Word count: ~17,000
Summary: BDSM AU. Kurt may be as queer as a three dollar bill, but in New York he doesn't have to pretend to act like a proper sub on top of all of that. He can hold his head up high and make his own way through the big city without some dom holding his leash. He can be anything he wants.
Notes: Based on this kink meme prompt, though I have taken a few liberties with it. I've also borrowed bits and pieces of worldbuilding from helenish's Take Clothes Off As Directed and etothepii's things you don't tell me. So much love to zulu for the beta.
Other places: DW | AO3 | Tumblr
Kurt is sixteen the first time someone tells him that no dom is ever going to want him.
He's walking down the hall between second and third period, minding his own business, when Karofsky shoves him into the lockers and sneers, "It's pretty obvious what your mark says, fairy, but we all know that doesn't mean any dom worth his salt is going to want to bend you over."
Kurt twists out of his grip, readjusting his bag over his shoulder. "Fuck off, Karofsky," he says. He keeps his head up, his shoulders square. He just got the mark on his left hip three days ago, and the spot still itches, the skin around it still raw and sore. It's smaller than he expected. It always looks so big on movie screens, in scandalous Renaissance art, in the crude stick figures his classmates have been drawing since elementary school, but the circle is no bigger than the size of his thumb.
The hallway is busy, filled with students milling around between classes, but no one stops to help. It probably says something about the quality of supervision at McKinley that Kurt isn't even surprised. Not that Kurt will ever let any of this get to him. He can handle himself. Kurt's mark may say he's a sub, but he'd never kneel for someone like Karofsky, and he's not about to start kowtowing to the marked doms just because they have a problem with him. Karofsky snorts. "With a mouth like that, you'd be lucky if any dom would be willing to stick something in it."
"It's too bad you'll never get a chance to find out, isn't it?" Kurt says. "I thought I told you to fuck off."
That gets some whoops and hollers from some of the other people in the hallway, and things would probably have gotten worse if Ms. Erikson hadn't picked just that moment to stick her head out of her classroom. "What are all of you doing out here?" she asks. "The bell's going to ring in a minute."
It takes a tense moment and a rude gesture thrown over Karofsky's shoulder, but Karofsky, thankfully, fucks off. Kurt makes a face at his back as he leaves.
"Are you okay?" Tina asks. She touches his shoulder, light, careful. It's probably supposed to be awkward now that she's been marked too, but everyone's known that Kurt doesn't go for girls since he was ten. There's nothing remotely scandalous about it, and Kurt's almost grateful for their assumptions now.
"I'm fine," Kurt says. He straightens his jacket, his tie, his shirt. No need to let the wrinkles get the better of him just because Karofsky can't keep his hands to himself. Kurt can handle this. He's had plenty of experience with it over the years. If that means no dom will ever want him, that's fine with him.
After getting marked, Kurt had expected his fantasies to change. He thought they'd become more like the porn Kurt could barely handle, the ones that his friends would always talk about in hushed, scandalized voices around school. The sex in those videos was always rough and claiming, a little violent. In the ones Kurt's seen, the subs are usually crying and begging at the end of it, their faces contorted into an uncomfortable mixture of pleasure and pain, and it turns Kurt's stomach over more than it turns him on.
His fantasies are still vague, formless. A heavy body pressing him into the bed, hands tight around his wrists, the soft press of lips against the side of his neck. The idea of going any further than that feels like deep, dark water, still and dangerous. Kurt always feels two steps removed from-- from things like that, and any interest in it feels more intellectual than visceral. That makes things less awkward when the girls are talking about boys, about the mechanics of blowjobs or spankings or what Puck sounds like when he's begging, because in Kurt's mind it's still more of a theoretical concept rather than an actual thing that happens to people he knows.
Sex isn't for Kurt in anything but the abstract. It's not anything more than the boyish crush on Finn when he thought Finn might be able to protect and take care of him long before Finn was marked as a sub, too. (No matter that Finn was straight, either. That had always felt more like a speed bump than anything else.)
In old-fashioned movies, they wouldn't show power exchange, not the full extent of it. There's no one getting punished or showing off bruises or doing much more than kneeling or wearing a collar if they were a particularly well-behaved sub. Back in the day, there was a lot of hand-wringing about the unmarked children who would see it and wouldn't understand, so it was all clever double entendres, suggestive wrist-holding, possessive kissing that hints at more. In more modern romantic comedies, couples jump right in bed with one another and then get enmeshed in complicated love shapes where everyone ends up submitting to or dominating the wrong people before they figure it out and end up in the proper configurations. To be honest, Kurt likes the older movies better.
The classes they take in dominance and submission are desexualized, more uncomfortable than titillating. It's about the mechanics of getting a safeword, of how to tie someone's wrists so that they don't lose circulation in their hands, of learning to kneel in a way that won't completely destroy your knees. The distance they get is the only thing that makes class bearable, the way he can keep his head held high all the way through an entire period while Mercedes holds his leash and some of the other doms snicker about how it should really be Artie or Karofsky or Santana (queers with queers, am I right, bro?).
Kurt survives it, because he knows that this is fleeting. He can leave this all behind.
At night, Kurt likes to stare at the ceiling of his room and imagine an entire life for himself in New York, an apartment and a husband and a fabulous career. He can't imagine his husband's face, his hands, his body, or his hair, but he knows exactly what kind of throw rug he wants to put in front of their TV. A real husband means a real dom, a real flesh and blood person who--
It hardly matters anyway. When Kurt finally graduates, NYADA acceptance letter in hand, he doesn't look back.
