DISCLAIMER: I do not own Glee, Fox does. And Ryan Murphy. Title from "World War Me" by From First To Last, very apropos.
Warnings are: self-harm and eating disorders so if this squicks you don't read. It's nothing too graphic; this story focuses mainly on the treatment process, not the harming process. It's also loosely based off of Patricia McCormick's "Cut," which is a great read, so if you're familiar with that book you'll catch the similarities. There's also language, but that's to be expected.
Again, reviewers, insert Mike Chang "heart you" gif here.
Speaking of gifs .. TUMBLR! Because I need people to gleek out with.
endofadream [.] tumblr [.] com
"I don't like it at home," he says. "I like Dalton."
Sprawled out on the coarse fabric of the futon, one leg dangling over the side and the other propped almost carelessly against the arm, he says, "Anything to get away from him."
He never bothers to wear long sleeves. If anyone sees them, it's their business to keep their mouths shut. The skin itches and pulls where it's knitting back together into pink scar tissue and he scratches absentmindedly at a few raised lines as he speaks in the same monotonous voice he uses for every therapy session.
"It feels good when I do it."
Scratches, says, "That feeling of blood bubbling up on your skin, knowing that you're the one who did it…" He shivers and digs his nails into the toughened skin of his wrist with a little sadistic grin that looks out of place on his classically handsome features.
He wasn't always like this. His first few weeks he was scared and alone and hopeless, always hunched over as he walked from the dorms to the cafeteria to his various sessions the facility required him to participate in. His wide hazel eyes were dull and held no spark; his lips were chapped and bloody and he was always sniffling from his constant crying.
And then it stopped.
Most kids get cars for their sixteenth birthday.
On his sixteenth birthday, Blaine Anderson gets an IV hooked up to him and is assigned a therapist. While other kids are coveting their Fords and Hyundais and BMWs Blaine is unconscious, dressed in a regulation hospital gown with white gauze wrapped around his wrists. His room is on the third floor.
It was an unconscious decision to cut the wrong way. Blaine had wanted a way out, an escape from everything that he had to go through on a daily basis. He didn't follow the line and pattern of the veins in his arms. His world is still dark so he still has hope.
He just wants somebody to listen to him for once.
When he awakes to the steady beeping of the heart monitor, the drip of the IV and the sterile smell of death, Blaine can't remember much. He can recall filling his sink with hot water, balling his hands into fists and resting them at the bottom of the basin. He feels anger and despair and hopelessness as he withdraws his hands and grabs the straight razor he'd nicked from his dad's cabinet.
He sees his face in the mirror, red and streaked with tears, forehead creased and jaw clenched as the taunts run through his head, as he feels the phantom pain of the locker shoves and kicks aimed at his ribs. He can see the neglect and indifference on his father's face when he comes home from school with another black eye.
Hatred fills him: hatred for his dad, his bullies, his own face and sexuality. All the things that are out of his control and that are slowly ripping him apart, piece by fragile piece.
In grainy detail, like a low-quality internet video, Blaine remembers the silver glint against the tender inside of his wrist; the stinging flash of pain followed by a sense of peace and then so, so much crimson, bubbling and spilling as he went from end to end, first the left and then the right. It was beautiful.
He can hear the clatter as the razor falls to the tile, but it's distant, far away and tinny, like it's on a phone. He remembers falling not long after, collapsing with his cheek on the cold tile facing the tub and his wrists inches from his face. His eyes slide closed as the pool of dark red grows bigger with each beat of his heart.
And now he's here.
So maybe he remembers enough.
But he doesn't want to remember. He doesn't want to be here.
He's angry, so angry.
But mostly, he's just sad.
A week later he's sent to New Directions, the treatment facility in the heart of Lima. His dad hadn't even said goodbye, just dropped by the hospital room, set a duffel bag on a chair, and left. Blaine itches at his wrist through the gauze, desperate to feel that pinch and rush.
An attendant from the facility, a small, red-haired woman who has a slightly twitchy disposition and the biggest eyes Blaine has ever seen, picks him up from the hospital. She takes in his sallow skin and the thick white bandages he doesn't bother to cover up.
"I'm Emma Pillsbury," she says. Blaine doesn't move. "I'm taking you to New Directions."
Blaine only nods and lets her grab his duffel bag as he follows her out the door.
The car ride houses conversation that is stilted and awkward and more than a little one-sided. While Emma prattles on about the cleanliness of the facility and all the kids he'll be rooming with, Blaine stares out the window and picks at the fabric of his bandages. His cuts have almost healed but they'd kept the bandaging on as a precaution.
He doesn't want to be going to some treatment facility with a bunch of lunatics. He wants to be going back to school to work on their opening number for Regionals. He tells Emma this and she just purses her lips and tightens her grip on the steering wheel as she makes a left onto a winding blacktopped road.
"You can't do that, Blaine," she says in a timid voice. "You need to get better before you can go home."
I don't have a home is what he wants to say.
Dalton is the closet thing I've got. The Warblers are my family he wants to say.
What he says is nothing.
