Blaine joins the crowd walking through the front doors of McKinley High School. He steps inside, taking in the fluorescent lights, the linoleum; immediately aware of how very unlike Dalton it is. He doesn't mean to compare, at least not unfairly, but everything is just so jarringly different. Nothing about McKinley is handsome or homey. People call out to each other, lockers slam, people run by, and everyone is wearing whatever they like, streaming along in a sea of color. It isn't that Blaine has a problem with no dress code, but in a way the uniform had been a comfort. It made him feel safe, like he belonged. Now, in his Lacoste striped shirt, slacks, and Oxfords, he only feels like he sticks out. Blaine feels like a fish out a water, a traveler in a foreign land. After three years, Dalton had almost been like a second home.
Blaine sucks in a breath, pushes those thoughts away. He mentally chides himself for being melodramatic and crosses the lobby. His first class is supposed to be Calc, but next to 'Calculus with Mr. Thompson' on his schedule is 'N/A'. He glances toward the office, but there is a huge crowd, the line curling outside the doors. Maybe they're all in Mr. Thompson's class, too.
Unsure of what to do, Blaine glances around and notices a boy standing next to a small group of people. He has light brown hair and a fair complexion, wearing non-descript clothes that somehow seem ill-fitting. He's staring ahead at nothing, looking like he'd rather be anywhere but this hallway. Blaine feels a twinge of commiseration, and without really thinking about it, he changes direction and approaches the boy.
"Excuse me," Blaine says, looking up through his lashes, back to his schedule, suddenly shy. "I'm new, and I was wondering if you know where Mr. Thompson's class is? My schedule says-"
"Pro-tip, new kid," the boy says, shifting until he isn't leaning against the wall any longer. His eyes are cool and regard Blaine with contempt. Blaine hadn't expected such a biting reaction, and he stares at the boy like a deer caught in headlights. The boy has the attention of the others in the group now as well, and they don't exactly look friendly, either. "Next time, ask someone who cares."
Before Blaine can even open his mouth to reply, he's hit in the face with a wall of liquid ice. He gasps, shocked by the sudden cold.
"Welcome to McKinley!" the boy says, followed by laughter and 'good job, Hummel!' and 'did you see his face?' as the group leaves. Not that Blaine can see them, whatever he's been splashed with stings his eyes, drips down his neck and into his shirt. He just stands there, stupidly.
"Oh, here- don't open your eyes, it'll only make it worse," comes a female voice, followed by soft fabric swiping gently at each of his clenched eyelids. "Go on, then, it should be safe."
Blaine hesitantly opens his eyes, blinking rapidly until he's sure it doesn't hurt. A short brunette stands in front of him, her gaze showing a little worry, but mostly determination. "What just happened?" he asks, licking his lips.
"Kurt Hummel just happened," the girl sighs. A look of disapproval. "You're going to make me late for English." She takes his hand and leads him to the girl's bathroom.
"Oh, no one will care, everyone's on their way to class." She drags a chair over to one of the sinks. "Sit."
Blaine sits obediently, and the girl directs him, tilts his head back against the edge of the sink. She wets the towel she must have used to clean his eyes with and begins to gently wipe away the cold syrup- a slushie? Blaine shivers.
"You came prepared," he says.
"I also have an extra set of clothes in my locker." She wrings out the towel and wets it again. "Unfortunately for you it includes a skirt. So, what's your name?"
"I'm Rachel Berry. That was Kurt Hummel and his gang," she says, somehow making it all sound very dramatic. "Noah Puckerman, or Puck, David Karofsky, Azimio Adams. They're bullies, and it's best to just avoid them. Their favorite pastime is throwing slushies at those of us who fail to be as popular and nasty as they are."
Rachel turns on the faucet and cups her hands, tipping water over his hair. Blaine closes his eyes. His hair, so carefully gelled this morning, is going to be a mess.
"I can't believe- already. I haven't even been to a class yet," he says. "This is beyond humiliating."
"You still have a chance. Will you be trying out for football?" Rachel asks.
"Basketball? Any sport?"
"I'm more interested in choir, or theater."
There's a pause and then Rachel has him by the shoulders. She pulls him up, looking at him with a crazy sort of intensity. "You sing?"
"Um, yeah. I was in my old school's acapella group," he begins to say, blushing.
Rachel squeals. "Blaine Anderson, you are going to join the coolest club in all of McKinley!"
Blaine misses homeroom entirely and ends up getting to his Calculus class midway through. There's some snickering, most likely due to his damp, purple-stained shirt, but that's the extent of it.
