Paper Thin

Notes: Written for a prompt over at the glee_fluff_meme at livejournal.

Do you ever feel just so paper-thin,
Like a house of cards,
One blow from caving in?

Do you ever feel already buried deep,
Six feet under, scream,
But no one seems to hear a thing?

-"Firework" by Katy Perry


iv.

Over the years, he'd gotten used to it. Sort of, anyway.

He knew, somewhere in his mind, that it was awful to think that way. He knew the bullying wasn't right, that he shouldn't be treated this way, but it became so horrifyingly natural that he was picked on.

And he knew the reason he was picked on. Naturally it didn't help that he was a bit of a nerd, preferring to read and play the piano after school while the neighbourhood kids played kick ball. And it didn't help that he liked to wear his hair a little longer, so his unruly curls would never lay flat. And it didn't help that he had to wear these awful glasses that made him look like a downright Harry Potter wanna-be.

But the horrible icing on the cake was that he was gay. Not that he'd ever said it. As much as he felt cowardly for never admitting it, he'd never come out to even his parents. He knew he'd have to, and he knew he would, but he was still so young. He didn't have to just yet—he had time. After all, he was still in middle school. Crushes were so fleeting, and nobody ever acted on them. That's just the way it was.

That didn't change the nasty words some of the kids spat at him, though. And that didn't change that he got tripped in the hallway, and pushed into lockers, and tackled on the playground. And that didn't change that he was currently laying flat against the ground, his cheek against he gravel.

He closed his eyes, his knees and shoulders aching from being shoved unceremoniously to the ground, after a snide remark about being a 'queer' by one, and 'fairy boy' by the other. He wondered if maybe, this time, he could melt into a puddle, right there on the black top, and then just evaporate.

"Hey!" he heard his friend's voice, and opened his eyes to see him crouching down beside him. "Come on, man, lunch is ending. We'll get detention if we don't go back in."

A groan escaped from Blaine's lips as the other boy helped him up to his knees. Blaine sighed, shifting his weight back to sit on his feet.

"You okay?" the other boy asked him, and Blaine nodded slowly. "They're rough, man."

Blaine nodded again. "I feel like I need a hug," he said lamely. He looked at his friend half-expectantly, but the other boy just laughed.

"Dude, don't be gay," he muttered.

Blaine stared at the boy in front of him, the boy that was his 'best friend', the boy who had just said the word 'gay' as though it was toxic and sinful and dirty and just plain wrong. He felt anger and humiliation bubbling in his stomach—but he felt more than that. He felt hurt. The entire painful sensation was creeping up through his chest, certain his ears and cheeks were flushing.

"Right," Blaine breathed, keeping his voice as even as possible. "I can see how offensive that would be."

His friend's eyebrows shot up, and Blaine got to his feet, albeit painfully. He didn't want to talk to the boy anymore, he really didn't. He didn't want to talk to anyone. So the moment he arrived to the nurse's office, as she gingerly placed a bandage on his knee, he told her he didn't feel well.

And with a sad, knowing look, she nodded, gesturing to the phone, telling him he could call his mother. He nodded, and once the nurse busied herself with a tiny girl with a headache, he picked up the receiver and dialed the number.

iii.

His first week at Dalton was hard. He thought it was going to be some place magical, some place like Hogwarts, some place where he would be whisked away and everything would be perfect, all because of one little phrase: 'zero-tolerance bullying policy'. Naturally he'd been under the impression that the school was like some sort of paradise, and it was just that one tiny phrase that made it so.

But it wasn't perfect. It was probably anything but perfect.

No, that was harsh. He sighed, setting his bag on the floor and flopping onto his bed, not even bothering to take off his uniform shoes. After all, here he wasn't tortured and tormented, so why should he be complaining? He was really excited to be accepted into the school, really. He appreciated everything that his parents did for him to get him there.

But it wasn't easy. His classes were so hard, especially compared to the years of public school he'd been accustomed to. He wasn't stupid by any means, but definitely not used to this. Being placed into a freshman math class because he was 'inadequately prepared'? It stung.

He pulled himself out of bed, walking over to the mirror and frowning at himself in the mirror. One of his curls was falling from the gelled mess on the top of his head, and he carefully tried to tuck it back away. It was all about fitting in, now. Just like this uniform—he was supposed to blend in and be just like everyone else. That's what it took to survive, wasn't it? He felt miserable at the thought. Hopeless.