His roommate is a well-built beast of a boy named Noah Puckerman. Blaine isn't too sure of his age, just knows that he's around seventeen or eighteen. He's Jewish and he's been in here for a couple months because of drugs. The first thing he says to Blaine is "Call me Puck, Hobbit."
And Blaine thinks, of course. Of course this would be my roommate.
Puck is tan and has a Mohawk, something that surprisingly looks good on him. He's nice enough, though, and he's all right for sharing a room with for the next few months. His sense of humor is a little drier than Blaine's, a little cruder, but he finds that he likes it. It's so typically boy that Blaine can let himself forget when he's around Puck and let himself laugh about jokes dealing with loose women and poor birth control.
On Puck's side of the room there are a few posters attached to the wall with tape, and they all feature scantily-clad bikini models posing on beaches with surf licking at their pedicured feet. Blaine's lip curls in distaste and Puck doesn't miss it.
For the few seconds that he's getting stared down Blaine knows that Puck, who isn't as dumb as one may think, is putting two and two together, and he feels fear swoop through him, licking and clawing at every fiber of his being. Guys that size usually tend to like to make Blaine very good friends with the school lockers and the dirt lining the pathways.
Puck smiles at him and only says, "Guess I should find you some dudes, then."
It's probably the kindest thing anyone's ever said to Blaine.
Blaine's known he was gay since he was in eighth grade. During his first therapy session, when he's still shelled-up and hunched, he says this. By now the bandages have come off of his wrists and all that's left are the scabs and scars. He rubs his fingers over them as he speaks.
He doesn't say a lot, doesn't want to divulge too much information in such a short amount of time. He'd dressed differently, talked a little differently sometimes, and found his eyes lingering a little too long in the boys' locker room during P.E.
At fourteen, he says, he was out at his school and at his home. This was before all the high school bullies and back then, his mom was still alive and she accepted, so his father had to accept him as well. Blaine always knew that it wasn't sincere.
Then his mom died when he was nearly fifteen, and everything changed.
He looks up at the clock and timidly asks if he can go now; his hour is up.
Nothing really gets accomplished in that session.
Twice a day New Directions has group therapy with the boys and girls of the same age groups. From the East wing, where the boys dorm, it's Blaine, Puck, and Sam, a food issue kid who's apparently got a new roommate coming in today after his other one, Jesse, went home.
Puck had explained before Blaine's first meeting that all their problems were referred to as "issues." He was a "substance-abuse" issue kid, and Blaine fell into the category of "behavioral" issues. It was just a nicer way of referring to them all as crazies, Puck had said with a bark of a laugh and a hearty clap on the back that had Blaine coughing.
When they arrive the girls are already on the other side of the circle, chairs pulled close as they speak in hushed whispers. Blaine has seen them all around before but he doesn't think he's ever spoken to any of the individually even though he's been going to group for nearly two months now.
Quinn, the prettiest blonde with her hair in long ringlets, is another food issue kid. From what Blaine's heard, she's bulimic, evidenced by the thinning of her hair and the sallow tinge to her skin. Next to her is another pretty blonde, Brittany, who's supposedly a great dancer but her body's been compromised by extensive use of weight control and recreational drugs. She's thin, almost too thin, but her bubbly personality and naivety are a breath of fresh air.
Santana, a severe-faced Latina, is in here for drug use and theft. She's attached at the hip to Brittany and Blaine always finds it very endearing. Santana has ratty black hair that's always pulled up in a pile on top of her head, and when anyone asks she says that's where she keeps her razorblades, so nobody best be getting up in her grill.
Blaine's skin tingles at the mention of razorblades, a sharp arc of sensation that almost has him moaning. He shifts in his seat and does his best to still a full-body shudder.
Up until last week they'd had a fourth girl named Lauren, who'd come in with some pretty severe weight problems, but she'd quickly made progress and was out in less than six months. Blaine had liked her and her bluntness and infectious enthusiasm for anything.
Now, in her chair, is someone who is decidedly not female at all. Blaine sits next to Puck and squints, tilting his head slightly to the side when the mystery person crosses their legs at the knee delicately, like doing it any other way would be an absolute insult.
It's a boy, Blaine realizes after a minute or two. A very, very pretty brunet boy with pale skin and green-blue eyes that shimmer and change colors seemingly whenever they feel like it.
Emma doesn't mediate therapy; instead, it's a guy named Will Schuester. Blaine likes him and his curly hair and affinity for musical theatre. Will introduces this boy as the newest member of the New Directions group, and Blaine figures that he must be Sam's new roommate.
"Why don't you introduce yourself?" Will says, nodding to Kurt.
Kurt stands with poise and grace, like everyone should be captivated by his every move. His hand is on his hip, on top of the material of the large sweater he's wearing, and he fixes the group with a cool, collected stare. "Hi, I'm Kurt Hummel," he says. Blaine's taken aback by the clear, bell-like quality of Kurt's voice. "I'm a cocksucker and I was just sent here because I don't eat."
