On the first day back at school, Blaine’s dad offers to drive him in. He almost declines because it means he’ll have to find a lift home, but then he realises it’s the first time his dad has offered since he got his licence. Plus, although he’s allowed to drive now that his medication is balanced, he still feels anxious every time he gets behind the wheel, as if the car is about to spin out of his control at any second. So he finishes his toast and grabs his bag before sliding into the passenger seat, happy to make somewhat tentative conversation. His dad even asks him about Glee without any derision in his tone; it makes Blaine look forward to it without the usual undercurrent of guilt.
Blaine gets one last wave from his dad as he gets out the car and he thinks it ought to embarrass him, but it doesn’t. Maybe that’s because he’s been waiting eight years for that wave, or maybe it’s because his reputation at this school could not get any worse. Either way, he feels incredibly free as he wonders inside the main doors and heads to his locker. Not even the shove from a passing jock destroys his mood, nor the ridiculously long essay they’re set in his second period English class.
He even manages to score one of the salad pots at lunchtime—by far the most edible item in the canteen—and sends Kurt a victorious text as he sits down between Artie and Sam. The reply buzzes through a few seconds later, and it’s only a smiley face, indicating that Kurt is too busy for conversation, but he’s still taken the time to reply which makes Blaine’s stomach flutter like a pre-teen with a crush. He grins down at the screen until Sam elbows him in the ribs.
“Ouch, what was—“
“Dude, look out, she’s headed your way!”
Blaine follows Sam’s eye-line until he sees the potential threat and—oh, crap.
Miss Pillsbury is clacking her way towards him in her peep-toes, tugging her cardigan tighter around her shoulders and smiling at no one in particular. It’s not that Blaine dislikes Miss Pillsbury, she’s sort of sweet and also one of the few genuine, innocent people in Lima, but he really doesn’t need to give the student body anymore reason to think he’s a freak. And the guidance councillor venturing into the canteen just to speak with him about one of his many problems is basically equivalent to holding up a neon sign above his head saying ‘messed-up weirdo’.
“Blaine, hi!” She says enthusiastically, the others at the table suddenly very interested in their food.
“Um, hi?” He sounds ruder than he should, he knows that; he can practically hear his mother’s sigh in his ear. But Miss Pillsbury is just so falsely cheerful and loud, her voice bouncing across the eerily quiet cafeteria in a way that makes Blaine wince.
“I sent you an email about a meeting this lunch, did you…?” She trails off, unable to even accuse him of not checking his emails in the morning.
“Oh, uh…no, sorry, I just—”
“Would you mind popping along to my office?”
Blaine drops his fork and grabs his bag before she’s finished the sentence, not even caring that he’s barely started his salad. He follows a still-smiling Miss Pillsbury out, trying not to care about the stares and whispers. Logically, he knows that their uninformed opinions don’t matter, but he still feels like a child being marched to the naughty corner, ashamed without fully comprehending why. It’s not like he’s airing his dirty laundry because none of them actually know the details—hell, most of his friends don’t—but they can still make out blurry shapes behind a sheet. This little incident will be all over the school’s blog by this evening; he’s flashed them just enough to weave a couple of absurd conjectures into riveting lies. Besides, the jocks need a nice little excuse to slushie him.
He sits down in Miss Pillsbury’s office and watches her rearrange the stationary on her desk. He feels like he somehow misplaced it all by breathing, that the stapler being a millimetre out of place is in some way his fault. He wonders how she became a guidance councillor with her profound ability to make people uncomfortable; surely making students feel guilty for sitting in her chair isn’t the best way to make them open up. But then, Blaine reminds himself, sometimes it takes a shrivelled balloon to know one. Maybe the fact that she’s living her life despite the gashes is meant to inspire others to do the same.
They both break the awkward silence at the same time and he tries not to grimace at her self-conscious little giggle.
“Don’t worry, you’re not in trouble. I just wanted to talk to you a little bit about your future plans?” She poses it as a question so Blaine nods dutifully. She nods back like one of the weird dolls his grandmother used to collect.
“…Ok?” He prompts eventually when she doesn’t continue. After imagining all the things she could have brought up, future plans seem relatively harmless.
“So it says here—” She taps the sheet of paper in front of her, “—that you’ve applied to NYADA.”
“Um, yeah. I applied a while ago, but I don’t really know…”
She tilts her head at him. “You want to go there?”
