Everyone loves poetry, right? Right? ... I just love old dude poetry. I won't lie. But this was super fun. I hope you like it, even through its annoyingly long backstory. (Kurt is in the second part/chapter. I promise.)

Michael Anderson reads poetry to his son before he has even taken his first gasping breath. In the soft-lit gloom of the master bedroom he sits in his boxers with legs folded neatly, Death of a Naturalistin his lap and spilling over his lips like a strange visceral-lyrical lullaby. To him the scene is perfect, the three things he loves most in one setting, picture-perfect in the way greater men than he have been able to describe and where he still sometimes falls short of words. But the words are there for him still, like they've always been, and he murmurs them like a charm to the ears he hopes are listening.

"Ah, I can feel him moving," Marie says soft, her eyes widening as her hands move to catch Michael's and move them to her stomach, lacing their fingers together with the poetry book falling onto the bed with a quiet snap. "I stand corrected."

"Of course you do," he smiles, leaning down and sliding up to turn his ear to Marie's stomach so he can listen and feel all at once. The warmth flutters against his skin, and his heart feels impossibly light, like a dream. "He's going to love poetry, just like his daddy. Huh, little man? You like Heaney? Strange. Granted, just listening to his poetry is treat enough but –"

He stops at the gentle threading of his hair between his fiancée's fingers, and looks up to catch her bright eyes in the lamp-light. "Shouldn't you start him on something a little more his age group?" Marie points out in her eyebrows-raised amusement, her face only a little more beautiful in this angle. "Assuming anyone writes poetry for foetuses."

"Don't think there's a market for that yet. I think they're still stuck on whale noises," Michael sighs; a more truly regrettable thing has never happened in all his years. "Oh well. This little nameless boy will be first in his class, huh?"

"Hm," is Marie's only response, as she looks up at the ceiling and appears to consider something. "I like Blaine."

"Blaine?" Michael repeats, carefully, rolling the sounds over in his mouth. "Blaine. I like that. Blaine Anderson, future lady-killer and veritable genius."

Marie laughs like a clear bell (as she always does), her eyes crinkling and her ribcage lifting under Michael's head. "So that's no genes from you, then. He'll think he was adopted."

"Oh, ow. Never have I been more burned."

And it was so. Mostly.


Blaine Anderson grows up surrounded, saturated in the glittering sparks of life found in poetry. He takes to it like a duck to water (naturally, says his father), not understanding but finding his face lighting up at the words all the same. The sounds are more than enough for now; the meaning will come later, with clever conceits and delicate metaphors in the style of the metaphysical poets, but for now the sounds create the story, the bold strokes of nonsense present in 'Jabberwocky' or rarely (when it is fit to indulge in prose) the dense steps of Tolkien in The Hobbit.

Mostly, though, (and because Blaine is six and doesn't quite understand the classics yet) Michael teaches him to read with the magnetic letters on the fridge. Portable whiteboards be damned.

Silly things, really, but Blaine takes great delight in them. Michael finds that he isn't especially discerning and will listen and – slowly, as he grows – read almost anything and enjoy it. Such is the nature of childhood. Dramatic readings of age-appropriate poetry acted out with furniture as props dominate weekend afternoons, monsters falling snicker-snackby the hand of a vorpal umbrella. He is a rather loud child and it can get overly exciting and really, Blaine, what have I told you about using your inside voice? And Blaine will drop at his mother's voice because nobody talks back to Mom ever, since she can get really loud and scary sometimes even though mostly she picks him up and turns him upside-down until he squeals and makes ginger tea and kisses his forehead when he feels sick.

Today is not a 'mostly' day, though, and Mom is tired and grumpy and tells him that his elbows are digging into her and that he squirms too much. (Blaine will cling to her anyway, like a bony limpet, and shuffle and prod until he falls asleep, exhausted with the importance of being six years old.)