There are a few muted gasps and Blaine's sure his was one of them. This boy, this Kurt had been so nonchalant about the thing that Blaine wanted to change most about himself. He had the gall to stand up in a room full of teenagers with "issues" and say who he was.
Blaine kind of really likes him.
"I'm not ashamed of who I am," Kurt's saying, but Blaine's almost tuned it out by now because Kurt's jeans are tight and his thighs are really skinny. Like, they don't even touch and Blaine didn't think that was possible for a guy. And now that he's noticing he sees the strong jut of a collarbone when the neck of Kurt's sweater slides to his shoulder.
The first time it happens coincides with the day that Blaine tells his father that he's gay.
Between eighth grade and ninth grade, when kids have to start thinking of grown-up things, like colleges and what classes and extracurriculars look good on college applications, everything is stretched a little bit thin. Blaine is excited to start high school because everyone says that it's awesome but he's also a little apprehensive because this is high school and it's a lot more serious than middle school, or so says some of his old teachers.
Throughout eighth grade, though, Blaine had noticed that even though all the guys talked about girls and which one wore the shortest skirt or the tightest top, he'd never thought about those things. In the locker room his eyes would wander of their own volition and before Blaine could figure out what was going on he was staring as classmates stripped off their shirts and pants to change into their P.E. uniforms.
Those feelings that the boys felt to girls, Blaine correlated to boys when he saw toned calves dusted with a light smattering of hair, or the stretch of boxer-briefs over muscled thighs. Most of these boys were still growing and as awkward as Blaine felt, but they held an appeal and maybe Blaine sometimes embellished on what he saw, even though he wasn't too sure why.
In August, a few weeks before Blaine will start Westerville Central, he tells his father that he's gay. He's never said those words aloud before and they sound a little strange in his changing voice that still cracks whenever he talks too much or gets excited. But he knows that it's true and he knows that, now, standing in the hot sun with a pair of khaki shorts and a dark blue tank top on, this was his moment.
There's a silence in which Blaine wrings his hands together and listens to the birds chirping happily in the surrounding trees. His father, a tall, imposing man whom Blaine did not get his height from, stares at him with disinterest and what looks like disappointment in his eyes. The latter is gone within seconds but Blaine had still seen it.
William doesn't say anything but he doesn't need to. Blaine darts back into the house, holding his sobs in and why is he this upset? He should have known that this would be how it'd end.
It still stings, though, to know that his father may as well hate him. He only wants to prove that he's a good son and that he can make the household run smoothly even after the death of his mother.
That thought brings on a fresh wave of tears; if Stella had been alive she would have accepted him without hesitation. Maybe she'd already known since Blaine was a little boy and maybe that would have made everything easier.
When Blaine sees the knife left out on the counter, he doesn't know what makes him walk over there with purpose and pick it up, testing its weight in the palm of his hand. The light from the kitchen catches on its silver blade and makes it glint, like it's winking at him.
There had been a girl in Blaine's seventh grade class who had mysteriously disappeared after Christmas break. No one knew what had happened to her for weeks, but eventually rumor spread around the school that over break she'd cut her wrists and had to go to the hospital.
No one knew where she had gone afterward, though, and Blaine didn't know whether or not to believe the rumors until the school held an impromptu assembly about self-harm and mental illness. All the teachers looked sort of sad and the students mostly looked fascinated.
At the time Blaine wasn't sure how anyone could stand to intentionally hurt themselves; he knows how badly his knee had stung after he injured it playing soccer with the team the previous spring. He'd never been great with pain.
Now he can maybe understand the appeal, all of the power held in something so small and how it could make all the difference.
He brings it to his wrist, back his facing the sink and the large window over it, and lets the blade separate the tender skin on the inside, just below his palm. He immediately drops the knife back to the counter like it's made of hot metal. He gasps out in pain and clutches his wrist, looking at the few small drops of blood that squeeze out through the slots his fingers allow.
It hurts more than he thought it did, but with that hurt also comes… release? Something in him feels light like a helium balloon, like he could just float away and never come back. He'd like that. A drop of blood falls to the floor at his feet and he stares at the brown tiles and the red splotch until they blur together and it feels like the floor shifts under his feet.
Blaine leaves the knife on the counter and the blood on the floor and goes up to his room.
Blaine doesn't touch another knife until late in his freshman year.
His third week into school is the first time that he's shoved into a locker bank. He brushes it off and walks on, ignoring the pain.
They call him names, derogatory slurs. He chooses to be the bigger man and to walk on again.
Then comes the Sadie Hawkins dance. Though he'd come to out to his father and had been the subject of homophobic schoolyard taunts, he'd never officially come out at Central until a few weeks before the dance, when he'd met Colin.
Colin Reynolds is a new transfer student from southern Illinois, some small town Blaine had never heard of. He's a few inches taller than Blaine and a lot more awkward; his mass is accounted mainly in long, gangly limbs whereas Blaine is more centered and stocky. Colin's hair is thin and a dirty shade of blonde, swept off to the side in an almost effortless way, and his glasses are thick-rimmed and black.
