It had started out a typical benefit for Broadway Cares.
Jesse was used to those by now, used to getting together with a bunch of people in the Broadway community and singing songs that fit the theme of the night, all to raise money for a wonderful organization that he didn't mind attaching his name to. In fact, he was pleased to attach his name to this one, because it had done so many great things already, and was so widely supported by all in the community.
This one was a concert, the theme being a night of classic rock. Jesse liked classic rock, liked the feel of the music in the air and on his tongue, so he'd taken to this one with an enthusiasm rivaled only by the time they'd done a Sondheim one. He'd sung a duet of "It Takes Two" with an actress he'd never met that time, the pair of them hitting it off and then becoming fast friends in the days following. They'd since worked in three separate workshops together, and were counting down the days to when they would inevitably have a real duet together on Broadway.
The community might be small, but that didn't mean Jesse knew everyone. There was always a new face (or five) at these benefit concerts, but he liked meeting new people. No, scratch that, he loved meeting new people. This community was just so supportive and loving that he'd never felt more at home in his life, even when among a group of complete strangers.
Tonight he spotted a couple new faces. They were at Joe's Pub this time, and while Jesse had grown used to the usual band members, there was a new guy on the keyboard. There was also a woman Jesse didn't know slotted to sing right before he did, and the man hosting this event was a stranger, too. So, three new people to get acquainted with. This was going to be fun.
He chatted with the host while they began setting up, then switching to the woman he didn't know during the sound check. He didn't get a chance to introduce himself to the pianist, but there would be time enough later. They were playing two shows, after all. So they all lazed around, talking together and getting themselves warmed (and amped) up for the shows. It had all the makings of a wonderful evening.
The crowd was polite and noisy all at the same time, something Jesse had never really been able to fathom and yet had started to take for granted in his chosen business. They opened with a group number, then everyone sidled off out of the way when the solos and duets began. Jesse's solo was right in the middle of the night, so he watched from the sidelines, admiring everyone's different styles and the artistic choices they made when reinterpreting these classic pieces. His eyes fell onto the band members, too, watching for smiles and chuckles and general indications that they were having a good time. Jesse liked watching everyone on nights like these, because it wasn't just about the person singing. It wasn't about them at all, really, but about the cause they were supporting.
When it was his turn, he grinned at the band members, even wrinkling his nose slightly in a more cheerful hello when he turned towards the pianist, with whom he still had yet to talk. He received a brilliant grin in return, which only served to fuel Jesse's performance, making him want to impress the three who had never seen or heard him sing.
His armpits were damp and his forehead and upper lip were probably glistening by the time the song ended, but Jesse didn't care. The lights were hot and performing always sent a rush of excitement coursing through his body, making him not just sing a song but embody the song. It felt so unbelievably good, feeling the music and letting it direct him, letting it show him what to do and how to sing, and these were the times that Jesse could truly let himself go completely. He didn't have a character to answer to at the end of the show.
And he didn't have anything to do until the end of the show, either, when they had their closing group number. The whole thing had gone by in a flash, and before Jesse knew it, they were doing another sound check, making sure everything was still working before the next show started.
He looked around for the pianist, the only person he still didn't know and hadn't spoken to, spotting the man over by the bar, a glass filled with a clear liquid in his hand. Jesse didn't know what it was, whether it's alcohol or just water, but he assumed the latter since they still have one more show to go. That, and it's a pretty big glass, and that much straight vodka couldn't be healthy.
As he made his way over to the bar, the pianist turned, spotted him, and smiled.
"Hi," Jesse said, sitting down on the stool next to the man's.
"Hi," the pianist echoed.
"I'm Jesse," he introduced himself, finally. "I didn't get a chance to talk to you before the show." His smile felt apologetic as he spoke.
"We were busy," the pianist laughed. "My name's Blaine."
"Nice to meet you," Jesse felt his smile brighten, but then one of the other band members came over, telling Blaine they needed him for the sound check. Blaine drained his glass of probably-water, shooting Jesse another grin and saying, "Have a great take two," as he walked away.
