A/N: Starts approximately 4 weeks after In Knots, around a week before Graduation. For the purposes of this verse (and since we don't actually know how old he is) Sebastian is one year younger than Dave, so he will be at Dalton for another year. The stories in this 'verse are posted as complete unless they are specifically marked otherwise, so if you want to get Alerts for updates, use the Author Alert feature. Thank you to SolariaLunar21 for looking over this for me. Please review!

Warnings: Homophobia, suicidal thoughts


Lifeline

Dave was sitting on the floor of his bedroom, leaning against the side of his bed. His head was tilted back to rest on his mattress, and Sebastian's fingers were carding gently through his hair. Sebastian was sprawled on his stomach across Dave's bed, a brochure open in front of him a few inches away from Dave's ear.

The comfortable quiet of Dave's room was interrupted only by the occasional page turn, so Dave's eyes had fallen closed a few minutes earlier. He was taking a short break from thumbing through his information booklet to just relax and enjoy how much weight had been taken off his shoulders that afternoon.

With Graduation looming ever closer, Dave had been getting nervous that he hadn't heard back yet from Ohio State. He'd applied late, which he knew had to have been a bad thing, but the principal at his school had contacted the OSU admissions board about Dave's circumstances so they had allowed him to submit his late application. Regardless, he'd started to worry when the days continued to drift by without any news.

When he'd arrived home that afternoon to a letter with the OSU logo on the corner of the envelope, Dave had literally felt sick. He hadn't applied anywhere else, he didn't think he could handle going anywhere further away for college, and nowhere else nearby was offering a similar Sports Management degree. If he didn't make it into OSU, he would have to either look at doing something else at a Community College, or…well…he didn't really know what else he could do.

He'd tried to open the letter himself, he really had, but he just couldn't. So instead, he'd sat staring at it like an idiot until Sebastian arrived an hour or so later.

Sebastian had sat down with him while Dave opened the letter. Even though it was a big deal – they both knew this would have a huge effect on Dave's life – Sebastian had just grinned at him as though it were nothing and told him that if he didn't open it, Dave's new nickname would be Chicken. Dave had just laughed as he tore the envelope open. Sebastian's methods of encouragement would probably seem strange to most people, but they always worked for Dave.

"I don't even know what you're worried about, Growly," Sebastian had said as Dave pulled out the contents. "It's a big envelope. They wouldn't send you a big envelope with bad news. What are you expecting? A 'sorry we don't want you, but please take all of this information about our campus and feel even more disappointed' package? I'm pretty sure they don't do that."

Dave took a deep breath and read over the message. He'd prepared himself for rejection. After the last six months he'd gone through, he really hadn't expected to see the words, 'Congratulations on your acceptance…' in his letter.

Dave had to read it four times before he realized he wasn't imagining it. And, actually, it wasn't until Sebastian kicked him in the ankle and yanked the paper from his hands, reading it quickly and throwing Dave an uncharacteristic smile, that it really hit him.

He'd been accepted. Even with – with everything – he'd been accepted.

As far as grades were concerned, Dave had actually done pretty well. He knew a lot of that came from studying with Sebastian. His boyfriend was surprisingly helpful when it came to school work (even though he was by far the biggest distraction Dave had ever come across) and Dave was pretty certain that without him, his grades wouldn't have been half as good as they were. Still, considering everything that had happened, Dave hadn't expected any college to want him. He had an expulsion on his record – which had to look bad, even though it had been overturned – as well as the long period off school a few months earlier.

Apparently his grades had been enough to overlook all of that. He had so many questions, but truthfully, the answers didn't matter. He'd gotten in. He was going to Ohio State. He was going to study Sports Management.

He was one step closer to that amazing life he'd imagined.

"Ow, shit."

Dave was pulled out of his thoughts by Sebastian's hiss of pain. He twisted around to see his boyfriend frowning down at his finger where blood welled. It looked like Sebastian had sliced his skin along the edge of the glossy OSU Sporting Teams brochure he'd been flicking through.

"Papercut?" Dave asked.

Sebastian looked at him, brow raised and finger held out in front of him. There was so much sarcasm in just his arched eyebrow that Dave didn't even need to hear Sebastian's reply to know it had been a silly question. He gave a half shrug at his boyfriend's expression and leaned forward, capturing Sebastian's finger between his lips and sucking on it gently like he would if it were his own.

"Well," Sebastian leered down at him, "this just got interesting."

Dave grinned around the digit. He shook his head fondly and nipped at Sebastian's fingertip. Sebastian chuckled, pulling his hand away.

"You know, babe, if you're looking for something to su—"

"No," Dave replied, firmly. At least, he tried to sound firm. The way Sebastian's lip quirked up on one side as his eyes brightened told Dave that he probably didn't succeed.

"Are you…sure?" Sebastian asked as he inched closer. He moved until his shoulders and arms were curled over the edge of the bed, one arm trailing along Dave's chest as their noses brushed lightly.

As Dave tried to answer, Sebastian's warm mouth pressed against his own. He moaned around his boyfriend's tongue as it explored, running along the inside of his teeth in the way Sebastian knew he liked. Dave let himself relax into the kiss for a few moments. Just as he was about to pull away, he felt the pressure of a hand rubbing along the fly of his jeans and he gasped into Sebastian's mouth.

His boyfriend was so manipulative. He wanted to be annoyed by it, but when he was the one being manipulated it tended to work out well for Dave, so he couldn't really complain. Sebastian saved his asshole manipulations for other people.

When he felt nimble fingers undoing the button on his waistband, Dave wrapped his hand around Sebastian's wrist and pulled back from the kiss.

"No, Seb."

"Seriously, babe?"

"Seriously," Dave confirmed.

Sebastian sighed (overdramatically, in Dave's opinion) and rolled over so he was lying on his back, his head still hanging off the edge of the bed. "What's wrong?"

"Nothing," he replied, shaking his head with a grin, "except that Dad's going to be home soon."

"We can be quick," Sebastian smirked.

"Quit being such a perve, Seb."

"Quit being so sexy, Growly." Dave laughed and shook his head as Sebastian wiggled his eyebrows at him. "Besides," Sebastian continued, "it's not like we've never had sex with your dad in the house before."

