Three things happened at once. Blaine said, "I think I'll pass," slid out of Jesse's grip, and then there was a very loud bang. It sounded as if someone had backed into a piece of unstable furniture, and judging from the noise Blaine then made, he'd done just that. Jesse raised his flashlight high above his head, shining it down on the other boy, asking, "Are you okay?"
"Yeah," Blaine nodded, but he was twisted around, looking at his own back, one hand rubbing a spot just above his tailbone. "I just bumped into the vanity."
"And why did you do that?" Jesse pressed.
"You know why," Blaine said dismissively, feeling around behind him for the vanity in question, gripping the edge of it tightly and slowly leaning himself backwards against it. "So is there anywhere back here we can sleep that isn't the prop sofa? Because no offense, but if people actually have had sex on there, it doesn't sound like a very hygienic place to sleep."
"Sleep?" Jesse made a dismissive noise, sitting down on the floor. "You disappoint me, Anderson. We've got an entire auditorium to ourselves and you want to sleep?" Blaine flinched, which took Jesse aback. Figuring he might as well go along with this sharing trend that seemed to be going on, he then asked, "What's up?"
"Can you not call me that?" Blaine requested, looking up at Jesse, eyes rather wide. "I just… that's what people used to call me. And… well."
He didn't need to explain. Jesse knew what he meant, of course. Oftentimes people called each other by their last names for no reason, and sometimes it did have a purpose. He was guilty of this, calling people by their last names when he was annoyed with them, when he was trying to be serious, and in turn was called by his last name when someone was upset with him.
Blaine clearly had been known by his last name at his old school, never called by his first name because nobody had cared enough to befriend him. And that was just so… so sad that Jesse found himself reaching out to take one of Blaine's hands.
"Sit down for a minute," he requested. Blaine did as he was told, facing him directly, their posture mirroring each other and both looking at the other's dimly-lit face.
"Your name is Blaine," Jesse told him. "You're a featured singer in Vocal Adrenaline. You're gay. You've been hurt in the past, so you pushed all that down to recreate yourself. But tomorrow, when we get out of here, you're going to be open about who you are, who you like, and the fact that you're not an annoying little shit."
Blaine snorted, doubling over.
"Well you have been," Jesse insisted, grinning. Blaine straightened up, grinning back.
"You're really nice, for someone with your reputation," he told Jesse, then looked down at their hands, which were still clasped tightly. "I don't think I would have ever guessed that I'd be holding your hand in a locked auditorium after midnight, even if I had to pick between that and meeting Daniel Radcliffe in terms of probability."
"Your faith in your fellow man is astounding," Jesse managed to keep a straight face, but then smirked when Blaine looked up. "Besides, I'm only nice to people I deem worthy. Congratulations." He let go of Blaine's hand suddenly, clapping his together and standing up. "So, are we gonna go have crazy sex now?"
Blaine stared up at him, a mix between disbelief and disgust.
"And how does that line usually work for you?" he shot back.
"Pretty well, actually," Jesse admitted, nodding slightly. "You should try it. Except if you try it on any of the Vocal Adrenaline guys they'll know you got it from me. So you might as well just take me up on this offer instead."
"I can't tell if you're serious or if you're joking," Blaine admitted, still staring up at him with that half-and-half expression.
"It's an art," Jesse informed him. "You'll pick up on it soon enough. But really, come here." He held out both hands. Blaine hesitated, but then slid both of his into Jesse's, who hoisted him up and pulled him into a tight hug with no preamble. Blaine made a muffled 'oof' noise when their bodies collided, but didn't say anything more. Jesse felt his body stiffen, felt him fidgeting, so he clung on tighter.
"Hug me back, dammit," he ordered, and then Blaine was fidgeting because he was laughing and because his arms were pinned to his sides. But he slid them both around Jesse's waist nicely enough, his head falling to rest on Jesse's shoulder without being bidden.
"You give really good hugs," Blaine told him, which made Jesse smile.
"It's another one of my many perfected arts."
They stood there for a while, neither one of them really paying attention to how much time had passed. Jesse started rubbing a small circle on Blaine's back and swaying them back and forth ever so slightly. Blaine, in his turn, had eventually let himself lean completely against Jesse, instead of having an awkward space between them as he tried not to touch Jesse, despite how that was clearly the whole point. It was a really good hug, not to mention a really long hug, and Blaine felt pleasantly warm in his arms.
Then Blaine yawned.
