Pushing himself up out of the chair and folding his arms across his chest, Cooper leaned over and looked at Jose’s work, smiling down at Blaine and placing his hand on the boy’s shoulder, “It looks pretty damn good, kiddo. It’ll look even better in a few days or so after the irritation goes down.” He watched as Jose wrapped Blaine’s arm with the protective wrap and started to get everything ready for his turn in the chair. Cooper grabbed the clipboard and looked over the things he had drawn, finally deciding which one he was going to go with and marking it so Jose knew which one to create a stencil for. Even though he had done this before, Cooper couldn’t help but feel anxious as he and Blaine traded places and he was the one sitting in the chair, where he had 4 years prior.
Fidgeting in the leather chair, Cooper tapped his fingers on the armrest and tried to focus his gaze on the wall in front of him, doing his best to ignore Jose starting the machine up again next to him and the man’s hand holding his arm still. He tried not to wince when Jose began to work, but he had forgotten how much the initial sting would hurt. Turning his head, Cooper locked eyes with Blaine, “You really need to distract me or something, kiddo. Tell me about school or the Warblers. I don’t really care right now.”
Settling back into other chair, his wrapped arm resting palm-up on the armrest. Now that it was all over, he was starting to become more aware of the burning irritation under his skin. The itching need to touch and scratch at it was obvious, but Blaine forced himself to keep his fingers off. Instead, he scratched at his chin as a distraction for himself. He tucked his legs up under himself, and leaned back. It was late, he was sore, tired. The process on top of the emotional day that he had had was starting to wear at him. Just a little big longer and he’d be able to go back to bed.
He watched as Jose worked oh his older brother. It wasn’t as hard to look at when it wasn’t his skin feeling the pinch and vibration. “Everything’s okay. Warblers are good. I’ve been working extra hard, so now I just have to wait for a solo to open up.” Blaine paused for a moment, his teeth closing lightly over his bottom lip before continuing, “Kurt transferred He’s going to Dalton now…” He pushed back and forth in the swivel chair, rocking. “He’s upset with me. He wants me to live in the dorms and I told him why I can’t, but I just don’t think he understands.”
Cooper grabbed the chair that was tucked away into the corner and pulled it up next to where Blaine seated, sitting down and leaning over towards the table to grab one of the clipboards. Folding one of his legs under him, he quietly sat in the chair and drew doodles here and there on the paper to come up with ideas while occasionally looking over at Jose and what he was currently doing. If he had known that they were going to be doing this, then he would’ve had something already drawn, but whatever he came up with would have to do, as long as he didn’t go the Harry Potter route again. Even though he had spent most days when he didn’t have hockey practice or work here in the shop with Jose since his father owned the place, Cooper could and probably would never get used to the sound of the equipment, jumping slightly when Jose turned off the machine and then suddenly turned it back on again.
After a little while, Cooper put the clipboard back on the table and sat there to watch Jose finish what he was doing, glancing over at Blaine to see how he was, “How’re you doing, kiddo? Feeling okay?”
The blue lines were laid down and he nodded that it looked just fine to him, then Blaine settled back in the chair, focusing intently at a spot on the far wall. It was easier this way, he decided, rather than watching. If anything, Blaine had developed a high pretty high tolerance for pain, so as long as he didn’t have to look at it, he was totally fine. That, along with zoning completely out it make the whole thing rather settling. It was quite for a while, no idle chat, though he wouldn’t have minded if there had been. Finally, when Cooper addressed him, he blinked and glanced over. “Good,” was all he said, though he gave a tight-lipped smile and a thumbs up with his free hand. Pulled away from his nice zen place, though, made the whole situation come back and he winced slightly at the slight burning sensation that was working it’s way down his arm.
It didn’t take long for Jose to finish, though he did have to go back over a few place to make sure everything was done right. When Blaine finally looked down, there wasn’t much to see. Just a lot of red, blotchy, and irritated skin. It wasn’t until the artist pulled out a special light to check his work that you could really see the work and Blaine almost jumped in excitement and the actual image underneath. He automatically turned to Cooper for approval. “How cool is that?!”