"That's different," Dave blushed a little, though he had no idea why. He and Sebastian had even done it in public, for fuck's sake. But the idea of his dad walking in on them was so much worse than if it were a stranger. "He wasn't likely to interrupt us, then. He's been coming up every afternoon after work to 'see how my day was', which is his way of trying to find out if I got into OSU without actually asking."

"I guess the honeymoon's over then," Sebastian huffed and stared up at the ceiling. He was joking, Dave could tell, though he was also obviously a little disappointed. Dave didn't blame him, he was still semi-hard from Sebastian's hand on him earlier; he was disappointed too.

"Just think how much I can make it up to you once I start at OSU, though," Dave grinned. "The campus is way closer to Westerville than I am now."

"Mmm…that's true. In a few months I'll have a sexy college boyfriend. You better have a decent sized bed in your dorm, though, babe."

Oh.

Dave had been thinking more along the lines of visiting Sebastian at Dalton, or at his home, since his parents were pretty much never there, anyway. He hadn't been planning on having Sebastian spend time in his dorm with him. Not that Dave was ashamed or embarrassed by his boyfriend – of course not, he'd be an idiot if he was – but on-campus housing at OSU meant a roommate. And in Dave's experience, other guys weren't usually that cool about spending time with gays. The strangely loyal guys from New Directions and the Warblers didn't count…Dave had pretty much figured that if you were in Glee Club you probably didn't have much of a choice.

So…a roommate. One who probably wasn't going to be cool about him being gay. Not that Dave could actually change that, no matter how much he'd wished he could in the past. He wasn't going to try and crawl back into the closet, no way. Even if he wanted to, Dave didn't think he could; not when he finally felt free and he had someone as confident as Sebastian in his life.

But…but the best he thought he could hope for was a roommate that was okay with him being gay in theory. He really didn't think he'd be lucky enough to get one who would be okay with it being rubbed in his face. Not that Dave would do that, but he didn't know where the line was. Would just knowing be too much for his future roommate? Meeting his boyfriend? Or…God…walking in on Dave and Sebastian making out or—or more? And Sebastian, being Sebastian, would definitely want to do more once he was inside Dave's dorm.

He knew college was different to high school, and people were usually more open minded, but how much could he really expect? It wasn't like he could do the old tie on the doorknob trick. Could he? Was that…was that too much for a roommate? Dave knew straight guys used signals like that all the time, but was it too much to expect someone to be okay with the idea that two guys were having sex in their dorm?

"—Bear Cub?"

"Huh?" Sebastian was looking at him curiously, and Dave felt bad. He honestly hadn't heard a word his boyfriend had said. "Sorry Seb…I missed that."

"I noticed," Sebastian replied wryly.

"Sorry."

"Don't be, it wasn't anything important. Where'd your brain wander off to?"

Dave just shrugged. He was worried about the roommate thing, but how could he explain it to Sebastian? Anything he said would just come out wrong. He wasn't good with talking about that sort of thing – he'd probably sound like he wanted to play straight, or like he wanted to hide Sebastian. He didn't…he didn't want anything like that. But he didn't know what would be okay, and he didn't want to spend the next four years at college like he spent the last one at Thurston – feeling like crap.

But he really didn't want to focus on any of that for a while, if he could avoid it.

"Oh, you know," Dave flirted, twisting until he could trace Sebastian's earlobe with his tongue, "just thinking about how I should thank you. I probably wouldn't have done well enough to get accepted into OSU if you hadn't helped me so much with my school work." Dave grinned against his boyfriend's neck. He crawled onto the bed, pressing along Sebastian's side and pulling free the already loose Dalton tie.

"What about your dad?" Sebastian asked.

"I think we have just enough time." He started to work on the buttons of Sebastian's shirt, but Dave had barely managed to get one undone before he was being pushed away.

Sebastian propped himself up on one elbow, facing Dave with a smirk.

"Nice try, Growly," he scoffed, "but I'm a sexual distraction master. What's wrong?"

Dave groaned, rolling onto his back in a huff. He really didn't want to have this conversation, but one glance at his boyfriend's resolved expression told him he wasn't going to get out of it. It wouldn't be so bad, he figured, if he just knew how to say what he was thinking.

"I don't know how to say it so it doesn't come out wrong." He rubbed his face in frustration, digging the heels of his palms into his eyes as he tried to work out how to explain.

Fingers tugged at Dave's wrists, pulling his hands away from his face. Sebastian was leaning over him, looking amused. "How about you just start talking?" Sebastian suggested. "If whatever you say sounds bad, I'll tell you that you're being an idiot and to start again."

"Gee, thanks."

"You can thank me later." Sebastian winked at him, making Dave chuckle. He took a moment to try and decide where to start, but nothing really struck him as the right thing to say, so he just jumped to the heart of it.

"What if my roommate doesn't like that I'm gay?"

"Well," Sebastian replied cautiously, "I don't think that matters." He paused then smirked. "Unless you plan on being gay with him. In which case, it might be an issue."

"Shut up," Dave grinned, poking Sebastian in the side.

"Seriously, babe. I mean, it wouldn't be ideal, obviously, but if it ends up being a big problem, you could report him and petition to change rooms."

"Yeah, but only if it's really bad, right? I mean, they're probably not going to let me change roommates unless he's a real jerk about it."

"Isn't that what you mean? If he's not an asshole about it, then it's not really a problem, is it?"

"Not exactly," he replied, "but kind of?" Sebastian frowned at him, obviously not seeing what the issue was. Dave sighed. He knew he wasn't being very clear. "It's like this… my roommate and I will be living together, right? So, it would be good if we could get along. Maybe be friends. I don't…I don't want to go back to being in the closet. I don't think I can. But even if he's not homophobic, isn't it a bit much to ask a straight guy to be okay with living with me?"

"Just because you like dick doesn't make you a monster, Dave. If you get a roommate who is such an asshole he can't share space with you because you're gay then the administration will sort something out."

