The light is almost gone when Dave wakes up. He registers vaguely the lack of Kurt’s presence beside him and opens his eyes a little wider to discover that Kurt’s currently sitting on the edge of the bed buttoning up his shirt.
"Hey," Dave calls softly.
Kurt turns. "Hey," he replies, voice unreadable.
Dave shifts uncomfortably on the bed. Maybe it's the lack of endorphins, but things are awkward now in a way they weren't immediately post-sex, made more so by the fact that Kurt is now completely dressed and Dave isn't. He climbs off the bed and pulls his jeans on clumsily, then checks the clock. "So my parents will probably be home soon," he says, "did you want to--"
"I'll get out of your hair," Kurt interrupts briskly. He retrieves his scarf from the floor and wraps it securely around his neck. "I promised my dad I'd still make Friday dinner, just to delay it a few hours."
"Oh," says Dave dully, sitting back down on the bed. "See you at Boston then, maybe?" he tries.
Kurt lets out a short, bitter laugh. "I'm not going to Boston, Karofsky."
"What? But—“ Dave stutters, confused. “I thought you got in," he finishes finally.
"They didn't give me a scholarship," Kurt says sharply. "Do you know what tuition at the Conservatory runs?" He barrels on before Dave even has a chance to guess. "Almost thirty-two thousand a year. I can't ask my family to take out those kind of loans, not when I won't be able to repay them for years and with Finn going to college too. It would bankrupt them."
"So, you're going to college elsewhere?" Dave hazards. "I know that you and Berry--"
"I didn't get into any of schools I auditioned for at the Unifieds," Kurt cuts in. "Theater schools will do that sometimes, if they think you're likely to pick another school. All I've got is Boston and I can't afford to go.” His voice starts to crack a little. “So instead I'm stuck in this hick state."
Dave's head spins as he tries to reconcile the idea that there could be schools out there which would accept Dave but none apparently that would accept Kurt. "But-- I mean-- stop me if I'm wrong, but couldn't you just defer for a year?" He stands up to move closer to Kurt. "Do a year of theater at the Lima branch of OSU or something, and then audition again next winter? Lots of places around here have rolling admissions and--"
"How easy for you to say that," Kurt says quietly. "You've always had a choice about being labeled gay. No one's ever looked at you and thought 'gee, that kid would look better with some bruises' or 'hey, let's stop the spread of more AIDS.'" He gestures furiously. "You get to be invisible to them, safe in your cozy little caricature of heterosexuality unless you decide to inform them. Not all of us have that option."
"Okay, yeah, Lima sucks sometimes," Dave admits, "but it's not all bad. I visited a lot of colleges around here over the summer and most of them had a Gay-Straight Alliance and they were really--"
"They were really what, Karofsky?" Kurt snaps. "Good at changing the minds of small-town bigots? Ensuring that you get equal treatment at a hardware store or that a waitress doesn't refuse to serve you?" He cuts himself off and stares at the floor. "This was a mistake. I shouldn't have come here," he says finally.
"So why did you?" Dave can't help but ask.
Kurt surveys him coolly. "I was looking for something specific," he says shortly. "I didn't find it."
He stalks across Dave's room and yanks the door open viciously before pausing in the doorway. "Let's handle this mistake better than our last one, Karofsky," he says brusquely, turning around to face him. "I tell you now that I'm not going to tell anyone, and in return you agree to stay the hell away from me at McKinley.” He levels Dave a cold look, eyes hard as diamonds. “That work for you?"
"Yeah," Dave agrees tonelessly, unable to muster up protest. "Works great."
Kurt's lips pinch at his words and for a moment Dave thinks he's going to say something more. Instead, though, Kurt just jerks his head in a short nod and then whirls into the hallway. Dave hears his footsteps heading down the stairs and a minute later there's the sound of an engine starting in the driveway.
Dave sits numbly on the edge of his bed and stares at the floor blankly for a few long seconds before putting his head in his hands. Something specific. Shouldn't have come here. Stay away from me. The scathing words echo like an angry chorus through Dave's head and he presses the heels of his hands into his eyes just to stop them from stinging. Well, if what Kurt had wanted was Dave's complete humiliation, he thinks dully, he had most certainly walked away with that.