He's not bad to look at, either, even though Blaine has zero interest in dating. Colin is gay, unabashedly so, and it must be something that his old school in Illinois was okay with because from the moment he walks through the doors at Central he doesn't bother trying to hide who he is.
That is what lands him cornered by the lockers before fifth period, a group of football players hovering over him and looking like a menacing gang in their matching Letterman jackets, and this is how Blaine finds him when he's rushing to World History.
Looking a lot braver than he feels Blaine jumps into the fray, standing in front of Colin even though he's short enough that he's not doing much to hide the terrified boy. "Leave him alone," Blaine says, his tone icy and calm. Inwardly he's shaking like a leaf.
The biggest one, a well-built brown-haired, green-eyed boy named Joseph Asher, scoffs and says, "Who's gonna stop us, short stuff; you?"
Blaine swallows and nods. "Yes."
"Why are you helping this loser faggot, Blaine? Is it because you're one, too?"
Now or never. This won't be good, but… "Yes. Yes, I'm gay and neither Colin nor I deserve to be treated this way."
"I always knew we were calling you the right names," Joseph sneers.
Blaine is lucky he gets out of there with nothing more than a few bruises and a battered reputation—not that he had much of one to begin with. He does, however, gain Colin's friendship. It's that that he appreciates the most.
After the dance, when Blaine's released from the hospital and Colin has long since transferred—to somewhere more gay-friendly, Blaine presumes—he finds that knife again, hidden in the drawer and looking so innocent next to the spoons and forks.
So innocent, yet so powerful, and when Blaine picks it up and holds it by its wooden handle, it seems warmer somehow, almost like an extension of his arm. Light glints off the blade and the edges look recently sharpened.
It's so easy to separate the skin on his wrists and watch the blood flow.
Blaine isn't in New Directions long before he begins to change. He still has as much self-loathing as he had before, and he still wants to cry whenever he remembers and traces his scars, but now it's almost as if he's stuck in a rut. He never gets better but he never gets worse. Two months into his treatment and his biweekly therapy sessions have gone from weepy to cold.
Before, he'd hidden his scars out of shame. When he'd first been told that he was going to be staying in a rehabilitation facility for a few months he'd thought that there would be more kids like him, kids with stories of their pain etched onto their skin, but in his wing, there had been none. So he'd always hid them.
Gradually, he stopped caring.
Blaine had just wanted people to notice before. Now he just wants to feel.
Kurt is such a bitch sometimes.
He demands and demands and demands: he wants food that he won't even eat warmed up to the perfect temperature, he insists that the majority of his clothes be dry-cleaned; he never speaks in Group except to fire off biting remarks.
Blaine really likes him, no "kind of" anymore.
He's not sure why, either. Kurt is a handful and he's never nice to anyone besides Brittany and occasionally Quinn. Sometimes he and Santana will verbally spar with each other in the minutes before Group begins and the whole room feels as if they're watching a tennis match, but at the end of it he and Santana will smile at each other, tight-lipped but smiles nonetheless, and everything will go on.
Blaine hates speaking in Group. He hates the scrutiny, hates being put on the spot like that, and most of all he hates people listening to his problems. They're his problems. No one else in the East or North wings cuts and he finds it unfair.
Will has learned of this and while most days he hedges Blaine on until he says at least a few sentences, since Kurt's come around Blaine's been left mostly alone during their sessions, free to pick at loose threads on his jeans and to study the cracking tiles on the floor.
Kurt isn't ashamed of anything and doesn't hold back. It's never about himself, though; he usually insults the facility, Will's hair, Will's clothes, the facility's food.
"But you don't eat," Brittany had said, confused.
"It's just more incentive not to," Kurt replies, head held high and expression inviting anyone to challenge him. No one ever does. Will always looks a little more tired at the end of each Group.
"What about you, Blainey?" Kurt says suddenly at the second session of the day. His tone is mocking, scathing, and his words are barbed. "You never talk about your problems. How does it feel when you slit your wrists?"
"Kurt, I don't think—" Will warns.
"Mr. Schue, if I may?" Kurt says, adopting the nickname the group had taken to calling him. He powers on without pausing to wait for Will to answer. "We all know that Blaine talks," he continues. "I've walked past him several times conversing with the other inmates."
That's what Kurt calls them. Inmates. It's oddly fitting.
"So the big elephant in the room is…" He turns to pointedly stare at Blaine, feet in first position, one hand planted firmly on his bony hip and the other dangling loosely at his side. "Why aren't you talking in group, Blaine? What makes you that much more special than the rest of us nutcases?"
Blaine doesn't say anything. He keeps his eyes downcast and rubs the hell of his hand along the top of his jean-clad thigh. He thinks of Kurt's outfit, of his tight red jeans and tight black scoop-neck shirt, of his high, prominent cheekbones and the way the shirt hugs his waist and the ridges of his ribs.
Blaine thinks of all this but doesn't look up. He doesn't speak.
Everyone holds their breath, including Will.
