Author's note:

Warnings: Rated M but I've not decided on that completely yet, description of violence, language

Disclaimer: I do not own Glee

Drip. Drip. Drip.

The pool of viscous red liquid on the floor was getting bigger by the second.

Jeff lay tangled at the bottom of the stairs, head below his feet, which were halfway back up the flight. His pounding head was resting, thankfully still at last, on the last step. The cold, hard edge of the concrete steps dug painfully into his bruised back.

He was vaguely aware of someone holding his hand, presumably Kurt, as the school nurse urgently asked questions in his ear about what hurt.

Stupid question. He thought. Everything fucking hurts.

A week later, healed from his injuries and on his first day back to school, Jeff sat in the foyer by Principal Figgins' office. Alongside him was his good friend Kurt, together with the accused bullies and their collective parents.

Jeff had not made any statement to the school about who had done this to him nor why, nor had he told his parents.

His father had just assumed that he had got caught up in a post hockey match fight and Jeff hadn't seen any point in correcting him. Looking around the small, cramped room, Jeff figured that Kurt had named the culprits, since Rick "The Stick" Nelson and three of his fellow hockey team mates were sat across from them, glaring.

Jeff didn't blame Kurt for naming them, since he knew his injuries had looked bad and his friend had probably felt like it was his fault. After all, Jeff had only been beaten that day because he'd stood up for Kurt.

His grateful friend had kept in touch while he was recovering, informing him that rumours had spread like wildfire around the school that the out-and-proud, fashion-forward brunet had been saved by his knight in shiny gay pink armour, namely Jeff.

The tired blond sighed and closed his eyes, waiting for Figgins to call them all into his office. He thought about how his life at McKinley had been okay up until now, mid way through his senior year. Not great exactly, but just okay in an under-the-radar kind of way.

Before these rumours about his sexuality, Jeff hadn't dated at McKinley and Kurt was already a clear target for the homophobic jocks. No-one had even considered that there was more than one boy in their year who was attracted to other boys. The main reason for this was that no-one had guessed his sexuality.

Hell, he wasn't even completely sure himself, but he had been thinking about it a lot recently.

So, when he came across Kurt on the floor where he'd rebounded after being faceplanted into his metal locker, surrounded by the boys now sat opposite, Jeff had probably reacted a bit too strongly. And boy had he paid the price for it with that beating.

Even if Jeff knew exactly what he was, bi or gay or whatever, he would never start denying anything at school because that would just land Kurt with even more bullying than he currently got. Which was a lot.

No, that wasn't what worried Jeff. But what his parents were going to say when this inevitably came up in the meeting did. Neither of them were particularly warm or understanding. Mr and Mrs Sterling were both career-driven people, concerned mainly with their appearance to others and how they were perceived. As long as everything appeared to be fine from the outside, everything was just fine. Jeff had never rocked the boat, so to speak, so he really wasn't sure what their reaction would be to the meeting.

By the end of it, when the bullie's parents' argument that there was no proof was predictably accepted by Figgins, Jeff was cautiously optimistic about the fact that his parents had barely said a word. Burt Hummel, however, had angrily remonstrated with the Principal on both his son's and Jeff's behalf.

Figgins looked quite bored with the whole matter and repeatedly explained that he could not go against the board of governors of the school and the decision to let the hockey players off with warnings about future behaviour stood, since they had already been suspended for five days each.

Perhaps the fact that his father would not meet his eyes on the way home and his mother remained silent too should have alerted him that something was wrong, but it didn't.

The Sterling's front door had barely clicked back into place before the first stinging, backhanded slap hit him full in the face, splitting his lip and sending him crashing to the hall floor before his father's right shoe connected with his stomach.

After last period on Monday, Nick quickly ran back to his Dalton dormitory to grab his brand new bass guitar.

He had signed up for lessons a month ago after his friend Thad had told him about the really cool and laid-back new teacher, Mr Sterling, who was apparently very good. Nick had been instantly impressed with the progress Thad had made after only a few lessons. He had wanted an extra-curricular activity that would enhance his singing abilities with the Warblers, so he figured this was a good option.

