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.
"Who knows?" Blaine asks warily, shutting his locker and slinging his satchel over one shoulder.
Kitty rolls her eyes as she steps around him, standing in front of him and looking up at him seriously. "Did you really think that you were being that subtle?"
Blaine forces his breathing to remain even as he replies, "What's there to be subtle about?"
Kitty stares at him flatly, waiting. He tries to sidestep around her and ends up walking down the opposite hall with one arm linked firmly with hers. "Hey," he protests, only halfheartedly trying to escape as she pulls him into the auditorium and lets the door slam shut behind them. Looking around, he almost panics when he spots Artie and Tina at the opposite end of the stage, turning on his heel when Kitty tightens her grip.
"We know about your crush," Artie says, wheeling forward, a stack of music sheets draped over his lap. "And we just wanted to say that we don't hate you for it."
"Why would we, Blaine?" Tina interjects. "It's not like you choose who you fall in love with." She smiles ruefully.
Blaine frowns, waiting for the other hand to fall, staring at the three of them in silence. He doesn't know what to say - there isn't anything to say - and it startles him when a hand lands on his shoulder, giving it a single tight squeeze. "What do they know, bro?"
And suddenly Tina, Artie, and Kitty are gone, and he whirls around to confront Sam, excuses already bubbling out of him. Sam's hard expression - a mixture of disgust and disbelief - silences him mid-argument. He swallows, tries again with a quiet, "They don't know anything," as he steps back. "They don't know anything, Sam, we were just . . . talking about guilty pleasures, that's all."
"I think you have one," Sam says, meeting him step for step, inescapable, unavoidable. Blaine wants to tell him to stop that, that standing close just makes it all too apparent that he has the most kissable lips in the school (stop it) and a warm broad chest and long arms and perfect eyes.
"Do you have a crush on me?" Sam asks bluntly.
He swallows. The knot tightens in his throat.
"This is . . . this is not okay, bro," Sam says, shaking his head slowly, backing away from him now. "You can't just - "
"I know, and I'm sorry, I'm - I'm so sorry, Sam, but I can't - "
"You can't help it?" Sam says, voice rising. Blaine winces, tightening his grip around his satchel as he steps back. "Dude, that's totally uncool. I trusted you. How do I know that you weren't, like, staring at my junk in the locker rooms?"
"Sam," Blaine says, horrified, but he has steam going now and he can't interrupt him.
"Does it get you off at night? Knowing that you have a crush on a straight guy?"
"No, n-no, not at all - "
"Forget it," Sam cuts in coldly, turning on his heel. The auditorium dissolves around him, the furtive, "Sam," vanishing from his lips before it has more time to become a thought. "Don't come after me," he warns, slamming the locker door behind him.
Blaine jerks awake, arms flailing a little as he overbalances and almost falls off his chair. "Sorry," real-Sam says, smiling sheepishly as he sets down the gavel. "Got a little too enthusiastic."
Blaine looks down at the sounding block in front of him, the gavel sliding into his line of vision a moment later. "Carry on," he tells Tina, voice dry, as she gives him a fondly exasperated look before continuing to read off the minutes.
He can't help but be hyper aware of Sam's presence less than two feet away from him, their knees almost close enough to touch underneath the table. It tightens the knot in his stomach, the awareness that they are so close. If he wanted to, then he could just slide forward and accidentally bump knees with him. He could lean over the table to confide an idea with him, or fall asleep on his arm. Sam would let him, too, for a few blissful minutes, until either Tina or one of the other student council members needed his input. That was part of the problem, too, he knows, a sick feeling in his gut.
Sam is nice. He's honest and friendly and nice, and Blaine hates that he has a crush on him.
"You okay, dude?" Sam asks, as he picks up his bag abruptly, cutting Tina off mid-rant as he stands.
"Cheerios' practice," he blurts, ignoring the side-eyeing from the rest of the group and the slightly baffled, slightly concerned look from Sam. "I'm sorry, I have to go - "
"But Cheerios' isn't until - "
"I have to go," he quips, a little more sharply, cutting off Tina's comments. She stays silent, then, the door shutting quietly behind him.