The second show was even better than the first one. There seemed to be more life to the crowd, and Jesse found himself moving to the music more often than he had the first time. They were still performing the same songs, but they felt more alive somehow, crackling through the air as if on a whole other current. Jesse's second solo performance was no different; he could feel the music shooting through his entire body, all the way down to his toes, making them curl and spread wide, his fingers tingling.
There really was nothing better than the high he got from performing.
As Jesse moved back to his spot along the wall where he was watching, Blaine stood up from behind the piano. At first, Jesse assumed he'd be using the keyboard for the next song instead, but then the man was being passed a guitar and he was standing in front of the microphone. One of Jesse's eyebrows raised.
It didn't matter that the set list had obviously changed and shifted; that wasn't important. Jesse just wanted to hear if Blaine was any good. Oftentimes the band members at Joe's Pub were exceptionally good, able to play fifteen different instruments, with resumes that had them doing backing vocals and instrumentals for countless famous artists, one or two even having an album of their own. So Jesse was expecting the man to be good.
He wasn't expecting him to be fantastic, and he certainly wasn't expecting to feel his jaw go slack, index fingers twitching in a way that only happened when he was deep into his own performance, so trapped by the music that it seemed to hold onto his very soul.
Blaine was… well, he was something else.
He was someone who very obviously loved music, if the way each strum of the strings of the guitar seemed more like a caress was any indication. He kept moving his head back and forth in time with the song, occasionally rolling his shoulders back, one time rolling his whole head back (and Jesse flushed after realizing he'd licked his lips at the sight).
It became clear that Blaine was like him, someone who didn't just sing song or write music, but someone who lived and breathed their performances, who really felt the words and the notes, who let them come alive through his voice and body.
Someone who had him completely enamored after a three-minute song.
Jesse felt sluggish, like he was stumbling through the finale this time, instead of letting the music course through him. He kept looking sideways over at Blaine, now back behind the piano, but the other was looking at his sheet music and didn't seem to notice. Or, if he did notice, he gave no indication.
After everything was over, they took a few pictures and signed autographs for some of the patrons and fans who had hung back, packing up their things and readying themselves for either the trip home or a trip out. Jesse kept looking over at Blaine then, too, wanting to make sure he didn't leave without… without… well, he wasn't exactly sure what he wanted, but he certainly wouldn't be allowed to leave until Jesse was able to tell him how amazing he was.
When things started to quiet down and the first few performers begin to trickle out, Jesse made his way over to the man, who was clicking his guitar case shut.
"Hey," he said, a smile tugging at one side of his lips when Blaine looked around. "You were… wow, I really wasn't expecting that."
"Thanks. I don't sing that much. Well, I mean, I'm more of a musician now, but between you and me, that's more to pay the rent than a desire to stay behind the piano forever."
"Well, for someone who doesn't sing that much, I'd say you put quite a few of us so-called singers to shame."
Blaine beamed up at him, still slightly hunched over his guitar case.
The fell into silence for a few moments, Blaine finally closing and picking up his guitar case, then picking up a bag from the ground and slinging it around his shoulder.
"It was really nice to meet you," Blaine said then, and that sounds way too much like goodbye for Jesse's liking.
"You, too," he said anyway, but then also headed for the door when Blaine started to leave. "Hey, are you doing any more shows? Aside from Joe's Pub stuff, I mean. I'd like to see what your music's like." His inflection on 'your' made it obvious he was referring to the pieces Blaine has written himself. He held the door open when they reached it, and Blaine seemed to consider him as they both stepped outside.
"Not right now," he answered with a shrug of his shoulder. "But should I keep you in mind if I ever do?"
"Yes," Jesse nodded. Then, struck by an urge to not watch Blaine walk down the street and away from him, he asked, "Do you want to go get a drink with me?"
"Right now?" Blaine raised his eyebrows.
"Yeah, why not?" Jesse smiled, falling into step as Blaine does start walking down the street. "It's not late, and I'd really like to hear more about your fascination with music."
