His life might be simpler, Dave thinks, if he didn't live quite so much of it much on impulse.
See, it's not that he's the guy who doesn't know how to think. Dave knows the value of thinking and planning ahead. His split-second ability to predict multiple outcomes in hockey is actually the reason that he's such a good defensemen –- well, aside from the fact he’s two hundred pounds and kind of freaking huge naturally. It's just that Dave has this problem when he's confronted with stressful situations outside the rink, where his mind has this tendency to completely blank out. Dave's left with nothing but his instinct to go on in these situations, and that just about always leads to disaster.
Sometimes, against the odds, everything turns out okay. When Jacob Israel broke the news of Quinn's pregnancy sophomore year, Dave didn't waste a second before buying that 72 oz grape slushie. Throwing the icy beverage in Hudson's stupid face was the fulfillment of a dozen middle school fantasies and Dave's personal choice of revenge.
It was also the thing that ended up elevating Dave from a mostly unknown and friendless puckhead to one of the top jocks in the school. Turned out there were a lot of jocks who had some beef with Hudson, and with Dave as their inspiration they no longer had reservations about showing it. Azimio Adams talked to him for the first time after that stunt, clapped him on the shoulder and promised to take him under his wing. Dave was still just a hockey player, barely a blip on the social radar at McKinley, but with Azimio's help he soon gained the respect of the other football jocks. Together the two of them patrolled the halls and worked hard to maintain the natural order of things, employing both slushies and markers as the situation warranted.
So, following his impulses doesn't always turn out badly for Dave. He and Azimio, after all, have been inseparable ever since. The problem is that Dave doesn't really have other resources to fall back on when it does.
Nowhere is this reality more apparent than in Dave’s current situation with Hummel. Dave can barely even remember how it started at this point. Okay, that’s not true. The beginning, in fact, is absurdly easy to pinpoint; it coincides perfectly with the moment that Dave first realized his gaze was starting to linger on Hummel for reasons other than his wild and crazy ensembles. Somewhere between the time that Hummel dressed like a glittery alien and the day that he returned to McKinley an impossible four inches taller, Dave’s survey of Hummel ceased to be strictly torment-related and started leaning dangerously toward something like appreciative instead.
Dave reacts to this wholly unwelcome revelation with all the survival instinct of a former social outcast. Step one: minimize the damage immediately. If Dave isn’t going to stop staring in the near future (which sadly seems to be the case), then he needs to find an excuse for it as soon as possible. Gradually upping the amount of bullying he does in the short-term fits that particular bill to a tee. Step two: stop drawing attention to yourself. Okay, here’s where Dave’s trouble sets back in. While bullying Hummel deflects attention from Dave’s nonstop staring just fine, strangely it does absolutely nothing to quell Dave’s urge to seek Hummel out three or more times a day. It’s gotten to the point where Dave’s doubling back through the hallways just to catch another glimpse of the kid and that is so patently ridiculous Dave can hardly believe people haven’t noticed anything yet.
Unfortunately, his attempts to come up with alternate plans have been as fruitless as Coach Tanaka’s former coaching. Making a fool out of himself or committing social suicide seem to be the only options that Dave has at the moment, and framed like that there’s obviously only one choice. Dave therefore consoles himself with the fact that his plan, though stupid, nonetheless is working and does his best to ignore the way that his face burns when he switches directions a second time solely for the purpose of bumping into Hummel again.
At least, the plan works until the day that Hummel tears after Dave, following him into the locker room and shouting at him angrily. The force of Hummel's furious accusations in that enclosed space catches Dave off guard and Dave's brain cells shut down almost immediately. His ability to respond shrinks abruptly to whatever responses he can generate on impulse, which unfortunately in Dave's case have a tendency to be both stupid and somewhat juvenile. So when Hummel starts screaming about how Dave can't handle "how extraordinarily ordinary" he is, literally the only response Dave has for him is "I'll show you ordinary!"
