Chapter 16

"Being deeply loved by someone gives you strength, while loving someone deeply gives you courage." ― Lao Tzu

"THAAAAD!" Blaine jerked upright, eyes flying open, heart pounding, at the ear splitting cry. Looking wildly around the dark room, Blaine saw the outline of David's figure hurtling towards the door. Gasping for air, heart still hammering from fear, Blaine swung himself out of his bed and chased his roommate out of their room.

"David!" he cried as David struggled to open Thad and Sebastian's door, rattling the doorknob loudly as he failed to get in. "David, just-" David threw himself through the door, stumbling into the dark room, and Blaine, taking another deep breath, leapt after him, tripping over something that was lying on the floor and crashing to ground. He glared at the carpet, cursing David's name until he the sounds of David's sobs processed with his brain. He pushed himself up and froze at what he saw.

David was on his knees, face pressed into Thad's side as his shoulders shook as he cried from relief – no doubt only just remembering that Thad was out of hospital, and that he was fine. However, it wasn't that that surprised him, but where Thad was. Thad wasn't lying asleep in his own bed, but was, instead, curled up against Sebastian's side. His head was nestled on Sebastian's right shoulder, nose pressed into his neck. His right arm was across Sebastian's chest, hand right over his heart, and the left was bunched into the fabric of Sebastian's t-shirt. The most surprising thing, though, was that Sebastian was still awake. He was lying in his bed, headphone trailing from his left ear, and looking rather unfazed by David and Blaine's arrival.

"Bastian?" he asked as he got to his feet, plonking himself down at the end of Sebastian's bed and putting a hand on David's shoulder. Sebastian turned off his iPod, reaching over Thad's head to put it on his bedside table, and yawned.

"He got a bit upset," said Sebastian in a steady voice as David wiped his eyes, looking up. "He said he felt like he was going to drift away…" There was a rather choked quality to his voice, and Blaine got the impression that those words frightened him just as much as, if not more so, they did Blaine. Blaine took a deep breath because that was just- it was frightening to hear that he wasn't all here, but, the more he thought about it, it seemed that Thad had a desire to live – or at least not lie to Sebastian – because he'd told him. "He said he was scared."

"That's good," admitted David as he rubbed a hand over his eyes, patting Sebastian's shoulder with the other because Sebastian sounded like he was about to burst into tears, probably because he had no idea what to do. Blaine nodded along with David's words because Thad was being honest with them. Nothing else mattered because this meant they could keep him safe from himself. "Though I have to ask why your immediate reaction was to invite him into your bed."

There was a pause in which, to Blaine's surprise, Sebastian stared at him through the darkness. Blaine blinked, not sure what was going on, and then looked at David, who shrugged. Sebastian let out a huffy sound that told Blaine that he'd rolled his eyes.

"To be an anchor," he said in his why-are-you-so-dumb? voice that made Blaine roll his eyes even though he was glad to not have the near-crying-because-he-felt-useless-and-like-a-failure Sebastian anymore.

"I didn't know you'd listened to me," he admitted because Sebastian had been highly preoccupied by Thad's attempted suicide at the time. There was a very unnerving pause in which Sebastian projected a disdainful air onto Blaine for thinking that Sebastian hadn't listened to what he'd said – sometimes Sebastian's change was so drastic that it was unbelievable.

"Well I did – it wasn't stupid." Blaine snorted along with David as he watched his roommate peel back the covers and give Sebastian a pointed look. Eventually, Sebastian rolled his eyes and moved over, gently bringing Thad with him. The sleeping boy stirred, gently, but settled right back against Sebastian when he stopped moving. David curled up against him, putting his head on his shoulder, and closed his eyes, exhaling slowly.

Blaine decided, in that moment, that he didn't really want to leave. He didn't want to walk out the room and be alone when he could be with his three friends, wrapped up in warmth and safety. He didn't want to leave on the one night Sebastian was opening up his bed – and that sounded really odd and kind of wrong, but Blaine couldn't think of another way to put it – to them and finally seemed to really understand that they needed each; all of them. Sebastian wasn't exempt or the exception anymore because, though he was sarcastic and annoying and scathing, he cared about them and they cared about him just as much.

