Paper Thin

Disclaimer: I do not own Glee.

Note: Set before 'A Very Glee Christmas' mostly because that was too full of squee moments to justify the angst fest that is about to go down. Connects to 'Ties that Bind.'


Things are getting better. Kurt's becoming more settled into Dalton customs and routines, although a part of his brain still laments the blaring fashion obstruction he has to deal with every day. Still, he reminds himself, it's either the uniform or Karofsky. The uniform has practically become a shield for what it has now given Kurt: safety. That, he reminds himself, is worth more than every Vogue cover ever printed.

Even the Warblers is getting easier. After his disastrous solo, Kurt just reformulated his mindset. Team. Unity. He could do that. New Directions had practically been his family after all; exuding a connection that always somehow managed to strengthen when it really counted, and even sometimes when it didn't. Kurt sighs as he thinks of his friends at McKinley, and wonders what they'll be doing for the holiday season that's so quickly approaching. Maybe (hopefully) they'll see each other soon.

"Kurt?"

The stab of déjà-vu is unexpected as Kurt looks up to find Blaine watching him, his head tilted just slightly. He's not even aware it's hard to breathe until he tries to draw breath. Wes and David sit on Blaine's either side and there's even a half-finished latte just a few inches from Kurt's hand. Is he supposed to be breaking down right now? Is that what the universe is trying to tell him? The young counter-tenor ignores what he pegs as the world's demands.

"Hmm? Sorry, just spaced out a second there."

All three boys look dubious, but Kurt holds his chin and their gazes steady in a gesture of defiance. He's fine. Really.

"We were just wondering how you were doing," says Blaine, almost gently. The youngest boy at the table swallows. "Classes and everything. It must be quite the change."

Kurt shrugs in what he hopes is a non-committal sort of way. "It's different, but nothing I can't handle." He turns to Wes, glancing from him to David. "I really appreciate you guys giving me a chance as a Warbler. I don't know if I ever said it."

Wes's lips quirk in a crooked smile, and the flashback to several weeks ago becomes even more prominent. "We're glad to have you."

"Things must have gotten pretty bad, huh?" asks David, folding his hands on the tabletop with a concerned light shining in his eyes.

Blaine's eyes flick to Kurt's, nearly unreadable except for the question. Kurt swallows. He still hasn't told Blaine exactly why he transferred to Dalton. In fact, he's not sure he ever will. For one thing, Kurt doesn't want to relive it, and for another, he's not sure he could handle the shame of having run away. So much for courage, right? The boy looks down at his hands, trying his hardest not to wring them together.

"Yeah."

Wes opens his mouth to say something else. Kurt presses his lips together, knowing what the next logical question is but knowing he doesn't want to answer it. Not like this, not here in the school cafe surrounded by the normal hustle and bustle of all the other students. But whatever was about to come out of Wes's mouth, Kurt never gets to hear it. A strange expression passes over the boy's face—something like confusion, followed by recognition, and then just more confusion. It's the same on David.

On Blaine, the recognition turns into something else entirely.

"Kurt? We need to get going."

"Get going?" Kurt echoes, confused. David, Wes, and Blaine all exchange a look that he can't interpret. Their eyes fix over Kurt's head, and it's only when all three are halfway out of their chairs that the ex-McKinley student thinks to glance over his shoulder to see what caught their gaze. A large form donned in an unmistakable red jacket. Headed right for them, clearly looking for something. Or someone.

Karofsky.

The blood rushes from Kurt's face, but before he can even take another breath, there is a flurry of movement. Before he really knows what's going on, Kurt finds himself with his back against the other side of the cafe wall and Blaine's hand pressed over his mouth and a finger against his own lips. He releases the pressure on Kurt's mouth. The younger boy's heart hammers inside his ribcage. They're pressed into a tiny corridor tucked next to the table they'd been sitting at; the shadowed supply closet door is just as beautiful as every other at Dalton.

On the other side of the wall, around the incredibly small corner, David's voice floats over. "Can we help you find something?" His tone is pleasant. Carefully pleasant.

"I'm looking for Kurt Hummel."

A strangled sort of noise escapes Kurt's lips, causing Blaine's hand to resume its former position over his mouth. Kurt's eyes are wide with fright. It's hard to breathe. He focuses instead on the steady brightness of Blaine's hazel eyes, and not on how close they are. That would probably be the exact opposite of calming. Blaine's lips are moving, and for some reason Kurt has to strain to hear the words from only inches away.

"It's okay. You're okay." He puts his index finger to his lips again, and Kurt nods as steadily as possible. Slowly, Blaine removes his hand. Wes is speaking now.

"—where he is right now. We can pass on a message, if you like."

"I need to talk to him now."

"You're Dave, right?" asks Wes, and Kurt fixes Blaine with an accusing glare. The elder boy at least has the tact to look sheepish. "You go to Kurt's old school?"

"Yeah."

"You wouldn't..." Kurt's stomach drops. "happen to know why he transferred, do you?"

He is going to kill them. There is a pause, in which Kurt tries to look everywhere but at Blaine, but given the limited amount of space and the nothing but paint on the wall behind Blaine's head, it's proving difficult. Blaine's left hand braces his weight against the wall next to Kurt's ear, while the other hangs at his side. Kurt knows all he has to do is turn the corner to get away from this proximity that's making him somewhat dizzy. Somehow he's pretty sure Blaine knows he won't. Not if he has to face Karofsky.

It's cowardly yes, but this irrefutable proof of how weak the Dalton shield actually is makes Kurt's blood run cold. His mind runs rampant, trying to figure out why Karofsky would make the two hour journey—on a school day no less—to find him. He's torn between the fear of being beaten up and the possibility that the hockey player may need help.

So far the fear is winning.