He walks briskly away from the empty classroom that they use as their meeting area, making it to the opposite end of the hall and around the corner in record time. Making a beeline for the library, he steps inside the mostly empty room, snagging a table in the far corner behind a stack of shelves and resting his head in his hands.
He can't keep doing this, he knows. Ever since Sam showed him his magical macaroni art, guilty pleasures have been the only thing on his mind. Despite hours of relentless planning and strategizing, he knows that he can't avoid it forever. Sam is still suspicious. Everyone else takes their cue from him, and the unrelenting awareness of this fact is almost enough to drive him crazy.
He's supposed to be their leader, their driving force in the absence of Mr. Schue or Finn, but he's never felt more powerless around them. They know - they have to - that something is wrong, even if they don't say anything. That's the terrible beauty about their little group: they can sense disaster and prepare for the impact without offering an intervention. They might know that something is wrong, but they don't step forward to investigate, to analyze and deduce and solve, and that's a meager comfort for Blaine in the wake of his own catastrophe.
Because that's what it is. Regardless of how cool Sam was about the whole 'let's be superheroes and steal a trophy back' or 'I wanna sing Wham' deals, telling him about his crush is . . . it's unfathomable. He can see the scenario play out in his mind in half a dozen creative, horrific ways, varying from Sam quietly ostracizing him to the entire school labeling him a predatory gay.
He wouldn't do that to you, a quiet, reasonable voice within tries to argue. He's your friend. He's your best friend.
Blaine rests his head in his hands, trying to ignore the trepidation in his gut. He's my best friend, and I have a crush on him.
"Hey, Blainey days," Tina says, startling him out of his reverie. He blinks, glancing down at his watch and then up at her as she slides into the chair across from him. Panic sears through him as he scans the room for Sam, waiting for the ax to fall. To his surprise, there is no one, just a quiet librarian typing away at her computer. "Are you okay?" Tina asks, reminding him that he isn't alone.
He lifts his head out of his hands, swallows once, and says, "I'm fine. Perfectly. Fine." He winces at how stilted it sounds, adding, "Just have a lot on my plate right now, that's all."
Tina nods, watching him, before pointing out, "If there's . . . any way I can help, let me know, okay? We all know something's up."
Blaine's heart lodges somewhere in his throat, his mouth gaping open wordlessly before he clamps it shut and nods once. Sometimes it's easier to pretend that they don't actually know, that he's making it up in his mind - but he isn't, and they do, and that terrifies him.
They don't know, he reminds himself, putting on his most apologetic smile as he says, "Thank you for your concern, but I can handle it."
She looks at him doubtfully for a moment, at last nodding and reaching forward to squeeze his hand once. He lets her, his own fingers clammy and unmoving, getting up as soon as she does and picking up his satchel once more. "Cheerios," he explains, meaning it, and she nods, letting him go without a word.
Cheerios' practice is . . . it's nice. He likes the brutal physical engagement and cutting mental focus that it requires. There is no room for personal woes or nagging conflicts on the field.
Once he's on the turf, he's a Cheerio, bound to Coach Sylvester in every way. He obeys without protest and follows through with all commands, regardless of how vigorous or difficult they are. He's as much a waterboy for the squad as he is a participant, and while it riled him up the first few days to be treated so condescendingly, he's learned to let it roll off his back, obeying the orders without giving them a deeper context. Of course Coach Sue has a vendetta against him, and he almost suspects that she knows what he's up to on the side, but he doesn't complain.
He manages to forget about Sam and his dilemma for the better part of two hours, surrendering himself to the Cheerios. Inevitably, practice ends, and the moment he spots Sam in the locker rooms freshening up, his problem comes back full force.
Hurrying to the opposite side of the room as subtly as he can, he doesn't bother with a shower, too nervous about being caught by Sam - or any of the other guys, for that matter - to manage one. It's one thing to be down here during off hours when it's just the Glee club guys. When things are in full swing, he doesn't push his luck, instead slipping quietly from the room, usually just stripping out of his shirt and wearing an undershirt instead. He shimmies out of his pants, grateful that Sue hasn't checked for panty lines (he still hasn't told Kurt about the thong, now a permanent resident at the bottom of his drawer; the thought of actually wearing it makes him blush) as he stands in his boxers and undershirt for a moment, muscles warm and loose from the exertion.