"Oh, he just wants to please you," Michael laughs, walking into with a half-swallowed yawn as he finds his son draped over Marie's lap, mouth open in a deep sleep and curls slipping loosely through Marie's fingers. She smiles at Michael, the dark smudges under her eyes and the weak twitch of her lips more than enough reason to pull her half-onto his lap like a familial Jenga puzzle.

"Yes," she says after a moment, resting her head on his shoulder and closing her eyes, visible only in the dark reflection of the television across the room. "And it's desperately cute but also occasionally very very trying."

"That's children for you. And also why we only wanted the one, right?"

"Blaine is quite enough adorable and annoying for one Anderson family, I think," Marie laughs, leaning her head on Michael's shoulder and letting out a long breath. "... Thanks for always looking after him."

"Oh, don't start that again," a teasing prod at her ribs. "Unless I find a job that's less relaxed about the whole working from home angle, I think I can handle it. Besides, we agreed on this before he was born, remember?"

She doesn't answer this time, instead petting at the bundle of sleeping Blaine lying in her lap with long tapered fingers. "Goodness. He doesneed a haircut."

But then, she rarely answers any of his questions. Michael twists his lip between his teeth and wonders how long he can deal with this.


They separate when Blaine is eight and he doesn't really understand; he whimpers and clings to his mother in his curious limpet-like manner (he is far more open and welcome to touch than the other boys in his class, who spend a lot more time jabbing each other with sticks and throwing worms at shrieking packs of ever-rotating girls) and tells her that she can't go, because – 'cause – I don't want you to, okay?

"... Michael, I can't explain to him with you looming over me like that," she says irritably, stroking Blaine's hair protectively and frowning at her husband, who is definitely looming like a spectre despite leaning on the door-frame at least six feet away.

"Not looming," he replies, looking out of the window with a roll of his eyes. "I'm observingthe manner in which you explain to your son that you're going to ditch him like you do with everything –"

"Ditch?" Blaine pipes up, looking at Marie with uncertain hazel eyes (just like his father's, she thinks wistfully). "... You're not going to leave forever, are you?"

It should be funny, but it isn't. "Of course not, Blaine, don't be silly. Go away, Michael, you'll just upset him more if you're going to make snide comments."

"I'm not being anything of the sort, I'm just being here –"

"Yes, being here being a f–" Marie covers Blaine's ears with her hands, ignoring his indignant squawk, "fudging judgemental ass."

"Oh, it's not like he can hear you through your impenetrable hand-muffs–"

"I'm going to go find tadpoles," Blaine announces, tugging his mother's hands away and sliding out of her grip. They both watch him as he storms out in the stilted awkward flounce that young children do, still unsure of their own movements. The back door clicks shut.

There's a long, silent pause as they both consider the absurdity of youth. Then, Michael breaks out into a uncontrollable grin that Marie doesn't understand at all.

"... What, you know something I don't?" she asks cautiously, feeling the tension twist in her stomach as it has so often recently. "Please don't tell me he's been keeping frogs in his bedroom or something. I really don't need the added stress of finding Blaine creating a amphibian army in his closet."

Michael laughs, a sharp bark so familiar that she automatically rolls her eyes at it. "No. See, I told you that reading poetry with him wasn't a 'stupid waste of time'. He's clearly referencing 'Death of a Naturalist'. You know, I started reading it to him before he was even born – All year the flax-dam festered in the heart / Of the townland..."

"He's eight. He's not going to remember all that crap you try to push into his head," Marie replies with a snort, heavily resisting the urge to put her head in her hands and wonder just why in the fuck she had decided to marry and have a child with this insufferable plank of a man. "What, do you think he's sending you subliminal fucking imagery through your stupid poetry books that aren't even targeted at his age group?"

And Blaine isn't, but he does remember the vivid imagery as he hops over the fence in the back yard (nobody will pretend that it's even remotely a safety feature) and heads into the small thicket of trees behind his suburb towards the small river-stream he knows is there. But it's no flax-dam, sodden and stinking in the spring daylight; it's all clear water and gently sloping banks, soil hard in the brisk weather. Of course, there aren't any tadpoles, no warm thick slobber of spawn to lower himself onto his belly and prod at in boyish fascination. But he knew that already, he thought with a heavy emphatic sigh as he flopped stomach-down on the ground, legs crossed at the ankle and elbow propping up his chin as he stared into the rippling near-depths.