"Couldn't hack it I guess," says Karofsky finally. Kurt can practically see David and Wes's twin frowns.

"Hack it?" prompts David, an edge creeping into his voice.

"Kids were making fun of him."

"Why?" asks Wes, and Kurt really wants to kill them now. It's not as though they haven't realized in the days leading up to Kurt's transfer; Blaine's timely disappearances to Lima, the texts he would send every day without fail. Wes and David had to have known, or at least guessed. They go to Dalton. They have to be at least moderately intelligent. The fact that they're Blaine's best friends should have done nothing but help their investigative techniques.

"For being a f—" Kurt goes rigid, bracing himself for the slur. It doesn't come. "For being gay."

Letting out a ragged breath, the counter-tenor catches Blaine's eye, and the reflection of his own feelings—angerhurtsadnessrelief—in that brilliant hazel makes Kurt's chest ache. He is so tense his skin is practically tingling with the effort to keep it together. Blaine opens his mouth, but once again Kurt doesn't get to hear whatever might have been said, because the boys on the other side of the wall are speaking again.

"He was being bullied for being gay." There is no questioning inflection in Wes's voice. Something painful crawls up Kurt's neck and stains his cheeks. He has to force a deep breath. And another. And another. Blaine's right hand finds Kurt's left, giving it a reassuring squeeze.

"Were kids threatening him?" David asks, and for the longest moment Kurt's heart ceases to beat. He can feel the fear flash across his face. Blaine's eyes narrow. Kurt opens his mouth to speak—to say something, anything—but it's too late. Karofsky's silence says everything.

A shadow unlike anything Kurt's ever seen flits through Blaine's eyes; a fury so undeniable and intense that it makes the younger boy tremble. His eyes fill with tears until the stunning colour of Blaine's eyes becomes nothing more than a blurred dark hazel pool.

"Blaine," he croaks in a half-whisper, an explanation barred by that calloused hand closing over his mouth yet again. The hand next to Kurt's ear closes into a fist, and a fear tightens around Kurt's heart. Before he can stop himself, Kurt reaches out and grabs Blaine by the lapels of his Dalton blazer, gripping so tightly his knuckles turn white. They're both shaking.

Don't go, don't go, don't go. Please. Please don't leave me.

It's what his brain is screaming but his lips won't form the words. The air won't come, and it's useless anyway as Blaine's eyes close and an anguish lines his beautiful face, usually so bright and disarming in its charm. Anything that Kurt may have said is lost to the sound of his heart breaking. He feels so weak; as though Blaine is the only thing keeping him standing—as if a breeze would be strong enough to blow him away.

When Blaine leans forward, closing part of the space between them as their foreheads touch, a tiny meek voice inside Kurt wonders what it would be like to kiss him—before it is drowned out by words that Kurt can practically taste in the breath that passes in that space from Blaine's lips to his. I'm sorry, I'm so so sorry. They taste like salt and sorrow and shame. It hurts. Kurt's eyes burn with tears that just keep coming. He's stopped fighting them; stopped even the want to keep his eyes open. Blaine doesn't move away.

And so they stand there in the dim corner, tucked away from the rest of the world, drowning in their sadness and pain but hanging on—just barely—to each other. A part of Kurt's brain he didn't know existed somehow manages to keep track of the conversation on the other side of the wall, audible as though the wall is made of paper.

"You threatened him, didn't you."

It's not a question. David sounds as though he could obliterate the jock where he stands. There is noise everywhere except for where it counts: from Karofsky.

"I need to talk to Kurt."

"What you need to do is turn around and leave before I break your jaw." The venom in Wes's voice is startling and frightening. "Please leave. Don't ever come back. You destroyed Kurt. The boy who showed up here three weeks ago is just a shell of the boy he once was. Everyone can see it. Passing strangers can see the haunted look in his eyes. You did that. You need nothing. You get nothing. Now get out before I call campus security and have you thrown out."

There is a long silence through the cacophony of white noise, followed by heavy, disgruntled footsteps that recede from hearing. Kurt lets out a shuddering breath that shakes his shoulders. A final few tears smack the hardwood floor. He's nearly wheezing with the effort to breathe properly. Blaine's eyes are open again; too filled with sadness and empathy and apology and yet still breathtaking. For once, Kurt doesn't resist the visceral desire for contact.

He practically collapses into Blaine, gripping vice-like around his neck and pressing his nose into the older boy's shoulder. He's crying again. Crying still. It's humiliating. Blaine's answering grip is so tight and forceful that Kurt's back thumps against the wall again. Blaine's fingers are tangled in his hair, his other hand rubbing soothing circles and his lips whispering soothing things and it feels too much like that first night in half-darkness at Dalton Academy to be anything less than so, so painful.

"It's okay. You're okay. I'm here, I'm not going anywhere. I'm not going anywhere, okay? I promise. I will never leave you."

Even the words are exactly the same. They stay there against that wall in that little corridor around that corner for a long time; long after Wes and David peek around and leave without a word, long after the last students trickle out of the cafe and back to class. When Kurt finally has enough energy to even contemplate leaving the quasi-comforting shadow, he just looks at Blaine.

The boy doesn't smile, but his eyes speak volumes and Kurt's heart swells. Blaine takes Kurt's hand and leads him out, back up to their dorms where they sit in silence in Blaine's room. They sit on his bed, holding hands until Kurt eventually falls asleep to the feeling of Blaine's thumb drawing slow, rhythmic circles in his palm. David doesn't return until minutes before curfew. He takes one look inside before turning on his heel and making his way to Kurt's room.

Eric pauses only a moment before opening the door wider to let him in.

"Don't mess with Kurt's sheets. I swear your issue with sheets is contagious."


Author's Note: It's been sitting in my head for forever. I need to go to sleep now so I can study for finals. Goodnight.

Annie