had it with being your kid sidekick (sotto_voice) wrote,

Fic: For Better or for Worse (1/4)

Title: For Better or for Worse (1/4)
Fandom: Glee
Rating: PG, this part
Characters: Kurt Hummel/Blaine Anderson, Rachel Berry, Mercedes Jones, every single glee kid (some are cameos and/or won't show up until the next part)
Count: 4340, this part
Summary: Kurt is an up-and-coming New York City wedding planner working on the biggest wedding of his career, and Blaine is the frontman of an unfortunately-named band from New Jersey. Booking an untested band with a distracting lead singer is either going to be the best or the worst decision that Kurt has ever made. He's not sure which, just yet.
Notes: For [personal profile] unicorndust, who lights up my fucking life on an hourly basis and who probably won't even remember that she mentioned wanting this AU while in casual conversation this summer. But I remembered! Happy birthday, Leslie-to-my-Ann. ♥

* * *

"Two caterers can't make the tasting tomorrow so I have to reschedule the whole thing, Groom-Number-Two is a complete control freak horrorshow, and the last band didn't even bother to show up for their audition," Kurt says rapid-fire into his phone, walking down the hall swiftly, half because waiting for the last band has put him behind schedule for the rest of the day, and half because the quick click-click-click of his boots on the tile sounds authoritative and soothes him.

"And no," he says, as Rachel audibly draws a deep breath, "this does not mean that you can be my wedding singer."

"Kurt," Rachel protests, "I will admit: singing at weddings has never been a part of my seven-step surefire plan to Broadway stardom and status as EGOT-winning legend, but I would be more than happy to graciously assist you in your hour of need."

"And you're desperate, looking for ways to pay for your new headshots, and know that Robyn Gantry is one of the most influential theatre producers currently living in New York," Kurt finishes. "No, Rachel. Business and friendships don't mix, and besides," he shifts his phone from one ear to the other as he digs into his satchel for a pen, "the happy couple has been very clear on the point that they don't want a typical Broadway-baby performance at the reception. And I quote: 'I get enough of that shit at work every day, and you know half the assholes there are gonna get up and sing anyway.' "

"Well!" Rachel huffs, signaling that Kurt got it in one when it came to her true motives. "That's vu--"

"Wait!" calls a voice from the opposite end of the hall, and Kurt sighs inwardly and then turns on his ideal-height heel.

The man scrambling toward him is compact and handsome, wearing a blue cardigan that Kurt immediately recognizes from a Jil Sander sample sale, dark curls perfectly tamed. He has a guitar in a gig bag thrown over his shoulder and his pants are perfectly turned up at the ankle over a gorgeous pair of loafers. He's even better-looking in person, Kurt's treacherous brain immediately insists. "Kurt Hummel?" he asks, out of breath.

Kurt ignores Rachel's demands to know what's happening and lowers the mouthpiece of his phone. "Blaine Anderson, I presume," he drawls.

"Yes," says Blaine Anderson, and he scrambles to tuck a sheaf of music under his left arm so that he can offer Kurt his right hand. He doesn't stop talking for a second as they shake hands. "I'm so sorry we're late; Sugar had problems with the van and I didn't realize til we were stuck on the side of the road that I didn't take down your number; I know that this doesn't exactly make us look incredibly trustworthy but we take gigs very seriously and this has never happened before--"

"Rachel," Kurt says over her tinny voice; "I'm going to have to call you back," and he hangs up on her while she tells him don't-you-dare-hang-up. He turns his full attention on Blaine Anderson, who has finally shut his mouth for a second. "I have a wine tasting for another wedding in 45 minutes. How fast can you set up?"

When Blaine Anderson smiles, his bandmates beginning to stagger down the hallway behind him with their arms full of instruments, it lights up his entire face.

Ten minutes later, Kurt is perched on a table in the empty banquet hall, watching five strangers play a cover of a sweet, sad song he's never heard before. This is exactly what drew him to the band in the first place. They're the strangest mix of camp and earnest; wholesome yet wildly cheeky. He first discovered them on YouTube of all places, drunker than he wants to admit and searching for the fiercest covers of "I Will Survive" that he could find, the night after an ugly breakup.

What he found was a gritty video of a New Jersey band with a terrible name. When the skinny girl in the spandex and the glitter and the improbable heels led the band on stage, Kurt had expected her to go straight to the microphone, but instead, she'd marched over to the drums while giving Miss America waves to the cheering crowd. They had a boyband lookalike on acoustic guitar, a guy in a wheelchair and an eye-searing sweater vest on synthesizer, a meathead with a mohawk on bass guitar, and an utterly improbable frontman who adapted Gloria Gaynor to a strong, clear tenor and danced around his keyboard with wild abandon while looking like a throwback from the 1950s.