He pushed himself off the bed and snatched up Thad's pillow. He saw Sebastian watch him as he picked up the end of the covers and tucked himself underneath. He rested his head against the pillow, and a second later Sebastian's foot painfully collided with his shin. He growled.

"Bastian…" he said in a threatening tone of voice. "if you kick me again I'll- OWW!"

"Bastian?" Thad had awoken, elbowing David in the stomach and causing him to go tumbling off the bed, dragging the blanket with him.

"Go back to sleep," said Sebastian in a calm tone of voice, like this sort of thing happened every day, and, after some confused muttering to himself, Thad put his head back on Sebastian's shoulder. Blaine shivered slightly in the cold, but David was back on his feet and had flung the duvet over them all.

"Bastian, I'll kill you if you kick me again," threatened Blaine.

"He's not scared of you," commented David from where his head was lying next to Thad's.

"Night Bastian…" said Thad through his yawn, seemingly oblivious to what was going on.

"Night Thad." There was a moment of silence in which Blaine was sure that David was sniggering at Sebastian's automatic response, and the way his arms had wrapped around Thad protectively. There was a quiet whisper. Then Sebastian's foot collided with Blaine's shin again.

"Bastian!" he roared, glaring at the boy, who was sniggering, leaning his cheek against Thad's hair, who was giggling into Sebastian's chest. David was laughing, loudly. Blaine rolled his eyes and muttered "traitors" loud enough for the others to hear, but when he'd planted his face back into the pillow, he couldn't help but join in with his own chuckles.

"How are your shins?" asked Sebastian, blithely, gaze still focused on the front of the classroom. Blaine glared at him, silently cursing the fact that the empty seats were always next to Sebastian. Thad and David were hiding their laughter behind their copies of Frankenstein. Blaine glared over at them too.

"Bruised," he replied with a scowl. "You so did not do that to Thad."

"Thad wasn't stupid enough to sleep by my feet, neither was David. I told you that you were stupid." Blaine stabbed his hand with the end of his biro. Sebastian hissed and reached for his compass. Thad's hand came out of nowhere and snatched it from the case before Sebastian could touch it.

"Play nicely," he said, turning the page and looking back at the book. David was pressing a hand over his mouth to stop himself from bursting out into hysterics, book shaking as he suppressed his laughter. Blaine rolled his eyes as he looked back at the text. A second later a pen stabbed into his hand.

"Son-of-a-bitch!" he hissed, glaring at the indentation that Sebastian's fountain pen had made in his skin. He glared at him, shoving the hand into his face. "That broke the skin!" he exclaimed. Sebastian brushed it away, rolling his eyes.

"I'm trying to concentrate."


"You shouldn't have done it first," Blaine growled under his breath, but was stopped from snapping back by David's laughter finally breaking free. He snorted at the two of them, bending double over the desk.


"You guys aren't exactly being discreet you-"

"BOYS!" The four of them jumped, staring innocently at Mrs Henderson as she glared at them. She deflated the moment that she knew she had their attention, and her glare toned down into a look of disapproval. "As glad as I am to have you all in this class and to see you laughing and smiling, please concentrate." There was an awkward pause in which Thad fiddled with his fingers in a nervous manner, David suppressed his laughter and Blaine and Sebastian just gave each other evils.

"Yes, Mrs Henderson," they chorused. Their teacher glared at all of them, daring them to cause any kind of disruption in the lesson again, before turning back to the class in general.

"Now, as I was saying, the different narrative perspectives in Frankenstein…"

Blaine could tell that all the Warblers were tenser than yesterday when he took his seat in the nearest chair to the council table. Nick came to sit next to him with Jeff, who put an arm around Nick's shoulder and pulled him close, and Trent perched on the arm of the sofa. Thad was once more staring at his seat like he didn't want to sit down, and, this time, Blaine knew that Sebastian and David were going to chase up on it.

"Thad," said Sebastian as all the Warblers sat in silence, staring worriedly at their council member. "is there something on your seat?" Thad looked over at him with a confused frown.

"What?" Sebastian rolled his eyes and looked at David. David sighed.