Which is how he ends up kissing Kurt Hummel rather passionately in the middle of the deserted locker room.
If he's honest with himself, Dave doesn't regret following that impulse at all, because kissing Hummel is awesome. It’s nothing like kissing Brittany had been, back in freshman year (when she was working through the hockey team.) Brittany had been in complete control of that kiss, sliding her tongue in at the ten-second mark and pursuing his own aggressively. In contrast, Hummel seems willing to let Dave direct the kiss, standing there with his lips so full and soft and his mouth open just the tiniest fraction in surprise. Of course, Dave realizes about five seconds later, the last part might just have been because Hummel was in shock.
The hands that shove Dave’s chest when he goes in for a second kiss and the look of horror on Hummel's face are pretty clear hints, though. Dave considers denying what happened for all of two seconds before realizing it would be pretty much pointless and beating it out of there. He makes a silent resolution as he walks away to avoid being impulsive near Hummel in the future and to maybe cut down on the whole singling him out for extra-bullying/ridiculous-amounts-of-
In hindsight, Dave wishes he had paid more attention to that resolution. It might have had the power to prevent, well, the entire clusterbomb of events that followed. Unfortunately, Dave forgets the resolution mere seconds after Hummel brings in another ladyboy to McKinley to speak to Dave the next day, violating Dave's formerly firm resolve toward a stubborn denial of events.
What happens after that is practically a comedy of errors. Hummel, quietly and sincerely, promises not to tell anyone. In relief, Dave turns around and threatens his life if he ever does. Hummel abruptly becomes impossible to find at McKinley during school hours. Dave, realizing his mistake, spends an entire week tracking Hummel down to apologize only to chicken out and steal his wedding topper instead when the time comes. Next Hummel's friends join the farce when they catch wind of what’s going on and decide to confront Dave as a team in the locker room. Dave tries to explain, fails miserably again, gets into a brawl with Evans, and is ultimately demoted by Beiste to second-string for a week for his trouble.
By the time that Mr. Hummel pins an arm to Dave's throat following a hasty limp-wristed gesture sent Hummel's way, Dave is honestly ready to give up on his ability to act rationally around Hummel in any capacity ever again.
His parents, naturally, are less than happy when they learn Dave's up for expulsion. It would have something more of an impact, Dave thinks sourly, if that weren’t their default stance toward him already. His father in particular seems grossly disappointed in Dave. It's something of a feat actually. After the new levels he'd achieved for Dave’s slipping grades earlier in the semester, Dave had figured his dad didn’t have higher levels of disapproval left in him. It’s not exactly a comfort now to learn that he was wrong.
Sitting in Ms. Sylvester's office with Hummel and his dad, Dave wants nothing more than to shrink into his chair and never crawl out. It's almost a relief when Ms. Sylvester gives up the charade of a trial and declares him expelled –- almost because Dave doesn't actually want to become a Lima loser. He’s seen what happens to the high school dropouts in this town, seen the way that they end up in dead-end jobs at the dry cleaners or the video store, and Dave doesn’t really want any part of that even if it seems vastly more appealing at the moment than facing another day of screwing up around Hummel.
Fortunately for Dave’s future in something other than the night shift at the gas station, Dave’s parents make a series of phone calls that night and determine that Ms. Sylvester overstepped her bounds when she made the decision to expel him. They appeal the decision to the school board based on the lack of evidence and the board votes unanimously to reverse the expulsion. Dave returns to McKinley just three days later, well rested from the break and with nothing more than a slap on the wrist for the threat.
Hummel doesn't. Dave searches for him the first couple of periods in confusion, but no matter where he looks he’s completely unable to locate that trademark brand of eye-exhausting fashion. It's lunchtime before he hears what happened via the McKinley school grapevine and the unexpected impact of the news is enough to make Dave stop in his tracks.