“I did,” He takes a breath and then realises something. “I do.”
The sound isn’t very promising and Blaine steels himself.
“You know we’ve had very talented students rejected before,” She says after a moment, eyes ridiculously wide as they watch Blaine.
Blaine wants to laugh because of course he knows that; she’s acting like someone random applied ten years ago, not his own friends, his own—Kurt.
“I’m not saying you shouldn’t have applied—yay for dreams!—but I just wanted to make sure that you had some realistic back-ups.”
“I applied elsewhere.”
“Right, okay, yes.” She shuffles some papers into submission and Blaine realises she already knows that. Why is she asking such pointless questions? “Have you heard from NYADA yet? Are you a finalist?”
Blaine’s stomach shrivels around the tiny bit of salad he did manage to eat. For a moment, he’s tempted to lie and then he thinks better of it.
“No, I haven’t.”
“Well, no need to worry; there’s still plenty of time. No news is good news, right?” She’s smiling again so Blaine resists the urge to tell her that he wasn’t worried until she brought it up. “But I do want you to read this pamphlet because it’s good to be prepared.”
She passes him a badly-produced leaflet with ‘DEALING WITH REJECTION: WHEN YOU JUST WANT TO BE WANTED’ emblazoned across it in what looks like ugly Microsoft Word Art.
“Can’t we just be positive for now?” He asks, refusing to open up the pamphlet. He’s sure guidance counsellors are meant to be encouraging.
“Of course, there’s always room for positivity! I just wanted to remind you that NYADA is an extremely competitive school and also a high-pressured environment so you might be more suited to—”
“No.” He cuts her off, no longer caring if he comes across as rude. Concern about him not getting accepted is one thing—even if it is slightly premature at this stage—but implying it’s not the right choice for him anyway, that somehow he’s too weak to handle it, well that’s something else entirely.
He knows why she thinks that, of course he does. This time last year she would never have made such a comment. But now he’s seen as a liability, susceptible to the slightest of pushes, as if too much competition will make him swallow another bottle of pills. She doesn’t appreciate that her assumptions are far more dangerous than a bit of stress.
“Oh, um, I didn’t…” She’s flustered now, hands flapping uselessly at already-ordered paper. She grabs another pamphlet somewhat desperately. “Here, have a look at this.”
Blaine blanches when he sees the flier for Lima Community College.
“It’s good to have options and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with taking a bit of time to let things settle. After all, you’ve got to have roots before branches…” She keeps talking, apparently unaware that Blaine’s insides have turned to molten lead.
The thing is, Blaine knows that you need roots before you can have branches, but he also realises the need to plant the tree in the soil before said roots can grow. And if he plants himself here in Lima he’ll grow in this limited space. He needs to plant himself somewhere his branches can reach up into the sky, even if he waits for his roots to be firmly embedded in the ground first.
As much as he continues to resist her appeals and stupid sayings, stuffing the fliers into his bag and escaping her office as soon as she loses steam, her words niggle away in the back of his mind throughout the day. He doesn’t understand half the formulas on the board in his math class, it’s some extension of the trig they were doing before Christmas, but he can’t concentrate enough to follow how they are derived. Glee is slightly less awkward than when he’d first gone back, but now he feels itchy in his skin for an entirely different reason. He’s not sat by himself anymore, but he’s still just an observer; he’s too distracted to pick a side in the argument over song choices, let alone contribute any ideas of his own.
He follows the rest of them out afterwards, Tina still refusing to speak to those who didn’t agree with her, and it’s not until he’s stood in the parking lot that he realises he has no ride home. He could ring his mom, but she’s probably busy now that she’s started back at work so he decides to just walk. It’s not like he has that much to do this evening, just a couple of bits of homework. He heads out of the main gates and tries to brainstorm essay ideas while ignoring the uncomfortable thoughts jumbled behind the veil of suppression.
The honk of a car behind him takes him by surprise and he assumes he’s walked out onto the road without thinking, but when he blinks around, his feet are still firmly planted on the sidewalk. Confused, he squints at the car that made the noise and then realises that Sam is behind the wheel. He tries not to feel disappointed when Sam rolls up next to him and winds down his window instead of just driving off.
“Where are you off to?” Sam’s face looks too big framed by the gap of the window and Blaine tugs his coat tighter around himself.
“Dude, that’s miles away.” Sam states, forehead creasing as he tries to work out just how far away Blaine lives.