"Dude, put some pants on, I need to talk to you."
Blaine looks up, not needing to see him to know who it is as Sam bee-lines for him. Hastily grabbing his Cheerios' pants and tugging them back on, wincing as the sweat-soaked fabric brushes against his legs, he frowns and catches up with him.
He waits, then, until Sam explains solemnly, "So lately I've . . . I've been battling a really deep-seated sense of shame about something in my life, and it's a secret I've kept buried for as long as I can remember."
Blaine stares. "Really," he asks, unsure where this is going and suddenly, overwhelmingly curious and - relieved?
Is he . . . coming out?
Not the most ideal location, but Blaine can't say his own public coming out earned a gold star, either. He forces himself not to think about it and focus on Sam as he looks down briefly before meeting his gaze again, expression grave.
"Yeah, a-and I-I've been waiting to like - let it out and release this secret that's been torturing my insides."
Blaine waits, and stares, unable to believe what he's hearing. Oh my God.
Then, when Sam says nothing, waiting for him to piece it out: Oh my God.
Relief floods in, so strongly that he doesn't think twice before blurting, "Do you . . . have feelings for me?"
"What?" Sam's expression goes blank briefly, a tiny furrow appearing between his brows as he says, "Dude, no, come on - "
Panic. Overwhelming, searing panic scorches throw Blaine, leaving him a fumbling mess as he says, "Obviously, obviously, I - I'm kidding, I'm just - "
"Dude, it's worse than that," Sam insists. And suddenly he's nothing more than the old Sam, the one that agreed to don a face mask and hijack a trophy with him, the one that convinced him to help repaint a side wall and start a food drive, the one that knows dozens of impressions and isn't afraid to share them but still harbors a small fear that maybe others don't want to hear them.
Blaine doesn't know if he feels more relieved or sickened at the realization. You blew it. He knows, he's gonna find out, he's gonna know, how could you jump to that conclusion?
Keeping his anxiety under a firm leash and speaking slowly, he says, "Well, until you can - speak it, you're gonna be stuck in this - shame spiral, forever, so." Reaching out and grabbing his arms lightly when Sam looks down, Blaine adds, "Hey, you can - trust me, you can tell me anything."
He waits, letting go of Sam's arms after a few seconds because it might be warm and brotherly when Sam does it and he hopes to convey the same meaning, but after his slip he's - edgy. Inwardly wound up to explode, outwardly calm as he can be. He doesn't know what Sam sees, but he hopes the spring coiled tightly within isn't visible, that he's only receptive and caring and concerned, brother to brother.
Have feelings for him is like having feelings for a brother, he scolds himself, trying to shame his libido into nonexistence.
It doesn't work.
Sam leans in, then, until their faces are barely a centimeter apart and Blaine forgets how to breathe, ears ringing a little when Sam blurts something out. "Wh-what?"
"I LIKE BARRY MANILOW."
Silence. Distantly, Blaine's aware of Artie looking over at them, one of the other jocks pausing mid-stride to stare. As it is, he doesn't know what to say - it's so unexpected, so normal that he can't believe that -
"No, no, no, no, you can't - you can't say that," he says, pulling him away from the center of attention, not wanting to create a spectacle.
Sam grabs his arms briefly, halting him, and he freezes as Sam says, "I know, I know, , all right, I just - I relate to the stories, the break ups, the lost love. On the rain, it - who shot who? It speaks to me."
Blaine's expression softens a little, almost forgetting his crazy, horrible problem for a moment as he soaks in how - cheesily romantic that all is. That Sam's guilty pleasure is about a guy that writes love songs and break up songs and other stuff.
Please stop making me fall in love with you.
Thankfully, his brain catches up to his mouth in time and he responds, "Well, then, I think you need to - come out to everyone - " word choice, word choice, holy shit - "and say that."
"No," Sam says bluntly.
Blaine's heart races - does he know? Did he catch it? until he says, "Once you stop hiding it you'll feel so much better."