"You are tired," Jesse commented, pulling back just the slightest bit, which prompted Blaine to jump out of Jesse's embrace as if he'd been scalded. "Oh, calm down. You don't have to run away the second I pull away." Blaine mumbled an apology.
"Come on," Jesse sought out his hand again, shining his flashlight out from their dressing room into the corridor and leading Blaine out into it.
"Where are we going?" Blaine asked. "You're not–"
"No," Jesse answered, already knowing what the rest of the question was. "But, come on, this is Vocal Adrenaline. Did you seriously think that we don't have supplies back here for any and every situation that may arise?" He and Blaine walked past two more doors, then Jesse opened the third, leading Blaine inside. "Welcome to paradise." He raised his flashlight as high as he could, shining it down on the interior of the small room.
It really wasn't all that impressive, just what looked like another room with a desk and a shelf of drawers along the back wall. But tucked along the other walls was a whole row of sleeping bags and pillows and blankets. Each drawer was labeled with the name of a member of Vocal Adrenaline, and each was locked. Jesse's was the only drawer that was never locked, because everyone knew that if they tried to go in it, he'd find out. Being the lead was even better protection than a lock.
"You can pick any one you want," Jesse pointed at the sleeping bags. "They don't belong to anyone, and I'm pretty sure some of them have never been used."
"Why do you guys keep sleeping bags backstage?" Blaine asked, though he sounded hesitant, like he either didn't want to know or already had an inkling of the reason why.
"Sometimes our rehearsals run late," Jesse answered with a shrug, opening his drawer and sticking his flashlight in his mouth so he could root through it properly. They could keep whatever they wanted in these drawers, some people using them for extra rehearsal clothes or old books or things they didn't want to keep at home. Jesse had definitely seen a couple boys pouring over a Playboy in here once, and he suspected that one of the girls kept her diary in her drawer. But his was just sweatpants and T-shirts, and he grabbed two of each before taking the flashlight out of his mouth. "So we sleep in here," he finished. "Here." He tossed the clothes to Blaine. "And before you ask, you'll get a drawer once we've gotten to the point where rehearsals are long enough to warrant such measures."
Blaine still looked vaguely confused, but he had pulled out two sleeping bags and two pillows, and he accepted the clothes without complaint, so Jesse wasn't about to start nagging him. Instead, he set his flashlight down on the desk and started to change.
"Do you want me to leave?" Blaine asked, as soon as Jesse had started tugging his shirt over his head.
"No," Jesse answered immediately, his voice muffled since his head was still stuck in his shirt. He pulled it off and tossed it carelessly aside, then smirked over at Blaine, who was doing his very best not to look.
"I don't care, Blaine," he continued. "Hell, I could be standing here naked and you could be drawing a fucking picture of me and I wouldn't give a shit."
Blaine actually giggled, but he did eventually look over at Jesse, though his eyes were pointedly focused on Jesse's face. Jesse grinned at him.
"Too Titanic for you?" Jesse teased. He could just barely see Blaine rolling his eyes in the dim light, but then Blaine reached over and actually shoved him, and Jesse was laughing. It sounded too loud in the small room, but soon Blaine had joined in, and it felt so very normal and merry that Jesse didn't really care if they were being too loud. Nobody was around to hear it, anyway.
He and Blaine both changed clothes without exchanging any more verbal jabs, even though to make up for how Blaine still tried to avert his eyes Jesse pointedly stared at him the whole time. Blaine turned his back when he realized what Jesse was doing, but then Jesse just stared at his back instead.
"That's kinda creepy, you know that?" Blaine told him once he'd pulled on the sweatpants and had turned back around.
"Take it as a compliment instead," Jesse shrugged. "You can pretend I was ogling you." Then he smirked. "Or maybe I was and that's just my cover."
"Shut up," Blaine gave him another shove.
"And who's getting all handsy now?" Jesse teased, but he didn't care, and for once Blaine didn't throw himself into an unnecessary panic, thinking he was being serious. Instead there was just more laughing, even when Jesse added, "Next thing we know, you'll be the one trying to get me on the prop sofa."
Then Jesse chose one of the larger blankets, spreading it out over the floor and then unrolling his sleeping bag on top of it. Blaine did the same, even putting the sleeping bags much closer together than Jesse had expected he would. He had thought that he'd end up pulling Blaine's over, but Blaine didn't seem to need the extra nudging anymore.
Now that was a mission accomplished if Jesse had ever seen one.
