DISCLAIMER: I do not own Glee, Fox does. And Ryan Murphy. Title from "Atrophy" by The Red Jumpsuit Apparatus.
I honestly don't think I've ever finished a "Five Times Plus One" fic, so I'm super duper proud. This whole fic stemmed from a picture I saw on Tumblr and it sort of went crazy from there.
Warnings are: quite a bit of abuse, so if you don't like that I'd suggest not reading, some language, Blaingst.

xxxxXxxxx

Blaine is eight when he kisses a girl for the first time.

The bell rings inside the stuffy hallways and a stampede of anxious little feet barrel for the door, intermingled shouts of "I'm first at kickball!" and "No, it's you and me at tetherball today!" echoing around at the prospect of fifteen minutes of freedom. There are laughs and yells, playful shoves and good-natured racing.

Blaine strays toward the back of the throng, moving at a decidedly slower pace.

He's forgotten his jacket again. As he steps outside the cold early-November air stings at his arms even through the sleeves of his thick woolen sweater; the crisp breeze colors his cheeks a light pink and sets his teeth to chattering as it whips his curly hair into his eyes. He huddles against the brick side of the building to try to block some of the wind and tries his best to ignore the scratchy brick under his exposed palms.

Amy Cook, who's in Blaine's class and sits a few seats away from him thanks to the alphabet, approaches, her pink windbreaker already slid off of her shoulders and held wide in offering. She's got her bottom lip between her teeth shyly and she won't meet Blaine's eyes. Now all she has on is a tan-colored sweater.

"T-thanks," Blaine says, pushing off the side of the building and slipping the offered jacket on, sighing contentedly at the remainders of body heat that warm his frozen limbs.

Shyly, Amy replies, "You're welcome."

They stand there awkwardly, Blaine scuffing at the asphalt with the toe of his shoe and listening to the excited screams from their classmates, Amy looking around for what are probably her friends, Blaine assumes. He's not sure what to do now; whenever his mommy hands his daddy his coat he always kisses her.

Blaine's nose wrinkles in confusion and he zips the windbreaker up to his neck. Is that what he's supposed to do?

Amy's pretty; at least, she's as pretty as Blaine finds any girl. She has long, golden-brown hair, pale skin and wide green eyes. She's always nice and always shares her snacks and glue because Blaine tends to forget things a lot. She looks so cold now, too, and that makes Blaine feel bad.

There's not a lot of space between them, maybe a few feet at the most. Blaine leans in and catches her look of utter surprise as he pecks her quickly on the lips before retreating. A flush that has nothing to do with the cold appears on her face before she giggles and walks away to join her friends.

On the other hand, Blaine wipes his mouth with the back of his hand. All the other boys were right: girls were gross and Blaine was never kissing one again. Ever.

1.

By middle school all the guys are talking about which girls they find cute, who they want to date, and sometimes those discussions turn into "she cheated on me with you?" and sometimes those particular discussions turn into visits to the principal's office.

Blaine doesn't talk about girls. He's one of the few boys who spend more time studying than chasing after female classmates, and it's in this that he meets Jason.

Jason is only slightly taller than Blaine, with auburn hair and really pretty almond-shaped brown eyes. He says he hates their color because it's so boring; Blaine thinks that they go well with his hair. He's got a ski-slope nose and a light smattering of freckles across the bridge of it.

In sixth grade they meet at lunch and bond over a mutual love of hot Cheetos and popular songs from the radio. The first time that Blaine makes Jason laugh, a nice warm laugh that emanates from his stomach, peaceful warmth spreads through him and he can't stop his own grin.

Jason mentions how girls are nothing but trouble. Even though he doesn't have any experience besides third grade, Blaine agrees. They talk about their upcoming science project and how far along they are in their recently-assigned book for English. Blaine is slightly ahead; Jason is a couple chapters behind.

Feeling bold, Blaine suggests that Jason can come over with him that weekend and Blaine could catch him up on the book. Jason agrees, nodding because his mouth is still full of the bite of chicken sandwich that he had just taken.

A little fluttering begins in the pit of Blaine's stomach and he doesn't know why.

xxxxXxxxx

When Blaine's mom picks him up from school on Friday, Jason is trailing behind him a few paces. Stella Anderson looks slightly surprised that Blaine isn't alone but arranges her features into a neutral expression as he greets her son.

