Chapter 14

"But in the end one needs more courage to live than to kill himself." ― Albert Camus
Blaine had never been more exhausted in his life than on Tuesday morning. He stood, with eyes that would barely stay open, outside of Dalton Academy, waiting for Thad. Blaine was not sure how Thad had managed to convince his parents that the best thing for him was to return immediately to school and for him to board there like normal, or how he wasn't talking to a professional psychiatrist after they'd all screwed up so badly, but it meant that Thad was going to be their responsibility 24/7, and Blaine wasn't sure if they could do it, and the consequences of that were terrifying.

The worst part, though, was not the crushing feeling of panic or fear, but the fact that every time he blinked he saw what he imagined had happened to Thad, like it had been emblazoned onto the backs of his eyelids as a brand of failure and shame…

He could almost visualise Thad; shaken, scared and afraid, stumbling into his bedroom, slamming the door shut and blocking it. Unable to cope with the intense, overwhelming, nature of everything that he was thinking and feeling – not to mention the sounds of David's yelling and pleading – he had cut into his wrists with nail scissors that he'd bought not long after Wes and David had decided they trusted him because he needed the option; attempting to make pain the sole focus of his attention, subjecting himself to suffering in an attempt to block out the sounds of his world crashing down around him.

But pain was not a bringer of relief, simply adding to his feelings of panic and hysteria, and he'd caved and cracked further; reaching for the painkillers that he'd hidden away in his room after he'd found out about Blaine – just in case. He'd swallowed one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten, eleven, twelve, thirteen, fourteen, fifteen, sixteen…

The packet was empty. Blood dribbled down his forearms, and he felt sick and dizzy – David still crashing into the door accompanied with frenzied shouts and screams – unable to fully stand or think properly.

Then, out of hazy confusions and the distant, yet deafening, noises, came a shining beacon of clarity. Like an angel descending from Heaven in a pool of perfect light, blasting through his clouded mind and giving him purpose, but releasing the slithering, snake, of evil that lurked in its locked cage, buried deep in the back of his mind. And once the ideas – If I die I don't have to deal with this. I'm just a burden to everyone else anyway. I'm weak. I'm worthless. I'm stupid. I'm nothing. I'd rather be dead. – had been released there was no escaping them. They became embedded into his mind, setting their one track tune blaring through his head.

It seemed like the right thing to do.

Fumbling for his pen, he'd scrawled out his message to Sebastian, tears dripping down his face, and put it neatly in an envelope. He walked with heavy limbs to the semi-open door of his wardrobe and took out a belt, unable to hear the bangs and crashes because it didn't matter anymore...nothing mattered. He pulled out his desk chair. He stood up on it, pulling off the light shade, and tested its strength. It would hold. He tied the belt around with fingers that somehow did not falter or fumble, though he felt light headed and drained. He looked straight into the hangman's loop. He could wait. The door shuddered. One of the boxes toppled over. It had to be now. He put his head into the loop. He tightened it. He stepped forward.

Blaine pulled himself away from his vivid imaginings, fighting the intense feeling of nausea that made him want to gag, and looked over at David, who was standing on his left. David had finally broken down as Thad retold what had happened, sobbing uncontrollably into Wes' arms because he'd been right there. If David had been in that room, he would have held Thad in his arms and let him cry and talk sense into him. He would have called Sebastian and Blaine over, and they could have dealt with it. But he hadn't been in the room. That failure was tearing him to pieces.

They had been a mess: Thad crying, his mum crying, his dad crying, David crying, Blaine crying. Only Sebastian and Wes had been able to keep themselves together, Sebastian moving over to hug Blaine in a very tight, reassuring and comforting manner that all stemmed from his crushingly tight grip on Blaine that stopped Blaine from feeling like it might all break apart, and Wes attempting to comfort David, as well as trying to get him to pull himself together in the nicest way possible, whilst Thad's mum attempted to strangle her son all over again as his dad slumped against the wall, pinching the bridge of his nose and, no doubt, feeling completely shit.