Hummel's been pulled out of school –- like, legitimately transferred for his own safety. Apparently, his parents had decided to transfer him the moment they learned Dave was being allowed to return. Hummel cleared out his locker that same day. There are a couple variations on the story at that point, mostly regarding whether Hummel’s being sent to military school (unlikely) or being homeschooled (possible) or attending some other private school down in Westerville (judging by that kid in the freaking blazer, Dave’s money is on this one). All versions of the story, though, agree on the first point: Hummel’s gone, and Dave Karofsky alone is the reason. Judging by the nasty looks all the Glee kids are currently sending his way, Dave suspects this part of the story is very much accurate.
He can’t help but feel guilty. Sure, Hummel had been an idiot who didn't know the importance of fitting in and Dave's fascination with him is (was) a serious social liability, but it isn’t like Dave ever actually wanted to scare the kid away. Life at McKinley seems duller somehow without Hummel there. There isn’t anyone making catty comments about fashion in the hallway anymore or making the teachers tear out their hair over the third kilt and sweater combo in a week. Even the Glee kids are less fun to torment, all mopey and downcast half the time. Dave is inordinately grateful two weeks later when the end of semester exams are over and winter vacation can finally start.
Dave’s feeling of relief lasts a total of about three hours into the first day of break. The thing Dave always fails to remember about winter vacation is that his parents consider it prime family bonding time, which means that spending long hours at home is a must. Normally, Dave doesn’t mind that much. After all, it’s the holidays. His mom bakes him cookies and cajoles him into helping her decorate while his father sits there with his journals and offers to take Dave shopping once they both suddenly realize they still haven’t bought anything. It’s generally very warm and cozy-pleasant, and usually it’s Dave’s favorite time of the year.
This year, though, the atmosphere in the house can only be described as strained. Both of Dave’s parents are still upset with him about the whole expulsion thing and Dave can’t exactly blame them. He still hasn’t offered them any explanation for why it happened and his strange reluctance to join in the festivities this year can’t be helping things. Dave thinks that he’s justified, however, when he says the way that his parents are dealing with his lack of holiday spirit is nothing less than maddening. One moment, both of them seem completely determined to pretend the expulsion never happened. The next, they’re probing Dave with carefully casual questions which dig none too subtly for the reason why it did.
Dave thinks the questions are his dad's idea, and the silent approach is his mom's. It's pretty typical of them to be split in their decisions. The way they're currently swapping their approaches? Somewhat less so. Also strange is the look that Dave catches his father giving him sometimes, like Dave's some kind of seeing-eye puzzle that can be cracked if only he stares at him long enough. It’s starting to make Dave uncomfortable. Whatever's running through his parent's heads, Dave really doesn't have anything he wants to add to it. He studiously avoids talking in their presence as much as possible for this reason, which makes dinnertime conversation kind of awkward.
It doesn't help that Azimio is up visiting relatives in Michigan for the holidays, so Dave doesn't even have the excuse of hanging out with him to get away from the house for a few hours. He starts up conditioning for hockey again just to have a valid reason to leave the house once in a while. It soon becomes an obsession. Whenever his parents' sly questioning or even heavier silence gets to be too much, Dave suits up and heads down to the rink. Slamming puck after puck against a wall or practicing his checking might not actually solve any of his life problems, but at least it keeps Dave from feeling like making them worse.
It's honestly just a way to keep his head from exploding, even though the rink is not exactly a place known for its relaxing atmosphere. In fact, Dave admits, the place can be downright grating with the high-pitched sound of all the tiny, squealing brats flailing around in the adjacent rink. Dave grits his teeth to ignore them. Compared to the strained situation in his own house, the environment of the rink is on the level of a freaking day spa, which is the only excuse Dave can give for why he spends an absolute truckload of time down there over break.