"Who says I'm fascinated with music?" Blaine countered, but Jesse had expected that reaction.
"I do," he said immediately. "I watched you up there onstage, and… well, people don't perform like that, not unless music is their passion. You're fascinated with music; I can tell."
"Got me there, I'll admit," Blaine's smile seemed to falter a little. "But… no thanks."
"Another time, then," Jesse phrased it as a statement rather than a question.
"Um," Blaine bit down on his lower lip. "No. I… I mean…" He started to stumble, hesitating before speaking, then finally settled back on, "no thanks."
And Jesse had absolutely no idea why he was getting shot down. It wasn't as if he was some sort of creep trying to pick Blaine up at some sleazy run-down bar, slopping beer down his front as he chased him down. Jesse knew he should probably respect the no he was getting, knew that he should drop this before things could potentially turn ugly and he could get charged for harassment, but…
Now he was the one biting down on his lip. Blaine was still smiling, even if the size of it had shrunken considerably, and it did still meet his eyes. He wasn't worried or scared of him. Maybe… maybe Jesse had simply pegged him wrong.
"Am I asking a ladies' man out on a date, then?" he asked, laughing at himself.
"What?" Blaine actually halted, and then he was laughing, too. "No. Oh… God, no. That's not… wow, I think you're the first person… wow."
"Well, good to know my chances aren't completely ruined," Jesse smirked at him. "I'll just have to convince you, right?"
"And how do you think you'll do that?" Blaine asked, raising both eyebrows.
Jesse considered the question for a moment. He'd never been in this situation before, where someone turned him down and then actually seemed interested in how he was going to persuade them otherwise. He'd never even had to persuade someone before. Not all of his romantic endeavors had gone smoothly, and obviously he had been told no more times than he liked to remember, but this… this was something different, something for which Jesse didn't have a speech planned.
So, did he pull the "well, I have a Tony on my mantel and I didn't steal it, before you ask" card or the "I'm completely taken with your performance style and I want to see you again" card or the "your singing gave me a talent-boner" card or did he just say "I don't know; how about we find out together?"
But none of that came out when he opens his mouth.
"Because I can sing forever," is what came out instead, and suddenly he was singing "Memory" from Cats, of all songs, soft enough so that no one on the opposite street could hear but loud enough so that Blaine could hear.
Blaine started laughing, and Jesse wanted to laugh, too, but he kept going, singing a song he hadn't heard since he had been in the aforementioned show in college. He hadn't even realized that he still knew all the words, the fame of this individual song be damned, and yet he sang half of it with Blaine staring incredulously at him, seemingly rooted to the spot.
And then Blaine started walking away again, and Jesse hastened after him, falling into step with him again and still singing. He finished "Memory," and then launched right into the opening number of the show, another song he couldn't believe he remembered. This one he couldn't blame on the song's fame if asked; it had to be obvious by now that he'd been in the show before.
So, that was humiliating.
Blaine didn't stop him. He didn't say anything, just watched Jesse as he kept singing, walking down the street and turning onto a new one, just letting him keep going and going and going.
As he made his way through the score, starting on "Rum Tum Tugger" still without any interruptions, Jesse wondered when he had lost his mind. He wondered when he had morphed into the kind of man who sang Andrew Lloyd Webber at a man he wanted to… date, he guessed, in the hopes that it would annoy him into saying yes.
They had walked for more blocks than Jesse cared to count, and he was singing about Bustopher Jones's weight when Blaine finally (finally!) burst out laughing, coming to a halt on the street and saying loudly, "Okay, stop, stop!"
Jesse did as he was told without a moment's hesitation.
"Oh my God," Blaine set down his guitar case, still laughing. "That was… this is, rather, the weirdest… you…" He had to stop to laugh, holding his side to catch his breath. "Okay," he started over, after getting ahold of himself. "If you can walk over fifty blocks singing Cats word-for-word – or what I'm assuming was word-for-word – just to get me to go out with you, then I have to say yes."