"I know that. That's not what I mean. It's just…where's the line? It's one thing to tell someone I'm gay. Or that I've got a boyfriend. But…I don't know about you and me in the dorm, you know? Don't you think it might be a bit much?" When Sebastian didn't reply immediately, Dave started to worry. "Not – fuck – not that I'm ashamed of you, or of being gay, or anything, seriously Seb. I promise, that's not it. I just don't know what's okay. Is it fair to expect my roommate to not care about that stuff? Not, you know, knowing. But seeing."

Sebastian shook his head at Dave, but he didn't look really upset. Dave wasn't sure whether he'd gotten his point across, but he didn't really know what else to say, either.

"If you are okay with him having girls over, or having a girlfriend, then no, it's not too much to expect the same back. It's the same thing, Growly, even if a lot of people don't quite understand that. Besides, it's not like we're going to be fucking with him in the room," Sebastian joked. Dave tried to answer, but before he could get a word out, Sebastian's hand was covering his mouth. "Let me finish, before you freak yourself back out again, babe. Yes, you might get an asshole roommate. And if he's a dick because you're gay, then you can sort that out. But, your roommate could just as easily be okay with it and this doesn't need to be an issue at all. If that's the case, you can work something out. I don't recommend ties on doors, though. Too many people think it's funny to sneak them off."

Dave shook his head, unsure of how Sebastian managed to make things seem funny, even when they really weren't.

"You know what I'm like," Sebastian continued, "I don't really bother with compromising to make other people comfortable, but if it will make your college life easier, then we'll figure something out. And if you like your roommate, but he's weird about seeing us kiss or something, I guess we can work around that. Or we can make out in front of him so much he gets over it." When Dave frowned, Sebastian rolled his eyes. "That was a joke, Bear Cub."

When Sebastian pulled his hand away, Dave gave him a small smile. "I just want it to all go well. I don't want another year like this one."

"That won't happen," Sebastian promised him, "I swear. No matter what, we'll figure something out. College is going to be a good time for you, no matter what I need to do to make sure of it."

"You know," Dave teased, feeling strangely reassured, "if you keep being this awesome then your reputation as an asshole is going to suffer."

"Only if you go around telling people, babe. Besides, no one would believe you. They'll just think you've been blinded by the fantastic sex."


A shrill wolf whistle pierced the air as Dave crossed the stage to graduate. He'd been hoping that the request for the audience to stay quiet until the end would actually work; he really didn't want to hear people giving him hell during his own graduation. Still…a whistle amongst relatively soft whispers wasn't what he'd been expecting.

It only took him a second to pinpoint the source of the sharp noise, and really, Dave should have known. Sebastian was the only person in the seated area on his feet, and Dave's dad was beside him, laughing while trying unsuccessfully to pull Sebastian back down to sit.

Although Dave could feel himself blushing, he was grinning, too. He hadn't even expected Sebastian to make it – it was a school day so he was supposed to be in classes. He probably should have known better, though.

He shook hands with the principal, who smiled at him warmly. Dave looked over at his father and Sebastian, beaming at them as he drew the tassel across his graduation cap. Sebastian whistled again, and this time Dave's dad gave up and started cheering along with him. A little part of Dave wished his mother and some of his old friends had cared enough to come and support him, but his dad and Sebastian were there and that was enough.

The rest of the ceremony went by slowly, too slowly in Dave's opinion, but eventually it was over and he was making his way to where he could see his dad and Sebastian waiting for him.

"Son," Dave's father greeted him, pulling him into a hug as soon as he was near enough, "I'm so proud of you. So proud."

Dave smiled broadly. After all the issues he'd put his father through over the last two years, hearing those words meant the world to him. "Thanks, Dad."

After a few moments, Dave and his dad moved apart, and Dave found his arms quickly occupied by Sebastian. "Nice work, Growly. You looked good up there."

"Well," Dave rolled his eyes good naturedly, squeezing Sebastian quickly before letting him go, "everyone could hear that you thought so."

"Don't be like that, David," his father chuckled, "Sebastian is just…enthusiastic."

"You like him better than you like me," he grumbled, though he couldn't quite hide his own smile.

Sebastian shifted, looping his arm around Dave's shoulders. "You can't blame him. I'm very charismatic," Sebastian grinned and winked, pressing a quick kiss against Dave's mouth. He felt his cheeks heat a little; he was still adjusting to the affection Sebastian had started showing in front of Dave's dad. It was never anything over the top, just little kisses and touches here and there, but it felt strangely intimate. It always seemed to make his dad smile, though.

"Okay. That is my cue to leave you boys to it. I have a meeting at work in half an hour, but I'll meet up with you both at the house at six, alright? Our reservations are for seven."

"Dad, I told you, we don't need to go out—"

"David, we are celebrating," his father insisted. "You are my only son, and you just graduated high school. As your father it's my right to make a big deal out of this, even if it embarrasses you in front of your boyfriend."

Sebastian laughed, his hand tightening on Dave's shoulder briefly. Dave was still trying to get used to all the positive attention he'd been getting from his dad since he'd gotten back to school and worked to salvage his senior year. It was nice. Overwhelming – but in a good way.

"That…that sounds good."

"Wonderful. I'll see you both in a few hours. Sebastian, good luck with your performance."

"Thanks Paul, but you know me," Sebastian smirked, "I don't need luck."

Dave's father shook his head and chuckled. "Well, I hope one of these days David catches a little of your confidence." He threw Dave a meaningful look, before clapping him on the shoulder and bringing him into another hug. "I meant what I said, David. I'm very proud of you. I love you, son."

"I love you too, Dad."

After a moment, his father drew back and Dave watched as he nodded goodbye to Sebastian and headed for the exit.

"I feel bad, abandoning you on your graduation," Sebastian frowned, stepping closer to Dave and sliding his fingers along the fabric of Dave's gown. "Are you sure you don't want to come along? I only have to do one song with the other non-graduating Warblers. I think we could pretend you're Nick's cousin and sneak you in."

Dave laughed, but shook his head. "Nah, it's okay. I don't want to get you in trouble. And you aren't abandoning me – I can't even believe you made it in the first place. Shouldn't you be in class?"

"Hmm…let me think. End of year classes that I've already passed and been graded on? Or my boyfriend's graduation. Wow, you're right. My priorities are completely messed up."