"Why aren't you sitting down?" he asked, gently. Blaine saw Thad look around the room with tear-filled eyes and sat up straighter in alarm. Thad shrugged, swallowing, as Nick shifted in a manner that suggested he wanted to get up and hug Thad, but didn't feel like he could.

"Maybe Hunter was right," he whispered. Every person in the room stiffened. Blaine suddenly forgot how to breathe. He was pretty sure that his heart had stopped beating. No.

"What did you say?" asked Sebastian in a cool voice, getting to his feet. Thad looked around the room again, swallowing.

"I can't make decisions," he whispered. "I can't- I just can't." He put his head in his hands, whole body trembling, and Blaine leapt to his feet as Sebastian and David slid themselves over the table to run to his side. The three of them stood around him, arms outstretched, but Blaine knew that they, like him, were at a loss for what to do because it wasn't just Hunter. Thad hadn't wanted to sit down before Hunter had said what he had; he was doubting himself, scared and not at all sure how to deal with everything that was crammed inside him.

"Sing," he whispered, suddenly, because that's what they'd told him to do when he had been trying to deal with it on his own. Thad had no words to try and explain what he felt, Blaine could see him struggling to try and find the words that could come close, but Blaine also knew that they didn't really exist. However, Blaine did know that if Thad thought hard enough, he could find the lyrics to express it all.

When your tears are spent on your last pretence

And your tired eyes refuse to close and sleep in your defence

He sang in a trembling, quavering, voice as he raised his head from his hands. Blaine swallowed, understanding those feelings so well; when he'd burst into tears in the hall when he'd realised that they could help and understand, when Kurt had torn into him in his home and when he'd been reduced to a sobbing wreck over had happened to Thad because he was not able to deal with any of it all…crying was the only way they had to release their emotions, but it tore away at your strength, and it left you so tired, but so unable to rest.

When it's in your spine like you've walked for miles

And the only thing you want is just to be still for a while

He looked over at Blaine at that, meeting his eyes, and Blaine understood some more. Thad was still achingly, crushingly, tired. Blaine knew that his limbs were lead weights, his eyes heavy lidded, and that he had no purpose or drive or fight left in him. He was so tired of everything, and, God, if Blaine knew that feeling.

The Warblers burst into immediate harmony as Blaine swallowed, looking over at David and Sebastian. David had a hand resting on his head, eyes closed for whatever reason, and was breathing deeply. Sebastian was pale faced, taut mask in place, but the give away were his eyes; peeled wide open in alarm and terrified understanding that Thad was still too tired to feel like there was a point to any of this...He just wanted to be still...at peace...dead...

And if your heart wears thin I will hold you up

And I will hide you when it gets too much

Tears had filled his eyes when he broke in because Blaine understood all of what Thad felt, but he still felt powerless to do anything to help. So he pulled him a bone-crushing hug, rubbing his hands up and down his back because it was still the same; they could be there for each other and share comfort, understanding and love.

I'll be right beside you, I'll be right beside you

And he wasn't letting go or turning away because, despite what the others might say, a lot of this was Blaine's fault. Thad had tried to be strong for him; had felt like he had to be strong when he couldn't be, and that had helped destroy him. So Blaine had to do everything he could, offer everything he had, so that Thad knew that they were equals in this...that he wasn't alone...

When you're overwhelmed and you've lost your breath

And the space between the things you know is blurry nonetheless

Thad was looking at David, and Blaine took several steps back, proud of himself for thinking this up. He watched as David inhaled sharply; knowing that Thad was talking about why he'd done what he'd done, letting David in and explaining why he hadn't let him in the room – it was all too blurred together for him to ever pick it apart, but, at the same, it was the blurring of the lines that had tipped him over the edge in the first place.

When you try to speak but you make no sound

And the words you want are out of reach but they've never been so loud

His hands were trembling furiously as he spoke straight to David, and Sebastian, and Blaine – all of them, whether they knew it or not – about how he felt. Blaine knew that Thad wanted to be saved, but he didn't. He was trapped somewhere, all on his own, and he was trying to reach out to them, but he couldn't ask for help.

