Fandom/Pairing: Glee; Blaine gen fic
Warnings: There are some descriptions of violence.
Summary: "He'd become an expert at bouncing back." This is my crazy stupid long Blaine backstory fic. Spoilers through 2x20.
leaving this behind was my first mistake
and i'm not so strong
to be satisfied by all the things i've done
and the things it threw away.
--"keeping me awake," tarkio
Blaine had been staring for two weeks before Terrence DeLuca noticed. It wasn’t such an obvious thing; Terrence was a tenor too, though one step below on the risers and enough to the left that Blaine had to angle his head slightly to look at him properly. Well, as much as he could see, anyway, which was only the back of Terrence’s head, tufts of downy white blond hair sticking out in artful disarray. And there was the graceful line of his neck as it disappeared under whatever shirt he was wearing—usually something painfully tight across the shoulders. He almost always wore necklaces. And every so often Terrence would turn to the soprano next to him (who was really more of a mezzo-soprano to Blaine’s ear, but Mr. Collanti, the choir director, didn’t waste a lot of time bothering with such distinctions) and murmur something to her, and Blaine would catch a glimpse of his sharp features in profile.
Terrence DeLuca was a tenor, and a sophomore, and a drama kid, and Terrence was gay. That was all Blaine knew. All he’d heard. People talked, especially about the last one—and not in a good way. Terrence didn’t deny it, didn’t even try to hide it, and that officially made him the first gay person Blaine had ever met.
Except they hadn’t met. It’d just been Blaine, boring holes into the back of his head instead of focusing on scales. Until one day Terrence happened to glance over his shoulder and catch Blaine mid-staring routine. Blaine didn’t look away in time. Even though he knew it was rude to keep on staring when Terrence’s gaze met his, he felt stuck there, embarrassed as he was. Terrence narrowed his eyes at first, like he thought it was a dirty look—something he was probably used to—but he must’ve glimpsed something in Blaine’s face, because after a second he smiled, kind of, and nodded. He faced the front again before Blaine could smile or nod back, or do anything at all.
And that would’ve been the end of it, except when the bell rang and the students streamed for the door, there was Terrence, waiting, arms crossed as he leaned against the wall. Staring at Blaine, this time. Blaine almost walked past him until Terrence pushed off the wall and set a hand on his arm; Blaine jerked to a stop and looked at it, and then at Terrence’s face, which was friendly, smiling.
“Hey,” he said, lightly, and Blaine wasn’t sure what to do with that. He glanced around to double-check that Terrence was addressing him—but everyone else had taken off except for Mr. Collanti, organizing sheet music at the piano. It was only them left in the room.
“Hey,” he said back, belatedly enough to be awkward. Maybe it was the fact that he’d skipped breakfast, or that his mind was on the history test he was en route to, or that Terrence was acknowledging his existence, but the mechanics of ordinary conversation were eluding him at the moment.
Terrence’s smile grew, slanting to one side. “I don’t think we’ve ever really talked,” he said. “I’m Terrence.” He stuck out a hand then, oddly formal.
Blaine knew what to do with that, though, and shook it. “Blaine,” he said.
“That’s a major appliance, that’s not a name!” Terrence joked. When Blaine just blinked at him, nonplussed, his jaw actually dropped, as if personally affronted by Blaine’s ignorance. “Oh my god, that can’t be the first time you’ve heard that. Andrew McCarthy? Pretty in Pink?” he prodded. “Ring any bells?”
Blaine just shook his head helplessly, and Terrence barked out a laugh, but it wasn’t a mean one.
“Exhibit A on how the public school system is failing us,” he bemoaned, pressing a dramatic hand over his eyes. “That is one cultural reference everyone should understand.”
He began to walk out the door, now talking about the Brat Pack and someone named John Hughes, and he didn’t even look back to see if Blaine was still there—it was like he just expected them to walk together and continue this… whatever it was. Like it was that simple.
And maybe it was, because Blaine followed.
It became a thing after that: choir ended, Terrence waited, they walked and chatted together until they had to split off—Blaine to world history, Terrence to Latin. (“I like dead things,” Terrence said when Blaine asked him why he chose that for his language credit; sort of a morbid explanation, but he was gathering quickly that Terrence was prone to overdramatic, embellished statements.)