No one speaks. Through his eyelashes Blaine can see Kurt standing in the same position, eyes narrowed and focused on his hunched form. He feels the eyes of everyone else in the room on him, waiting. He picks at a cuticle then rubs at a healed scar to feel the hardened flesh.
"It's none of your business," Blaine finally says, quietly, when it feels like the tension of the room is cracking down on him. No one looks too surprised and Blaine finds relief in that fact.
"I'm sorry, what?" Kurt asks. "Those of us back here in the nosebleeds thought we heard a chirp."
Blaine suddenly feels angry; his teeth clench and his fists ball up at his sides. He doesn't care how beautiful Kurt is, how much he wants to kiss him or even how fragile he looks because of his condition; at that moment, Blaine is furious at the way that Kurt's treating him, treating what he did to himself like it was nothing when it meant everything.
It still means everything.
Puck, who's sitting next to him like he always does, touches his shoulder but Blaine shrugs it off, lifting his gaze to meet Kurt's cool, steely blues.
"I said," Blaine repeats, louder and with more emphasis, more venom in those two words than in anything he's ever said in his life, "that it's none. Of. Your. Fucking business, Hummel."
Kurt looks almost delighted. "Ooh, kitty's got claws."
"Fuck you," Blaine spits.
"Boys." Will's voice is sharp as he rises out of his chair.
"Forget it." Blaine stands from his chair, legs shaking with his sudden rush of adrenaline. "I'm out of here."
"Blaine, come back!" he hears Will yell as he opens the door and steps into the hall. Technically, he isn't supposed to be out here unsupervised; he's still on watch and he's still new enough to the facility that none of the staff are too sure if he'll sneak off and try to cut himself open again.
He doesn't feel the flood of what could be misconstrued as something akin to arousal tormenting him, begging for release. Finding sharp objects isn't on his agenda today, and when he comes to a halt in an empty corridor he presses his back to the wall with a sigh, sliding down until he's resting on the floor.
As much as Kurt had pissed him off in Group, Blaine had still wanted to stand up and press him to the floor, straddle him and kiss him until they were both breathless and hard and needing. It scares him a little, if he wants to be honest, because he's never had these feelings before.
Blaine buries his head in his hands with a groan, breathing in the sterile, Lemon-Pledge smell of the facility. He just wants out of here. He wants to go back to Dalton, wants to get back into the familiarity of the uniform and the Warblers.
He wants to forget that anything ever happened.
But he still wants to cut and he doesn't want to forget Kurt Hummel.
"There you are." The voice echoes out into the hallway Blaine looks up. Kurt is standing a few feet away, arms folded across his chest, and Blaine wonders how he got here so quietly. It must be the bulky black Doc Martens.
"What do you want?" Blaine asks, looking at him carefully.
"Schue wants you back in Group. Something about how you're not supposed to be out here alone." He smiles, close-lipped, as Blaine stands up and stares just over Kurt's shoulder. Kurt's eyes spark and glint but he doesn't say anything.
"I don't think you're supposed to be alone either," Blaine says.
"Nope." Kurt shrugs, already turning and walking back towards the room. Blaine has to take one-and-a-half strides for every one of Kurt's and he'd never paid attention to the height difference before but compared to Kurt Blaine feels so short and short-limbed. His own stocky physique is no match for Kurt's lanky, model-like figure.
"Then how are you here?"
Kurt stops and Blaine nearly runs into him, trying to pretend that he hadn't been concentrating on the sway of Kurt's hips and his almost nonexistent ass. Kurt turns to face him, eyebrow raised, immediately making Blaine feel belittled and infinitesimal. A long, bony arm wraps around his own scar-mottled one, linking them together. "I'm not alone now, am I?"
Something about the way Kurt says it sends a shiver up Blaine's spine and though Kurt's skin is cool to the touch and the building is always over-air conditioned Blaine suddenly feels hot, skin prickling and itching. "N-no, I guess not."
"Besides, what am I going to do? Walk by myself and continue not eating? Because I'm pretty sure that I do that every day, chaperone or not."
Blaine's answer is a shrug and they continue on toward the room in silence. Blaine wants to ask question after question but whenever he begins to open his mouth he shuts it again, thinking that surely Kurt would find whatever he was going to say stupid or not worth his time and Blaine wants to be worth his time no matter how much of an asshole Kurt can be.
Just outside the door Kurt suddenly stops, forcing Blaine to halt as well, and he says nothing, doesn't warn, before he's pushing Blaine against the wall. It's gentle, and Kurt leaves enough slack on his grasp to allow Blaine room to escape, but neither move for a few seconds. Kurt leans close, close enough that Blaine can see Kurt's perfectly poreless skin, the flecks of green and blue in his eyes.
Kurt's breath is warm on his cheek and he smells like the mint gum all the food issue kids chew. "Are you queer?"
"I—I thought we established this."
"Not personally," Kurt replies, lips temptingly close. "I think you just assume, Blaine Anderson. And no one likes assumers."
"What if I'm not?" Blaine fires back, pushing Kurt's arms away and stepping from against the wall. In the stale-fresh air he can breathe and trust himself not to do something ridiculously stupid, like kiss Kurt on his stupidly pretty and really kissable lips.