And if your heart wears thin I will hold you up…

But, as Blaine watched David take over the melody line and pull Thad into a really, really, tight hug, he knew that Thad didn't need words anymore. They were here to help him even if they didn't know how; Blaine just knew that he was never going to take the risk of ever leaving Thad behind. None of them were. David had been in this mess from the start, and in all that time he had never given up on Thad, on Blaine too now. Blaine knew that David would pull them through whatever came their way because that was his job, or, at least, he percieved it that way. David wasn't giving up, and that was just what they needed; someone who could share their hope and belief with them. David would never leave them alone, never give up, never give in, never stop, never run. He'd be with them forever.

Trust in me, trust in me, don't pull away

Just trust in me, trust me 'cause I'm just trying to keep it together

'Cause I could do worse and you could do better

And Sebastian looked nothing short of desperate as he sung, because Blaine knew that Sebastian was trying – he was really, really, trying – to hold everything together when he was scared, and frightened, and out of control. Blaine knew that Sebastian just wanted to get back to that time when Thad had trusted him, and everything had seemed to be working out alright. Blaine knew Sebastian wanted to give Thad something better, to make him okay, but Sebastian couldn't think how because, at the end of the day, Sebastian would never understand.

When your tears are spent on your last pretence

And your tired eyes refuse to close and sleep in your defence

Thad looked straight into his eyes, tears dripping over his eye lids at long, long, last because he was tired and weary, but he was still there. He was still with them, and, as he stared at Sebastian, Blaine knew that he wanted to be. He was on the verge of giving up, and exhausted, but he wanted to stay. Suddenly, Thad had thrown his arms around Sebastian, who squeezed his eyes shut, holding him tightly, as he opened his mouth to sing;

And if your heart wears thin I will hold you up…

The rest of the Warblers, who had remained in their seats as they harmonised, got to their feet to form a protective circle, offering their own support, love and strength to him. Silently saying that if there was anything that they could do to help than they would, but Blaine knew that they couldn't provide any greater help than by making sure that Thad knew that. Just by being there they were making sure that Thad knew and understood how much people cared about him and loved him – that was going to be what made the difference in the end.

I'll be right beside you, nobody will break you…

Blaine watched Hunter shovelling the snow from the footpaths of Dalton, white flakes sticking in his brown hair as he scowled. Blaine was standing in the sheltered doorway to the boarding house, and, for some reason that he couldn't quite explain, he felt like he needed to talk to Hunter.

Things at Dalton had settled down quite considerably after Thad's second day: David didn't have nightmares anymore, Thad was confident back in Warblers and life was just generally being okay, but none of them had ever really addressed the issue of what Hunter had said. Blaine knew that David wanted to prioritise, and Sebastian would simply scowl at the mention of Hunter because he thought it would ruin Thad's good mood, but it didn't stop Blaine from wondering just why Hunter had said what he had.

Sighing, he examined the ex-Warbler once more. He had a very straight spine, no doubt his military upbringing forcing him to constantly stand on parade, but he didn't seem quite as confident or assured anymore. Blaine guessed that a situation had never self-destructed in his face the way his attack on Thad had. Hunter struck him as the person that, unlike Sebastian, was used to people looking up to him and respecting him. Sebastian either used people's naive, giddy, awe of him to blind them to his faults so they did what he said, or he bullied, coerced and tricked people into following him, but Hunter was likely used to, at least, being respected.

Huffing, Blaine decided that this time was as good as any other time, maybe even better given that there was a distinct lack of other people around, and made his way over to Hunter. He stopped in front of him, expecting Hunter to cease his work, but Hunter just continued to stab the shovel into the snow and then chuck it aside in an almost rhythmic way.

"Hunter," he said, clearing his throat. "I want to talk to you." Hunter threw some more snow onto the grass and then thrust the shovel down into the frozen ground.

"What?" he demanded, looking at him with narrowed eyes. Blaine sighed, watching his breath spiral in the air before him.

"Why did you do it?" he asked, softly, stuffing his hands into his pockets and staring at Hunter in an even manner. Hunter frowned, briefly, before picking up the shovel and returning to his work.

"Do what?" he asked, nonchalantly. Blaine huffed in annoyance and pulled the shovel from his grasp, holding it out of the way. Hunter glared at him, and Blaine stared him down, not at all intimidated by him.

