Jeff's given himself twenty four hours to get everything done before he goes. But the one thing he can't seem to find the courage to do is tell Nick how he feels.

Niff. Tiny little mention of Klaine. Unbeta-ed. Angst, triggers (?) Features depression and suicidal thoughts/actions, some eating issues/disorder. Rated M for that and for a few mentions of the F-word. Semi-based on my own life, though intensified and mixed up a little.


PART ONE

TWENTY FOUR HOURS

Twenty four hours was long enough. It was going to have to be. He didn't want to drag it out any longer than he had to, but he wanted to give himself enough time to get everything done. A day seemed like a good measurement. Not exactly arbitrary – twenty four hours from now would be midnight. Everyone would be asleep by then and there would be no one to stop him. No one to tell him that what he was doing was wrong and that there was always another way. He didn't want to hear it. He'd heard it so many times before that the words had just lost their meaning. He'd tried it their way. He'd tried the 'other way'. And it just made him feel worse than he already did. It made him feel like he was high and too happy. The world was a little hazy when he tried it their way and he didn't remember much. No, he'd had enough of that. He was going to do it his way this time. And no one was going to stop him.

Jeff grabbed his laptop, unable to sleep. With only a day to get everything done, he figured he should get a head-start on some of what needed to be completed. Leaning back in bed, waiting for his laptop to turn on and start up, he glanced across the room. His roommate, Nick, was still asleep, having all but passed out at about eight that night. Dalton certainly got to you. With so much school work and homework to contend with, it was a wonder that any of the boys had any semblance of a social life. Jeff didn't really have one. He had 'friends', but he only really talked to them during school hours. After that, he holed himself up in his dorm to work. Everyone knew that he wasn't as social as the rest of them, and let him be. Nick, however, had a life to be jealous of – and Jeff was. Nick had so many friends throughout Dalton, from the regular students to the Warblers and beyond the school itself. Despite the masses of homework he got, he managed to get it done to a high standard and still find time to go out on the weekends with some of his many friends. Sometimes he would go out partying, come back to the dorm drunk. Jeff was honestly jealous sometimes, but at the moment he wasn't. He didn't really care. Right now, he didn't see the point in being jealous. He wasn't going to be around for much longer so what was the point in wishing for something he could never have had anyway?

Finally his laptop was ready and he set to work. It took less time than he thought – within an hour he'd deleted his Facebook, email accounts and all the other sites he was a part of. As he deleted the last one, agreeing to the 'Are You Sure' message that popped up, Jeff sighed. That was everything. He turned his computer off, waiting as it powered down before closing it and putting it back on his desk. He glanced over at Nick again, chewing on his lip. He'd have to sort that out too. But he'd save that for later. He had other important things to do first. Right now though, he was tired – a cold, dead sort of tired that made him want to just sleep forever. He couldn't yet though, so he settled for the next few hours until he would have to wake and go to school. He rested his head on the pillow, pulling the blankets up and staring at the opposite wall in deep thought.

He wondered how they would all take it. He figured they wouldn't really care so much. Well, maybe some would miss him a little. Nick might. He might just be annoyed that he had to deal with a new roommate. Who knew? Nick and Jeff were the simplest definition of friends. They talked a little, sang together in the Warblers, but they didn't really hang out much. Jeff didn't know many of Nick's friends – just the Warblers. They didn't talk about their weekends because it was always the same - Nick had gone out, Jeff stayed back at Dalton or at home. But that wasn't the point. The point was, he and Nick were friends in the most basic of senses. It didn't stop Jeff from wanting everything more than that. But it would never happen. After all, Jeff was gay. Just one reason why he felt so insecure about himself, among the ugly and fat taunts that continually raced through his subconscious, pushing him harder and harder into getting rid of them. And Nick was straight. He went out with girls, he kissed girls, he slept with girls. Straight as a ruler. Nick wasn't gay. He wasn't even bi. He didn't look at Jeff the way Jeff looked at him. Why would he? Even if he was gay, Nick wouldn't look at Jeff like that. No one else did. Jeff knew it was because he didn't look good enough. His hair wouldn't do what he told it to, his eyes weren't quite right, his face was almost always covered in pimples, his mouth was too big, he couldn't talk properly – most of which he couldn't change. And then there was the fact that no matter how hard he tried, he couldn't shift the fat that clung to his stomach and hips. If he wasn't locked in his dorm room, he'd be working out in the Dalton gym, dancing or doing anything to get it to disappear. But it wouldn't. And it hurt him to know that there was nothing he could do that would ever get someone to notice him. Especially Nick. All he wanted was for Nick to notice him for once. Sure, sometimes Nick would smile at him in a way that made Jeff's knees go weak and his heart would race, and sometimes he would say things that made Jeff wonder. He would think Nick was flirting. But then he would shut all that down, not let the thought grow anymore. Because Nick was straight. And he would never flirt with him. Why would he?