"Wise ass. Seriously, though, I'm glad you made it, even if you shouldn't have skipped. But I really don't want to get you into even more trouble for smuggling me into the Dalton graduation ceremony when I don't even know anyone graduating. I don't mind spending the afternoon alone and I wanted to have another look over those OSU pamphlets, anyway."

"You mean the ones you've been looking at all week?" his boyfriend teased.

"Shut up," he shot back. Sebastian smirked at him, and Dave shook his head, amused. "Besides, you need to leave or you're going to be late, and I still need to hand back this outfit and pick up my diploma."

"That's a shame. That color looks really hot on you. And that gown looks like easy access."

"I'm still wearing my clothes underneath, Seb."

"Another shame. Sounds like I need to double the effort I'm putting into being a bad influence."

"I'm pretty sure you have that covered," Dave teased as Sebastian leaned in for a quick and mostly chaste kiss goodbye. "I'll see you later."


After slicing in half the towering sandwich he'd built – the one that he quietly considered a masterpiece – Dave sat down at the dining room table, armed with his stack of information pamphlets and several course summaries he'd printed from the OSU website. He already knew what he wanted to major in, but he hadn't really decided much beyond that.

He glanced at the sandwich, thinking for just a moment that it almost looked too good to eat, before scoffing at himself and taking a large bite. It tasted even better than it looked, so it didn't take more than three mouthfuls to finish off the first half.

Realizing he'd forgotten to get something to drink, Dave made his way to the refrigerator, silently debating between water and juice when he heard keys in the door. His dad was supposed to be at work, but he must have forgotten something.

"Did you leave your files upstairs again? You must be getting old," he joked, grabbing the apple juice and swinging the fridge door closed.

"No, son."

Dave froze, his fingers loose around the glass he'd been about to get from the cupboard. That was not his dad. He took a deep breath, and pulled the glass out, placing it on the counter. His hand was shaking, and his heart was thumping. Which was silly, he was sure, because he shouldn't be freaking out over seeing his mother.

Even if she did abandon him and his dad because Dave was gay.

"Mom. Uh…hi."

There had to be more for him to say, right? She was his mother, not a stranger, but in all honesty Dave was at a loss for words. He had questions, but he didn't know if he could ask them. Or if he wanted answers.

Where have you been?

Why did you leave?

Is it really so hard to accept that I'm gay?

And the worst one – the one that sometimes kept Dave awake at night.

Don't you love me anymore?

He knew the answers to some of his questions, but he still hoped that maybe he was wrong. That maybe she didn't leave because of Dave, maybe there was more to it. But that last question…Dave really didn't know the answer to that, and it scared him.

She was his mother. She should love him, no matter what, shouldn't she? When he was little that was always what she said, that he was her little boy and she would never, ever stop loving him.

Except the second she realized he wasn't going to be 'cured' of his homosexuality, she walked away.

"Thirsty?" she asked, with an awkward half smile. Without waiting for an answer, his mother was filling the glass with juice and placing the bottle back in the fridge. It was such a…such a mom thing to do, that Dave had no idea how to react. She'd left. "You seem so surprised to see me, David. I—"

"Why are you here?" He hadn't meant to sound quite that abrupt but it was a fair question, anyway, he figured.

Except that his mother looked hurt. Hurt. That wasn't fair. It wasn't fair to disappear and keep out of contact for months and then just—

"You graduated today. How could I not be there?"

He wanted to be angry, because she hadn't been there, but something in her expression told him otherwise.

"You…you came?" He hated how uncertain he sounded – hated how her breath hitched and her eyes started to well. He didn't want to hurt her, it was the last thing he wanted, though he didn't even know why he cared so much. She'd abandoned him. She hadn't even just walked away, she'd cut him out of her life.

"Of course I did, David. You're my son. I thought it would be for the best if I kept to the back, away from your father. But I wanted to see the man you are growing into. I was…was so proud to see you cross that stage. You looked so grown up." Her voice was ragged, emotional.

Maybe things would get better. She came to his graduation and that had to mean something. She still cared – he could hear it in her tone. Dave swallowed around the lump in his throat, trying to figure out what he could say so that they could just fix everything. All he wanted was to make everything better; for his mother to come home.

"Mom—"

"You have no idea how proud I was, David. But now…I regret, so much, that I didn't leave right after."

"What? Why?" Dave wasn't sure what she meant. He hadn't done or said anything wrong that he could think of. He hadn't asked her to come over; she'd been the one to surprise him. Was she uncomfortable in the house? Was she worried about seeing his dad?

"If I had left straight away," she paused for a moment, looking so sad. It hurt Dave to see. But she drew her shoulders back and visibly hardened her expression, "maybe I could have pretended. I could have hoped that you had moved on from this…this illness."

"I…what…? Mom," Dave tried to speak, but he just didn't know what he could say. His heart was sinking in his chest and his throat felt tight. She'd said she was proud of him, and it had gotten Dave's hopes up. He hadn't understood straight away that when she'd said she was proud, she meant that she wasn't any longer.

"Oh, sweetheart," his mother's voice was breaking, and Dave could see the tears start to fall, even though she was trying to be firm, "I wanted so much for you. I wanted so badly to believe that you might have gotten better…but you're still the same sick boy you were months ago. Except it's worse now. You aren't even just hurting yourself anymore, you're hurting others. Infecting others."

"It's not like that—" How could she still think that way? How could she watch him graduate and see how much he'd managed to pull his life back together, and still think and say those things?

"David, don't. You can't…you can't lie to me about this. I saw you. I wish I didn't, but I did. I saw what you did. I saw you kiss Sebastian. You kissed him and he let you. I love you, son, I do. But you are toxic, and you are spreading your poison to decent boys. You aren't just ruining your own life now, you are ruining the lives of innocent people."

Dave felt sick inside. She made it sound so awful, like he was spreading a plague and destroying lives just by having feelings for another boy. It wasn't like that, it wasn't.

"Mom…it-it's not…that's not what this is, I swear. I'm not…I'm not toxic – it's not poison. Please," Dave's eyes were stinging and his voice was ragged. Suddenly, the room felt far too small, as though the walls were closing in, but none of it was enough to stop him from focusing on every word his mother spoke.

