Kurt was surprised how easily Blaine found a common language with most of his McKinley friends – though when he thought about it, it was really not surprising at all. He should have known from seeing Blaine interact with basically everyone in his life, if not from the ease with which he had talked to Kurt that first day they'd met. Blaine was the most sociable, easygoing person imaginable.
After watching him charm his way through the Lonely Hearts Club Dinner on Valentine's Day, taking Blaine to Rachel's party two weeks later was an easy decision. He would blend in beautifully, and maybe some mindless, carefree fun was just the thing to finally chase away the sadness still lingering in Blaine's eyes. Because Blaine could say he was over Jeremiah all he wanted, but he wasn't fooling Kurt. Underneath his bubbly exterior, Blaine was feeling too loudly – so loudly that Kurt was surprised the other Warblers didn't notice the hidden longing and heartache of their favorite frontman.
Then again, no one else was probably as attuned to Blaine as Kurt was.
Things had been good between them lately, ironically better than before the GAP Attack. The rest of the weird, forced distance had melted away and while Kurt would honestly prefer to spare his best friend the suffering, he couldn't say he regretted the result. Even unrequited feelings were so much easier to bear when Blaine didn't act like he was going to catch the plague if he so much as brushed against Kurt in passing.
So in light of all that, the party had seemed like a good idea. Now, however, halfway through the evening, Kurt was not so sure.
No, scratch that. He was absolutely sure it was one of the worst ideas he'd ever had.
He'd decided early on that adding alcohol to the volatile mix of his emotions could only end badly and despite Puck's urging, he stuck to Coke all along. Blaine, however, had no reason for such reservations. And he was clearly having loads of fun.
Drunk Blaine, it turned out, was even more excitable and energetic than sober Blaine, and though he'd stayed at Kurt's side for a while, after his first drink he'd bounced away to dance and explore. That was three hours ago, and Kurt was seriously considering just leaving Blaine to it and going home. The only thing stopping him was that he wasn't sure if anyone else would be sober and care enough to stop the Warbler in case he decided to drive himself home at some point. So he stayed, though watching Blaine duet with Rachel through a series of increasingly heated love songs was not his idea of fun. Especially when Blaine seemed to be even more tactile when drunk.
When they finally left the stage after an inappropriately long hug, Kurt got up from his seat by the piano. Maybe now he'd manage to cajole Blaine into going home – he'd even drive him, and pick him up tomorrow so that he could get his car. Anything to finish this failure of an evening. But Blaine just passed him with a huge grin as he bounced away to the couch, where he lay with his head in Rachel's lap, very nearly purring when she started combing her hand through his messy curls.
That was quite enough for Kurt to watch. And since he couldn't help feeling responsible for his best friend's safety, he went in search of some other company to pass the time.
Tina, who had been glued at the lips to Mike all evening, was now sitting with Mercedes in a quiet corner. They were giggling, adorably tipsy, and Kurt exhaled with relief as he crossed the room to join them. His view of the damn couch would be blessedly blocked from there, and he hadn't had a chance to properly talk with his girls for weeks.
They were in the middle of catching him up on the complicated tangle of New Directions gossip when Kurt saw a glimpse of something on Tina's right wrist. He took her hand to look closely – and gasped.
Right there, in sepia brown letters, a spiky scrawl spelled Michael Chang.
"Tina, what is this?" Kurt's voice came out a good half an octave higher than usual.
"Ooh right! You haven't seen my tattoo yet!" Tina beamed at him and flexed her wrist to show off the writing. "I've only had it for a month."
Mercedes shook her head. "I still can't believe her parents let her do this. Mine would have blown a gasket if I had wanted to tattoo my boyfriend's name on my body, not to mention in such a visible place."
"Well, they've been surprisingly understanding." Tina shrugged dismissively, and then yelped as Kurt grabbed her hand and pulled her to her feet and away, barely sparing a quick "Excuse us for a second" to a stunned Mercedes.
The crowded basement was no place for this conversation, but the laundry room was just upstairs, and conveniently empty. The words were out as soon as he closed the door behind them.
"That's not a tattoo."
Tina paled a little, her eyes widening, but she caught herself quickly. "I don't know what you're–"
"Tina. It just appeared one day, didn't it?"
She gasped, surprised, all pretence falling off her face. "How did you know?"
"I've read about it recently. About those marks." It was all Kurt was ready to reveal. "So your parents really know?"
"Well it would be hard to hide something like this. They were shocked and a bit suspicious at first, but then they asked around and it turned out that there were already a few people with similar marks in the local Asian community. They accepted it fairly easily after that, especially when Mike got my name."
Kurt's heart lost a beat. "Wait. Mike too?"
"Yes, on his shoulder. Our parents took it as a confirmation that we're destined to be together. They've been much more supportive of our relationship since then."