Kurt had sobered up and spent the rest of the night clicking on thumbnails in the 'Related Videos' sidebar, watching the band tear through everything from "In the Summertime" to "Fat-Bottomed Girls" to "It's Raining Men"; Ray Charles and Rihanna and AC/DC and Beck and Cole Porter and Patti LuPone and countless singer/songwriter indie songs that Kurt didn't recognize.

They're all here in front of him now, sweaty and disheveled from throwing their gear into place at blinding speed (and while Kurt is a professional, one who prefers cleanliness at that, he can also completely appreciate the disheveled look on four out of the five band members), and they're emoting their little hearts out.

Well. Blaine Anderson is, anyway, standing alone in the front and gripping the microphone with all of the pathos and earnesty that this unfamiliar song demands. The rest of them don't look quite as engaged, especially mohawk, who seems to be spending more time leering at the drummer than paying attention to the (fully-correct, as far as Kurt can tell) bass line that he's playing.

They're compelling and fantastic and weird, even more so than they were on YouTube; Kurt has never seen a more mismatched group.

"What do I do, what do I do, what do I do?" croons Blaine Anderson; "what do I do, without you?" and the acoustic guitar finishes the last two bars alone. Kurt lets the silence ring while they all look to him with varying degrees of smiles or uncertainty. From what Blaine said in the emails they exchanged, the band has never played a wedding before; their repertoire has been strictly limited to Hoboken bars and friends' garages and one Newark new music festival. Hiring them would constitute an enormous risk.

Kurt stands up, tucking the strap of his satchel over his shoulder. "You'll need a new name," he says briskly. " 'Your Mama,' while devastatingly witty, is not going to fly with the crème de la crème of New York arts and theatre society. You," he points at Backstreet Blondie, "need a haircut" (the guitarist blinks), "and we'll have to talk suits. I'm thinking 1960s, Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons chic."

"Wait -- what?" asks the blond guitarist, flicking his hair out of his eyes, and Kurt turns and starts to walk away.

"Dude's kind of a dick," says a voice that Kurt would be willing to bet belongs to the one with the mohawk. He would be insulted, except that the statement actually sounded a little bit impressed. Kurt can work with impressed.

He hits 'send' on the text he'd composed while listening. Behind him, someone's phone chimes. "Now you have my number," he says over his shoulder. "I'll be in touch, and you will be on time from now on."

"Does this mean we're hired?" Blaine Anderson calls, a smile in his voice.

"I'll email you the contract; you can text me with any questions. Please make sure they're not stupid."

Kurt didn't get to where he is, perched on the cusp of true New York wedding-planner stardom at the astonishing age of 25, by avoiding risk. He sweeps out of the room to the sound of a couple of whoops and a particularly noisy high-five. They're perfect, Kurt thinks, as long as they don't screw him six ways til Sunday, and not in a good way.

* * *

"Wow," Mercedes says. "You hired the random-ass band with the bad name? Seriously?"

"They're eclectic, they can hit the Broadway standards for any starlets who decide to drunkenly serenade the grooms, they're under orders to change their name, they'll be incredible eye-candy once they're cleaned up, and they have ... something." Kurt wags a hand. He isn't at his most eloquent; it has been a long, long day of working with one particularly difficult bride while fielding intrusive phone calls from an even-more-difficult groom, and now he is at the point of the night where he sprawls limply across the heavenly-comfortable sofa in Mercedes's tiny living room while she makes judgmental noises from the kitchen.

"Something, huh?" she calls, knowing.

Kurt rolls his eyes. "Stop it. There's star quality there; that's all I'm saying."

"Uh huh," says Mercedes. "There's also a keyboard player who's cute as a button and wears bowties."

He sits up enough to shoot her a long, level look over the back of the sofa. Mercedes raises her eyebrows back at him, and points with the fork that she's using to toss a salad. "Don't you give me that look, Kurt Hummel. I've seen your YouTube account; I know how many of that band's videos you favorited after the disaster with Diego."

"It wasn't a disaster," Kurt protests. "It was a breakup."

"It was a disaster breakup." Mercedes comes back around the sofa and hands him a plate with salad and steak tartare from the amazing place down the street. "Do I need to remind you how many pints of mocha almond fudge ice cream you went through in three days? 'Cause I can do that."

