"So what's this we've heard about you being the school's new resident fag?"

Closing his eyes and taking a deep breath, Dave shut his gym locker carefully, trying to keep his emotions in check as he turned around to face some of the jerkier guys from the baseball team. He recognized most of them, but there one or two he'd never seen before. "What?" was all he could offer up, because he already knew that if he let his mouth run just a little bit more, it would've gotten him into more trouble than that.

The one who'd addressed him originally - Dave was pretty sure his name was Jack - grinned widely, elbowing the redhead next to him. "He's playing cute. Ain't that a laugh." With a chorus of laughs resonating behind him, Jack stepped forward, the smile slowly slipping from his mouth. "See, what I've heard is that you joined the Glee Club, Karofsky. And, what other excuse is there for wanting to dance around in leotards all day long? Plus, you've got that little weird friend you're always hanging around..."

Dave grimaced at the mention of Blaine, and somewhere in the pit of his stomach he realizes that Jack has a point. Not that because Blaine and he are friends that it proves he's gay, but just that - well, he could see why it might look suspicious.

"Leave him out of this..." Dave muttered, suddenly not feeling as up to finishing this discussion. And as soon as he let the words fall from his mouth, he knew he was caught.

"Ooooohhh. Looks like we hit a nerve. What's the matter, Karofsky? Thought no one noticed that the two of you were best buds now? How after that fucking fairy Hummel dumped his ass, he was suddenly clinging to you like dryer lint? And you liked it."

It wasn't until he could taste the familiar coppery taste of blood in his mouth that Dave realized he was biting down on his tongue, so hard that it drew blood. All of it was true, and if he tried to deny it, he'd just look like an idiot. Yeah, Kurt had dumped Blaine not long after Blaine transferred to McKinley, clearly still blindly in love with everything he could never have. And, then and there, Blaine suddenly found himself an outsider in the in his old group of friends and without any others.

So he turned to the only other person he knew.

At first, Dave wasn't exactly thrilled by it - but after a while, it just seemed to work out. They had a lot more in common that Dave had expected; at least, more than being rejected by Hummel. Blaine wasn't like Hummel, either. He liked real music, not only that Broadway stuff. And he could tell you the names of the people on his fantasy football team.

So yeah, the friendship between Dave and Blaine, it was weird and awkward at first, but it - it just worked. Dave had never really been someone who had been good with being himself around people, and for the first time, it felt like it was okay to do so.

"Like I said. Leave him out of this. What does it even matter?" Dave snorted, hoping none of them would catch the way his voice suddenly cracked on the last part.

The redhead that was standing at the front opened his mouth to say something, but promptly stopped, a smiling lighting up his face as he caught sight of something over Dave's shoulder. "Well well well..." he whispered.

"There you are. I was wondering what was up..." Blaine started, the smile on his face so bright and big, eyes sparkling like something Dave had never seen before. It left Dave's stomach's dropping, and a fierce sense of protectiveness instilled in him, as he suddenly wanted to take Blaine away from all this and keep the smile as bright as possible forever.

The words died on Blaine's lips as soon as he found himself face-to-face with the baseball team. "Oh. I didn't know you were..." Dave looked at him carefully, noticing how immediately he had changed at the sight of the team, how his shoulders drooped and he was finding everything in the room more interesting to look at except Dave or the other guys.

He was about to ask what gave when the redhead piped up. "If it isn't little Blainey boy. Blainey Jane. Fuck, things really never change, do they, Anderson?"

Dave's words died in his throat, and suddenly feeling sick to his stomach, he turned slowly to face Blaine, who was much paler than he was when he walked in here. "You know him?" was all he could get out in the croak of a voice he had.

Blaine started to answer, but Redhead interrupted. "Oh, we go way back, isn't that right, Blaine, baby?" The team around him started to laugh. From the tone of his voice, Dave already knew what was going on.

"Remember those bullies I told you about? The ones that forced me to go to Dalton? I guess one of them transferred here..." Blaine mumbled, finally dragging his eyes up to meet the redhead's..

The redhead laughs darkly, and takes a step in Blaine's direction, cutting the space between them in half. He's not sure why, or what even causes him to do so, but Dave steps in between them, immediately putting himself in front of Blaine and cursing himself for telling Blaine that they should do something after school because he should've known something bad was going to happen. He should've known.

"Aw, don't make our relationship sound so negative, Blainey-boo. We used to be friends. You must've enjoyed some part of it all." Redhead is grinning now, but it doesn't look like a grin, more like a menacing sneer.

Blaine's frowning, his forehead wrinkled and eyes no longer sparkling, instead, clouded over with hazy emotions. "Which part did you want me to enjoy, Liam? When you used to send mass text messages to my phone telling me that no one actually gave a shit about me? When you spread the rumour that I was having sex with the school's gym teacher to get better grades? Or when you and your friends beat me up? Or what about-"

Dave was speechless.

He had never known - never even considered that something like that could possibly be lurking underneath the surface of the happiest kid he knew. Hell, he was almost positive he'd screwed up Hummel for life, but he'd at least apologized and they'd made a consistent effort to try to be civil to one another. Blaine and this kid - Liam or whatever - they were nothing like Dave and Kurt. Blaine still hated Liam, and Liam still thought he had done nothing wrong.

It was strange, because as Dave looked over at Blaine, who was beginning to look more like himself and less like the sad puppy who had just been behind him less than five minutes ago, Dave was starting to think that maybe this was ending and the two of them would get out of this unscathed. And as he looked back at Liam, who was practically growling by now, glaring at Blaine, he knew that Blaine's words had hit him. Hard.

Past experience helps in this instance.