Eventually hockey season starts back up for real. Opposing teams begin entering the rink and for his part Dave is just grateful to have a fresh target for his frustrations. He doesn't even mind that the majority of teams seem kind of weak for this late in the season. It's high school. Seniors graduate all the time and even the best schools can drop in ranking after losing their major players. Building a team takes time. It's not until Dave prepares to go back to McKinley the night before the new semester that he abruptly realizes two things. One, the hockey season is now well underway and two, ever since winter break the Titans haven't lost a game.
More than that, they haven't been tying. They've been winning, and as the season progresses they keep winning. Dave gets his first small inkling of how the team's power level has changed the same night that the Titans decimate their old rival, the Harrison Spartans, in what the local news declares a fiercely competitive game. It's the first victory that McKinley has claimed in the rivalry for over sixteen years, and it's largely thanks to Dave's uncanny new ability to wrest the puck from each of their players.
The status of hockey changes overnight at McKinley. Well, that's a bit of an overstatement. Really, it just stops being an excuse for the second-string football players to tackle each other in the off-season, but in all fairness people other than the team's parents actually start showing up at the games too. They bring handmade signs and some of them even lead cheers. Dave likes it best when they chant "FU-RY, FU-RY, FU-RY," though sometimes he wonders whether it's just because it's easier to say than "Karofsky." The hockey players still can't touch the popularity of the school's basketball team, but at least puckhead stops being used as an insult in the hallways with quite as much frequency. Some of the basketball players even take the time to high-five Dave after a particularly good game. It's pretty much the best high school has ever been.
None of this prepares Dave for the day that he comes home from practice and his mother hands him the phone with the assistant coach of OSU hockey on the other end.
"So I caught your game last night, kid," Dave hears the man say, after he retrieves the phone from where he dropped it on the floor. "And I gotta say, I see a lot of potential in you. You ever consider playing hockey in college?"
Dave stutters something that he hopes is a coherent response.
"Well, here's the deal for you, Dave," the man continues. "Some of our players right now are on track to graduate next year and we're currently shopping around for some replacement defensemen. I've been watching your games, and I have a feeling you just might work well on our team in a year or two. How are your grades?"
"Down a little last quarter," Dave admits.
"Below a 2.0?" he asks.
"No," Dave replies, wondering if the man thinks he's an idiot.
"Then you're still golden as far as eligibility is concerned," he says easily. "Go ahead and bring them up anyway if you want. In the long run, it certainly can't hurt. And see if you can't take your SATs in the next couple months, get some solid scores for us to look at. Do well enough and we might not even need your grades. Otherwise, just keep your slate clean and focus on playing like you did last night. In another year or so, we might be looking at you for part of our freshman line-up. How does that sound?"
Dave doesn't know how to respond. "It sounds amazing," he manages at last.
The man laughs. "We'll be in touch, Dave," he says warmly, then hangs up. Dave listens to the dial tone for a few stunned seconds before replacing the phone on its stand.
The call was a hoax, Dave decides after a couple hours, had to be. He doesn’t know what the guy on the other end said to convince his mom otherwise, but Dave’s willing to bet his weekly slushie allowance that in reality the “assistant coach” was just Cooper or another one of his loser friends. It makes sense unfortunately. Dave’s pretty sure that some of them are still pissed about being bumped from starting lineup and if Dave’s honest he has to admit it’s not a bad prank, getting Dave to believe that he’s good enough for colleges to be looking at him. That doesn’t make him any less pissed, though, that they involved his mom, so he decides to be a jerk about it and not mention it at school.
The prank explanation of events starts to lose some of its power when without any warning next week NCAA educational materials show up in his mailbox. Dave stares at them for a long minute, honestly bewildered, before realizing that Cooper and his friends are still waiting for the payoff to their prank. He scowls furiously and chucks the glossy brochures in the trash.