He quickly made his way along the corridors near Warbler Hall to one of the smaller practice rooms for his fifth lesson. His last lesson had suddenly just clicked in his brain and his teacher had commented on how well he was doing.

He pushed through the door, greeting Mr Sterling with a smile as he began to get his music out for the lesson and settle comfortably on the stool, ready to start. "Hey, Mr Sterling! Did you have a good weekend?"

The older, sandy-haired man nodded. "Yes thanks, Nick, I did. It was quite quiet really, just me and my cat!" He laughed. "How about you? Your social life ought to be better than mine, I reckon?"

Nick shrugged. "Oh, you know, study and hanging around here as usual. Not that interesting. At least I got time to practice bass a bit."

Mr Sterling frowned. "You should get out more, but practice is good too! You can do both you know - my nephew sometimes plays bass in a covers band and they have a gig on Friday night. He sings some of the vocals too. You should go and check it out, you might learn something. I taught him bass, but the rest is mostly natural talent, I guess. I was going to mention it to Thad too, he has a lesson later, unless you see him first."

"Cool! Where is it?" Nick asked, genuinely interested.

"It's at Scandals, 8pm doors I believe." Mr Sterling was fiddling with his bass strings so he missed the slightly shocked look on Nick's face.

"The gay bar?" Nick asked.

His teachers gaze snapped up, seemingly trying to judge if Nick was being homophobic. "Yes. Is that a problem? They play in many places around the local area." His penetrating gaze was beginning to make Nick uncomfortable.

"Oh, no! No! It's not a problem, I-I mean, I'm gay, so, uh...if he is or isn't it's no matter to me.." He blushed. "I-I didn't mean to imply he was gay just because he was playing there. I was just surprised, that's all. Scandals always puts on high quality acts. He must be good to play there."

Mr Sterling smiled widely at this. He had decided over the past few lessons that he liked Nick and suspected he was probably gay. Likewise with his nephew, although he couldn't be sure. He had a sneaky feeling that the two boys would get on well together, but there wasn't any easy and non-creepy way to try to introduce your pupil to your nephew.

"Indeed he is. Right, lets get on. Page 15 today, start with a nice walking bass line. Don't rush and remember to relax your shoulders. A one, a two, a three, a four AND..."

Matthew Sterling packed up his instrument and papers and headed for Dalton's staff parking lot at the end of the day. He selected a CD for the drive home and sang along happily until he turned into his driveway, stopping abruptly mid song. Why is Jeff's car in my driveway? He isn't supposed to be coming to see me today.

He parked quickly and hopped out of his car, leaving his belongings inside for the moment. He hadn't seen Jeff for a fortnight, which was quite normal, and he was sure they hadn't made any plans that he'd forgotten about. He didn't have a good feeling about this.

He walked up the steps to the porch, fishing in his pants pocket for his keys and wondering where Jeff was, when he saw him.

At the end of the porch, Jeff was sat huddled into the corner, head in his hands, crying. When he heard his uncle's approach, he flinched, his legs drawing even closer to his body, his arms wrapped tightly around them as he dared to look up, squinting.

Matthew sucked in a breath as he fell to the floor next to his nephew, mentally counting the injuries. Those that he could see any way. Split lip. Grazed cheek. Ripped shirt. Black eye. Matted blood in his usually pale hair. "Jeff! What happened? Who did this to you?"

Tears streaked down Jeff's face as he struggled to reply coherently. "He d-did. D-dad did. S-said I was a d-disgusting f-fag. S-said he sh-shouldn't have let me b-be fr-friends with K-Kurt. C-caught the gay... off him." He looked into his uncle's eyes, distraught. "I didn't do a-anything, Uncle Matt. K-Kurt's just a friend. I c-couldn't just let them beat him up, could I?"

Matthew was even more confused now. He could tell he was missing half of the story, but for now he needed to just get Jeff inside the house and check him over to see if he needed to go to the hospital.

Then he had another thing he had to do. Call his ass of a brother.

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