She didn't look strong anymore, she looked lost. Dave almost wished she was angry, at least then he could be angry, too, instead of feeling as though he were breaking her heart just by being who he was. Her face was pale, and her fingers were trembling as she closed them around his wrist. She was…she was distraught. Because of him.

"David, sweetheart, I'm begging you. You have to understand. It is poison, it is, but it's not your fault. We can get you better, but you need to work to be cured. We need to fix this, for your own good. And for Sebastian's, and for all the other boys that you might prey on. I'll help you, I will. I'll be with you every step of the way—"

"P-prey on…?" Dave choked. It was scary, seeing his mother like that. She was so upset – she was sobbing – and so, so convinced that what she was saying made sense. It wasn't even as though she was being hurtful on purpose, she was just completely misguided, and it felt like a knife in Dave's gut. He shouldn't listen to her – couldn't listen to her – he wasn't strong enough emotionally, not yet. It was too much. "I...mom…stop it. Please. Please, just stop. You're wrong. I need you to go. I can't handle this…I can't."

His eyes were squeezed shut, though he could feel the wetness there trying to escape. He didn't want to look at her; it hurt more than he was sure he could deal with. Her cool hand pressed against his forehead, then trailed down to his cheek. It was so familiar to him, she'd done the same thing countless times before, and he couldn't pull away when she wrapped her arms around him. She was still his mother; still the woman who had read him to sleep, who had cared for him when he'd caught chicken pox in third grade, who had bandaged his cuts and scrapes and kissed them better as he grew up. He wished he could just turn off those feelings, but she was still his mom.

He leaned into her, the way he always had, even though he knew he shouldn't, not this time. But he could feel the damp patch from her tears on his shoulder and he wanted so badly to not be the cause of them.

"You're my little boy, you always will be. What kind of a mother would I be if I didn't try to help you?"

"I'm sorry, Mom," his voice cracked. He could never be who she wanted him to be; he just wished she could understand and accept him anyway. "It's just who I am."

"It is not who you are," she snapped, pulling away sharply. "I don't know who put these thoughts in your head, but you were a perfectly normal boy, once. Before…before that school, and that…that little fairy-boy. You used to hate him. You used to know he was wrong."

"You don't even understand at all, do you?" He was shouting, suddenly, but he couldn't help it. She was just being so ignorant, so unreasonable. What made her think it was okay to be saying these things? "I was never perfectly normal. I was always like this…I was just too scared to admit it. You would know that if you talked to me instead of just deciding I was sick! Why can't you be more like Dad? Why can't you just try and accept me as I am, instead of—"

"You want me to be like your father? Paul isn't being a good parent, David! He's being a spineless fool. If he really loved you, he would want to save you – even from yourself. He's just…he's lazy. It's just too hard for him, so he's convinced himself that you are just fine because it's easier than admitting that you have a problem!"

He didn't believe that. He couldn't. His father loved him and he just wanted Dave to be happy.

Didn't he? He wasn't just…just taking the easy road, was he?

Oh God.

What if his mother was right? If she was, then he was hurting his dad, even more than he already thought. What if he didn't really accept Dave, he just didn't want the difficulty of trying to make it better?

No. No, that couldn't be it. It couldn't. Dave hadn't forgotten how scared his dad had been at almost losing him. There were days and nights when Dave felt nearly suffocated from his hovering, and the way his father had defended him against his mother and anyone else who hurt Dave – that wasn't taking the easy way.

His mother was wrong. She had to be.

She wasn't crying anymore, but the look on her face was just as painful, just as heart wrenching. She was determined in a way that made Dave's stomach churn. He wished he could be everything she wanted from him, but he couldn't. And he needed her to know that – he couldn't keep going through this. "Mom, no. You're wrong."

"No, I'm not. Your father was the one who was wrong. This is his fault – he did this to you. Paul turned his back on God and now you are the one who is suffering for it. I tried, I really did. I wanted to take you to church every week. I wanted to raise you the right way."

When he was younger, Dave remembered going to church a lot, but he'd hated it. He was a kid, and it was boring. His Dad hadn't always gone with them, and when Dave turned ten his parents had told him he didn't have to go as much if he really didn't want to. He hadn't questioned it – he'd just cheered and run off to his room to play video games. And now his mother was claiming it had damaged him somehow. It was ridiculous. And worse, it was hurtful to hear her say that his father – who had stood by him when he needed love and support – had been a bad parent. He hadn't.

"Stop it," he pleaded. "You can't…this isn't anyone's fault."

"David…" Dave had never heard her say his name with so much disappointment before. Her eyes were wide and desperate. He knew that if he agreed with her, let her try and make him better, she would be happy again. She would hold him, and love him, just like a mother should. He wouldn't still be hurting her.

But it would all be a lie for him, and he'd spend the rest of his life the same way he'd spent the last few years. Angry, scared, and hiding. He knew he couldn't go back to that. And he couldn't let her think she could change his mind, even if some tiny part of Dave thought that if she kept pushing, maybe she could. Because she was his mom, and he always wanted her to be happy.

She must have seen something in his face, because she looked suddenly hopeful, like she thought he was going to give into her. It tore at Dave, knowing that he was going to have to take that away from her.

He clenched his hands into fists until his fingers dug hard into his palms, giving him something to focus on and draw strength from. "No. Stop it. You're wrong – you don't know what you're talking about. You need to leave. Now. I can't…you need to go. Please."

Her expression fell and her shoulders sagged. She stared at him, wounded, for a few moments before she reached out to squeeze Dave's hand. This time, he pulled away. He could see the moment her will broke – it was all over her face, and the knowledge that he'd disappointed and hurt her so badly left Dave feeling like a ball of lead was lying heavy in his gut. He felt wrong, so wrong, but he also knew that anything else would have been even worse.

"Alright," she conceded, her voice soft and dejected. She turned to leave and he followed. He hated the idea that he was kicking her out of the house, but Dave needed to make sure she was gone. He didn't know how much longer he could handle her being there, even if she didn't say anything else. He could almost feel her sadness and anger pushing against him and he just wasn't strong enough to deal with it.