It’s not until three weeks later, when the man calling himself the assistant coach phones the house again, that Dave starts seriously considering the possibility that his offer could be legitimate. At the very least, Dave can’t deny in talking to the man that he’s definitely knowledgeable enough to be a hockey coach. He opens his second phone call by congratulating Dave on the Titan’s most recent victory and casually offers him some subtle tips on how he could improve his footwork. By the time that the man starts talking about summer camp and the possibility of a main campus visit in July, Dave no longer has any doubts that the man is in fact the real deal. Something huge and scary begins to swell in Dave’s chest as the realization slowly dawns on him that this could be a concrete ticket out for him, that he might actually have a chance someday of leaving Lima.
He seeks out Azimio the very next day. "I have to lay off on the slushies, man," he blurts out, forgetting to check first to see if anyone is listening.
Azimio doesn't even look up. "Man, I've been telling you, there is a difference between muscle and fat."
"No, I mean--" Dave scowls. "Shut up. What I'm trying to say is that I can't go around giving the nerds slushie facials anymore."
This manages to get Azimio's attention. "And why's that?" he drawls, crossing his arms leisurely across his chest.
Dave lowers his voice as he leans in. "I've got some hockey coaches looking at me," he explains, "and they basically told me that if I want on the team I can't have anything else showing up on my record. You know Coach Sylvester's still watching me like a hawk. If I even try to trip a nerd in the cafeteria, she'll be all over me."
The Sylvester part unfortunately is true. If Dave had been vaguely terrified of the woman before he forced out her favorite Cheerio, it's nothing compared to the complete paranoia he experiences now under her constant surveillance. Dave has had to keep an eye out for the sudden appearance of a tracksuit whenever he and Azimio have been patrolling for the past month and it’s patently obvious to even the casual observer that Sylvester's just waiting for Dave to slip up. It's starting to put a serious crimp in their ability to put the nerds in their place.
Azimio knows it too. "She was pretty pissed when you stole Hummel from her," he agrees. He looks like he's weighing the information for a moment and then nods. "I get it, man. You do what you have to do. I'll do what I can to keep up your rep while you toe the line for Sylvester. But for the record." He claps a hand on Dave's shoulder. "You should lay off the slushies, man."
"Screw you," Dave says and shoves him off, but when he looks back they're both grinning.
True to his word, Azimio doggedly keeps Dave's reputation going over the upcoming weeks through a variety of methods. They continue to patrol the halls together, and even though Dave is never actually involved anymore, after a slushie facial his name is always mentioned. Azimio spreads tales of their misadventures together after school whenever other jocks are in earshot, and Dave does his part to look menacing and chime in when necessary. The end result is that while Sylvester's eyes start to narrow and her lips become steadily more pursed, she doesn't actually acquire anything she can pin on Dave and his reputation as someone not to messed with is intact.
Dave is thankful for Azimio's unflagging support, because in reality the most rebellious activity he's participated in for the past two months is stealing the SAT prep book from the school library. It's a couple years old and some other students have made marks in it, but Dave takes it home with him anyway and tries all the practice tests. He checks his answers in the back when he’s done and finds that he's got a fairly good handle on the math, though his grasp of the English section is a little dicey.
He works hard at the same time to bring up his grades in his regular classes too, remembering a phone call where Steve explained that Dave wouldn't need as high test scores if he could raise his GPA some. When his third quarter report card comes home, his parents are pleasantly surprised to read nothing but "good attitude" and "shows improvement" in the column for the comments section. His dad actually looks pleased with Dave for the first time in three months.
Dave takes the SAT in March and then waits impatiently for his results until April. When the email that says his test results are posted arrives, Dave logs in the first chance he gets and eagerly checks his scores. They look good: English 590, Math 650, and Writing 580. He ignores the Writing like Steve told him, adds the other two up in his head, and pumps the air with his fist when he realizes he got a 1240. Steve sounds excited too during his next phone call. He tells Dave not to worry about retaking the test and encourages him to focus instead on keeping up with conditioning in the off-season.