Jeff sighed and closed his eyes, trying to push the thoughts out of his head so he could sleep. They refused to back down though, and he was subjected to another hour of his mind tormenting him further with tentative imaginings (fantasies) of him and Nick together. He was allowed to do that, wasn't he? Pretend that he wasn't so awful-looking and that Nick was gay and something might happen? He knew it would make the pain worse the more he let himself get away with thinking like that, so he did his best to shut everything down and go to sleep.

But even in sleep, he was plagued with the dreams.

SEVENTEEN HOURS

Waking up that morning, Jeff's first thoughts were shot back to his twenty four hour plan. Looking at the clock, he calculated that he had seventeen hours left. Seventeen hours to finish up everything that he had to do. And now that he really thought about it, he realised there wasn't that much to do. A few people he had to talk to, some things to give back, final pieces of work he had to hand in as part of his school routine. There wasn't really anything special. Unless he counted Nick… now that might take a while to psych himself up. A long time. If he even could. Good thing he'd given himself this much time.

As he got ready for school, he couldn't help but shoot a glance at Nick. The boy was in the bathroom, the door ajar so Jeff could see him clearly. He was brushing his hair back, frowning and mumbling something under his breath as he tried one way, then the other, before reverting back to the first and leaving it. He caught Jeff watching him in the mirror and the blonde jumped as he saw Nick's reflection smiling at him. He managed a small smile in return out of surprise before hurriedly turning away and fixing his tie. He was waiting a bit longer before he even thought about trying to talk to him. Usually talking was awkward between them – Jeff didn't know why Nick kept trying. His shyness kept interfering and his growing crush certainly didn't help any interaction between them. Not that Nick knew anything about that. Not yet.

They headed down to breakfast together, Jeff not able to think up an excuse not to fast enough before Nick had grabbed his arm and was dragging him down the hall, chattering on about the party he was going to tonight, being a Friday. Jeff nodded when he was supposed to, saying nothing and listening intently, wishing not for the first time that he could go. But really, who would want him there? If it had been a Warblers' party he might have gone, but then he would have just sat in the corner and pretended to have fun and engage with others. He probably wouldn't have even gotten drunk – who knew how embarrassing that would be? But he did know that a few drinks could give him a buzz that was better than any hazy feeling he got from the little pills he was supposed to be taking. It took the edge off, made him feel like he could do anything. He was going to need it tonight.

When they reached the Warbler's table for breakfast, he sat at the far end, away from most of the others. Nick eased right into the conversation at hand – the Warblers' party that was going down Saturday night to celebrate Thad's eighteenth. Nick would be going, of course. Everyone would. Jeff wouldn't. He wouldn't be going anywhere important. Not after tonight. They wouldn't have to worry about inviting him anywhere out of pity, they wouldn't have to be annoyed by his solo attempts anymore. Blaine got them all anyway, and none of them had noticed that he'd stopped auditioning for them.

"Hey Jeff, you going to Thad's party?"

The blonde jumped, surprised at the fact someone was talking to him. He looked up to see Blaine waiting for him to reply, smiling at him almost encouragingly. Jeff stumbled over his words, hating how he sounded like a freak when all he wanted was for something to come out of his mouth that made some sort of sense.

"Uh, m-maybe," he said, faking a smile and plastering it on so they would be satisfied. Blaine nodded, turning back to David and moving on to something else. Jeff breathed a sigh of relief and ducked his head again, brushing back his fringe self-consciously. It refused to stay put today, as usual, and it was annoying him. Couldn't he just have one day where something went right for him?

THIRTEEN HOURS

Jeff spent his first break alone (and since when was that unusual?), pen in hand as he sat in the Warblers' Hall and thought. He knew no one would come in here until rehearsal this afternoon, so he was safe to do what he wanted. Chewing on the end of his pen – it was a disgusting habit he had yet to kick – he glanced at the blank paper in front of him, thinking of how he was going to word this.