They got to the door and he opened it for her. She sighed, sounding sad and defeated. Instead of leaving straight away like Dave had hoped, she leaned against the door and looked at him, blinking back tears again. "If Paul had been more willing to help me educate you, instead of insisting you could decide on religion when you were older, you wouldn't have gotten sick in the first place. But you did get sick, sweetheart, and I know that your father started this, but you aren't completely innocent, either."

Dave watched as she took a deep breath, and he wanted desperately to shut the door on her, to pretend she wasn't there. But she was his mother, and he couldn't bring himself to do it. "David, you should have come to me earlier, or just accepted my help after all that messy business, instead of refusing to be cured. We could have worked on this, and my marriage would have survived – our family wouldn't have been torn apart. Your father let you get sick, and you chose to stay that way. And now our family is broken."

She didn't say anything else, but she didn't have to. The guilt that Dave had tried to work past came back tenfold, making him sick with it. He closed the door as she walked away, sinking to the floor and leaning against the wood.

He would never, never be the son she wanted. She was wrong about all of it, he knew, but that didn't lessen the guilt he felt at her leaving. If he had been normal – not normal…straight, he tried to remind himself – then they would still be a happy family. But he wasn't, and because of that, they weren't.

The way she had blamed his dad, as though he was somehow responsible for Dave being gay – like it were some sort of punishment – ate at Dave. His dad had been so good to him, had supported him and loved him. He didn't deserve what she had said. It wasn't his dad's fault. And…and it wasn't Dave's fault, either.

His therapist had drilled that into him; that there was no one to blame, that it wasn't his fault that he was homosexual, and that there was nothing wrong with it. He just needed to remember that – to remember the words he was supposed to tell himself when he started to have doubts.

It's not an illness. It's not wrong. It's not a choice. It's not my fault.

He wanted to believe that, so badly. He knew in his head that his therapist was right, but it was so hard to feel it when all he could picture was the look on his mother's face and the sorrow in her voice.

It's not an illness. It's not wrong. It's not a choice. It's not my fault.

His heart was pounding, and his skin was itching, like it was too tight. He needed…he didn't know what he needed. All he could think about was how if he'd died when he wanted to, his family wouldn't be going through this anymore. Or, if they were, at least he wouldn't be around to feel it.

It was selfish of him, maybe, but it would hurt less. Maybe…maybe he just needed to do it again. When no one would be around to stop him…like now.

He didn't think he could hang himself again – just the idea of anything around his neck made him panic until he broke into a sweat and couldn't breathe. But there were knives in the kitchen. Sharp ones. Dave remembered, abruptly, that the knife he'd used to cut his sandwich was still sitting on the bench. It would be messy, but it would get the job done—

No.

No, no, no.

He couldn't…he couldn't do something like that again. No. He didn't want to die, not really, he just wanted it to stop hurting. But he couldn't do it, not to himself, not to his dad, and oh God, not to Sebastian.

Dave pushed the thoughts out of his mind quickly and fiercely. He'd only thought about it for a second, but he was overwhelmed by the wrongness of it. He shouldn't be considering that, not even for a second. He had thought he was past it, that he was healing.

It scared the hell out of him that maybe he wasn't.

It's not an illness. It's not wrong. It's not a choice. It's not my fault.

It's not an illness. It's not wrong. It's not a choice. It's not my fault.

It's not an illness. It's not wrong. It's not a choice. It's not my fault.

Out of nowhere, his thoughts flashed to what would happen if he'd given in and tried again. Someone would have to find him – his dad, again, or maybe Sebastian. It would hurt them so badly, brutally, and the horror he knew they would feel was too much for him to handle. His stomach lurched violently and he scrambled off the floor, barely reaching the bathroom before he lost his lunch.

It's not an illness. It's not wrong. It's not a choice. It's not my fault.

He couldn't do that to them. He wouldn't.


Dave shifted on the couch, unable to get comfortable. He still felt awful, like there was something crawling under his skin. He'd given his mouth a cursory rinse in the bathroom, but he could still taste the sharp bitterness. He thought, briefly, about brushing his teeth, but decided to wait a little longer. He wasn't completely sure he wouldn't be sick again.

A few minutes earlier he'd finally calmed down enough to pull himself off the bathroom floor. The first thing he'd done was steel himself and move all of the kitchen knives from the block on the bench out of sight. It wasn't much, he knew where they were, obviously, but at least he wouldn't keep seeing them.

His juice had been sitting innocently on the table, but he poured it down the sink and filled the glass with cold water, instead. He had looked over the mess of papers and the half eaten sandwich on the table, trying to ignore the way his stomach protested at the idea of finishing it. None of it mattered, not the school information, not the food. All that mattered was his phone, which he'd found under the dorm room leaflet before taking it and his drink into the living room, where he'd been sitting, staring at the phone since.

Dave's dad would want him to call. He would. He knew that, but he just couldn't do it. He couldn't tell him the things that his mother had said, couldn't admit what he'd almost done. He just couldn't stand the thought of hurting his father with it; he'd already hurt his mother.

Sebastian, on the other hand…Sebastian would be more hurt if Dave didn't call. He'd promised, so many times. And Dave needed someone. Sebastian would want to know.

He was pressing the call button before he could back out. He needed to do this.

It rang several times, but Sebastian didn't pick up. Dave wasn't going to panic. He wasn't.

All it meant was that Sebastian was busy. Of course he was busy – he'd be at Dalton by now, preparing, or performing…something. Just because he wasn't answering Dave's call…that didn't mean he didn't care. It didn't.

Get a grip.

He took a deep breath, putting the phone down on the sofa beside him. He was going to be fine. He could handle it. He didn't…he didn't want to die. He knew he didn't, but he couldn't help the petrifying thought that maybe he could get worse, maybe he would start to want it again.

Dave's heart started beating faster again, he was working himself into a state – he could feel it. He picked up his glass with an unsteady hand, taking several slow mouthfuls. It was a trick his therapist taught him; if Dave was starting to feel panicked he should slowly drink a glass of water. It would make him focus and breathe more steadily.