"I have to help Jason with our English homework," Blaine says as a way of explanation. Stella nods, and after the boys are in the car she heads for home.

xxxxXxxxx

"Okay, so after Sam and Eric find 'the beast' Ralph and Jack investigate, but what they really think is some slumbering animal is just the dead body of a parachutist…"

They're sitting on Blaine's spacious bed, battered copies of "The Lord of the Flies" spread out between them, and Blaine is futilely trying to explain the chapter to Jason, but judging by the other boy's glassy eyes he's not soaking up much.

With a sigh Blaine sits back, propping himself up on his pillows, and looks at his wall for a second. After a minute or two in silence Blaine blurts out, "Have you ever, um… kissed anyone?"

Jason studies him for a second, eyebrow raised slightly. He re-crosses his legs and remains silent for so long that Blaine's really regretting asking anything in the first place. Just when he's leaning down to pick up his book and delve further into an explanation about anything other than what he's just asked Jason says, quietly and almost timidly, "No."

Blaine's breath hitches slightly and he's not entirely sure why, which seems to be a common motif in his twelve-year-old life. He blinks a few times, eyes suddenly dry, and wipes his clammy palms on his jeans. The question is neutral enough, he assumes. Just two guys talking.

When they both look up their eyes lock and Blaine can see the nervousness hidden behind Jason's gaze, that same unsure waver that Blaine feels tickling his stomach and sending his heart racing. "I have only once," Blaine replies, wetting his lips with his tongue. He doesn't notice Jason's eyes following the movement. "Third grade, Amy Cook. She gave me her jacket and I didn't know of any other way to thank her." He laughs at the ludicrousness of it.

"Did you… like it?" Jason asks, his voice still just as soft. He doesn't laugh. His fingers twine over and over each other in his lap in an endless cycle.

Blaine shakes his head, picking nervously at a loose string on one of his pillows. "It didn't seem right."

Jason nods, like he understands, and mutters, "You—you wanna try it?"

Blaine's head snaps up and his throat goes try. It takes a few tries and opening and closing of his jaw before he finally gets out, "I, uh—yeah. That'd be… that'd be nice."

Blaine moves first, sliding the books and papers off to the side of his bed, and scoots forward until he's kneeling in front of Jason. Up close Blaine sees that Jason is beautiful, an adjective that he's never associated with anyone before, boy or girl.

Lips parted just slightly, soft skin dampened with saliva, Jason sits and waits. As Blaine leans forward Jason's eyes slide shut and Blaine's follow seconds later, pitching his world into darkness. Then their lips are touching, soft and tentative, afraid.

This is better than kissing Amy, though to his credit he had been only eight at the time, still just a kid who didn't know what he wanted. Feeling Jason's lips on his, the scent of boy that's wrapped around him, this feels just so perfect. It feels better than anything Blaine's ever felt before in his life.

A hand slides into hair, scratching lightly at a scalp, and Blaine realizes that it's him doing that. Jason's own hand threads its way into Blaine's unruly curls next, gripping gently on the strands. Breath is getting scarce, Blaine's lungs are burning, and he's just about to pull away…

"What the hell is going on here?"

The boys jump apart so fast that Blaine slams into the wall his bed is situated against, ignoring the slight throb in his shoulder as a result. Jason nearly topples off onto the floor with a squeak. In the doorway, jaw clenched and eyes livid, is William Anderson.

"Dad!" Blaine squeaks. He'd forgotten to shut the door. Thinking back, he didn't need to. It's not like he'd planned for this to happen. They were supposed to be studying, that was it.

"I'm just… I'm gonna go," Jason mutters, hurriedly scooping his papers and books into his bag before ducking around William and scrambling down the stairs.

A horrible dread settles in Blaine's stomach, corroding his insides as he sits, still pressed back against the wall, and worries his lower lip between his teeth. Though he'd long since heard the front door close neither father nor son have said anything and the tension continues to mount.

Blaine finally can't take it any longer. "Dad—" he starts.

He doesn't finish. William stalks over to him, grabbing his arm in a strong grip, squeezing hard enough that Blaine lets out a soft cry of pain and tries his best to wiggle away. He feels tears prickle at the backs of his eyes but he doesn't dare let them spill.

"I had better not see that again," William says in a voice Blaine's never heard before, not even when stocks had plummeted suddenly and they'd lost a fair amount of money. This is a tone never used on his mother, the local sports team, or the kid who bagged the groceries wrong at the store.