After that talking about Eli had been comparatively easy for Blaine because he felt completely drained and empty, and his mind had ground to such a severe halt that it could not work itself up into a panic over explaining his present circumstances because he was emotionally exhausted after hearing what Thad had been through, knowing it could have been averted if someone else had taken Thad home, and he'd simply been through too much. Thad's parents had been sympathetic and hadn't pressed too much, and Sebastian managed to make Thad smile again, which made everybody else in the room smile just because.

They'd gone back to Dalton after Nick, Jeff and Trent had been allowed in to hug him and crack a couple of jokes. The three of them had gone up to Jeff and Trent's room whilst Blaine had borrowed some of David's clothes and hung out with him, Sebastian and Wes in David's room. They didn't do much, just watched more movies, but Wes took Sebastian outside for a "long overdue talk", and, going by the redness of Sebastian's eyes when he'd returned, he'd decided to follow Blaine's advice – if it had been about anything else he would have been insufferably smug, but he couldn't be.

They'd passed out at three am and been reawakened seconds later by David yelling and screaming. He'd run from his room and into Thad and Sebastian's and then broke down into hysterical sobs at the sight of Thad's empty bed. He'd been absolutely convinced that Thad had been successful with his suicide and seemed to think Sebastian was dead too, for whatever reason. It had taken them at least another hour to get him to calm down.

Then David had been too scared to go back to sleep so they'd made themselves some strong coffee and watched old episodes of The Simpsons, though none of it seemed quite as funny as Blaine had remembered. The only highlight had been the discovery that Sebastian could recite every line of every episode, which had left them laughing for some time. It wasn't until Blaine had started to imagine what Thad would have said that the mood died. It was weird because Thad wasn't dead or anywhere near dead anymore, but… After hearing his story, Blaine had suddenly had the realisation that everything that had happened to him had affected him on a much deeper level than it had to Blaine. Blaine couldn't put his finger on why, but it had.

Was it the fact that he and Eli had been very good friends and so it had been more of an abuse of trust? Was it that Thad had never even been kissed before it had happened? Had it been that it had rocked the self-acceptance that he'd been building of himself because everything that Eli had said had suddenly become twisted and unbelievable? Or, it was strange thought, but was it the lack of self-loathing that had left Thad adrift? Blaine had been grounded by his feeling of deep self-loathing because hating himself was easier than dealing with pain, but, also, now that he thought about it, was it the fact that no one had ever loved him in the way that Blaine had been loved by Kurt? Blaine knew that, no matter how much he had hurt Kurt, Kurt had only been as upset as he was about the whole thing because he loved Blaine so much. That had kept Blaine safe. Thad was loved by them, but it wasn't the same as the way Blaine had been loved by Kurt.

Blaine needed to find Thad a good, genuine, boyfriend who loved him and would never, ever, take advantage of him…He hoped that that was easier than it sounded.

Thad's parents made it explicit that they wanted to spend Sunday alone with Thad so Blaine finally picked up his car from Thad's house, and then picked up his stuff from his house, which was blissfully empty, and suggested his idea of getting Thad a boyfriend to David and Wes – Sebastian was taking some time out to get his head together, that surprisingly didn't include sex – and they both seemed to agree it was a good idea, though Wes had gotten strange look on his face for half a second. Then they delivered Wes to the airport, Sebastian had appeared looking far more put together, and Wes gave them a letter and DVD for Thad, both of which he knew were currently in David's pockets.

Looking at Sebastian, now, he saw that he had unwound a lot. He had his hands in his pockets, posture casual and a faint, expectant, smile on his face. However, it wasn't enough to make Blaine forget how he wasn't alright because on Monday – after another sleepless night thanks to David – he had kept a hand on Blaine's shoulder for every possible second, hovering over him like a hawk, and had stared at him with a frightening intensity as he'd been re-welcomed back into the Warblers, and they'd tried to think of a good song to sing to Thad.

Blaine yawned again and sincerely hoped that David would calm down when Thad turned back up. David looked ready to collapse as he stood, eyes fixed onto the driveway up to the school, waiting for the moment when Thad's dad's car came towards them. He heard Sebastian give out a mixture of a groan and yawn.

"He should be here by now," commented Sebastian in a grouchy voice as he looked at his watch. "Where is he?" There was a pause before David yawned and shrugged.