Blaine didn’t have to say a word to Cooper about being nervous about the whole thing; he just knew. Cooper could tell that Blaine felt out of his element and that even though this was something that he wanted and needed to do for himself, it was still a big deal and a tad overwhelming. During the walk to the back, Cooper talked with Jose about old times and what he had been up to the past few years out in L.A. while Jose told him about his fiancé and the wedding that they were planning for the upcoming fall, extending an invite to Cooper and Emma, occasionally glancing back at his little brother and noticing the look on his face. When all three of the men walked into the room, Cooper immediately walked over towards the table that was littered with different pens and pieces of paper, grabbing one of each and turning around to face Blaine, handing both objects to him.
“You need to sketch it out for Jose, kiddo. I don’t even know what we’re getting, otherwise I’d do it,” Cooper said, a small but reassuring smile on his face, “I know it looks kinda scary and everything, but it’s really not that bad… Do you want me to go first so you can see what’s going to happen or do you just want to rip the band-aid off and get it done and over with?”
Blaine sat down on the structured leather chair and shook his head, looking up to meet Coopers eyes and speak for the first time since they’d entered the building. “I don’t need to. It’s just text.” He turned to Jose instead, “Maybe just a nice font or something, though?”
The other of the brother’s continued and the younger one looked up, shaking his head again. “No, I’ll go first. I want to get it over with.” Jose actually chucked at the comment, which allowed Blaine to relax enough to manage a smile. “And that’ll give you extra time to come up with something good this time,” he teased, proud of himself for sounding much more sturdy that he actually felt.
The truth was, Blaine hadn’t been lying when he said he’d done his research. And when he told the artist exactly what he wanted, the warning speech came back just as he expected it would. “I know,” he said for what seemed like the thousandth time that night, “I want it that way. It’s for just for me. I’ll see it.”
With that, the man nodded and set to work.
Lightly shoving Blaine’s shoulder, Cooper laughed as they walked towards the desk sitting in the middle of the shop, “Hey, I was 18 and it was Jose’s idea. I couldn’t think of anything else to get.” Once they were standing in front of the counter, Cooper tapped the bell sitting there twice before turning around and leaning against it, looking around the shop. “This place has changed a lot since the last time I was here. Most of this stuff wasn’t even there,” he said pointed to some of the pieces of art hanging up on the wall.
Hearing footsteps coming from the back room, the older Anderson turned around to see his friend from high school walking towards them, a smile spread across both of their faces. When Jose was standing in front of them, Cooper reached out to shake his hand before pulling him into a brief hug. “Blaine, this is Jose. You guys met a few times, but you probably don’t remember him. He’s going to walk you through what’s going to happen and you’ll have to explain to him what you want.”
Being inside didn’t help Blaine’s nerves much. The lights were bright and florescent and the walls were all painted a stark white, but plastered with a mix of dark and colorful photos and artwork. To be totally honest it was an impressive display, but Blaine couldn’t help feel a little uncomfortable by the blown-up photographs of mostly naked people, showing as much of their skin off as possible without flashing anything private. He knew it wasn’t suppose to be vulgar, it was art, but he still couldn’t help feeling slightly out of place. He wasn’t looking for art. Or expression. Or to share nearly inappropriate black and white pictures of himself. He just wanted to do this and go home to bed.
The fact that he was sixteen and was doing this under the table illegally didn’t help his nerves much.
He nodded stiffly at Cooper’s musing, more caught in his own musings about the place to pay much attention. When the other man appeared, Blaine offered his hand in a polite shake, but then dropped it because that was lame. His face flushed red. The younger boy was glad that Cooper was voluntarily doing all the talking because as sure of this as he was, and he was sure, that didn’t make him necessarily confident. There were scary machinery and things that his mind needed to worry about right now. Nodding, he followed behind them, back through a hanging back curtain, down a hall, and to the room that was not as heavily decorated as the lobby had been, but equally scary.