He glanced back around the large, empty room. He'd only seen his roommate once over the past week, and that was on the day they moved in. He could even remember his name, really—Adam? Alex? Aaron? Something like that. Or maybe it began with a 'j'...

But he wasn't too bad. He was scarce, of course, and they weren't really into the same things. Whatever-his-name-was did basketball and liked this harsh screaming rock music. But he was kind and he was quiet, considering Blaine was pretty sure the other boy came back to their room after Blaine was asleep, and left in the morning before Blaine could even think about waking up.

It was lonely, though. At least he sort of had friends at his old school. But of course, he reminded himself, he'd only been at Dalton for a week, and right now, he was the new kid. Surely friends would come with time. That's what his mom would tell him, anyway.

Thinking of his mother, he immediately pulled out his cellphone, holding down the speed dial number for her own phone. He sat himself back on the bed, waiting desperately for her to pick up.

"Hey baby," came her sweet tone, and immediately he felt comforted.

"Hi mom," he said, cradling the phone in his hand as though it was his lifeline. "How's everything at home?"

"All right," she said. "I just got home from the store, and I was going to start dinner." There was a small pause. "How is your new school?"

"Okay," Blaine said reflexively.

"Just okay?"

Blaine sighed. "Yeah, just okay."

"What's wrong, honey?"

"I hate it here, mom," Blaine said.

His mother sighed, and he imagined her on the other end, frowning slightly and resting her head in her hand. "You haven't even given it a chance," she said.

"I know, but..." He let out a breath. "I just want someone to take me in their arms and say it's going to be okay."

"Come on, baby," she said softly. "You've got to be an adult, right now."

Blaine felt his face getting hot. He knew that. Of course he knew he had to act like an adult. It was his choice to run away, and now he had to deal with the consequences. He knew he couldn't be a scared little boy anymore.

But he didn't want to be an adult. He wanted to just hide away. He wanted things to be right and good without him trying, if only because he was so tired. He was tired of being bullied, and he was tired of being lonely. He just wanted everything to be in place, already.

He took a deep breath. He just had to keep pushing, right? That's what he'd been told so many times...

"I know, mom," he mumbled.

"Is there anything that might make it a little better?"

Blaine sighs. "Well, they have an a cappella group here," he said. "They're having auditions next week."

"Why don't you try out for that, sweetheart?" she offered.

"Yeah," he told her, feeling thoroughly defeated. "I guess I will..."

ii.

He was nervous. Terrified, even. He knew this didn't usually happen. He was only just a junior! Juniors, at least during their first semester, were almost never invited to audition for solos—something to do with seniority, and how when it was their last chance to perform with the group, they ought to have a better chance to have a solo. (The second half the of the semester was really up in the air, however, once the current council started keeping their eyes out for their successors.)

But sure enough, David had excitedly approached him some time after classes ended and before Warbler practice to tell him that the council had selected him to audition for a solo at sectionals.

Blaine didn't believe it, at first, assuming that David was pulling his leg. After all, not only was Blaine a junior, but he'd been a member of the Warbler's for a year shorter than Wes and David and Thad—but they'd chosen him? It didn't make sense.

Yet when he arrived at Warbler practice, he realised it was not, in fact, a joke. And that was when the anxiety set in.

He felt relieved that the council had warned him a week before the audition. He spent half of that time simply deciding on a song (though, after much deliberation with his friends, he settled on a definite classic in "Your Song" by Elton John), and the second half practicing it as many times as humanly possible (in the shower and in empty classrooms and in the courtyard and, really, anywhere and everywhere). By the end of the week he just wanted the audition to be over with.

And after it was over, as he sat in the empty hallway, he wondered if that showed in his performance. He wondered if he was just too terrified and too nervous and too sick to his stomach that instead of giving the performance his all, he was just too eager to finish.

He sighed, hiding his head in his hands. He'd wanted the solo, he really had. And even though the two up against him were both fantastic, he really had this small hope that, well, maybe he'd actually get the solo.

"Hey."

Blaine glanced up as Wes settled himself on the bench beside his friend. "Hey," Blaine responded.

"You were really good," Wes told him, but Blaine scoffed.

"Obviously not good enough."

Wes sighed. "Can I get you anything?" he asked. "Water or something?"

"I really just want a hug right now," Blaine mumbled.

Wes put a hand on the boy's shoulder. "Come on," he said, smiling. "You were up against two seniors, and you know as well as I do that they almost always get the solos for sectionals. It's not that bad, man."

