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five stages of grief

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stage one: denial

The instant that Jack Kelly realized he was in love with his best friend David Jacobs was a moment that shook him to his core.


They―Race, Spot, Katherine, Sarah, Crutchie, David, and Jack himself―had been crowded around a rather too-small-of-a table in their campus dining hall. They had all just finished the last of their classes for the week and were pumped to start the weekend off right. Race and Spot, sitting next to each other as usual, bragged about how drunk they were going to get. Jack thought he overheard a bet being placed between the two, something about who would throw up first, and wouldn't be surprised if his suspicions were true. Crutchie and Sarah, the latter with her arm around her girlfriend, gushed about the newest episode of whatever overrated show they were watching and how many more episodes they could squeeze within two days. Jack, however, was not paying much attention at all to the former two pairings as he was to the last one: Katherine and David.


Jack had been the one to introduce the two to each other months ago, having previously dated Katherine himself. In turn, David introduced Katherine to his sister, and the girls hit it off in a way no one had expected. But that wasn't of Jack's interest right now. No; his interest was laser-focused on the way David's eyes lit up when he was passionate and how brightly his teeth shone when he smiled and the small forehead crinkles that made a guest appearance when he thought about what else there was to say. What David was talking about to Katherine, though, Jack had no fucking clue. Must have been something he learned in his latest lecture, due to the influx of scientific terms Jack had never even heard before. It just made David all the more appealing.


And then, that was when the dreaded thought entered Jack's mind. A thought that he hadn't asked for, hadn't anticipated. A split-second, subconscious forming of words that would ultimately change the rest of his life. 


God, I love him.


Upon realizing what exactly had crossed his train of thought, Jack’s face paled. The sudden churning sensation in his stomach alerted him that he may suddenly be sick. Against his wishes, his friends weren't slow to notice the sudden change in his demeanor.


"Hey, Jack, buddy. You good there? Did you catch a glimpse of your future or some shit?" Race jokingly questioned, elbowing Spot as if to really make sure the punchline landed.


Jack mentally answered, Yeah, the near future where I'm throwing up over a goddamn toilet, and knew his face probably hadn't changed from its sickly expression all that much.


"Jack?" This voice was full of more genuine concern, and without looking up Jack knew it was David. Not wanting to have to answer any of them, especially the boy who caused him this distress, Jack stood up from his seat.


"I need some air."


And with that, he strode out of the dining hall, not so much mumbling an, "Excuse me," as he pushed people out of the way. The minute he opened the front doors, he found the nearest bench and plopped himself down onto it, his head following the same movements into his hands.


Deep breaths, he told himself. Except the voice didn't sound like his, and the more he heard the phrase repeated, the more he was sure as hell that it wasn't coming from inside his own skull. Slowly lifting his head, Jack's eyes met the worried and black-lined ones of Katherine. He let out a breath he didn't know he was holding.


Katherine tilted her head to the side, a silent request making sure it was okay to touch him. After Jack nodded and made a noise that sounded vaguely like a, “Yeah,” Katherine wrapped an arm around her friend and pulled him in close.


"You took your meds today, right?" she asked, rubbing soothing circles on his arm, and Jack nodded against her shoulder. Ever since they met, Katherine had always had Jack's back when it came to his anxiety, and honestly, Jack couldn't have asked for a better support system of friends. The foster care system fucked with his head in more ways than he’d care to admit, but he was grateful that the universe finally decided to cut him some slack. Being adopted by his foster mom Medda and having an adopted brother like Spot really made up for the nine years of hell he went through. "Do you want to talk about what caused this, then?"


Jack opened his mouth, ready to confess his feelings as he was known to do, but quickly closed it. It wasn't for the fact that he was ashamed of who he was, because no one was more bisexual, out, and proud than he. No, that wasn't it. It wasn't even the opposite, that he didn't know if David liked guys, because he did. Hell, he and Jack went to pride together the month previous. Sexuality was not an issue here. It was more of the idea that if he said that he lo― ...cared for his best friend more than he should, it could ruin everything that they had built over the past ten months. After knowing destroyed relationships his whole life, Jack didn't want that possibility to be real with his friendship with David.

And saying things out loud is what made them real.