And as Dave was about to grab his backpack with one hand and Blaine with other, pulling him away from what seemed to be the unfolding of the championship of Who-Can-Stare-Each-Other-Down, everything just fell into chaos. Liam hissed darkly "You little shit."

And then, right as Dave was about to tell him where he could shove it, the guy's got his arms on Dave, pushing him out of the way and punching Blaine in his bright, always smiling, sunny face.

Dave just stood there for a second, watching as Blaine stumbled backward and smashed his head into the corner of the row of lockers, before sliding down and just sitting on the floor of the locker room in a little crumpled heap, holding his head in his hands. And, oh god, is this what panicking feels like because Dave sure that's what's happening to him, and he doesn't even know if he's conscious and all he can think about is throwing Blaine over his shoulder and carrying him away from it all. A little unruly, yes, but extremely effective.

But as his fist collides with Liam's face in what feels like an hour after Liam punched Blaine but what really could've only been about five seconds, Dave blocks everything else out - blocks out the yells of the teammates and the yelling inside his head telling him to stop and the horrible feeling of breaking flesh under his knuckle - and simply focuses on the simple word being repeated over and over in his head clearer than everything else.

Blaine.

Minutes pass, and Dave is vaguely aware that by now Liam is yelling louder than before, but he can't stop. He can't, he can't stop, because he knows that nothing that he doesn't to this guy will ever make up for what he did to Blaine.

And yet, as Dave raises his fist again, a soft hand wraps around it, holding onto it tightly, and he already knows. The hand refuses to let go, and Dave swallows thickly, taking a deep breath as the fog surrounding him begins to lift, and he finally can see everythnig clearly. Liam on the ground, panting and his face a bloody mess. The rest of the baseball team has left, save for one or two hanging back clearly to make sure that Dave didn't murder Liam.

And as Dave stands up, Blaine's hand still tightly gripping his and pulling him out of the locker room silently, he doesn't care. Because in the back of his mind, he knows that it wasn't nearly enough.


They're in the empty choir room, and Blaine's silently wrapping what looks like a pretty expensive scarf around Dave's battered knuckles. Strangely, if he didn't feel the fabric around his bruised skin, he wouldn't have even known that Blaine was doing anything, because he was only focused the darkening bruise encircling Blaine's eye, scattering off into crisscrossing red marks on the side of his face.

It's not until he feels both of Blaine's hand encircle his own that he realizes Blaine's watching him intently, hands simply resting on the scarf that held onto Dave's swollen hand. Dave swallowed thickly, already taking in the dark sense of pain looming behind Blaine's eyes. Strange enough, though, with the way he was looking at Dave, with the way he was holding onto his hand and was crouching down in front of him... Dave somehow felt that maybe everything that Blaine was feeling wasn't simply pain.

Dave cleared his throat, wondering when it became so tense in the room. Yet even as he tries to take the attention off of the two of them, and distract himself from the two of them, he still can't distract himself from the ugly bruise on Blaine's face - from the harsh cuts on the side of his forehead.

And before he can even realize what he's doing, Dave's reaching out with his good hand; tentatively, shakingly, nervously reaching out like if there was some way he could just touch Blaine's black eye and take all the pain away, - god, if only that was the way it worked because he would, he would in an instant. The hand flinches, right above the side of Blaine's face, and he can already feel himself breaking inside. Blaine's watching him with terrified eyes, his lips parted ever so slightly in a way that Dave can't tell if he's going to say something or let out a sob.

When he brushes his fingers ever so gently against the cuts, he can hear Blaine's breath hitch, eyes going wide. Nothing's been said between them, and yet nothing's needed to be said. He just keeps the fingers their for a moment or two, his eyes unwavering as on Blaine.

"Why?" was all Blaine could manage to get out before his voice shattered, his face crumpling.

Dave only cocked an eyebrow, confused beyond all means by the insinuation because if Blaine was asking why Dave did what he just did, then Blaine really didn't know his at all. They were friends, after all. At least, that's what Dave had thought all this time. And if Dave had understood all the long speeches Schuester had given to the club, it was that friendship meant more than anything. Or something like that.

So why wouldn't Dave do what he did?

Unless...

Unless Blaine really thought he was that screwed up that he didn't deserve to be helped.

Dave sighed, frowning, running a thumb gently over an unbroken part of Blaine's skin. "Because. Why not?"

Blaine's face shut down again, eyes shutting painfully as he let himself fall into the comforting touch of Dave's open hand. As Dave felt the wetness against his palm, he felt his heart stutter in his chest, because all he wanted back was the smile that rivaled the brightness of the sun at this point.

"Stop," he whispered softly, sliding to his knees from the chair he was previously sitting in, so he was face to face with Blaine. As his knees hit the floor, brushing against Blaine's, Blaine sniffed but still wouldn't look up. "Please," Dave pleaded.

Slowly, carefully, Blaine opened his eyes, peering up at Dave with blank eyes. And even though he had stopped crying and the tears had stopped falling, the hurt was still there, lurking beneath the long, dark lashes. By now, Dave would've given anything to see that destroyed and put the light back into Blaine's eyes.

So he did the only thing he could think of. With the hand that was cupping Blaine's face, he brought him closer until their lips met. It wasn't exactly well thought out on his part, but it's not like it was the first time this had cross his mind, either.

Blaine stiffened, making a noise that didn't sound too much like disagreement before he melted into the kiss - warmth and lips and brightness and just Blaine.

When Dave finally pulled back from the kiss, Blaine was looking at him, a half-smile on his face and a dim sparkle in his eyes. It wasn't perfect, but it was getting there and it was enough to bring a smile onto Dave's face.

"That's why," Dave said softly, running a few of his fingers through Blaine's wayward curls.

That was always why.