There are a lot of reasons why Kurt loves New York. He loves the way the buildings tower over the streets, all naked ambition reaching for the sky. He loves the way the city lives and breathes fashion, the way he can spot a gorgeous scarf or a perfect pair of boots just walking down the street like it's nothing out of the ordinary. He loves the press of people around him, loves how easy it is to lose yourself in the crowd, a whole city full of nails that stick out and can't get hammered down.
But what Kurt really loves best is that no one knows him here (with the exception of Rachel, of course). There are no lockers for people to shove him into, no slushies to destroy his favorite McQueen jacket, no football players roaming the hallways looking for fresh meat. Kurt may be as queer as a three dollar bill, but in New York he doesn't have to pretend to act like a proper sub on top of all of that. He can hold his head up high and make his own way through the big city without some dom holding his leash.
He can be anything he wants.
Sophomore year, Kurt ends up living in a building across campus from Rachel. They managed to luck out freshman year. Their rooms were just one floor apart, and they'd have late-night visits, early morning arguments, midday snacks, but now they can't just roll out of bed and visit each other in their pajamas the way they used to.
At least this year he's managed to luck his way into a single in a mostly-freshman building due to seniority. He likes having his own space, even it's basically a closet with a desk, a chair, and a set of drawers. The walls and provided furniture scream 'blank' and 'soulless' and 'designed to withstand careless college students,' but Kurt has always worked best when there are particular limits on his creativity that he needs to work around. With a little help from the nearest hipster thrift store, he manages to make his room look like something someone would want to live in. He puts down a nice rug, finds ways to tastefully hang some of his least favorite scarves on the walls, attaches a full length mirror behind his door. He gets colored paper lanterns for the corners so he feels less like he's living in a mental institution.
When he takes a moment to survey his work, collapsed on his desk chair, he gives himself a mental pat on the back. It looks good. It looks like a place that could almost become a home -- however temporary -- even if it is a little lonely. There isn't a boyfriend, a dom, to go with any of it, and Kurt's not sure if there ever will be one, not at this rate.
But that's fine. It's not exactly what he had in mind for his glamorous New York life, but it'll do.
Blaine Anderson is a freshman who lives down the hall from Kurt. He wears cardigans with bowties, and he smiles at everyone, and he wears his hair slicked down and parted in a way that reminds Kurt of Cary Grant. It doesn't take anyone very long to figure out that he's the sort of old-fashioned dom you could take back to your parents, who would swear with painful sincerity that he will treat their baby sub right.
He's also gay in a way that is completely unremarkable around NYADA, and Kurt is still getting used to that, how easy and accepted it is. Gareth -- one of the dancers, strong and lean and graceful, who pants after every unattached male dom in sight -- has a massive crush on Blaine, not that Blaine has ever seemed to notice.
Kurt doesn't go out of his way to become good friends with his hallmates. The competition is too cutthroat, and the rivalries and tensions escalate quickly. Even amongst the Apples, Kurt has watched Laura, one of the friendliest doms Kurt's ever met, nearly get into a fistfight with Howie, a switch who can't even say "no" to the mean homeless guy down the street, over a solo. So for the first few weeks of classes, he knows Blaine by appearance and reputation only.
The first conversation they have goes like this:
"Oh wow, is that the newest edition of Vogue?" Blaine asks him. Blaine's eyes are wide and unguarded, and even with all the time Kurt has spent here, he's still not used to the casual way other men share his interests.
The common room at the end of their hall is reserved for book-studying only, since trying to reserve it as a practice room for anything else is a touchy subject, and that's where Kurt likes to read, curled up on the ratty sofa that's been worn down by generations and generations of NYADA students just like him, where it's quiet save for the steady clack of computer keys in the background.
"Yes, it is," Kurt says. "You can borrow it, but only if you promise not to crease any of the pages or get any food on it." He's learned from that incident last year with Jennifer and his music theory notes, even if she felt so bad about it she brought him coffee in the mornings for an entire week.
"I swear on the life of my Beatles record collection that I will treat your magazine with only the utmost respect," Blaine says, holding up his hands.
"Your Beatles collection, huh?" Kurt says. He lets out an exaggerated put-upon sigh. "I suppose I'll be able to trust you with it, then." He closes the magazine and holds it out for Blaine to take. "I was just about done anyway."
Blaine laughs, a quick flash of teeth. "Thanks," he says. "I'll see you around, then?"
"Sure," Kurt says. He finds himself smiling back.
After that, it's almost like they're friends. Blaine drops by Kurt's room when he's around, eager to talk about classes or music or fashion. He's so new to everything, to NYADA, to New York, so excited to soak up every stray bit of wisdom Kurt is willing to part with. It only took Kurt three months to become a little jaded by it all, the big city, the elite performing arts school, the freedom from high school and parents and all those old expectations. He wonders how long it will take for Blaine.