"His parents are probably worrying about him and molly-coddling him. He'll be-" David broke off as Thad's car came up the path. David broke into a grin, Sebastian let out a loud sigh and Blaine found himself standing up straight. The car came to a stop in the parking lot, and Sebastian dashed towards him. David and Blaine groaned in unison because that meant they had to use their legs, which were heavy, but moved over to them anyway.

When they got there, Thad's parents were looking at Sebastian and Thad's very long hug. Blaine waited for them to break apart, Thad managing to grin up at Sebastian, and then Blaine leapt onto his friend. He pulled his definitely-skinnier-than-Blaine-had-thought-he-was friend into a tight embrace. Thad clenched onto him tightly, and Blaine wanted him to never let go because as long as he was holding onto Thad he knew that he was going to be okay. He let go and stepped back as he heard David clear his throat, demanding to hug Thad too. Blaine rolled his eyes as he watched David give him a strong hug and then hand him the letter and DVD from Wes.

"Thad," said his father, putting a hand on his shoulder. "are you absolutely sure that you're ready for this?" Thad looked at his dad, from his place in-between Blaine and Sebastian, and gave him a weak smile and nod.

"Dad, I'm going to be okay, I promise. You should just go to your meeting with the Headmaster. I need to go to lessons." Blaine didn't know whether Thad was really okay, or whether he was just lying, but he knew that the best thing for Thad was going to be trying to move on from it – being constantly reminded of what had happened wasn't likely to make him feel better.

"Alright, kid," he said, hugging his son. Thad gave his dad another smile that looked only a little bit laboured.

"Call us if you need anything, sweetheart," said his mother, hugging him and kissing him on the cheek. Thad managed an eye roll.

"I will. Now, go!" The two of them walked towards the school, and Thad turned back to his friends. Blaine swallowed, grinning at him because Thad was back and that made things feel quite a bit better. There was an awkward silence. Thad looked at the ground. "Um…does the whole school know?" he asked, softly, and they all looked at him in mild confusion, and Blaine could see the insult hanging from Sebastian's lips. "About me being gay, I mean."

"Yeah," said David, gently. "It's not something that's, you know, new to them…and it stopped any awkward questions." Thad nodded, looking mildly discomforted.

"Okay, I just wanted to check." There was another awkward silence before Sebastian put his hand onto Thad's shoulder, giving him an intent look.

"Come on, let's just go to lessons, but I should warn you that Mr Hart and his "psychic circle" will freak out at the sight of you." Thad frowned at his friend in mild apprehension, and Blaine felt a small smile curve onto his lips whilst David rolled his eyes.

"They kept trying to contact your soul to guide you home," said David, rolling his eyes once more and looping his arm over Thad's shoulders, beginning to guide him towards the school. "Even after we'd told them that you were awake and fine." Blaine waited, holding back his laughter, for Thad's reaction. It took a couple of seconds, but Thad eventually began to chuckle, shaking his head in amusement.

"Of course," he commented, dryly. "a perfectly natural thing to do."

"Perfectly Dalton," corrected David with a grin, and Blaine found himself laughing over something that wasn't really funny, again, as Sebastian hovered by Thad's shoulder with a smirk on his face for starting the conversation in the first place.

"How were your lessons?" asked David, plonking himself down his seat in the centre of the Warbler council table and turning to Thad, who was standing before his own seat with a look of mild hesitation on his face. Blaine, who was sitting on the sofa watching Sebastian stare at Thad, rolled his eyes because David had been in most of them – Thad had been a little quiet, but had laughed every time that Sebastian had tried to make him.

"Okay," said Thad, shrugging and continuing to look at his chair. Blaine frowned at Thad as the patter of feet on the steps told them that the Warblers were entering. There were a couple of delighted cries from boys that hadn't seen Thad yet that day, and Thad obligingly hugged them all before retreating back to the table, still not sitting down.

"Thad?" asked Sebastian, who had done something – David and Blaine had only found them giggling (yes, Sebastian had been giggling) in the gym after – that had made Thad smile intermittently throughout their afternoon lessons, from his perch on the other corner of the Warbler council table. There was a moment in which every Warbler stared at him, minus Hunter, before Thad smiled.

