The night before his first day as a student at McKinley High, Blaine spends most of the period between midnight and three in the morning staring up at his darkened bedroom ceiling with anxious butterflies twisting at the edges of his stomach.
It’s not that he isn’t excited to go: after all, he had been the one to keep pushing for the transfer even when his parents had exchanged confused looks, and Kurt had shaken his head with flashing eyes saying no, Blaine, you don’t have to do this, and Wes and David’s faces had shifted into twin expressions of devastation when he broke the news to them. Going back into the public system – back into the real world, after the softened fantasy of Dalton – is the only way to confront his demons before it’s too late, and at least this way he and Kurt can face them together.
But more than anything else; more than snide looks, or the fear of shocking iciness slapping him in the face with cold, Blaine is anxious about fitting in.
It’s been over a year since Blaine first donned the Dalton uniform, and as he stares up at the ceiling – wide awake and twisting under the sheets every so often – it occurs to him that he has absolutely no idea what to expect. What to wear, or how to act, or what the course load is going to be like. He feels about five years old, heading off to his first day of kindergarten in the morning with no idea of what the other kids are going to be like. It’s that very same nostalgic sense of anticipation: mingled excitement and slight nausea, the sensation somehow managing to both flutter and sit heavily at the bottom of his stomach simultaneously.
When he finally manages to fall asleep around three thirty in the morning, Blaine dreams of sterile white hallways and the smell of Axe body spray and the days upon days that he and Kurt are going to conquer together.
The next morning Blaine arrives at McKinley neurotically early out of nerves, heading first to the main office in order to pick up his class schedule and locker number. Ten minutes later, he walks out the door clutching a sheet of paper still hot from the printer with a little yellow sticky note pasted on top with three numbers scrawled across – and hesitates. The plan had been for Kurt to meet him at the office at eight forty-five to help him find his way around, but it’s fifteen minutes before their planned meeting time and the idea of standing awkwardly outside the door for so long is slightly painful to think about.
Instead, Blaine reaches into his jeans pocket and pulls out his smartphone.
To: Kurt Hummel
September 26th, 2011, 8:29am
I’m early! :D I was thinking maybe I’d find my locker and then meet you at yours? What is your locker # again? – xox Blaine
Less than a minute later – Kurt must not be driving yet – he gets a response:
From: Kurt Hummel
September 26th, 2011, 8:30am
Sounds excellent. It’s #769, right in the middle of the math hallway. Don’t get lost or stolen in your first ten minutes, honey. ;) – Kurt
Blaine lets out a small laugh as he tucks the phone back into his pants pocket, taking a look down the hall. There aren’t too many people here so early; only a few keeners and people with clubs before class, he assumes, flitting down the slightly dirty corridors that are oh-so-different from the ones he’s been living in for so long. Straightening his striped cardigan that he hopes isn’t too much for a first day at a new school, he picks a direction and begins his search.
It doesn’t take him as long as it potentially could to come across his own locker, although stumbling upon it is more accident than it is talent. He loads his bag inside, along with all his books except the ones for his first class. Blaine spends a few minutes adding a few magnetic embellishments he’d had the foresight to bring with him to the inside of the locker door; a tiny whiteout board and pen, a photo of Wes and David visiting him at Six Flags this summer, one of him and Kurt at prom. The news that ‘the faggot’s boyfriend’ has transferred is sure to have spread throughout the whole school by lunchtime, Blaine is sure: there’s no point in hiding what he is.
Finding Kurt’s locker takes a little longer. He manages to accidentally discover the cafeteria, the small library, and the school gym before he finally breaks down and asks a friendly-looking girl directions to the math hallway. After a rather too giggly set of directions he thanks her, sends her his most charming grin, and continues on his way.
When he finally finds Kurt, however, what he sees makes him freeze in his tracks.
Even with his back facing him, Blaine can immediately spot Kurt at his locker down the hallway. (Blaine is almost positive that he could spot Kurt anywhere, in any size of crowd, at any time. The shape and look and feel of Kurt is seared into the backs of his eyelids, his brain, the tips of his fingers.) Kurt stands, slender and elegant and straight-backed, wearing a pair of jeans so tight they leave absolutely nothing to the imagination.
But he isn’t alone.
There is a large, broad figure looming over him. The boy’s face is obscured by distance and by the students beginning to fill up the hallway, and Blaine can’t quite get a proper look – although he can tell it isn’t Finn or Puck. He is wearing a red jacket, only a little bit taller than Kurt but bigger, wider, with one beefy arm extended as he leans with one hand against the lockers. Blocking Kurt’s way out, crowding into his personal space. Every warning bell and red flag immediately starts going off in Blaine’s head, flashing and sparking and screeching in his mind.
He had known from the beginning that the jocks at McKinley hadn’t stopped harassing Kurt entirely; had even glumly anticipated the spike in bullying his own transfer would inspire. But he hadn’t expected having to deal with it so soon, on his very first day, in his very first hour.
Heart pounding, Blaine takes a step forward and opens his mouth – to call out to Kurt, or tell the guy to back off, he honestly has no idea – when the boy leans his head back and laughs. Loud and hard, and to Blaine’s utter shock, it isn’t a mean or spiteful sound at all. It’s... happy, and real, and boundless as it echoes off the walls. And for the first time, Blaine realizes that Kurt’s posture is relaxed. He isn’t petrified and stiff the way he gets when he feels frightened or threatened; he’s standing normally, casually, as he converses with the boy in front of him.
And when the students clear enough that Blaine can see clearly, his heart feels as though it stops in his chest when he realizes that the boy is Dave Karofsky.
It is at this exact moment, throat feeling choked with shock and confusion, that Kurt happens to glance over his shoulder. Catching sight of him, Kurt’s whole face lights up in an expression of excited delight. He stands a little taller and grins in that uncontrollable way that makes smile lines appear in his cheeks and his eyes sparkle.
“Blaine!” Kurt calls out, raising his hand up and waving it in tiny but very quick shakes. The look on his face makes something warm and familiar flood Blaine’s stomach, tamping down the fear and adrenaline that had been making his hands twitch mere moments ago. Behind Kurt, Blaine thinks he sees a slightly sour look is stealing over Karofsky’s face... but if it did, it quickly disappears again.
He picks his way across the crowded hallway toward his boyfriend, mind racing. Although Kurt had told him about the meeting with the principal and subsequent apology in the hallway at the end of last year, Blaine had never been as optimistic as Kurt had about Karofsky’s sudden and suspicious change of heart. Despite Kurt’s overt snark and sarcasm, Blaine knows that Kurt is a far more forgiving and generous person than most.
But Blaine had never quite comprehended why Kurt believed so firmly that Karofsky wasn’t a threat anymore. He had never quite been able to wrap his head around Kurt’s logic, and had more than half-expected a resurgence in Karofsky’s bullying with the arrival of another openly gay kid McKinley.
He is realizing now, however, that what Kurt’s descriptions could not possibly have conveyed is the absolute change that has come over Karofsky since last year. Although Blaine cannot remember much of Karofsky on the night of Kurt’s Junior Prom – it had been a crowded and excited night, full of anxiety and fun and dancing and everyone except Kurt is a blur in Blaine’s mind – he still remembers the harsh, confrontational boy who snarled at them at the Night of Neglect, or who shoved him into a chain link fence so long ago.
But the boy standing in front of Kurt right now...