"You really think I could just . . . stand up in front of everybody and . . . say that I'm a fanilow?"
Blaine closes his eyes briefly, resisting the urge to tell him that it's . . . it's nothing. Confessing to a musical shame like that - it's not even a shame, and Sam has nothing to be ashamed of, and of course he can get up in front of everyone and tell them that he likes Barry Manilow, he could tell them that he loves . . . killing puppies and they'd still support him. Everyone loves Sam.
"Definitely," he settles on at last, smiling encouragingly up at him.
Sam lets out a deep breath, eyeing him uncertainly for a moment before saying, "Thanks, bro," and turning on his heel to pick up his stuff once more.
Blaine breathes out, nodding once and hurrying over to his own bag, darting out of the locker room before he has the chance to change his mind.
If Sam has the courage to talk about his - fears like that, why don't you just tell him? He trusts you. He has to be - suspicious or skeptical or something -
He doesn't let himself think about it, doesn't let the scenarios conjure in his mind as he showers at home and works on his homework, politely declining all offers (mostly from Tina) to go out and turning in for an early night, exhausted.
He doesn't fall asleep easily, and when he does, he dreams.
Sam's horrified gaze as he finishes telling him about his crush, his shocked comment of, "Dude, you like me?" chasing Blaine back to reality, a tight knot in his gut as he firmly decides not to tell him. Musical guilty pleasures and real, disastrous guilty pleasures aren't anything alike, and he can't handle that sort of rejection. He can't. Sam is - Sam is so special, he treats him like he is normal, like there's nothing to be afraid of, like -
It's three am, but Blaine doesn't sleep after that.
. o .
"Looks like our guilty pleasure's really taken over the school," Sam remarks, approaching Blaine as he sits at one of the library tables, feet propped up on the desk. He didn't mean to stay long: all he'd wanted to do was check out a few books, but his first class is a study hall anyway, so he picks up a Goosebumps and starts reading. It's nice, losing himself in the text for a while, trying to forgot his whole problem with Sam.
Maybe if he just ignores it, then it'll go away. It's an addiction, an obsession, which means that . . . he can beat this. He can quietly step away from it without anyone being any wiser. Seeing Sam again sets his heart beat racing, though, and he knows that it won't be that easy.
Trying to keep the conversation light, he replies, "Yeah, the kids always had a really weird obsession with them." Setting down his book and offering an inviting smile, he looks up at Sam, keeping his feet on the table and his emotions firmly in check.
Except then Sam speaks, and his resolve weakens as he says, "Uh, here's the thing. So far this week, you know, you've been . . . talking the talk, now I need you to walk the walk, pilgrim."
He must not be as subtle as he thinks if Sam knows.
To the point of doing an impression just to try and get him to come out with it.
Come out, he thinks, almost hysterically, as his chest tightens with the thought. Sam probably thinks he has like - a secret lingerie stash or an obsession with Spice Girls or - something inane and simple and easy.
He can't know. He can't.
"I've been honest about my guilty pleasures and I even wore those tiny little - "
Someone shushes him. Sam doesn't miss a beat, continuing in a soft but steady voice, "I wore those tiny little Wham shorts," as he slides into the seat across from Blaine, unrelenting. "And we did that great number, but now it's your turn to be honest. Because you haven't really been, yet, so come on."
Blaine pulls his legs off the table, casual but not - too casual with Sam, not wanting to relax enough that it just slips out. It would be so easy to, too, after weeks of holding it in, of pretending it didn't exist.
But it doesn't, and he can't deny that, and he hates himself for it.
"I don't know what you're talking about," he deflects, as coolly as he can manage, crossing his arms and leaning forward against the table.
"Well, you know, you're only as safe as your secrets, dude, and that's what this week's assignment is about. This is your chance to . . . really set an example for the Glee club. What's yours gonna be?"
Sam gets up, then, giving him a winning smile before leaving him, his heart heavier than ever.
Set the example, he thinks.
He swallows once, twice.
You don't have to tell him, a small side of him reminds. You can sing about it.