Dave retrieves his shirt from where he'd torn it off earlier in the evening and pulls it awkwardly back on. He heads listlessly downstairs to the kitchen to check for leftovers and finds a Post-it note with a smiley face from his mom on some hamburger lasagna in the fridge. It's not his favorite meal but he reheats it anyway, desperate for something to take away the cold feeling currently sitting in the pit of his stomach.
His parents end up not showing up until around ten that night. Apparently, there had been some interesting guests at the party and they all went out for drinks together afterward. His mom seems just this side of tipsy and giggles a little as she leans in to kiss Dave goodnight on her way up the stairs.
"Did you see the lasagna I left you?" she asks and waits until he gives her a nod. "Good, I'd hate to think you went hungry," she teases, patting his belly fondly. She gives him another kiss on the cheek and then heads upstairs.
His father isn't tipsy like his mom, but Dave can tell by way he seems even more mellow than usual that he's had one or two drinks himself. Unfortunately, this doesn't translate to a corresponding decrease in his perceptive abilities. "David, are you okay?" he asks softly, hanging up his coat. "You look upset."
Dave goes to make something up, give his dad something trivial like he always does, but the easy words get stuck somehow in his throat. Instead what tumbles out of his mouth is "Dad, can I talk to you?"
His dad looks surprised. "Of course." He gestures toward the couch. "Sit down."
"That always makes me feel like one of your clients," Dave blurts out and winces at his own honesty.
"All right," agrees his father easily, seeming unperturbed. He clasps his hands together in front of his chest and gives his full attention to Dave. "What's on your mind?"
Dave swallows. "There's something I want to tell you," he says hoarsely and hesitates. He hasn't really thought this through and he doesn't know how his dad's going to react, but somehow Dave just knows that this, right here, is the moment to tell his father.
"I know I haven't always made you proud," he starts, trying to ease into it. "And that's my fault because I've done some pretty stupid things, but-- but I feel like I've been doing better about those things and part of the reason for that is I stopped being so afraid of how other people saw me and what they might think and--"
Dave's really starting to wish now that he had planned this out beforehand, because he's pretty sure he sounds like a freaking idiot. "But I still care about what you think,” he plows on, “because you're really important to me and that's why it's been so hard for me to say anything because I didn't want you to be disappointed in me again even though I really wanted to tell you and I was planning on waiting until college but I don't think I can now and I--"
Dave gives up. "I'm gay, Dad," he says in a rush.
There's a pause. Then his father says, gently, "I know, David."
Dave's pulse is racing a mile a minute so it takes a moment for him to process his dad's words over the rush of blood in his ears. "What?" he manages at last.
"I first suspected after the meeting regarding your expulsion," his dad explains softly, "when you looked almost as scared as Kurt to be sitting in that room. I couldn't think of anything else that might be making you look at him as terrified as he was looking at you.” He pauses. “But it was when two hundred extra miles suddenly appeared on the Corolla overnight that I knew." He fixes compassionate eyes on Dave. "You went to see Kurt down at Dalton, didn't you? That's why he transferred back."
"Yeah," croaks Dave, unable to process the idea that all this time his father had known.
His dad claps a hand on Dave's shoulder. "I'm not always proud of the things that you've done, but I am always proud of you, David. I'm sorry if I've ever made you doubt that. Who you love doesn't make any difference to me, and it never will. Now come here." He pulls Dave carefully into a hug.
Dave clutches at his father in a way that he hasn't since he started middle school and found out that such things were for sissies. He still has a question, though. "Does mom know?" he whispers.
His father chuckles. "She was the one who noticed the mileage when she borrowed your car."
"Oh," says Dave.
"She's still adjusting to the idea," his dad says, pulling back, "but don't doubt that she loves you just as much, David. Give her time. Whoever you decide to be outside this house, know that we both want you to feel that you can be yourself inside our home."
Dave laughs a little despite himself. "Yeah, I wasn't exactly planning on coming out at McKinley any time soon," he says.