It is as though he is a different person altogether.
“Hello, you,” says Kurt playfully when Blaine finally makes it over to the two of them. They don’t hug or kiss in greeting – they’d talked about it before hand. But Blaine smiles back at Kurt as hard as he can, and Kurt reaches down and tugs at the sleeve of his sweater.
“Hi,” says Blaine in return, brushing his fingers briefly over Kurt’s wrist, and for the briefest of moments he couldn’t care about anything else if he tried. There is only Kurt – bright, and shining, and so brilliant that he fills up the whole hallway.
A cough comes from behind them. They both turn to look; Karofsky is standing there, looking awkward and slightly annoyed but with a determined smile still plastered to his face.
“I’d better get going,” says Karofsky, shrugging his big shoulders and giving Kurt an apologetic smile. He doesn’t look at Blaine once, as though trying to avoid seeing him. “I’ll see you in class, Kurt, all right?”
“Bye, David,” says Kurt in a quiet, sweet voice that makes Blaine feel inexplicably tense and agitated. Smiling, Karofsky reaches over and claps Kurt on the shoulder – Blaine winces as his hand connects – but the touch, when it comes, is gentle. His hand squeezes Kurt’s shoulder in a way that is measured and light; not hard enough to make Kurt stumble in the slightest, even though Karofsky is bigger and stronger and harder and it would be easy to make it look like an accident. As though the larger boy has carefully calculated the right amount of force to use.
And none of it would mean anything – it would be weird, and awkward, and a little uncomfortable – if it wasn’t for the look that Karofsky gives Kurt over his shoulder as he turns to leave.
It’s only for a split second and hastily changed into something more neutral, but as Karofsky starts to walk away he turns back – and looks at Kurt as though he is the single most important thing in the school, the town, the world. Gaze trailing quickly over Kurt’s body but lingering on his face; on the bright blue of his eyes and the line of his jaw and the twisted sweep of his hair. It is a look full of straining want and gentle care and quiet desperation, out of place on the rounded bluntness of his face. Looking at Kurt with the same single-mindedness Blaine knows he used to direct toward Kurt during the worst of the bullying, but... shifted. Evolved and distorted into something soft and intense and so, so much more horrifying.
Oh my god, Blaine thinks dully, mind reeling with shocked horror as Kurt’s former tormentor – the boy who made brave, strong Kurt break down and run to another school – continues down the hallway. There is a sickly, awful feeling twisting at the base of Blaine’s stomach. He wants Kurt.
“Blaine?” Kurt asks, jolting him out of his daze, and from the slightly confused tone in his voice Blaine guesses he’s been trying to get his attention for a few seconds now. Blinking, Blaine turns to look at his boyfriend. Something of what he’s feeling inside must show on his face, however, because Kurt’s expression immediately twists up into one of concern. “What’s going on up there?” Kurt asks quietly, reaching up to tap Blaine gently on the side of the head.
And this is the moment. The instant where Blaine could choose to be direct and call attention to it, to make it a private joke between the two of them. God, Kurt, I think he’s a little bit into you. That’s a little bit creepy after everything that happened, isn’t it? It would be the responsible, good-boyfriend thing to do.
But Kurt is looking at him with an innocent expression, all wide eyes and expectation, and something unpleasant twists up at the base of Blaine’s spine when he thinks about saying the words out loud. He doesn’t want Kurt to know; doesn’t want Kurt to have to deal with any of it anymore. Kurt has more than enough to deal with every single day without having to handle his ex-bully having a crush on him. And saying the words aloud would make them real, and deserving of attention, and all Blaine wants to do is wrap his arm around Kurt’s shoulders and hold him close and pretend nothing happened at all.
It doesn’t help that the very idea of another guy looking at Kurt – wanting Kurt – makes Blaine’s palms feel sweaty and his muscles tense and a the sick feeling twist harder at his insides.
So Blaine freezes. Hesitates.
And without even consciously processing his actions, Blaine feels his mouth twist up into a warm smile. The kind he uses to charm girls from Crawford and say goodnight to Mr. Hummel and shines at teachers when he talks to them about marks. “Nothing,” he says, brushing their fingers together briefly where their sides are pressed up close to the lockers and no one can see. “Just a bit nervous for my first day. Walk me to class?”
Kurt tilts his head to the side, bites down on his lower lip – and preens.
“It would be my honour, Mr. Anderson,” he says formally, making an exaggerated twirly-handed gesture that makes Blaine choke out a laugh. If they were at Dalton, he would offer his arm; but they aren’t, and he can’t, so he doesn’t. They turn down the hallway and walk especially close to one another instead, shoulders brushing ever so often. He tells Kurt the room number of his first classroom, and his boyfriend leads them through the crowded halls.
“What did Karofsky want, anyways?” Blaine asks after a few minutes, trying his best to sound casual. Kurt raises a thin eyebrow.
“David?” asks Kurt, cocking his head to one side. He shrugs, but purses his lips in a way that Blaine knows means he is debating whether or not to say something out loud. Kurt makes a small noise at the back of his throat, and it occurs to Blaine all at once that Kurt still isn’t used to having a confidante.“You won’t tell anyone, right?” Kurt asks eventually, looking edgy. “He just told me this morning, and you and Santana are the only other people who know about him.”
“Of course I won’t,” says Blaine earnestly, nodding up and down. He clutches his books a little tighter to his chest.
Kurt glances around quickly, seeming to check to see if anyone they know is around before leaning in a little closer and lowering his voice as they walk. “David just told me that he’s thinking of coming out this year. His reputation is already in tatters from the Bully Whips, and Santana keeps dragging him to glee club whenever she feels like having a dog on a leash. So it’s not like he’s going to be popular anytime soon.” Kurt shrugs lightly, eyes lowered and voice carefully neutral. His entire demeanour is of someone who doesn’t really care either way, even though Blaine knows for a fact how much Karofsky coming out would mean to him. “I told him I think it’s a good idea.”
There is a quiet, panicky feeling swelling up in Blaine’s chest. He tries to shove it down. “Wow,” he says instead, and Kurt nods fervently.
“I know. But, Blaine – that doesn’t matter. You’re here.” Kurt beams at him, voice rising up once more to normal hallway levels, and Blaine knows for sure that if he could, Kurt would be giving him a hug. He lets out a little chuckle. “Your first day back in public school in over a year! How do you feel? Plebeian? Low-class? Like you have less than a fifty per cent chance of graduating?”
Blaine snorts out a laugh, clinging onto the distraction. “Yes, Kurt, I definitely feel all those things,” he says, completely deadpan. “I also have the inexplicable desire to go push over some cows and break into vending machines,” he adds, nudging Kurt’s shoulder with his own. His boyfriend rolls his eyes and giggles before launching into another stream of excited babble.
They walk down the hallway together, Kurt chatting happily about how they have to figure out an audition song for him in glee club, and a new boy Mercedes has started seeing, and which teachers give the easiest homework, Blaine finds himself relaxing into the happy stream of Kurt’s words. Into the familiar and comfortable feel of public school once again, enveloping him back into it.
It’s nothing. It’s honestly nothing, it doesn’t matter. I shouldn’t let it bother me.
Pushing down the uncomfortable flare of anxiety in his chest, Blaine smiles and continues to walk with Kurt toward his first class.
Girls love Blaine.