It's not like Kurt doesn't have friends at NYADA. He has Rachel. He has the Apples. It's just that now he has Blaine too, and Blaine fits into his life in a way that's so effortless it's kind of eerie. They have dinner sometimes in the dining halls, chowing down on their mass-produced food together, and they dig through the racks at Buffalo Exchange and Salvation Army together when they have free time. Rachel drags Blaine onstage with her the first time they all go to Callbacks together, mostly because Brody wants to sit that round out, and Kurt refuses to let Rachel unilaterally pick the music. Blaine is just-- there. It's not like Kurt's been friends with a whole lot of gay kids his age. Adam's graduated and gone to seek his fortune in LA. Santana pops in and out of their lives when she feels like it. The other gay men Kurt has met have been creepers or petty assholes or some awkward combination of the two.
Blaine is from Westerville. He likes Top 40 more than any reasonable fan of musical theater should. He went to some ritzy all-dom boarding school before ending up at NYADA. He makes ridiculous and strangely endearing faces when he sings. He can talk about anything, from the latest proposed state constitutional amendments forbidding same-sex collaring, the worst jukebox musicals to hit Broadway, the newest, most awful thing that happened last week on Real Housesubs of New Jersey.
Being around Blaine is easy, comfortable in a way Kurt never felt around the male doms in high school. It's not just that he's gay, it's that he doesn't look at Kurt and make the same assumptions that they did. Everyone's heard what they say about male subs, especially the gay ones, that they're slutty and needy, that they're almost not worth keeping around. Blaine doesn't seem to notice any of that. It's like he understands Kurt -- or understands the parts that Kurt shows him, anyway -- and he seems to like Kurt anyway. It feels like a new and fragile thing, making a friend here. Kurt thinks he likes it.
It really should have been like any other night. When Kurt gets back to the dorm, he's tired. The Apples' rehearsal had gone long while they tried to work out choreography for their dance hall remix version of With Or Without You, and apparently the world hates him, because Karen's having a room party two doors down from Kurt. If he remembers correctly from the gossip (and there is always gossip), Karen just finished a major composition for one of her classes, and it seems like the entire hall is out to celebrate in her double. Kurt, somewhat reluctantly, decides that he needs to make an appearance, for courtesy's sake.
When he steps inside Karen's room, the first thing he notices is the way it's packed tight with people, a crush of bodies that's hard to navigate. The room is lit by desk lamps, all soft yellows and oranges that cast long shadows. The music is something with a low, throbbing beat that he can feel in his chest, and a few people are dancing. There's not enough room for a proper dance floor, so it's mostly just some rhythmic swaying, uncoordinated enough that Kurt's fairly sure that Ms. July would break out in tears just from watching them. Every surface of room is covered in red Solo cups.
A few subs are already kneeling, their heads bowed or resting against the thighs of their doms. They're not doing anything yet, but Kurt is fairly sure he knows where they're going to end up at the end of the night. A few of them have bracelets, a sign of being claimed without the full implications of a collaring. A few of the doms are wearing bracelets, too.
Karen holds court at her desk, surrounded by a few of her friends. Her roommate, Jen, is regaling everyone with an anecdote about something Rachel did today in jazz dance class (not that Jen ever mentions Rachel by name; Kurt can tell just from the general trajectory of the story). Kurt has plenty to say on the subject, but he's not here to defend Rachel from anyone, and he doesn't let himself get sucked into the conversation.
"Congratulations," he says to Karen, pulling her aside. He gives her a hug. Kurt doesn't touch people he's not close to as a rule, but everyone at NYADA is in each other's space in a way that crosses both gender and dom/sub lines, and girls are-- Kurt's fine with touching girls.
"Thanks," she says. Her voice is slurred, and she smiles in a way that's a little sharp, and Kurt doesn't have time for any more social niceties for the night.
He's on his way out when he catches sight of Blaine. Kurt almost doesn't recognize him at first. The lighting isn't good, and some of Blaine's hair has started to break free of the gel, and Blaine has his face tucked into the crook of dancer-Gareth's neck. One of his hands is holding a drink, and the other one is on Gareth's shoulder, tugging on the fabric of Gareth's t-shirt and distorting the neckline.
The moment feels like taffy, stretched out, and maybe it's just because Kurt's never seen Blaine like this before. His hands, like this, are alien to Kurt, rough, sloppy and a little possessive, so different from the mild-mannered precision that Blaine usually shows. Kurt doesn't have a good view of Blaine's face, but his eyes look glassy and bright, unfocused. His shirt is untucked, rumpled and messy, and if Blaine were to twist the right way, Kurt can imagine that the bottom would ride up, showing just a bit of Blaine's skin.
Blaine tilts his head and bites down on Gareth's collarbone. Kurt jerks back, turning away. He can still hear Gareth's breathy moan behind him. The sound -- the sight -- makes Kurt flush hot with embarrassment, and he needs to get out of there right now. He's tired, and he's never liked the claustrophobia of dorm room parties anyway. He leaves as soon as he can, speed-walking down the hallway, trying to control the blush that has started to spread across his cheeks.
The inside of his room is a welcome sight, comfortable and familiar. He's not-- he doesn't have to think about it. He has plenty of other things he can do to distract him. He rushes through his bedtime routine, even though he's not sure his skin will appreciate it in the morning. He plans out tomorrow's outfit. He tries to figure out if there should be more twirls in the Apples' U2 medley. He mentally catalogues the amount of homework he needs to finish tomorrow to be on track to spend time watching feel-good movies with Rachel this weekend.
After he finishes all of that, he stares out the window at the quiet alleyway below and tries to imagine being an adult, when all of this is supposed to get easy. He can still hear the steady thud of Karen's party music through the walls. When he closes his eyes, he can still see the white flash of Blaine's teeth.