"And that's fine," his father replies. "Just know that your mother and I will support you in whatever decision you make." He gives Dave's shoulder a final squeeze and lets his arm drop to his side. "Now is there anything else you wanted to tell me?"
"No, I think I'm good, Dad," Dave says honestly.
His father nods. "Then I'll be joining your mother. Goodnight, David." He pauses on the stairs. "Thank you for telling me."
"Night, Dad," Dave replies.
He briefly considers following his dad upstairs, even going so far as to place his right foot on the step, but then Dave remembers how his bed will still be messed up and probably smelling from earlier yet too. A sick wave of shame rolls through his gut and Dave opts instead to sleep downstairs on the couch.
He's wakened in the morning by the noise of some pans clattering in the kitchen. It's most likely his mom and she's trying to be quiet, but Dave honestly wasn't sleeping all that deeply anyway. He gets up and pads into the kitchen on bare feet, sitting down at the table with a yawn.
His mom turns around at the sound. "Oh, sweetie, I didn't mean to wake you. I'm sorry." She waves the frying pan. "I was thinking about making pancakes. Would you like some?"
Dave shrugs. "Sure."
There's a soft, comfortable silence as she mixes batter and oils the pan. Dave closes his eyes and leans back to enjoy the early morning sunshine while he waits. When his mom slides the first plate of golden, fluffy pancakes across to him, Dave accepts them wordlessly and gets up to get the syrup out of the fridge.
It's not until his mom sits down with her own plate of pancakes across from him and starts eating in easy silence that it occurs to Dave there's maybe a question he ought to be asking.
"Mom," he says carefully, just in case he's mistaken. "Did Dad talk to you last night? About me?"
His mom pauses for a moment and then carefully and deliberately lays down her fork. "Yes, David," she says quietly. "He did."
Dave's grip tightens on his own fork like a lifeline. "And?"
His mother sighs. "What do you expect me to say, David?" She smiles at him, a little sadly. "You're my son. I can't just choose to stop loving you." She waves a hand distractedly. “Is this something I would have chosen for you? No, and if I'm perfectly honest, it's not really something I understand either. But you are my son, and nothing you say or do can change that."
The pressure in Dave's chest eases gradually at her last words. "Thanks, Mom," he mutters.
"I'm your mom, you never need to thank me," she says primly, "except for making you delicious pancakes. Could you pass the syrup?"
Dave raises an eyebrow. His mom hasn't used syrup since Ms. Fabray commented on her "thunder thighs" four years ago.
"Today is a special occasion," his mom defends. "I'll go back to my diet tomorrow."
Dave says nothing but passes her the syrup with a smile.
Originally, Dave had planned to use this weekend to review the pros and cons of each of his colleges and maybe make a decision. The spring signing for National Letters of Intent, after all, is only a couple of weeks away. He's got to pin this down. The second Dave looks at Boston, however, Kurt's parting words start ringing through his head. Let's handle this mistake better than our last one, Karofsky. After his few feeble attempts to start a pros list for Boston yields such items as “something specific” and “condom in back pocket” Dave gives up on writing any of the lists and spends all weekend thinking about Kurt and their inexplicable hookup instead.
In hindsight, the story is simple. Kurt had been upset over Boston, enough so that he had started seeking a target for his frustration. Dave, unfortunately, had chosen that moment to wander by and thus became the designated scapegoat. Dave scowls. The more he thinks about it, the more he slides from feeling humiliated to infuriated. What right did Kurt have to waltz back into Dave's life and screw it up like he'd never left? Where did he get off saying he hadn't gotten what he'd come for when he'd fallen asleep with Dave in Dave's own damn bed?
And what was with that look he'd worn during, the one where his eyes had been so soft and so scared?
By the time Monday rolls around, Dave’s ready to ambush Kurt just to get some answers. He hesitates briefly at the thought of breaking the promise he made, but then decides screw it. Kurt only asked that after he sucker-punched Dave anyway. He deserves a freaking ambush.
Of course, Dave's plan is entirely dependent on being able to find Kurt. To Dave's actual physical horror, Monday proves to be like junior year all over again. Kurt changes all his usual patterns so that he's not in any of places he commonly frequents and the one time that Dave manages to catch a glimpse of him, Kurt literally turns around and walks the opposite way.
