"For some of you, getting caught cheating isn't a big deal, but there's something. Everyone has something that might take them up to that edge. And look at all the things I would've missed out on. I would've never met you guys, or Emma. I would've missed out on everything. So, right now, I have a task for you guys. You can pass if you want to, there's no pressure, but the purpose of this exercise is to help you understand. I want you all think of something that could push you over that edge, something that could actually make you want to die. David's decision wasn't selfish, or stupid, or cowardly. He just ... couldn't handle what he was going through. I want you all to think about what your bursting point might be."
Blaine swallows thickly, looking up at Mr Schue nervously and then around the rest of the group. Kurt makes eye contact, of course he does, and Blaine forces a small smile on his face until Kurt looks away again.
"So, for example, my bursting point was disappointing my dad. The fear alone was enough to almost push me over the edge. Puck, if you'd continue," Mr Schue begins, and Blaine visibly exhales with relief before he catches himself. At least he doesn't have to go first.
Puck thinks for a while, his lips pursed and his eyes focused on the floor in front of him. Blaine glances around again, shifting uncomfortably as he struggles to think of a decent lie. You have time, he tells himself, biting his lip.
"Maybe ... losing Beth again?" Puck mumbles with a frown.
"There's no right or wrong answer," Mr Schue interjects, before nodding at Mike. "We might as well go round the circle in order, so Mike, you have any ideas?"
Mike hesitates, then says, "My dad disowning me again."
Blaine almost nods in understanding but the last thing he needs is people paying attention to him, so he simply hunches his shoulders and stares at his hands.
"I thought about it," Kurt says quietly, and Blaine looks up with wide eyes. No. No. "When David was bullying me last year, there were nights where I just ... I wanted it all to end. But I had too much to live for."
People nod and give him sympathetic smiles, but Blaine just shrinks back and worries his bottom lip as he fidgets uncomfortably.
"Not being able to see my family again," Rory continues after a moment. "Being here, I miss 'em so much, but I know they're just a flight away, y'know? But if I knew I could never see them again ... yeah. That'd be really rough."
And so it continues. Rachel makes some offhanded comment about how she's probably too self-obsessed and too goal-driven to ever want to do such a thing, but the thought of being on the Broadway blacklist might just make her think about it, and the group chuckles at her antics.
Finn mentions his dad (Rachel squeezes his leg comfortingly), Tina says firmly that seeing Mike's dream torn away from him would kill her (Mike smiles softly and Santana makes a sarcastic remark about Romeo and Juliet). Sugar decides that being poor would be unbearable ("Sorry, Sam") and Mr Schue has to call Santana's name specifically before she talks.
"I wanted to when I saw the commercial," she says, her jaw clenched and her hands in the pockets. "I saw my abuela's medication in the kitchen and I wanted to do it ... but I knew I never would've gone through with it anyway."
There's a moment of silence and Blaine clears his throat as quietly as he can, casually sliding a thumb down his palm to hover over his wrist.
"I would kill myself if Santana did," Brittany says simply, and Santana frowns, starting to pull away and open her mouth to object, but Brittany takes the moment to lean in and kiss her before she can say anything.
Blaine feels sick.
"Well, I wouldn't kill myself for nothing or nobody. I love myself too much," Mercedes says, breaking the tension as the group laughs openly.
Blaine just presses his thumb harder against his wrist, trying desperately to tune out his classmates and find something to say. There are only three people between Mercedes and Blaine. He isn't ready. Fuck.
"Losing everything again," Quinn says once the group calms down. "I've lost a lot in my life, I've made a lot of mistakes, but I think, if I lost my family and my friends after everything I've been through, I ... I don't know."
"I thought about it when we first lost our house," Sam mumbles. "Well, not ... not really it. I just wanted everything to end. But ... I guess I never specifically thought about, y'know, doing what Karofsky did."
Blaine closes his eyes for a moment, collecting himself, and curls into himself some more while he waits for Artie to talk. He's screwed. Absolutely screwed.
"If another part of my body became paralysed, I would probably want to die," Artie says quietly. "I've learned to live without the use of my legs, but I'd be useless if I couldn't move anything else."