He just didn't want to listen.

When he comes home there are no panicked parents waiting to meet him (because he is responsible and mature for his age, he chimes, as the clock reads 08:18pm). Instead, there are letters forming words forming a sentence on the fridge door. It reads:


and underneath, all in blue


... He has no idea what that's supposed to mean. (Where does his father even get fridge magnet commas?)


His mother moves out in the heat of summer, leaving a blazing trail of purposely forgotten keepsakes behind that Blaine secrets into his closet for reasons he can't explain. It seems weird, like something from a movie, but the knowledge of those things being there relaxes him a little. They lurk next to his pristine copies of The Chronicles of Narnia and the Just So Stories, piled adjacent and just around the corner from the closet door so they're not there if he doesn't want to look at them.

"Just you and me, kiddo," his father had sighed at the closed front door, both of them standing in front of it as though waiting for her to reappear.

"Yeah," Blaine nods, and that's all the weight in the world shared between them.

As he grows older Blaine retreats into a self-made shell. He is not sad, as he has had to explain too many times to vaguely concerned teachers and semi-distant relatives who think he needs a mother figure in his life twenty-four/seven just to function normally. Sadness is altogether a different settlement on his skin, sinking into his bones like he's waterlogged – and he is floating just fine by himself, thank you, that's okay, I'm fine.

He becomes quiet and contemplative, and very old for ten-eleven-twelve; one night, his aunt tells him that his eyes look wise, and he stares wide into the mirror afterwards foolishly wondering what she meant. More mature, he's getting big now, is what she meant, and he supposes it's a nice way to put it. Nobody else particularly appreciates it, much less his classmates. Blaine Anderson is too vocal, too clever, too – something nobody can really articulate. Once-friends become vague acquaintances, and he takes no particular delight in being alone. It doesn't really have any benefits. Mostly, though, he wants to pull someone he trusts away from the crowd and feel like he can tell them anything, tell them about the strange churning feeling low in his stomach he gets when he sees the eighth grader with the perfect Cupid's bow and sweeps of dark hair that he kind of wants to touch –

He can't do any of that.

He's not sad; he's frustrated.


I was a nuisance, tripping, falling, / Yapping always. But today / It is my father who keeps stumbling / Behind me, and will not go away.

Blaine is fourteen when his parents (finally finally) divorce, but he has his own problems. He understands what it is now, despite never having come across it in any of his past reading (Nathan quirked an eyebrow at him, body curving towards Blaine's as though suddenly more interested; "... so you think you like guys?" he said, and for some reason that one sentence made it make sense in a way that compartmentalising the feelings in his head hadn't). But then he'd scoured the Wikipedia articles, and the websites with the diagrams that made him want to cringe behind his hands and laugh anxiously, and the websites with terribly conflicting and confusing information and he really didn't want to go through the calamity that had been the "what's rimming?" Nathan-conversation ever again.

Blaine had said he was okay with people knowing, but he wasn't, actually. In hindsight, that was a fucking stupid idea, he told himself – and yet there was a spark of this isn't fairdeep in his head. It wasn't fair that now he was treated like he and Nathan had the plague, like liking boys was somehow transferable through eye contact; it wasn't fair that he kept finding his bookbag in the boys' changing room toilets, notebooks open, pages torn and sodden with mud-streaked footprints; and it certainly wasn't fair that he was always the one being called in to speak to the school counsellor about all of it when she clearly thought he was the problem.

"Dad?" he asks finally, standing in the wide berth of room between the open door and its frame, looking like a heavily-shaded intruder in the subtle camera angles of an arthouse movie. For some reason, Blaine's mind fixates on this image and his fingers twitch as he considers the way he would direct this kind of scene – shifting the angle like that, maybe have the floodlights taken out, natural light only – and he's avoiding like he usually does. "... Can I talk to you about something?"

