Instead my life has been kind of shit. And by kind of I mean 'really' and I miss the hell out of everybody but I just can't. I know I can and that means the world to me. Just like before I've printed out the things everybody has said to me during this blackout time and they're up on the wall, a touchstone. I literally touch them before I leave my room, every time, every day. You guys are a lifeline, a saving grace, a joy.
Which has not a lot to do with why I finished this fic. And also everything to do with it. I don't know. I wanted to write but I couldn't start something new, so finishing something old and screwing where the show decided to go happened instead. Should I tell you this deals with Karofsky and Kurt? It's mostly a Karofsky fic, though.
I'm considering turning off comments so if that happens, it's just because I'm kind of easily overwhelmed right now.
Also: Un-beta'd. Completely. And I finished it and posted it. If it were a baby it'd be covered in birthing goo and stuff. Yeah, mental images. Sorry.
Free Falling (Hang on, Hang on)
It's not that his parents will hate him. His parents are cool and they love him and they're really fucking worried about him. His dropping grades, his 'aggressive behavior', his suspension. His parents love him and he knows that it's a no-matter-what kind of thing. His grandparents might care, maybe, but they have to deal with his aunt Roxy and the way she's a bohemian hipster who goes all over the world without telling anybody where she's going to be and she could she winds up dead or missing and nobody would know the first place to look. His grandparents might give a shit, yeah maybe, but they've got a bigger fish to fry. Aunt Roxy wouldn't give a shit. Aunt Roxy bought him an electric guitar for his eleventh birthday—she's okay with anything.
No, the only person in his family who would care, who does care, is Dave. And Dave hates himself. It's not even because he's gay that he hates himself. It's because he's not normal and that's all he wants. He's not right and he can't change and he's so goddamn weak that he can't change and he doesn't fit in and he's angry about it and scared of that and he doesn't want to feel that way and he hates himself. He hates who he is and what that makes him become. He hates what it did to Hummel and he hates what it did to his parents and he hates himself. He's not who he thought he would be and he hates himself so much he thinks something has to snap, something has to give, something has to break because he doesn't understand how he can feel this much hate and anger and fear and still be alive.
Getting expelled is a relief.
He can finally stop caring.
He goes numb and empty and silent. For the first time in a long time he simply doesn't care anymore. Even when he goes back to school—when strings are pulled and he's brought back like some wayward puppet—and he's off all sports, he doesn't care. He's numb.
He's silent in the halls, he does his homework. He feels nothing and that's almost like feeling good.
The first person he comes out to, says the words to, is not his mom or his dad or his therapist. It's not even himself.
He tells Azimio.
They're at his place, doing their French homework together, waiting for the OSU game to start and he just…says it.
He's not even sure he says it because Azimio doesn't say anything for a long time. Then he says, "Okay." And "How do you fucking say that?" and points to a word in the textbook.
Dave looks at the word and pronounces it and then repeats himself even though he doesn't know why. "I'm gay."
Azimio says, "Yeah. Okay."
Dave looks at him.
"Dude," Azimio says. "Dude, it's…whatever. It's okay. You're my best friend. So. It's. Whatever."
"I—" Dave says and realizes with a start that his hand is bleeding because he's snapped his pencil in half. "Az, I—" Why the hell is he saying this stuff?
Azimio's eyes get wide. "Do you want to talk about feelings?" he asks in horror.
Dave's pretty horrified himself. "NO. Fuck, no. I just—" Dear god, he does not want to talk about his feelings. Not at ALL. "NO. I—I just said it. To say it."
Az still looks like he thinks Dave is about to do something terrible like talk to him about this. "Well. Okay." He holds up both hands. "Like, you can talk about it, about your feelings and whatever, and, okay, I don't want to talk about it but if you want to or, like, need to or somesuch shit—"
They're talking about it. They are talking about it. "OH MY GOD." Dave says. "YOU'RE TALKING ABOUT THIS. SHUT UP, ASSHOLE."
