Blaine sighs, standing in front of a large brick building. It’s large and intimidating in a way that Dalton never was and it unnerves him. His satchel hits his thigh as someone brushes against him. He turns to step out of their way before he stumbles forward a bit, just as someone else, a racoon hybrid, races to catch up with them and pushes past him, a striped tail smacking Blaine in the face as he goes. The second boy turns to say something, his apology going quiet when he notes Blaine’s utter lack of any other features. Blaine sighs and waits as the boy leans in closer and sniffs before reeling back, realizing that Blaine smells all too human.
As he watches the other boy recoil, disgust evident on his face, Blaine realizes with a depressing certainty that McKinley High is going to be exactly what he’d feared it would. This isn’t going to be Dalton. There’s no guarantee of equal treatment and acceptance. There’s not even a guarantee of safety, not really, and he has the scars to help him remember that lesson.
That doesn’t mean he can’t find a place here, though, he thinks wistfully as he clutches his books against his body. Sure, most people are going to find him an oddity. It happens like that everywhere he goes — ever since he was a small child and Cooper would take him by the hand and people would stop and stare at the familiar look of a male husky hybrid holding the hand of a strange full human. His mother tried to explain all the looks to him when he was a small boy; that he was just extra special and that everyone could tell by one look how special he was. His father didn’t even try to sugarcoat it. He growled and glared, his tail bristling and his ears flattening at Blaine as he said, “Blaine it’s because you’re different from everyone else; that’s why.” Cooper never tries to explain it away, he tries to take the spotlight from Blaine — something that Blaine is thankful for every day.
But Blaine stubbornly believes there are more good hybrids in the world than bad ones. Hybrids who won’t be like the boy who has just walked away, grabbing his friend’s arm and then glancing back at Blaine and snickering. Hybrids who will understand that just because Blaine smells different, and he has no animal instincts, he’s not lesser than they are. He’d met many of them at Dalton, knew so many boys that didn’t parrot the beliefs their parents had but accepted him as a person and as an equal. He knows that his friends at Dalton are not the norm though, he knows that.
He just has to find them.
Blaine makes his way through the crowded school to the office, pushing the door in to see a rather large woman sitting behind the desk, cat’s eye glasses perched on the end of her twitching little nose. Her hair is a riot of colors and curls with large, floppy bunny ears popping out from the mass.
“Can I help you, dearie?” she says, looking over the rim of her glasses to see him better.
“Looking for a print out of my schedule? I just transferred here from Dalton Academy. I’m Blaine... Blaine Anderson.”
“Ah. yes of course, the transfer human,” she says slowly, blinking at him. He fidgets under her gaze, not sure what the woman is looking for, before she’s turning to her computer and typing rapidly, completely missing the wince on Blaine’s face.
“Let me pull the files up on you here.” Her fingernails clack on the keys as files open and several windows pop up on the screen. “So it looks like your grades from Dalton are good enough to put you straight into your classes and we can waive the Human Entrance Exams. Congratulations,” she adds with as little enthusiasm as possible. She hits a few more keys and the antique printer behind her whirs to life, spitting out a few pages that she quickly hands over to Blaine before pulling her hands back.
“Your schedule of classes then. There’s a map on the table there of the school, should help you get around.” She gives him a curt nod dismissing him before turning back to her computer where Blaine can see a game of solitaire has been pulled up. He glances down at his schedule, looking it over and committing it to memory along with his locker number before thanking the woman and leaving.
He tries to slip into the classroom without being noticed and fails. The teacher comes to a halt at the front of the classroom, book in hand as she sizes him up. He hands over the note explaining who he is; the teacher reads it over before handing it back.
“It seems we have a new student, class,” she says excitedly, placing her finger in her book to hold her place as she turns toward Blaine. “I’m Ms. Oliveria; welcome to Advanced English. Why don’t you tell us about yourself?”
Blaine blinks and looks out on the room of students, noticing ears and tails twitching and moving as they smell and breathe and sniff and know that he is different from them. “Well, I moved here from Westerville and just started today,” he offers, not knowing what else the teacher may want to know.
Ms. Oliveria sets her book on her desk and digs out her attendance book, making note of Blaine in it. “Any special issues or circumstances I should be aware of?” she asks — a standard question for any class with such a wide variety of species and hybrids.