Warblers

Sorry. I really am. Because out of everyone, you're the only friends I have. I am sorry. But… I guess I have to do this. I haven't really got a choice. I can't see myself doing this – my life – for much longer without going certifiably insane. You guys are awesome, and I hope you all go on to do whatever it is you want to.

Blaine, I can see you on Broadway and I know it's your dream. And the kid that was coming around, spying on our Teenage Dream performance? Don't let him go. There's something there.

Thad, I feel awful doing this right now, before your birthday, but hope you have a good one anyway. You'll be out of here next year and going to LA, right? I'll bet. Your dad would be happy to have you home again.

Wes, David, I swear your bromance blurs the line, but you're awesome nonetheless and I hope you both get what you want in life. Wes, don't let that girl go too soon. I know you were planning on breaking up but I can sense that there's something more going on. Wait it out.

Cam, you're an idiot sometimes and I'll miss that (I guess) but you're fun and you made rehearsal bearable (sorry Council).

Trent, what do I say? You're one of two people who voted for my first solo audition. And I'm not even sure why – it was awful. But not the point.

He went on, not really focusing on anything but the fact that after he wrote this, there were more to get out. So he rambled, carrying on for two pages before finally stopping and deciding to put an end to the letter.

So I'll shut up now. But just to recap – you're all awesome. Don't hate me for what I've done, please. Maybe you will and I guess I won't be here to care, but I hope you realise that I have to do this. I haven't got a choice. I can't do this anymore.

I'll see you all at some point.

Jeff

He put the pages down, taking the next blank sheet and starting the next letter, breathing in deeply as his pen skidded across the paper in his messy, slanted scrawl. He could have waited for a moment, thought through what he was going to write, but he couldn't. The words were just flowing and he couldn't stop them, and so he let them fall from the pen and embed themselves permanently in the paper, unable to be taken back.

Mom

You did everything you could. Even after dad left, you didn't stop trying to fix things. But I just want to say, stop. You have to stop now. He's not worth it and he's never coming back. That hooker he disappeared with is all he deserves. I hope you find someone worth your time. And I'm sorry. I know you tried to make me better but the pills don't work. They make me high and I can't remember anything and everything's hazy. They make me too happy. I don't want to feel like that. I'll take what I'm feeling now over that any day. And I know you tried so hard to fix me but you couldn't, and I'm sorry. I'm really sorry. But I have to do this and I hope you'll still love me, even after I'm gone.

But I wasn't really there these past few years, have I? I think I always felt like this, deep down, but I guess I lost it completely when dad left. I know it will hurt you to find this out, but I'm pretty sure I've always hated myself. Ever since I was in fourth grade. The guys told me I wasn't cool enough to hang out with them. The girls wouldn't talk to me anymore because the boy/girl distinction was kind of coming into focus. I didn't really have anyone. I never did. And then when I came out as gay, it all got worse. I guess I'm just not strong enough to handle it. I never really was. I must have got that from dad.

He continued on, not stopping for two pages until finally he realised there wasn't much left to say. He'd said it all and rambled. So he closed the letter, chewing on his lip now as he wrote carefully so the whole thing would actually be legible and not the mess that he usually handed in for school.

I'm so sorry Mom. I really am. I'm just not as strong as you. And it's not your fault. I promise. It's mine, for not being able to handle this.

Sorry

I love you

Jeff

And then, just as he finished, the bell rang to signal the beginning of the next class. He gathered up his things, shoving them in his bag before running out before he ended up being late. All the while, as he ran down the halls and joined the crowds of students all going somewhere important, he couldn't stop thinking about his letters and the one he had yet to write.

ELEVEN HOURS

At lunch, he went straight back to the Warblers' Hall. No one really noticed when he skipped lunch anymore. The first few times someone had mentioned something, maybe just a remark or comment, but he shrugged them off and they learned to stop asking. They wouldn't understand anyway.

He sat down, taking out his paper and pen and stared at the blank pages he had left. He was on to his last letter. He could think of another he could write to, but he was planning on talking to him face to face. He ran a hand briefly through his unmanageable hair before starting his third and final piece.