The next day, Blaine is hungover, but he's not different. His hair is still gelled to perfection, and his clothes are neatly pressed. They have brunch at Kurt's third favorite coffee shop, since anything more than coffee and a few biscotti will want to make Blaine want to hurl, or so he claims, and Kurt likes the sandwiches and cookies at this place. The two of them sit near the windows, morning sunlight pouring in. Blaine wears a pair of large sunglasses that are more dorky than fashionable, and he winces every time a barista shouts out a new name over the usual hum of the crowd.
"Rough night?" Kurt asks. He takes a sip of his coffee. Kurt would feel bad for Blaine, but he's too busy feeling smug that he already got any drunken partying out of his system in high school.
"Ugh," Blaine says. "I'm really trying not to think about how much I drank at that party."
"And how is Gareth feeling this morning?" Kurt tries to keep his voice light, but he's not sure if he's succeeding.
"What?" Blaine says. "Oh, um, I really don't-- Nothing really happened there. He's not looking for anything serious, and I'm not--" He ducks his head, and Kurt can see the faintest pinking of his cheeks. "I know how it must have looked."
Kurt shrugs. They're in New York, and they're in college. He left Lima behind without looking back. He doesn't get to judge Blaine just because it's not what he's used to -- because they get to play by different rules here. "It's fine," he says. It comes out shorter than he intended.
Blaine turns his head back to face Kurt, and Kurt can't read his expression with the sunglasses in the way. "If you want, I can put in a good word for you," he says. The confusion must show on Kurt's face, because he continues, "With Gareth, I mean."
Kurt takes another sip of his coffee so Blaine can't see his grimace. Gareth, really? Kurt didn't even know he was a switch. Blaine would probably know better than Kurt would, but it's not like Kurt wants to keep talking about the guy that Blaine sort-of maybe was going to hook up with last night. "I saw this morning that they're developing a new musical based off The Matrix," Kurt says, putting as much cheer into his voice as possible. "I guess they're trying to cash in on late nineties nostalgia."
Blaine perks up at that, not even seeming to notice the abrupt change in topic. "Really?" he asks. "That sounds like it could either be brilliant or incredibly awful. Who do they have writing the music?"
Kurt preens. "Let me tell you all about it," he says, and the awkwardness between them melts away.
It takes Kurt entirely too long to realize that the reason why Blaine mentioned setting him up with Gareth isn't because Gareth is a switch (he's not), but because Blaine must have thought that Kurt's a dom.
It's not the first time someone's made that mistake. Kurt doesn't like dressing like a sub, all demure modesty, doesn't like behaving like one, deferential even in the face of stupidity, and he absolutely hates being treated like one, like he can't tie his own shoes without a big, strong dom to take care of it. It's not like Kurt's lying about anything. He's out and proud about being gay and about being a sub, and he has been since high school. If people want to draw their own conclusions just because he has opinions and isn't afraid of voicing them, well, then, that's their problem.
During Kurt's first year at NYADA, he's had more than a few offers from interested subs, the ones who heard him get into arguments with someone as bulldozer-esque as Rachel Berry in the hallways and thought they had him all figured out. It's never bothered Kurt before. He's more than capable of turning people down when he's not interested. But for some reason, this time it feels like an itch he can't quite scratch, like maybe it means something different this time around.
"Blaine thinks I'm a dom," Kurt says. He and Rachel are having one of their bi-weekly lunches in the NYADA dining hall, the only days during their week where their schedules manage to line up. Sometimes it feels strange not to have her around all the time, like a missing limb. They'd been there for each other for so long, through the hellish NYADA audition process and the ups-and-downs of their freshman years, and not to mention the worst McKinley High School has to offer. Even though Kurt's been mostly self-sufficient for about a decade now, he does sometimes miss having more people than just Rachel around for him to lean on. Maybe that's what this whole Blaine thing is about, not having his dad or Mercedes or hell, even Finn in his stilted attempts at brotherly affection.
Rachel says, "And this is a problem, why?" She raises her eyebrows in a way that means she thinks she knows the answer. She has been pushing him to try to date some more after Adam, but Kurt has spent months brushing off her 'helpful' suggestions. He's gotten quite good at it, if he does say so himself.
"It's not like that," Kurt says. "He's my friend, and I just don't want things to be weird if I tell him the truth." He and Blaine don't talk about romance or relationships or sex at all -- that's probably how they ended up here in the first place -- but he remembers the way the male doms in New Directions pulled away from him when he first got marked. They had always known he was gay. They just hadn't cared until they realized he could be interested in them.
"Oh, don't be like that. It'll only get weirder the longer you hold off on telling him," Rachel says. "If he really is your friend, he won't care about any of that. And besides, isn't he gay, too?"
Even though Kurt does have the humility to admit that maybe Rachel has a point, he still can't quite bring himself to take that last step. He spends hours composing and trashing awkward e-mails and even awkwarder texts. He constructs elaborate scenarios in his head where it really won't seem strange to say, "Hey, sorry, I'm really a sub. Sorry about the last few months where you thought something completely different, and can you not freak out or be weird about this?"
In the end, Kurt decides to just... let it go. It's not like it really matters, if that's what Blaine thinks of him. It's nice, even, flattering to think that he passes even amongst some of the people he's closest to. There's no rush. Blaine can think whatever he thinks, and it's fine. It'll be fine.