Blaine flushes as a few people in the class laugh. “No, none at all.”
Ms. Oliveria looks up at him, her eyes doing a quick once-over, and Blaine feels his blush deepening; he watches the teacher’s expression change as the pieces begin to fall into place. Her eyes widen and she hurriedly begins to write notes down in her book. Behind him, he can hears students whispering and laughing, and he doesn’t need hybrid hearing to know that it’s about him.
“Alright then. Take a seat. We have an open one in the back there by Tina.” Tina raises her hand up slowly, and Blaine moves to slide into the chair right next to her.
She's a lemur hybrid, complete with adorably striped tail and ears. She offers Blaine a smile that makes him feel less like he's being sized up and more like he’s being offered friendship and he begins to relax a little.
“Now class, if you’ll grab your books again please,” Ms. Oliveria begins again, taking her copy of Macbeth and flipping to the right page. “Who can tell me what the characterization of Lady Macbeth as a snake showcases?” she asks, looking around the room for hands.
Blaine hurriedly out a notebook and pen to take notes and cover the fact that he can’t flip through the pages to look anything up because he doesn’t have a book.
“You can share with me if you’d like,” Tina whispers, pushing her book over a bit so that Blaine can pick it up. “Really, its okay. I’ve read it like a hundred times. Practically have it memorized.”
Blaine is momentarily surprised by the offer and bites his lip before taking the book, flipping to where Ms. Oliveria is going over Lady Macbeth’s symbolism. “Thanks,” he says finally, offering Tina another smile, this one bigger and brighter than the one before.
“No problem. Besides, working with you has to be better than listening to her drone on.” Tina giggles behind her hand and Blaine can’t help chuckling along quietly with her. It’s still early, but Blaine thinks he may have just made a friend.
Blaine’s day is repetitive; in every class he stands in front of the room, introducing himself to everyone, a task he does not enjoy. Thankfully, after English, no teacher asks him about any unusual circumstances that might crop up, but he figures it's only because they don’t need to; their hybrid senses letting them know how human he is. He can tell how everyone instantly sizes him up and finds him lacking as soon as he walks into a classroom. He can tell by the twitching noses and flicking tails and the way their eyes widen as they all lean in around him.
At least his reception at McKinley hasn’t been bad yet. There have been mumbles and whispers and laughter but nothing physical. He’s had a few people scoot their seats farther away from him when he sits down, but he’s also had a few others look over and give him tentative, and sometimes even encouraging, smiles. And of course, he’s had people who stare at him as if they’re waiting for him to do some sort of trick. Blaine sighs and wants to rub his head; it's nothing he hasn’t dealt with before, but it’s always more difficult with a new group of people. At least at Dalton they had all known he was just human and hadn’t stared at him like he’s a walking zoo exhibit.
He really hopes lunch offers a break from all the staring and questioning and whispers that have followed him the entire day so he can have a moment to relax and breathe.
He grabs his food out of the herbivore line, preferring salads to steaks, and stands surveying the cafeteria. The tables are all full of students, some in red-and-white lettermen jackets and others in corresponding cheerleader uniforms. Blaine wants to sit by himself, pull out a book, and read; let himself get lost in his own thoughts and pretend that every eye isn’t on him and every little whisper isn’t about the new human freak at McKinley, but there are no empty tables for him to hide at. He turns, about to make his way outside or to the library to eat when he hears his name.
“Blaine! Hey, Blaine, over here!” He looks to his left and finds Tina standing up, rushing over to him with an easy, happy smile on her face again. “Come sit with us,” she says, taking his hand eagerly in hers and tugging him over toward her table. Blaine starts when she grabs his hand, surprised by how easy and freely her touch is given.
“Ah, are you sure--?” He eyes the table of hybrids cautiously. Tina may not have a problem with him, but he’s concerned about what her friends may think about a human eating with them.
“Oh yeah, come on. It’s cool.” She tugs again and Blaine relents, the invitation to sit and act like he has friends is too enticing. He follows Tina, sitting beside her at the table. He offers a tiny wave as he sits, smiling awkwardly at the group already there.
“Okay so, Blaine, this is my boyfriend, Mike,” Tina introduces the boy to her left and he waves over to Blaine, an equally friendly smile on his face. “And Mercedes, Rachel and Finn. Guys, this is Blaine.”