"How exactly would you kill yourself if you couldn't move?" Santana asks, an eyebrow arched bitchily, and Blaine can't bring himself to care about how offensive the question is because she's giving him time even if she doesn't realise it and he couldn't be more thankful.
"You could smother yourself in your pillow," Finn suggests.
"Or just stop breathing," Sugar adds.
"Guys! Guys," Mr Schuester snaps quickly. "That's not the kind of talk we're meant to be having right now, okay? That's not the kind of thing you should be discussing at all, in fact." They mumble their apologies, and Mr Schuester turns to Blaine. "Blaine, it's your turn."
There's nothing Blaine wants more in that moment than to just disappear. He wants to run away and not stop until his feet are bleeding and his muscles give out. His palms are sweaty and he feels absolutely nauseous with anxiety. He looks around the circle and swallows thickly when fifteen pairs of eyes meet his own.
Blaine knows they all know that something's wrong. He's taking too long. He can see that in their eyes and hear it in the awkward, stony silence. Several of them have hesitated before answering, but all of them answered. He's been hoping that some of them would pass so it wouldn't be too glaringly obvious when he refused to answer, but of course they all had to own up and talk about themselves.
"Blaine?" Mr Schuester prompts eventually, raising his eyebrows.
"M'pass," Blaine mumbles weakly, lowering his head and staring into his lap as he presses his thumb more firmly against his wrist.
This time it's Kurt's voice filling the silence, and Blaine winces as he looks up. His boyfriend's eyes are wide, afraid and curious, and he's perched on his knees like he's ready to run across to Blaine as soon as he needs to.
The sight makes Blaine break and he pushes himself to his feet clumsily, stumbling slightly. "I- I can't do this, I'm sorry," he says, his voice breaking as he heads for the door.
"Blaine!" Kurt calls out instantly, the worry evident in his voice. Blaine hears the click of his shoes against the stage floor before he feels the soft hand tugging on his elbow, and Blaine turns to him with frightened eyes. "Blaine, what's going on?"
He stares at him for a moment, wanting to run away, but he knows that he can't not tell Kurt now. Silently, Blaine takes Kurt's hand and guides it to his wrist. He places his boyfriend's forefinger at one end of his scar and slowly drags it across to the other, keeping his eyes on Kurt's the entire time. Kurt doesn't look away either but his eyes well with tears when realisation sinks in.
"Okay, I know you two have this freaky homosexual mindreading thing going on, but not all of us can read Shakespeare in people's eyes like you can, so if you could tell us what the fuck is going-"
"Santana," Mr Schue hissed. "Language."
"She has a point, Mr Schue," Sugar points out airily.
Blaine stares into Kurt's eyes, seeking support, but all he finds is anxiety behind his tears. He can feel the entire glee club looking at him too, and he knows there's no way he can escape it. Even if he walks out now, they'll just confront him about it later.
So he takes a steadying breath and stares at his hands, which Kurt is clutching between their chests.
"I tried to kill myself twice," he mumbles, his voice cracking. "Almost three times, actually."
Kurt's lips part in surprise, gasping softly. The glee club share wide-eyed glances. Mr Schue tenses.
"A bunch of guys, they um, they beat me up once," he continues, and he sees the cogs fall into place as Kurt realises he's talking about the night of the Sadie Hawkins dance. Blaine takes another breath before starting again. "There was this event at my school, a dance, and this friend of mine -- a guy -- he was my date. There was some glass on the floor, because they threw him into a window and it, um. It shattered. I couldn't really move much, but I managed to reach one of the shards and I ... I was too weak to do much damage, but I lost a lot of blood."
He looks at Kurt through his tears to see that he's fighting back sobs by biting his lip, and Blaine wants to stop, but Finn speaks up.
"What about the second time?"
"When I was in hospital, I had to come out to my family. They- they wanted to know why I, um, why I got beat up. So I told them. My mom wouldn't even look me in the eye after that, and my dad- he kept ... he kept talking to me about girls, like it would change me. My brother looked like he wanted to punch me." Blaine looks down, biting the inside of his cheek as he resists the urge to cry. He takes a moment to collect himself, sucks in a shuddering breath, then goes on. "A week after I got out of hospital, I was home alone, so I um ... I swallowed all the pills I could find. My brother's date stood him up and he got home just before I blacked out."