No one says anything as the morning goes by, though he does get some knowing looks. He supposes he doesn't mind, then, flying under the radar. Better to be ignored than outright bullied. Still, it is a dramatic change from Dalton, where he had been well and widely liked. It seems as though the slushie has driven courage and every bit of charisma from him, and instead of trying to make friends, he concentrates on finding his classes and doing his work.
Lunchtime rolls around. Blaine dreads the thought of sitting alone, but as soon as he leaves the lunch line Rachel is calling his name and waving enthusiastically. She points to where she's sitting with a group of other kids. He smiles brightly, relieved to know someone, and makes his way across the crowded room.
His lunch tray skitters on ahead of him. It isn't an accident, someone tripped him, and the sudden burst of laughter that follows confirms it. Blaine scowls and pulls himself up, looking into the laughing face of Kurt Hummel.
"What the hell is your problem?" Blaine asks, knowing his own face is turning red.
"You're just so dorky and small, it's like you're asking for it," Kurt laughs.
Blaine stands. "You aren't much bigger."
Kurt's smile evaporates, but before he can reply, the guy in the football jacket next to him leans forward. "I am."
Blaine glares at him, eliciting a growl from the jock. The jock starts to get up.
"Move along, homo, if you know what's good for you."
"Karofsky." It's Kurt who interjects. His expression is one of calm fury.
"What?" the jock- Karofsky says, looking at Kurt. He sits back down at least.
"You want to get suspended on your first day?" Kurt is saying as Blaine quickly gathers his lunch off the floor. The guy is bigger than him, there is a whole table of them, and Blaine doesn't actually want to get his ass kicked.
He walks over to Rachel's table, maintaining some semblance of dignity by not running, heart pounding in his chest like a jackhammer. He gives the table a tentative look, wondering if they'll even still let him sit by them after that display of awkward. The entire table is staring at him, eyes wide, several mouths parted. but silent.
"You stood up to him," a dark haired girl says, almost in awe.
"Well- I...not really," Blaine says, embarrassed.
"You kind of did!" Rachel says.
"That was pretty awesome." There's agreement around the table, and Blaine smiles.
"Fellow glee club members-"
"Rachel, this is not a meeting," a different girl in bright clothes interrupts.
Rachel huffs. "Well most of us are here."
The girl rolls her eyes.
"Anyway, this is the one I was telling you about. Blaine Anderson, our newest member!" Rachel announces.
There is cheering, actual cheering, and introductions are made.
Blaine is good with names, and remembers everyone's as soon as they tell him. Besides, they're all so distinct, there's no way he could forget. At Dalton the boys had blended together. The uniforms, the preppy hair-cuts, all of them clean and smart and well-mannered. Here, Blaine can already tell that along with Rachel, Mercedes is just as straight-forward and opinionated. Tina is reserved, but bright and quick to laugh. Quinn, too, is more subdued, sitting close to Finn, who must be her boyfriend from the way she looks at him. Artie is by far the funniest, his and Mike's impressions of a teacher make Blaine laugh even if he has no clue who the teacher is.
Blaine tries to be charming, and can't help but wonder how they see him.
The rest of the day goes by alright. As it turns out, Kurt and some of the others from Kurt's group are in a handful of his classes. He makes sure to sit far away from all of them; better to be safe than sorry.
Rachel informs him that glee club meets Tuesdays and Thursdays after school (and sometimes Mondays or Wednesdays when it's getting close to competitions), and that anyone can join (unlike the Warblers!), but, Mr. Schue will probably want to hear him sing, so he should prepare something.
She has a list of suggestions. Like, on hand.
Blaine's excited about his glee club audition. Nervous, but excited. He finds himself humming the song he's chosen under his breath during homeroom the next day. He's ended up in the same homeroom as Rachel, Finn, Artie, Mike and Quinn. Finn and Quinn are talking quietly, heads tipped toward each other, desks pushed close. Rachel is busy watching them with a poorly hidden frown. Mike is napping, Artie is playing his DS, and...
Blaine looks up as Kurt walks into the room.
If Kurt notices him, he can't tell. Blaine rolls his eyes, putting Kurt out of mind, and goes back to doodling in his notebook, silently mouthing lyrics.
Tap, tap, tap.
Blaine tries to ignore the foot tapping on the back bar of his desk, a feat that eventually proves impossible. He turns his head to ask the person, politely, to stop.
And locks eyes with Kurt Hummel.
Blaine's teeth clench. "Do you mind?"
Kurt raises an eyebrow in disdain. "Do you have a death wish?"
Blaine doesn't know what's come over him. He is not a confrontational person by any means. There's just something about Kurt Hummel that gets to him. Blaine makes a show of looking around the room. "Funny, I don't see any of your two hundred pound friends here to back you up."