Dave sends him a text that night in pure frustration. This is stupid. We need to talk.
Kurt's reply comes ten minutes later. How did you get this number?
Dave rolls his eyes, types back. You called me back in the fall, remember? Idiot
It's another ten minutes before he receives a response. We have nothing to talk about. Text me again and I’ll go to Sylvester.
Dave swears and then does what he told himself he wouldn't do. He hits dial on his phone and listens in growing annoyance as it obnoxiously rings six times before going to voicemail. Hi, this is Kurt Hummel. I’m unavailable at the moment, so if you haven’t reached me in some kind of fine motor skills error, leave me a message and I’ll give you a call back. There's a beep and Dave pauses, trying to think of something simple and non-inflammatory to say. He exhales loudly when he realizes that Kurt isn't any more likely to listen to a voicemail message than a text and ultimately hangs up without saying anything.
Instead, Dave redoubles his efforts to find Kurt at school, taking full advantage of every break and checking all the alternate hallways. It's around fifth period that he finally lucks out. Kurt’s walking with Mercedes at the other end of the hall and her presence obviously makes him reluctant to just stop and turn around. Dave thanks Mercedes in his head, doesn’t waste any time, and walks up to them quickly.
"Hey Mercedes," he says first, giving her a polite smile and receiving a disbelieving look in return. Dave switches focus to Kurt. "Kurt. Can we talk?"
The line of Kurt's mouth tightens. "Sorry, I've got class."
"Skip it," says Dave automatically, forgetting who he’s talking to.
Kurt scowls fiercely. "Those of us without full athletic scholarships actually have to worry about our grades, Karofsky," he says nastily. "We can't all be brainless puckheads." He pushes past Dave roughly. "Come on, Mercedes."
Mercedes follows, but not without shooting Dave a curious look over her shoulder.
She's waiting for him by his locker after school. "We eat first lunch on the right-hand side of the cafeteria," she says without preamble when he approaches, before Dave even has a chance to ask why she's there.
Dave gapes at her. "What?"
"My boy Kurt hates making a scene. Well, off the stage anyway," she amends. "If you want to talk to him, then that's your time."
"Why are you helping me?" he asks slowly.
Mercedes fixes him with a glare. "Ten days ago Kurt was willing to come with me to a church that I found that actually approves of gay people. No pressure on him to believe, I just wanted him to see that not all churches are as backward as he makes them out to be. Now something’s happened and he's being all closed off and refusing to come. It seems pretty obvious that something has to do with you. So whatever happened," she glowers, "you fix it." Her unspoken "or else" hangs in the air.
"Right-hand side?" Dave says finally.
"Right-hand side," Mercedes nods. She looks at him piercingly for a long moment and then walks off.
Dave is nervous as hell entering the cafeteria the next day. He's skipping calculus to attend this lunch and it's suddenly occurred to him that he's been gunning for this confrontation more or less on impulse. Dave isn't actually sure what he wants to say to Kurt, even less sure what he’d like to say in the middle of the cafeteria. His palms are sweaty and now that Dave thinks about it the whole confrontation idea sounds more and more like a recipe for disaster, like playing all the highlights of their junior year on some kind of sick repeat. He thinks about ducking out then, but Mercedes catches sight of him from across the cafeteria and impatiently calls him over with a wave of her hand.
Dave takes a deep breath, squares his shoulders, and walks over. “Hey, Kurt,” he says quietly as he sits down.
Kurt stares at Dave in confusion for a few seconds, like his mind simply can’t comprehend how Dave has come to be here. Then the answer dawns on him and he shoots Mercedes an outraged look of betrayal. Mercedes returns it with a look of her own –- Dave thinks it might be the facial equivalent of "bitch, please" –- and goes comfortably back to her tots.
Dave chooses his words carefully. "I'm sorry to do this in public," he says first, because it's true, "but you won't talk to me otherwise and I think I deserve some answers."
"Like hell I owe you anything, Karofsky," Kurt hisses, but he doesn't get up and leave.
"Last Friday," Dave continues determinedly, "you were upset about Boston. You knew I was looking at Boston too. Is that why you picked me?"