"Is it about the letter I got from school?" his father says, his head tipping up from whatever he's looking at on his laptop before he wheels his chair around. His expression is... serious, his jaw set and eyes semi-dark in the poor lighting of the study, but there's no particular brand of emotion he should be wary of. In a way, that's the worst part.

"A letter?" Blaine asks, squirming uncomfortably in the light of this information. They definitely hadn't told him about that. "What did it say?"

His father turns in his seat, shuffles through the papers encroaching across his desk and finally retrieves one with the school's crest on it. He unfolds it, scans it again as though to make sure it says the same thing. "That you've been in some trouble recently. I wanted you to approach me about it first, so that's good."

Blaine smiles weakly at that; his father is forever prodding him to 'take things into his own hands' and 'be more confident in himself'. But then, the implications of the words finally hit him and he frowns, arms folding protectively around his waist. "I'm not the one doing the troubling."

"Troublemaking," his father corrects automatically. "And yeah, I did kind of get that impression. You're not really that kind of kid, Blaine. But why exactly does the school counsellor think you're being... troublesome?"

Trouble is beginning to not sound like a word at all. "I don't know," he says, pursing his lips and staring fiercely away at the inexplicable collection of airport-fare crime novels his father keeps purely so he can snark over their clumsy prose. "They keep calling me in and acting like there's nothing they can do about it. I keep giving them names and then they just tell me that I shouldn't point fingers and that they can't do anything without evidence."

There's a pause, weighing heavily on both of them, and Blaine looks at his feet, back up and out of the wide windows framing the back wall, across at the newly-constructed pine shelving holding groaning tons of books. His father just looks thoughtful, one hand covering his mouth as he seems to slowly consider things in the wheels turning behind the soft glint of his glasses. It's uncomfortable and Blaine finds himself shuffling his feet and twisting his fingers together. His fists are clenching and unclenching in pointless motions over his waist, and in willing them to stop Blaine misses the passing look on his father's face.

"You never told me about it," his father says suddenly, and Blaine near-jumps at the sound. "Not that you tell me anything anyway, but I can't do anything to help you if you're just – acting like it's going to go away."

"I don't want you to do anything about it," Blaine says. "I can handle it myself. It's theirproblem, not yours."

"And you're my son, and that kind of makes it my problem, Blaine."

Blaine opens his mouth to argue with him, but his father quirks an eyebrow and he immediately closes it again. "... You don't want to leave that school, do you?" his father says, with a sigh that seems to deflate his chest entirely.

"I'm gay. I'm not a victim," Blaine snaps; he starts at his own words, stepping back and feeling his heart skip anxiously in his chest. That – wasn't – he hadn't wanted to do that, shit. His mouth opens and closes a few times in failed beginnings of sentences, looking over his father's head and focusing on the sway of branches outside the study window. "I don't want you to protect me. I need to do this myself. I need to show them that it's – that it's not me, it's them."

"Are you sure you're...?" his father trails off, looking down at the folded letter in his head and up again, awkwardly, like he doesn't know how to react. (That forum had said as much; Blaine was prepared for this.)

"... Yeah, I'm sure I'm gay."

"Not that. I meant, 'are you sure you want to stay?'. Context, Blaine."

Blaine's eyebrows furrow, and he doesn't see what the context has to do with anything. "Yes."

"... The other thing, too."

Blaine's lips twitch. "I already told you that."

"Ah. That's right," and Blaine sees the stiffness in his father's posture now, box-like, upper arms tight against his sides and jaw hard. He knew this was coming, but it doesn't hurt any less for knowing. "... That's fine."

That's fine. It's an odd answer that sparks heavily through Blaine's chest like a blooming gunshot, and he stutters and sways dumbly in the crack of the study door for too long before he sweeps away, under the carpets like he has so often recently. Blaine stares at himself hard in his bedroom mirror, tugs at new-cropped curls waving proper around his skull and wonders why that's fineis so conflicting and pulling at his brain like it will come apart in strings if only it tries hard enough.