Which is how he finds himself on stage, the New Directions seated in the middle row of the auditorium, singing Against All Odds.
It's unsubtle. It's blunt and relentless and undeniably about lost love.
He tries not to look. He tries not to stare, but he can't help it, glancing back repeatedly at Sam, trying to make him hear without having to say it, to know that yes, he has a guilty pleasure, but it's so - beyond an affinity for Mannilow's music or Spice Girls or even macaroni art that he can't say it aloud. He can't.
And so he sings.
And the auditorium is silent.
No applause. No murmuring. No shocked remarks or cool comments or anything.
Then, quietly, it builds. A smattering of applause that has the group on its feet, even Kitty.
Except Tina. She doesn't stand or applaud, and he knows - he knows - what she's going to say before the words leave her mouth.
"So who exactly was that about, Blaine?"
Kitty, of all people, nudges her hard in the shoulder, growling, "Shut it."
Blaine stutters a little, saying, "Uh, it was . . . about Kurt, obviously. The break up's still a fresh wound."
He feels sick as soon as he says it. Sick because in the midst of all his terror about Sam he hasn't even thought about what this means for his relationship with Kurt.
You're moving on, a hopeful, optimistic voice pipes in.
A cold, heavy feeling settles over him at the thought.
"But it's really about the musical genius of Phil Collins," he says, trying to lighten the mood as he steps carefully off stage. "And like any musician of his time, when you dominate that period with such success, people tend to . . . make fun of you and put them down, but the truth is he's a musical legend, and I'm tired of people making fun of him, and I'm going to dedicate a good part of my future ensuring that his genius is understood and appreciated." Halting in front of them, unable to look away from Sam's unreadable stare, he finishes, "I am no longer in the closer about my love for Phil Collins."
His voice fails him on the last two words, quiet and quieter as the rest of the Glee club stares.
He almost thinks that that's it, that everyone will just silently wait until he confesses it, when Sam - Sam says, standing, "All right, everybody, give it up for Blaine Anderson."
And quietly vows not to say anything more.
. o .
That afternoon, he's back on stage, alone this time. He doesn't mean to, but the next thing he knows he's sitting on the piano bench and gently sliding the cover back, testing the keys and beginning to play. It doesn't take long before he finds a rhythm, pulling a notebook out of his satchel and setting it on top of the piano beside himself. He lets his fingers glide over the keys, almost losing himself to it, grateful for a reprieve.
He hates this crush on Sam. He hates that it could jeopardize everything, that it could ruin everything.
He already messed up with Kurt. He can't mess up again.
Thinking about Kurt brings a fresh wash of pain. He'd thought that he was okay, that he could move on from ever hoping for a serious relationship with him again, except -
As soon as he starts thinking about him again, thinking about the possibilities, he can't do it.
It's almost a welcome reprieve from the constant terrors about Sam finding out about his crush. Except then Kurt's judgmental, horrified stare falls upon him, knowing that not only has he moved on but to someone that he can never have, someone that can never really love him that way.
He channels that into the keys, letting the music be a salve, a balm. He lets it heal him, lets it fine-tune the strings of his heart until he feels like he might be able to keep this under control. Glee club was easy enough, with the girls doing Spice Girls and Jake doing Bobby Brown, but now that he has time to think again . . .
It's hard. But he'll get through it.
He looks up when he hears the door open, his gaze falling back on the keys as soon as he realizes who it is.
"What's that?" Sam asks, refreshingly blunt.
"I wanted to do one more Phil Collins' song before they made us put our guilty pleasures back in the closet," Blaine says, looking up at him and smiling. It's easier to smile - it always has been, around Sam - and it makes some of the tension in his chest ease to just pretend that it's normal.
Maybe then it can be.
"Well, maybe we don't have to," Sam says, leaning against the top of the piano as he continues, "I mean, everybody seem to be having so much fun with them out on the table, maybe life's just better that way."
Blaine's heart stutters a little at the thought - he doesn't know how long he'll be able to hide if they do guilty pleasures all the time - but he still keeps his voice relatively steady as he protests, "I don't know about that, I think if we always indulged ourselves like that we'd make a lot of people pretty uncomfortable."