"So how late do rehearsals go sometimes?" Blaine asked after the pair of them were tucked inside their respective sleeping bags. Jesse turned to look at him, noticing that Blaine was looking up at the ceiling, even though it was too dark to see anything.
"Later than midnight, sometimes," Jesse answered, mirroring Blaine's position and turning his own face up to the ceiling. It was strangely comfortable, lying here and not looking at one another. When the members of Vocal Adrenaline slept back here after long rehearsals, most of the time they passed out before they even got inside their sleeping bags, lying together in a heap on the floor and using one another as pillows. There never was time for talking.
"That's on days when Shelby – Ms. Corcoran – gets clearance to keep us that late. Otherwise the power still goes out and we have to stop." Jesse grimaced. "That's never fun."
"Because we go from having those extra bright spotlights on us to complete darkness. We're literally stumbling around blind until someone can get a flashlight. One time someone actually fell off the stage and broke his arm."
"Yeah. Ms. Corcoran always watches the clock really carefully if we start to go late on a day she hasn't gotten the go-ahead."
"Does it happen a lot? Staying past midnight, I mean."
"Not too much," Jesse shook his head, which Blaine probably couldn't see, but his pillow rustled beneath him. "It only really happens around competitions, when we need to hammer our routines down and make them perfect. But even then it's not too often, because if we wear ourselves out before we even get to the competition, then what's the point?" He turned his head, squinting over at Blaine. "Are you worried about it?"
"About what?" Blaine turned to look at him, maybe because he could feel Jesse watching him.
Blaine turned his head back to look at the ceiling, but Jesse kept watching him.
"Yeah. Well, no, not worried. Just nervous. This isn't like what I did before, and you all care so much. Not that we didn't, it's just…"
"Different," Jesse supplied. He'd often heard as much from people who had managed to get into their ranks after doing something similar.
"Yeah," Blaine agreed.
"You'll be fine," Jesse assured him, scooting closer and reaching out of his sleeping bag to give where he thought Blaine's shoulder was a nudge. "There's a reason you're a featured vocalist, even if you were an annoying shit until today."
Blaine chuckled weakly.
"Do you think everyone's going to hate me?" he asked, turning his entire body so he was laying on his side, looking at Jesse. "I was horrible before. I just… I feel so bad, and maybe people will like me more now, but… they'll hate me because… because it was just an act. I mean… I don't know. I don't even know what I'm saying."
But Jesse thought he understood.
If a person was the way Blaine had been acting, and not as some sort of cover, it was much easier to write them off as just being themselves. Their small acts of kindness were easier to appreciate, and eventually their words lost their sting and started to be funny. But suddenly if that wasn't who they are, if it turned out they had ulterior motives, then the questions started being asked. People would wonder why Blaine hadn't trusted them in the first place, why he'd felt so compelled to be someone he wasn't. Not to mention they'd want to know why things had changed, and Jesse might not be an expect, but he would wager a lot on the guess that Blaine wasn't planning on making everything he'd shared tonight public.
"I think they'll be confused," Jesse answered honestly, also turning on his side. "And yeah, they're going to ask you questions, but you don't have to answer. I'll yell at anyone who bothers you. They listen to me. Or we could come up with a cover story." He smirked, though he wasn't sure if Blaine could see it. "We'll tell them all you're madly in love with me and did it to keep my attention."
Blaine ducked his head, laughing.
"Admit it, though," Jesse pressed. "As far as potential objects of your affection go, I'm a pretty good fake one."
Blaine pointedly kept his head ducked down, not looking at him when he murmured, "I guess."
"Don't guess," Jesse insisted. "Come on, it's a simple enough question."
Blaine looked up at him for a fraction of a second, then looked away. Jesse kept staring at him, nudging him with his foot.
"You just really want me to admit I think you're wildly attractive, don't you?" Blaine finally piped up, and rather than take it in good grace, Jesse smirked at him, asking, "Well, do you?"
Blaine reached down and covered his face with his sleeping bag. Jesse pulled it back down.
"Come on, it's all in good fun," he reminded him. "Besides, you're not bad to look at, either."
"Not bad?" Blaine propped himself up on an elbow. "So you're wildly attractive and I'm not bad?"
"Yeah, just about," Jesse agreed, mirroring Blaine's position and nodding.