Maybe he should call his mom; she would know.

Instead, he skulks online into the early hours, grows pale with the ghostly sickness that grinds into his bones whenever he leaves home and when he comes back; learns and learns line upon line of beautiful soulful useless poetry (that he cannot even begin to comprehend), experiences paragraphs and chapters and volumes of the prose he steals away from the study, and feels momentarily lost there. Sometimes, Blaine thinks that it would make him happy if one day he would open a book and it would swallow him alive.

But then, that's stupid, so what's the point in thinking that.

(He goes down the stairs the next mid-afternoon, yawning and stretching, and there on the fridge:


Blaine frowns, considers it, then pulls the bag of magnetic letters off the counter:


Three hours later he surfaces to get – some sort of food item, he's not sure what, and all of the remaining 'I's and hyphens have been used in a curious activity:


And he smiles, even though Hard Times is a sack of shit.)


I sickened, turned, and ran. The great slime kings / Were gathered there for vengeance and I knew / That if I dipped my hand the spawn would clutch it.

Blaine had cringed behind Nathan as soon as figures appeared swaggering towards them in the short distance between the school gates and the sidewalk because he knew. Nobody had said anything, done anything while they were there and Blaine had told himself (and his parents, and his friends, and everyone else in the world who raised their eyebrows and told him that it wasn't a good idea, no offence or anything but...) that it was fine until he had half-convinced himself. Sure, sometimes he got his face slammed into his locker leaving an impressive rusting scarlet stain (just a sample, rentboy!) or he'd get locked into the last stall in the P.E. changing rooms (oh, lest he dare look at the titillating sight of baggy boxer shorts) and get bawled at by Coach when he smashed the catch in desperation, but he could deal with that.

He's never really been beaten up before, though; and he discovers that it's a fine-line between manhandling and hospitalisation.

And now Blaine knows that it doesn't really hurt that much. It's somewhat of a relief, he supposes, that it stopped being so bad after he stopped trying to fight back; it confirms every piece of advice he had ever read from the wise men lurking in fantastical universes (don't sink to their level, they'll get bored, they'll stop, be the bigger man, Blaine) even though it still feels like his body has crumpled in on itself.

He doesn't know if that's because of being kicked or if he's just feeling the bitter twist of reality deep in his chest. They can't do this, not alone and not together, because a united front of two people is pathetic and too fragile to even consider. God, he was so stupid for thinking that – maybe just once – they wouldn't be assholes, let him and Nathan – fuck, Nathan, Blaine thinks suddenly. He lifts his head in a momentary panic that jerks against his ribcage to find his friend in much the same position, head tilted back against the wall with his fingers pressing tenderly against the reddening skin along his jaw.

"I'm sorry," he gets out eventually, speaking sparking a coughing fit that makes his chest squeeze painfully tight. He breathes in hard, rubs his palm across his nose and marvels at the impressive blaze of blood trailing across his skin. It looks worse than it is; he knows that well enough now. All show and no substance. "Nathan, fuck, I'm so sorry."

Blaine feels his voice crack and the lump in his throat hitch as he finishes. "Hey, don't apologise to me," Nathan says quietly, his own voice calm and measured. Blaine likes that about him, that he is never angry or afraid – and Nathan's hand suddenly grabs his own and Blaine decides selfishly that he likes that, too. "It's not like I'm any less of a target than you are. It's okay, Blaine, my dad's gonna be here in a minute... can you stand?"

"Uh, yeah," Blaine decides before he knows, and it takes Nathan helping, his weight leaning against the wall and sliding up achingly slowly for him to reach a shaky standing position. But he can still do it, even if his chest is shot so much that breathing is unusually painful. He rubs half-heartedly at his cheek and it comes away wet, and he doesn't remember crying, but then, he doesn't really want to remember anything at all.