"I― it was nothing, Kath. Honestly." Jack sat up from Katherine's arm, looking at her with the most sincere expression he could muster. It would be a lot easier if he didn’t always wear his heart on his sleeve. "I just got panicky from all the people in there."


Jack knew Katherine didn't believe his lie, because she always knew shit like that. But maybe Jack wasn’t lying. After all, there were a lot of people in the dining hall, and with that came all of the noise. The chatter, the scraping of chairs against tile, the clanking of silverware. He most likely didn’t hear his thought correctly. Yes, that was it. There’s a fucking explanation for everything, and that was it right there. Regardless, Jack stood and sauntered back over to the dining hall doors, already mentally practicing what he would say to his friends when he joined them again. He’d crack a joke about his anxiety, undoubtedly, and play it off as if nothing ever happened.

Because nothing did.


His denied feelings and a suspicious Katherine left behind would beg to differ, though.

 


 

stage two: anger

“So you’re ditching me.”

It wasn’t a question by any means. No, this was a statement.

“Jack, I’m not ditching you if we never had plans. I’m just letting you know that I can’t chill tonight―”

“Because you’re ditching me for your fucking boyfriend.”

Dio mio.” Race only spoke in Italian when he was stressed, frustrated, or angry. Though everyone knew Spot found it unapologetically hot as fuck, the rest of the friend group knew to keep their distance when Race was like this. Jack, in the moment, however, hoped he was causing Race all three: stress, frustration, and anger. Served the bastard right. “Jack, I’m not fucking ditching you. I’m not going to be home as early as I thought I was going to be. Why are you being so pissy about this?”

Jack gripped his phone tighter and bit his lip, trying not to let tears fall from his eyes. What the hell is wrong with you? he thought to himself, not especially knowing if he was mentally talking to himself or to Race. Why are you being such a fucking douche? He hadn’t said a word out loud yet, and the tension between him and Race was increasingly becoming thicker over the phone line. He thought he heard Spot say something on the other end, something along the lines of the fact that Jack always did this back at home and that Medda said it had something to do with anxiety.

Fuck them, Jack thought. They don’t know shit about anxiety. This isn’t anxiety.

Breaking the silence that had washed over the two of them, Jack then heard an exasperated sigh, undoubtedly from Race. Immediately, Jack felt mildly like a burden to his friend. He knew he was blowing the whole situation out of proportion but he couldn’t help it because he was angry and alone and he just needed to fucking punch something

“Listen, Jack. I have to go. I’m not really sure what I’m apologizing for―ow, Spot―but I’m sorry. I’ll see you in the morning.”

Jack breathed out a curt, “Yeah,” before ending the call and throwing his phone on the ratty couch in his and Race’s apartment. He took deep breaths, mentally listing who he could call to ask to come over and help him deal with whatever the fuck it was that he was dealing with. Katherine was more likely than not with Sarah, Crutchie and David were probably hanging out together since they lived with each other, and then Race was with Spot and―

It was then that the frustrated tears started to fall, but Jack had no idea why he was even angry. Race was right, the two of them had no set plans for tonight, so nothing was being cancelled. Only once it was mentioned that they might watch a movie or something, but even then it was said within a passing conversation earlier that morning. Then why for the love of fucking god was Jack acting like this? Maybe, his subconscious provided, he wasn’t angry at Race; he had no probable cause to be. Maybe...maybe he was angry at the fact that Race had a boyfriend that he was able to go off on stupid adventures and be reckless with and kiss and hold and fuc― No. No no no no no.

Jack promptly sat on the floor with his back against the couch and pulled his knees to his chest, squeezing them tight in order to focus his mind on something else. The feeling of his muscles coiling in one position. His staggered, uneven breaths. The wetness on his face from his tears. It all helped ground him, helped him focus on what actually mattered in the present moment. Jack had learned that technique from David, who also suffered from anxiety.

Jack remembered the first time he had a panic attack in front of David, and how the latter had been the first friend of his who didn’t bombard him with questions about the state of his condition. Though Katherine was always supportive, she didn’t always know what to do. But David, he’d been wonderful.