It isn’t conceited to say so, it’s just a fact. Girls from Crawford, girls from his old public school, girls from McKinley. Girls working as cashiers behind the till at the drug store when he goes to pick up deodorant and shaving cream and hair gel, girls who are his coworkers at theme parks over the summer, girls who catch his eye in coffee shops as he sits and waits for Kurt to arrive, girls his mother still doggedly tries to set him up with. ( “Darling boy, if you don’t give her a try, how will you know she’s not the one for you?” ) It would all be very convenient if Blaine was: a) straight, and b) not very, very taken.
Sometimes, though, Blaine suspects that the fact that he isn’t interested is probably a main drawing point for them. Girls like the air of consideration he puts on, the way he sometimes acts and speaks like someone from a bygone era. They like how non-threatening he is; small and compact and friendly, rarely much taller than them and posing so little danger to anyone at all. They like his confidence on the stage and the casual way he interacts with them, not trying to be underhanded or get anything from them at all.
They like the way he presents himself in public, not necessarily for who he actually is.
Girls don’t love Kurt – or they do, but not in the same way at all. They see him as a confidante, an ally: someone to gossip with and sling an arm around and have him as their gay friend. Kurt doesn’t even register to them as a sexual object, most of the time, but Blaine knows that it doesn’t bother him. His boyfriend doesn’t pass for straight in the same way Blaine does; doesn’t have any true desire to. He’s confident and proud of who he is: it’s one of the things that Blaine loves most about him.
Up until recently, Blaine had never thought too much about the kind of attention either of them might get from other men. There simply aren’t that many options, living here; their environment is so oppressive and threatening and scary, genuinely scary sometimes that the number of out-and-proud gay teens in their county is miniscule. It had been one of the reasons Blaine had pursued Jeremiah so intensely, all those months ago: Kurt had still been firmly a friend, and he simply didn’t have many other chances at romance.
As a result, Blaine has never felt possessive of Kurt, per se, because there has never been any need. He has always felt comfortable in their relationship; knows that Kurt would never lie to him or go behind his back about anything. He has complete confidence that Kurt would never, ever cheat on him in the same way the New Directions seem to play musical partners with their relationships. Not just from lack of people to cheat on him with, either, but because Kurt is a good person. An honest person, and he loves Blaine, and he just never would.
But all the same, Blaine has never thought too hard about other people looking at Kurt. Other people wanting Kurt, thinking about Kurt, imagining themselves with Kurt.
The only attention Kurt had ever received was from Karofsky, and that didn’t count, except now Blaine is starting to suspect that it might. Because Karofsky is everywhere, absolutely everywhere. Walking Kurt to class and chatting with him at his locker and waving as they walk together to Kurt’s car and generally being an all-round decent person, when the hell did that happen? He is, without exception, friendly and personable and kind whenever Kurt is around – and, as far as Blaine can see, all the time.
Blaine is overreacting. He knows he is, but... Karofsky has always had a way of getting under his skin. He reminds Blaine of the bullies at his old school, yes – but the specificity and determination with which Karofsky fixates on Kurt has always been on a completely different level. Karofsky has always had a way of making Blaine’s fingers twitch with the absurd desire for violence and retribution and confrontation so very foreign and terrifying to him.
Regardless of what Blaine should feel, however, there is something about Karofsky’s attitude that bothers him far more than it should. The way it seems so easy for him to hide so much of himself, to fake the way he acts and pretend. And now, with the way he looks at Kurt...
The way Karofsky looks at Kurt makes something unpleasant and ugly twist in Blaine’s stomach. Makes him feel small, insignificant. Powerless as Karofsky’s eyes trail over the curve of Kurt’s neck, the small of his back, the skin of his arms on the rare days his boyfriend wears short sleeves. As though he wants to reach out and touch him, to run his hand along Kurt’s body in the way that only Blaine is allowed to do. In the way that only Blaine has ever been allowed to do, because Kurt keeps himself bottled up and controlled and only Blaine can coax tiny, perfect noises out of his throat. Can make Kurt shiver and arch up into his touch and let himself be seen when he’s coming undone, and that is so special and perfect and theirs and it doesn’t belong to anyone else, not ever.
Those looks make Blaine feel sick, and Kurt is too forgiving a person because Karofsky is around all the time and Blaine is fairly sure he hates him even more now than he did when he was harassing Kurt, and he doesn’t want to think about how bad a person that makes him. He feels stupid, and childish, and awful. Like hording toys as a toddler or solos close to his chest, except this is Kurt and he’s a person and it’s not the same, makes Blaine feel uncomfortable and overheated and anxious with distress that he does his best to hide.
Nonetheless, every time he catches Karofsky looking, Blaine cannot stop himself from wanting to edge closer to Kurt in the hallways, or reach out and wrap his fingers around Kurt’s forearm and press his fingers tight into the skin. To grip him hard, and keep him close, and stop Karofsky from looking at Kurt that way. His eyes raking over the length of Kurt’s body as though Karofsky is starving, and Kurt is a three-course meal.
Two weeks into his stay at McKinley, Blaine is in the cafeteria getting them both utensils while Kurt stakes out a patch of table for them to sit at. He turns, lunch tray laden with forks and knives and two cups of water as well as his own food, scanning the room – but when he finally manages to spot Kurt amid the chaos, the large figure sitting beside him makes Blaine swear under his breath. He starts to walk as quickly as he can toward the table.
“Hi,” says Blaine, putting on a smile when he reaches the table. Karofsky must have slid into the empty space beside Kurt with his lunch tray as soon as his boyfriend sat down. “Fancy seeing you here.”
It isn’t a surprise at all. It feels as though every time he takes his eyes off Kurt for five minutes, Karofsky is there.
“Hey, Anderson,” says Karofsky, grinning a too-big smile at him. He uses his fork to reach over and skewer a few pieces of lettuce off Kurt’s plate; Kurt bats his hand away half-heartedly, rolling his eyes. Kurt looks up at him and smiles – before glancing around the table, looking suddenly worried.
“Oh,” says Kurt, nose crinkling. There are no more empty spaces; Karofsky has filled the only vacancy. “We can go to another table, sorry –”
“It’s fine,” says Karofsky, shrugging his large shoulders and sliding out from the seat. “I was just popping over to say hi. You guys have a good lunch. Seeya, Anderson.”
All of a sudden, Blaine feels incredibly guilty.
Jesus, I’ve been building it all up in my head again, he berates himself, mentally letting out a huge sigh of relief. Karofsky doesn’t have to have any hidden motivations to be nice to Kurt at all, Blaine realizes, the tension in his body letting up. Maybe he’s just a genuinely nice guy who was confused and broken up for a long time, and he’s finally coming to terms with who he is and what it means.
For a moment, Blaine feels incredibly relieved.
Until Karofsky grabs his tray and turns to leave, rounding back to face him. He glances down at the top of Kurt’s head, looks up at Blaine – and winks, lips curling up into a tiny smirk. It’s the briefest moment, one that should barely register in Blaine’s mind. One that shouldn’t mean anything at all.
It is nothing, and it is everything.
Posture loose and relaxed and casual, Karofsky turns and walks away from the table as Blaine’s hands clench into fists around his tray so tightly it hurts.
When he finally manages to get his wits about him enough to sit down, Blaine positions himself so close to Kurt that their sides are pressing up against each other. Kurt looks surprised but happy at the contact, leaning briefly into Blaine’s shoulder and inhaling deeply. Blaine eats and chats and laughs as though nothing is wrong, even as his hands shake and his head feels light.