Marcus

Hey bro. I know you're going to hate me. I would. I wish you wouldn't, but you will. I just hope you'll realise I have to do this and you'll still love me, even if you hate me too. Just somewhere, a little bit, I hope you'll still love me. But I know you'll still hate me, and I understand that. But Marcus, I guess you don't really understand why I'm doing this. So you'll hate me even more. I just want to say that I'm doing this for a good reason. Lots of them. I have thought it through, I really have. I promise. It's not some rash decision. I've been thinking about it for a while. And I've decided it the best option I've got. I can't handle this anymore, and I can't bear the thought of living this life any longer. I can't stand to think that I would have to live like this for years on end until I die. So I'm just cutting it a little short. And I know you're only thirteen and people might say you're too young to be hearing this or going through this but the point is you will be going through this, so I may as well explain why.

I can't stand myself. And I like to think I'm pretty objective on that. I look awful, I'm fat, I have little to no social skills. How the hell am I supposed to do anything in life like that? No one likes fat people, or ugly people, or shy people. They like the beautiful people with confidence – two things I'll never have. By the way Marcus, you're incredibly handsome for a thirteen year old. I know you hate all the attention you get from the girls, but trust me; you'll come to love it. At least, I'm pretty sure you will. I never got that – from anyone. Just another point of evidence to show that really, not very many people even like me. And the question is, if they don't like me, why should I?

It was so painful to do this. Having to explain to his thirteen year old little brother why he was leaving was possible the most painful thing he'd ever done. He didn't want to hurt Marcus, or his mother, or anyone. He would never hurt anyone intentionally. He wasn't like that. But he knew it was for the best, really. They might hurt for a bit, but then they'd move on. Wasn't that was the therapist said? It'll get you attention for a little while, but you won't be around to see it and eventually they'll move on. Of course, that was supposed to be advice against what he was doing, but it worked both ways. And he didn't want the attention – not like that. And she was right, he'd be gone anyway. He wouldn't be there to see any attention he got, if much at all. Then they'd move on. They'd hurt for a while, but they'd move on and everything would be okay again. They would forget him.

Marcus, I'm really sorry. I don't want to hurt you, but you'll move on and forget me eventually. Just remember one thing though. That I'm so sorry that I had to hurt you in the first place. I never wanted to do that. Just remember that.

And that I love you, little bro.

Jeff

And then he was done. With shaking hands – and he wasn't even sure why they were trembling so much – Jeff gathered up all the pages of letters, sorting them into the right places before stacking them together and placing them in his bag. Then, with a little while left before the end of lunch, he sat and stared at the opposite wall, letting his thoughts run through and torment him with images and flashed, imaginings of what might happen.

Would anyone really care for all that long? He didn't think so. Not for long. He knew what he was going to do though. He knew exactly what he was going to do – he'd been planning it to make sure nothing would be able to interrupt, nothing would be able to stop him this time. Not this time. He'd drink up that alcohol he had stashed away, get just drunk enough to take away the edge, give him the buzz. And then he'd lock himself in the bathroom, and take as many of those anti-depressants as he could keep down. That would do it. The combined effect of them and the alcohol would help too, wouldn't it? It should work. And if it didn't, there was always the bottle itself. Smash it, use the edge. He wondered if he'd be brave enough to make the cut. He hadn't been strong enough so far.

He lost himself for a while, letting his mind twist and race away without him, leaving him a blank shell for a moment. And then he was brought crashing back as the bell rang and, almost on automatic, he stood up, took his bag, and left the Hall for class. The last classes he would ever take. With a jolt that broke him out of his robotic reveries, Jeff remembered that his last classes had Nick. Well, wouldn't that make psyching himself up just that much easier? He still hadn't been able to work up the courage to even begin a conversation with him. Nick always did that, as if trying to get him to talk. But then Jeff would fuck it up, stumbling over his words because Nick would be smiling and he always got fluttery feelings in his stomach when Nick did that, and then the conversation would end as quickly as it had begun and Jeff would kick himself mentally for being such an idiot.

NINE HOURS

He disappeared to the dorm before he could freak out any more about talking to Nick. And it wasn't just talking to Nick that made him panic. It was what he was going to say, what he was going to tell the brunette that had Jeff feeling like he should just hide away in a hole and give up on it altogether. Sighing as he reached the dorm, he decided to finish up the last thing he needed to do – apart from talk to Nick. He already had the box under his bed, and he pulled it out the finish. The box was half full of things that either belonged to his brother and he had borrowed, or were things he wanted his brother and mother to have. He picked through the box for a moment, looking at some of the items in turn. Marcus's copy of The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy, the scarf he'd bought his older brother for Christmas because 'hey, winter's cold'. There were a number of other books in there that Jeff had borrowed from his book-loving brother – The Book Thief, a few Stephen King novels, Gone. Jeff managed a smile at the photo of him and Marcus at the younger's thirteenth birthday, grinning and posing for the camera. It was one of the few days Jeff had been genuinely happy.