"Don't do that," he says, fast and heartfelt, and she makes an I thought so face as she goes back to get her own plate. "What's your point, Mercedes? I know you have one."

"I just think you should admit that you think the little guy's cute," she says pragmatically, putting her plate and glass of water down on the coffee table. "Nothin' wrong with that. Hell, I think he's cute, and I'm pretty sure he doesn't bat for my team."

He sighs gustily and swallows the mouthful of romaine and raspberry vinaigrette that he has been chewing. "Fine," he says. "He's cute. And he's not that little."

Mercedes turns a wary eye on him. "I want you to sit there and think about what you just said," she says, "and make sure you didn't hire a band for the most important wedding of your career just because the lead singer was cute." She disappears into her bathroom.

Kurt rolls his eyes at his salad, and then his phone beeps with an incoming text. He reaches for it and is entertaining thoughts of stabbing his iPhone with his fork if it's Patrick again, with more opinions on flower arrangements and table settings and seating arrangements -- but instead, it's another number altogether.

Blaine Anderson
Thank you again for hiring us; we're in discussions about a new name right now.

(I'm really glad that you said that. I've been trying to convince Puck that "Yo Mama" is terrible for months.)


Kurt gives a tiny whuff of amusement, more through his nose than his mouth, and quickly taps out a response.

I'm always happy to lend a helping hand when it comes to feats of linguistic brilliance. Puck - mohawk? Somehow I'm not surprised.

Blaine's answer is immediate; fast enough that he must have already typed it out.

I do have some questions about the contract. I'm hoping they aren't stupid. Do you have time to discuss? I'll actually be in the city on Thursday.

Kurt glances toward Mercedes's closed bathroom door.

I'm sure I can squeeze you in.

Blaine texts back: :)

* * *

"You gave me full creative control," Kurt reminds, struggling to keep his tone halfway between doormat-polite and I-am-dousing-all-of-your-silk-scarves-in-bleach-in-my-mind-right-now.

"And you hired a nameless band that has never played a show or event of any significance," retorts Patrick Tucker. He is the high-class arts dealer to Robyn Gantry's Broadway producer; a tall, distinguished man with a shock of perfectly-styled thick gray hair and a penchant for very expensive suits. "You'll excuse me if I'm dubious."

He is also the most difficult party, groom or bride, who Kurt has ever worked for. Which is evidenced by the fact that Kurt is sitting here on a Thursday afternoon in the dining room at Le Bernardin, when they did not have a meeting scheduled when Kurt woke up this morning.

Unfortunately, Patrick is also the most important party who Kurt has ever worked for. If Patrick and Robyn's extravagant wedding comes off well, Kurt's books will be in the black for the rest of his life; instead of being the up-and-coming wedding planner who does everything himself and fights and claws for every scrap that he gets, he'll have his pick of the most exclusive events in New York. He thinks longingly of getting to choose his clients, and hire staff. As much as he loves Finn and appreciates that he volunteers his evenings and weekends to help lift things at strangers' weddings, Kurt would kill for an assistant who understands color wheels and is less prone to dropping priceless items.

"Patrick, you'll see," he promises, with all of the confidence and panache that he possesses. "They're amazing; one of a kind, truly."

Patrick watches him across the table, long and level. Then he says: "Convince me."

"Wh -- right now?" Kurt asks, and his voice must go higher-pitched and expression more judgmental than he means to, because Patrick's frown deepens. Kurt leans down and digs for his phone in his satchel. "I can show you the videos; they're very int--"

"No," says Patrick. "I want to hear them, in person." He tilts his head toward the corner of the room where, from what Kurt understands (he had never been able to set foot in Le Bernardin before being hired by Patrick and Robyn), jazz musicians occasionally set up a stage to play.

Of course Patrick can snap his fingers and have staff at an outrageously expensive restaurant build a stage and allow an unknown band in off the street to play for their lunch-hour clientele. He's Patrick Tucker. Not for the first time, Kurt doubts the wisdom of the decision to take on this job.

"They're not based in the city, and I'm fairly sure most of the musicians have day jobs; I can't get them here right n--" Kurt starts to explain, watching Patrick's face grow stormier, and then his phone chimes with an incoming text and Kurt is struck by twin lightning bolts of realization.
1) He is late for lunch with Blaine, where they're supposed to go over the contract terms and what will be appropriate for a set list; and
2) That may actually be the answer to his problem.