“Hello,” Blaine says, giving everyone a small wave, looking to each of them in turn. He stares at the antler rack growing on top of Finn’s head. It’s not too large yet, but it adds height to his already tall figure.
“Yeah, I get stuck going in doorways with them if I’m not careful,” Finn says, answering Blaine’s look.
“Oh, oh I’m sorry! I didn’t mean to stare--” Blaine starts, apologizing profusely, not wanting to insult the boy after just meeting him. Finn just shrugs and grabs his sandwich, taking a huge bite out of it before he continues.
“It’s cool. I get stared at a lot with them already. I’m used to it.”
“Hey, so, new kid?” Mercedes asks, giving Blaine a sympathetic look. “It’s a tough gig starting in the middle of a semester, but McKinley’s not too bad. The tots are good at least,” she adds, holding one up with a fork before biting into it. Blaine chuckles and his smile grows wider as he realizes that she said new kid not new human or non-hybrid but new kid as if he were just a normal hybrid like them. He releases a small breath and lets his shoulders droop and relax.
Blaine isn’t feeling too talkative, but the others around the table are nice enough not to push too much for information; lunch feels a lot easier and more relaxed than he had expected it to. At least until Rachel starts up.
“So Blaine, do you sing?”
“I sing, obviously,” she adds, preening, her feathers fluttering behind her. “Not all bird hybrids are gifted with song, of course,” she continues, “but I’m more than just a regular bird hybrid.”
“Oh?” Blaine asks. He looks to the others at the table for help, but Mercedes and Tina both roll their eyes, obviously very familiar with Rachel’s chatter.
“Of course. I am a nightingale after all.” Her feathers flutter again as she sits up straighter in her seat, still preening.
“Can it, bird brain,” Mercedes mutters, rolling her eyes. “You’re dropping feathers everywhere and I don’t want to have to pluck them out of my quills again.” Blaine bites down on his bottom lip to keep himself from breaking into laughter as Rachel harrumphs and her feathers ruffle. He can see her loosening her wings behind her before folding them in against her back.
“So, do you sing?” Tina asks Blaine quietly while Rachel is distracted. “You didn’t answer her.”
“Oh, well, I haven’t in a long time, and I’m sure I’m nowhere as good as Rachel--” It’s a blatant lie and Blaine knows it, but he can’t help himself. He always feels overwhelmed and ordinary in the midst of everyone else with their special hybrid gifts. He can sing and he knows it; he led the Dalton Academy Warblers for years to multiple victories, despite the controversy of having a human on lead vocals. But Dalton had been accepting of his status and inclusive in wanting him to front their group; he still hasn’t figured out what kind of school McKinley is going to be just yet. Until he knows, he wants to keep his cards close to his chest.
Tina waves a hand at Blaine and shakes her head. “Don’t believe everything Rachel tells you. She may be a songbird but she’s not the only creature that can sing.” Tina shoots Rachel a glare. “We’re all in our school’s glee club; you should join. Even if you can’t sing it’d be fun! Besides, we kinda need a few extra members for sectionals coming up in a few weeks, so if you joined that’d be so awesome.”
Sectionals. Blaine remembers what the Warblers were discussing doing, remembers sitting in the meetings and voicing his opinion on what songs they should sing and what color ties to wear. McKinley isn’t Dalton and he’s sure this glee club isn’t the Warblers, but it might be a good place to start trying to find friends and fitting in.
“Yeah, that could be fun,” Blaine agrees, nodding to Tina. She breaks into a huge grin and bounces in her seat, her tail flicking back and forth happily.
“Oh, that’s amazing! Okay well, we meet in the choir room after school, usually by 3:30 okay? The choir room is down at the end of the main hall and you take a left, can’t miss it.” The bell rings, signaling the end of lunch and effectively ending their conversation. Tina jumps up and pulls Blaine into an unexpected hug, throwing him off balance, before letting him go and grabbing Mike’s hand. “Alright, see you later, Blaine!” she shouts, tugging her boyfriend off to their next class.
The rest of the day passes easily; only one teacher requires him to stand up in front of everyone and introduce himself — his AP statistics class and really, Blaine is hoping that doesn’t set the standard for how the rest of that class is going to go — so he’s feeling pretty good by the time the end of the school day rolls around. Feeling so good, in fact, he takes Tina up on her offer and heads down the long main hall toward the choir room. Pushing the door open, he smiles when he hears Tina’s chatter break off into an excited squeal. She rushes him, all happy smiles and excited noises, her tail jerking and moving in excitement as she grabs his arm and practically pulls him toward where she was talking with Mercedes.