"I'm not as desperate as that might have made me look," Jesse found himself saying, realizing he was slightly out of breath. "I just… I really like you." It felt juvenile, but it was the truth.
"I'm honored," Blaine reached for his guitar case, but Jesse beat him to it, picking it up for him as they began to walk again. "But now I think you have to make it up to me. You're going to escort me home and sing me some real music along the way."
"I do take requests," Jesse grinned at him.
"You're going to regret saying that by the time we get there."
"Not if you make it worth my while," Jesse shot right back, matching Blaine's expression with a smirk of his own.
And for the most part, he didn't regret it. Sure, Blaine asked him to sing some pop atrocities and accused him of cheating when he said in sincerity that he only knew the chorus, but there were some really nice songs in there as well. Blaine even requested "Send in the Clowns" from A Little Night Music, his hand brushing up against Jesse's and then slipping into his as he made his way through that one.
When Blaine announced that they'd walked the entire way to his place, Jesse's voice had grown tired and he'd started to feel a rasp deep down in his throat. But he still smiled, squeezing Blaine's hand and saying, a little bit hoarsely, "I can't believe you made me sing Lady Gaga."
"Be grateful," Blaine laughed. "I could have come up with way worse. You Broadway boys are so picky about your music sometimes." Jesse rolled his eyes, but Blaine wasn't done. He held out his free hand expectantly, saying, "Your phone." Jesse pulled it out and handed it over, not missing how Blaine kept their hands joined, typing in what Jesse assumed was his number with a clumsy left hand. Then he pressed the call button, and Jesse heard a generic ringtone coming from somewhere inside of Blaine's bag.
He must have made a face, because Blaine chuckled and said, "Don't worry; I'll change your ringtone to fucking 'Memory' as soon as I get the thing plugged in."
"Skimbleshanks," Jesse blurted out, then explaining. "I played Skimbleshanks in the show. His song is more fun and makes a better ringtone, anyway."
"Skimbleshanks it is, then," Blaine agreed, giving Jesse back his phone. "Thanks for the private performance."
"Thanks for not being completely creeped out by it," Jesse joked, though there was an underlying note of sincerity in his still slightly-hoarse voice.
"I'll call you tomorrow. For breakfast. You sound like you could use a cup of tea." Blaine even looked apologetic when he smiled.
"And I'll get you a ticket to my show. You sound like you could use a night of decent music."
Blaine rolled his eyes, but he gave Jesse's hand a squeeze before letting go. Then he hesitated, tongue darting out for a split second to wet his lips, and Jesse knew what he was silently debating. He bent his own head a fraction, and Blaine seemed to take that as the go-ahead, because then they were kissing each other in the middle of a New York sidewalk, on a street Jesse didn't know outside a building he'd never been in. He was kissing someone he'd just met only hours before, someone whose last name he didn't even know, but he didn't care about any of that.
He cared about the way Blaine's lips were hesitant at first, his sharp intake of breath through his nose when Jesse moved his mouth just a fraction. About how Blaine pulled away for less than a second before leaning back in at a better angle. About how Blaine's hands were both fisted into Jesse's jacket, the opened zipper probably biting into his fingers and palms. He cared about the way Blaine's mouth opened for his, how he was suddenly wondering if maybe he'd be able to feel Blaine's heartbeat just as the pair of them had felt that music, letting the quick thumps sear themselves into his mind until his own heart beat to match it.
Jesse didn't know what the pair of them were doing, or what they would turn into from here on out. But when they broke the kiss and Blaine looked almost shyly up at him, a gentle smile just barely quirking his lips upward, he found himself suddenly thankful that he'd decided to look like a desperate loner and make an annoying ass out of himself.
Whatever happened next would be worth the tickle in his throat, because after they said their goodbyes and Jesse was walking toward the nearest subway platform to find his way home, he felt with absolute certainty that at the very least, he had found a kindred spirit in Blaine, the man who felt the music the same way he did.