The first time Kurt imagines what it would be like if someone were to bite him, he's in the shower. The dorm showers are not particularly great, and Kurt resents the relative lack of privacy, but the water pressure is good, and he can usually time it so that he has the bathroom all to himself when he wants it. He runs his favorite loofah over his neck, across his shoulders, soaping himself down, and it should be like it is every day, simple, easy, straightforward.
Somehow, his brain trips over something, stutters like a scratched CD. The sound Gareth made that night gets stuck in his head, and Kurt's left wondering what it would be like to want that -- to enjoy it. How much would it hurt? Kurt's never been bitten by another human being before, but he's bitten his tongue, and it is not an experience he is eager to recreate anytime soon. Kurt digs a fingernail into his collarbone (nothing like the real thing, he's sure, but just a tiny sting, a hint of what it must be like), and it doesn't do anything to him until wonders if it was -- if it was Blaine's teeth clamping down, if it was him Blaine had pressed him up against the wall. Kurt feels himself get hard at the thought of it, and and a pleasant sort of shiver chases its way through his limbs.
Kurt closes his eyes, tries to steady himself by focusing on the spray of water on his face. He has a few usual fantasies he uses when he jerks off, another hand on his cock, rough with callouses, squeezing a bit too tight; a larger, heavier body on top of him, holding him down; a hot, wet tongue licking behind his balls. Still faceless, nameless, still safe. He wraps a hand around his cock and focuses on the heat building inside of him.
He doesn't want -- he doesn't need some dom here with him for this. He knows exactly how to get himself off, exactly how fast to move his hand, exactly how to twist around the head. Kurt is efficient at this. He's not one of those simpering subs who are always so desperate to be claimed, who chase after the nearest dom they can find, who can't seem to talk about anything but how desperate they are to be put on their knees. Kurt doesn't need any of it to get himself off.
But then he ends thinking about Blaine's hands. His fingers are long, slightly square. Kurt has seen them wrapped around coffee cups, playing piano keys, smoothing down his own hair when he's afraid some of it might have escaped the gel. They're nice hands. Kurt can imagine-- if Blaine were to-- Kurt bruises easily, it would barely take any pressure at all -- and if Blaine's hands were on his hips, holding him still, and then if Blaine bit him right there, where Kurt had seen him--
Kurt comes, eyes closed, shuddering his way through it. He takes a moment to catch his breath, and then he's fine, everything in his brain back to where it's supposed to be. The shower makes cleanup easy, makes it easy for Kurt to wash it all away.
Even though Kurt's sure that things will start to get awkward after the shower incident, they don't. Blaine is warm and cheerful and comfortable, and Kurt's able to slip into their usual patterns with practiced ease.
They spend a day walking up and down Fifth Avenue in their Saturday best, pretending that they can afford any of the fabulous designer clothes they try on, gawking at tourists, and making each other laugh so hard that Blaine has to sit down at one point. He somehow manages to hit his head against a mannequin in the process, which just sets off another round of giggles from the both of them.
The fall air is delicious, cool without being cold, and the sun is high in the sky, winking between the Manhattan skyscrapers. Kurt has a gorgeous black tailored jacket, maple leaf brooch, and tan scarf just for this sort of weather, and he feels untouchable when he walks down the street with Blaine at his side, like he must still just dreaming of all of this from his lonely room in Lima, Ohio, like it's too perfect, too unreal to be something that has actually happened to him. It's not a dream, though. He can hear the blare of car horns, smell the exhaust that comes up through the subway vents. He can feel the hard pavement underneath his feet.
"I love New York," Kurt says. No matter how jaded he gets, he always has a perfect day or two to remind him of how much he has now, right in front of him, all the time.
They're eating an early dinner at Blaine's favorite deli, sitting at the narrow counter that faces the street through the giant glass windows. From here, Kurt can marvel at the variety of people this city can hold: the tall, the short, the young, the old, the hipsters in their thick beards and tight jeans walking right next to the the businessmen with their lined faces and their neat suits, the Asian girl with huge glasses and an ironic t-shirt and an angry-looking black collar around her neck standing right next to an elderly black man leaning on his cane and wearing an olive grandpa sweater, a tan bracelet around one wrist. Blaine eats his sandwich while they pick out their favorite fashion disasters amongst the people who walk by, and Kurt dumps entire packets of crackers into his soup. They're squeezed together, a bare few inches between them, and Blaine laughs with his whole body when Kurt gets a chance to be his most witty and his most eviscerating.
It's so simple and so effortless, and it's all because Blaine still thinks Kurt's a dom.
"New York is the greatest city in the world," Blaine says, "so I guess it makes sense that you feel that way."
Kurt glances over at him, his face in shadowed profile, and Kurt gets distracted by a patch of stubble low on his jaw that Blaine must have missed this morning while shaving. It's oddly endearing, a reminder that Blaine isn't as perfectly put together as he tries to be.
They sit like that for a minute before Kurt can tear his eyes away. "So," he says, forcing himself back into some semblance of equilibrium. "I think we should drop by Times Square next." If his voice sounds a little off, Blaine doesn't seem to notice.
"Do we have to?" Blaine asks, making a face. "Isn't it full of tourists and ugly neon?"
Kurt rolls his eyes, more for show than anything else. A good performer always knows how to punctuate a statement. "Yes, it is, Blaine, but you're missing the point. It's a gorgeously tacky tribute to the greatness of this city, and this Saturday will not be complete without a pilgrimage there."