Sometimes the soprano-but-really-mezzo-soprano walked with them. Blaine learned her name was Caitlin and she was a drama kid, too, and every day she wore all black and too much eyeliner and occasionally a beret, and if not, her hair was pulled back in a severe bun. She rarely spoke directly to Blaine, but then, she didn’t really talk much at all, except to gripe about the drama director’s casting choices for the fall play, The Importance of Being Earnest. Terrence didn’t gripe about that; he’d been cast as one of the Earnests—quite the coup for an underclassman.
After awhile Blaine found himself rushing to the choir room every morning long before the tardy bell rang, just to catch a few minutes with Terrence before Mr. Collanti called class to order; when class ended and Terrence walked with him, Blaine would slow down his pace, trying to stretch out the trek for as long as possible. He did start to notice people staring at them in the halls, some of them trading whispers. He couldn’t hear what they were saying, but he could guess. He knew how it must look.
It was jarring, considering he’d always felt as invisible and faceless as your run of the mill freshman typically did, and maybe he wasn’t a super popular kid, but the worst he’d ever inspired in people was indifference. But Terrence seemed immune to it all, and if he didn’t mind, Blaine wasn’t going to, either.
“Give me your number,” Terrence said one Friday, while they were standing at the intersection of the hallways where they would ordinarily go their separate ways.
“Why?” he asked.
“Because we’ve been friends for weeks now,” Terrence told him, and Blaine felt a little giddy at the word friends, because neither had used that word before, “and it’s ridiculous that I don’t have your number, and also we should hang out this weekend.”
“Okay,” Blaine said, rummaging through his backpack for paper and something to write with. He could only come up with a black felt pen.
“Just write it on my hand,” Terrence insisted.
Blaine did so. He had to hold Terrence’s palm in order to do it, and some senior in a letterman jacket jostled into them on purpose as he passed, coughing the word fags under his breath. Blaine had to fight the instinct to let go of Terrence’s hand at that—but Terrence had ignored it, even though he must’ve heard, and Blaine didn’t want to look like he cared, so instead he focused on etching the numbers on Terrence’s skin.
“I’ll call you tonight,” Terrence promised, and did a little air kiss as he walked away backwards, and Blaine’s blush didn’t fade away completely for the rest of the day.
Terrence had a boyfriend. This wasn’t news to Blaine; he talked about him a lot. His name was Evan, and he went to the private Catholic school, St. Juliet’s, and they’d met at a Bright Eyes show. Blaine didn’t feel disappointed in learning that. It wasn’t like he had a crush—okay, maybe he did, a tiny bit. But it was more just… Terrence was so cool, and fascinating, and Blaine had never met anyone remotely like him, someone who quoted movies from the eighties and shopped exclusively at thrift stores and went to the concerts of bands Blaine had never heard of. Someone who was a boy dating another boy—that maybe amazed him most of all.
He didn’t understand why Terrence gave him the time of day, when Blaine was so… Blaine, and Terrence was so… not.
True to his word, Terrence called that night to make plans, and the next day he and Evan—a junior with a license and his own car—picked him up and took him to Terrence’s house. His parents weren’t home, so they went up to his bedroom and watched Pretty in Pink at Terrence’s insistence, and afterward Terrence put on a Jeff Buckley record.
“You and your fixation on tragic figures,” Evan said dryly, shaking his head. He was smoking a cigarette next to Terrence’s open window, leaned halfway out, even though it was freezing, while Terrence and Blaine stretched out on the bed with their backs against the wall.
Blaine had never hung out with anyone who smoked. Or who listened to music on vinyl. Or who even owned a record player. It felt so… adult, even though he logically knew Terrence was only a year older, which wasn’t much.
Terrence chucked a pillow in Evan’s direction. “Shut your whore mouth, this record is amazing,” he said, and began to sing along: “You gave me more to live for, more than you'll ever know—” He stopped and elbowed Blaine in the side. “Come on, sing with me.”
“I don’t know the lyrics,” confessed Blaine, once again wondering why Terrence would opt to associate with someone as tragically uncool and lame as himself.
“Too bad. Your voice is so much better than mine.”
“I don’t doubt it,” Evan teased.
Terrence picked up singing again, obnoxiously loud, until Evan groaned and threw the pillow back. Terrence pulled it into his lap and laughed, falling against Blaine’s shoulder, and Blaine couldn’t help but laugh too.
“You don’t like my vocal stylings?” Terrence pouted, and Evan rolled his eyes.
“Please,” he said, and flicked what was left of his cigarette out the window. He came to the bed and flopped onto the mattress, dragged himself half on top of Terrence, his cheek against his shoulder. “You know I like your everything.”