Thankfully, Blaine and Karofsky don’t have too many classes together. They have Physical Education in the same block and all three of them share the same English class in the afternoon, but other than that Blaine only sees Karofsky when he finds excuses to come up and talk to Kurt in the halls.
Unfortunately, Phys. Ed proves to be more than a bit of a problem. It’s an all-boys’ class, which means they mostly focus on activities that are so masculine they make Blaine wince. Strength training in the weight room, games of soccer played out on the field and basketball when the gym is available, and a ridiculous amount of running.
It isn’t that Blaine is out of shape. He isn’t; he was on the fencing team at Dalton and he’s been doing dance with glee club for years. But Blaine would much rather watch a game of football than actually play. And when it comes to the brutality and raw strength of a lot of the things they do in gym, he just can’t compete with the school’s hearty supply of beefy football and hockey players. Blaine is simply small and lithe where they are big and well-muscled. He honestly doesn’t mind that very much, even if it does get him a few sniggers over the weak little gay kid.
It wouldn’t be a problem except Karofsky is there, giving him that ambivalent look tinged with amusement and contempt as he bench presses huge numbers and easily scores goals, and Blaine feels as though he loses half his mind when Karofsky looks at him that way.
Today, the entire class is doing a run outside. They all know the route; essentially a large square, on the sidewalk of roads around the school because the field is occupied by the girls’ field hockey team right now. It isn’t a long route, and Blaine isn’t bad at running at all: he generally finishes with a decent enough time to get him a good mark and lots of points for trying.
The class is about half way through the route, their sneaker-clad feet pounding on the hard concrete in messy tandem as sweat drips down their foreheads and soaks into the underarms of their shirts. Blaine’s heart is pounding in his chest, curls coming down around his ears with sweat as he and Mike Chang run side-by-side. They’re too out of breath to talk, but it’s pleasant enough to have the company. Blaine likes Mike rather a lot, and neither of them are overly into the whole traditional physical education deal, so it works out well. The October air is cool against the slick heat of Blaine’s skin as he runs, and he’s just about to gesture to Mike that they could go a little slower and still make it back to the school at the front of the middle cluster when –
When a large, dark shape comes pounding up beside Blaine and fills up the whole of his peripheral vision.
Blaine jerks his head to the side, and of course it is Karofsky. The other boy is barely out of breath at all as his shoes slam hard into the concrete beneath his feet, with only the slightest sheen of sweat along the rough oval of his face. He’s lost a bit of weight since last year, Blaine realizes at once, shocked at not having noticed before. His features aren’t as muddied with roundness as they used to be, his waist lacking that little bit of softness, and who the fuck are you trying to impress pops into Blaine’s head before he can stop himself.
Panting and blinking sweat out of his eyes, Blaine looks up and meets Karofsky’s gaze. Even though he’s expecting it, the expression he finds hits him low in the stomach. Karofsky’s eyes are full of mocking derision as he stares right at Blaine, who is breathing hard and probably bright red in the face. Karofsky quirks an arched, slender eyebrow as he looks right at him, not slowing his pace for even a second as he watches Blaine flail. Looks at Blaine as though he is something pathetically beneath his concern – an insect under his shoe – and Karofsky needn’t be bothered.
The larger boy lets out a tiny huff of laughter, drags his eyes away from Blaine’s face – and deliberately begins to run faster, leaving both of them in his wake.
“Blaine?” he hears Mike call from behind him, sounding confused, and without consciously deciding to do so Blaine realizes that he’s speeding up. Pushing himself harder, faster, heart pounding in his chest and feet hurting from how hard they’re slamming onto the concrete. Trying to catch up with Karofsky, to get level with him. Anger is thrumming through his whole body, making him push himself harder harder harder as they swing around a corner. He needs to do this, needs to try his hardest and push himself to catch up.
Adrenaline is pumping in his veins and they’re a metallic taste in his mouth as Blaine pushes himself harder than he ever does in this class, sweat pouring down his face. He’s almost getting level with Karofsky as they start to fly down the final stretch back to the school. Blaine is close, so close, coming up fast because Karofsky doesn’t realize he’s there. Three feet away, two feet away, one foot – and they’re neck and neck, barrelling down the hard road.
Blaine hears the little grunt of frustration rather than sees Karofsky’s face because his lungs are screaming at him, heart hammering against his ribcage as he strains and pushes and tries to keep up. They’re almost there at the designated finish point, it’s so close now, and Blaine’s going to do it –
But in the very final stretch, Karofsky puts on one final burst of speed. Sprinting hard in a way that many years of sports have trained him to do, speeding ahead in the last possible moment and Blaine’s too exhausted from going so much harder than he’s used to that he just can’t keep up.
Karofsky crosses the line about seven seconds before Blaine does, in the end. Stumbling to a finish and bending over almost in two, hands on his knees and breathing hard as Blaine staggers over the line.
“Well done, Anderson!” says their Phys Ed. Teacher cheerfully, marking down his time on a clipboard. Blaine tries to smile in response, but all he can do is clutch at his chest and wheeze as his heart pounds in his ears and he feels as though he’s about to fall over.
For a long moment, there is only the twin sounds of their ragged breathing on the coolness of the air. Blaine’s own choked inhalations over his heart slamming in his ears; Karofsky’s lower, harder pulls for breath. Across from him, Karofsky raises his head and catches Blaine’s eye.
“Does it drive you crazy?” Karofsky pants, voice low and choked with exertion as he braces himself against his knees and stares down at the concrete. He straightens up, spitting into the bushes.
“W-what?” Blaine chokes out, feeling almost too winded to speak. His chest is aching, and the frustration of Karofsky still managing to beat him is reverberating through his whole body.
Karofsky swipes a large hand over his forehead, wiping away some of the sweat there. He turns to face Blaine, cocking his head to one side. There is a pause. “That I got there first,” says Karofsky slowly, still breathing hard. There is smug satisfaction in his voice and a smirk tugging at his lips, and that’s all it takes to let Blaine know that they aren’t talking about the run anymore.
Rage, hard and fast and ferocious explodes inside Blaine’s mind, and he sees red.
“Hey,” someone is shouting, and through the film of absolute fury in front of Blaine’s eyes he can tell that it’s Mike. His friend is jogging up to them at a quick pace, nodding at the teacher as he marks down his time. “What was that, man? Coming in fifteenth not good enough for you?” asks Mike, breath coming only slightly heavily as he smiles at them. Mike is tremendously fit; he just doesn’t like running in groups very much.
In front of them, Karofsky sends them both a cheerful grin – and walks off in the other direction to start doing stretches. Blaine’s eyes follow him as he leaves, hands shaking as he goes over the exchange in his head. For a terrifying, brilliant-clear moment before Mike arrived, Blaine had been positive that he was about to punch Karofsky in the face.
And the idea. Blaine can barely get words out, because inside his mind Karofsky is closing Kurt in, grabbing his face in that locker room and smashing their mouths together. And Kurt struggling and tugging back and trying to get away and it’s so much more awful now than it ever was before –
“It’s nothing,” Blaine responds at last, dragging his eyes away from Karofsky and giving Mike a shaky smile. He shoves the idea down as hard as he can – because if he keeps thinking about it there is nothing in the world that will be able to stop Blaine from running at the fucking bastard right this second. Nothing that could keep Blaine from shoving him like he did on the Night of Neglect and fuck the consequences.