He continued his work, dropping other items into the box. As he looked through everything he owned that was stored in his room, he realised it wasn't much. Most of his stuff was kept at home. Finally, he placed the frame containing the photo of both him and his brother last Halloween, dressed up as a vampire and the Grim Reaper respectively, into the box and closed the lid. He grabbed a pen and wrote on the side of the cardboard box.

For Marcus and Mom

Just then he heard footsteps coming from outside and he hurriedly shoved the box back under his bed, putting the pen back as the door opened to reveal Nick, chatting away on his phone. He smiled as he entered, waving to Jeff as a greeting before dropping onto his bed with a light sigh.

"Yeah, I told you I'd be there. Tonight at six, right? Yeah, course I will," Nick was saying, smiling to himself now "But seriously, if you try to hook me up again I swear I will nevercome to one of your parties again."

A pause. Jeff didn't really want to eavesdrop, but it was kind of hard not to.

"Flynn, the last girl you tried to set me up with tried to suck my face off. And the one before that had a vampire fetish. I had bite marks on my neck for weeks that I couldn't hide. And the one before that tried to slip me drugs or something!"

Another pause as Nick laughed, his friend obviously saying something relatively funny. Jeff sat on the floor, leaning against the bed so his back was to Nick and stared at the floor, not really sure what to do.

"I know your parties are pretty wild, but that's just plain crazy. Look, I'm still coming. But if you introduce one of your friends to me I will run screaming, okay?" he laughed again "I'll see you tonight."

And then he hung up, dropping the phone unceremoniously on the bedside table. Jeff heard Nick sigh and fall back on the pillow with a soft thump and there was a small moment of silence.

"Hey Jeff, you doing anything tonight?"

The question startled him and the blonde whipped his head up and around to stare at Nick. The boy sat up, looking at Jeff questioningly.

"Uh… why?" Jeff tried not to panic any more than he already was, managing to not make the question sound insulting in any way (point to him).

"Oh, I thought you might like to come along to this party tonight at Flynn's. You up for it?" Nick asked, still smiling. Jeff's stomach was feeling all fluttery again and he wasn't sure he'd be able to respond with a coherent answer. But somehow, he managed to get something satisfactory out of his oversized mouth.

"Um, I-I think I'll pass," he stumbled "Not feeling s-so great."

Nick seemed to buy it and nodded sympathetically, "That sucks. You think it's the tummy bug that's been going around?"

"Maybe." (And finally, a perfectly pronounced word that didn't make him sound like a total freak!)

"Ah. You should probably get some sleep. No offense, but you kind of look like crap," Nick admitted half-jokingly. Jeff's heart dropped like a rock and he nodded, faking a smile.

"Yeah, feel like it."

And wasn't that the biggest understatement of the whole fucking year?

SEVEN HOURS

He took Nick's advice and got some sleep. After all, there wasn't much left to do but talk to him, right? There wasn't anything to do at all, now that he thought about it. But by the time he woke again Nick was getting ready to walk out the door. Of course. That would be his luck. His perfect timing waking him just in time to watch the last person he wanted to talk to walk right out the door. Nick noticed him waking and paused in the doorway, looking apologetic.

"Sorry if I woke you," he said quietly.

Jeff just stared blankly. He could easily blame it on tiredness. But that wasn't the cause – it was Nick, looking like that. Dark skinny jeans, loose grey shirt that hung down to the top of his thighs, black jacket over the top with the sleeves rolled up, hair spiked up in a way that made Jeff both jealous and fluttery. Finally he realised he probably had to reply, so he did his best to be semi-coherent.

"Uh… don't… don't w-worry about it…"

Nick grinned, "Hope you feel better soon. Anyway, I'll probably be back late so I'll try not to wake up again. See you later!"

And with that, and a weak wave from Jeff, Nick was gone, closing the door behind him with a final-sounding thud. Jeff was left staring at the door, wondering where, once again, he'd fucked up. Then he sighed, knowing it was pointless. He'd needed to talk to Nick but hadn't been able to psych himself up. He hadn't had the courage to face him. So it looked like he had no choice – a letter was in order.

Climbing out of bed, Jeff grabbed his bag and dumped it on his desk. He pulled out what he needed and sat down, staring at the blank paper for a moment.

