of the White House. Or to that godawful abstract statue they put up in the park last year--"

Quinn laughs at that, her shoulders shaking. "Not the one with the--"

"Oh, yes, that one." He smiles. "We should probably head back out and let Beth and Blaine know that we haven't killed each other."

"I haven't honestly tried to kill you in years," she says. "Not since the time I made you a protein shake and almost made you choke on that hunk of banana that the blender totally missed."

"I think that one only counts as manslaughter."

* * *



* * *

After the election, November seems bleaker than it had before. The cold settles in to stay, frost growing on the windowpanes in curlicues of ice. Blaine watches the sun melt it slowly while he waits for the morning's bread to rise. Sometimes he loses hours, minutes, just standing still and watching the city from Kurt's windows.

He doesn't lose hope, because hope is the one thing he's kept close to his chest for years and years, clutched tight and precious. This is just one more setback, one more resounding no that he'll live with until there's a softer, answering yes. Two years after the last bill like this failed, the provisions for Defs to be provided with further education had been passed; not freedom, but something like it, almost. Freedom for their minds, if not for their bodies.

Even though this bill isn't dead, it feels like it is-- Huntsman stays still and silent on the issue for weeks, even after the election, speaking nothing of the issue. It goes back to committee, not even on the table any more, and fades quietly, without any fanfare. Blaine learns to stop hoping for this bill. For the hundreth time, the question of his freedom has been decided by a group of people he didn't-- can't vote for. In a few years, there'll be another one, and maybe, if he's still with Kurt, if he's still in a position to hope, he can work for that bill, that proposition, instead.

Until then, Blaine will survive. Somehow, he always does.

* * *

"I invited my dad and Carole to spend Thanksgiving with us," Kurt says. "I wanted to make sure that you knew in advance-- they're not staying here, god knows there's no room-- but I know that you--"

"--don't handle change well?" Blaine finishes, smiling crookedly. "Do you mind if I ask-- where will they be staying?"

"At a hotel-- there's one that they usually stay at when they come to visit, it's not too far from here. I have the name somewhere-- I make the reservations for them, most of the time, because my dad still can't quite manage to understand that heavy of an accent over the phone-- one time they ended up in a bedroom with two twin beds that I swear were made for kindergarteners, and I'd like to avoid a repeat of that."

"I'd be happy to take care of it," Blaine says. "I would--" He pauses, because what if Kurt thinks that he isn't ready for this? "I would appreciate the opportunity to do more. For you, of course, I'd be happy to do anything you'd ask of me, but-- I have a lot of time, here at home, and I find myself without much of anything to do."

"Are you sure that you're ready?" Kurt asks. "Not that I don't think you know your own mind or anything, I just-- it hasn't been too long since everything that happened with your friend from Ohio, and I worry."

"Quinn says that you always worry," Blaine replies, smiling. "And no, I'm not sure that I'm ready, but I think I need to-- I need to get out of this apartment more." He crosses his arms loosely across his chest, leans back against the countertop. "I see you guys, I see Paige and Julie and our barista and the guy at the deli on the corner, but I don't-- even at the center in Columbus I knew more people. I wasn't close to them, not really, but sometimes, here, I feel like I'm too closed in."

Kurt looks so shocked that Blaine is worried that he's said too much, pushed this on Kurt all at once with no real thought-- but he has thought about it, he has been thinking. For a long time he'd been happy in his small life, the apartment had been warm and cozy and all the space that he needed to grow, to heal, but now he's become root-bound, trying to grow too far in a too-small space. He feels things enough to care about them, now.

"Okay," Kurt says, the surprise on his face fading into an expression that looks more pleased than anything else, and he sets the dishcloth down on the counter. Blaine relaxes, seeing the hint of a smile on Kurt's lips, because he knows that telling this to Kurt was the right decision. "I'll see what I can do."

* * *

Kurt's father and Carole arrive in a flurry of hugs and suitcases, and Blaine stands quietly in the background, waiting for someone to need his help.

"You must be Blaine," Carole says, Beth attached firmly to her side. She reaches for Blaine's hand, and he offers his, carefully, half-expecting her to pull him into a hug. Which is, of course, exactly what she does, pulling him halfway off-balance and sending him stumbling into her.

"I'm sorry," Blaine apologizes, ducking his head and disentangling as quickly and politely as he can. "It's a pleasure to meet you, ma'am."

"Oh, none of that," she laughs. "Just Carole."

"Of course," he says. "May I help you with anything?"

"We're taking most of this to the hotel later," she says, and winks at him. "But I think there might be something for Beth in here somewhere."

