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.
Blaine refuses to say it aloud, but the back corner in the choir room quickly becomes his corner.
It's not an addiction. He knows that he could quit at any time and that the subsequent sleepiness tends to drain his motivation for the rest of the day, discouraging him from using it all the time.
But that doesn't mean that he avoids it.
Because for those few minutes? It's magical.
It's different. Some might even call it alarming. It's like falling asleep without the inconvenience of tossing and turning in bed for hours. One moment he's awake, the next he concedes defeat to . . . what, he doesn't know, but it's wonderful.
And then it's over.
He doesn't know what will happen when he slips under, but it always seems preferable to the taxing reality of participating in Glee club. His resentment builds every time that someone startles him awake. First, it's Kitty clapping loudly in his face; then Jake almost kicking his chair over with his foot ("Dude, you were completely out of it"); and finally, Mr. Schuester giving him a gentle shake with a hand.
"Practice is over, Blaine. Are you sure you're okay?"
"Fine," he assures, using his best smile to confirm his wellness as he rises from his chair. Even so, the movements feel stilted to him every time that he steps back into the real world.
Once the initial shock of it wore off, he learned that puppet world really was a lot more pleasant than idle thoughts about McKinley. Every time that he's away, all he wants is to be back in puppet world. Puppet world is so much nicer than reality: everyone loves him there and treats him like he's a genuinely useful part of the team. Everyone respects and admires him. Everyone makes him feel good.
"You are so right, Blaine."
"Why didn't I think of that? Thanks so much, Blaine!"
"You're so hard-working, Blaine! We'd never get through this without you!"
Maybe constant validation isn't healthy. Maybe most people don't need it to get through their week, but it feels good and there's no harm in it. Their real life counterparts didn't know about the fantasies.
Besides, dozing off in the choir room has actually made him more likable to the rest of the Glee club. As far as he's concerned, it's a win-win situation. The New Directions are free to maintain their borderline anarchy under Mr. Schuester's leadership, and he's free to indulge in something other than open criticism.
It's certainly better than when he was constantly offering helpful advice for their upcoming Nationals competition. He might have been out of line, but he still knew things. He knew exactly how to rally them together so that they could win the competition, but no one wanted to listen, and it just wasn't fair.
If it endears him more to them, then there's no reason for him to change. Better to be seen as a little eccentric than constantly overbearing -
"What the hell are you doing?" Kurt demands – real-Kurt – and Blaine blinks, surprised, as Kurt storms into the room, one hand waving Kurt-Puppet carelessly.
"Be careful with him," Blaine says, holding up a hand to stop Kurt from tossing the puppet around. "Hey, c'mon," he insists, getting out of his chair as real-Kurt keeps waving Kurt-Puppet. "You can't just toss him around like that."
"Why is it a him?" real-Kurt asks, tossing the puppet at Blaine's feet. "What are you even doing? This is cheating, Blaine."
Blaine freezes, one hand already reaching for Kurt-Puppet on the floor before he looks up.
"He's lying," Kurt-Puppet retorts, becoming more animated as real-Kurt glowers down at him. "It's not cheating if it's with your own fiancé." Leaning against Blaine's shoulder in an exaggerated swoon, he adds, "Aren't you supposed to protect me? You're so strong and handsome and good."
"Oh, please," real-Kurt scoffs, waving a hand. "You can't be serious. It's not even real, it's felt."
"I'm not real?" Kurt-Puppet demands in a high, strangled tone, affront bleeding through every word. "I'm more real than you'll ever be because you're. Not. Here."
"Stop it!" Blaine orders, but Kurt-Puppet is ignoring him and advancing on real-Kurt with a sort of vindictive solidity, one hand gesticulating wildly as he speaks.
"You think you can just come back and win him over? He doesn't need you. You broke up with him. You refused to return his phone calls and flowers and cards, you were the one that insisted on staying away when –"
"Stop it," Blaine repeats, low, serious, as real-Kurt looks at him in utter disbelief, shaking his head slowly and vanishing. "Kurt!" he calls, even as Kurt-Puppet slouches, lacking triumph as he turns back to Blaine.
"I'm sorry," Kurt-Puppet says, but Blaine brushes him aside, a wisp of smoke, and he's alone in the choir room once more, head in his hands.
. o .
When his chin hits his chest, Blaine jerks awake, looking around himself and realizing with a twisted knot growing in his chest that he truly is alone in the choir room. It was my fault, I cheated on him, he thinks, reaching blindly for his bag and slinging it over one shoulder. He looks around the room and belatedly realizes that Tuesdays and Thursdays are his nights to clean it; with only a moment's hesitation he writes a quick apology on one of the post-its and departs, leaving the empty room behind him.
The hallways of McKinley are eerily quiet as Blaine treads down them, not daring to provoke anyone or anything. He doesn't know what he's so afraid of until a gleeful voice shouts, "Hi, Blaine!" and accompanied by an equally exuberant felt body that almost tackles him.