This voice is full of malice, of such a raw, uninhibited hatred that Blaine is rendered dumbstruck long after his father's done speaking. He sees William's hand move out of the corner of his eye but he stays where he is, eyes unfocused and staring out into the hallway like he's just a shell, a soulless body.

His head jerks sideways with the movement, the slap ringing out in the still, silent air. A burning sting blossoms across Blaine's cheek and he tastes blood where he'd accidentally bitten down on his tongue. His hair falls into his eyes and he doesn't move. Can't move.

"I will not have a fairy for a son," William says, hand still raised like he's going to slap again.

Please, don't, Blaine thinks uselessly, sniffling slightly, cowering under the unspoken threat.

"Find a girl," are William's parting words as he leaves the room, slamming the door shut behind him. It's only once Blaine's heard retreating footsteps down the stairs that he slumps against the wall and slides down, clenching his hair in his fists and burying his face in his knees.

It's only then, with the sting of a slap still fresh on his cheek, that he sobs until his voice is hoarse.

Stella comes in later and tilts Blaine's chin up. His face is red, blotchy, littered with tear tracks and snot. She coos and cleans him up with soft tissues from his bathroom. Noticing the handprint her eyes turn steely and she leaves again. Blaine can't work his voice, but he reaches out silently as she exits, afraid the one person that loves him is going to leave. His chin wobbles.

She returns with a container in her hand, and when she kneels in front of Blaine again he sees that it's the face stuff that some girls have begun putting on. Stella dabs at his cheek with a sponge until she's satisfied.

Standing up, she kisses Blaine on the top of his head, whispers, "I love you," and leaves.

Blaine cries again.

He's twelve.

2.

The car accident happens on a cold, dreary February day, one full of snow and slush and lingering ice. Blaine's at school when he's called down to the principal's office, and like every kid called down, wonders nervously what he's done wrong as he makes the trek there.

He arrives to a room full of solemn faces. His dad's there, his grandma and grandpa, his aunt Shelly that lives fifteen minutes away. After he closes the door behind him his grandma pulls him into a hug, and he's shocked to see that her eyes are shiny, moist. Everyone's are, except his father's.

"What's going on?" he asks in a thin voice. "What happened?"

His principal is solemn. His grandma is the one to answer.

"There's… been an accident."

Blaine's whole world falls apart around him.

xxxxXxxxx

The house is a lot bigger with only two living in it. The hallways seem wider, the stairs steeper and curvier than they used to be. Every sound echoes and a sense of longing and palpable sadness settle in, like Dementors have become permanent residents.

Blaine honestly doesn't know if he'll ever be happy again.

Most mornings William is already gone for work by the time Blaine wakes up for school. Without his mother to drive him there he's forced to take the bus now. He has to fix his own breakfast, pack his own lunch, make sure he's got everything he needs for the day.

Some mornings he'll jolt awake and swear that he hears his mom's voice calling him down to breakfast. On those mornings he'll jump out of bed, expecting everything to have been just a nightmare, but when he skids into the kitchen it's empty. The marble countertops and matching island are barren. The room smells of coffee but there's no one there.

When that happens, Blaine crawls back into bed and pulls the covers as tight as he can around himself, creating what he imagines is an impenetrable cocoon. He'll allow tears to fall down his face and soak into his pillow and imagine the lingering strains of his mother's sweet voice. When the school calls, asking where he is, he'll get up only to delete the message from the answering machine.

This goes on until late March.

xxxxXxxxx

The calls eventually reach William. On the last Friday before spring break Blaine's awakened by a large hand on his wrist, fingers wrapped completely around with a punishing force. He's jerked out of his bed, covers tangling around his legs, and his eyes are barely open before William is yelling, "Thought you could hide your truancy from me?"

Blaine mutters something incoherent, sleep still keeping an iron fist on his body, but that earns a backhand across his face, knuckles digging into his cheekbone and neck popping as his head jerks sideways.

William lets go of Blaine's wrist and says, "Get over it. Wake up, grow up. She's dead. Gone!"

He stalks out of the room. Blaine goes to unearth his mom's concealer. It's not the best job that could be done but it'll have to do. At school, no one says anything, but his teachers do stare at him for a fraction of a second longer.

He's thirteen.

3.