And there was a moment then, where Terrence and Evan traded a look that was—secret, almost, and loaded with something Blaine couldn’t name, but he knew whatever it was, he wanted it for himself.
“I’m gay,” Blaine said. They were sitting in Evan’s car outside Terrence’s favorite thrift store; Evan was still inside, ringing up his purchases.
It was the first time he’d said it out loud, even though he’d known it to be true even before he knew there was a word for it. He hadn’t planned on making the declaration, though. It probably wasn’t the ideal place for it, when Evan would be showing up in a matter of minutes.
Blaine knew, rationally, that of all people to confide in, Terrence was who he could trust most, but there was still a brief moment of panic after the words slipped out while he waited for his reaction. Terrence twisted around in the passenger seat to face him. He looked unsurprised. Sympathetic, but unsurprised.
“I kind of figured as much,” he admitted.
The idea that Blaine was blatant enough that Terrence had assumed, that people could look at him and just somehow know, was somewhat mortifying. He wondered what it was that gave him away.
“Do your parents know?” Terrence asked.
Blaine thought about the summer of the Chevy, and all the times his father dragged him to the golf course and football games and the batting cages in the name of paternal bonding, and how he needled Blaine about joining a sports team, any sports team, and his mother hounding him about if he was going to ask any girls to Homecoming, and the looks on both their faces when he said he wasn’t interested— disappointed, but like Terrence, unsurprised.
“Yeah,” he said, hands twisting hard on the seatbelt strap. “I haven’t told them outright, but I think they have their suspicions.”
“Are they weird about it?” asked Terrence. “Thank god I was raised by hardcore Democrats. They’re cool with it. They have to be, or they’d drown in their white liberal guilt over all the money they donate to the ACLU.”
“Well,” Blaine said after a contemplative pause, “I don’t think they’re thrilled, but they wouldn’t kick me out of the house over it or anything.”
“Hmm.” Terrence turned back around and adjusted the rearview mirror so he could fix his hair. “You’re lucky, then.”
“Yeah, I guess,” he agreed, but couldn’t help think that his parents not disowning him just for being who he was was a pretty lousy thing to feel lucky over.
He started dressing like James Dean not long after that, bought straight-legged jeans and rolled them up at the cuffs, swapped out his Adidas for black leather boots, slicked down his mess of curls with gel in the closest imitation of a pompadour he could manage. He liked the retro look, and he liked how it felt to wear things that were vintage, knowing they had a history. On one of his trips to the thrift shop with Terrence and Evan, he found an old beat up bomber jacket. It was too big for his frame and there was a patch sewn over one of the elbows, but he loved how he felt in it—he felt more like himself, somehow.
He wore the jacket to school every day, until one day he came back into the locker room after his mandatory gym class and found some jerk had stuck it in a heap under a running shower, the leather soaked all the way through, beyond repair.
It shouldn’t have surprised him as much as it did. He wasn’t stupid. He knew what people were saying, especially ever since he had stopped denying it. Some had started saying it straight to his face. People he didn’t even know, calling him queer and gaytard as they passed by in the halls, and then just laughing as they walked away, and tripping him in the cafeteria, and forcing him to change into his gym uniform locked in a bathroom stall because no one wanted him to see them in their underwear, and writing FAGGOT on his locker in marker.
That last one had him marching into the school office, shaking with anger and hurt, and he sat across from the assistant principal and the guidance counselor and explained what had happened. He tried to keep his voice even, and he was ashamed when it broke at the end.
They listened to every word. And then they told him they were sorry, but unless someone came forward, there was nothing they could do. They sent him off with a roll of paper towel and some Windex to clean his locker with.
The friends he did have had started distancing themselves, speaking to him less and less, smiles more and more strained, like they were afraid of something.
“They are afraid,” Terrence told him when he complained. His voice was dripping with scorn. “They’re small-minded morons, all of them. Plebeians. God, I can’t wait for college.”
Maybe Terrence was right, maybe college would be better—but it felt too distant and abstract to provide any real comfort. Blaine still had three and a half years left to endure. Practically an eternity.
“It’s not fair,” Blaine said. He was aware of what a childish thing to say that was, but it remained true.
“I don’t know what to tell you,” Terrence said. “You have to find a way to deal with it. It’s just the way it is.”