"Jerk," Blaine reached over and shoved him back down. Jesse let himself fall onto his back, lying down and looking up at the ceiling again. He felt Blaine still looking at him, probably expectantly or maybe exasperatedly, but either way Blaine was still looking at him and presumably waiting for something, so Jesse told the ceiling, "I think you're wildly attractive," in the most matter-of-fact voice he could manage.
He was met with silence, then Blaine let out a small chuckle, then more silence. Jesse looked over at him, raising both eyebrows and saying, "What? I do."
He could hear Blaine fidgeting, the material of the sleeping bag magnifying the noise. He could practically feel Blaine holding himself back from saying something in response.
"I'm not kidding," he told the other. Blaine stopped fidgeting and just stared at him. "What?"
"You can figure out what," was Blaine's answer, and yes, Jesse could. He was, presumably, the first person who'd told Blaine something like that – at least the first boy – and it didn't even matter in what context. Blaine didn't know how to accept that kind of compliment.
"This is the part where you say, 'Thank you, Jesse, and you're quite handsome yourself'."
"Shut up," Blaine shot a poorly-aimed kick at him.
"You're really not earning any points for politeness, Blaine," Jesse rolled his eyes.
"And you're acting like a complete sarcastic bastard," Blaine informed him, which made Jesse burst out laughing, the noise sounding, once again, too loud for the room.
"Well how would you like me to act instead?" he asked, still chuckling. "Would you prefer I act completely fake or lie to you? At least this way I'm being honest."
"Sarcastic bastard does suit you," Blaine conceded.
"I certainly hope so. That's another one of my many perfected arts."
"Wow, Jesse," Blaine mock-gasped. "Is there any art you haven't perfected?"
"None that spring immediately to mind. I'm kinda perfect. At everything."
"I highly doubt that," Blaine argued.
"You can be the judge of that once you've seen me do everything," Jesse teased. "So you might want to go buy yourself some popcorn, because this is going to be extremely entertaining and it'll take forever."
"You doubted my perfection," Jesse pressed. "You don't get to pass." This time he was the one aiming a kick, and he had much better aim than Blaine had. Even though the impact was muffled through their sleeping bags, Blaine still made a pained noise.
"What was that for?"
"Proving a point. Now do you want me to kiss it all better?"
"Pass," Blaine repeated, his tone suddenly firmer.
"I told you already: you don't get to pass." And before Blaine could do anything, Jesse leaned over and kissed Blaine, not really caring where his lips ended up. He got the side of Blaine's nose, making an obnoxious smacking noise when he pulled away despite not having done anything to warrant such a noise.
"Hey!" Blaine seemed to lash out at him thanks to some sort of instinct, his hand whacking Jesse in the chest. "What the hell was that for?"
"To distract you from the fact that I kicked you," Jesse said, his tone matter-of-fact again. "And I daresay it worked. Score two on the perfection meter."
"You're completely full of yourself," Blaine sounded exasperated.
"You say that like it's news or something," Jesse shook his head. "So, come on," he nudged Blaine with his elbow, "did I get the first kiss or did someone else magically beat me to it?"
"Like that even counts," Blaine scoffed.
"And you're not denying it." Jesse smirked, even though he knew Blaine wasn't looking at him and probably still couldn't even see all that well. "Want a proper one?"
"No," Blaine answered quickly. Jesse started laughing, which prompted Blaine to ask, clearly annoyed, "What?"
"Way to dash my hopes in one fell swoop, Anderson," Jesse called him by his last name without even thinking, then he felt Blaine cringing beside him. "I mean, Blaine. Damn, you need a better name. Blaine is not a good name for teasing."
"Sorry to disappoint," Blaine said smugly, clearly not sorry at all.
"Well, I'll give you credit for not jumping the first guy who tried to jump you," Jesse decided, which made Blaine start laughing this time. "And don't you dare laugh at my honesty and my admiration. I'll have you know I can be very persuasive when I want to be."
"Yeah, I was hoping this wasn't your A-game. Otherwise…." He left it hanging.
"It's probably best that you didn't finish that sentence."
"Why?" Blaine turned on his side again, facing Jesse. "You're not insulted, are you?"
Jesse mirrored his position. "No. But you might want to stop before I really start to get all persuasive on your ass." He could just barely make out Blaine frowning at him.
"Because that sounds really convincing."