Blaine laughs. "Fine. But we should try to get there before it gets too dark. I need to finish this essay on the Freudian undertones of Mamma Mia tonight."
They get to Times Square just after the sun sets, and the sky above them is painted in deep blues and purples. The square itself is just the way Kurt remembered it, garish and loud. The streets are lit up so brightly it almost feels like day. There's a mishmash of languages that occasionally rises above the surrounding din, and Kurt wants to live here and die here so badly he can taste it. Blaine starts singing "New York, New York" when they walk under the marquee of the Winter Garden Theater, doing the ridiculous two-step and spin he picked up from his high school choir, and Kurt feels transported, pulled back in time by Blaine's neat black pea coat and slick hair and warm voice in the golden theater light. Kurt joins in on the chorus, doing his best not to laugh with the rush of giddiness he feels.
They find themselves in the center of the square where the sidewalk is narrow and triangular, standing side by side, going quiet so they can take it all in, the height of the buildings, the glitz and glamor of the billboards, the smell of halal meat and roasted nuts mixed in with the ambient smells of the city. Blaine's eyes are wide, and Kurt watches a Mazda commercial play over his face, all shifting whites and reds across his cheeks and forehead. There's something unexpected about the sight, that Blaine is here with Kurt and Kurt is here with him. Kurt feels his stomach twist in a way that's not entirely uncomfortable.
I need to tell him, Kurt thinks. He needs to know.
But that can wait until later. For now, Kurt wants to be selfish. This moment is perfect. He wants it to last.
It takes Kurt longer to work up the nerve to tell Blaine the truth than he expected. It's all Blaine's fault, really, for developing an inconvenient crush on a sub in one of his acting classes. It probably wouldn't have been a problem if Blaine didn't keep coming to him for moral support and advice, like Kurt has any helpful suggestions about wooing anyone, much less a sub. The closest Kurt ever got was asking Adam out for coffee last year and sort of maybe dating Brittany for a while.
"It's just that I'm not any good at any of this," Blaine says, fiddling with the third bow tie he's tried on in the last half an hour. They're in Blaine's bedroom while Blaine's roommate, Paul, is away doing... something. He's a film major who likes talking about how he's interested in "queering the symbolism of the mark" in a way that makes him sound like he's just really interested in getting people to take their pants off. "There's not exactly a rulebook for the whole romance thing when we're both guys, you know?"
If Kurt were feeling mean, he'd probably say something about how Blaine didn't seem to have this problem that time he was about to stick his tongue into Gareth's mouth, but Blaine has spent the last few days looking a little frazzled around his usually polished edges. There are worry lines around his eyes and an impatient twitch in his right leg. Kurt says, "I think you should just be yourself around him. Don't just rush into things. Find out more about him before you ask him to sub for you." He could already see Blaine planning some kind of embarrassingly public serenade, but they were at a performing arts school; that sort of thing happened once every few weeks. If nothing else, Kurt could stop Blaine from being that kind of cliche.
Blaine sits down next to him on the bed. "How about you?" Blaine asks, nudging Kurt's shoulder with his own. "Do you have your eye on anyone?"
Kurt's tongue feels too heavy in his mouth. "Yeah, kind of," he mumbles. "I don't think he feels the same way, though." He winces as soon as he says it. He doesn't even want to imagine how awkward a conversation with Blaine about his crush on Blaine could become. That's the kind of stupid sitcom thing that makes Kurt cringe everytime he tries to watch one.
Blaine looks over at him, his eyes dark and quiet and thoughtful. It makes the hair on Kurt's arms prickle. "Kurt," Blaine says, and Kurt thinks that he has to be able to see it now, has to see all the things that Kurt normally keeps hidden away. "You're amazing. If I were a sub, I'd probably be grovelling at your feet right now." He says it with an earnestness that Kurt usually associates with defenses of girl empowerment pop and the proper use of hair gel, and then Blaine bites his lip and turns away.
Kurt's never kneeled for anyone outside of the classes they had to take in high school, has never really wanted to, but he would drop to the floor right now if Blaine asked him to.
But Blaine hasn't asked, won't ask, so Kurt just smiles, straightens Blaine's bowtie, and says, "Go sweep him off his feet, tiger."
Blaine ducks his head and laughs. "Thanks," Blaine says. "You too."
Kurt has a standing appointment to Skype his dad twice a week. Their relationship these days is still good, still great, but his dad doesn't fully get what classes Kurt's taking or what clubs he's participating in or why any of them are important for Kurt's future career no matter how hard he tries. It means that there's a lot of explaining and a few awkward pauses in between Kurt's rambling about that one thing that happened when they tried to get dinner in Hell's Kitchen after seeing a show and that one time things nearly came to blows when one of the stupider freshmen claimed that Lady Gaga wasn't really a switch and a bisexual and that she was faking at least one of them for attention.
They haven't always been close. Kurt knows that it was a lot harder for his dad to swallow the gay thing than the sub thing growing up, that they had to work for every bit of the common ground and faith and love between them now. His dad never had a problem with the idea that Kurt would be bringing a dom home one day, but it took him a while to come around to the idea that said dom would be a boy.
"So, that's what Rachel's been up to. I can't believe she's still managing to antagonize her dance teachers. I thought she got over this phase last year," Kurt says with a shake of his head that he knows will make his dad smile.