But it shouldn’t have to be, Blaine wanted to say. Part of him was frustrated with Terrence for not having better answers, even though that wasn’t fair either and Blaine knew it. His advice was as good as anyone’s, and just as useless.
Anyway, Terrence was dealing with the same thing, and had been for longer. He was just better at not letting it get to him. Or maybe it did get to him—he was just better at not letting it show. And maybe that was an armor Blaine would have to build for himself. The only thing he could do. Maybe he could find a way to distance himself so that he could be like Terrence, who didn’t care what other people thought, who didn’t need to be liked, who didn’t seek anyone’s approval.
He could feel it happening with every slur hurled his way, every shove and taunt and whisper and stare; chipping away at pieces of him he in turn walled back up, closing himself off more and more. He was learning fast how to pretend that things were okay until it became second nature to plaster on a smile and carry on like everything was fine, even though sometimes in the morning when he woke up, the thought of putting on his shoes made him want to cry.
The school called his parents over the locker vandalizing incident, which he thought was wholly unnecessary considering their inability, or unwillingness, to actually do anything about it besides pat him on the head and send him on his way. He didn’t know what informing his parents of the fact was meant to do. All it did was lead to a conversation over dinner that Blaine had not prepared himself for in the least.
“I don’t understand why you have to make things harder on yourself,” his father sighed.
Blaine’s eyes welled up, betraying him. His hand tightened around his fork as he tried to fight back his anger. He swallowed it down, along with his bewildering tears.
“I didn’t do anything wrong,” he said finally, voice tight and clipped. “I did nothing to deserve—”
“I’m not saying you deserved—”
“I’m sorry,” he said, and he meant it. "This is who I am. I’m not going to change. I can’t. I can’t be who you want me to be—”
But he wanted to, he wanted to so much, the same way he wanted people to like him. He wanted to make everyone happy and he wanted to do it without having to compromise who he was, and it wasn’t too much to ask for, was it? It felt like so little and it felt like everything.
He gauged his father’s reaction across the table. His face hadn’t changed, as hard and full of that same old disappointment as ever. It was pretty much what Blaine had expected. Didn’t mean it hurt any less, though. His mother wouldn’t even look at him. If she looked at him, she’d have to look at his face, and if she looked at his face… Blaine didn’t know. But she wasn’t looking.
They acted like this was something he had chosen, like he’d actively invited all of these complications into his own life. They wanted contrition, and he wouldn’t give it to them. He wouldn’t. He hadn’t chosen this, but it wasn’t like he’d been inflicted with some terrible disease either— there was nothing wrong with him; it was everyone else who had the problem. He wasn’t ashamed, and he wouldn’t apologize for that, because it wasn’t wrong. No part of it felt wrong.
He could only be who he was. Maybe it was hard, but the alternative— trying not to be— would be worse.
Terrence and Evan broke up less than a month after Christmas. After school, Terrence dragged Blaine to the tacky fifties style diner within walking distance so he could drown his sorrows in a chocolate milkshake.
Blaine sat across from him in the booth as Terrence ranted on and on, airing all his dirty laundry. That got kind of boring after the first ten minutes, so Blaine busied himself with flipping through the mini jukebox perched on their table, which was only stocked with oldies; he picked Buddy Holly because Evan sometimes wore those glasses named after him, and Billie Holiday because he actually knew her music, and someone he’d never heard of called Fats Domino, just because he liked the name. At the same time he made sure to pay attention to what Terrence was saying so he could make all of the appropriate sympathetic noises. He listened to Terrence talk about how he and Evan had been fighting more and more over the pettiest things, how Evan was always sneaking around because of his conservative parents, and not making enough time for him, and Terrence called his parents bigoted backwards assholes, and Evan dumped him via email, like a coward.
“I just want to listen to Elliot Smith forever and curl up and die,” Terrence moaned, dropping his forehead to the lacquered tabletop, dramatic as always.
Blaine reached across the table and patted his arm. “It’ll be okay.”
It seemed like the right thing to say in this situation. It was weird, but sitting there, he felt envious of Terrence’s heartbreak. That he had someone to feel that way over, someone to matter that much to him. Sometimes Blaine wanted to ask him what it was like, having a boyfriend, but he knew it would make him look like a dumb little kid. He already felt like that enough of the time; he didn’t want Terrence to see him that way.