"Call Thad what you did!" he exclaimed because what did Hunter think that he was talking about? Hunter shrugged, rubbing his gloved hands together.

"Why?" Blaine closed his eyes, wondering why he was being such a piece of work, and let out a long sigh.

"Because you're not stupid," Hunter smirked a tiny bit, and Blaine gave him a frosty look. "and I know that you thought you'd get away with it, but why then? Why after you came and sat with us? Just why?" Hunter sighed, looking around the grounds once before standing up a little straighter, balancing his weight on his feet and folding his hands behind his back.

"Do you know what the best thing to do is when your enemy has a victory?" Blaine frowned and then shook his head. "You lie low. You let them think that you're finished, but you lie in wait and watch. You wait until they let their guard down, you find their weak stop, and when they're at their weakest BAM!" Blaine jumped a little at the sudden change in volume of his voice.

"That's it?" he demanded, when he'd processed what Hunter had said. "You did it because Sebastian and David ousted your from Warbler council?!" Hunter gave him a steady look.

"I didn't start this war," he said, evenly. Blaine glared at him, taking a couple of deep breaths so that he wouldn't explode because he could not believe that Hunter would take such a risk over something so insignificant.

"Do you have any idea what kind of damage you could have done?!" he yelled. "Thad had just gotten out of hospital after trying to commit suicide! You would risk his life for some stupid war game?" There was a silence in which Hunter stared at Blaine in a very blank manner.

"There was no risk; it wasn't true, nor does he give a damn about my opinion. I only did it to get a reaction out of Sebastian – it worked, I don't regret it." Blaine stared at him incredulously because he genuinely did not understand the damage that he could have done. He pinched the bridge of his nose, closing his eyes.

"Hunter," he said, looking back at him in a tired manner. "that doesn't matter; what matters is that you fed the fires of Thad's self-doubt. You say something like that, and he doesn't see you attacking Sebastian, he sees confirmation that he isn't good enough, or that no one likes him, or that he's wrong, or broken…worthless." He looked straight into Hunter's eyes and saw that, just like in Warbler hall, he was suddenly unbalanced.

"I see," he said, a frown falling onto his face. Blaine swallowed, not sure what else he had to say. He was furious, but he could also see that Hunter had genuinely not factored in the possibility that Thad would have taken him seriously – just another person that thought that Thad could handle more than he could.

"Would you take it back?" he asked, seriously. "Now that you know that, do you want to change what you said? Not because it didn't work, but do you regret it?" Hunter seemed to pause for thought. He shrugged.

"Casualties happen," Blaine swallowed, heavily, and repressed his anger, not sure what to say now. "Besides, I don't want to end up like Sebastian… all that calculating brilliance gone to waste." Before Blaine could say anything more, Sebastian's voice rent across the quiet grounds.

"Blaine!" Blaine spun around with a frown on his face to see Sebastian standing in the doorway that he had previously been occupying. "Come inside!" Blaine didn't know what he wanted, but there was a certain desperation to his voice that caused Blaine to spin back around and thrust the shovel, coldly, back at Hunter.

"You said you didn't want to end up like Sebastian," he said in an unkind tone of voice. "I'll give you some advice on that: don't take pot-shots at Thad – that's exactly how they became friends." He turned on his heel and stormed away, leaving Hunter standing there, clutching the shovel and staring at him. He was so fixed on stomping across the snow to Sebastian, he didn't notice his phone flying from his pocket and landing in the snow by Hunter's feet.

"You alright?" asked Sebastian the moment Blaine made it to his side, glancing back at Hunter, who had returned to his work. Blaine nodded, shaking the snow from his hair and pulling off his gloves. "What were you talking to him about?" Blaine shrugged.

"Why he called Thad what he did." Sebastian stared at him in an appraising manner.

"What did he say?" Blaine shrugged, kicking off his trainers.

"That he did it to take a shot at you." Sebastian's jaw clenched a little bit, but Blaine got the distinct impression that Sebastian had already known that. "What did you want?" Sebastian looked around before swallowing and sighing.