Surprisingly, the person most enthusiastic about his SAT scores is none other than Dave's dad. "These are very good, David," he says softly when he reads them, something that looks like pride in his face. "You'll have no difficulty getting on the main campus with these scores if you keep your grades up."
The most amazing thing about the scores is that they seem to change his dad's mind about Dave's plan to attend college on hockey scholarship. Privately, Dave figures it's probably because at first his dad thought Dave would use hockey as an excuse to take a lighter academic load. His dad’s a psychologist. It took him nine years studying full-time to complete his degree, so it's the kind of thing he would worry about. The results of his SAT, though, seem to convince Dave’s dad that he is serious about being a student as well as an athlete. He starts talking more favorably about Dave attending OSU and even drives down with him over the summer to tour the campus.
Dave visits a couple other colleges that summer too. He gets a call from the head coach at Miami University one day and they have a nice long conversation about the potential advantages of private education and staying in state for school. Dave ends up making a day trip down there to see their new ice rink. It's smaller than the venue he saw at OSU, but by no means is it shabby. Dave thinks he might prefer it, actually. The Miami campus is also significantly less intimidating on first sight than OSU, which Dave attributes to the fact it isn't crawling with one hundred times the population of McKinley at any given point in time. The coach promises to keep in touch with Dave over the upcoming season, and Dave leaves campus silently rethinking his earlier certainty with OSU.
Even after seeing the enthusiasm on both ends from the coaches at Miami and OSU, it's not until Boston University also sends him a call that Dave sits down and realizes he now has choices about where he goes for college. It's a pretty heady feeling, one that Dave has trouble believing. If someone had told him ten months ago that someday he'd be considering three different colleges to attend on scholarship, Dave would have assumed they were making fun of him and punched them in the face. It makes Dave realize he's never actually considered what he wants out of a college, the possibility always too distant to be worth the subsequent headache.
Well, that’s obviously changed now, so Dave starts a tour of the local colleges, visiting each of them just to get a feel for what he likes in a campus. None of them have Division I hockey teams, but Dave learns about the importance of housing and class size and finding the right program to major in. He figures out a couple of things pretty quick. One, any school he picks had better have a wide selection of degrees available, because Dave has no idea what he wants to major in right now. Two, Dave likes the smaller campuses better in general, but the large ones aren't nearly as intimidating once he's toured a couple. Three, Dave had better get that hockey scholarship, because going to college in Lima is just not going to work for him.
The last realization strikes him abruptly when he stumbles across an LGBT Alliance group during one of his guided walking tours. Dave would wonder about their guide, but the group is pretty much impossible to miss. Each of them is wearing as many brightly colored articles of clothing as possible and they're holding signs that say things like NO on NOM and I support MARRIAGE. I want MORE people to MARRY. They're clearly protesting something, and Dave swallows as he stares dumbly at their faces. They've all painted rainbow streaks on their cheeks, like children at a carnival, and each of them looks defiantly proud to be standing there and clutching their handmade sign.
Dave's reminded for the first time in months of Hummel, of that brief period junior year when he spent his days both exhilarated and afraid. He feels a phantom twinge of guilt at the memory, has a hard time acknowledging that somehow in the rush of the past six months he had entirely blocked the incident from his mind. In this moment, Dave is ashamed.
Sure, he hasn't been bullying anyone since Hummel left, but that's largely courtesy of Coach Sylvester. Dave has barely made a single stride toward accepting what happened in that locker room. The one step he has made is this: however much he'd like to rewrite history, what went down between the two of them wasn't entirely (or even mostly) on Hummel. It was all just Dave, from beginning to end -- Dave's crush and Dave's fear and Dave's stupid inability to deal with it in any rational fashion. Even now, Dave can barely admit to himself that he leaned in first, that maybe it wasn't so much a random impulse as one that he'd been denying for some time. Dave stares at the protesters and wonders suddenly if Hummel's ever participated in something like this, wonders if he found the kind of acceptance in his fancy new private school that he couldn't find in Lima.