It had happened in the middle of one of their conjoined study sessions. Jack had been fine one minute, and then the next his mind was flooding with all the art assignments he had to get done and the such little time he had and the supplies he needed to buy and the lack of original ideas. David, always the observational and attentive one, had noticed how Jack's eyes suddenly glazed over and the uneven way his chest rose and fell with his breaths. David then moved and crouched down in front of his friend, never touching him, and asked Jack to think about each thing he could feel. It didn’t matter if it was on the inside or if it was external. Just focus. Before long, Jack’s breathing had been calmed to normal and the brightness returned to his eyes. He refused to look at David, though, embarrassed at the episode the other just had to witness, but David wouldn’t let Jack have it. He had lightly put his finger under Jack’s chin (“Is it okay to touch you?” “I― y-yeah.”) and led Jack’s head so their gazes matched.

Then David, fighting down his own blush―or had Jack just mentally added that to the memory?―had said, “What just happened is nothing to be ashamed of, Jack. I― the same thing happens to me. The anxiety, I mean. I just know it’s always a little bit easier when you have someone to get through it with.” Jack, not knowing what David was implying or how to even respond, had simply nodded and the two awkwardly returned to their work.

Though the memory brought a slight smile to Jack’s face, his chest was tight and pained due to the residing anger and now the feeling of unrequited lov― nope. Unrequited excessive caring. And he still felt the need to break something.

Preferably something that wasn’t his own heart.

Jack released his legs and slowly stood up. He shook the tension out of his legs and walked into his room, throwing open the door with more force than was necessary. He stormed over to his neatly stored row of blank canvases and grabbed one. Holding it up, he brought it down over his raised knee and broke it in half. Ignoring the pieces of wood that flew haphazardly across the room, he then grabbed one of those halves and repeated the process over and over until the canvas was split into sixteen uneven, smaller pieces.

His anger over the previous issue was dissipated, but now Jack was angry over the fifteen dollars he just single-handedly destroyed.

 


 

stage three: bargaining

If only I could distance myself from Davey, then it would solve all of this. Everything will go back to normal. Right? Of course right.

It had been three weeks since Jack first had that… thought… and the feeling had not gone away at any level. If anything, it had gotten worse. But Jack in no way was ever going to admit that. No, he actually had a brilliant idea in order to get this problem of his over with once and for all. And he was going to enact upon it even if it killed him.

Jack was walking after his History of Modern Art lecture to the dining hall for a cup of mediocre coffee when David ran up beside him.

“Hey, Jack,” David said, a little breathless from the quick jog he had to take in order to catch up with his friend. Jack glanced over at him and immediately regretted it when he noticed how attractive David looked with his face slightly red and his hair disheveled from the wind and his eyes wide with exertion and his lips parted perfectly

“Hey, Davey,” Jack literally choked out, his thoughts becoming too much to bear. He ignored the glint of amusement that David quickly threw his way. “Did you actually engage in physical activity just in to be able to walk with me? I’m blushing.”

David snorted and shoved the other boy lightly with his shoulder as they walked. “Don’t flatter yourself, Jack. Your ego’s already big enough as is.” It was Jack’s turn to repress a laugh. “No, but really, I saw you when I was coming out of my bio class and just wanted to see if you maybe, uh, wanted to hang out tonight?” Jack’s footing faltered a bit, but he figured David was too preoccupied with what he was saying to notice. “Crutchie’s going out somewhere with Finch and Specs, and… well, I could really use the company while I finish up my lab report.”

As much as Jack would love to hang out with David, his better judgement knew he shouldn’t. Especially if they were going to be alone together for a few hours. Jack didn’t know how his brain, or his heart, could handle that. He knew what the right response to David’s question was, despite it being the last thing he wanted to say.

“Ah, Dave, I― I can’t tonight.” Jack tried not to notice the way David’s face somewhat fell. “I, uh, I promised Race we would watch some weird sci-fi action movie he hasn’t fuckin’ shut up about. I’m really sorry.”

Jack used this moment to glance at David, who was smiling though it didn’t quite reach his eyes. “Don’t be sorry, Jack, it’s okay. I asked you last minute.” Classic David. Always taking the blame though he never did anything wrong. This was the boy that Jack lov― had strong platonic feelings for. “Maybe some other time?”

Jack couldn’t tell David that there wouldn’t be “some other time” for a long while. He couldn’t tell David that, for now, there was no way in hell that they  could hang out one-on-one. He couldn’t blatantly lie to David.