"OSU IS STARTING," Az agrees.
They turn the game on and there is football and it's an awesome game and Dave feels something, he's just not sure what it is. Not numb.
He feels something beside numbness, too, when he walks into the band room at school. He's supposed to give Mr. Ellis some papers from the office but he isn't there. Since he needs to bring them back, he waits a little bit and wonders in an empty way, what he's feeling. If he wants to feel it. Since he's not sure and he's not sure, he reaches out and touches the guitar lying across Mr. Ellis' desk. The wood is slick and smooth and cool and the strings under his fingers feel taut and sturdy, like they'd put calluses on his hands.
When he was eleven and his aunt Roxy gave him an electric guitar for his birthday she'd also spent a month living with them, teaching him. When she'd left, he'd kept on with Mr. Ellis, the band teacher for the high school. He can't remember how many lessons he's had, but he's actually good at it, or was. He gave up the guitar when he started to realize how different he is—he'd given up anything that had seemed like it could lead to being 'that'.
Mostly it hadn't been hard; he loves hockey and football and sports in general and he'd just filled in his time with more of those. But giving up the guitar had been a bit of a wrench. He'd tried to give Mr. Ellis his guitar, to give to some other kid, but Mr. Ellis had insisted that he keep it. It's hidden in his closet at home.
Dave is sure there's meaning in that.
Touching the guitar now reminds him, somehow, of kissing Hummel. Dangerous and furious and laid wide open. He remembers feeling it but he can't remember how it feels to feel that way and suddenly he does know what he was feeling and he doesn't mind it. Lump in his throat, he picks up the guitar, settles it against himself. It's surprising how it fits him now, the stretch in his arm gone, his fingers not held wide to span the neck. The reach around the body is new, the acoustic is thicker than an electric, wide around the hollow space inside.
He finds the chords from memory, rusty and uncertain but the memory is there, in his muscles and in his mind. The first song he'd ever been taught, Aunt Roxy singing softly as he'd struggled to find his pacing. The words are embedded in the notes for him.
"It's a long day, living in Reseda" he's tuneless, nearly soundless "there's a freeway, running through the yard."
He remembers the wistfulness in his aunt's voice and how he hadn't understood it or the music, had just felt exactly this. "And I'm a bad boy, 'cause I don't even miss her. Yeah, I'm a bad boy, for breaking her heart."
The guitar clatters to the desk, the box resounding with the force of being set down and the strings humming in protest. "Hey. Sorry, sorry, I just—"
"Oh, please don't," Mr. Ellis says. "You're a little slow but your emotion makes up for it." He smiles a little. "I didn't know you still played."
"No, I—" He can still feel the weight in his arms, the nylon under his fingers. "I don't really, I haven't. For a while." He scoops up the papers and offers them out. "Here. Office wants you to sign this or something."
"Sure." Mr. Ellis takes the papers and picks up a pen, signing without really paying attention, eyes on him like lasers. Everybody knows about Dave and he knows it but he doesn't care, hasn't cared, but he's not numb right now and he doesn't want Mr. Ellis looking at him like he can see him. "David," a pause as he hands the papers back.
Dave holds them so lightly they could scatter if he's not careful. It's better than mangling in his too-tense hands. "Thanks." He wants to get out of here.
"Sure," he says again, easily, but when Dave reaches the door he says, "I'm not sure what you did with your guitar but you're welcome to use this one whenever you'd like. Nobody else does; I only took it out to dust it off."
"Whatever," Dave says and escapes, escapes, escapes.
His parents are sitting side-by-side on the couch, cuddled up and watching Dancing With the Stars and Dave stands there for a minute, looking at them. He thinks about how numb he is inside and how that's fading; he thinks about the guitar in his room and the one at school and he thinks about his mother reading poetry to him as a kid and his dad teaching him how to ice skate and he stands there and looks and he says it. "I'm sorry."
They look at him and he can't. He can't.
"Dave?" his mom asks.