Terrence lifted his head and sniffled, plucking the cherry from his milkshake and popping it into his mouth. “It’s such horrible timing. Valentine’s Day is coming up—” Blaine didn’t bother to point out it was weeks away, “—and if that’s not bad enough, every time I walk into school I see that banner for that stupid dance hanging there, with all the hearts and little cupids drawn on it, like it’s mocking my pain.”
“Dance?” Blaine said. “You mean Sadie Hawkins?”
“Yeah. The one where the girl is supposed to ask the guy or whatever. Which,” Terrence said, “by the way, is totally hetero-normative, and exclusionary, and I seriously cannot wait for college.” The constant refrain. He snorted and jabbed his straw into his shake sullenly. “I almost want to go just to screw with them. And that is really saying something, when you know how deep my hatred of school-sponsored functions runs.”
“We should go,” Blaine said, before he could think about it.
Terrence looked at him. “What?”
“We should go,” he said again. “It could be fun.”
“It could suck.”
“There’ll be music—”
“Hideous people will just be grinding on each other like animals. I’d hardly call that dancing.”
“—fine, then, think of all the mocking material you will gain as a mere bystander.”
At this, Terrence considered.
“Besides,” Blaine continued, “I understand musical elitism is a valid lifestyle choice, and I’m not judging, but I have listened to enough Sufjan Stevens thanks to you to know that it is not danceable music. And you can’t tell me you don’t like to dance. Everyone does.”
“I can’t lie, that is true,” Terrence admitted. He tilted his head at Blaine. “So are you seriously asking me to go to Sadie Hawkins with you?”
“Yes,” said Blaine, and then after a beat, perfectly serious, “Does this make me the girl?”
And then Terrence burst into laughter, loud and unabashed, and it felt like a victory, like one of the best things Blaine had done in a long time.
Blaine didn’t tell his parents he had a date to the dance. Even if Terrence was only a friend. He felt uncomfortable lying to them, and even more so when his mother looked ready to cry tears of joy upon hearing that he was voluntarily attending a school event, even if it was stag, but he knew they’d get weird about it if they knew the full story, and he didn’t want to poke that particular hornet’s nest.
He told them he was catching a ride from a friend, and watched out the window like a hawk until Terrence’s dad’s minivan pulled into the driveway. He dashed outside before Terrence could think of walking up to his front door and all but dove into the backseat of the minivan.
“You look nice,” Terrence said approvingly, eyeing him up and down.
Blaine felt his face get hot. He was wearing the one suit he had, black with pinstripes. Nothing fancy.
“So do you,” he said, and Terrence did, of course, because he always looked good. His suit was cream colored with a pink button-down underneath, his light hair perfectly styled.
Mr. DeLuca made small talk about the weather on the drive over, and the lapses in conversation were filled with NPR talk radio. When he pulled up to the school curb, he turned to them and said, “Have fun, boys. I’ll pick you up right here at ten thirty.”
The dance was in full swing when they walked into the gym together, since Terrence had insisted they arrive fashionably late. Pink and red crepe paper was strung everywhere, strobe lights flashed, glittery cardboard hearts were pinned on every wall.
“God, this is so disgustingly cliché,” Terrence said, the shudder evident in his voice.
“Almost too cliché to be believed,” Blaine agreed.
They went to the punch table first, serving themselves—the punch bowl had not been spiked, much to Terrence’s dismay (“Jesus, that’s the one cliché I would’ve truly appreciated!”)—and standing close together as they surveyed the dance floor. It was a mass of gawdy dresses and ill-fitted suits. For awhile they people watched and Terrence would do his Joan Rivers impression as he made disparaging remarks on different outfits, or he’d point out some particularly hideous dance moves, but it was difficult to talk over the music.
When Britney Spears came on, Blaine had had enough of standing on the sidelines. “Come on,” he said, snatching Terrence’s wrist and drawing him to the dance floor.
Terrence didn’t resist, and as they made their way toward the edge of the crowd, he surged ahead a little, causing Blaine to stagger after him. He clutched clumsily at Terrence’s waist, not even really meaning to at first, and before he knew it they’d stumbled into a dance. He almost pulled away, but Terrence slipped his arms around Blaine’s back and kept him close, spinning him around.
They didn’t bother to pull away after that. They shimmied, and bounced, and Terrence did some Molly Ringwald-inspired kicks that did not match the music at all, but it didn’t matter, because he was smiling and enjoying himself and Blaine was too, even if he could catch some dirty looks out of the corner of his eye in the flashing lights.