The two of them head inside to get a drink of water, and Blaine deliberately does not look back over his shoulder as they go.
For the next few days, Karofsky’s words are practically all Blaine can think about.
As much as he tries to avoid looking at it, his brain just keeps dragging it right back. The kiss that in the locker room from all those months ago, the one that Kurt only ever told him about in the most simplistic terms possible: it buzzes and burns beneath his eyelids no matter how much he tries to push it down. Against his own will, Blaine finds himself rolling it over and over in his mind even as the image makes him recoil and his lip curl and his whole body clench up in disgust. He tries to stop himself from filling in the details, but he just can’t. Can’t stop from trying to decide if Karofsky grabbed hold of Kurt’s shirt to tug him in, or his face, or shoved him up against the lockers. Can’t stop imagining how scared Kurt must have been, how shocked and terrified with no idea what to do as something important was taken away from him.
He can’t get over the fact that Karofsky— Karofsky, who harassed Kurt until he had to change schools, who is lusting over his boyfriend and wants to take him away – kissed Kurt before Blaine did. Karofsky knows first-hand what Kurt tastes like, what he feels like pressed up close. He probably imagines it sometimes, Blaine realizes in horror after a little while. Trails his fingers over the memory like it’s something precious instead of something disgusting, and awful, and sick. The very idea makes a lump rise up in his throat.
Intellectually, Blaine is aware that he is obsessing over something ridiculous, something stupid. That he’s being an idiot for letting the comment have exactly the effect Karofsky wanted it to. He wills himself to stop, forces himself to stop agonizing over it. Tries to focus on homework instead, or the date he and Kurt are on, or the number the New Directions are working on for Sectionals.
But he just can’t. As soon as he drags his mind away, the very next moment the image will slither back along the edges of his mind. Tugging, nudging, forcing him to think about it as he grows increasingly distant and twitchy and has a harder time focusing on anything else.
It doesn’t exactly help that Karofsky is everywhere, all at once, all the time. He is wedging himself into Kurt’s life slowly, sliding in and making a place for himself as Blaine watches helplessly on. Sitting with Kurt at lunch when he can, adding him as a friend on Facebook and getting accepted as one.
One day, Santana drags Karofsky to glee practice on what happens to be an individual performance day. For the entirety of Kurt’s rendition of “Cry Me a River”, Karofsky sits back in his chair and stares at Kurt’s face. Not even his body, just – looking greedily at every fractional movement and twist of expression in Kurt’s face as though he’s trying to memorize it.
Somehow, the way Karofsky’s eyes linger over the curve of Kurt’s lips makes Blaine feel even sicker than if he’d spent the whole time ogling his body.
One night when they’re watching a movie together at the Hudson-Hummel household, Kurt turns to him and quietly asks what’s been wrong lately and he just can’t say. Can’t admit that oh, sorry sweetheart, I can’t stop thinking about that time you got kissed against your will and how much I hate the fucking bastard who did it because he’s a friend of yours now and he really wants to shake me up so he can get in your pants.
So instead, Blaine just smiles and tells him that he’s having a bit of a hard time adjusting to McKinley, which is completely true, and that he’s sure he’ll figure it out soon. And when Kurt smiles back, Blaine leans in and kisses his boyfriend – his boyfriend – softly on the lips. Gentle and sweet and loving and kind and everything Karofsky’s kiss wasn’t, he knows it wasn’t, until Kurt is groaning into the kiss and arching up into him and it’s so good he’s actually able to think straight for once.
Time passes. Days keep coming.
Blaine tries not to let the thoughts bother him.
Sometimes, it even works.
To Blaine’s distaste, Karofsky shares their English class. It isn’t as bad as it could be: the seating is assigned, which is kind of unfortunate because it means he and Kurt can’t sit together. However, it’s also a very positive thing in that Karofsky is stuck at his desk two seats behind and one seat over from Kurt, which makes for one fewer opportunity for the sliding-insidious creep creep creep of friendship he’s been attempting to forge.
They’re in the middle of an editing exercise, with their poetry analysis paragraphs having been mixed around and handed out for peer revisions as their teacher marks midterms, when Blaine happens to glance up with his pen cap stuck in his mouth mid-critique. The seating plan has placed him near the back of the room but in the middle, and when he looks up the very first thing his eyes land on is Karofsky, two desks away, staring at Kurt’s neck.
The fact that he is staring at all is nothing particularly newsworthy at this point: watching Karofsky steal covert peeks at his boyfriend has been a recurring theme ever since Blaine’s transfer.
More than that, it’s the way Karofsky’s staring that is the problem. Eyes raking over the pale length of skin of Kurt’s neck, taut and leading down into the hint of shoulder and collar bone exposed by the drape of his shirt. Karofsky simply sits and looks, not even bothering with the paragraph he’s supposed to be editing. Watching as Kurt’s chest gently rises and falls in an easy rested heart rate, his eyes trailing along the slight point of Kurt’s ear and the line of his jaw.
Blaine watches as Karofsky’s gaze slides down to caress over the shape of Kurt’s arms beneath his shirt, the thinness of Kurt’s wrists and the sharpness with which he holds his own red pen with long-fingered hands and lingering over the twist of his fingers.
Karofsky is fixating and committing to memory and thinking about Kurt, about Kurt’s body as the larger boy fidgets and changes sitting positions awkwardly in his chair, and all at once it hits Blaine properly for the first time that Karofsky thinks about Kurt. More than just going over the one kiss that existed in reality, Karofsky thinks about Kurt in private. Conjuring up images of Kurt’s body and Kurt’s face and contorting them into something wanton and obscene within the confines of his own mind.
The pen falls out of Blaine’s hand and tumbles onto the table, but its fall is cushioned by his notebook and makes no sound. Blaine’s mouth is hanging open and his whole body is vibrating with disgust, because it feels like such a violation. It feels as though part of Kurt is being ruined every time Karofsky looks at him; being made less innocent and the things he and Blaine do together less special as they’re distorted and changed in fantasy. The fact that Kurt’s image, his sense of self, gets twisted and contorted by Karofsky’s greedy mind; to be used for Karofsky’s own sick gratification... it’s sick. Karofsky takes the idea of Kurt – who Kurt is – and puts it on display in his head, moving the image around like a puppet, making him do things in fantasy that Kurt would never do in real life.
Jesus, what does he think about? Blaine’s stomach twists dully as he stares ahead at the front of the classroom with unseeing eyes. Does he think about touching him, or kissing him, or bringing him off, or fucking him –
“May I be excused?” Blaine hears himself asking, hand shooting straight up into the air. Kurt turns around in his desk to look at him with his eyebrows slightly raised, and it’s all Blaine can do to keep his breathing even. Their teacher nods absently, waving a hand in the air, and Blaine is gone.
As soon as he’s out in the hallway, Blaine flumps bonelessly against the wall. Anger and frustration and something else, something dark and awful and hot and unpleasant is twisting in his stomach. He closes his eyes to block out the empty hallway and breathes, just breathes, and before he knows what he’s doing he’s pulling out his smartphone and banging out a text. His fingers are shaking so badly he has to go back and re-type most of it.
To: Kurt Hummel
October 13th, 2011, 2:14pm
If you can get out of class, meet me at the men’s bathroom down the hall? – Blaine
Because a need, a frantic desperation is gripping at Blaine’s insides and making his hands move and he hits the ‘send’ button before he can think too much about what he’s planning, charging off down the hallway to the bathroom.