Eighth grade rolls around and by now Blaine is starting to suspect that he may have more than just a fear of getting close to a girl. The disastrous kiss with Jason had been the first sign, but all around him his friends that he's grown up with are growing up. They fill out; their faces mature, their voices begin to change slightly. He never notices how girls are wearing bras, makeup, tighter clothes and shorter skirts.

By now, Blaine's ninety percent certain that he likes boys. He's too afraid to use the word gay, even in his thoughts, although it's undeniable that he is. He lets that knowledge reflect into the image he shapes up for himself the summer before eighth grade.

Blaine lets his hair get longer, messier, lets the curls cascade into his eyes. He wears cardigans and skinny jeans and oxfords and Sperrys. He discovers musical theatre and still holds on to his love of Top Forty. He tries eyeliner once, putting it on during a spur of the moment as he was getting ready for school.

This time, the bruises he covers up aren't caused by his dad but by the first physical abuse he's suffered in public school. It's the first time anyone has spit fag at him, quite literally, and he staggers off the bus in ripped jeans, a split lip and a spectacular bruise blooming purple on his cheekbone.

He never tries eyeliner again. The next day he steps into Macy's and heads straight for the makeup counter, finding the MAC products and scoping out the correct shade of concealer his mom used to use. He uses his dad's credit card to buy several of them and ignores the concerned looks of the women working there who were no doubt staring at his bruises.

He misses his mom, wishes that she was still around to give him advice, to tell him that no matter who he chose to love he would always be her son. He misses her ruffling his hair every day when he'd leave her car, missing saying "I love you" before going to sleep at night.

The night that he has his first sex dream he awakens to sweat-dampened sheets and come-dampened boxers, images of faceless chiseled and undeniably masculine bodies swimming around in his hazy mind. He feels hot from embarrassment and orgasm.

By the next morning his bruises have turned a nasty green-yellow color. Opening a new concealer, he dabs the sponge in it and works it around his face, hazel eyes wide and bright in the mirror, hair messy and unkempt. His lip stings when he runs his tongue over it.

He's thirteen going on fourteen.

4.

In the hot summer before his freshman year Blaine officially comes out to his dad.

He stumbles over his words, tries to make this big, heartfelt speech that falls short of his expectations when he finds his voice shaking too much to utter out more than "I—I'm gay." It's the first time he's said those words aloud.

As he stands there, wringing his hands nervously together, William stands silently and brushes past Blaine like he doesn't exist. Distantly there's the sound of the garage door opening and closing and then nothing but soul-crushing silence.

Blaine collapses onto the couch, a few tears trickling down his cheeks, and misses his mom even more. She'd understand. She'd hug him and comfort him and make bad jokes to lighten the mood.

He's been living without her for two years now, but the pain never lessens.

William returns past midnight, reeking of booze and sweat and smoke.

Blaine's dozing on the couch, moving uneasily when he senses a presence hovering around him. Blinking his eyes open he sees the disheveled mess of his father, tie loosened and hanging to the side, eyes bloodshot and glinting with something that makes Blaine want to run for the door and never look back.

"So my son's a fag, huh," William slurs. Blaine tries not to let it get to him but the words, especially coming from the mouth of the man who had once given him piggyback rides and who had taught him to like football and throw a baseball correctly, stab him repeatedly in the heart.

"I'm still your son," Blaine says reasonably, trying to remain calm even as he's inching his way off of the couch. "I'm still the same Blaine. I still like football. I just… I also like to kiss boys." It's probably not the best thing to say but it's who Blaine is, it's what he likes to do.

William advances and panic rises up inside Blaine as the coffee table hits his calves. He can't run anywhere, not with the couch in the way to the right and this goddamned table blocking his other escape. He squeezes his eyes shut and tries to think happy thoughts, tries to remember his mom and his grandparents and that really cute kid who's just transferred, Colin-something…

"You're disgusting," William spits, reaching forward and grabbing Blaine's shirt in a large fist. Pulled closer the reek of alcohol and smoke is even stronger and Blaine tries not to gag, tries not to make this situation worse. The slap is common and Blaine goes along with the movement, used to the stinging and the burning.

"I love you," Blaine tries, but the words feel hollow and wrong in his mouth. Maybe he does love his dad, but when the fist connects with his nose he gets the distinct feeling that it's not a mutual sentiment. This is new and frightening and maybe this is more serious than Blaine had previously thought.