"You don't have to be uncomfortable."
It isn't a conscious thing. It isn't even a physical reaction. All the thoughts, the terrors, the fears - quiet.
He looks up at Sam, and sees him. Not the phantoms of his nightmares. Not even the shadows of his old friend, confused and uncertain.
This is Sam at his finest, Sam in full control.
"It's okay, I - I get it, your . . . your guilty pleasure is me."
Hearing it - even knowing it's coming - doesn't make it any easier to believe. Blaine's eyebrows arch, his mouth gaping open a little as he tries to think of something to say, anything -
He looks down, then, trying to keep his hands from trembling too noticeably.
"I mean, I've known all year," Sam continues, oblivious to Blaine's inner struggle as he stares. "I'm an attractive guy, and you are into dudes, and if you weren't into me, I'd probably be pretty offended."
He doesn't notice Sam squinting, mentally backpedaling from it as he stares at the piano keys in front of himself. He gives a soft, forced laugh, trying not to freak out, to deny it, to do anything but believe that . . . this is happening.
And Sam's not . . . Sam's not -
"Um, you're . . . not freaked out?" he says, still unable to understand it as he looks up at Sam. Slowly but building steam, he adds, "Because . . . I don't want to jeopardize our friendship and I mean, you've been there for me through this whole Kurt thing and that's gonna change and - "
"Whoa, whoa, whoa, stop, okay?"
"Nothing is going to change," Sam insists.
Blaine can't meet his gaze, can't . . . comprehend it, really. "Oh."
He's not mad. He's not freaking out.
"Okay, we're like . . . we're like brothers, okay? I trust you, and you know like, to tell you the truth . . . the attention feels kind of . . . good."
Blaine looks up at him, then, sees it - sees how earnest Sam is, and suddenly . . . he knows.
It's going to be okay.
"It's flattering," Sam finishes.
There's a pause, and then he steps back from the piano, saying, "Hug it out. Let's go."
Blaine stares at his open arms, a slow smile curling his lips as relief - genuine relief that has nothing to do with his secret safe for another day, because it isn't a secret, not any more - washes over him. "C'mon. Hug it out. Let's go," Sam orders, beckoning him with his hands a little.
Getting up, he steps forward, at once yanked into a tight hug, Sam's arms wrapping around him securely and patting his back. He can practically feel his smile, his ease, and suddenly Blaine is smiling, because . . .
It's going to be okay.
Everything's going to be okay.
They hang on to each other, and it's . . . it's the nicest Blaine's felt in a long, long time. Except maybe being together with Kurt on Valentine's day, but even then . . . Kurt walked away. Kurt looked at him and offered a sort of sad, reluctant smile and turned aside.
He'd thought that, maybe then . . . they would be okay.
But they weren't. Not really.
He hasn't really heard from Kurt since.
And I latched on to Sam, Blaine deduces, holding on to him tightly. Because I needed him to be someone more. I needed him to be Kurt.
But he doesn't . . . Sam doesn't need to be something more for him. He doesn't need to be his boyfriend.
Because he's his best friend, and this . . . this is enough. This is nice.
"Um . . . dude, please tell me that that is a pack of life savers in your pocket," Sam says.
Blaine breaks away, then, assuring hastily, "Oh, yeah, uh, they're breath mints," as he pulls them out. "Do you want one?"
Blaine fishes one out and Sam accepts with a simple, "Mm, thanks."
"All right," he continues. "Let's go do one more class. I have a song that everyone's gonna love."
He's already hurrying towards the door as Blaine picks up his stuff, hastily tugging his satchel on and grabbing his notebook with a quick, "Wait up!"
And as he stands in front of the Glee club at Sam's side for their impromptu meeting, explaining the grounds for their Mamma Mia number, he feels like . . . everything's back to normal. Nothing's changed, he amends after a moment, as Kitty straightens his hair and Sam whacks himself in the face with a hula hoop before Brittany bustles over and flawlessly does the maneuver he was attempting to perform.
When Kurt texts him that night asking when spring break is and if he'd maybe want to meet up for coffee one day while he was in town, Blaine knows that things will work out.
One way or another.