Kurt turns around, half-smirk crawling up his face, and drawls, "Honey." His voice drips with artificially sweetened niceness. "I'm a spoiled little brat. I always get what I want."
And then he's gone back into the room as quick as that, like a bolt of lightning or a childish magic trick. Blaine is left alone in the hallway, rooted to the floor and more dumbfounded than he's ever been in this life.
Kurt wants him. Kurt wants to have him.
Sam and Kurt are discussing the merits of not eating when Blaine approaches them in the dining hall early the next morning. At first, when he'd eat with the food issue kids, he'd feel guilty, but over time he'd learned that they, like everyone else, didn't care and that clearly they were here for a reason and that reaosn was not caving in everytime someone walked by holding a tray of food.
"Doritos were my downfall, man," Sam's saying when Blaine slides onto the cold metal bench across from him. "I ate, like, three bags a day."
"Cool Ranch," Sam replies dreamily, staring off into space. Blaine snorts and gently peels the wrapper off of his muffin.
Kurt turns to stare at him. Blaine absently notices that his eyes are mainly blue today, to match the off-the-shoulder sweater he's wearing. His collarbone sticks out, prominent like it's superimposed onto his body. Blaine wants to kiss it and lick it and that may be a problem.
Oh, how ironic.
Blaine shrugs and tries to hide his smile with a mouthful of muffin. Kurt sniffs and returns to ignoring him and listening to Sam talk about his food troubles before he discovered the "chew and spit out" method of eating.
He may not know Kurt very well, but Blaine can see the anxious twitch of his leg under the table, see him impatiently tapping his fingers on the plastic top of the table. Kurt's not interested in anything Sam is saying, and if the way his eyes constantly dart in Blaine's direction is any indication, he'd rather be talking to Blaine.
Sam continues prattling on, Blaine continues eating, and once Puck stops by with the challenge to whoop Blaine's ass at ping pong Blaine throws the rest of his breakfast away, not looking once in Kurt's direction as he stands up to follow Puck into the rec room.
"You should totally fuck him."
Blaine misses Puck's serve and doesn't attempt going after the small white ball when it bounces and rolls on the carpet behind him. He grips his racket tighter. "What?"
Puck retrieves the forgotten ball and appears back at his side of the table. "Hummel, dude," he says, bouncing the ball once before setting up to serve it. Blaine almost forgets to fall into position and his serve back is a little jerky. "He totally wants you, and don't think I haven't seen your big fawny eyes checking him out."
Blaine blushes and tries his best not to let Puck's words get to him. "I have absolutely no idea what you're talking about." His next serve misses the table completely and he has never been this bad at ping pong before. He and Puck can usually go solid six or seven minutes without either missing a serve.
He's glad they're the only ones in the room right now. It's bad enough having Puck notice it, but to have others? It's unspeakable. "I don't even know the first thing about him."
"Well, you know he's gay and he doesn't eat. He's got to get his daily source of protein somehow." Puck gives him a lewd smile and Blaine's torn between laughing, throwing up, or being inexplicably turned on.
"Seriously?" he says in reply. "Because that's a little… gross." Not that he wouldn't mind it and Puck seems to know that as well and Blaine's been his roommate for a little over four months now; he's come to realize that this is Puck's way of helping and frankly, it's a lot better than anyone else in here could do.
"Get to know him," Puck says with a brilliant serve that soars just past the handle of Blaine's racket. "He might surprise you."
After losing spectacularly at ping pong Blaine left in search of Kurt and didn't have to look very far: out on the smoking porch, a little sheltered area littered with worn-out wicker chairs, trash, and cigarette butts that the facility's resident smokers frequently inhabited. Kurt was sitting on the brick ledge, one leg propped up on the worn red brick and the other dangling down. The acrid scent of smoke is in the air and draws Blaine's attention to the cigarette clutched in Kurt's fingers.
"I didn't know you smoked."
Kurt looks at him, annoyance flashing on his face for a split second before his normal neutrality takes over again. "You left me alone with a guy who wants to do naughty things to a bag of Doritos. I need a cigarette now."
"Isn't he your roommate?" Blaine asks, taking a seat in the chair closest to Kurt and hoping that it doesn't shatter to pieces the moment he puts his weight on it. It creaks but thankfully stays in tact. "And you didn't answer my question."
Kurt gives him a withering stare and holds the cigarette out, moving it back and forth like a pendulum. Blaine's eyes follow the movement all the way up until Kurt's mouth wraps around the filter again and he takes a long drag, tilting his head up to expel the smoke into the chilly air. "Answer enough for you?"
Blaine shrugs and fights back a smile, tucking his hands into the pockets of his hoodie and staring at the wads of gum plastered to the brick wall next to him. They sit in an awkward silence for a few minutes until Kurt finishes his cigarette and drops the butt to the concrete. "Most nights I feign unconsciousness from not eating so he doesn't talk to me. Sam, that is," Kurt clarifies.