Tears instantly spring up in his eyes and he can't bite back his low moan of pain as he feels warm blood drip down onto his philtrum, slide past his lips and down his chin. The coppery taste seeps into his mouth and he spits on the floor, watches the pinkish glob land on the carpet next to his feet.

The next blow is aimed at his stomach and Blaine can't breathe. His thoughts are spinning and his stomach is aching and he falls to the ground, this time anticipating the kick aimed at his ribs. He hears William breathing heavily above him, feels his body throbbing and his breath hitching with repressed sobs.

There's one last well-aimed kick at his ribs that knocks him onto his side before William leaves. Blaine sobs uncontrollably on the floor, curled in on himself and past the point of caring about being strong, about maintaining an image and an air of indifference. He's slowly being crushed, little by little. He falls asleep like this, on the floor. His dad never wakes him when he leaves for work the next morning.

His nose is a deep purple when he looks into the mirror in his bathroom and his face is caked with dried blood. Even though he doesn't leave the house Blaine showers, rinsing off his face and watching the pink water swirl down the drain. His nose is going to have to go as is, but the motions of covering up the handprint are routine now.

His ribs are bruised and there's a deep red imprint on his abdomen.

He's fourteen.

5.

Cute Transfer Kid Colin turns out to be gay as well and surprisingly cool for a somewhat dorky-looking kid. He has thick-rimmed glasses, thin blond hair and a few inches on Blaine, but he's nice and funny and it's awesome to finally have someone at Westerville Central that he can relate to.

Blaine skips out on Coronation and the stupid winter formal thing that apparently no one goes to, but he and Colin agree to go together—as friends, they'd stressed—to the Sadie Hawkins dance in February.

February is still a tough month for Blaine, and for its duration he's usually distant and depressed, but he and Colin have been hanging out more and more, shopping for nice clothes for the dance and hanging out to sing bad renditions of Broadway classics in Blaine's spacious recreation room.

He skips school on the anniversary but no one says anything. Colin texts him and Blaine halfheartedly texts back. His dad is off at some work convention for the week and Blaine honestly couldn't be happier to be alone.

The night of the dance is bitterly cold when Colin's mom drops them off at the front of the school with a cheery "Have fun, boys" before driving off. Blaine reaches down to smooth out his silk ivory-colored dress shirt, side-glancing at Colin and smiling brightly, saying, "Ready?"

Colin nods, matching Blaine's smile, and they walk into the school together.

xxxxXxxxx

The dance peters out at about eleven, with tired and sweaty students lining the sidewalks, cooling off as they wait for their rides. Colin and Blaine are sitting on a bench off to the side, out of view of most of the people, and converse quietly as they wait for Colin's mom.

Blaine sees three seniors approach them. He doesn't remember any names, just that they're on the football team and combined are about the weight and mass of a baby blue whale. Colin looks up as well and pales at the sight. Blaine feels him trembling against his side from something other than cold.

Pushing his hair out of his eyes, Blaine says, "What's up?" in the calmest voice that he can manage as they come within earshot.

The biggest one, an ugly specimen with buzzed hair and beady eyes, says, "You know what's up, fags. You polluted our school tonight and for that you're gonna have to pay."

Even though he's frightened Blaine still seethes. "We were just enjoying the dance, like everyone else," he snaps. "Colin's my friend."

"Don't lie to my face, fairy," the smaller one says, stepping forward and grabbing Blaine's shirt in his meaty fists. His breath smells like a disgusting combination of beef jerky and bad punch. Blaine had almost been expecting them to be drunk like in all the movies but it appears that their assholery has knows no bounds.

"I'm not lying," Blaine shoots back. Behind him he can hear Colin squeak out a terrified "Blaine, no!" but all Blaine can concentrate on is the dumb brute holding him hostage, the situation too similar to his own home life. "Now let me go before I make you regret it."

He should have been expecting it, Blaine knows. Mouthing off and making empty threats when these guys had a couple years on him, towered over him and had muscles from working out and playing football, not singing and dancing.

When Blaine's clocked across the face this time it's harder than he's ever been hit before. His teeth clack together painfully, he narrowly avoids biting off the tip of his tongue, and he falls to the ground, face throbbing.

They descend on him like hyenas to fresh kill, kicking and punching and somewhere in there Blaine feels a snap but is in too much pain to know what's broken. There are screams from classmates, parents rushing over to try to break it up. All Blaine can taste is blood and dirt.