"It's Thad, he's gone really quiet, and I'm not sure what's wrong with him. David's out with his girlfriend." Blaine frowned, trying to think what could be bothering him before indicating that Sebastian should start leading the way to Thad. He followed Sebastian up the stairs and into his room, heart pounding with worry, and was underwhelmed, but also very relieved, to see that Thad was simply sitting, wrapped in a duvet, staring at a photo of his granddad – the one that was dead. Blaine gave Sebastian a look that said to stay back and moved to sit by Thad's side.

"Thad," he said, slowly, putting a hand on his knee. "what's wrong?" Thad wiped his watery eyes and put the photo down.

"I miss my granddad so much, but…I'm…I find myself weirdly glad that he's gone…" Blaine let out a long sigh, a couple of tears filling his eyes, and pulled him into a hug, ignoring Sebastian, who was making "what the fuck?" expressions at Blaine.

"It's alright," he said, softly, rubbing his back. "That's not a horrible thing to think – you just can't bear the idea of him rejecting you like you know he would…" because Blaine had heard all about Thad's granddad's homo and xenophobia when he'd died, and Thad had told Blaine that he'd hated his mum because her parents were Jewish immigrants from Europe. He'd also said that Blaine shouldn't be upset by the news that he'd passed away because he'd expressed his anti-gay views to Thad. Blaine supposed it was one of the reasons Thad had assumed his parents wouldn't accept him.

"Thad," said Sebastian, sitting down on the bed on Thad's other side. "for fear of making you more upset, I won't say that you're being stupid over this, but…you're- you give more than you can ever get." Thad sat back at that, staring at him with a frown.

"What?" Sebastian sighed, giving him a very intent frown, and Blaine tilted his head to the side, intrigued.

"I'm saying that you're always going to reap far less than you've sown: you love all these people, but, at the end of the day, they're not all going to love you back. Some people will take it for granted, some won't notice and some… some will pretend you don't because that's just easier." He shrugged. "You can't do anything about it, but you can move on. You have to step away from all of this," he said, plucking the photo from Thad's hands. "because it's poison. You have to put yourself first because of that: you do the work, cut yourself some slack."

Blaine watched as Thad bit down on the inside of his lip. Blaine wasn't entirely sure he understood what Sebastian had just said, but he reckoned it was somewhere along the lines of stop hating yourself because you care about a lot of other people and that makes you a good person and, besides, not everyone can love you. He had to admit that that was surprisingly deep coming from Sebastian.

The door flew open before anyone could say anything in response, and David came storming in, pulling off his hat and scowling. He wrenched his scarf from around his neck and dropped down onto Sebastian's bed with a frustrated scowl. They all frowned at him as he glared at them with a surprising amount of anger.

"David," said Blaine, gently. "what's wrong?" David took a deep breath, taking off his gloves and flinging them across the room. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Sebastian raise an eyebrow and look at Thad, who shrugged and looked concerned.

"Evie broke up with me!" he exclaimed, furiously, and Blaine blinked in shock, eyebrows rising, because why would she do that? They'd been going out solidly for, like, two years. What the hell? There was a silence in which Blaine struggled to find anything to say because he was suddenly, vividly, painfully, reminded of Kurt.

"But that's not fair!" said Sebastian, suddenly, and all their heads whipped around to look at him in disbelief because had he genuinely just said that? David blinked.

"What?" Sebastian scowled.

"Your girlfriend's name; it begins and ends with e – I knew it was one or the other, but it can't be both!" There was an incredulous silence in which David's eyes, now wide with surprised confusion, slid back to Blaine and Thad, who both shrugged and hid their smiles. Then Thad let out a small snort. Blaine found himself unable to hold back his laughter. Sebastian rolled his eyes, smirking, and David eventually joined in, shaking his head.

"Blaine," said Hunter, barging into the room and making them all jump. "I have a message from Kurt." Blaine stared at him in disbelief. He had a message from Kurt. "He said that he got into NYADA because you broke up with him, and he wants to thank you for that. Here's your phone." He threw Blaine's phone onto his lap and left the room. Blaine swallowed, barely breathing, and stared down at his phone. It sounded like he'd got what he wanted... so why did he feel like bursting into tears? Why couldn't he breathe?

Why was the world ending?

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