Blaine had almost forgotten that they were talking about him. "That's kind of going to extreme lengths, isn't it?"
"Don't tell me you've never done anything like that."
"I'm not an asshole like you."
Kurt barks out a laugh that, with his higher register, sounds almost like a normal laugh on anyone else. "We're all assholes," he intones.
"Don't spin that bullshit," Blaine replies, taking in Kurt's profile silhouetted against the dreary gray winter sky. "You're an asshole because you choose to be. You didn't get your way and now you're lashing out at everyone and everything that comes into contact with you. I bet that's why you stopped eating, wasn't it? Daddy didn't buy you a new car or something and you rebelled by forgoing food."
Kurt jumps down from the ledge and stands directly in front of Blaine. His jaw is set and his eyes are narrowed. Blaine's struck a nerve, he can tell. "Don't you dare act like you know anything about me," he snarls, and wow, how can someone so angelic sound so absolutely frightening?
"What is it, then?" Blaine challenges. "Why do you starve yourself? Do you want to be a model? Are you not comfortable with your body?"
"I could ask you the same thing," Kurt counters through gritted teeth. "Not like your own skin? Is that why you're constantly trying to hack it off? Why don't you just go find yourself some poor unsuspecting boy, drop him in a pit and force him to use the lotion?"
Blaine laughs, one part humor and one part anger. He may really like Kurt, and he may have a crush on him, but he's had to deal with enough assholes in his life starting with his classmates and his father. He doesn't need some boy who's just as fucked up as he is telling him how life works.
Just once he wishes that he and Kurt could talk normally, without arguments and challenges and the constant undertone of I'm better than you no matter what's wrong with me. He wants the easy relationship that he has with Puck and most of all he just wants to help Kurt out.
They fall silent, threats still lingering in the air, blue eyes locked to hazel. Their breath mingles together as white fog in the air between them. Kurt is the first to break down and it's like he loses three inches off his height when he deflates, the metaphorical shards of ice covering his eyes cracking and melting as pain floods his face. It's the end of the carefully-crafted shield Kurt had made for himself.
Instantly Blaine feels like the world's biggest asshole.
"Shit, I'm so sorry," he says, standing up and stepping toward Kurt, spreading his arms and then dropping them to his sides. Kurt's arms are wrapped around his torso and there's a faraway look in his eyes that Blaine's never seen before. He's only ever seen calm, cool, collected, head-bitch-in-charge Kurt Hummel; he's never seen this vulnerable, scared, hurt side of him before.
"Don't be," Kurt says weakly.
Kurt cuts him off. "It was my old school. The bullies. I was—I got so scared that I couldn't eat anymore. I was jumpy and nervous whenever I'd walk around any corners or walk past any of the locker banks. Eventually I got past that point when hunger turns from pain to numbness and I… I really liked that feeling. And I wanted it to stay because it meant that I could feel something and that I was a real human being, not just some stupid punching bag."
He sucks in a shuddering breath and Blaine waits patiently. "I used to be so in control of my life. I don't know how it got to the point where I wound up here."
He gives Blaine a watery smile, his eyes rimmed in red and his nose and cheeks flushed the same color. He sniffs. "I used to sew all my clothes to look like the designers that I loved. Sometimes I'd help out at my dad's garage for extra money to bid on eBay for clothes and accessories. With expensive clothes I felt safe and on top of everything."
Kurt swallows and stares at his shoes as he kicks at an old cigarette butt. Blaine's heart twists in his chest and before he realizes what's happening he's stepping forward and wrapping his arms around Kurt, feeling his bones and paper-thin skin underneath his thin long-sleeved shirt.
"I'm sorry," he says quietly.
"Don't be," Kurt reiterates.
"You're beautiful, Kurt." The confession comes from somewhere deep within, and though Blaine's been acutely aware of this fact from the first moment that he'd set his eyes upon Kurt in Group he'd never thought he speak these words out loud.
From above him Kurt sucks in a breath before he says, "Thank you."
Time stretches on into minutes, Blaine still pressed tight to Kurt and Kurt's arms wrapping around his waist. Eventually Blaine hears, almost too quietly to understand, "You're beautiful, too, Blaine."
That night Blaine finds a discarded plastic knife in one of the cafeteria's garbage cans left by a careless newly-employed staff member and cuts himself for the first time since he arrived here.
It feels just as good as he remembers, but it serves as an end: it began with a knife, and it would end with a knife. It's hasty to want to get better because of another boy's sad tale, but Blaine is a stupid teenager who's never met anyone like Kurt before.
He wants to get better to show Kurt that standing up to everything is possible. That just because bullies ruined their lives once didn't mean that they had to continue doing it. Neither had needed to fall into the eddy of despair that came with feeling insecure, unwanted, or scared.
Blaine wants to give Kurt courage and this is the first step.
"It was because of my dad, you know," Blaine says the next day at breakfast.
Kurt, clad in a white cashmere sweater and a thin red scarf today, looks up at him in confusion. Beside him Sam is talking to Puck, swapping some story about a rumor detailing Santana and Brittany's late-night rendezvous the other night.