"Oh my gosh, Gramma Carole, did you bring me a present?" Beth asks, looking up at her with hopeful eyes.

"Small bag, in the front," Carole responds, and Beth shrieks and races off. "She's usually such a quiet child." She looks fondly after Beth.

"You've clearly never seen her having a water-gun fight," Kurt says, and both Blaine and Carole turn to face him.

"Kurt! Sweetie, it has been too long," she says, and Blaine freezes.

He expects himself to shut down, he expects to start chanting Maria over and over again like he had in July, in September, he expects Kurt to take too gently by the elbows and steer him over to the fire escape. His reaction to things like that (like stupid fucking pet names; they're something that is supposed to be safe, something for kids and friends and lovers, and how idiotic is it that he can't stand to hear them anymore) is something he can't control, and there are a lot of things that he expects.

But this isn't any of those things.

Blaine's hands shake and Kurt is looking directly to him, seemingly ready to spring into action, but there's nothing, no fading grey or sharp fall into nothing, just the last whisper of a dying ghost. He drags a smile out of somewhere and puts it on his face like a half-mask, not quite ready to show his full expression.

Kurt hugs Carole tightly and buries his face in her collar for a moment; Blaine realizes that he's staring and looks away. Beth reappears in front of him, bouncing up and down and clutching a stack of books.

"New books?" he asks, somewhat inanely, still thrown off by his lack of reaction to Carole.

"Duh," she says, looking up at him and raising an eyebrow, like she knows exactly how stupid he's being. "But I haven't read these ones yet."

"You need to finish your book for class first," he reminds her, and she makes a face.

"But it's boring," she complains, and he ruffles her curls.

"Read it anyway," he says, smiling fondly at her, and when he glances back up, Kurt is looking at him with some expression that he can't quite define, caught somewhere between hope and sadness. Blaine raises both eyebrows, questioning, but Kurt shakes his head.

"So, dinner?" Kurt says to the group at large, clasping his hands in front of him and shifting his attention away from Blaine.

Blaine ducks his head, puts his hands in his pockets, and follows everyone out the door.

* * *

The Monday before Thanksgiving, Blaine comes in after coffee with Paige, toes off his shoes, and hangs up his scarf and coat. He walks through the kitchen and snags the book that Beth had left there after breakfast (it's The Grey King, and Blaine doesn't understand half of the mythology but the writing is beautiful) and wanders into the living room, intending to spend the rest of his free hour reading before he tackles Kurt's post-college files again.

He's surprised to find Kurt's father sitting in the chair closest to the fire escape, newspaper in hand and reading glasses perched on his nose.

"Morning," Kurt's father says without looking up from the paper.

"Good morning, sir," Blaine replies. He knows that Kurt loves his father but he can't seem to get a read on the man; he's the only person Blaine has met since coming to Kurt that hasn't corrected Blaine when he's called him sir. He's all too aware that Kurt's father is a former congressman, that he must know what a proper Def looks like and how far Blaine is from that, right now. Blaine can't help but wonder if his presence, his ways of being, are shaming Kurt somehow.

"How was your coffee date?" Kurt's father asks, and Blaine finds himself almost at a loss for words.

"It was fine, sir-- although it wasn't a date," he corrects. "Paige is the mother of one of Beth's friends from school."

"Must have been good coffee," Kurt's father says, eyes dancing in some private joke. "Kurt told me not to expect you for another half hour."

"I wanted to catch up on my reading," Blaine explains, before he remembers that Defs aren't really supposed to want things. "That is-- I'm reading this along with Beth, and she's half a dozen chapters ahead of me--"

"Well, don't let me bother you," Kurt's father says.

"Is there anything you need, sir?" Blaine can't help but ask.

"Sit down, kid," Kurt's father says. "You're making me tired just looking at you."

Blaine nervously takes his seat on the couch, drawing one of the throws over his lap to ward off the chill coming through the glass.

"You'd think that my kid would keep this place warm," Kurt's father says.

"It's all the windows, sir," Blaine says. "He could keep the furnace running all day and it'd still be cold."

"Figures that Kurt would like the light more than keeping things warm." Kurt's father smiles at Blaine and he smiles back, showing the kind of expression that he'd give any Holder that he didn't know.

"He doesn't mind the cold."

"Not in all those layers he wears, no," Kurt's father says. "And it doesn't bother you?"

"It's not my place to question it," Blaine replies, even though he's sure that Kurt would try to do something about it if he did mention it. "I'm usually warm enough." He curls his toes under the throw when he says that, like it will excuse the lie, because sometimes he likes the cold. Sometimes it's all that wakes him up in the mornings, the frost on the windowpanes and the thought of the first thump of bread against the countertop.