"I'm fine," he said, pulling out his chair and taking a seat. He then glared up at Sebastian. "Get off the table," he snapped. Sebastian rolled his eyes, smirking, but hopped off the table obligingly and took his seat. There was an awkward silence before David took up the gavel, a pleased smile on his face, and banged it.

"Alright," he said, lifting his arm into the air to stop Sebastian snatching the gavel from him. "we don't have much to focus on except a send-off for Mr Albernay." There some sad nods from the Warblers, and Blaine pulled a face because he liked the old music director. "After all that he's done for us I think that we should make a big deal of this – we're not just going to give him one song and then say goodbye. I think a medley would be a good- What, Hunter?" David broke off in exasperation, glaring at the other boy.

"Am I the only person in here who is wondering why Thad is still on council?" There was a moment of utter quiet at that. Blaine felt himself stiffen, glancing over at Thad whose eyes were wide open in fear. Flicking his eyes along the table, Blaine saw Sebastian straighten up, a cold look appearing on his face, and David clasped his hands together and rested his forearms on the table, staring at Hunter.

"What's that meant to mean?" demanded Jeff, frowning and breaking the intimidating silence that was being radiated from David and Sebastian in an attempt to get Hunter to back off.

"That," said Hunter, not looking over at Jeff as he kept his sight trained onto the still looking Thad. "given his mental instability, don't you think it would be better to take him off the council?" Blaine clenched his jaw, taking in a sharp breath of anger. David's hand had clamped around Thad's wrist to stop him from going anywhere. Sebastian got to his feet and moved over to stand by Thad, towering over him like an imposing guardian and glaring at Hunter with a frightening look of fury.

"Do you want to repeat that statement?" he asked, coldly, and Blaine let himself sink back into the sofa because the best way to deal with the situation was clearly allowing Sebastian to tear into Hunter. He saw Nick sit back into Jeff's arms with a smirk as Trent rolled his eyes to the ceiling and folded his hands behind his head, waiting for the fireworks to go off. Hunter got to his feet.

"I said that, given his mental instability, he should be removed from the council. I don't think that there's a single person in this room that's comfortable taking orders from crazy faggot." Blaine felt his blood run cold and a feeling of nausea climb up his throat as a heavy silence fell over the group. Every single eye was trained, in disbelief, onto Hunter. What on earth had made him say that?

Sebastian lunged forward. In a single second, he had vaulted over the table, grabbed Hunter by the lapels of his blazer and thrown him, bodily, across the room. Even as Blaine's mouth fell open in shock, Hunter went skidding over a table, sending chess pieces flying, and slammed into the ground with a great thud.

There was complete silence in Warbler hall. No one breathed. Hunter didn't move.

"Holy shit," came a voice from the doorway, breaking the shocked spell that hung over them. "that was epic!" Blaine clicked his neck as he spun his head round to see Finn Hudson standing in the doorway, looking at the scene with his mouth hung open. Involuntarily, Blaine felt a smile turn up the corners of his mouth at his words – Finn had clearly heard what Hunter had said – and quite a few of the Warblers let out laughs of shock.

"Epic?" demanded Hunter, pulling himself to his feet, face twisted into one of fury. "You call that epic? What are you? A primitive caveman? Oh, look there's someone being hurt; what fun!" Blaine glared at him whilst Finn shrugged, stepping into the room.

"You called him a, well, you know…" he seemed to struggle to find a supplement for the word "faggot", and Blaine saw Sebastian roll his eyes.

"I think the word you're looking for is faggot," he commented, dryly, not looking at Finn but instead keeping a level glare trained onto Hunter. "and that was not someone being hurt; that was someone getting the just desserts for insulting my best friend. Now, here's what's going to happen: you are going to walk out of this hall, you will pack your things and take your sorry ass out of Dalton Academy." Hunter snorted incredulously.

"You can't expel me." Sebastian narrowed his eyes, glaring at Hunter with a look that made Blaine shudder.

"Watch me." Hunter smirked at him, shaking his head in amusement.

"No, you don't understand; you can't expel me – after everything that you did the Headmaster assured me that he would be just as lenient with me as he was with you." There was another deafening silence. Blaine felt himself swallowing in horror as he watched the news crash down onto Sebastian, battering him with his failure. Blaine knew that he had nothing to say. Hunter smirked at them all imperiously.