Just as he was about to put the glass down, his phone rang, startling him. He fumbled with the half empty glass, barely stopping it from slipping through his fingers. He settled it safely on the lamp table, answering the call quickly, relieved to see Sebastian's picture flashing on the screen.

"Seb?"

"Hey, babe. Sorry I missed your call, we only just got off stage." Sebastian sounded happy and energetic. Dave considered, just for a moment, not telling Sebastian after all, but he knew that wouldn't end well. And Sebastian would never forgive him if he kept this a secret.

He didn't know how to tell him, though. He didn't even know how to start. "H-how was your performance?"

Sebastian could tell. He could hear it. It was obvious to Dave, because the background noise was suddenly muffled and Sebastian's next words were worried.

"Dave? Growly…what's wrong? What happened?"

"I…she…" he bit his lip and closed his eyes, forcing the words out. "Mom was here."

There was a pause on the line. Dave could almost see the concern on Sebastian's face.

"Fuck…what did she say, Growly? Are you okay?" There was a strange noise over the line, like Sebastian was moving around, then a beep that Dave recognized as Sebastian unlocking his car.

"She's just…she…" He wanted to get the words out, but they just wouldn't come.

"I'm leaving Dalton now, Dave, okay? I will be there as soon as I can, I promise."

"I'll…I'll be okay, Seb. I just really needed to hear your voice."

"Stay on the line, babe. I'll put you on speaker and we can talk on my way."

It was tempting, it really was. But the last thing Dave wanted was for Sebastian to get upset or distracted as he was driving and end up in an accident.

"No, don't. It's fine. I'm…I need to take a shower, anyway. It'll make me feel better."

He could hear the car starting, and music blasted for just a split second before it lowered until it was a dull hum in the background.

"Are…are you sure?"

"Yeah. I'll go and have a shower, and maybe watch some TV or something until you get here."

"Have you called Paul? Do you want me to? He can get there before I can—"

"No," Dave interrupted, too quickly and too forcefully. He regretted it straight away, the choked off noise Sebastian made was filled with panic.

"Dave, please…don't do anything stupid."

"That's not…I'm okay. I am. I'll be fine until you get here, I just can't talk to him about this yet. I can't. Please Seb, please don't call him."

Sebastian didn't answer at first. The only sound over the phone line was in the background; the buzzing of music, too low to make out the song and the rushing noises from traffic. Dave was almost ready to beg again, when Sebastian finally let out a loud breath.

"Okay. Okay, Growly. But you need to promise me that you'll still be okay when I get there. And if you think you won't be, you need to call me back. I mean it."

"Yeah. Yeah, okay."

"The words, Dave. I need you to promise me, or I'm calling your dad right the fuck now. Say it."

It was harder to say than Dave expected, which was stupid, because he didn't intend to do anything. But promising Sebastian meant he really couldn't. Because he couldn't break a promise like that to his boyfriend.

"I…I promise, Seb. I promise I won't do anything stupid."

"O-okay." Sebastian sounded relieved, just a little, but it was enough to make Dave feel just a shade less terrible. "Alright. Just relax, Growly. I'll be there as quickly as I can. I'll see you soon."

"Yeah. I'll be here. Drive safe, okay Seb?"

Dave waited to hear Sebastian agree before he ended the call. He wanted to hear Sebastian's voice for a bit longer, but his boyfriend was driving – probably faster than he should – so Dave swallowed his nerves and hung up.

He spent some time, he didn't know how long exactly, flicking through the photos on his phone. Every one of them had his dad or Sebastian in them. Sometimes Dave was in there too, and it made him feel better to see them smiling at the camera. When he felt relaxed enough, he made his way into the bathroom to have a hot shower. It really would help him feel better, he was sure.


As it turned out, the shower did help. Dave felt clean again, instead of clammy and sick, so he brushed his teeth and got dressed, trying to focus on feeling better instead of thinking about how empty he was feeling inside.

He was just reaching the end of an episode of South Park when he heard a car pull into the driveway. Dave paused the DVD and checked his watch. He'd called Sebastian less than and hour and a half earlier, he shouldn't have been there for at least another twenty minutes, even with the way Sebastian drove.

Dave had a sinking feeling, for just a moment, that Sebastian had called Dave's dad even though he agreed not to, but he relaxed again when he peeked through the window and saw Sebastian getting out of his car.

Except that to get there so quickly, Sebastian would have had to have driven like a maniac. Even more so than normal. He opened the door, forgetting his own issues, ready to yell at Sebastian for putting himself in danger, but the look on his boyfriend's face stopped him short.

Sebastian was pale, worried, and his lower lip looked swollen and sore, like he'd spent the entire car ride biting at it. He was rushing towards the door, and the moment he saw Dave standing there, he stumbled uncharacteristically and gasped in relief. Before Dave knew it, Sebastian was pressing against him, heartbeat thundering against Dave's chest.

"You're okay."

"I promised," he mumbled into Sebastian's hair, because he had, he'd promised, and he didn't know what else to say.

"You did," Sebastian agreed, "I was just…just scared, I guess."

Dave nodded. He definitely didn't blame Sebastian for worrying. That didn't mean that it was okay for his boyfriend to make a two hour trip in an hour and twenty minutes, though. "You got here way too fast, Seb. You could have gotten into a wreck."

"You needed me, Bear Cub."

"I never need you to risk getting yourself killed. I don't want to lose you."

"What a coincidence," Sebastian joked, though it sounded flat to Dave, "I don't want to lose you, either."

Dave had thought he was holding it together, but apparently not, because the way Sebastian's voice cracked when he said 'you' opened a floodgate he didn't even know was in place. He broke down, sobbing against Sebastian as he was led to the sofa. They sat together, draped around each other while Dave told Sebastian everything that had happened that afternoon. He repeated all of the awful things he remembered his mother saying – which he was pretty sure was everything. He wished he could forget, but her words were burned clear in his mind. Sebastian was mostly silent, letting Dave get everything out of his system, though Dave caught the odd sound from him, usually sad or sympathetic. When Dave had gotten to the part where his mother blamed him and his dad for their family falling apart, Sebastian had choked out an angry breath and clenched his fingers tightly in Dave's shirt. His knuckles had turned white from his grip, and Dave paused. He knew he needed to explain what happened after his mother left, but it was going to be hard.