"I don't like girls," he says. "I'm gay. I'm sorry." And then he burst into tears. They burn in his eyes, feel like ice on his cheeks, they rip at his skin like fingernails and his chest hurts because he can't breathe and his heart has stopped. "I'm so sorry. I'm so freaking sorry."
His father reaches him first, pulls him into a tight hug. "Dave," he whispers. "David, it's all right." His mother is warm against his back and he's between his mom and his dad, just like he used to be when he was little and would squirm in between their hugs, to be in the middle of the love.
He cries harder and clings to his parents, just like a little boy, and he feels full and empty and numb and hurt and better, better, so much better.
After a minute he wipes his face with both hands. "I told Az," he says.
His mom laughs. "Oh, Dave."
Dave doesn't intend to go back to the band room or that guitar, but he does. He's kicking around, waiting on Azimio to get out of practice, and he sort of finds himself down that hall, smelling cork grease and reeds and brass. The door is wide open, like it's waiting for him, and the room is empty when he walks in. If Mr. Ellis is in his office, he can't see him. He's probably down the hall, playing piano for—anyhow, he's not there.
The guitar is on a stand by the desk in the room.
"I don't know," Dave whispers to it when he lifts it. He sits and settles it and touches the tuning pegs. "I just don't know." He closes his eyes and just holds it for a while before putting it back and leaving the room, shutting the door behind himself.
He keeps going back, though, every day Az has practice. The door is open, the room is empty, and the guitar waits for him, waits right where he left it the last time he put it down.
So he plays. When one day there's a post-it on the neck saying 'WARM UPS', he does warm-ups. Slides his fingers over the neck and plays chords and switches tempos and skips up and down the notes and measures. He does it every day and then, when his fingers are warm, he plays songs he knows in bits and scattered pieces.
One day he opens his mouth and sings along, lets the words actually form and use up his breath and be a sound, a song. "—west down Ventura Boulevard."
There's a sound by the door and when he lifts his head, Mercedes is there.
He cares and he doesn't, enough to keep going or not enough to stop he doesn't know. It's a theme with him, he figures. He looks back down at his hands on the strings. "And all the bad boys, they're standing in the shadows and all those good girls at home with broken hearts."
It's Hummel's voice and Dave has shit for control where Hummel is concerned and he finally knows why, really and truly knows why. It jerks in his gut, like the music, like a kiss, like something he longs for without knowing what it is. He looks up again, and there's Hummel in the uniform of another school, face like a porcelain doll. "And I'm free, free fallin'," Dave sings, looking right at him and feeling so sorry, so damn sorry for all of it, for letting it spill onto Hummel when he couldn't keep it in. "Yeah I'm free, free fallin'…."
Maybe Mercedes is still there, maybe she's not, but Hummel is looking at him and Dave isn't numb and he's not angry and he's sorry and he feels so much it hurts. "Wanna glide down, over this city, gonna write your name in the sky," he sings, just for Hummel right now because he deserves that much.
"Kurt let's go," Mercede's words get through because they make Hummel look away, turn away, leave.
Dave keeps singing anyhow, about how he's going to fall into nothing and maybe leave the world for a while. It sounds like a good idea, such a peaceful idea.
"Just a second, Mercedes," Hummel's voice brings Dave's eyes back to the door and Dave looks at him again, because he's there again. Hummel's face is crumpled up like he hurts, too, feels too much. "Don't," he says, the first words he's said to Dave in what feels like years, "do anything stupid, okay?"
He doesn't know what to make of that. He just keeps playing, letting the space where the words should be fill up with music.
"Seriously, don't—don't do anything dumb. It's okay. It's all right, Karofsky," Hummel says and his voice is strong, doesn't waver, but he's pulling his sleeve up over the heel of his hand and swiping at his cheeks like—
"Oh," Dave says and a moment later he remembers he's singing, "I'm free," he sings and the next part isn't the important part so he skips it, because it isn't and he goes right on to the part he likes. "And I'm free. Yeah, I'm free."