"Don't – don't do that," he stammers, heart pounding, as Cooper-Puppet laughs, retreating so that he's bobbing along at Blaine's side properly. Blaine already has trust issues with McKinley after hours thanks to Kurt's unpleasant recollections, but he really doesn't trust puppets in the form of his older brother. Letting his wariness pass as Cooper-Puppet rambles on, oblivious to his dismay, he walks quickly toward his locker. The conversation is almost refreshing against the silence, even if it remains largely one-sided.
"C'mon, Blainey, I was just kidding! Why the long face? Are you and Kurt fighting again?"
Blaine comes to an abrupt halt at the end of the hallway, not saying anything for a moment before shaking his head briskly. "No. No. We're just … having a disagreement, that's all."
"You're having a disagreement over a puppet," Cooper-Puppet corrects.
Blaine scowls. "It's not just a puppet," he insists. "You're a puppet."
Cooper-Puppet withdraws, hurt, before sidling closer so he can put a velvety hand on Blaine's shoulder. "Blainey," he begins.
Blaine shrugs him off. "Leave me alone, Coop. I don't want to talk about it."
"If you can't talk to me, then how do you expect to talk to him about it?" Cooper-Puppet retorts.
Blaine opens his mouth to argue, wandering in a slow circle around the empty hall, vaguely aware in some portion of his mind that Cooper-Puppet isn't real. He can't be real. Try though he might to will him away, Cooper-Puppet remains inexplicably present and glaring at him sternly, refusing to be discarded so easily.
With a frustrated sigh, Blaine slumps against the lockers, sinking down to the floor as he does so. Cooper-Puppet settles across from him, hands folded in mid-air; Blaine pictures him sitting cross-legged, shaking his head to clear the thought as Cooper-Puppet speaks.
"If you miss him so much," Cooper-Puppet begins, "then maybe you need a better coping strategy. Obviously Skyping every night isn't enough."
"We don't Skype every night," Blaine corrects because sometimes they miss it and it hurts, it hurts more than Blaine wants to say, but he doesn't because he can't, Kurt and he have resolved to make this work and neither wants to be the first to admit that they're uncomfortable but – "Oh," he breathes.
Cooper-Puppet nods once sagely. "I'm not asking you to make a life-altering adjustment," he says, "but it seems to me like ignoring your problems isn't making them go away."
"I can't actually force the Glee club members to like me more," Blaine reminds him, some of the bitterness rising back to the surface at the thought. They hate him – hate him – and it's such a strong word but it's true sometimes. Between the eye rolling and guffawing and constant dismissal, he can't help but feel like they'd be better off without him. Like if he just melted into the puppet world entirely, no one would even notice that he'd left his chair.
He isn't far off. Holding his fingertips against his temples, he asks, "What do you think I should do?"
"I think you should talk to Kurt," Cooper-Puppet says, resting a hand on Blaine's shoulder soothingly. "If you miss him this much, then I'm sure he misses you, too."
"And if he doesn't?" Blaine asks. The words make his heart ache, but he can't deny the possibility. Kurt thrived last year in New York, staying strong long after Blaine crumbled to pieces. The idea that maybe Kurt is struggling with the distance still is difficult to wrap his head around; every instinct that he possesses screams that Kurt really is adjusting fine without him.
"He's your fiancé," Cooper-Puppet insists. "Of course he does."
And that's all he needs to hear, really, because it's true. Blaine can picture Kurt's face, then, his eyes brimming with delighted tears as he chokes out a simple, "Yeah. Yeah."
It's the most beautiful declaration Blaine's ever heard, and every conviction that he's ever had about the rightness of his and Kurt's relationship was affirmed in that moment.
If he's missing Kurt, then Kurt's missing him. Kurt is such a fundamental part of his being that, he knows, he can't be the only one. He can't be alone.
"Thanks, Coop," he tells Cooper-Puppet even as the empty hallway answers him, hauling himself to his feet and struggling to ignore the mounting headache forming behind his eyes.
. o .
It's easy to ignore it on the drive back to his house, his thoughts already distracted. He almost crashes into a stop sign when Sam-Puppet pops out of nowhere in the passenger's seat, chewing noisily on a wad of gum. "Hey, you got any more?" Sam-Puppet asks, even as Blaine digs one-handed into the glove department and tosses him a pack, heart still racing from the unexpectedness of his arrival. "Thanks," Sam-Puppet says, vanishing without another word as Blaine breathes out slowly and keeps driving.
Gratefully pulling into his driveway five minutes later, he barely remembers to put the car in park before wrestling out of his seat belt and stumbling out of the car. "Everything okay?" Marley-Puppet asks as he pries open the door, ignoring her.
"You're looking kind of green," Artie-Puppet observes, wheeling alongside him towards the stairs. He hears his mother call out a greeting, her voice only one among many clamoring at the back of his mind. Feeling dizzied and overwhelmed, he makes it to the stairs before he calls out that he's sick and scales them, leaving a disgruntled Artie-Puppet behind him.