Dave stares at his ceiling for a long time that night when he gets home before getting up and heading into his bathroom. He flicks the light on and assesses his reflection carefully in the bathroom mirror.
"I'm gay," he tries after a long moment.
He waits, but his face stares back at him the same as ever, still the same chubby cheeks and stupid curly hair. It's like nothing has even changed. Dave flicks off the light automatically, but as he heads back to his bed he knows that something most definitely has.
It's out there now; he's said it, even if it was just in the privacy of his bathroom. Dave knows now he can't go back to denying it all the way, has no intention of even trying. He's still not ready to tell anyone and he certainly doesn't plan to let anyone in Lima find out, but until Dave gets to a space where he's safe to be whoever he wants, he's going to at least be honest within his own mind.
Football season starts up again and a few weeks later so does school. Dave's surprised to discover that he's actually more enthusiastic about the latter than the former this year. For whatever reason, football just doesn't hold the excitement that it used to for Dave. It's fun, yeah, and with Beiste coaching the team they're sure to make it to playoffs for senior year, which seriously is going to be awesome. Yet even with those games to look forward to, Dave still feels like he's just killing time out there on the field, like the entire game is something intended to tide Dave over until hockey season starts and he can really tear up the ice.
In contrast, his classes seem considerably less lame than they did in previous ones. Part of that is the fact they're all seniors-only classes, which makes the teachers fairly laidback, but Dave finds that he likes the new material they're covering too. Physics in particular strikes him as kind of cool. Whenever they have to calculate a drag coefficient, Dave draws a little figure of Batman off to the side and pretends that he's evaluating a future set of specs for the suit in his head. It's dorky, but Dave doesn't have anyone he has to share notes with in this class. Azimio finished his science credits last year, so this semester he opted to take Creative Writing or some blow-off class like that instead.
Azimio might not have asked him for his notes anyway. If Dave's perfectly honest, the two of them have been drifting apart ever since this summer, when Dave had first started on his local college tour. Azimio doesn't plan on going to college. He's either joining his cousin's business or enlisting. So while he gets that Dave still needs solid grades this year for his scholarship, for Azimio his GPA is about keeping eligibility for football and not much else. It makes attempts at conversation kind of awkward, and Dave walks by himself in the halls now more often than not.
It's one of those times that he's by himself that he overhears an exchange between former Cheerio Mercedes Jones and that creepy Asian Goth chick. Dave's in the process of getting his textbook out of his locker, more than a little frustrated by the way that he can't seem to find his notebook for government, and the two of them just happen to be chatting together as they walk by.
"I just feel like we should be doing something," says Mercedes, her voice flat and unhappy. Dave chances a look at her over his shoulder and notices that she's frowning heavily over the top of her books.
Asian Goth chick clutches the strap of her messenger bag in a move that appears to be mostly unconscious. "We're already doing all we can," she replies. "It's not like any of us has the money to transfer to Dalton. Kurt knows that."
"Mmm," agrees Mercedes neutrally. Her mouth is a thin line. "All I'm saying is, that boy seems mighty lonely down there at Dalton without Blaine."
If Asian Goth chick has a reply to that comment, she doesn't manage it before the two of them pass out of earshot. Dave watches them walk away and has to quash the sudden urge he has to chase after them, demand that they tell him about Hummel and his apparent unhappiness. Dave had figured the kid was happy as a clam in his bully-free paradise. It's the only thing that's kept Dave from feeling guilty all the time these past few months. But if Hummel wasn't happy, if he wanted to come back to McKinley but wasn't because of Dave, then that places the source of his unhappiness squarely back on Dave's shoulders.
Dave's in his car and driving down Route 33 before he's even aware of leaving McKinley.
