Disclaimer: I do not own Glee or any of its characters; Ryan Murphy and Co. hold that honor. I'm simply writing this for fun, not profit.

I'm not good enough.

Sam let his head rest in his hands for a long time, staring down at the empty manila folder. All he needed to do was write a personal essay, something moving and deeply emphatic and inspiring. Once he did that, he could mail it to the colleges alongside his application (Ms. Pillsbury had already agreed to do that part for him) and wait for the results. The judges - admissions' panels, he supposed - would be awed and suitably impressed by his entry and send him an acceptance letter and a tidy scholarship in due time. He would be packaged off with all his basic college necessities by the end of the summer, and bam. Life would be good again.

Except he couldn't think of a single word to actually write.

What the hell was there to say about Sam Evans? The fact that his brief jaunt as quarterback had ended after he'd dislocated his shoulder during the biggest game of the season, turning it over to Finn to round up the game and take home the victory instead? Or maybe the fact that he'd had to drop out and move to Kentucky after discovering that family finances weren't going to cut it. It was a miracle that Rachel and Finn had convinced him to come back to McKinley at all, he realized, thinking back to his stripping career (maybe if he included that, the judges' would be so impressed by his blatant sabotage of his career that they would give him a full ride). Adding synchronized swimming to the mix might qualify as comic relief and earn him a few bonus points.

Crumpling up the blank piece of paper savagely, Sam tossed it aside, missing the trash bin by a foot. He didn't care - he'd never cared less about anything than the blank slate of his life as a successful human being. He was nothing outside of weird extra curriculars and a handful of even weirder friends. He loved them, but he doubted his reminiscence about the time when Brittany publicly beat Jacob Ben Israel with an umbrella courtesy of his rendition of Britney's Spears' 3 would endear him to the judges.

Judges. He hated that the most. He hated the thought that no matter how high he set his own standards, he'd never really be up to par. He could strive for perfection and starve himself until he almost reached it, but by some book, by some standard, by some unspoken law of nature, he'd never meet it. There'd always another dozen push-ups that he could have done, a few more calories that he could have shaved off his meals. He could have done more ab exercises during his study hall, focusing less on the more aggravating topic of chemistry and more on his image. One thing that he had learned quickly at McKinley: image was everything. And while the talk about it not mattering and people loving each other regardless of their appearances was uplifting and nice enough, it wasn't true. Because Sam had seen it, lived it firsthand.

Perfection was everything. Being the best was everything.

You scored a three forty on your SATs. You're not the best at anything.

Two gentle taps came on the doorjamb.

Sam didn't lift his head, only glancing up when he noticed that Blaine had brought along his laptop with him. "I brought something that might help you with your essay," Blaine said quietly, both arms wrapped around it almost protectively. Sam said nothing, waiting for him to enter the room, setting up the laptop with a gentle sort of precision as he tilted the screen to the best angle, clicking the play button and stepping back.

The montage began without further adieu, a weak choke of laughter escaping him at Brittany's comment. He could feel Blaine's eyes behind him, watching him, but he only had eyes for the screen, mesmerized. He couldn't remember the last time someone other than Blaine or, weirdly enough, Brittany had complimented him for something. Blaine's little pep talk had been nice enough, but he'd still spent an extra hour on a late-night jog around the neighborhood, all but heaving for breath by the time he got back. The video was different because there was no pause for him to cut in that he wasn't any of those things, no moment when he could have objected to their comments.

And, oddly enough, he liked it. He liked that he didn't have a moment's chance to reconsider what they were saying, soaking it in with quiet amazement. Even Santana's revival of "Trouty Mouth" only earned a small, watery smile. Blaine had clearly edited the montage, because it skipped over to Artie after the first sultry froggy liiiiiiips, the rest of the song falling on deaf cyber ears.

Just when Sam was convinced that the montage, while sweet, was solely meant to show him that his impressions were actually sort of awesome and Santana still remembered his song, Finn appeared. Except he didn't look like Finn: he looked ... official, somehow. Important.

Older. Knowing.

As soon as he spoke, Sam felt his throat constricting, the world around him vanishing as he recalled sitting at his own kitchen table with his parents across the room, anxious and uncertain but tentatively hopeful. They had still believed that his "Dairy Queen" gig had paid generously at the time, not knowing the darker, more painful truth. Still, their expressions held nothing but love for him, fragile and hardened by their recent difficulties but ultimately unbroken. And it was that love that had propelled Sam to do what he had done, had given him the courage to forge a fake ID and get a job at the local strip club, had given him the strength to take on the extra shifts at the pizza shop that none of the regulars wanted.

Because he loved them, and they were family. And family did what they had to do to help each other.

Sometimes it was nice, though, to realize that his efforts weren't unrecognized. That all the extra effort that he put into it wasn't unappreciated.

That the Glee club really did have his back, because they knew how hard he had worked for it, and how hard it was for him still, and they still loved him, too.

"You are an inspiration, Sam," Blaine said quietly.

Heart in his throat, Sam barely noticed the video going dark, staggering out of his seat and pulling Blaine in a hug. It was awkward for one moment as Blaine startled a little and Sam tried to find a place to put his overlong arms, but suddenly they meshed, and Blaine was hugging him back just as tightly.

"Thank you," Sam said, his voice shivering almost as violently as he was, holding back the wave of emotion that wanted to pour out of him. He leaned against Blaine, swayed by the storm, and held on for several long, desperate moments.

It means something. It means something.

"You're an amazing guy," Blaine assured, his own voice barely audible. "Okay?"

Sam nodded and pulled back slowly, sniffing once and laughing a little, swiping at his eyes. "Seems I've sprung a leak," he murmured in his best Bill Clinton voice, earning a small smile in return.

"Keep it for now," Blaine said, putting his hand on the edge of the laptop briefly before backing away, "and let me know what you come up with."

Sam nodded, unable to find words. Even when the door to the room shut behind Blaine, he didn't feel quite as empty.

It had taken hours. Dozens of phone calls. Three Skype conversations. Five long hours behind a computer screen painstakingly compiling and editing the final pieces until they fit together seamlessly.

But the look on Sam's face had been worth it.

And as Blaine buckled himself into the driver's seat of his Jeep and pulled out of the McKinley parking lot, he knew that he'd done something right.

Author's Notes: Because friendship Blam is everything beautiful and good and I want to roll in the Blam feels forever.