"That's bullshit," said Finn, like this wasn't the moment when Sebastian finally regretted all of his past actions and wished that he had been a good person from the start because it was coming back to haunt him. "Dalton's got a zero-tolerance bullying policy in school, right? And, I mean it was still terrible, but it wasn't technically, you know, bullying."

Blaine gaped at Finn in shock, comprehension slowly dawning, because he was right. Sebastian hadn't technically been bullying them. He had been an utter arsehole, and he should have been punished, but, especially when you considered what Thad had just been through, what Hunter had just done was completely different.

"Trent," said David, steadily, not letting go of Thad but taking his gaze off Hunter. "get the Headmaster." Trent ran from the room whilst Hunter took a step backwards, swallowing and glaring at Finn because Finn being there changed everything; he was an outsider that was unaffected by the disagreement between the Warblers and Hunter, and his testimony would, no doubt, affect things.

"Thanks Finn," breathed out Blaine, looking up the temporary leader of the New Directions. Finn grinned down at him, shrugging.

"No problem," he said, shrugging. "He can't just call people that." Blaine nodded, vaguely with a smile on his face. Then he frowned at him, wondering why he was here.

"Finn, what are you-"

"I just came to see that you were alright," he said, looking down at Blaine, and Blaine felt flawed because he'd hurt Kurt terribly so why was he so concerned about Blaine? "I still care about you, man," said Finn, reading the look on his face. "I just wanted to make sure you were alright back at Dalton." Blaine swallowed at his words and smiled.

"I'm fine, Finn, but…thanks," he finished, lamely, not sure what to say. Finn nodded, putting his hands in his pockets.

"That's cool. I just wanted to check, and…" Finn trailed off, shooting Blaine an apologetic look. "I heard from Kurt…" Blaine swallowed, looking at the floor. "He didn't get into NYADA." Blaine felt something plummet inside of him as his mouth dropped open in disbelief.

"He didn't get in?" he echoed in shock. "I- what? How?" Finn shrugged, looking upset over the fact that Kurt hadn't achieved his dream and gotten into NYADA.

"I don't know…" he sighed and opened his mouth, but snapped it shut again as their Headmaster walked into the room. He looked around the room with a critical eye; noting Sebastian's aggressive stance, Hunter's wary one, Thad's white face and David's hand clutching onto Thad for dear life.

"What is going on?" he demanded, softly. Blaine took in a short, sharp, breath, wondering who would be the best person to speak. Sebastian opened his mouth, but then hesitated, thinking. "Thad, are you alright?" Thad swallowed and went to nod. Then his eyes met Blaine, asking for advice. Blaine's told him to tell the truth.

"Hunter called me a crazy faggot," he whispered. Blaine turned his eyes back to the Headmaster who stood, stiffly, in the middle of Warbler hall, eyeing Hunter intently. Hunter stared at him evenly.

"That's true," said Finn, when the silence was too heavy, and Blaine was scared about the reasons for his Headmaster's silence because the situation was so clear cut: why did he need time to think? "I came here to see if Blaine was alright after his transfer and everything, and I heard the whole thing." His Headmaster's brown eyes fixed onto Finn before nodding.

"Hunter, three months detention, and weekly meetings with Mr Hunslow for however long he thinks it's necessary. Speak to Ms Moran about your punishment." Blaine closed his eyes, sinking back into the sofa, thanking the God that he was undecided over whether was up there for him taking that seriously. He had been terrified that he might brush it aside like he'd done Sebastian's attacks, but this was different: Thad was emotionally unstable and a risk to himself – he could not take any chances.

"Sir," said Nick, when everyone had taken the news in: Sebastian had walked over to Thad, who had his eyes closed, head bowed, and was holding David's hands, and the rest had sighed in relief. "I'm not sure I feel comfortable living with a homophobe." There was a pause as the Headmaster looked between them.

"Fair enough, Nick, Hunter you'll room in the faculty building – the solitary room – until your detention is up." Hunter was subjected to a very intense look. "I have to say I'm disappointed. I considered you a better person than Sebastian, but I doubt even he would have attacked someone when they're in this condition – you should consider the severity of what you've just done, and be thankful that I didn't expel you. Your place on the Warblers," he looked around the room at the stone-faced, furious, boys. "is up to them."