Jesse didn't say anything in response. He just tilted his head slightly to one side, trying not to squint in an attempt to see better in the dim light. Squinting was never attractive. He let his eyes travel over Blaine's face, starting by making eye contact and then following the bridge of his nose, the curve of his lips, the jut of his chin. He had just started looking at Blaine's neck when he snapped his eyes back up to Blaine's face, noticing that Blaine's eyes had been tracking his progress, trying to figure out where exactly he was looking. Jesse forced himself not to smirk in satisfaction, instead letting himself smile slightly before seeking out eye contact again.
That was when he pulled the oldest trick in the book. He looked from Blaine's eyes to his mouth, then back up at his eyes, then started to lean in, slowly enough that it might not even be noticeable, or just enough to make his intentions clear.
And just as he'd expected, Blaine started leaning towards him, too. Jesse let him do it, their faces getting closer and closer together, and then just as it seemed like the pair of them were committed to the same thing, he tilted his head further to the side, lurching forward and instead whispering in Blaine's ear, "Gotcha."
Then he leaned back, feeling pleased with himself, smirking even as Blaine pointedly avoided looking at him. He heard a quietly mumbled, "Jerk," but chose not to comment on it. Instead he just waited for Blaine to look back up at him.
It took a shorter amount of time than he'd expected.
"That," Blaine said, pausing, "was rude."
"Yes," Jesse paused as well, "it was." He smirked. "But you can try again any time you like."
"And what makes you think I want to?" Blaine challenged.
"Because I'm me and I'm completely irresistible."
"Will you shut up about yourself for two seconds if I do?"
"Possibly," Jesse was still smirking. Blaine sighed, sounding like he'd just resigned himself to a terrible fate. He looked away from Jesse for a few seconds, then sat up, rather than leaning back on one elbow like Jesse was. Jesse raised both eyebrows expectantly, tilting his face upwards, waiting. That made Blaine laugh, but it sounded forced.
It took a few tense seconds, but then Blaine seemed to either resign himself or commit himself – Jesse wasn't sure which was more accurate a term – and he started to lean in. Rather than remaining in his somewhat awkward position, Jesse pushed himself upright, and this time the pair actually met each other in the middle properly.
Blaine seemed to be under the impression that Jesse was planning on kissing him just like he had before, quickly and without much effort. Their lips had barely brushed together when Blaine started pulling away. Jesse followed, one of his hands reaching around to the back of Blaine's neck, holding him in place rather than trying to haul him back in. He was craning his own neck now, leaning awkwardly forward, but he didn't really care.
He kept things gentle, trying to coax Blaine into doing some of the work, too, instead of just awkwardly sitting there while Jesse tried to kiss him. He was either too scared or too nervous or too embarrassed, or maybe a mix of all three, but Jesse wasn't going to let him go until he did something. He slowed himself to the point where he was practically just sitting there with his mouth pressed to Blaine's, his lips moving the same way once, twice, three times, and then Blaine seemed to catch on.
It was still a little awkward. Blaine was shy about doing… well, anything, and Jesse was more focused on him changing that than anything else. But when he took his hand away from the back of Blaine's neck, he didn't pull away, so Jesse counted that as a small victory. He let his hand brush past Blaine's shoulder, down his arm, and then he was linking their fingers together and just holding Blaine's hand. He gave it a squeeze, and Blaine squeezed back.
It took a while, but eventually Blaine seemed to figure out what he was doing. Then it stopped being awkward and started being nice. Blaine even made a contented little sighing noise, then tried to pull away, clearly embarrassed, but Jesse tightened his grip on his hand again, pulling him back. His free hand had gone right where the other had been on Blaine's neck, fingers brushing against his hair. Blaine's free hand had settled down on his own knee, which sometimes bumped into Jesse's.
Then Jesse let go of Blaine's hand, instead reaching out to feel Blaine's heartbeat. He splayed his fingers out across Blaine's chest, then broke the kiss long enough to tell him, "You're allowed to touch, too, you know." Blaine made a confused noise but didn't try to pull away to ask him anything, and Jesse found it more endearing than silly when Blaine ended up putting both of his hands on Jesse's knees.
He let Blaine decide when they were done, let him break the kiss and pull away slightly, his breathing heavy and pointedly avoiding eye contact, even if their close proximity would have made them both go cross-eyed. Jesse waited for him to say something, and when it seemed as though that wasn't going to happen, he took it upon himself to break the silence.
"So, now will you have crazy sex on the prop sofa with me?"
Blaine put both hands on his chest and shoved him, hard.
But then Blaine was laughing, one of his hands lingering on Jesse's chest, and he shot right back, "Maybe if you buy me dinner first."