This is a bad idea, a terrible idea. There’s a voice speaking at the back of Blaine’s head as he walks saying stop it, what are you doing, you’re being a caveman about this, if Kurt knew – but he shuts it up because Blaine needs this. Needs to prove this to himself, to be able to have it.
Needs to prove this to Karofsky.
One shove to the bathroom door, and Blaine is inside the thankfully empty room. The counter is wet from water and there are wadded up clumps of brown paper towel thrown around the garbage bin. It smells entirely like a men’s restroom. It isn’t the perfect place or time and god, it’s certainly not the perfect thing to want to do, but he needs this.
Bouncing on his feet and trying to keep himself calm, Blaine waits. He would be more concerned about Kurt not checking his text messages in class, but Blaine knows for a fact that his phone is on vibrate in his jeans and that the entire Glee club have managed to become the school champions for finding a way to check their messages at any time, in any place.
And sure enough, less than two minutes later, the door to the bathroom pushes open and Kurt steps inside.
He looks confused, and concerned, and so fucking gorgeous it makes Blaine’s heart hurt. For the parts of Kurt that are private, that are just theirs to share and have and experience together that Karofsky deserves no part in. Karofsky doesn’t deserve to think about Kurt – beautiful Kurt, funny Kurt, Blaine’s Kurt – without having to think about him, too.
“Blaine?” asks Kurt, a worried crinkle appearing over his nose. The blue of his eyes is dark with concern. “Are you –?”
But Kurt doesn’t get the chance to finish. Instead, Blaine reaches forward and grips Kurt’s hand – like he did on the stairs at Dalton, or after burying Pavarotti, and a thousand times since then – and begins to tug him into one of the stalls.
“Please,” says Blaine, and the desperation makes his voice crack. He’s trying to be gentle, but Kurt still looks completely at a loss. “Please, I need you right now, just – please –”
“Blaine,” says Kurt faintly, but he lets himself get pulled inside without resisting at all. Lets Blaine tug him into the handicapped stall and lock the door behind them without once trying to pull away, or slow them down. Just allows Blaine to get them alone together, and that trust makes Blaine want to let out a heaved breath of relief. “Why –?”
The rest of the words are cut off when Blaine reaches up, gently uses both hands to cradle Kurt’s face, and leans in to claim Kurt’s lips in a heated kiss. Kurt makes a small noise in the back of his throat, the vibrations of the sound tingling over Blaine’s lips, but he relaxes into the touch right away. Reaches up to wrap his arms around Blaine’s shoulders, to pull him in closer, and Blaine groans and opens Kurt’s mouth with his own.
Kurt’s fingers clench and unclench spasmodically in the muscles of Blaine’s shoulders as their mouths slide together, hot and rushed and wet. Edging them back gently so that Kurt’s back is pressed up against the stall door, Blaine pushes his tongue between Kurt’s willing lips to taste the inside of his mouth. To map every contour and slide of their tongues, to know Kurt’s mouth intimately in a way that no one else ever has. In a way that no one else ever will.
They break apart fairly quickly; Blaine presses a kiss to the corner of Kurt’s mouth, his cheek, beneath his ear. Trailing his lips down to the soft juncture of Kurt’s throat, his head tilted back to allow Blaine better access.
“We shouldn’t be doing this,” Kurt whispers frantically, stifling a groan as Blaine runs his teeth over the sensitive skin – before sealing his lips over it and beginning to suck. “Shit, shit, shit, that – I can’t – Blaine –”
Blaine hums comforting noises as he sucks at the patch of skin, stroking a hand along Kurt’s arm when he can’t hold in the little breathy noises of overwhelmed pleasure as he works at the skin. Running his teeth over it every-so-often and sucking down. Claiming Kurt in an almost animal way, so crass and rough, feeling the fluttering of Kurt’s pulse beneath his lips. Making Kurt his, making him feel it.
The surrender of it is so much better than anything else could possibly be; with no warning at all and no understanding of why, Kurt is letting him do this. Letting himself be pushed up a bathroom stall door and taken in the middle of the day without even demanding an explanation.
I love you, thinks Blaine frantically, finally releasing the patch of skin when he deems he’s spent long enough there. I love you, I love you, I love you so much.
Pulling away, Blaine leans up to press a last quick kiss to Kurt’s already-damp lips. Kurt is shaking in his arms, clinging to Blaine’s back and breathing hard, slumped against the door in order to stay on his feet. His cheeks and ears are flushed, Blaine realizes happily. Pupils dilated and hair slightly askew, the red mark stands out sharply against the pale of his neck.
“What was that about?” Kurt asks, sounding overwhelmed – but not unhappy. Just... surprised, and pleased, and slightly preening. “Anyone could have come in.”
“They didn’t,” says Blaine quickly, shaking his head and tugging Kurt into a hug. Tucking his face into the crook of Kurt’s shoulder like a child with a stuffed toy, squeezing Kurt’s stomach and blinking hard against the heat of his skin. Kurt trails his hands over Blaine’s back comfortingly, vaguely. “I love you,” Blaine says pointlessly, squeezing Kurt around the middle again. “Thank you.”
“I love you, too,” says Kurt, and his tone of voice makes very clear the implicit you weirdo that should follow. He pats Blaine on the back one last time and pulls back, pressing a quick kiss to Blaine’s nose. “Get back to class, and I’ll follow in a minute, all right? We’ll look suspicious enough as it is.”
“Okay,” agrees Blaine quickly, and Kurt steps away from the door of the stall in order to let Blaine leave. “I love you,” he says again, and Kurt rolls his eyes.
“Go,” Kurt instructs sharply, fingers trailing over the red mark on his own neck. Something hot and sharp and lovely spikes in Blaine’s chest. He smiles, nodding, and heads to leave.
Half way back to the classroom, he receives a text.
From: Kurt Hummel
October 13th, 2011, 2:20pm
I can’t believe we just did that in a bathroom, you loser. Disgusting. I do have standards, you know. – Kurt
Laughing quietly to himself, Blaine tucks the phone into his pocket – and heads back into the classroom and back to his desk. It’s less than a minute before Kurt comes back in as well, head held high and back ramrod straight, to fold himself back into his desk. Their teacher hardly notices, barely inclining his head in acknowledgement when they walk through the door.
But Karofsky’s eyes are fixed on Kurt as soon as he walks inside. They rake up and down Kurt’s body as Kurt quickly picks up his pen and begins editing again, shaking his head gracefully. Trailing down Kurt’s face, to his arms – and back up to his neck again.
Karofsky’s eyes widen.
It doesn’t take too long. The red blotch on the side of Kurt’s neck begins to fade after only a few minutes, melding back into the pale perfection of the skin of his neck. And by the end of the class, there it is. The very beginnings of a small, perfect bruise rising beneath the skin below his jawline. Such a gorgeous little mark; standing out sharp and beautiful against the paleness of Kurt’s skin.
Kurt always hides any marks Blaine happens leaves on him with cover-up and powder. It’s never bothered Blaine before now, but today...
When Karofsky’s eyes fall upon the bruise, he blanches. His large body tenses in his seat, and a pained look comes into his eyes. He shudders, eyes falling back down onto his paper and picking up his editing pen with shaking hands. He doesn’t raise his eyes from the paper for the rest of the class.