"I don't need them," Kurt says, scowling.
"Really? Because I think you do. You look about as tough as a puppy," Blaine says with a fake smile.
Kurt stands. He shoves Blaine's books off his desk, hovering over him, glaring. "Try me."
"Boys!" Mr. Abela is looking sternly at them from his desk. "Is there a problem?"
"No problem," Blaine says, staring at Kurt before turning to pick his books up. Rachel helps, practically beaming at him. Kurt sinks wordlessly back into his seat, puts some earbuds in, and proceeds to ignore him.
Blaine can't help but wonder what a jerk like Kurt listens to, because how can assholes appreciate music?
Blaine eventually decides it's probably death metal. Or maybe country, because country's the worst. Only when the bell rings, after his mind is made up, does he realize he spent the entirety of homeroom trying to figure out Kurt Hummel's hypothetical playlist.
Get a grip, Blaine tells himself, watching Kurt leave the room.
Blaine stands before the New Directions. Eleven pairs of eyes are on him, one in particular a little unsettling.
("Santana can be overbearing, but she's okay," Rachel had assured him. "Sometimes she hangs around Kurt's gang because she has an on and off again thing with Puck, but there's kind of a truce when she's here.")
"Whenever you're ready, Blaine," Mr. Schuester says. "No pressure."
Blaine nods and tries to smile. He takes a seat at the piano, cracking his knuckles before lowering his hands to hover above the keys. He takes a deep breath and begins to play.
"Here we go again, I kinda wanna be more than friends, so take it easy on me..."
It feels good to sing in front of a group again. In fact, it feels great. If only the New Directions were backing him up, it would be perfect. Not that he expects to be the new soloist, it's just always more fun to sing with people than alone.
Blaine finishes, and before he can say a word, Rachel bursts out, "I remember you now!"
"I do, too," says Mercedes.
"The boys in the cute uniforms," comes Brittany's dreamy voice.
"You were the lead for the Dalton Academy Warblers last year," Rachel says, smug.
"You look different in normal clothes."
"Hotter, you mean."
"Shut up, Santana."
"You were tough competition!"
"How come you transferred?"
The whole room is talking, and Blaine isn't sure who to reply to first.
"Okay, guys," Mr. Schuester interjects. "Blaine, good job. We're lucky to have you."
Mr. Schuester pats him on the back and sends him toward the chairs for their vocal warm-ups. Rachel smiles at him and makes room in the row next to her.
It doesn't take long for Blaine to figure out that New Directions is not the coolest club in school. In fact, they seem to be the most unpopular, disliked group in all of McKinley. It's such a stark contrast from the Warblers that Blaine that doesn't know what to make of it at first.
He certainly isn't prepared for another slushie to the face, but before the first week is over he gets just that, courtesy of Kurt Hummel. Blaine isn't the only one, either. One day during the transition time between third and forth period, he's in the bathroom helping poor Artie clean blue slushie from his glasses, and Artie tells him that's just the way it is for the glee club. Blaine protests, telling him what Rachel had said. Artie rolls his eyes. "In her world, maybe."
Kurt in particular seems to go out of his way to try and annoy Blaine in every class they share. Childish things, like tapping his foot against Blaine's desk, spitballs to the back of his head, taunting him, "accidentally" knocking Blaine's books from his desk as he goes by.
On the Friday of Blaine's second week, he's just about had enough.
Rachel invited him over to practice, but Blaine is in such a foul mood that he finds he can't concentrate.
Blaine realizes belatedly that Rachel has stopped singing.
"Sorry, Rachel...uh, you sounded great," he says.
Rachel huffs. "I sang the same lyric three times. You didn't even notice! Blaine, we'll never be ready for Sectionals if we don't get this right!"
Blaine sighs. "I know. I just...had a crappy day. I guess I'm having a hard time shaking it."
Rachel's stern expression melts to sympathy. "What happened?" She smiles, looking hopeful. "You're wearing the same clothes you came to school in, and they're dry. That's a good sign."
"It's just. Kurt. He's such a jerk. And he'd be nothing on his own, so it sucks twice as bad because I'm getting picked on by a lackey."
Rachel frowns. "I don't know about that. It is a little weird, though. Kurt isn't usually the one who starts things. He sure does seem to like picking on you, though."
"You know, he lives down the street from me."
Blaine blinks. "Right here?"
"Four houses down."
"That must be awkward," he says.
Rachel shrugs a shoulder. "I used to think it would be a problem. I expected after-school torment, nasty looks if we happened to pass each other. But I hardly ever see him. Not a peep, no trouble at all."