Kurt’s look shifts from furious to uncomfortable. His eyes flicker to Mercedes and yeah, Dave wishes they weren't having this conversation in front of her. She’s doing her best to pretend she’s not listening, though, and it's hardly Dave's fault anyway when Kurt's the one who refused to talk in private or pick up the phone.
Kurt licks his lips. "I told you. It was a mistake.”
"Yeah," Dave says. "Mind telling me why?"
Kurt bristles. "I think you know why," he snaps.
"Tell me anyway," Dave counters.
Kurt flips from playing defense to offense in a flash. "Really, Karofsky?" he drawls, just this side of suggestive. He raises his eyebrows delicately. "You want to talk about Boston here?"
"Yeah," says Dave stubbornly, refusing to take the bait. "Tell me what's wrong with Ohio."
"You threw me into lockers and ruined my clothes for years,” Kurt says incredulously, “and you have to ask what's wrong with Ohio?"
"You notice I haven't done any of that since you left?" Dave returns. He leans in closer. "It ever occur to you that I might have changed?"
Kurt meets his gaze coolly. “I’ll believe it when I see it,” he says, pushing away from the table and grabbing his things. “We’ll talk later, Mercedes,” he says as he leaves.
Dave has had enough of this. “You ever get tired of playing the victim, Kurt?” he calls loudly, standing up and following him through the tables. Conversation in the immediate vicinity grinds to a halt as a number of people pause in their lunchtime gossip to stare. Dave does his best to ignore them. “Does it make you feel better than the rest of us when you pretend you’re a martyr?” he taunts.
Kurt whirls around. “I don’t have to justify myself to the likes of you, Karofsky,” he says, teeth clenched.
Mercedes was wrong, Dave thinks, dead wrong. Confronting Kurt in the cafeteria is quite possibly the worst decision that Dave could have made. Neither of them has ever been able to keep their head around the other, not junior year and not now either, and Dave has a feeling this is about to go very wrong, very fast. The words keep coming anyway.
“You don’t have to," Dave scoffs. "I can tell you right now you’re a coward. You ran away to Dalton, and, okay, that was justified because I was a freaking screw-up who made you feel unsafe. But this, right here?" He gestures vaguely. “Pretending you don’t have options just because you can’t attend your fancy private school out-of-state?” He points a finger at Kurt. “That’s you being too narrow-minded to give anyone else in this state a chance, and that’s not really any better than when I used to shove you into lockers.”
Kurt’s gaze doesn’t waver. "Screw you, Karofsky," he says savagely, eyes hard with rage and looking just as self-righteous as he had that day in the locker room.
And for the first time in Dave's life, he just doesn't care. "Already been there," he says flatly, "haven't we?"
The silence in the cafeteria is heavy enough to hear a pin drop.
Kurt stares at him with wide eyes and Dave looks levelly back. After a few moments, when no one in the cafeteria has said a word and it becomes clear that Kurt's not going to either, Dave gives him a jerk of his head and walks out, head resolutely held high.
And okay, maybe his knees do quake a little once he's out of sight and maybe Dave has to stop just to take a few quick breaths as all of his old fears start rushing back. The game is well and truly up this time, no chance of denial anymore. The whole school knows, or will inside an hour. Dave is never going to enter the locker room without being the recipient of a dozen sidewise looks ever again. Yet Dave has trouble caring about that as much as he thinks he should. It’s just, well, what’s the point? After all, Dave's going to college, he's getting out of Lima, and in six weeks he won't have to care what any of the people in this school think ever again. It seems like a waste of time to care now.
Dave slides into calculus with a tardy slip and is met with curious glances from Mr. Barlow and no fewer than a half-dozen students. Some of them immediately begin texting furiously with their phones under their desks and Dave has no doubt that they're sending updates on his status to their still lunching friends. He ignores them all and pulls out his notebook to start following the problem on the board.
The rest of the day is like that. Whispers and sidelong glances follow Dave wherever he goes, both in class and in the halls. Dave does his best to pretend that the whispers don't exist and defiantly goes about his routine like normal. "So this is what it's like to be Hummel," he considers idly at one point before squashing the thought viciously.