"How's Blaine?" his dad asks.
Kurt blinks for a moment, and he wonders if he's been too obvious. He's usually so careful about keeping his feelings to himself. "He's fine," he says, picking at the cuff of his shirt. "He's been busy with school stuff."
"You usually mention him once or twice," his dad says. "You haven't said anything about him at all this week." His dad's not much for subtlety, but he's definitely saying that with a question in his voice.
Kurt shrugs, hunching in on himself. His dad always makes him regress into a twelve year old again, no matter how much older and wiser he feels. "We're just friends," he says.
His dad smiles, blurry and a little pixelated. "I'm glad you're still making friends. Rachel's great and all, but having more friends can't hurt."
"I know," Kurt says. He likes being Blaine's friend. He really does. It's just-- hard, sometimes, not just with Blaine, but with everything, classes and rehearsals and all of the other backstabbing assholes he has to deal with on a regular basis. "I miss you, Dad."
"I miss you too, kiddo," his dad says.
There's this fantasy Kurt has that gets more elaborate and more ridiculous every day.
It starts with him getting out of the shower. The men's bathroom is only just across the hall from his room, and Kurt wraps a towel around his waist, not bothering with anything more fancy than that. In this fantasy, it's just a quick shower, just something to rinse out the worst of the day. He doesn't lock his room because there's no point, and it's annoying, having to dig out his keys to get back inside. He even left the lights on. (And okay, Kurt knows it's stupid to try to cover up plot holes in your own fantasies, but it's his brain and it's just easier this way.)
Kurt hums to himself as he steps inside his room, going through his post-shower routine on auto-pilot. And maybe, maybe there's something on his mind so he's distracted, like a new audition piece he wants to practice or a new collection he's obsessed with, and that's why he doesn't notice that Blaine is sitting on his bed -- no wait, at his desk, that's at a more concealed angle from Kurt's dresser -- reading one of Kurt's back issues to Vogue.
Blaine does notice him though. "Oh, sorry. I shouldn't be--" Blaine says, standing up.
Kurt yelps, nearly jumping out of his skin. The edge of his towel slips out of his hands. He catches it before it hits the floor, but not before it reveals the mark on his left hip, dark against the paleness of his skin.
If this were real life, Blaine would look away as soon as the towel slipped, ever the gentleman, and Kurt would probably be able to turn himself so that the mark would be out of Blaine's eyeline in time. But in the fantasy, Blaine stares, and Kurt freezes up, and the sort-of, not-really secret Kurt's been keeping is out in the open.
"Kurt," Blaine says, careful, "is that what I think it is?" He takes a step forward with every word, his eyes going dark.
Kurt has trouble finding words, but he manages to breathe out a "yes." He's feels himself getting hard from the look in Blaine's eyes, waiting for--
Blaine gets in close. Kurt can feel the heat of him, the solid presence of his body, Blaine wraps a hand around the back of Kurt's head, tilting it down, forcing the angle he wants, and then he kisses Kurt. It's not anything like the kisses Kurt shared with Brittany, when he was still unmarked and trying to see if he could be straight, and it's not anything like the few kisses he had with Adam, which were nice but unremarkable. This is the sort of kiss that they write about in racy romance novels, when the heroine drags her newly claimed sub into a passionate kiss, with explosions and fireworks and the world shifting beneath his feet.
Of course a kiss like that leaves Kurt swooning, overwhelmed, shaky with arousal and relief. Blaine tugs the towel out of Kurt's hands and lets it pool on the floor. "All this time, I could have had you," Blaine growls. (Kurt's never heard Blaine growl or even make a noise all that similar to a growl, so in his mind, he substitutes in what Taylor Lautner sounds like right before he turns into a wolf.)
"Yes," Kurt says, and he would be so exposed, so open to anything Blaine would want to do to him. Maybe his eyelashes flutter a bit, flirty, seductive.
"And now you're mine, aren't you?" Blaine snarls. He grabs hold of Kurt's hips, just this side of too tight, and he bites down hard on Kurt's collarbone, and--
And to be honest, this is where things usually get fuzzy for Kurt, the fantasy dissolving into a blur of Blaine's hands on his ass, his tongue on his nipples, his teeth scraping against the inside of Kurt's thighs. Or maybe Blaine cuffing his hands behind his back, forcing him onto his back, pressing a few fingers into his mouth. Kurt doesn't know the truth of any of this, how it'd be if-- if he ever got a chance to experience it for real, but just the idea of it, of the reality of Blaine's waist, his back, his arms, his hips-- that's all it really takes.
The images pile up, filthy and hot and too much, until Kurt arches his back and comes, gasping for breath, biting back Blaine's name from his lips.
It turns out that the guy in Blaine's class has a dom already, someone he met in high school, and they've been pretty committed to each other ever since. They have this whole long distance thing that they don't talk about that much, so it's not entirely stupid that Blaine thought he might have a shot.
Blaine seems a little bit down about it, but not any more down than he is when he gets a bad grade on a homework or assignment or when he doesn't get a callback after an audition. He wears his mopey face around, but he still goes to class and he still puts on his show face when performing and he hasn't locked himself in his room and refused to come out. Being in New Directions for three years has made Kurt an expert on handling romantic misery, but he doesn't even need to put that much effort into it this time around.
"There are other guys out there," Kurt says, "other subs."