This is how Kurt winds up stuffed into Le Bernardin's coatroom twenty minutes later, frantically fixing the infinitesimal tilt to Blaine Anderson's bowtie and brushing down the sides of his cardigan, which is far too familiarly to be treating someone who he only met last week and who he has been exchanging cautiously friendly texts with for several days, but Blaine has to be perfect.

"Kurt," Blaine says, low, and he catches Kurt's hands in his own. He peers at Kurt, and then, sounding awed and surprised: "Are you nervous?"

Kurt refuses to answer. He decides that the avoidance position will afford him more dignity than answering with the truth, which is: 'No, I'm not nervous; I'm having a panic attack.' "You have to impress him."

"Okay," Blaine says firmly, which is strangely soothing. He squeezes Kurt's hands before dropping them. "What -- what should I play?"

That's less soothing.

"Whatever you want," Kurt says grimly. There's no sense in trying to micromanage; not when the all-important task is having Patrick like what Blaine brings to the table. "Select a range of emotional projection and be you."

Blaine nods, his eyes just a little too wide for his face, then he takes a deep breath, puts on a convincingly-bright smile, hikes his guitar strap higher up on his shoulder, and steps out of the closet. Kurt follows a respectable moment or two later and makes his way back to the dining room.

"--derson, and it's great to be here," Blaine says, apparently mid-introduction. Kurt slips into his seat and neatly lays his napkin over his knee again. Patrick doesn't pay him any mind, watching Blaine on the little stage with an inscrutable expression. "I hope this isn't too much of a disruption of your lunches, which look delicious, by the way." There's a low, pleasant rumble of chuckles through the diners; a woman sitting at a tiny table near the stage offers a forkful of something up toward Blaine. "No, thank you, I couldn't; you're too kind," Blaine protests, grinning and drawing more laughs.

Kurt's heart begins to settle down in his chest.

Right up until Blaine launches into a slow, acoustic guitar cover of an instantly familiar song.

"Don't stop, make it pop; DJ, blow my speakers up."

Well. Be you, Kurt had said. Apparently, Blaine is a Ke$ha fan.

Kurt steals a glance at Patrick. He's pretty sure he could smash a plate on the man's nose and he wouldn't even blink; he is absolutely stone-faced, watching Blaine, and he remains that way for the rest of the song, even when Blaine has the room eating out of the palm of his hand by the time he hits the chorus for the first time.

Kurt would probably be swooning, too -- he is self-aware enough to admit that, seeing Blaine perched on a stool with his sleeves rolled up to the elbows and guitar balanced in his lap, singing and smiling and charming the whole restaurant -- if his entire future wasn't resting on the next few minutes. If Patrick isn't happy, he and Robyn won't continue with Kurt's services; the work that he has done so far can easily be handed off to one of the multitudes of planners who are salivating at the thought of getting a shot at the wedding of the year, and Kurt will never be hired in this city again. He'll have to move home and plan Dora the Explorer-themed birthday parties for two-year-olds and funerals for little old ladies' cats.

Blaine moves from "Tik Tok" on to a gentle tune that Kurt doesn't know, the lyrics all love and loss (and the relevant pronouns all male, Kurt notes), and he finishes with a rousing rendition of "I Heard It Through the Grapevine." After a certain point, Kurt gives up on sneaking glances at Patrick and he stiffly watches Blaine sing. It's incredibly attractive -- not that he can fully appreciate it at the moment -- it's true, but Mercedes's caution was wrong. He booked the band because Blaine (and the others, but it was Blaine who caught his eye, and who he suspects is driving most of the band's more unusual cover choices) is so good; Blaine being so good is a large part of his appeal. When he gives that thousand-watt smile and slides off the stool with a "thank you," to enthusiastic applause, Kurt is fairly sure that half the restaurant is in love with him.

Kurt looks at Patrick again. He's sitting up straighter in his seat, because -- Kurt turns to look -- Blaine is headed straight for their table, guitar in his left hand.

"Mr. Tucker," Blaine says, extending his right hand. "It's a pleasure to meet you."

Patrick shakes his hand, looks him up and down, and then shifts and pulls his wallet out of his pocket. Kurt's eyebrows start to climb toward his hairline -- and then Patrick throws his platinum card down on the table, on top of the check that the waiter left before Blaine began to sing. "He'll do," he grunts to Kurt. "But the rest of them are going to need coaching; the one with the hair," the gesture that he makes cannot be construed as anything but a reference to a mohawk, "looks like a dumbass."

Kurt gapes at him.

"I'm twice your age, Mr. Hummel, not an idiot; I know how to use the Google," says Patrick. "I want you to bring them around. Class them up. I'll be keeping an eye on the process."