Someone's foot gets between his legs, driving upward with power, and the pain explodes throughout Blaine's body, rocketing up through him and churning his stomach. He barely has enough energy to lift himself up, turn his head, and vomit.

By the time the seniors are pulled off of him Blaine doesn't know up from down, doesn't know where Colin's gone or what's happened to him and is almost certain that one, if not more, of his ribs are cracked. His lip and right eye are swollen, and a lot more blood than there should be is sliding down his throat.

He blacks out.

xxxxXxxxx

William doesn't even visit when Blaine's in the hospital, just pays the bill and sends Aunt Shelly over to drive Blaine back home when he's healed enough. He can see the sympathy in his Aunt's pretty blue eyes, see the tautness in the skin on her knuckles as she clutches the steering wheel, but she doesn't say anything. William is her brother; she wouldn't dare.

He's excused from school to allow his cracked ribs to heal, but everything else is fine, save for the bruises and cuts. He finds out a week alter that Colin has transferred out of state. Blaine searches online for other schools and finds Dalton, a preparatory school for boys that offers a zero-tolerance harassment policy. It's the light at the end of the tunnel.

Blaine tells his dad that he's transferring. William doesn't say anything.

The day that Blaine leaves for Dalton, suitcase packed and new uniform on, he dabs his mother's concealer on the healing bruises and heads out to the car. The ride there is awkward and silent and Blaine doesn't say goodbye when they pull up to the stately stone building.

He's fifteen.

+1.

Blaine's been at Dalton for two years and in those two years he's felt happiness that he thought had left him for good. He joins the Warblers and impresses them with his voice, enough so that by his junior year he's promoted to lead soloist and his wide grin is almost permanently back on his face.

Only a handful of boys in the club, David and Wes included, know of his past, but no one mentions it. In the here and now Blaine is happy and content and at the top of most of his classes, a phoenix from the ashes of his old life and his old problems.

And then Kurt Hummel shows up.

Kurt Hummel, with his similar past and wide blue-green-gray eyes, perfect pale skin and high, clear voice. He's beautiful and damaged and Blaine feels for him in a way that he doesn't realize until long after Kurt has transferred and he's made the mess with Jeremiah.

Kurt has his own bullies. Blaine confides in him his own story about his exile to Dalton and Kurt eats it up. His comment about if they were all gay causes Blaine to realize that this kid, this kid with the red-rimmed eyes and tired look, the defiant stature and over-the-top wardrobe, is the Blaine of middle school.

He's never met another kid who was gay before. He's presumably never had anyone to talk to about this. Blaine only hopes that his relationship with his father has a happier ending than his.

In March Pavarotti dies and Kurt sings for him. In March, the month after the five-year anniversary of his mother's passing, Blaine realizes that Kurt is who he needs, who he's been looking for his whole life. He's infatuated and intrigued and wants to kiss Kurt right now.

When Kurt is decorating Pavarotti's casket he does. It's sweet yet deep, carrying a fierceness to it that first kisses never usually have. Blaine throws everything he has into that kiss; all his pain and hurt, longing and anger and his own stupidity for not realizing what was in front of him sooner.

Kurt kisses back with just as much enthusiasm and this is so much better than his one-time thing with Jason. This is something he'll never regret: Kurt is someone that makes him proud to say that he likes boys.

They pull away, red-faced and awkward, and Blaine laughs, looking down at the array of jewels littering the mahogany tabletop. He says something about practicing and Kurt cheekily replies that he thought they were.

This kiss surges like the tide, ebbs and flows and comes back full-force as Blaine grips Kurt's side and Kurt's hand runs down his neck and they forget what oxygen is, forget that they're in a very public place. They can't remember a time when it wasn't just tongues and lips and breaths and need.

They break apart a second time, both flushed, and Blaine tangles their fingers together.

"Let's duet," he says with a wink and glows inside when Kurt laughs and swats him on the arm.

xxxxXxxxx

Spring break comes three weeks later, after competition, and Blaine reluctantly goes home.

His dad grunts out a greeting when Blaine pulls up in the driveway. If he notices that Blaine holds himself straighter, or that his hair isn't an unruly mess for once, he doesn't say anything, just continues to read a magazine and drink whatever disgusting beer he's got opened.