They're just standing there hands clasped tight, and surely it should have ended in the blare of ambulance sirens and a blur of blue and red lights – but it doesn't, because then they are pitiable and they are far from it. Reality is a bitch; a subtle one, who dances joyously in the dense fog of unspoken sadness and things that really aren't that bad, Blaine, so you're just going to have to grow up and deal with it.

Blaine finds it hard to think about that as Nathan's dad's car pulls up and the guilt bears down on him because nobody should have to deal with the fact that Blaine can't even defend himself, let alone anyone else (what made you think you could just twirl your ass around with your butt-buddy here without getting exactly what you have coming to you?) and his own dad is going to kill him.

His dad does not. Sitting in the waiting room with a purpling eye and what feels like a fantastic rainbow of bruises – and oh, the irony burns – blooming over his ribcage and down his thighs and calves like a wilting corsage, Blaine watches as his dad sits stiff and says nothing. (He says later that he didn't want to wake his mom – and Blaine knows that she's been stressed and having a hard time sleeping, so he tries not to be upset.)

Blaine has three cracked ribs and several impressive-looking contusions that look worse than they are. He gets prescribed painkillers and is told that he doesn't need to stay. Footballers at your school kick like little girls, huh son? Ha ha, not much chance for them this season, right?

Nathan's left arm is broken, but that's it. There is no outrage, no rumours except from within the self-contained, self-obsessive walls of high school. Reality sits in the corner and smiles in the haze; they had it coming to them, didn't they, being so... like that. It's just wrong. Shouldn't happen anywhere. Can you believe?

Blaine doesn't sleep for a long time afterwards, the crawling heave of pain in his chest denying the comforting release of a dreamless night. Stares at his phone and doesn't know who to call – it's too late now, the flash of 02:14 lighting the pathway as he navigates the stairs.

The lights in the kitchen are on and his father is staring out the window. Through the Looking-Glassis perched open on his lap, and even from here Blaine recognises the layout of 'Jabberwocky' from watercolour memories. "Dad?" he says in a stage-whisper, because the room feels like it will crack if he speaks too loudly.

"Do you remember when I taught you this?" his father says to nobody in particular, not making eye-contact with Blaine and continuing to stare. Blaine doesn't respond; only looks the same way with a flash of worry creasing his forehead (because he is expecting maybe an 'I told you so'; not this). There's a twisted theatrical pause in their unspoken conversation, causing his father to crack a smile dragged down by immutable sadness. "You nearly poked my eye out with your mother's ridiculous rainbow-striped umbrella. Then you were convinced you'd actually managed it and screamed bloody murder for what felt like hours –"

"Dad –"

"– But you wouldn't hurt anyone, would you? Not for anything."

"... I don't know what you're talking about."

There's a ragged sigh and his father turns his head slightly, stares at the carpet before finally – finally meeting Blaine's eyes. Blaine feels... somehow wrecked. "I don't want you to go back to that school. I'm not going to let you do this any more."

"What?" Blaine feels his shoulders tense and immediately regrets it with a hiss strained through his teeth. "That's – no. That's like letting them win, Dad. I... I can't."

"You're my son and you'll do what I tell you to, Blaine," the tone is sharp and it makes Blaine cringe, stepping back slightly so he is just behind the door-frame. He's been learning. "I'm not asking you if you want to. There's..." a twisted pause in his mouth before he continues, "there's a school in Westerville. It's private, but it has a zero-tolerance bullying policy. I think it would be good for you."

Blaine repeats the last sentence, the words stilted and odd in his mouth. His father just looks at him, a slight frown present through the wire frames of his glasses. He's so – always so – fucking like that, like a brick wall with thorns, sharp and impenetrable. "You mean, I won't get called a faggot there? I won't disgrace you?" Blaine snaps, breathing in sharply – ow shit ow – and feeling his fists clench (thumbs outside like he remembers from endless children's books). "I can look after myself, Dad."

"Blaine –"

"You know what? Fuck you."

The door slams and snarls on its hinges; or rather, it would have, if he'd had the strength to slam it.