Blaine makes a non-committal noise, thinking it over. Kurt probably doesn't want to get in trouble with his parents is all. Bullies are really just cowards themselves, or so he's been told.
"Anyway, enough about Kurt Hummel," Rachel says. "We need to practice!"
Blaine gives Rachel a look of long-suffering, and then cracks a tiny smile. "You're even worse than I am."
"No one has the drive I do," she says in a chipper voice.
"Mm...so, is this song about anyone in particular?" Blaine asks, holding up the sheet music. Adele, Chasing Pavements. He has his suspicions.
Rachel's expression dims and Blaine regrets asking. "Sorry, it's none of my business," he starts to say.
"It's Finn," she murmurs. "I'm sure you've noticed he's dating the most beautiful girl in school-"
Blaine feigns surprise. "You two are dating?"
"Blaine." There is a hint of a smile, though, and Blaine feels a little less guilty for bringing the whole thing up.
"You can tell me," he says. "I won't say anything."
"Quinn Fabray, last year's Junior Prom Queen. They're...you know. That couple." She won't meet his eyes, tracing a pattern into her bedspread. "We dated for awhile in the beginning of last year, but...it didn't hold. I just don't compare to her."
"In what way?" he challenges.
"In all ways. Popularity. Looks. Especially looks. Everything except talent." Her chin lifts just so when she says it.
"Rachel." Blaine's voice goes soft. "You're beautiful. Finn's an idiot if he let you go."
He's just trying to be a good friend. It's only after the words are out of his mouth and he sees the expression on her face that he realizes how he must sound. He hurries to say something more, not wanting to give the impression that he's hitting on her.
"-I'll take you to Dalton right now. All the guys would fight over you. In fact, if it wasn't such a long distance, there's a guy I know who you'd be perfect for." Of course, all attempts at not being awkward only make things ten times more awkward.
Rachel doesn't seem to notice, and is smiling, cheeks slightly pink. "Blaine, are you gay?"
The question takes Blaine by surprise, and he gapes a moment. "What? No. I'm not hitting on you, though! I mean. Not that you aren't the sort of girl I'd hit on. Just, we're friends, so I'm not like I'm...trying anything, and. We should practice."
Rachel's head tilts to the side. "Blaine. Are you sure?"
"That I'm not gay? I think I'd know." Does he come off as gay? Is it his shoes? But, in the words of Katy Perry, he kissed a girl and he liked it…once. It didn't repulse him, anyway. He'd know if he was into guys, wouldn't he?
Blaine is starting to get a headache.
Rachel just smiles to herself for a long moment. Too long. Blaine wonders what she's thinking.
"Okay," Rachel finally says. "Let's practice. And this time, pay attention!"
"Yes ma'am," Blaine says, relieved at the subject change.
The following Monday starts terribly.
Blaine has taken too long during gym class (more like too long showering afterwards) and is rushing to his next class, hair dripping, shirt clinging uncomfortably to his body in places where he's still damp. He's so focused on dodging stragglers and hoping he doesn't look like a complete mess, that he takes a corner too fast and barrels right into someone, sending them both tumbling to the floor.
The odds are not in Blaine's favor as he finds himself sprawled on top of Kurt of all people. Kurt has cushioned his fall – mostly – his body slim, but soft. Definitely nicer than linoleum, anyway.
Except for the fact that it's Kurt Hummel.
Before either of them can say a word, before it really even registers what just happened, there's a burst of laughter around them.
"Looks like you got yourself a boyfriend, Kurt!"
"And he tops!"
Blaine looks up in shock that it's Kurt who's receiving the brunt of the jokes, and watches Karofsky and Puck high-fiving each other, laughing. His gaze returns to Kurt, whose face is turning red, the meanest expression Blaine has ever seen forming right before his eyes.
"Get off me," Kurt says, so low Blaine isn't sure for a second that he's said anything at all.
"I– " Blaine scrambles up and Kurt grabs his shirt, shoving him away. Blaine stumbles backwards, but thankfully doesn't fall.
"If you insult me like that again, Karofsky," Kurt continues, chin tilted up, an expression of superiority settling in on his face. "I won't take you to prom like you've been asking, and you'll have no use for that floral taffeta dress your mother bought you."
Karofsky colors and Puck cracks up.
"Shut up, Noah!" Karofsky snaps, punching Puck in the shoulder.
"Asshole!" Puck hits him back and they begin to scuffle.
Blaine sees his opportunity and escapes down the hallway, glancing back to find Kurt watching after him. His heart is pounding, and he covers the place where Kurt grabbed his shirt with his hand. It isn't like he's scared, but his adrenaline has kicked in and he feels...he doesn't know. Strange.