"What was?" Kurt asks.
Blaine doesn't answer.
In Group that afternoon Blaine tells the room about his old life: his dad, Westerville Central, coming out (to which Brittany confusedly says, "Coming out of where? You've been here this whole time."), the bullying, the knife and that first drop of blood, Dalton Academy, the Warblers, and anything else that he can think of. Not once does anyone look away.
He talks about his sadness, how he just wants someone to pay attention to him, how he'd gone numb for a few months in here before being given a wake-up call—no one misses his glance and barely-there smile in Kurt's direction—and how, finally, he's ready to accept life.
When he sits down Will stands up and tells him what a great job he's done. Puck claps him on the back heartily, and, like the first session here, Blaine coughs but this time he isn't afraid to aim a punch at Puck's arm in retaliation.
From across the room, flanked by Quinn and Brittany, Kurt looks at him, really looks at him, and smiles, and this smile is warm, genuine and wide, and shows off his teeth. The urge to get up and kiss him is overwhelming.
Blaine's been in New Directions for five months, seven days, eighteen hours, forty-four minutes and twenty-six seconds.
Sometime in the next few weeks he should be back at Dalton.
Everyone hugs him and he feels loved for the first time in a long time.
After-dinner free time brings Kurt and Blaine back to the smoking porch. They'd shooed away the other inmates—always Kurt's word, never Blaine's—and jumped up on the ledge Kurt had been sitting on yesterday.
The night is clear, stars shining in tiny pinpricks above the dead, sprawling branches of the trees. A tiny crescent moon hangs off to the side, casting the faintest of silvery glows over the grounds. To their far right is the orange-yellow haze of a streetlamp. Blaine breathes deep, inhaling the faint smell of the building, the woodsy-cold smell of the outside mixed with the lingering constant smell of smoke. Somehwere in there are the faint notes of Kurt's cologne or body wash, something mnaly yet feminine.
"You're going home." It isn't a question and for some reason it brings a sharp pang to Blaine's heart. He nods silently and swallows the lump that's starting to form in his throat. He and Kurt are sitting close together, both hands on the ledge and pinkies nearly touching. Blaine imagines that he feels a tiny spark traveling between their fingertips.
"I feel like I barely know you." Kurt's voice is soft, sad.
Blaine laughs but it's gentle and sad as well. "That's because you don't. You know why I'm here but you don't know my favorite movies, what music I like, what musicals I prefer, whether I like boxers or briefs… that sort of thing."
It's Kurt's turn to laugh, then, and he scoots a little closer to Blaine. Blaine's heart skips a beat and his breath catches slightly in his throat when he feels Kurt's body heat chase away the chill. Their hands are touching now, warm skin on cold brick. Kurt overlaps their pinkies and ring fingers.
"I'm betting briefs," Kurt says.
"You bet wrong."
Kurt smiles although Blaine can only vaguely see it. "I've liked you from the moment I first saw you in Group," he confesses. "It's sort of stupid, I guess."
Blaine shakes his head and nudges Kurt's shoulder with his own. "It's not. I really like you, too."
Kurt's hand moves up Blaine's arm to trace over the fresh scars, skipping past them to map out the old ones, and the older ones still that are mostly faded. Blaine tenses but doesn't say anything. Once Kurt's hand drops back down to his, palm now completely covering the top of Blaine's hand, Blaine turns his head.
When their lips meet it's the beginning of a spark.
Blaine doesn't want it to end, doesn't want tears to be falling down both their faces as he cups Kurt's smooth jaw. He doesn't miss how Kurt pushes himself into the kiss, like he's wanted attention for a long, long time, and his lips taste like mint and chapstick and something that Blaine assumes is just Kurt, and suddenly the reality of their situations, their current residence, hits him.
Kurt doesn't taste like food because he doesn't eat. Blaine's arms are crisscrossed like a prison wall because he cuts himself. They harm themselves to feel and now, on a chilly Ohio night on a porch littered with trash and cigarette butts in a treatment facility for youth with problems, they're feeling without doing either of those things.
Blaine leans further into the kiss, puts more pressure and strokes his thumb over Kurt's pale skin. It's that rush of energy he gets when the blade is poised above his skin, only there's no blade. Kurt's breath in his mouth, on his cheek, all around him give him that light-headed feel he'd get after the blood had begun flowing, only there's no blood.
When they pull away and just stare, just breathe and let their actions catch up to them, it's that feeling of satisfaction he'd always get whenever he looked at his newly-sliced skin.
Only now, all of that is Kurt.
"Get better," he says softly.
"Please," he adds. A single tear slides down his face.
Kurt brings a hand up to his face and stares, solemn, as he thumbs over a sideburn. "I will," he promises. He says, louder this time, "You're beautiful, Blaine."
Despite their flaws, despite everything, there's something extraordinary in this situation. Something beautful that's more than just skin-deep.
"You're beautiful, too, Kurt." And it's redundant and simple but it makes them both smile and kiss again because Blaine is better and Kurt's getting there and everything's going to be okay.