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“So, Anderson, how are your seniors doing pulling up their standardized test scores? You know, our school has certain goals set by the district that each graduating class is required to meet. I really hope your students are going to do better at reaching those goals than your seniors did last year, or we might have to discuss whether or not you’ll be returning to us next semester.”

“Didn’t anyone tell you, Blaine? The conference this weekend is mandatory. No excuses.”

“Have you been overusing the photocopy machine again? Remember, every teacher has the same limit - only 250 copies per month. Though you’re only part time, so really you should get half that, but, whatever. Anything else comes out of your own wallet.”

“Blaine, we got a call on Wednesday from a parent who claims that you were rude to their son with regard to a failing grade. We’re going to need you to stay during your lunch hour for a parent-teacher meeting. Mom claims that’s the only time she can make it.”

“We’re going to have to add three extra rehearsals this week and next. I hope that’s not a problem for anyone, Blaine…”

“Did you actually take the time to practice the choreography for this number? I mean, what have you been doing this whole week? Sucking your thumb?”

“We’re going to need you to start seeing a vocal coach. Your upper register just isn’t as strong as it should be. Your falsetto is being drowned out by the chorus. I don’t know where you’re going to find the time. Make the time. It’s not my problem.”

“You know, if you don’t want to show more commitment to this production, I know about eight other guys I could call right now who would be happy to jump into your shoes at a moment’s notice. Look. I have them right here on speed dial.”

“I don’t care that you’re tired. I don’t care about your other job. I don’t care about your boyfriend or your girlfriend or your pet cocker spaniel. This show is all I care about. This performance is my baby, not all of you. So, if you’re not prepared to leave your loved ones, sacrifice your first born, and abandon everything you know to make this production a success, then there’s the door. Don’t let it hit you on the way out.”

It’s nearly the weekend, and Blaine’s home at a reasonable hour for once. He wipes the condensation off the bathroom mirror and looks at himself, his body stiff, hands gripping the lip of the sink, trying hard to remember how to breathe. His hair, still damp from the shower, clings uncomfortably to his cheeks, and he would brush it away if he could only convince himself to let go, that the world isn’t going to crash down around him, or get sucked into a vortex, dragging him into oblivion. He’s dressed in the monogrammed flannel pajamas his Dom bought for him, the ones that normally make him feel protected when Kurt’s not around, but they’re not doing their job well tonight. Soft strains of calming classical music fill the air. The atmosphere of the loft as a whole is peaceful, at ease.

But that doesn’t matter, because Blaine can’t stop shaking.

A week’s worth of stress, a week’s worth of pressure, a week’s worth of snide comments, complaints, condescension, and unnecessary demands squeeze Blaine like a vice. And now, Friday night, fourteen hours before the mandatory conference he can’t make, no matter how many times his job is threatened, because it coincides with dress rehearsals (a conflict he had taken the initiative to iron out months ago), it all becomes unbearable. The strain is working inside his brain, inside his body, sanding his nerves raw, setting the ends on fire. All he wants to do is run and scream until the frustration leaves his body, and his mind can start over fresh.

But he can’t do this alone. He needs help.

With the humid air from his shower covering his skin, he undresses, hanging up his shirt, then his pants, on the hooks behind the door. At the threshold of the bathroom, he gets down on his knees. He crawls the distance from the bathroom to the bedroom, and approaches his Dom, already lying in bed, getting ready to call it a night. Blaine stops when he reaches the damask dust ruffle and waits patiently to be acknowledged, what’s left of his tears staining his cheeks.

Kurt has been watching, ever since Blaine crawled into view, but he waited, seeing what his sub would do. Kurt looks down at him, raising a brow when he sees Blaine. It’s not unusual for Blaine to submit to Kurt in this way, it’s just…not entirely normal. Not with Blaine as visibly upset as this.

“What do you need, pet?” Kurt asks, putting his work away and focusing on the man kneeling on the hardwood floor by his side.