Hummel disappears and Az turns up a few minutes later, takes a look at him and demands "What the fuck, man?"
Dave looks at the guitar—Az knows about this, Az knows where to find him when it's time to drive home so—and when he looks down he sees a drop splash off the wood. He didn't know there were tears on his cheeks; Hummel had been so clear in his eyes. But his face is sopping when he touches it after putting the guitar back. "It's—nothing." The absence of other things.
"MR. ELLIS," Az shouts, "WHAT THE HELL HAPPENED UP IN THIS ROOM?"
"I'm joining band," he tells Az later.
"They let you have a guitar in band?" Azimio asks. He's calmed down a lot but it probably has something to do with how Dave dragged him bodily out of the school and stuffed him into his truck and took him for burgers at Val's, all the way down by Wapakoneta. "Really?"
It's kind of a dumb question. Only not really because it's, like, band. "Yeah. I guess. Sort of."
"Guess that's kinda cool." Az says.
Dave nods. "Yeah. I—yeah. I kind of gave up stuff like that when I thought I might be—you know, when I thought it'd make me seem like a fag or something."
Az nods. "I can see that."
"That's why. The glee club and shit. I did that because." Why the hell is Dave so lame? Why does he have to DO this? Why can't he be fucking normal?
"Are we talking about feelings?" Az wants to know. He's getting that horrified look again. "Because we can if you need to but shit, man, you gotta warn me or something—"
"WE ARE NOT TALKING ABOUT FEELINGS," Dave tells him. He doesn't want to talk about feelings. Every now and again he just tells Az stuff. "I JUST SAY IT TO SAY IT, OKAY? SHUT UP."
"RADIO," Az says, flipping it on. Of course Lady Gaga is on. Dave laughs because he can't help it.
Once they're home he parks in front of Az's house and watches as his best friend slings his backpack over his shoulder and then fiddles with his seatbelt. "Dude? You're my best friend. You can tell me stuff. I don't do feelings so great. But you know I like you more than my actual brother. I, you know, feelings. So when you tell me stuff that's—cool. It's cool, okay? It's." He stops. Shifts. "How do they get to the manly hug and the 'I love you man' part in movies without it feeling gay? This feels gay."
Dave snorts. "Fuck you, asshole." And then he hugs Az, brief and manly before he kicks him out of his truck and goes home again.
There's sheet music on Mr. Ellis' desk but it's for Dave because his name is printed in blocky uppercase letters right across the top. He doesn’t know who left it for him but he's not sure it matters. The last few lines are circled, hard graphite lines that say it's important, it's important.
He brings it to Mr. Ellis. "I want to do this," he says, holding it out. "At the spring concert. And everybody knows it and I mean, people could sing along." He doesn't know why he doesn't just say it. "The Glee club, they could perform it, too. Instead of you playing for them, it'd be everybody. It'd be everybody."
Mr. Ellis flips through the few pages, they sound like a whisper in the silence. He looks up and smiles. "I'll talk to Will about it," he promises.
Sometimes Dave wonders if he doesn't hate himself anymore because he's not storing up a secret inside. He's not 'normal', he's not who he thought he was going to be, but he's not so afraid of it anymore. Sometimes he wonders if he doesn't hate himself because Hummel told him it was okay, it was all right. Mostly it doesn't matter.
Or, rather, it matters more that he can watch the Glee club shake it-shake it-shake it, yeah and grin. Hummel looks over at him, flushed and grinning himself and Dave can't help singing along with them, no microphone on him but trading 'yeah's with Hummel anyhow until the dance pulls him away.
So he looks back out at the crowd, the parents with kids in the band or choir or club and the students who got forced into coming and the whole football team, front and center. The guitar in his hands, his own, is loud and rowdy and alive and Dave sings along, telling Sloopy to hang on, hang on, Sloopy. He laughs around the words as he says them because he's happy.
He's so happy.