The first real divergence of the day happens after school lets out. Dave goes to empty his gym locker as a preemptive measure against vandalism and runs into none other than Puckerman in the locker room.
He's leaning against the opposite row of lockers when Dave walks in. Dave’s not sure how Puckerman knew he would be there, but from the way that he surveys Dave critically it’s pretty obvious that he was waiting. Puckerman’s expression reads like he's not sure whether or not he likes what he sees and Dave determinedly ignores him as he goes to pull out his equipment. He’s almost finished when Puckerman speaks.
"You really a fairy?" he asks bluntly.
Dave closes his locker door carefully. "Hummel let you call him that?"
"Nah, I call him Princess Peach," he deadpans. Puckerman leans forward and stalks toward Dave. "Seriously, Karofsky? You picked the middle of the cafeteria?"
Dave's not sure whether he's referring to Dave's coming out or shouting at Kurt. "Mercedes' idea," he replies, either way.
"Girl always did have spunk," says Puckerman admirably, then wraps a fist in Dave’s shirt. "You hurt him and I will cut you," he threatens with a low growl.
"What makes you think I want anything to do with Hummel?" says Dave, shoving his hand off irritably.
Puckerman smirks. "Not all of us are as oblivious as Kurt. Tell your friend Azimio that for someone in creative writing, he’s slightly lacking in the creativity department. I figured out what he was doing three weeks in.” He raises his hands, palms out, and backs off. “Keep up your rep, dude," Dave hears him call cheerfully as the door to the locker room slams.
Dave gets his equipment into the car without further incident and drives home. His mother gives him a strained smile from the kitchen table when he walks in. "Exciting day at school, sweetheart?" she asks wryly.
Dave notices abruptly that their landline has been disconnected. "I'm guessing you've already heard about it," he winces.
"Started ringing off the hook around two," she agrees. "I decided to just unplug it after the fourth expression of condolences."
Dave winces again. "I'm sorry, Mom. I know those mothers in the social club are your friends."
"Oh, they're a bunch of harpies, David," his mother sighs. "I'm well rid of them. I only ever joined in the first place to keep from being bored." She makes a face. "I should have realized sooner that the club is just like a second run of high school for these people: same rules, same faces, same ridiculous standards of behavior and overly petty cliques.” She snorts. ”It's time I admitted that kind of behavior is best left in high school."
"What are you going to do now?" asks Dave.
"I think I might take up gardening," she says decisively. "I’ve always wanted to, just never had the time. I’ll have to get some books out of the library first, but I don’t think it’s too late to start one this year. Or, I suppose, I could always talk to Mrs. Hummel," she adds. She raises eyebrows at Dave fondly. "Really, David? Kurt?"
Dave laughs despite himself. "Yeah, Mom," he admits. "Kurt."
"Hmm." There's a pause. "He does have nice bone structure," she says thoughtfully.
His mom shrugs. "Just trying to see things from your perspective."
Dave has no idea how to respond to this. He thinks about it, opens and closes his mouth a few times to ask for clarification, but ultimately goes with his first instinct. "Let's make this the last time we talk about boys together ever again," he says.
"Oh, thank goodness," says his mom with relief. "I wasn't sure if there was a gay mother-son bonding moment I was supposed to be starting there." She's got a mischievous grin on her face, though, and Dave can't help it when he smiles back.
"Thanks, Mom," he says quietly.
She waves her hand. "Save it for pancakes, kid."
Dave’s father has heard the news too by the time he comes home, which is frustrating but not actually unexpected. Dave takes a moment to wonder if people in Lima are seriously that starved for excitement, before deciding he’d really rather not know.
"I thought you said you were waiting for college, David?" is all that his dad inquires as he carefully shucks off his penny loafers by the door.
"It kind of just slipped out," Dave admits.
His father nods. "That's actually very good. It means you're becoming more comfortable in your identity and don’t feel as big of a need to hide." He gives Dave a quick hug. "I'm proud of you, and no matter what anyone else says you are no less my son."
Dave holds on a little tighter and tries guiltily not to think of the gutted look on Kurt’s face in the cafeteria.