warning: could be intense for people with claustrophobia.

room to breathe

Blaine wasn't someone who let being pushed down stop him. No, he just got back on his feet, dusted himself off and continued on his way, hoping for the best for everyone involved, even those who had toppled him in the first place. This sort of unfailing optimism and determination could be double-edged though. It meant that he didn't know when to just avoid McKinley's resident bullies, that you couldn't just talk them down from slushies and locker slams - or trips to the porta-a-potty.

That was where he was headed now, frog-marched by two burly jocks with a third behind him, laughing as he occasionally pushed Blaine and making him stumble. "Fellows, I have a quiz ..." Blaine said with a forced laugh, seeing the port-a-potties looming closer. After hearing that people sometimes got locked in there, Blaine had measured them. About two and a half feet by two and a half feet, smaller than standard size, either because McKinley was cheap or life was cruel.

Blaine desperately drove his feet into the ground but the jocks kept moving and he nearly fell over, only their tight grips on his arms keeping him upright. "Move it fairy," snarled the one behind him, placing a painful kick to the back of his leg. Blaine buckled, a snide comment about how that certainly wasn't going to help him move dying on his lips as his kicker moved around to open the port-a-potty door. A stale stench filled the air and Blaine choked, leg throbbing and arms screaming as the jocks tossed him forward and waited until the last moment to let go of him. Blaine fell into the port-a-potty, and before he could spin around to escape the door shut.

His heart in his throat, Blaine threw himself up against the door once, twice, but the jocks had managed to lock it somehow and now he was trapped. Breathe, he ordered himself, resting against the door and shutting his eyes tightly. He could hear the jocks leaving, and he listened intently to their laughter until it faded entirely. Now he was alone. Blaine inhaled, exhaled, then slowly turned to face his surroundings.

They were pretty bleak. Not that he expected much more from a port-a-potty but ... Blaine glanced nervously upwards. The walls were thin enough that some diffused light came through, and there were air vents up top that allowed weak shafts of light in. It might have been stronger on a sunny day, but today had been overcast. That wasn't good. Darkness was already oppressive, and now it only made the small space worse.

No, it's not small. You have room. Breathe. Blaine thought, closing his eyes. He couldn't be here right now, he needed to escape - but the door was locked, so he retreated like he had in the past. He picked a song and began to sing, and by the point of "my heart wants to sigh like a chime that flies from a church on a breeze" he had constructed a wide-open space in his mind's eye. Blaine's breathing evened out, and he was almost relaxed when someone suddenly drummed their hands on the side of the port-a-potty. Blaine's eyes flew open in panic and he yelped.

"Haha, he's still in here!" It didn't sound like one of the jocks from earlier, but Blaine recognized the voice as belonging to another football player.

"Alright, you've had your fun," Blaine said, ashamed at how small his voice sounded. He tried to cling to his mental picture but it was gone and the small space seemed even worse. His breath began to stutter. "P-please let me out."

"He's crying," another voice, one of the jocks from earlier, said. Blaine's skin became tight and hot from shame because he wasn't crying, he just couldn't breathe. Breathe he ordered himself, but it wasn't working, humiliation and panic tight in his chest and closing like an iron fist around his lungs.

"Really? Pussy. C'mon, let's go eat." The guys left, and this time Blaine couldn't even follow the sounds of their laughter as he slid down to the floor of the port-a-potty, trying to shrink into himself.

Was it lunch already? Blaine hadn't heard a bell, but he was behind the school and caught in his own thoughts. Oh god, had he been in here for an hour? How much air had he used up - no, Blaine, there are air vents - he couldn't breathe, he couldn't breathe or something terrible would happen. There wasn't room to breathe anyways, the walls closing in and the ceiling soaring down like an elevator. Blaine hated elevators. Blaine hated all small places. This was too small, he couldn't do this, oh god. He wrapped his arms tighter around his legs, buried his face in his knees, tried to breathe, tried to remember why he should. He couldn't think of anything past the four walls that were squeezing the air out of him.

"Blaine?" Blaine's head jerked up. Now he was hallucinating, though there had to be worst things to hear in a panicked delusion than Kurt's voice. Blaine blinked wetly, harsh pants filling the air as he waited to see if illusion-Kurt would speak again. There was no way Kurt could have found him, he was too tucked away, trapped like a spelunker in a cave-in - shit, a cave-in, imagine all those rocks pressing in on him, air filled with dust, he couldn't breathe - "Blaine, can you hear me?"

"K-kurt?" Blaine sniffed, tentative hope fluttering in his hope.