How did you tell someone that you were in love with them?

How did you tell a straight guy that you, an awkward, shy, fat, ugly guy, were head over heels for them?

Hesitantly, he began to write.

SIX HOURS

An hour later and he was done. He shakily put the pen down, gathering up the paper and taking out the other letters. He left the first three on his desk but put the last, Nick's on his bed.

Nothing wrong with starting early, was there?

He ducked under his bed and pulled out the stashed bottle of alcohol. He'd taken it from the last Warbler part he'd gone to. No one had noticed it was missing. At the time he hadn't known when or why he would use it. But now he did. He opened it and, sitting back on his bed with only his thoughts for company (and what great company they were, hey?) he downed a mouthful.

FOUR HOURS

It was hard getting drunk. Especially when he wanted to down the entire bottle and be done with it. But then he knew he'd be too drunk to do what he needed. So he took it slow – he had hours to waste anyway – and after two hours, finally he was getting somewhere. The buzz was coming, easing that fluttery feeling he got when he glanced at the letter lying on Nick's bed. The worry was slipping away, his fears fading. What was he waiting for? If he waited too long Nick would come back and it would ruin everything. He may as well do it now.

For some inexplicable reason, he decided to wait a little longer. He didn't know what stopped him from getting up and walking to the bathroom, but something did.

He took another mouthful, feeling numb and cold and alone.

TWO HOURS

No time like the present.

He was well and truly drunk now, coughing on the taste and still downing more. There wasn't much left in the bottle, so he drained it completely and let it drop to the floor with a hollow thud. He stared at the bathroom door, slightly ajar.

No time like the present.

In his head, he decided to change the time. Change the time for the end. In his head, he took off the last two hours and thought fuck it, let's just do it now. Nothing to wait for but Nick to return and that will ruin everything.

ZERO

Hey look, he thought giddily to himself as he stumbled towards the bathroom I can change time. Yeah, I just did that. Just made two hours disappear.

Yeah, he was pretty drunk. For ten o'clock at night in a Dalton dorm, he was wasted.

He locked the door behind him, tripping and falling to the cold tile floor. Reaching up and behind him, he fumbled for the medication he needed before he remembered it was locked away. Slowly he stood, keeping hold on the sink for support, unlocking the cabinet and searching for the anti-depressants. He found them quickly enough – an entire bottle, just opened. 'Just' being a few weeks ago, when he'd decided to stop taking the pills that made him as high as a kite. He grabbed them, sliding to the floor again in a messy heap and staring at the bottle.

Could he do this?

Yeah, he could.

He opened the bottle and closed his eyes, taking a handful and swallowing as many as he could. And then again, and again, until he felt like he was going to be sick and he couldn't have that. He couldn't throw them all back up again. So he stopped, letting the bottle fall and roll across the tiles as he started to feel light headed and woozy.

He smiled.

NICK

He didn't know why, but he felt like something wasn't right. He'd gotten to the party, started drinking, had fun. But it was only ten o'clock and he usually would be a lot more smashed than he was at the moment. He just didn't feel like drinking. And the girl that Flynn had tried to introduce him to had been far too drunk for her own, good, screaming randomly before collapsing about a minute after Flynn had left them alone. But Nick couldn't find it anywhere in him to really care. He'd put her on the couch, but his thoughts were far away.

If he were honest, he was worried. Something was off, but he didn't know what. In the end, not enjoying the party at all, he'd told Flynn he was leaving (but the kid had been wasted and didn't really care much) and driven back to Dalton. When he reached the dorm he paused for a moment. The sensation of foreboding had followed him, and now it felt twice as bad. He opened the door quietly, glancing at Jeff's bed before realised he wasn't there. He closed the door behind him, sweeping the room with his gaze and eyes falling on the piece of paper on his bed. Frowning, he walked over slowly, seeing his name written on the outside. Carefully he picked it up and unfolded it.

As he read, he started to feel sick.

Nick

This is going to be really hard. I'm not really sure how to say it. So I guess I'll just say it outright, cut to the chase, get it over and done with.

I'm pretty sure I love you.

Please don't freak out. I know you probably will though. You're straight and this must be really awkward, finding out that your roommate is in love with you. But I swear it's the truth. I think I've known for a little while now.

I'm really sorry. I can't help it. I kept trying to pretend it wasn't real, but I couldn't. Every time you would look at me, or talk to me, or even just smile, it all came back and I couldn't pretend anymore.