But he had to.

“Yeah maybe some other time.”

So he did.

And with that, David bid him goodbye, saying he had to get to his Bioinformatics class. Whatever the fuck that was. But Jack smiled the same smile he puts on for his professors or for the waitress at a diner and said that he’d see David later.

As he walked up to the dining hall doors, Jack realized that coffee wouldn’t be able to warm the coldness he felt.

~*.*~*.*~

And so it went for a few weeks. David would catch Jack alone, whether it be on campus, in one of their few shared classes, or simply through text and ask if Jack wanted to

anxious gay [7:39 pm]: come study with me, maybe? I keep stopping myself for unsolicited leisure-reading breaks and you know I have no self-control when it comes to Harry Potter

or to try the

anxious gay [5:23 pm]: ...rugelach that Crutchie finally mastered. They taste almost better than my mom’s. Don’t tell either one of them I said that, though.

And each request, each proposal, though it pained him, Jack had to politely decline with

Jackie [7:41 pm]: ugh i would come over but ive been coughing and dont wanna get u or crutch sick

or with an

Jackie [5:27 pm]: i would but medda sent down some of her FamousChili and me and spot ate enough for a small army. any more food would actually kill me.

It was going fine. Well, as fine as it could be with Jack practically ignoring any physical confrontation with his best friend. That was what he thought, at least, until neither of them could take the unmentioned tension any more. Jack was sitting on his bed with the bedroom door closed. Race and Spot were in the living room, doing only-god-knows-what together, and Jack figured that retreating to his room was the good brother/best friend thing of him to do. He had headphones in and was playing some early 2000s alternative music shit when his phone displayed a text notification from David. Jack hated the way his breath momentarily caught in his throat.

anxious gay [6:49 pm]: I know you’re going to come up with some lame excuse like you always do, but I thought I’d try asking if you wanted to maybe come over and watch National Treasure.

Jackie [6:50 pm]: what do you mean by “sOme LaMe EXcuSe”

Jackie [6:50 pm]: i never give u a lame excuse

anxious gay [6:52 pm]: Yes, you do. Whenever I ask you to hang out or to do something with me, you always have something going on. Always, no matter what day or what time it is.

Jackie [6:53 pm]: im just a busy guy

anxious gay [6:53 pm]: You’re never busy when we do group stuff.

Jackie [6:55 pm]: what are u implying

anxious gay [6:56 pm]: I’m not trying to imply anything. You blowing me off just makes me think that you don’t want to hang out with me.

Jackie [7:00 pm]: well have u ever thought that maybe i dont???

Jackie [7:00 pm]: u would think with all of those fancy ass classes ur taking that they would teach u some common sense

anxious gay [7:05 pm]: You don’t mean that. Are you drunk or something?

Jackie [7:06 pm]: im not drunk

By the end of the conversation, Jack was staring dumbly at his phone, music in his headphones forgotten, not sure if the words he sent were really something that he typed out of his own free will. He didn’t know what the fuck had come over him, and the only way he knew how to cope with his reality was to turn his phone off, get under his covers, and go to sleep.

If only he could wake up and have this all be a horrid dream. Then everything would be back to normal.

 


 

stage four: depression

Days went by, and Jack didn’t leave his room except for necessary reasons, such as class or to use the bathroom. Even leaving his room for the sake of his grade was sort of a stretch. Painting and drawing lost its appeal to Jack, despite the fact that it was one of the only things that really made him happy. If he did paint, it was a scary array of blacks and blues, very unlike the bright skylines and landscapes he usually conjured. To add on to losing things that made him happy, Jack couldn’t bring himself to eat and he could barely sleep, so he resorted his time to lying on his bed and staring at the night sky on his ceiling. He had painted the picture when he and Race first moved in, though he knew he’d have to paint over it before whenever they moved out. But for now, it gave him a sense of comfort knowing his life seldom mattered in the grand scheme of the universe.

Sure, that was a thought that scared the shit out of most people, but to Jack, it humbled him.

David also humbled him. As painful as his best friend was to think about, Jack really missed the presence that David had in his life. It had been weeks since he’s allowed himself to have fun with David, and now there was a greater possibility that he had lost his friend for good. If he wasn’t so goddamned stupid and selfish and terrible and―

Knock knock knock.