"Blaine!" Kurt sounded happy and worried, and his voice sounded from right behind Blaine. Blaine wanted to turn around, but he couldn't, there wasn't any room, everything was too small. Over the rushing filling his ears he could faintly hear Kurt saying, "this one Finn! Get it open!" There was a pause, then someone started jerking at the door. The tremors jumped to race along Blaine's back but he didn't move, couldn't, and he felt like he was breaching the surface of a heavy lake.

"Kurt?" Blaine asked uncertainly.

"Yes?" Kurt replied immediately, sounding incredibly anxious. Blaine made the mistake of opening his eyes at Kurt's answer and all he saw was the walls and the half-light and closeness. He quickly closed his eyes again, cheeks wet.

"I-I'm glad you're here." Blaine said, stumbling over his tripping breath. Kurt made a distressed noise.

"Are you alright? You sound really upset ..." Kurt said carefully, and Blaine's stomach turned and his throat closed with shame. Kurt probably thought he was pathetic, Kurt went through this thing all the time ... only Blaine was so sorry that he couldn't breathe in this tiny space, everything closing in, a choking embrace, stench pressing down on his tongue and the rattling of the door making the whole tiny place shake like it was going to collapse, become even smaller. A small sob escaped Blaine and he realized dizzily that he was crying.

"I just ..." Blaine didn't know what to say, how could he explain this? He couldn't. He felt like he was dying, being pressed into nothingness, the closeness climbing down his throat and choking him. All because the place was small, too small, and he couldn't - "just talk to me?" As embarassed as Blaine was to have Kurt here (and Finn too, oh god) hearing his boyfriend's voice was fighting back some of the panic.

"Okay," Kurt said, and Blaine knew right then that this wasn't over. "Cafeteria is serving an incredibly disgusting thing they claim are mashed potatoes at the moment, so you're not missing much." And Kurt, who hated to to get dirty, seemed to be crouching down because his voice was close Blaine's ear, only seperated by thin plastic. Just plastic. Kurt's outisde. He'll get you out. There's an outside. This is just plastic walls. Plastic. Wrapping around your head. Cutting off your air-

"Kurt." Blaine choked out, banging his head back against the door. He needed to get out. "I'm scared Kurt, I'm scared, g-god, please, get me out, please."

"Is he crying?" Finn asked, but Kurt shushed him. Blaine buried his face back in his knees, hands coming up to cling to his hair. If only he could tear out this stupid fear, yank it right out of his head and be normal for once.

"We're going to get you out, okay?" Kurt murmured gently, so low Blaine could barely hear him over Finn rattling the door. "I would never leave you." Blaine latched onto the words, the promise they held, and would have smiled like an idiot if he wasn't too busy freaking out like an idiot.

"I'm sorry." Blaine replied, clearing his throat a little and them repeating it a little louder because he wasn't sure if Kurt had heard him. "Sorry. You should be eating, even if it is gross mashed potatoes."

"I'll pass." Kurt said, snorting delicately. "Trust me Blaine, you're more important that a missed lunch."

"Thanks," Blaine said, biting his lip. His breathing had actually slowed to a semi-normal pace, and he knew it was because of Kurt. Blaine had no idea what he had done to end up with the most perfect boyfriend in the planet, but he was incredibly glad he had. With Kurt on the outside, the inside didn't seem so small. It was as if Kurt were a gateway to the wide-open world. Wide-open. Kurt. Happy thoughts. Breathe.

"No problem. Hey - did you see the hideous sweater Melinda Clarke is wearing?" Kurt asked, and Blaine actually let out a wet laugh, because he had and it was hideous. A sharp squeal followed his chuckle, and there was a sudden waft of fresh air, cool along Blaine's side.

"Nearly there!" Finn grunted, but Blaine didn't even process those words. He was too busy twisting over himself to reach desperately for the crack that had appeared, inhaling the fresh air deeply. Kurt made a noise of delight and Blaine started to cry harder. He was so close. He was going to see Kurt again. He wouldn't be stuck in this small space, too small for anyone, who even designed port-a-potties in the first place - the door swung open and Blaine tumbled out, straight into Kurt.

Blaine collapsed, face pressed awkwardly into Kurt's collarbone and the silk shirt he was wearing, sobbing. Finn muttered I'm going to go eat but Blaine ignored him, too busy digging his fingers into Kurt's back. Kurt's arms came up around him, squeezing fiercely, but it didn't feel like he was being trapped. It felt like love. Blaine could feel the open space around him, he didn't even need to look, and slowly his breathing returned to normal, occasionally hitched by sobs. And then those tears trailed off too, and it was just Blaine in Kurt's arms, and Blaine quietly saying, "I'm kind of claustrophobic."

the end