"She…she left after that, Seb." Dave gently pried Sebastian's fingers from his shirt, loosening his boyfriend's grip until Sebastian's hand was free and curled in Dave's own.

Sebastian locked eyes with his, searching for a moment, before nodding and pressing a kiss to Dave's temple.

"Then what happened, Growly?" he asked quietly.

"I…" Dave hesitated. He needed to say it, he really did, but the words stuck in his throat.

"You thought about it, didn't you?"

The words were spoken softly, but they were echoed loudly to Dave. Even though Sebastian had phrased it as a question, it was obvious he wasn't really asking, he was saying what he knew Dave couldn't.

"Yes." Even that one word was hard for Dave to push out, but once it hung between them, he suddenly felt the need to explain. "Not…not like before. I wouldn't. I mean…I couldn't, not like that, not again. I just…fuck. I thought about it. About…about trying again. But...but with a knife." Sebastian flinched against him, and Dave felt a rush of sadness. He hated how broken he was, and how much it hurt the people he cared about. "I-I didn't. I mean – obviously. I wasn't going to do it, I don't think. No…I mean…I wasn't. But, I thought about it. Just for a second. I…I hid the knives so they weren't, you know, right there."

Sebastian's eyes were red, though Dave couldn't see any actual tears. He looked sad and worried. "I'm so glad you called me."

"Me too," Dave admitted, "I don't want to die, Seb. I'm just…I just want it to stop hurting. But I'm scared. What if I'm not getting better?"

"You are, babe. I swear to you. Did you actually want to do it? Really want to, I mean, like before?"

"No. It just—it popped into my head. It freaked me out, fuck, I felt sick from it."

"Then you are already a million times better than you were in February. Because you didn't try it. You didn't even want to."

The room was silent for a few minutes, while Dave thought about what Sebastian had said.

"You're right," he acknowledged eventually, because even though he was scared, Dave knew that what his boyfriend was saying was true. Last time, he'd just given in and tried to kill himself, no hesitation. Even though he'd thought about it that afternoon, he hadn't tried anything. He wanted to get better. "I know, I'm sorry. You're right. I just really wish Mom understood. And I feel so bad saying this…but, there's this part of me that knows she won't understand, not ever, and it makes me never want to see her again. But…but she's my mom, I…"

Dave trailed off. He wanted to keep talking, to let it out and hope that would fix things somehow, but the words wouldn't come. His throat was closing up, and he was too close to tears. He felt a bit silly, he hadn't cried this much in a while, but when Sebastian crawled into his lap and cocooned him in his arms, Dave crumbled.

His head was pressed into Sebastian's shoulder, and his arms were wrapped around his boyfriend's waist. The weight in his lap and the arms wrapped around him left Dave feeling warm and secure. He cried, he didn't know how long for, but eventually he realized there were no tears left, he was just breathing raggedly and trying to relax. Sebastian's hand was rubbing large, soothing circles on Dave's back, and Dave pulled back slightly, smiling sadly and wiping his eyes.

"Sorry," he murmured.

"I keep telling you not to apologize for stuff like this, Growly." Sebastian nudged him and grinned. "Besides, if you never tell me when you're sad, how can I kiss it better?"

Dave choked out a laugh, but he swallowed it quickly when Sebastian leaned in and kissed him softly. Dave wanted to kiss him deeper, wanted to forget everything and just focus on Sebastian, but he was too exhausted, too emotionally drained. Sebastian's fingers wandered gently along Dave's scalp, and he moaned. It felt nice, comforting, and Dave settled his head on Sebastian's neck to enjoy it, until he was so drowsy he fell asleep.

When he awoke, it took Dave a moment to get his bearings. The last thing he remembered, Sebastian was in his lap, and Dave's head was pressed into the soft skin of his boyfriend's neck. He wasn't sitting anymore, he was lying along the couch with Sebastian beside him. They must have shifted while Dave was asleep, because Sebastian was on his back while Dave was sprawling half across him, face down. His head was buried in the space beside Sebastian's, so he couldn't see anything but the cushions on the sofa, but he could hear voices speaking very quietly, which must have been what woke up him.

"…don't know what she was thinking. How bad was it, really, Sebastian?"

His father was home. He must have gotten in while Dave was asleep. Judging from what Dave could hear, Sebastian had already told him some of what happened. He should let them know he was awake. He should. But he was comfortable, and tired, and honestly, he wasn't ready to talk to his dad about what had happened, not yet. Dave just wanted to cuddle his boyfriend for a little longer, and pretend he hadn't had the afternoon from hell.

"It was bad. He was…Christ, Paul, he was really upset." Sebastian's fingers curled where they were pressed against Dave's hip.

"Did he—"

"No…he admitted that he thought about it, but he didn't try anything. He called me, just like he promised. He's…I think he'll be okay. He's getting better, it's just what she said was really bad, you know? But he didn't do anything, even though he was so unhappy." Even though Sebastian was whispering, Dave could hear how rough his voice sounded. Sebastian was upset, had maybe even been crying while Dave slept.

"Thank you, Sebastian. You're a good kid, you know? And you've been so great for David. He's my son and I'll always be there for him, but I don't think he feels right talking to me about these things. I'm just glad you found each other – that you're there for him. You make him happy."

"I'm not…it's not one sided. He makes me happy, too. And I like being there for him. He's such a strong person, even though he doesn't see it." Sebastian shifted and the fingers on Dave's hip disappeared, reappearing at the base of his neck. "I just hate that so many people seem to want to try and break him. He doesn't deserve that. I wish there was more I could do. I wish he could see himself how I see him. Or that they could."

If it had been him and Sebastian talking, that would be where Sebastian would wiggle his eyebrows and make a dirty joke about not wanting them to see everything he saw. But, instead, Sebastian just sounded sincere.

Dave moved a little, burying his face further into the cushion. He hoped that would hide the blush he could feel creeping along his cheeks, without giving away that he was actually awake. He felt lighter, giddy. Because it hit him, with his boyfriend's words, that Dave had actually sort of fallen in love with Sebastian.

Completely.

Maybe one day he would be able to tell him that.