Every time Kurt absently trails his fingertips over the small mark not even realizing it’s there, the motion sends sparks of vindication up and down Blaine’s spine.
It all comes to a head a few days later, when glee rehearsal runs late due to a combination of Mr. Schuester attempting to drill ‘appropriate behavioural standards’ for Sectionals into their heads and Rachel Berry’s insistence that they run through the choreography for “You Can’t Stop the Beat” again.
By the time they’re all finally allowed to leave, Blaine’s feet are aching and even his threshold for discussing the importance of public perception has been well and truly exceeded. He and Kurt were supposed to be going out for dinner after practice, but at this point it’s looking more like crackers and cream cheese at the Hudson-Hummel household is all they’ll have time for before Blaine has to head home. It’s more than a little bit irksome, and Blaine nearly lets out an actual sigh of relief when Mr. Schue finally dismisses them.
Everyone floods out in a rush, grabbing their bags and shouting quick goodbyes as they attempt to speed out of the room as quickly as possible. Blaine and Kurt are just about to push their way out of the choir room doors when Kurt suddenly halts in place, looking irritated.
“Damn it,” mutters Kurt, letting out a little huff of breath. “I meant to talk to Mr. Schuester about my solo for Sectionals, but Rachel Berry’s incredible ability to continuously speak without pausing to draw breath managed to distract me.” He reaches up and runs his hand down Blaine’s upper arm apologetically. “Give me five minutes?”
“Of course,” says Blaine at once, and Kurt beams before giving him a quick peck on the lips. Within the confines of the practice room is one of the fewer places in the school they feel safe being openly affections.
“I’ll be right back,” adds Kurt reassuringly, before turning around to march toward their teacher with Mr Schue, if I may? already tumbling from his lips. Blaine smiles even as his stomach growls pitifully. He decides it might be nicer to wait outside in the hallway: at this point, he’s spent enough time in this particular room today for it to feel as though the walls are closing in around him. Blaine pushes the door open, steps into the hallway – and freezes.
Dave Karofsky is there, in front of him, right now. Leaning against the wall just across from the choir room door, slumped against it in a casual way that might fool someone who wasn’t looking closely. But Blaine can see the careful tension in his muscles, the way his whole body is taut and ready as he waits. He glances up as Blaine walks out, eyes lighting up for a quick moment in friendliness – before he realizes that Kurt isn’t with him. Karofsky’s face falls, quickly twisting into a frustrated grimace.
“Ugh, seriously?” says Karofsky scornfully, voice low in disappointment. He rolls his eyes, shrugging broad shoulders as he turns to walk back down the hallway.
“Hey!” Blaine calls out harshly, trying not to shout for fear of alerting Kurt and Mr. Schuester inside the practice room. Disbelieving disgust is rushing through Blaine’s veins, hard and fast and sudden, and it scares him how quickly this boy can make him go from okay to furious. He takes a step forward. “What are you doing, stalking him now?”
Karofsky pauses mid-step, turning around slowly as though it pains him to do so. He gives Blaine a long look, trailing his eyes down over his small frame and back up again. When he meets Blaine’s gaze, there’s a contemptuous twist to his lips. “Whatever, Anderson. I don’t want to talk to you.”
Instead of letting him walk away, Blaine takes another step forward. The voice of reason at the back of his head is reeling. What are you doing? it asks furiously. He hates you and he’s bigger than you. He’s going to beat you to a pulp and land you in the hospital, and it’ll be your own stupid fault again.
“What if I want to talk to you?” Blaine returns quickly, not backing down. Not being a coward, not this time. Intellectually, Blaine is aware that he should want to run away. To back down, raise his hands in the air. But instead of flight, it is fight that is thrumming through his whole body. He clenches his fists.
Karofsky raises an eyebrow.
“What are you gonna do, sing me to death?” Karofsky gives Blaine another look as though he isn’t worth his time of day.
“You’ve been trailing after him for weeks,” spits Blaine, straightening himself up as tall as possible. He’s been silent for too long about this; relegating it to covert looks and glares and tactics behind Kurt’s back, and Blaine is so ready to confront Karofsky out loud. To call him out, make it real. “It’s creepy, you know that? You’re creepy. So just... stay away from him. Whatever sick game you have in mind, just back the fuck off.”
A rough, barking laugh dredges itself up from Karofsky’s throat. “Me? I’m creepy?” The other boy takes a step closer, eyes narrowed and blazing. “God, you’re so fucking smarmy, I have no idea how he puts up with you.” Karofsky cocks his head. “I’m not the one who marked him up like a fucking animal. Possessive much, Anderson?”
“Only because you’re stalking my boyfriend!” Blaine hisses out, trying to suppress the flicker of guilt at the mention of the hickey. Kurt had been irritated when he discovered it later in the day; had rolled his eyes and asked to borrow one of Quinn’s scarves to cover it up, and Blaine had felt like a complete douche for knowingly making it happen.
Blaine shakes his head to dispel the guilt. “You know, I honestly cannot figure you out. You harassed him, assaulted him, drove him out of this school – and now you want to be his friend? Want to be with him?” Blaine shakes his head. “I cannot figure out your motivations. Do you think Kurt is just going to – to drop everything and forgive you for all of it and go running into your arms? Because if you do, Karofsky, you’re more of an idiot than I thought you –”
“Don’t say that.” The words are quiet, barely a mutter. But Karofsky looks furious, jaw stiff with tension and his hands clenched into fists. “Don’t you fucking say that, you don’t know anything –”
Blaine’s mouth falls open, making a small noise of disbelief. “... oh my god,” he says softly, letting out an ugly little laugh. “That’s what you want, isn’t it? You... you actually think that after everything you did, Kurt would ever want to be with you. You think that –”
“He forgave Puckerman,” rushes Karofsky, eyes flashing. “He forgave Hudson enough to fucking be his brother now or whatever –”
“That’s not the same and you know it. You tormented him, Karofsky. You made him leave.” Blaine is aware that Kurt has been gone for a long time now, and he can only hope he’ll be a little bit longer because he cannot back down from this. Blaine inches forward, and they’re close to one another now. Edging at the boundaries of one another’s personal space. He looks Karofsky right in the eye, refusing to blink. Refusing to back down. “If you even think for a second,” Blaine whispers furiously, “that Kurt would ever – ever – let himself be your quick fuck? Then you are more deranged than even I ever thought you were.”
“Fucking shut up,” growls Dave, leaning in close and raising his clenched fist in the air beside them. “Fucking shut up, you don’t know anything, I love him.”
The silence that follows this statement hangs in the hallway like a physical presence. Karofsky’s words shiver off of the walls, the floor, along Blaine’s skin. He’s standing there in front of him, rough face twisted up in anger, and everything seems to slow down.
It feels as though Blaine has been hit over the head with a two-by-four. Delayed shock hits him in the gut like a physical blow, and when opens his mouth to speak only a choked noise comes out. Time seems to jolt back to its normal pace. Karofsky leans in close, heated and furious, words tripping over themselves in their rush to be spoken.
“You’re such a little bastard,” he growls. “I can’t stand you. Don’t you dare think you know Kurt better than I do just because he lets you fuck him, Anderson, I’ve known him for years. I know his type, and it sure as hell ain’t you.”