Then, in a sudden fit of insanity, I thought for the briefest moment that maybe you'd like me back. But not when I was so awful-looking. So I danced more, trying to get rid of the fat, did my best with my hair. I did everything I could. But nothing changed – not with me. I was still the same ugly old me and you were still straight. And then I realised I was being ridiculous. I'd never get you. Even if you weren't straight, why the fuck would you want to be with me? No one else does.

Nick swallowed, remembering all the hours Jeff had spent at the gym, coming back exhausted and dehydrated. He'd had no idea…

No, that wasn't strictly true. He'd noticed Jeff – a lot. It just seemed to be the things Jeff didn't see. His gorgeous hair and how his fringe covered his eyes, making him look mysterious. His incredibly toned body from all the dancing. His smile, on the rare occasions that it popped up.

Nick had never told anyone, but he wasn't as sure as everyone else that he was straight.

He liked girls, that was for sure. He always had. But then he'd had that crush on that guy he'd known, and it had progressed and then his liking for guys became more obvious and he started to think that maybe he wasn't so straight after all.

Especially when he started thinking Jeff was hot. But he'd kept it 'just friends', not wanting to admit to himself that he wasn't what his parents thought he was. Not wanting to admit to himself that he wanted his friend as something more.

He kept reading, a feeling of dread settling in his stomach.

So I gave up. Mostly. I still had the dream, but that was all it was. A dream. I knew I'd never get you, or even someone remotely like you. I'd never get anyone. Not with the way I looked, and how shy I was.

Anyway, the actual point of this whole thing is to say how sorry I am. You know I've been fighting through a lot of stuff for a long time, and then my dad left and my mom had that breakdown and things just got worse and worse. I think now's the time to just let it go. So I'm cutting this short. I can't handle it anymore. I'm not that strong – just something else to hate about me.

So I am really sorry, Nick. I'm sorry for crushing on you, I'm sorry for hurting you (if this even does, which I don't even know…) and I guess I'm just sorry in general. I really am.

Please don't hate me.

I love you.

Jeff

No, Nick thought, twisting to stare at the bathroom door instinctively, he didn't. He didn't. He wouldn't…

He ran to the door, trying to open it but finding it locked. He shoved against the door, calling out to Jeff.

"You in there? Jeff? Shit, Jeff, what are you doing? You had so better be alright in there."

Everything was making sense now – how he'd been acting stranger than usual lately, the way Jeff talked to him, the way Nick caught him staring, the hours he put in at the gym, how he was always skipping lunch, how he barely went anywhere or left the dorm… everything was falling into place. But Nick was too busy trying to knock the door down to really think about it.

Suddenly, under his weight, the flimsy door creaked and cracked along the middle. It was enough to damage the lock and Nick kicked the door once, letting it fall open. He stared in shock as he saw Jeff on the floor, half a bottle of pills scattered on the floor. He had his eyes closed, his body relaxed. Was he breathing? Nick couldn't tell.

He ran in, dropping to his knees beside Jeff and pressing two fingers to his neck, willing there to be a pulse. He almost passed out when he felt the faintest beat of pulse, and saw the light rising and falling of Jeff's chest. He wasn't gone yet.

"Jeff, you there?" he said, shaking him as he reached for his phone in his back pocket. He pulled it out and dialled 911 just as Jeff moaned something unintelligible under his breath. He was high, or drunk, or something. He didn't know. He could smell alcohol on his breath and he had to have taken so many pills…

"Hey Jeff, you with me? Don't pass out on me again," he said, keeping an eye on him as his call connected and he asked for an ambulance.

Jeff

He didn't remember getting here.

In fact, the last thing he remembered was the bathroom floor in his dorm room.

So why the hell was he in hospital?

Fuck it, he just couldn't do anything right, could he? Couldn't even down a few pills and let the lights shut off. He really was useless, wasn't he?

He was alone. No one seemed to know he was awake now, and he stared at the ceiling for a long while until someone came in to check on him. They seemed a little surprised and when conversation failed, they left again. Not long after a doctor came, chatted to him one-sidedly about what he'd done. But Jeff knew what he'd done. He'd failed. When the doctor couldn't get a response out of him, he left, but Jeff didn't care. His vision was going hazy from staring at the patterned ceiling for so long and for once, he liked the way it felt. Numb. Hazy. Cold. Not really feeling at all.