Blaine considers his concerned expression for a moment. “It’s not too bad and I guess the walk will do me good.”
Sam nods noncommittedly and Blaine’s about to say goodbye when his mouth suddenly drops open, eyes going wide as he stares at Blaine.
“Wait, you’re not like going to go cheat on Kurt again are you?”
“What? No!” Blaine sort of thinks he should feel affronted, but he just feels angry at himself for causing that thought to appear in Sam’s head in the first place. “Besides, we’re not even together now so…”
Sam looks immeasurably relieved and Blaine feels familiar, unwanted thoughts creeping into his mind. He fights to push them away and hold Sam’s gaze.
“Sorry! I didn’t mean to…accuse you of stuff or whatever, but the last time you went off and wouldn’t tell me where—”
“Okay!” Blaine cuts off, aware that he definitely doesn’t want to relive that particular evening. “It’s cool. I really am just going home; my dad drove me in this morning and I don’t have a ride, that’s all.”
“Oh—hey, I can give you a lift?” It’s clearly a spur-of-the-moment offer and Blaine envies his ability to invite people around him without over-thinking the social interaction. It seems like forever since Blaine’s been able to do that which is why, on a whim of his own, he says yes. That and the fact that his fingers have gone numb, the prospect of walking the streets by himself not particularly appealing, especially when it’s too early to ring Kurt.
And that’s how he finds himself sat in the passenger seat of Sam’s car, chatting about random TV shows just like old times. Sometimes the lulls in conversation are a little awkward, suspended somewhere between where they are and where they used to be, but it’s light and uncomplicated and Blaine likes that. Maybe they both rely on reminiscing over previous jokes a bit too much, but they’re reconnecting on some level, their friendship reassembling before Blaine’s eyes.
Sam drops him off still talking about a new game he wants to test out with Blaine and honks his horn as he drives off. As soon as Sam rounds the corner, though, Blaine feels suddenly exhausted. It’s not that Blaine hadn’t enjoyed properly talking to Sam for the first time in months, it’s just that the whole thing was unexpected and draining. He’s sort of got out of the habit of socialising and whilst he thinks he prefers people talking to him than the loneliness of before—especially now they’re starting to talk to him like he’s normal again, less like he’s about to slit his wrists in front of them—it feels like he’s still scraping away the layer of isolation from his skin. He has to work a little bit harder than before to stay engaged which is difficult because being polite and upbeat and outgoing, it’s always come so naturally to him. And now it wears him out.
He supposes it’s a good thing. Dr Marissa would probably tell him that he’s being more genuine with his relationships now, that he’s no longer pretending when in others’ company. But it’s also a pain in the ass because he has to forcibly stop himself from being unsociable, make himself say yes to things like Sam’s game night because he knows he’ll enjoy them once he’s there, that all his doubts and completely stupid foreboding will come to nothing. He prefers hanging out with people to sitting alone in his room, but the latter is so much less effort.
It doesn’t help that his current tiredness only serves to egg on the little voice in the back of his head that hasn’t shut up since his meeting with Miss Pillsbury. Now that he no longer feels like he would be encroaching on Kurt’s territory if he went to New York, now that there’s a possibility of them getting back together, he wants his shiny Big Apple dream more than ever — which is a problem when less than 6% of applicants are accepted. Plus, he’s missed the deadline to apply to any other New York universities so it’s NYADA or Ohio State and, well, the latter doesn’t really compare in his recently de-clouded eyes. It’s better than Lima Community College, but it’s still Ohio and if there’s anything Blaine’s had enough of over the past few years, it’s this goddamn state. Even the thought of enrolling there makes him want to climb into bed and sleep for a hundred years.
When he finally gets the energy to walk up the driveway and into the house, head aching on his shoulders, his mom tells him to come into the kitchen. Apparently she has to go out for some work drinks and has left Blaine elaborate instructions for dinner. He blearily nods, not having heard half the things she said, and decides his dad can sort it out when he gets in later. Naturally, his mom notices how quiet he is and asks him what’s wrong as she fusses with her purse.
