Kurt doesn’t follow him and at first he is oddly annoyed by this. He feels like a child sent to his room, knowing full well that his parents are downstairs talking about his behaviour. You should’ve just stayed, a voice in his head whispers, you should’ve stayed and explained calmly and maturely that you were no longer an asset to the team—that it would’ve hurt their chances further had you remained involved.
But then, that wasn’t really why he left, was it? He wasn’t anywhere near that selfless. Yes, he’d stopped contributing to group discussions, and he could no longer hit the notes needed to harmonise with Marley, or do the choreography fast enough. But that wasn’t why he left. He’d quit Glee Club purely because he was weak; he couldn’t stand the constant stares and whispers of his teammates, couldn’t stand the way he was always fighting back tears by the end of a meeting for no real reason, the way no one wanted to be his duet partner anymore, the pointed pauses and nudges whenever Kurt’s name happened to come up.
He’d skipped one afternoon and no one had missed him so then he stopped going completely.
Some of them had still tried to talk to him occasionally, but their awkward, half-sympathetic, half-frustrated looks made him feel so tired. It was better to avoid them and turn himself invisible; no looks, no questions, no Blaine.
As he sits down on the tarmac in the parking lot, his eyes filling with half-formed tears, he decides he is glad he left the coffee shop after all. It’s funny, a few weeks ago he was complaining about how people’s sympathy looked so false and now he’s upset because it’s too genuine; because they’re not actually concerned for him. They’re concerned about his vitality, about his body, but they’re not concerned about him.
He stares down at the cracks in the ground, tiny little fissures that disappear under the wheel of the car next to him. The cliché is wanting to fall between the cracks, but Blaine doesn’t want to fall anymore; he’d much rather just dissolve right here and float downwards forever and ever. He wishes that instead of being a whole balloon, he could be the particles that constitute it — then he wouldn’t need air to keep him afloat. Then there’d be no such thing as rising and falling, only being. Blaine would like to just be.
The thing is, people never could let him be. They always had to question him, querying every little detail: You have a brother? You like show choir? You’re gay? You cheated? Why are you so upset? And somewhere along the line Blaine got sick of answering.
It’s like everyone wants something from Blaine constantly and he’s just so tired of pretending he can keep giving it to them, that his supply of bubbly enthusiasm is unlimited. Because it isn’t. And whereas before he used to come home from school and recharge himself back up again during the evenings, the charger no longer works. No matter how withdrawn from others he becomes, no matter how many excuses he makes to avoid social situations and curl up in bed, no matter how much he keeps his head down, his batteries never seem to charge themselves up again. Yet he cannot for the life of him work out why; he doesn’t know which part of the process is broken. Is the charger itself broken and, if so, which part of it? Or is it a faulty connection in the wires? Or could it be Blaine’s brain that’s come apart?
Maybe, thinks a small voice in his head, maybe he doesn’t run on rechargeable batteries. Maybe he’s one big disposable battery that stopped providing electricity a long time ago.
He hears footsteps and watches Kurt’s boots come towards him—alone thankfully—the perfect heel to toe motion of his walk hypnotising. He’s not sure whether he’s zoning out or zoning in. Kurt sits down a careful distance away from him and crosses his legs; for some reason, the movement doesn’t seem as graceful as usual. He follows the trail of one of the little cracks with his eyes until it disappears underneath Kurt’s thigh. It’s not until he’s been staring at the material of the designer jeans for several long seconds that he realises it’s probably inappropriate to stare now. Kurt’s too polite to say anything about it though. Kurt’s probably too polite, period.
“Ants are weird creatures, aren’t they?” The question pops into his head and out of his mouth as he watches one scurry along the edge of the sidewalk.
“How come?” Kurt doesn’t miss a beat before he answers, apparently not thrown by Blaine’s strange question.
“Because they’re tiny and get stepped on all the time, but they can actually carry things twenty-times their own body weight—like, they’re really strong.”
“Like you.” Kurt says after a moment.
“No.” Blaine shakes his head. “No, not like me.”
“Like what, then?”
“Like…” He looks around at the parking lot, the rows of cars and empty spaces, the white lines marking out all the boundaries. “Like white lines in a parking lot.”
“Blaine Anderson, you are by far the weirdest thinker on the planet!” Kurt laughs, eyes reflecting the fall sun.
“Sorry.” Blaine apologises even though he thinks it was a compliment.
“That’s okay.” Kurt replies, and suddenly it feels like their whole exchange has a hidden weight to it, one Blaine failed to grasp.
“So…” Kurt continues. “…Sam?”
“Mm.” Blaine hums noncommittally, scared he’ll misinterpret the meaning again.
“You quit Glee?”
“Yep.” He picks up a tiny stone—more of a piece of grit—and rolls it along the ground next to him.
“Because the others stopped supporting you?”
“Not really.” He likes the feel of the friction on his thumb as his stone bumps along.
“Because it wasn’t the same anymore?”
“And you stopped sitting with them at lunch?”
“They didn’t want me.” The stone gets stuck in a groove for a second, but Blaine dislodges it and carries on.
“Your parents weren’t at home?”
“Business as usual.” He’s rolled it as far as his arm can stretch; now it’s just sat there under his thumb. Kurt sighs.
“I should have picked up your calls—I’m sorry.”
Blaine flicks the stone away from him and shrugs. “It’s ok. I’m not your responsibility, Kurt.”
“No, but you always say my name really nicely.”
The statement throws Blaine off so much that he has to look up into Kurt’s face. “What has that got to do with anything?”
“You just—you’ve always said my name really nicely and I couldn’t be bothered to pick up.”
“…Okay?” Blaine says slowly, hoping Kurt will actually explain. He doesn’t. Instead, he stands up and brushes off his designer jeans. Blaine wonders whether the ant is still clinging to his thigh; Blaine doesn’t blame him if he is.
“Come on, you, let’s go home.” Kurt’s voice is a strange mixture of affectionate and sad which makes Blaine’s chest reflect those feelings and he thinks about how a few hours before, it had all seemed so simple.
But then Kurt takes Blaine’s hand and leads him back to the car and the fire reignites up his arm. Teach me how to pull the blanket off, he thinks, like you did. I want to breathe again, but I don’t know how. Teach me how to say my name like I say yours.