Dalton Academy is surprisingly easy to find. Dave figures that even in Westerville there just isn't that much room for full-blown boarding schools with dormitories. He stalls for a moment once he's parked in the visitor's lot and forces himself to take a deep breath before getting out of the car. He notices the fancy "D" emblazoned on the front of building as he does and realizes simultaneously that his letterman jacket will probably make him stick out like a sore thumb. Dave strips it off hastily and tosses it in the back of his car. He takes another deep breath in order to steel himself and then walks over to where he can see some students milling about.
They're all wearing uniforms, sharp ties and neatly pressed slacks, which makes Dave feel weird and uncomfortably underdressed around them. It's almost enough to make him lose his nerve, enough to make him want to forget about the nearly two hours he spent driving here and just leave. He’s actually starting to turn around when he suddenly spots a student carrying sheet music across the way.
"Hey!" he calls. Half the students in the foyer turn to look at Dave and he flushes. "I meant him," Dave mutters and hurries over to where the kid with the music has fortunately stopped and is waiting.
"Hey, uh, you know Hummel?" he asks when he gets there. "Kurt Hummel," Dave clarifies, just in case there's more than one Hummel at Dalton.
"Yeah, he's on the Council," says the kid, looking at Dave a little confused.
Dave fumbles to come up with a follow-up response. Somehow, even with the two-hour drive over, he hadn't managed to think this idea all the way through. Does he want to talk to Hummel? Given Dave's track record, it's probably not the best idea. Face-to-face meetings with Hummel, after all, do generally end in disaster on both their ends. Dave just needs Hummel to know that he can return to McKinley if he wants to, that he doesn't have to worry about Dave bullying him anymore. An idea occurs to him. "Could you give him a message for me?" Dave blurts out.
The kid nods slowly.
Dave pulls a gas station receipt out of his pocket and borrows a pen from a nearby table. He hesitates for a moment over what to write, then figures that simple is best and just puts "I'm sorry" in the middle of the paper. On impulse, he adds his cell phone number at the bottom.
"Tell him," Dave says as he folds the receipt in half, "that Dave said if-- if he wants to come back, he doesn't have to be scared." He holds out the note and the kid takes it with his free fingers. Dave shoves his hands in his pockets. "You got that?" he asks gruffly, suddenly embarrassed.
"Yeah," the kid drawls, now looking at Dave like he thinks Dave's mentally deficient.
"Okay," Dave exhales. "Thanks."
He carefully doesn't think about the note the whole drive home, focusing instead on whether or not he may have been declared truant for skipping his last two classes today. Ms. Johnson is generally pretty lax about attendance and Dave has study hall final period, but he also managed to miss football practice on this little adventure and that's something Dave knows he will be called on. He gets back to Lima early and kills some time in a park until it's potentially late enough for practice to have let out. Dave then heads home, making sure to arrive just after his dad, and drops off his books upstairs like it's any other day.
Dave fidgets all through dinner, completely unable to concentrate on the flow of normal conversation because he's straining his ears to catch the possible noise of a phone ringing upstairs. His agitation doesn't escape notice.
"Sweetie, are you all right?" his mom asks finally, after the fifth time he's responded to one of her questions with a quick "fine."
"Yeah, Mom, I'm--" Dave cuts himself off before he can say "fine" again. "I just have a lot of homework tonight," he tries instead.
His mother's face softens. "Go ahead and start working on it if it's bothering you that much. I'll bring you up a plate later if you're hungry."
Dave almost trips over his feet in his haste to leave the table. "Thanks, Mom," he murmurs before dashing ungainly up the stairs.
Of course, being within three feet of his phone doesn't magically make Hummel call, so Dave ends up working on his homework for real. He hazards a guess at the reading Ms. Johnson might have assigned and works through the problems he has left over from physics that morning. It's eleven o'clock and his mother has taken away the plate she brought up before Dave finally admits that Hummel probably isn't going to call tonight, if ever. He forces himself to shut off his phone and shoves it in his sock drawer so he won't be tempted to check it in the middle of the night.