Terrence twirled him and drew him back in close, his laughter warm against the space above Blaine’s ear; he couldn’t hear it over Britney, but he could feel it, and he knew that it was the most wonderful sound he’d never heard. Blaine closed his eyes and filed that memory away for safekeeping.
He wouldn’t remember anything later about how it started. The only thing he could recall was the laughter coming from behind. There was something about it, something… ugly, there was no other word for it— it had prickled his skin, made him uneasy, and he’d glanced over at Terrence next to him, who was humming some song under his breath, staring out at the parking lot, perfectly content, oblivious, and—
And then the memory skipped ahead, and there were hands, and voices, and someone grabbed him by the throat, a thumb crushing his windpipe. It was too dark to make out a face; whoever it was was taller than him, but that didn’t mean much because almost everyone was, and they were stronger, and he flailed wildly like a wriggling worm on a fish hook, swung his arms, directionless, but he wasn’t a fighter, didn’t even know how.
Pain exploded everywhere. He didn’t know he could hurt like that.
The next thing he knew he was opening his eyes, face-first on the ground with no clue of how he’d gotten there. He breathed and it was wet and he didn’t understand why all he tasted was liquid pennies, until he touched a shaking hand to his mouth and it came away coated in something dark and sticky. Oh, he thought dully. Blood. His mouth was full of blood.
Somehow he summoned enough strength to slowly draw himself onto his knees, bracing his palms on biting pavement as he spat out blood and attempted to catch his breath. Tried to pull himself together, or at least enough. He felt utterly wrecked. Shattered.
Terrence. Where was Terrence?
It hurt to turn his head, but he did anyway, and saw Terrence curled in a heap in his beautiful cream-colored suit, now stained with blood on the collar and one of the sleeves, the lapels wrinkled and crumpled out of form.
“Terrence?” he ground out.
His voice was scraped raw, and speaking the word felt as if it’d been carved from his throat with a knife. All he received in response was a sickening silence.
Wild, animalistic panic clawed at his throat. “Terrence,” he repeated, louder this time, as loud as he could. He couldn’t tell how much volume he’d managed; his ears wouldn’t stop ringing.
The lump on the ground moved. Whimpered. “Yeah,” Terrence acknowledged, and looked up. There was a streak of blood standing out starkly against his cheek. His bottom lip was split, and Blaine saw it quiver.
He forced himself to stand. He didn’t know how he did it, but he did. Some combination of adrenaline and hysteria and sheer force of will, maybe. He wanted to—he needed to—he couldn’t think, how long had it been, why wasn’t Mr. DeLuca here yet, where was everyone, how had no one seen them, or called for help, or—?
He screwed his eyes shut tight and swayed, legs wobbling, head muzzy. The effort of staying upright made him cough, and sharp pain flared in his ribs. His feet weren’t cooperating as well as they ought to.
Perhaps he should sit down, he thought eventually.
It had been a mistake to ditch the dance early.
It had been a mistake to cajole Terrence into dancing together.
It had been a mistake to go at all.
So many mistakes. He’d been so stupid. He couldn’t believe how stupid.
He couldn’t believe.
“I’m sorry,” he said. His exhale bordered dangerously on a sob.
His father looked down at him. “Blaine,” he said, and his mouth was still open, but he let the word just hang there, suspended between them. He seemed agitated with either himself or with Blaine. Probably with Blaine, if precedent accounted for anything.
The silence hung heavy with everything unsaid. Blaine could hear the words his father hadn’t spoken aloud but knew must be sitting there, on the tip of his tongue, ready to slip out. That's what you get, Blaine.
He waited for it, but his father said nothing. And said nothing. And said nothing.
There were people there to take his statement. He had to stop and start a few times, his puffy mouth numb and uncooperative.
When he was finally finished with his halting, fractured account, there were people saying things, but it sounded like a television in the next room, the sound turned down. They weren’t speaking to him anyway, so it didn’t matter that he tuned them out and receded into himself.
He did catch one thing— the one who’d been writing things down looked at his mother and said, “It could’ve been anyone.”
The thought settled in the pit of his stomach like a ball of ice, making him cold all over.
The room emptied after awhile, save for his mother. She stood next to him, looking, for once. If she was searching for tears, she was out of luck; they’d dried up, and all Blaine was left with was an emptiness expanding across his chest like a black hole. Bottomless. He felt hollowed out as a drum.
Her palm ran along his scalp, found the raised bump, and touched it with a tenderness that took him by surprise. He held himself very still. His head was still pounding hotly and everything was pounding and pounding.