Words coming back to him out of the daze of horrified shock, Blaine shakes his head. “You don’t love him,” he says quickly, the denial sure on his tongue. “You don’t know how. You treated him like shit, and now –”
“Don’t you dare tell me what I feel,” rushes Karofsky, narrowing his eyes. There is a manic look coming over his face; words are coming, pouring out of his mouth hard and quick and low with fury. “I had a little epiphany, okay? Realized what I felt, why I was fucking him around. I know he’d never want to be with who I was before.” He cocks his head to the other side. A grin is creeping over the other boy’s face, unsettling and certain. “But I’ve changed. We’re friends now. So you’d just better watch your back.”
“What are you –?”
“When you fuck up,” says Karofsky slowly, enunciating every word. His eyes don’t move from Blaine’s for a single instant. “And I know you will – when you put your foot in your mouth too bad to recover, or get bored of him, or when Kurt decides he wants a real man? I’m gonna be there. His shoulder to cry on. When you fuck up, Anderson, he’s mine. And I won’t ever let him go.” Karofsky leans in even closer, the heat of his breath ghosting over Blaine’s face as he hisses: “So watch your fucking back.”
The next few seconds exist in a vacuum. There is a dull buzzing in Blaine’s ears as the two of them stand there in the hallway, breathing hard and leaning into one another’s space. Karofsky’s face is a picture of threatening rage, and with no warning at all Blaine suddenly feels removed from the whole situation. Detached.
What on earth am I doing?
Reeling, Blaine blinks – and some of the emotion that has been flooding through his body for the past month seems to ebb away. The thrumming anger, the seething possessiveness; at once, it all seems to dissipate inside of him. The one thought pulsing through his mind is to dully wonder at how quickly this all got out of hand, how ugly it all is – and how ugly he’s been acting.
He lied to Kurt about this; hid things from him, didn’t tell him the whole story. Blaine has been intentionally hiding part of his life and his emotions from his boyfriend, what is wrong with him?
You wanted to go to public school to face these kinds of people. Instead, you’re just hiding around and being dishonest. Is that really what you came here to prove?
“I’m so done with you,” Blaine hears himself saying, taking a firm step back.
The certainty in his voice makes Karofsky falter. “What?” the other boy asks. He looks confused. “Did you hear me, Anderson? You’d better watch –”
“I heard you, I just don’t care.” Blaine shakes his head, feeling disgust well up hard and strong in his stomach. “You’re pathetic, you know that? You talk about Kurt as though he’s something you can steal.” Blaine lets out a tiny noise of distaste. “He’s so much more than that, Karofsky. He’s so much more than me, or you, or both of us. And he doesn’t deserve to be... objectified like this.”
There is a long pause. Karofsky opens his mouth as if to speak, but no words manage to escape. His eyes look slightly frantic. Shrugging, Blaine turns around – and begins to walk back to the glee club door a few paces away to wait for Kurt.
“Wait, where are you going?” Karofsky finally manages to choke out, and Blaine can hear the waver in his voice. He sounds like a small child, bewildered that no one wants to listen to his tantrum. “I’m not done talking to you.”
“Well, I’m done with you.” Blaine leans back against the wall across from the glee club entrance, turning to look at Karofsky standing alone in the middle of the hallway. Despite his broadness and bulk, in this moment he looks inexplicably tiny amid the wideness of the world around him.
“Like you’re any better than I am,” Karofsky finally manages, seeming to dredge up the words in an attempt to regroup. “You’re defensive as fuck, and you don’t deserve him.”
Blaine just shakes his head. The words are sliding off him now, like water off a duck’s back. None of their hatred and anger and insecurity is infecting him anymore. It is as though he has flipped a switch within his mind, and everything that has left Blaine an obsessive wreck in the past month... they’re words. They’re just words. And they can’t hurt him if he doesn’t let them.
“I have no idea why I decided to let you get to me, I really don’t,” says Blaine simply, not needing to push away or shove down any anger at the words. They’re meaningless, now. The last, desperate efforts of someone who has no chance at getting what they want. “Because what you said, about Kurt and I breaking up? It just isn’t going to happen.” There is no hesitation when Blaine speaks, no insecurity. He’s finished with that, now. Over. “I love him, and he loves me, and that means something. And you?” Blaine shrugs. “You’re just too alone to let that go.”
At that very moment, there is movement behind the glass portholes in the swinging glee club doors. A figure, pushing out – and Kurt is standing there. Brown book bag slung over one shoulder and looking radiant when he smiles; the talk with Mr. Schuester must have gone well.
“We’re using the version with the fast tempo!” says Kurt excitedly, practically vibrating where he stands. “I told him it would make the most sense in terms of pacing and energy, and he...” Pausing, Kurt trails off as he notices Karofsky standing slightly down the hallway.
There is an air of devastation around the larger boy; his shoulders are hunched, and he is staring down disbelievingly at the ground. Without even glancing up, or trying to catch a glimpse of Kurt, Karofsky turns on his heel – and walks quickly away from the two of them. The sound of his footsteps pounding on the linoleum reverberates off the walls. Blaine thinks he might hear a choked-off noise as Karofsky rounds the corner, but he can’t be sure. And he simply cannot bring himself to care. Karofsky isn’t worth his time, isn’t worth his worry. Isn’t worth his pity.
Blaine knows that Kurt is a better person than he is. Sometimes it is just more obvious than others.
When Karofsky is completely out of sight, Kurt turns back to look at him. There is a strange mix of emotions amid the beauty of his face. Confusion, and wariness, and the slightest hint of suspicion.
“What’s going on?” Kurt asks. His voice is quiet and even, but brooks absolutely no misdirection. And Blaine is happy to hear it, because here? Here is the person he should have been talking to about this all along. Everything Karofsky has been doing to make Blaine squirm and flinch and rage inside his mind... he should have told Kurt right from the start, and Blaine has no idea in retrospect why he didn’t.
But he’s ready to make it up to him now.
“We’ll talk about it on the way home?” asks Blaine, and Kurt nods. Pushing off the wall, Blaine takes a few steps forward – and Kurt’s soft, strong hand slips unthinkingly into his own. The trust embedded within that gesture makes Blaine’s heart sing, and he gives Kurt’s hand a long squeeze.
They begin to walk toward the doors to outside, hands clasped and dangling between them. The madness of his first month at McKinley is gone as though it had never existed – removed, like a tumour that was growing inside and sapping him dry being cut away – and everything is so much sharper. The warmth of Kurt’s palm against his own, the sound of their shoes against the linoleum floors.
They can still do this; can still stand side-by-side and be strong against the world in this last year of childhood together. The haze of Karofsky is lifted from in front of Blaine’s eyes, now. He made a mistake, but they can still get through this together.
“I have to tell you something about Karofsky and me,” Blaine begins as they push open the doors to outside and walk out into the cool air. Because Kurt deserves his honesty, his trust, just as much as he deserves Kurt’s. Because they need to be equals in this relationship, not hiding secrets, and Blaine has been holding something of himself back that he needs to give.
And because with the softness of Kurt’s hand cradled in his own, Blaine knows that he never intends to let go, either. But he doesn’t have to resort to underhanded tactics and sickening faking to have forever with Kurt. He can keep Kurt with him with honesty, and communication, and by loving him so much it fills up everything they are.
They walk hand-in-hand back to the car because it’s late and dark and as safe as they can hope for. Walking through the darkness with the solidity of Kurt’s hand in his grounding him, Blaine opens his mouth and begins to speak.