"Hm." Kurt's father turns back to his newspaper and Blaine opens Beth's book to his bookmark-- Bran is teaching Will to pronounce Welsh and if Blaine were alone, he'd try to wrap his mouth around the syllables, following along.

After ten minutes of quiet and turning pages, Kurt's father speaks. "What do you think about Kurt?" he asks.

Blaine doesn't know what kind of answer Kurt's father is looking for. "He's an excellent Holder," he offers.

"No, but-- what do you think of him, as a person?"

"He's a good father, even though Beth isn't technically his child," Blaine tries. He has no idea why Kurt's father is asking him, and he's suddenly terrified of being trapped by something he says, here. "Anyone would be proud to work for him."

"So it's just a, ah, working relationship?" Kurt's father asks, and now Blaine can sense the edges of what he wants to know-- but he still doesn't know what the correct answer is, whether it's to say entirely professional, sir or he has helped me so much.

"Very professional," Blaine compromises. "But we're-- we live together, there's a certain amount of, ah, closeness that develops with that."

Kurt's father chuckles, and Blaine still doesn't know if he has done this right. "I'm sure it does," he says.

Blaine slides the bookmark back into his book and folds the throw neatly, needing to be anywhere but here, right now, with Kurt's father and the uncertainty. He thinks that perhaps they were having two conversations, but he doesn't know what Kurt's father was hearing. "I have a task to complete," he says. "Do you need anything, sir?"

"Nah, I'm fine," Kurt's father says.

"I'll be just down the hallway, if you do." Blaine sets down the book on the table behind the couch, and stands to walk out of the room.

"You make him happy," Kurt's father says, and Blaine turns around to see that the paper is lying in his lap and he's looking at Blaine over the tops of his reading glasses. "Last night after dinner-- I haven't seen him smile like that in years."

"I try, sir," Blaine says, and it is so true that it almost hurts, aching just a little inside Blaine's chest. Kurt has done so much for him in the past six months that sometimes he can't believe it; it feels like it's happened to someone else.

"Keep it up," Kurt's father advises, looking back down at his newspaper. Blaine nods quickly and flees for the relative safety of Kurt's files.

* * *





* * *

They're at the grocery store picking up the turkey and a few last-minute necessities when Kurt's father calls. "For the last time, Dad, I am not going to forget the cranberries," Kurt says, rolling his eyes and smiling at Blaine across their cart.

Kurt's eyes close and his jaw tightens and Blaine feels the bottom drop out of his stomach; something must have gone so wrong for Kurt to look like that. "How long ago did they start?" Kurt asks, and he nods, even though he must know that his dad can't see him. "No-- no, I'll tell him. Okay. Okay, we'll be home as soon as we can be."

When Kurt opens his eyes, they're clear and there's a hint of a smile playing around his mouth; Blaine is just confused by now.

"They're voting," Kurt says, smile growing until it's lighting up his whole face, and that doesn't make any sense. The election was weeks ago, what are they--

Oh.

Blaine's mouth is dry, and he has to lick his lips before he can speak. "I thought they killed it," he says.

Kurt shakes his head. "No, they sent it back to committee to die, but it-- Blaine, they brought it back and they're voting on it. We have to get home, we have to watch this and---"

"Thanksgiving recess," Blaine says, because it's two days before the holiday and surely all of Congress isn't around to vote on this-- who knows if there's even a quorum-- but Kurt is smiling and he keeps shaking his head.

"Huntsman made them stay. They're-- god, they're voting, Blaine, we have to get back and watch this." Kurt is almost giddy with excitement, pushing Blaine and the cart along in front of him.

"Kurt, wait--" Blaine says, and Kurt pauses, raising his eyebrows expectantly. "The turkey," Blaine finishes, unsure if Kurt had intended to actually stop for that or not. "And the cranberries, your dad will--"

"Right. Turkey, and cranberries, and that goat cheese Quinn likes, and you are going to monitor this on your phone until we get back because oh my god, Blaine."

Blaine bites his lip and doesn't point out that Kurt is probably more hopeful than he is, right now, that Kurt is nearly bouncing down the aisles of the grocery store. Blaine is gripping the handle of the grocery cart with white knuckles, because he's almost positive that there are not nearly enough votes for the bill to pass; it's going to be one more failed attempt at making his life better. One more step that doesn't move them anywhere.

While Kurt is at the butcher's counter picking up their turkey, Blaine loads the C-SPAN website on his phone. "They're still reading the bill," he says quietly to Kurt. "The actual vote won't start for at least another twenty minutes."