“Can I get you anything?” she asked quietly.
“I don’t need anything. I’m fine,” he told her, the old lie slipping out automatically, though of course he needed her. He needed her to see how much he didn’t mean that. But she only looked away from him, as always.
So much of his life consisted of averted eyes and turned backs and closed doors. The realization was sick and awful, and he tried to push it out of his head, but once it was there he couldn’t unthink it, so instead it bounced around the sides of his skull, trapped there, burrowing.
He’d been at home for two days when his mother came to his room, sat on the edge of his bed, and handed him the pamphlet.
Dalton Academy for Boys. There was a glossy picture of an elegant building on the front, almost castle-like in structure.
“We think this would be for the best,” she said to him.
He looked at her for a moment before he lowered his gaze. “It’s in Westerville.”
“Your father put in for a transfer, and it was approved,” she explained. “We’ve already started looking at houses, and you’ll commute until everything goes through.” She paused and added, "We thought maybe we could all use a fresh start. Somewhere new.”
When he looked up again, she was smiling. He wished she would stop; it looked like it hurt her. He knew it hurt him.
Blaine only saw Terrence once after that, a week later, after Terrence texted him and said they should meet up. His mother dropped him off at the DeLuca house; as he shuffled to the front door, he wondered if she noticed his poorly disguised limp. Even though she didn’t pull away until he was safely inside the house, he doubted it.
They holed up in Terrence’s room, and it was almost like it was before, even though the record player was untouched and there was no Evan or trace of cigarette smoke in the air. For awhile they compared battle wounds. Terrence kept joking about how his swollen bottom lip looked like he’d gotten a Lisa Rinna-sized dose of collagen, and discussed the aesthetic of the black eye, but Blaine could detect the razor-sharp bitter edge beneath every word. He knew this was how Terrence operated, had always operated; he had to laugh off his scars, because if he let himself feel it… there was no coming back from that.
“Anyway,” Terrence said, breathing out the word like he was exhausted from the effort, “I return to the war zone on Monday. What about you?”
Blaine swallowed past the meteor-sized lump lodged in his throat. This was the hard part.
“I’m not going back,” he finally admitted. Terrence stared back at him with that fat lip and butterfly stitches over his cheek, unblinking, unyielding, not making it any easier. “My parents decided I should transfer to a private school. We’re actually… we’re moving.”
He saw the flash of betrayal pass over Terrence’s face before it smoothed into an inscrutable expression. “That’s good,” he said after a minute, his voice strangely flat. “It’s the smart thing to do.” He smiled, but it was all wrong, closer to a grimace, and he stared down at his hands twisted in his lap. “At least one of us gets an early escape.”
Their gazes scraped against each other briefly then, until Blaine had to look away.
He knew in that moment that some part of Terrence would hate him forever for this. Not for setting that horrible night into motion, but for taking the opportunity to run. For having that opportunity at all. Terrence didn’t have the choice, he didn’t have parents who could afford private school tuition, he was trapped for another two years, graduation his only end in sight. And Blaine knew how badly Terrence wanted a way out. How desperately he’d been waiting. Blaine, though, didn’t have to wait. Blaine could get out now and never look back, never have to face that part of his life again.
He didn’t want to abandon Terrence, but he couldn’t go back, he couldn’t— and he couldn’t deny himself this chance. Even if it was selfish and cowardly and weak of him. Even if it meant leaving everything, and everyone, and Terrence, behind.
Terrence would forgive so many things, but Blaine didn’t think he would ever forgive him for that.
He’d become an expert at bouncing back; each time a little less, maybe, but he’d done it because he had to, because it was all he had. He couldn’t even bring himself to try this time around. All he wanted to do was slide down the wall and cry for awhile and feel someone’s hand on his shoulder, telling him that everything would be okay, even if it was a lie.
But there was no one. His parents couldn’t, or wouldn’t. And Terrence—they were now bound by something more complicated than friendship, and the worst of it was that same exact thing that tied them together had simultaneously driven a wedge between them, irrevocable, and Terrence could never be that person for Blaine again. What they’d had was lost and could never be recovered.
He laid in bed, wide awake even with his eyes closed, the room shrouded in dark, hiding the boxes packed full of his belongings that Blaine knew were there underneath the blackness no matter if he couldn’t see them.
He opened his eyes. “That’s what you get,” he said to his ceiling, but there was no one there to hear.