Blaine retreats to his room and doesn't come back downstairs until dinner—Chinese take-out—has arrived. They eat in silence, the only noises being chewing and the clink of silverware against china plates. He wonders if his father will ever learn how to cook.

As he's getting up to put his plate in the sink, Blaine takes a deep breath and says, "I met a guy."

Out of the corner of his eye he can see his father stiffen and he takes a sort of irrational pride in instigating that kind of reaction with just a few simple words. He knows he's egging it on but he can't help saying, "His name's Kurt and he's really nice. He's got this amazing voice and soft spot for animals."

He scrubs his nose with the sleeve of his Henley and watches his dad stand up and stalk over to him. Blaine sticks out his chin defiantly and leans casually against the counter, arms folded across his chest.

"Don't mention anything about your… your abnormality when you're in this house," William growls. Blaine can smell the beer on his breath and wonders exactly how many he's had in anticipation of his son's arrival today.

"I'll mention whatever I want to," Blaine says, wondering when he'll ever stop acting before he thinks and acting tougher than he is. "Kurt is amazing and sweet and kind, and I… I love him."

Blaine wonders who's more shocked: him or his dad. William pauses for a moment, mouth open slightly and brow furrowed like he doesn't know what to say, and Blaine wonders when, exactly, he'd known that loving Kurt was an actual fact.

William finally seems to snap out of it. "No you don't," he says gruffly, like he's trying to forget that he ever heard those words. Blaine's riling him up, he can see by the vein in his father's neck and the red flush to his pale skin.

"I believe that I do," Blaine says, setting his jaw.

Years of being slapped, punched, kicked have made him nearly immune to his father's blows, and when a punch comes from the left, then the right, Blaine doesn't move. He stands his ground and vows never to run away from any problem ever again because he's tired of running, tired of trying to escape the inevitable, because the world fucking sucks and nothing is ever going to be perfect.

Even as he works his jaw William says, "Get your shit and get the fuck out of my house," Blaine is surprisingly calm. He heads back upstairs, grabs a leftover duffel bag and stuffs the few remaining clothes that he didn't take to Dalton in it, grabbing other necessities, and takes one last look around his room, at the bed when he kissed a boy for the first time, the wall where he was first hit and where his mom first showed him how to hide the bruises.

Even though he loves her and misses her dearly, he realizes now that she was as much of a coward as he has been, as his father has been. The entire Anderson family was cowards, but Blaine was the exception: He learned from his mistakes that to be strong you have to stand up even when you shouldn't.

He descends the stairs, walks out of the kitchen and into the garage, climbing into his car and starting it up. He doesn't look back as he leaves the driveway and turns the corner. He only does once the house is out of view.

It takes a few tries and a stop at Hummel Tires and Lube, but Blaine secures Kurt's address and heads for his house. It's after nine when he rings the doorbell and wonders how he's so calm about everything, how he can stand on the doorstep of someone who's been his boyfriend for little less than a month with bruises on his face and a single duffel bag in his hand.

Kurt's the one to open the door, and his look of irritated confusion quickly melts into shock and horror as he sees the state of Blaine's face. He gently tugs him into the house, setting Blaine's bag on the foyer floor, and taking his face gently into his hands.

"Oh my god, Blaine," Kurt whispers, his eyes roving over the purpling bruises that are coloring Blaine's jaw and cheek. "What happened to you?"

"My dad kicked me out because I told him that I love you."

Kurt's mouth opens and closes a few times but he doesn't speak, doesn't do anything except widen his eyes and take Blaine's cold hand in his and kiss his fingers until he finally musters up the words to say, "I love you, too."

Blaine smiles, and at that moment a man who can only be Kurt's father descends down the stairs saying, "Who was at the door, Kurt? It better not have been…"

His words trail off abruptly as he steps into view of the foyer and sees the state of Blaine's face and the tears in Kurt's eyes as they stare silently at each other.

"This is Blaine, Dad," Kurt says, his voice quiet. He looks only into Blaine's hazel eyes, sees past the unconcealed bruises and into the good, kind heart he knows is under the pain and suffering. "His dad kicked him out."

Kurt's dad stares for a minute or two more before nodding. No more words need to be said as Kurt pulls Blaine in for a careful embrace and even in this house that he's never been to, full of people he hadn't been able to meet yet, Blaine feels more at home than he ever has.

He's seventeen and he never uses the concealer again.