"Good," Kurt says, reaching across the glass of the butcher's counter to take the turkey, wrapped in plastic and paper and incredibly unwieldy. He flashes a grin at the middle-aged woman who'd handed him the bird, then turns back to his shopping list. "Goat cheese, cranberries, and we are taking a taxi back because I am not taking a fifteen-pound turkey on the subway or missing more of this vote than I have to."

* * *

When they walk through the door, Quinn moves in immediately for a hug, not waiting for Blaine to put the grocery bags down. "It's about to start," she says. "I'll put things away, you go and watch."

He's-- he doesn't know what he's feeling. It's almost like he's floating between anticipation and dread, trying to keep a balance between absolute certainty that the bill is going to fail and a hope so great that it chokes him, leaves him breathless and uncertain. Quinn takes the bags and Kurt shepherds him toward the living room, where his parents are already ensconced in the chairs and Beth is curled up on one end of the couch with a pad of paper and a pencil. There's only enough space for two more people on the couch, so as Kurt takes his seat on the far end, Blaine sits cross-legged in front of Beth, leaning back against the couch. "Hey, Blaine," she says.

"Hi," he says.

"Plenty of space on the couch," Kurt's father says mildly.

"Quinn and Kurt have been on their feet all day," he demurs.

Kurt's father raises an eyebrow. "And you haven't?"

"I'm fine on the floor, sir," Blaine says, sharper than he means to be, biting his cheek to rein in his jagged edges.

"Quinn! It's starting!" Kurt calls, and Quinn hurries in, drying her hands on a dishcloth. She sits quickly next to Kurt, dropping the cloth on the coffee table.

Vice President Hart calls order, and the voting begins.

The first vote is nay, and so is the second; Beth makes two neat tally marks on her pad of paper. There's a pause between each vote, a moment of who-which party-how will they- before they hear the yea or nay.

Blaine very deliberately does not keep track, but every so often Beth will say "Twenty-four nays," or "sixteen ayes" and he'll think-- he still doesn't know what to think. He's trying for a sort of studied indifference, so that no matter what happens he will not care.

But then Beth says forty-five ayes, and everyone sits up just a little bit straighter. Kurt's father leans forward in his chair, rests his elbows on his knees, and out of the corner of his eye, Blaine sees Quinn take Kurt's hand. This is too close, and too real, and Blaine feels abruptly like he needs to be outside, in the relatively fresh air, but he forces himself to sit, still and silent and not hopeful.

It's all white noise and anticipation and the absolute silence of everyone in their living room. Blaine wonders absently about the other Defs that must be watching or listening, half-terrified and half-hopeful; he wonders how many of them are sitting like he is, how many are kneeling next to someone who's running their fingers through their hair, how many are being held down and forced to watch, because their Holders will never, ever free them.

"Forty-eight," Beth says. They need three more, just three more, and there are still a dozen senators to cast their votes.

Blaine stops counting, at least consciously. He drops his head, brings his knees up and wraps his arms around them.

This is too close.

"Ron Wyden," says the man leading the vote, and then there's a moment of silence.

"Yea."

In their living room, no one speaks for what feels like minutes-- everyone is focused on the television, staring unblinking at the screen.

"Fifty-three," Beth says quietly.

Fifty-three.

"I have to go," Blaine says, scrambling up from the floor, careless of his manners and whoever might be watching-- he's certain that he can feel all eyes in the living room on him, but he can't be there right now. He can't be inside, he can't be with other people, he needs to--

It's freezing outside. Maybe not literally, but it's close, and his breath is clouding the air. He's not sure how long he stands there and shakes, because fifty-three. Somehow it only takes fifty-three people to change this for him, and he wonders where those fifty-three people were when he was fifteen and terrified, when he was sixteen and starving.

"I keep following you out here," Kurt says from behind him, and Blaine starts a bit because he hadn't heard the door slide open. He takes the coat that Kurt offers him.

"I'm sorry," Blaine says. "I'll come back in in a minute-- I just need to--" He makes a weak gesture towards the open air, the city, everything that's been closed to him and is now bright and shining open.

"I don't mind staying, if you don't mind having me here."

"Of course," Blaine responds. He minds and he doesn't, but makes a difference that Kurt is there, because without Kurt, without everything he has done for and around Blaine, Blaine wouldn't be there at all, holding fast to the railing; he feels warm, safe, held. Blaine turns back out to the city, to New York and all the possibilities that it held when he was fifteen.

He puts his hands on the railing and tries not to fly.

* * *

Next part.
Tags: (def)inition, fic, glee
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