"Yeah," Blaine says. They're sitting on Blaine's bed and eating a disgusting amount of leftover Halloween chocolate together. Kurt brought some over to help cheer Blaine up, but at this point he's pretty sure they're only eating it because it's delicious and it's in front of them. Paul stole some before he cleared out, but even that theft only made the tiniest of dents. "It wasn't like I was planning out his collaring or anything like that. He was cute and sweet and I thought I might have a shot."
"Yeah," Kurt says. It's not like he has much room to talk when that was the same basic criteria he used when he asked Adam out last year. It took them three dates to realize it wasn't going to work out, and even then it had been more depressing for Kurt because of what it said about his long term prospects. If he couldn't make it work with a switch, someone nice and non-threatening, who could it work out with? He twists himself around so that he can look at Blaine's DVDs. He needs a distraction from the moping and the chocolate. "Do you want to watch a movie?"
They end up watching one of the old Fred and Ginger movies together on Blaine's laptop screen, knees knocking together where they sit together on the bed. They both love movies like this, the old fashioned elegance of it, the way Fred leads her through the steps of the dance with just the proper hint of dominance, just the right amount of flirtation, their bodies perfectly in sync. Kurt used to watch these movies with his mom when he was little. When he and his dad were feeling nostalgic, they'd dust off their old rickety VCR and watch her tapes together. Kurt would hum along to the music, and his dad would smile at him, and it would be like a piece of her was still there, still with them. Kurt hasn't told Blaine any of this, but he knows that one day, he will. He's pretty sure that one day, Blaine will know everything.
An hour into the movie, Blaine is smiling again, really smiling, his eyes crinkling at the corners. Kurt feels his chest tighten, feels the way his emotions are rattling around inside of him. There are words welling up in his throat, important words. "There's something I have to tell you," Kurt says.
Blaine shifts to look at him, all of his attention turned towards Kurt. Kurt nearly chickens out right then and there, because everything is so good right now, and he can't--
"I'm a sub," he says, blurting it out all at once. "I know you got the impression I'm a dom from somewhere, and I should have told you before, but I didn't want things to be uncomfortable once you--"
Blaine's eyes widen, startled. "Okay," he says.
Kurt waits for the second half of his reaction, but it doesn't seem to want to make an appearance. Blaine sits there for a few moments, blinking. On screen, Fred and Ginger are dancing their feelings, and Kurt almost wants Blaine to break out into song, a choreographed number, anything to get everything out in the open.
It doesn't happen.
Instead, Kurt grabs his things (coat, wallet, messenger bag) and tries to make a dignified exit. "I'm sorry, I--"
"Wait," Blaine says. He still hasn't moved from where he's sitting, and the same surprised expression is still on his face like maybe he's having trouble getting rid of it. "Sorry. I just-- it's fine. I'm glad you told me." He smiles. It's a hesitant thing, but it's also a genuine one. "Do you want to watch the rest of the movie?"
Kurt puts his things down and climbs onto the bed again. He half expects Blaine to tense up when Kurt gets close, but he doesn't. They just settle into the same configuration they were in before, maybe a few inches further apart, and Kurt doesn't let himself look at Blaine's face again. They don't talk again over the course of the movie, and Kurt's not sure what this means, what any of this means.
Maybe he'll figure it out in the morning.
They don't see each other at all the next day. It's mostly Kurt's fault. He has classes and auditions and Apples rehearsal and lunch with Rachel, and it's a good thing that he doesn't have time to overanalyze Blaine's reaction from last night and make ten different contingency plans for how he could go about saving their friendship if Blaine was lying about this being okay.
"I told Blaine," Kurt says to Rachel during lunch. She's eyeing the veggie burger on her plate like she can tell whether or not it's come in contact with any animal products by sight alone.
"That you're a sub?" she asks. Her forehead furrows. "Didn't you do that last month?"
"No," Kurt says. "Things just sort of... came up."
"Oh," Rachel says. "Did it go well, then?" She has that smile on her face that says she's trying to be helpful and encouraging but she doesn't really understand any of it. She used to wear that same smile on her face after some asshole outbid Kurt on eBay at the last minute while he was trying to put together a winter wardrobe, and Kurt was trying to explain how perfect this particular striped wool scarf would have been.
"Yes," Kurt frowns. "No. Maybe. I'm really not sure how it was supposed to go."
Rachel pats his arm. "Blaine's a sweet guy. I'm sure it will be fine."
"Yeah," Kurt says. He stares down at his salad. Even the lettuce is looking a little droopier today. "You're probably right."
"Of course I am," Rachel says. "My fathers have given me so much great relationship advice, I feel like I've become an expert at it myself. Also, did you hear that the Tarantino Appreciation Society is holding open auditions for putting on a gender and sexual alignment flipped version of Pulp Fiction? I think I would be a shoo-in for Vivian Vega, and you'd be an amazing Michael Wallace."
Kurt's never been a huge Tarantino fan, but he's still thankful for the distraction. "Of course," he says, and Rachel gives his arm a gentle squeeze.
Blaine texts that night asking if Kurt wants to grab coffee the next day. It's normal. They've done this countless times, after classes and before rehearsals, just being they're bored or tired or desperately in need a caffeine fix after a late night. Kurt refuses to read anything into this.
Kurt writes back, sure, after class?
Blaine sends a Sounds great! :)
Kurt refuses to read anything into that either.