Blaine closed his eyes, trying to appreciate Wes's comforting words and gestures, but they only felt condescending. Really, he did understand that it was only a solo. But it still stung. His chest ached because he felt as though he'd been so close. Maybe if he just tried a little harder, and worried a little less... maybe he actually would have gotten it. Maybe, maybe, maybe.

"To be honest," Wes said, "I'm a bit jealous. The fact that you were even invited—I bet you're a shoe-in for the lead soloist next year!"

Blaine forced a smile, but he still felt absolutely no comfort. "Yeah," he said. "Yeah, thanks."

i.

Blaine wasn't sure what he'd gotten himself into. When he'd entered his number into Kurt's phone with the promise of helping whenever he needed it, he had almost hoped he could change the past. This, he told himself, was the way that he'd make up for being so afraid when he'd been in the same situation.

So when he drove two hours to Lima to see Kurt, after receiving a late night text that his words of wisdom hadn't exactly helped the boy, Blaine felt sick to his stomach. He had immediately asked him what had happened, but he got no response. So ten minutes later, he had grabbed his car keys and texted the boy that he was on his way.

Blaine's mind was reeling. At Blaine's persistence, Kurt had stood up to his tormenter and it had somehow made things worse. And it was all Blaine's fault.

What could have happened? Maybe it wasn't so bad, he tried to convince himself. Maybe he was just pushed into the lockers or slushied again. Maybe, maybe, maybe... Maybe Kurt was now sporting a scar similar to his own...

Blaine's hand left the steering wheel, clutching the offending knee, where he swore he could feel the scar burning beneath his pants. God, he prayed nothing like that had happened to Kurt...

The sound of Katy Perry jolted Blaine from his thoughts. The hand on his knee immediately moved to pick up his cell.

"Blaine?" the tiny voice at the end of the line asked, the moment he'd put the phone to his ear.

"Hey, Kurt. I'm almost there," Blaine told him quickly.

There was silence and Blaine pulled his phone from his ear, quickly glancing at the screen to see if the call had dropped. When he went back to listening, he heard the shaky breath at the end of the line, and it occurred to him, suddenly, that Kurt was in tears.

"Please, tell me what happened," Blaine said to the boy, his stomach turning. "If it's upsetting you this much..."

There was a long silence, and Blaine was hoping against all hope that it wasn't as bad as he thought. "Karofsky..." Kurt muttered, finally. "He... he kissed me."

Blaine's nearly crashed into the car in front of him, slamming on the brakes, the car behind him laying on the horn. He rested the phone between his cheek and his shoulder, gripping the wheel tightly with both hands. He definitely hadn't expected that.

"I'm so sorry, Kurt," he said after a moment, taking in a deep breath. "We're going to make this right, Kurt—I'm going to make this right. I promise."

There was a sniffle at the other end, and Blaine sighed. He promised he'd be there in less than five minutes, and when Kurt shakily said all right, he dropped his phone back into the cup holder of his car.

This was nothing Blaine had been prepared for, nothing like what he'd handled himself. Somehow this had become mental and sexual and so completely wrong. He'd been able to handle the physical attacks, as much as they hurt. But this?

He pulled into Kurt's driveway, putting his car in park and resting his forehead against the steering wheel. Maybe he still wasn't strong enough. Kurt was the one with all the courage, to face Karofsky. And what was Blaine doing? He was just making everything worse. He drew in a shaky breath, getting out of his car and approaching the front door.

He slid open his phone, sending a quick text message to the boy, announcing his arrival. He then shoved the phone and his hands into his pants' pockets, glancing at his feet.

The moment the door opened, he felt the impact of the other boy's body colliding with his. Kurt's arms enveloped him, pulling him tight.

But this, this wasn't the sort of hug that declared Kurt's need for the boy. It spoke nothing about Kurt's feelings, but instead it was as if the slightly younger boy was trying to comfort him.

After the initial shock, Blaine quickly pulled Kurt in closer, holding the boy close to him.

"I think I'm supposed to be the one trying to comfort you," he mumbled to the brunette.

Kurt drew away, his cheeks pink, his hands lingering in Blaine's. "You don't have to do this," Kurt told him. "I know... I know this must bring back all sorts of awful memories for you, the things you thought you escaped..."

Blaine drew Kurt close to him again, his heart swelling at Kurt's words. After being through such pain, that he was able to still comfort Blaine, when he was supposed to be the strong one in all this? That was real courage.

Yes, he told himself... He could definitely love this boy if only he'd let him.