His mother and brother came. They'd gotten the letters – how, he didn't know – and they'd read them. His mother was crying, and Jeff did his best to talk to her, calm her down from her hysterical, sobbing state at her failure as a parent, but he wasn't doing so well. Marcus didn't say much, just watched him from beside his mother, and only asked one question.

"Did you really think I'd just forget you?"

Jeff paused for a moment, glancing at his little brother before nodding sincerely. Marcus shook his head, tears shining in his eyes that he refused to shed.

"Well, you're wrong. I never would. You're my brother."

When they were gone, ushered out by the nurse, Jeff mulled that over. He really had hoped they would eventually forget about him. He had hoped so much, not wanting them to be hurt for too long. He'd known hurting them in the first place would have been a certainty, but he'd thought that eventually they would let go and forget, not hurt anymore.

Apparently he was wrong.

The next person to come in was someone entirely unexpected. He was staring at the ceiling again, letting his vision go fuzzy, when he heard the door open. He assumed it was a nurse coming to check on him, but jumped in shock when he heard the familiar voice speak quietly.

"Why did you do it?"

He sat up suddenly, looking over at Nick. The brunette was staring at him, unblinking, waiting for his answer. Jeff swallowed, voice shaking and rough as he replied hesitantly.

"B-Because I had t-to."

"That's a load of shit."

Nick walked closer, hands shoved deep into his pockets. Jeff frowned, shaking his head.

"How the f-fuck would you know? You're n-not the one l-living it. Don't tell me it's a load of shit. You d-don't know."

Nick didn't take his eyes off the blonde, staying silent for a long while as he seemed to contemplate what he was going to say next. When he did speak, it was in a careful and controlled tone, like he wanted to shout but was stopping himself.

"I don't understand, Jeff. I don't understand why you would want to do this. None of this makes any sense."

And Jeff knew. He knew. Nick had read that letter. He knew exactly how he felt, but was deliberately skirting around the question, maybe hoping it wouldn't come up. Of course. It was an awkward subject.

"I had to. I-I can't handle it anymore, Nick. I just can't. I'm not like the rest of y-you. I'm not s-strong."

He felt tired, so tired. But Nick kept jolting him out of sleep and keeping him focused on what he was saying.

"I read your letter. And everything you said was wrong."

"What?" Now Jeff was feeling all fluttery again, but in a horrible, awful, bad way this time.

Nick stared at him, making sure Jeff was paying attention before he continued, "Everything you said about yourself. You're not fat. You're not ugly. You're beautiful. And people do want you. They want to be friends with you, but you were holding back."

"Who would want to be friends with me? Really?" Jeff scoffed in a sad tone.

"A lot of people. But I think, because you were so caught up in how bad you thought you looked, you pushed them away. And people stopped caring because you wouldn't let them."

Jeff was still, taking in everything Nick was saying but wondering when he was going to talk about that awkward point when he'd confessed his love. He had to. He couldn't skip over that part. And when they did talk, it was going to be utterly humiliating.

"Like I said," Nick was saying, tone lowering to almost a whisper "You're not ugly at all. You're beautiful. And when I said people want you, I meant it. I-I want you."

Jeff was frozen solid, unable to move as he processed that thought. But then Nick was continuing and he had to listen as the brunette rambled.

"I-It's been a while and I wasn't sure and then when I was I-I didn't want to tell you because you were so distant and I didn't want to screw anything up and then you were acting so strange and…"

He trailed off for a moment, staring at the floor as he finished in a whisper.

"I like you. A lot. More than I should as a friend."

"S-Stop screwing around," Jeff said shakily, wondering when he was going to wake up from this torment. Nick wasn't saying this. He couldn't be. Any second now it would end. Maybe it was some freakish flash as he died, showing him what he couldn't have. That had to be. He was still in the dorm's bathroom, passed out and dying. Nick wasn't saying this at all. He couldn't take the pain he knew he was going to feel when this was all over and it turned out it wasn't real. He couldn't take that.

"I'm not. I promise. And I'm sorry it took this long and for… this to happen before I told you."

Jeff shut his eyes, shaking his head, "No, shut up. D-Don't."

Nick put a hand on the blonde's arm and he flinched, opening his eyes and staring at the other blankly.

"Jeff, I swear. This is probably the worst time and I know you don't believe me right now, but it's true. And now I'm going to leave and let you think that through. When you're ready, I'll be waiting."

The blonde just nodded vaguely, watching as Nick gave a weak smile in return and walked out the door, shutting it silently behind him.