The voices in my head are so loud I can barely get a word in edgeways, it’s never bothered you before, he thinks viciously, on instinct. His eyes widen as he realises where this thought process leads, where he’s been headed all afternoon really, and he offers his mom a shrug and a small smile before he heads to his room. He feels like his insides are swelling and very soon they’re going to burst, leaving that old numbness in their wake. He’s a child being held over a drop slide and he doesn’t want to go down it, but he also doesn’t want to hang in this suspended state; if he’s going to be subjected to gravity again, he just wants to get it over with. He wants to fall.
He ought to phone Dr Marissa, he thinks, arrange a quick phone interview if nothing else. But that’s not what he wants—he doesn’t want his New York dreams deconstructed by someone who knows his mind; he wants reassurance from someone who knows him.
He rings Kurt and taps his thumb on his thigh as he waits for the call to be picked up, the ringing an endless hollow sound in his ear. Please, God, pick up this time, I’m scared and I need you, just pick up, please…
No one answers and the automated voicemail gives him such a strong sense of déjà vu that he has to close his eyes. He lies back on his bed, tears already pooling behind his eyelids, and tries to be rational as he hits re-dial. It goes to voicemail again and Blaine lets out a frustrated whimper, dropping his phone on his chest.
He knows Kurt can’t always drop everything for him, but he could at least text, or tell him to—Blaine cuts off his own thought process, aware of how selfish he’s being yet again. He always does this, becomes wrapped up in his own needs and gets himself in a state—he can feel the dread in his stomach, rising up and vibrating inside his chest—
Except it’s not something in his chest that’s causing the vibrations; his phone is ringing, buzzing silently against his sweater, and he grabs at it without even looking at the caller ID.
“Blaine? You okay?” Kurt’s voice sounds concerned, but calm and Blaine soaks it up for a moment before he realises he should probably answer.
“Sorry, I didn’t mean to interrupt…” It’s not what he’d meant to say at all, but at least his voice doesn’t break.
“Don’t be silly, you could never interrupt anything. Hang on, I’m just leaving the office now.” There’s the sound of a door opening and then the general background noise of the city.
“I can ring back later if it’s a bad time?” Blaine asks, praying that Kurt won’t ask him to; he really doesn’t want to be left alone with his thoughts again.
“Nope, you can keep me company while I walk back to the apartment.”
Just then, Blaine’s mom pokes her head round the door, making Blaine jump. She looks anxious, probably ready to cancel her plans, but her face relaxes when she sees that Blaine’s on the phone.
“Kurt?” She mouths at him and when he nods, she blows him a kiss and disappears again. He hears the front door close a moment later.
“Enough about me. What’s up with you?” The sounds on Kurt’s end get quieter and Blaine wonders if he’s ducked down a side-street.
“I saw Miss Pillsbury today.”
“Yeah. She was sort of…concerned about my future plans.”
“Why? What’s wrong with them?”
“Ok, so remember I applied to NYADA? Well, that’s the only one I applied to.”
“I only applied to one college.”
There’s a loaded pause and Blaine waits nervously for Kurt’s reaction. “You only—ugh, you are so unbelievably frustrating sometimes!”
This is why talking to Kurt is the best thing in the world; because had anyone else said that, Blaine would have gotten defensive or apologetic or maybe a mixture of the two, but with Kurt he just smiles into the phone, laughs when Kurt continues to groan dramatically. It’s probably why he never gets tired of speaking to Kurt, unlike everyone else he knows. It doesn’t matter if he sounds off, or unpolished, or weird because Kurt’s seen him at his worst and yet somehow has never run away screaming. Blaine feels like he can fully let his guard down with him; conversation with Kurt is his safe place.
“I mean, I sent an application to Ohio State as well, and Miss Pillsbury gave me a leaflet for Lima Community College today which looks—”
“Blaine Anderson you are not going to Lima Community College! Tell her to shove the flier up her—in fact, don’t, she’s sort of sweet and I still feel bad about that time I threw up on her shoes. But the point still stands.”
There’s another pause and Blaine lets the smile slide off his face. “Kurt, what if I don’t get into NYADA?”
There’s huff of breath on the line. “Okay, firstly, you are going to get in because you are crazily talented and I honestly cannot think of a better candidate. But, if they are total idiots and don’t offer you a place—which, again, not going to happen because you sing like a dream—then you can just take a year off. You can still live with us and work or something while you re-apply to more schools in the city. Either way, it’s going to work out.”
Blaine couldn’t stop smiling now if he wanted to; Kurt knows exactly what to say and how to say it and, God, Blaine couldn’t be any more in love with him.