“A spanking, Sir. Please,” Blaine replies, timidly, hopefully, and as quickly as if Blaine had told Kurt that he needed to go to the emergency room, Kurt gets out of bed and walks to his chair in the living room - a straight back leather and wood chair he owns for just this purpose.

“Come, pet,” Kurt commands gently. On his knees, Blaine follows, relief filling his body at Kurt’s agreeing to fulfill his request without question.

Blaine doesn’t have to explain this need to his Dom. Kurt knows what Blaine is saying, what he’s asking for, without him going into detail.

Blaine’s not simply asking to be spanked. Kurt sometimes uses spanking as punishment. Sometimes he uses it as play. But this is not about any of that. It’s about pure submission. It’s about Blaine turning himself over to Kurt, putting himself in Kurt’s capable hands, releasing himself entirely in to his Dom’s care in order to find an escape from the world for a while.

Because Blaine doesn’t know any other way of saying that things are too difficult for him to handle right now.

That everything, even the things he loves and the careers he enjoys, are weighing him down.

That his head aches, his body aches, and everything from blinking to breathing, to just plain existing, is agonizing.

He feels scared. He feels lost.

And because he’s spent so much time at the theater and at school, so much time away from Kurt, he feels divided and alone.

Blaine needs to find his center again. He wants to feel whole. And that can only happen in the arms of his Dom.

It starts when Kurt pulls Blaine up by his arms, grabs him by the waist, and throws him over his lap. Kurt rarely just starts wailing away; not unless Blaine’s behaving like a brat. There’s a ritual to this, and it’s almost as sacred as the act of spanking itself. Kurt warms Blaine up, preparing his sensitive skin with rubs and light pats, working up from gentle smacks to blows with the flat of his palm, alternating sides to give Blaine a chance to recover in between. Steadily, Kurt quickens his pace, spanking harder, but maintaining a rhythm. With every swat – whether it’s barely noticeable, it stings, or it burns – each of Blaine’s problems melt away. The clutter in his head begins to clear. The worries that had bogged down his brain, messing with his memory so that he’d forget lines and entrances, the answers to proofs, or to buy milk on his way home, chip and shatter when Kurt’s hand connects with his skin.

Kurt didn’t command Blaine to count for him, but Blaine starts counting in his head. Force of habit, but it’s soothing, too, and every number takes Blaine away from himself, to that secluded spot where everything is cozy and dark, where there are never any bad feelings, where he can think lucidly and breathe deep.

And he does.

Long drawn inhales that fill his lungs with fresh, sweet air, reaching as far down as his soul.

When his breathing evens out and his entire body relaxes, Kurt eases up and slows down. He keeps his rhythm, but he goes back to the beginning, to the gentle pats, and now, gentler rubs.

He hears Blaine sigh – a contented sigh – and he stops.

“How’s that?” Kurt asks, running fingers through his sub’s hair, massaging his scalp in circles, and then stroking down his back. “Do you feel any better?”

“Yes, Sir,” Blaine mumbles, floating back to the world, reconnecting with his body, starting from his toes and merging on up. When the feeling returns to his ass, it’s hot and tender - perfectly sore.

“Good, pet,” Kurt says, rubbing Blaine’s shoulders while he talks, “now why don’t we get you in bed, get a good night’s sleep, and in the morning you can tell me what this was all about.”

“Yes, Sir,” Blaine says, surrendering those words to a yawn. And he will tell Kurt, because that’s what he should do. He should tell his Dom everything that’s bothering him. If he had told Kurt to begin with, when things had started getting rough, it might not have gotten this far. But it did, and that’s alright, because Kurt was there to help him take care of it, the way he always does. And even if Kurt just listens to Blaine talk, even if he doesn’t have any advice to give, that’s alright, too. Because Blaine has his center back. He has his fresh start, and he knows that everything’s going to be fine.