Kurt blinks rapidly, then nods.

Patrick stands up, beckons the waiter with one imperious gesture, and heads for the coatroom.

They watch him go in silence, the waiter scurrying in between to snatch up the check and the credit card. Once he is out of sight, Blaine drops bonelessly into his vacated chair. "Oh my god," he says. "Is he always like that?"

"Pretty much," Kurt says, dry as the desert to try to hide just how sweaty his palms are.

"Oh my god," Blaine says again. "It's like trying to impress my dad, but about a million times worse."

In the background, Kurt notices the waiter hurrying back toward the entrance, presumably trying to catch Patrick to give him his card as he leaves. He looks back at Blaine, who looks shellshocked. "Hey," Kurt says, and Blaine's gaze snaps to him. He lowers his voice, and doesn't particularly care if it comes across as flirty. Actually, he hopes that it does. "Do you want to get out of here?"

Blaine slowly smiles.

* * *

"I love New York pizza," Blaine says fervently. Kurt cannot believe that he still finds Blaine attractive while he talks with a mouthful of tomato sauce and hot processed cheese, but, God help him, he does.

"As opposed to New Jersey pizza?" Kurt asks dryly, making much neater work of his own slice as they slowly wander the southern side of Central Park. There's just enough of a spring snap in the air that the park is well-used without being overcrowded; they're mostly with dog walkers and joggers and nannies pushing bundled-up kids in strollers.

"It tastes very different," Blaine defends, and Kurt laughs.

"Why would one willingly choose to live in New Jersey, anyway?" he asks.

"Have you seen New York rents lately?" Blaine asks, and Kurt shoots him a level look. "--You live here; of course you have. But you know what I mean." Kurt shrugs companionably, the two of them almost walking shoulder-to-shoulder. "I've got a part-time job at a shipping company; just until the band makes it big."

"You're about to make it pretty damn big," Kurt points out.

"I know," Blaine exhales. "I don't think Sugar and the guys completely get it, but I know who Robyn Gantry and Patrick Tucker are."

"You're a well-informed shipping clerk," he teases lightly.

Blaine laughs. "I'm an aspiring musician who tried to get on Broadway when he first got to New York. Of course I know their names."

"Ah, the siren song of the Broadway lights," Kurt says, faux-nostalgic, because it's easier if he treats it like a joke or like something that wasn't everything to him. "I think they've sucked in every gay man within 50 miles of the city at some point in his life."

Blaine shoots him a clearly-intrigued sidelong look. "You'll have to do a song with us at the wedding," he says, and his smile only widens at Kurt's immediate, alarmed no.

"I haven't sung publicly since I was in high school glee club, Blaine, and I'll be in a room full of professional actors and directors who I have to impress with my style and organizational skills; no, absolutely not."

This is where Blaine immediately endears himself to Kurt even further: he drops it. Kurt's friends have never heard of the idea of dropping it. "You're going to impress them," he says. "I can't believe how much you're juggling with all of this. It's amazing." He gestures with what's left of his pizza on 'all of this.' Kurt isn't sure what he's so impressed with; he has only seen Kurt brisk and running late on the day that Yo Mama auditioned, and making a few lightning-fast phone calls and texts while Blaine bought their pizza from a corner bodega.

Kurt has still never quite mastered the art of accepting a compliment gracefully. Rather than respond, he pops the last bite of crust in his mouth and chews. Blaine smiles and seems perfectly content to wait him out, watching two laughing kids chase a barking Irish setter across the path in front of them and eating his own slice of pizza.

"Well," Kurt says, "it sounds like we're going to be seeing a lot of each other."

Blaine laughs. "He really wasn't impressed with them, was he?"

"You have to admit they're--" Halfway through the sentence, Kurt reconsiders its harshness -- from the way that Blaine talks about Artie, Sam, Sugar, and Puck, they bewilder him at times, but they're good friends. "--a little rough around the edges." He knows his eyes are probably gleaming, but he doesn't care. Etiquette lessons and makeovers may be just one more responsibility added to the mountain that he's currently straining under, but they're like crack to him. "Which can be fixed."

"We'll totally straighten them out," Blaine promises. "Hey, you said you're going to see your florist on 52nd and 7th, right? I'm meeting a friend at Grand Central; I'll walk you down there."

Kurt wonders if ravishing the lead singer of the band that he hired still counts as a professional conflict of interest if he technically isn't the one paying his salary

* * *

Part 2

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Tags: fic, glee
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