Kurt's head was spinning. He'd read that there were some cases where two people got each other's marks, but as far as he knew, they were extremely rare. Exceptions, really. Well, now one of these exceptions sat on the washer in front of him, braiding a strand of her hair and smiling brightly.
"Did you report it somewhere? Show it to your doctor or... I don't know, there are scientists working on the phenomenon, I've read."
Tina shook her head. "No. We considered it but our parents decided there's no use. They don't want us to make a big deal out of it, or stick out. That's why they told us to pass the marks off as tattoos. We know what it all means anyway, even if the scientists need years to find their proof."
"Come on, just think about it. Why would two people get each other's names on their skin if not to tell them they are perfect for each other? The love of each other's lives? Plus," she looked at Kurt earnestly, as if telling him a secret, "believe me, when you have it, you just know. Your body knows."
"How?" Kurt had a feeling he knew exactly how, but he needed to hear it, if only to make sure he hadn't imagined it all, that someone else, someone he knew, really shared this experience with him. Tina's smile turned dreamy.
"I can't imagine ever being with anyone else now. I mean, we were close before, of course, but ever since the names appeared, it's a whole new level, Kurt. It's almost like we can read each other's minds. And we can't stop touching, seriously. At first it was just me and Mike thought it was funny because I literally couldn't stand not being close to him. But a week later he got his own and he understood. Everything is just... more. It's like we're one, now. I can't think of a better way to put it."
Something squeezed painfully in Kurt's chest. "Wow. That must be nice."
"It's the best. Really." She hesitated for a bit, looking at him with searching eyes. "Kurt... Do you want to tell me something?"
"No." He shook his head quickly. "No, I don't."
She didn't look convinced, but let it slide, just nodded and squeezed his hand.
"Okay, but if you ever want to talk–"
"Thank you." He moved in to hug her and she returned the embrace tightly. "Sorry for kidnapping you like this."
"It's okay. But we should go, Mike is probably looking for me already."
"You go. I'll be there in a moment."
Tina looked like she wanted to say something before she slipped out – question Kurt's sanity maybe, because what was he going to do in someone else's laundry room, alone? Rearrange fabric softener? But he just needed a few minutes to compose himself before facing Blaine again. Tina's words resonated deep within him, stirring awake long-hidden romantic notions of two halves of an apple and soulmates and fate, of true love and connections so real and visceral that nothing could sever them. And Kurt really didn't need them awake now.
Because even if she was right about the "destined to be together" thing, clearly it was only one side of the coin. They were among the lucky ones, Tina and Mike; what about those who didn't have this two-way connection? Whose mark sat on their skin cold and solitary, not reciprocated on the other's body? What about people like Kurt? Were they destined to have the love of their life be unrequited?
Because as tempting as it was to hope that Blaine could have a mark – Kurt's name – too, Kurt knew he would only be fooling himself. Would Blaine act like he had if he felt the pull that Tina had talked about and Kurt knew far too well? Would he distance himself instead of getting closer? Would he fall in love with another guy, never even trying to have this kind of connection with Kurt? And if he didn't have the mark by now, over two months after Kurt's own appeared, what was the chance he would ever get it?
Resigned, Kurt shook his head. It was no use thinking about it, especially now. He needed to work on getting Blaine home, or convince Rachel to make sure he stayed overnight and didn't drive until he sobered up. And then he had to go home to bed, and hope tomorrow would be an easier day.
The moment Kurt reentered Rachel's basement, he wished he hadn't.
His friends were sitting on the floor in a circle, a wine cooler bottle spinning in the middle, and damn Rachel's sharp eye because Kurt was this close to backing out the door and returning to his cozy laundry room when she spotted him and flew up the stairs to pull him down. She was drunkenly insistent and there was no way to escape her clutches as she led him to a spot beside her. And when Blaine joined in with a mildly slurred "Kurrrrt, you have to play with us" from his other side, Kurt had no choice but to tell his treacherous heart to shut up, settle on the floor and hope the bottle wouldn't point to him.
It did, of course.
Still, he was lucky. He could have gotten Finn, which would be totally awkward because there was no way Kurt would kiss his own step-brother and ex-crush; or Santana, who would probably try to tongue-fuck him and then never let him live it down. But no, thankfully it was Quinn whose spin of the bottle landed on Kurt, and he was reasonably certain he would get away with just a quick peck. Which was just fine with him, thank you very much.
He was just leaning towards the center of the circle and Quinn's pursed lips when a hard tug at the back of his waistband sent him flying, making him lose his balance and land in a graceless heap right in someone's lap.
Even with his mind frozen in surprise, his body's immediate reaction was enough to tell him whose arms had just encircled him tightly, making it virtually impossible to move. And then Blaine's voice sounded right by his ear, low and growly.