But he agrees, after weeks spent muffling his ears in his room and wondering why nobody will return his texts or calls any more (well, he gets one: im sorry :/from Nathan, who then proceeds to ignore him too). It's almost summer now; and it wasn't like he really had that many friends, anyway.


A month into the summer break before sophomore year (before Dalton Academy for Boys), Blaine calls his mother.

"Dad really hates cars," he says after her chirpy greeting. "So why is he doing this to me?"

There's a bemused snort of laughter down the line, but Blaine is seriously not laughing. "What brought that up? What's he doing, building a car from scratch with you as his curly-haired assistant? How manlyof the both of you."

"Actually, that's exactly what we're doing."

"Oh," and there's a pause in the conversation. Blaine takes the opportunity to look out the window and check if his father is back yet (he is not). "Well, that is a change. He's not started reading Transformerspoetry or anything, has he?"

Blaine laughs in spite of himself, running a hand through sweat-slicked curls and immediately regretting it as he feels smears of oil clinging, sticking roughly to the strands. "No Autobot epics that I've noticed, thank God. He thinks we need to spend more time together," he says, shrugging even though nobody is there to see him. "Although I don't know why he picked car reconstruction, of all things."

Actually, Blaine thinks he knows exactly why. But he won't tell his mother that; where his father is awkward and evasive, his mother is curious and prying. The latter is more overtly annoying. "Male bonding time is a mysterious art," she says, and Blaine can almost see her broadening grin through the crackle of words down the line. "Do you want me to come and tell him off for you?"

"Please don't." (I'm pretty sure I have nightmares about that, he doesn't hasten to add.)

"Ah, but then what did you call me for? Passive-aggressive complaining?" she tuts, and then laughs at herself. "Hm, don't I sound like a responsible mother figure."

Blaine cracks a smile. "You will never sound like that."

"Aw, thank you, baby," his mother preens (always the most curious of people). "Now, go and be nice and do what your father tells you. He doesn't get his hands dirty just for the fun of it, you know. He can't even cook without washing up after himself every step of the way. Takes –"

"– Hours, I know," Blaine sighs, watching his father's car swerve around the corner at the top of their street (convenient bedroom placements, Batman). "Okay, he's coming back now."

There's another cackle down the line. "You sound like a prisoner in a reform school or something," she laughs, little squeaks punctuating her words (his mother has the strangest laugh). "Are you practising for September coming?"

"Dalton's not a reform school..."

"Yes honey, I know," and she sighs. "I know."

The tone in her voice is becoming increasingly sentimental and Blaine really doesn't want to have this kind of conversation right now. Especially not now, while he's wearing oversized coveralls smeared with mistaken oil and God-knows-what in his and his father's deep-diving into the Chevy's bonnet. They are unequivocally terrible at this, like floundering oyster-divers in Italian seas. "Mom. I'm going, okay?"

"Okay, okay. Have fun with your dad. Or tryto."

"I will make the utmost effort to try," he reassures. "... I love you."

"I love you too! Bye!"

The chirpy tone ends the conversation, too, and Blaine wonders how exactly she manages to switch tack so easily when he regularly finds himself bogged down by past feelings that follow him everywhere he goes. The front door purrs open in a fit of once-oiled hinges, and Blaine jumps the first five steps on the way down to the landing.

(How high?)


September second, the message on the fridge reads:


Blaine snaps on OK? underneath it. When he returns, he finds AYtagged onto the end.


Dalton is easier, a haven where his locker is clean and the catches on the changing room cubicles remain unbroken; where he picks up piano, and plays shy notes to an empty room; where he sings for the Warblers and feels oddly like there is some pleasant fire crackling under his skin. He becomes needed, essential in the bravado of performance and the intricacies of teamwork and small talk and acquaintances who don't mind being seen with you.


Cry pretty, pretty, pretty, and you'll be able / Very soon to not even cry pretty. / And so to be delivered entirely from humanity. / This is the prettiest of all, it is very pretty.