“I love you.” The words tumble out of Blaine’s mouth as soon as he thinks them, still sagging with relief from Kurt’s words.
“Of course you do, I am an oracle of wisdom.”
“Wow, and so amazingly modest. You could have just said it back, y’know.”
“Presumptuous, are we?”
It’s Blaine’s turn to groan. “Please tell me we haven’t resorted to the royal ‘we’…”
“Grumpy, are we?”
“Oh my God, Kurt—”
“Mm, love you too, sweetie-pie.” Kurt coos and Blaine rolls his eyes; his ceiling must be tired of him grinning at it by now.
“If you’re just going to mock me…” He trails off, half-hearted threat left hanging.
“I’d never mock you, babydoll,” Kurt’s still using a baby voice and it’s ridiculous, but Blaine’s stomach still flips pleasantly.
“Actually, I kind of like that one.” He says seriously, heat flaring in his cheeks even though he can’t see Kurt’s judgement.
“What? Babydoll?” He pauses and when Blaine doesn’t reply he hums in interest. “Huh, I guess I’ll file that info away for later use.”
“No, I’m being stupid, forget it.”
“Now why would I do that, babydoll?”His voice has dropped, it’s sinfully smooth as it meanders into Blaine’s ear, and Blaine is suddenly fighting back a whine for a completely different reason.
“Get it, Blainey!” He’s brought out of his stupor by a yell in his ear which most definitely didn’t come from Kurt.
Blaine laughs as he hears the resulting scuffle on the other end of the line; he’d forgotten that the loft was somewhat crowded now. But Kurt had said that there’d be space for him and Blaine knew he wouldn’t go back on that. Although, if Santana had the couch, Blaine would surely be forced to share Kurt’s bed which—well, there would be no complaints coming from him.
“Blaine?” Kurt sounds breathless when he finally gets his phone back which really doesn’t help clear Blaine’s head of certain thoughts—thoughts that, now he thinks about it, he hasn’t allowed himself to have for months.
“Yep, still here.” Blaine says weakly.
“Ugh, she’s vicious with those nails, and I swear she has a sensor for—I mean, I’ve literally been home two seconds, she’s insane—”
“You love her really.” Blaine reminds him, picking at the skin around his thumb and forcing his heartbeat to return to normal.
“I tolerate her.” Kurt corrects with a put-upon sigh. “You know who I do love though?”
“No, she ate the last of my Greek yoghurt last night.”
Blaine winces, wonders what kind of hunger leads a person to eat Kurt’s stash. “Ouch, she should know better.”
“Yes, but not the point. Guess again.”
“I give up.”
“Not so presumptuous now, I see.” Kurt sing-songs and Blaine rolls his eyes. “I love you, too, even if you are a ridiculous idiot who doesn’t apply to other schools in New York.”
“I’m sorry, I just thought you wouldn’t want—I didn’t see the point at the time.”
“I know what you thought. You know it’s not true now though, right?”
“Yeah, I think so.”
“Good. Love you,” Kurt repeats, and then he giggles and Blaine knows what’s coming. “Babydoll!”
It’s not in any way sultry this time and they both crack up, Blaine’s stupid meeting with Miss Pillsbury already forgotten.
“Love you, too. Thanks for talking to me.”
“You say that like it’s a chore.”
“Well, you do have to wrestle Santana just to finish a conversation with me…”
“Fair point; you owe me one.”
“I do,” Blaine agrees seriously. “Talk to you soon?”
“Of course. See you, Blaine.”
Blaine can just hear him yell Santana’s name before the call is disconnected and he flips over, grinning into his duvet. He feels tired again, but no longer drained—just sort of drowsy, really. He sends Dr Marissa a quick email, setting up his next appointment for the end of the week, and then spends some time picking the perfect song for Glee club.
The next day, he sings a solo for the first time since the start of the year and even asks Sam to record it on his phone so he can send it to Kurt later. It feels so freeing to sing again, surrendering himself to the music without over-thinking it and letting the words drift away instead of himself for a change.
It’s different now I swear
There’s something in the air tonight
And I can only stare at the glimmer of the night lights
And what I used to be scared of is making me aware of why
I lift my eyes from the sidewalk
I was so lost, it was dark
I’m alone, I’m alive
And my hope still scrapes the sky
Like all these buildings I will try
To leave the world behind until my head is clear
Draw a new skyline…and change my atmosphere