"What about the almost third?" Kurt asks, his voice uneven and his hands trembling around Blaine's.
"That was the weekend after we met. I- I knew I wanted to do it earlier that week, so I went home over the weekend. My dad was on a business trip, my mom lives in San Francisco now, my brother was at college. No one was close enough to stop me." Blaine looks down, breathing deeply again. "But then you emailed me. I was writing emails to my friends and family, and then you emailed me just before I sent them. You- you were really upset, because Dave had said something that- something that scared you, and I just ... you needed me. I knew I couldn't do it as long as you needed me."
Kurt's resolve finally breaks and he lets out a choked sob, falling forward to wrap his arms around Blaine and bury his head in Blaine's neck. Blaine lets himself cry as well, hiding his face in Kurt's hair and clinging onto him.
"I'll never stop needing you," Kurt whispers, so quiet that Blaine himself barely hears it, and Blaine clings onto him tighter.
His explanation is met with silence as the glee club processes the information, looking around at one another and then back at the boys as they cry into one another's embrace. Quinn bites her lip and sits up straight, staring at Kurt and Blaine for a long moment.
Blaine looks up in surprise, making eye contact with Quinn.
"What?" he asks, his voice breaking.
"Why did you want to do it?"
Blaine frowns, setting his walls up instantly, and Quinn raises a hand in surrender. "I don't mean it like that. I just want to ... understand."
Blaine's expression softens and he brushes his tears away, sniffling as he looks at his hands and thinks of how to respond.
"When you're gay, in a homophobic environment, it ... it's really difficult. You know what it's like to not be accepted, Quinn. I know that you know. You've lived it, more than once from what I hear. But you don't know what it's like to know that there's nothing you can do to change that, to know that no amount of surgery or hair dye in the world that can make people accept you. And I'm not trying to belittle your pain, but it's different. For me. For us."
Blaine frowns at the floor for a moment, biting his lip. There's so much more he needs to say, so much to be explained and considered.
"I was struggling a lot back then. And- and I still am. I didn't accept myself, because I knew the people around me wouldn't accept me, and I- I did things that I'm not proud of. It just felt hopeless. Like there was no point in trying because I wouldn't get anywhere anyway. I was gay, and that was that. Life was going to suck because of that tiny fact. I didn't ... I didn't have anyone there to tell me that it was okay. I just had people tearing me down for wanting to love people that they didn't want me to love. And I couldn't take that."
"When you're lying on concrete, broken and bleeding, because you took someone of the same sex to a dance," Blaine continues, cutting Quinn off. "Or when your mother starts sobbing because she thinks the decision you've made will taint the family name forever, or when your father builds a car with you because he thinks a bit of grease and oil will suddenly make you realise that you're into girls ... it hurts. And it's not the bruises or the cuts or the punches; it's the way it hurts inside."
Blaine clears his throat, finally lifting his head to look at his circle of friends. Some of them are crying, some are staring at the ground in thought, some are staring intently. Kurt's eyes are closed and he's gripping Blaine's hands so tight that Blaine's losing the feeling in his fingers.
"And I'm not going to lie to you guys ... I'm not better. I'm still ... recovering. From what I went through. Being at McKinley, yeah, it sort of makes it harder, because I have to deal with the bullies again. But it's worth it. And I know I'm not going to try to take my own life again, because ever since I got that email ... I've had something to live for. And because of that, it's easier to deal with things. Because I'm proud to call you my boyfriend, Kurt. I haven't been proud of anything that isn't my voice in a long time, and now that I can be proud of who I am and who I'm with, I'm- I'm happier."
"Oh, Blaine," Kurt sighs.
"Dave will pull through," Blaine adds. "I'm not saying it'll be easy, and I'm not saying it'll happen right away, because it won't. But he'll find something to live for. Just like I found you, Kurt."
Kurt lets out a relieved, breathless laugh and kisses him, cupping his face firmly. Blaine can hear the glee kids muttering in the circle, but he doesn't care what they have to say because he pulls Kurt in by the waist and kisses him back, and it's so wonderful and powerful that he almost forgets why he would ever be ashamed for wanting this.
"Please, never hurt yourself again," Kurt whispers against his lips.
Blaine lets out a shaky breath and gives the tiniest of nods. "I promise."
And for the first time in too long, he means it.