He almost loses his white-knuckled grip on the railing when he reaches the summit and finds Artie-Puppet already there, gently pushing him out of the way and hurrying off to his room. Marley-Puppet tries to intercept him once more, Jake-Puppet joining her and Tina-Puppet in the hallway before he slams the door on all three of them. Holding it shut and squeezing his eyes closed as he hears a familiar, worried, "Blainey-days? Are you all right?" he staggers away from the door and sinks down onto his bed instead, prying off his shoes and tugging the comforter over his head.
"Talk to him," Cooper-Puppet insists, somewhere far away – underwater, maybe. Blaine feels like he's drowning, sleep resembling a heavy, overbearing fog that pulls him unrelentingly under.
. o .
When he awakes, tangled in his sheets with his mother's worried face above him, one of her palms retreating from his forehead, the puppets are gone. He licks his lips, mouth cottony and head full of it, before asking in a raspy tone, "Where are they?"
"Where's who?" his mother asks, brushing his hair off his forehead.
Fixing lazy eyes on her and containing a flinch when she resolves briefly into a puppet version of herself, he shakes his head and presses his face against the pillow instead, retreating back into dreamless, mindless sleep.
. o .
When he wakes a second time, his stomach is growling. Making his way shakily out of bed, he relieves himself and takes a moment to freshen up, noticing the darker shadows under his eyes, a frown pursing his lips at the sight.
"You can't keep going on like this," Kurt-Puppet whispers, materializing in the mirror beside him. "You need to talk to him. Or someone."
Blaine closes his eyes, not responding at first. "I can't keep listening to you," he says, opening them, and Kurt-Puppet is gone. Letting his shoulders slump in relief, he reaches for his toothbrush, almost jumping out of his skin when Kurt-Puppet says, "I know, but you can take a word of advice from me."
Swallowing back his unease, Blaine stumbles out of the bathroom, knotting a bow tie shakily into place before checking the time. 6:52 PM. Frowning at it, he picks his phone out of his pocket, holding it to his ear and pursing his lips as it rings.
Finally, out of breath, Kurt responds, "Hey," and Blaine smiles in spite of himself, sitting down on the edge of the bed as he replies.
"Hey," he says softly. "I just really needed to hear your voice." And not Kurt-Puppet's, he doesn't say, because he loves Kurt-Puppet. He does. He loves all his puppets, and they love him, but.
He didn't get engaged to Kurt-Puppet, he got engaged to Kurt, and the sort of breathless way Kurt says, "Oh," makes any potential awkwardness about calling him for no reason at all dissipate. "Hi, Blaine." A pause, then: "Are you going to apologize again for missing the performance? Because you really don't have to."
"No, no," Blaine assures, anything to please Kurt. "No, I just –" He waves a hand, grasping at words. "I just really wanted to hear your voice," he says again.
"It's good to hear yours again, too," Kurt admits, lush, real, and Blaine wonders how he could ever possibly want to replace him. "Except I hate to pull this card but my break ends in five minutes. I'll call you back soon?"
"Sure!" Blaine says, too eager, quick to hide his disappointment as he adds, "That's fine, Kurt. I love you."
"Love you, too," Kurt says, hanging up.
A single forlorn knock comes at the door, followed by a soft, "Blaine?" Without thinking, Blaine rises to answer it, smiling weakly at Kurt-Puppet as he lets him inside. "I know this is hard," Kurt-Puppet says, idling after him and settling on the bed beside him. "But, really, we're gonna get through this." He rests a hand over Blaine's and, even though it isn't real, Blaine can almost feel the warmth from it, can almost picture real-Kurt shuffling closer to press a kiss to his cheek, carding his fingers through his hair.
When he nods and puts Kurt-Puppet aside, reaching up to rub the sleepiness from his eyes, he tucks the puppet carefully back into the box with the others, not wanting to disturb any of them from their own sleep. Padding out of his room and downstairs, he finds leftover Thai on the table, a note from his parents letting him know that they'll be back in a few hours.
Picking over the food, he sends Tina an absentminded text as he gulps down another mouthful of noodles, asking, What did I miss?
Tina's response is slow to come, confused. What do you mean?
I missed Glee club practice, Blaine reminds her, repressing his annoyance that his presence really did go completely unnoticed. What did Mr. Schue have you do?
Not much, Tina responds, several minutes later, and Blaine lets out a heavy sigh at the non-forthcoming explanation about their lesson for the week. He's barely been present enough to notice one Glee rehearsal from the next; lessons for the week just lack their usual luster. Looking down at his phone when it buzzes a second time, he can't help but soften a little at the, Are you okay?
I'm fine, he replies, setting his phone aside and glancing at the time.
And maybe it's silly, or maybe it's just a product of his boredom, but he feels better when he pulls Kurt-Puppet back out of the box and sets him up carefully beside him on the bed, shuffling through his Netflix account and letting his grip on reality loosen.
And if Kurt-Puppet's acerbic comments about Project Runway are a little too spot-on for comfort, Blaine doesn't say anything about them, laughing along with the worst and gratefully descending into a sort of peaceful madness.