There was a moment of silence before their Headmaster nodded at them all and left the room. Finn shifted from foot to foot, clearly not sure what to do. Hunter took a seat on the table that he'd been thrown over, glaring defiantly at the three Warblers sat at the table, Sebastian having retaken his seat but was staring at Thad. Blaine swallowed, looking over at Nick and Jeff whose faces were blank. Nick's mouth twitched to say they were okay.

"I'm going to go…" said Finn, slowly. "I hope you're okay, Thad," he added. The brown haired boy, who was still stark white from at the comment, nodded and managed a weak smile.

"Yes, thank you…" Finn gave him a nervous smile. Blaine reached forward to bump his fist, trying to make some form of normality appear in the world. Finn nodded at everyone else and walked out, no doubt unnerved by the still quiet in the room, which Blaine had to admit was now really freaky. David swallowed and stared straight at Hunter.

"If I had it my way I'd throw you straight out of this room myself, but the Warblers are about equality and acceptance, which includes forgiveness, so I'll put it down to a vote; all in favour of keeping Hunter in the Warblers?" A couple of hands went up from the Freshmen, who Hunter had made a deliberate effort to befriend. The rest stayed down. David banged his gavel. "Hunter, you're expelled from the Warblers." Hunter rolled his eyes and got to his feet. "If, after your detention has been served and Mr Hunslow thinks you've changed, we'd be happy for you to reapply."

There was a stony silence after that, Blaine silently thinking that he didn't want Hunter back in the room that was a place of acceptance and love and music, but had to admit that it was a sad thing. Hunter had come and sat with them in respectful silence when Thad was in hospital; what was so different now?

It was only later, when Blaine was sitting at his desk with his homework, that he let his mind turn back to Kurt and NYADA. He could not believe that Kurt had been rejected again; Kurt was an incredible singer! Glancing at his phone, he wondered whether he should text him; offer some kind of condolence, but what could he say? He picked up the phone subconsciously and stared at it. Tentatively typed out the message;

Kurt, I'm so sorry about NYADA. I would have thought that you were a cert. I hope that you work something out. You're amazing!, and then wondered whether it was too conversational. He bit down on his bottom lip and then added; PS. Thad says thank you for coming to see him in hospital.-Blaine, and sent it because it seemed less personal that way.

He put his phone down, swallowing nervously and remembering how the only thing that Thad had really said after the Hunter debacle was that he really appreciated the support of the New Directions, and he was especially grateful for Kurt coming to see him in hospital, something he had already said to them but never mind.

Thank you, is Thad feeling better?-Kurt.

Blaine stared at Kurt's response for a moment, wondering what to say, but then decided that there was absolutely no point mentioning Hunter because it wasn't Kurt's problem to deal with. Thad was on the mend, it would take time for him to heal, and that ought to be their main focus.

Thad's better, yeah.-B

He deliberately made his message vague, as well as trying to lengthen it because it was so hard to see the stilted nature of their conversation, even if only through text message. They were uptight and polite, not talking about what had happened to Kurt but fixing on someone else because it was easier.

That's good.-K

Yeah, it really is…, he began, because he wanted to say something more. He wanted to say something meaningful that might be able to rekindle their friendship. Thank you for coming to see him, it really helped to know that you were there, even if he didn't talk to you because it showed that, you know, other people cared about him. I think it's helped give him some more courage.-B

The moment after he'd sent the text, he saw his mistake. He had turned off his brain for a second, allowing his fingers to simply type out what felt natural and right because this was Kurt, and he'd managed to put his foot back into the mess. Why had he mentioned courage? He had to admit that the support of Kurt's presence had strengthened something in him, knowing that there were people out there in the gay community that wouldn't take advantage of his desperate circumstances in the way that Eli had; it gave him hope and belief.

I'm sorry-B

He added, quickly, and knew that Kurt would not respond after he had reminded him of everything that they had had, and everything that Blaine had destroyed for them. He put his phone down, putting his head in his hands, and wondered just what the hell was he even doing?

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