Cooper nodded while he listened to his younger brother, slightly tightening his grip on the steering wheel and switching lanes to turn onto a side street, “If you’re one-hundred percent sure about this, then we’ll do it, Blaine. I know that things have been difficult and I’m sure that there’s a ton of stuff that you haven’t told me about… I just want you to not regret doing this tomorrow. It’s not just something that can be fixed in the blink of an eye.”
Turning left onto a side street, Cooper slowly drove the car into the parking lot and into a space, throwing it into park and killing the engine. He pulled his phone out of his pocket and glanced at his messages, making sure that Jose was waiting for them in the front of the building. Unbuckling his seat-belt, he got out of the car, locked it and pocketed his keys along with his phone. The man shoved his hands into his pocket and started to walk towards the front with Blaine, looking around to see if anyone else was there. “Hopefully you have an idea of what we’re doing, kiddo. I promised that I was going to do this with you, but it better be something good.”
The smile that tugged at his lips was undeniable. That was one of the things that Blaine loved most about Cooper. He was always the instigator, always pushing Blaine to get into messes, do something daring, do something wrong. But he was also the one who took care of him, made sure he learned everything about something before he jumped in, relayed every consequence of the actions before he did anything. It was almost like having a security line, a comfort. Blaine could still remember how angry Cooper had been when Blaine got drunk for the first time. He hadn’t been angry that Blaine was drinking, but rather that he hadn’t been under Cooper’s watchful eye at the time.
“I know,” Blaine said, looking up at his brother, his head leaned back against the rest. “I know what I’m doing.”
He stepped out of the car and looked over the building, whipping his nervous palms over the legs of his pants, then pulled his sleeves down over his hands. It was almost March, but still bitter cold at night. Following close behind Cooper, he let out a noise that was suppose to be affirmative, but came out as more of a squeak. “I told you, I’ve thought about this. I know what I’m going to do.” As they made their way into the surprisingly bright, yet musty shop, he let out a breath. “Can’t promise it will be good though,” he teased, “Besides, “good” is relative. I can tell you right now it’s not going to be a Harry Potter quote.”
After calling to confirm with Jose that the deal they had set up was still good, Cooper quickly changed out of his clothes that he had been traveling in and into a plain black t-shirt and a pair of jeans. He wasn’t exactly sure what all had brought this on, but deep down, he was glad that his brother had remembered the conversation that they had had six months prior. He grabbed his wallet out of his satchel, checking to see how much money he had on him before pocketing it and walking out of his room.
The house was quiet, which wasn’t surprising considering what time it was. He walked quietly passed his parents’ bedroom and then down the stair case, heading immediately towards the kitchen to grab the car keys off of the hook. Walking back towards the front of the house, he saw Em sitting in the living room and kissed her on the head, murmuring that they’d be back later and to not wait up.
Finally making his way towards the bottom of the stair case, he stood there as he watched Blaine jog down the stairs with a reassuring smile on his face and right out the front door. Cooper quietly chuckled to himself and followed his younger brother, immediately heading over to the car and jumping in. He wasted no time buckling his seat-belt and throwing the car into reverse, backing it out of the driveway and heading to Jose’s place.
Once they were out of the neighborhood, Cooper shifted slightly in his seat and glanced over towards Blaine, “So, what brought this on, kiddo?”
It seemed like hours had passed since he’d asked Cooper to take him, but really it had barely been long at all. He ran a hand over his hair, never through it, and sunk back into the passenger seat of his car. Well, their. Cooper’s. Whoever the car really belonged to, didn’t matter, he figured. He was still driving it and Cooper still owned it.
“It’s not a sudden decision, you know. I’ve thought it through.” He scratched his arm unconsciously and watched as the lights of the streets passed along the dark windows. “Things are just…” He shook his head. “I’m sixteen years old and I spend every single day of my life worrying if I’ll be good enough today for someone to look at me. It’s better than it was, but it still shouldn’t be like this. I just want to do something brave.” The car was silent for nearly four blocks before he spoke again. “But it’s not just that. I need a reminder. I need to see it. Some days I can’t just remind myself. I need to see it.”