“Oh, I’m so happy you’re here, Blaine!” She bounces on the spot, her arm still linked with his.
“You’d think I did more than just show up to a glee practice with how excited you are,” he says, teasing her fondly.
“No really, you don’t understand. Anyone new that can cut down on the number of people we have to steal from the band to make competition numbers is amazing. And if you can sing, that’s even better. Means less solos for Rachel.”
“What means less solos for Rachel?” Rachel asks, coming into the room, and the conversation, at the tail end of Tina’s comment. Her wings are loose and her feathers puffed up, as if she is trying to make herself look bigger than her small stature allows.
“Ignore her,” Tina insists, pulling Blaine away and with her as she goes to sit right next to Mike. “The rest of us try to.” Rachel grouses and crosses her arms over her chest, her wings still fluttering agitatedly as she perches herself on a nearby stool, turning to face away from Tina and Mike. Blaine is thankful for Tina’s enthusiasm. It makes it easier for him to sit back in his seat and feel, not like he belongs necessarily, but at least more at ease. The Warbler commons was his favorite place at Dalton; it was where he felt most relaxed and most at home, and he hopes the McKinley choir room might become that sort of place for him.
He relaxes slowly next to Tina, her warmth and chatter a welcome background buzz as he watches the rest of the students come in. A dark-haired girl in a cheerleading uniform slinks in alongside a bright and bubbly blonde in a matching ensemble, their pinkies linked together as they move. The blonde’s ears flick around, catching every bit of noise, but her facial expression never changes. The darker haired girl’s tail is curled almost possessively around her waist in a way that Blaine finds interesting, and a bit endearing. A few more guys enter, many in matching letterman jackets and another blonde in another cheerleading uniform with soft white wings folded delicately against her back, before the teacher enters, a packet of papers in hand.
“Class! Quiet down, I have in my hands our music for sectionals!” he says, waving the sheets around above his head. “I really think this year we’re going to need to step up the intensity and so I’ve picked some songs, uh--” the teacher goes quiet as he finally spots Blaine. “Oh, it seems we have a new person in our midst. Sorry, and who are you?”
“Blaine Anderson, recent transfer from Dalton Academy.” The teacher stares at him a bit longer, cocking his head to the side as he takes a step forward.
“Are you a full human?”
Blaine blushes immediately, his eyes falling to the ground. “Uh, yeah I am. Is that a problem?” No one today has been so open in their questioning his humanity and he’d been grateful, knowing it was only a matter of time. In front of the other hybrids, some of whom he’s hoping to become friends with, Blaine finds this scrutiny humiliating.
The teacher shakes his head, oblivious to how uncomfortable he’s making Blaine feel. “Nope, not a problem at all. We here in glee club like to make a point of being open to everyone.” Blaine shifts slightly in his seat as the teacher offers him a wide, toothy smile before moving on. Anyways, I’m Mr. Schue and I coach the glee club here at McKinley. So, if you were at Dalton, that would make you a Warbler then?”
“Yes, actually,” Blaine answers, a bit surprised that Mr. Schue seems to know his old group.
“Well, its great to have you, Blaine. Welcome to the New Directions.” Blaine looks around a bit confused.
“Don’t I need to sing first?” he asks, a bit unsure. He’d had to sing for the Warblers to get in, and they had known about his singing talent beforehand.
“Yes, exactly!” Rachel pipes up. “We’re so close to sectionals and can’t just take anyone at this late date without knowing how well they sing and how their voice blends with mine!”
“Rachel,” Mr. Schue starts, pushing a hand back through his hair. “We’ve always said that New Directions was an all-inclusive club and that whoever wanted to join could join--”
“I really have no problem auditioning if necessary--”
“See, he wants to audition--”
“Rachel, I am the teacher here--” Mr. Schue starts to reply back before he’s interrupted by the choir room door banging open.
“My apologies Mr. Schue, I was kept late by my french teacher.” A tall, lanky male-cat hybrid starts to explain before he trails off, inhaling deeply as his eyes go wide.