“Jack?”

Jack knew it was Race’s voice, as his friend had adopted a softer tone ever since he realized something was wrong. Jack supposed that was why he and Race had always gotten along so well for all these years. Neither pressed the other to talk when they were in one of their moods but rather just supplied a comforting aura. It was quite different from the usual sarcastic insults and jokes they were constantly throwing at one another.

“Come in,” Jack answered in a monotonous way that was very unlike his normal demeanor.

Race opened the door and stepped in, closing it softly behind him. Not wanting to be completely rude, Jack sat up in his bed, raising an eyebrow at Race to silently ask what he wanted.

“Crutchie’s here,” was all Race said. Before Jack could even respond, his mind instantly went to the fact that Crutchie was roommates with Davey who was angry with me and that’s all my fault and that had to be the reason he’s here to yell at me and oh god I can’t handle that right now I can’t I can’t I can’t

“Hey, man, Jack, take deep breaths. I’m here, it’s okay.”

Race, with all good intentions, stepped up and placed a hand on Jack’s shoulder, who in turned yelled out, “Don’t fucking touch me!”

Race jerked his hand away as if Jack’s shoulder had suddenly burnt him as well as let out a mumbled stream of “I’m sorries.” Jack turned his head away from Race, not wanting to see the hurt that was undoubtedly there.

“I’m going to let Crutchie in, okay?” Race asked, standing up from his crouching position and heading back for the bedroom door. Jack quickly reached out, grabbed Race’s arm, and asked him to stay in the room. Race obliged, and Jack figured that maybe Crutchie would go easy on him if another person were there, too.

Soon enough, all three of them were crowded in Jack’s rather small room, with Crutchie sitting next to Jack on the bed and his crutch leaning against the wall. Race was on the floor in front of them. An uncomfortable silence stretched longer than any of them knew what to do with.

Finally, Crutchie let out, “You probably know why I’m here, Jack.” Jack nodded while Race let out a quiet “I sure as hell don’t.” Ignoring the last comment made, Crutchie continued, “You know, Davey really ain’t doing so well. I’ve heard his side of the story, and I gotta truthfully say that it makes you look like a real jerk.” Jack winced though no vulgar language was thrown at him. Disapproval from Crutchie hurt all the same, though, if not more.

Jack peered at Race who looked back at Jack with a confused expression on his face. Of course he didn’t know what was going on, but Race was smart and could conclude that Jack’s depressive state was linked to whatever happened between him and David.

“I was just angry that day,” Jack started. “I didn’t mean what I said to him, Crutch.”

“He doesn’t know that. He thinks you hate him."

Jack casted his eyes down towards his feet, not wanting to see the disappointment in Crutchie's eyes. David thought Jack hated him when the complete opposite was the truth. And whose fault was that?

“Hate to ruin the moment, boys, but what the hell are you two talking about?” Race interjected, his voice laced with his usual sarcasm.

Jack opened his mouth to confess, but Crutchie beat him to it. Probably not to relay a biased report. “Jack basically told Davey out front that he didn’t want to hang out with him, after rejecting Davey’s requests to do stuff a bunch of times.”


Race’s eyes met Jack’s, which were bordered with unshed tears.

How did I let all of this get this far?  Jack silently questioned.

“Jackie boy, that ain’t like you,” Race commented from his place on the floor. No assumptions were made by Race out loud, but Jack knew that the other already had his theories as to what was going on in his mind.

“It’s not,” Crutchie confirmed. “I just want to know what’s up with you, Jack. You know whatever it is, you can talk to me, right? You can talk to us. Race, Spot, Kath, all of us. We’re here for you.”

Jack, with tears now dripping down his face, nodded. “I just don’t wanna talk about it,” he mumbled through sniffs.

“And that’s perfectly fine,” Crutchie said, his voice soothing like a mother’s. “But you owe Davey an explanation sooner rather than later.”

Again, Jack nodded and Crutchie, sensing that the conversation was as far as it was going to get, stood up and grabbed his cructh. He and Race left the room, both casting saddened glances at Jack as he laid back down on his bed.

As Jack stared at the yellow swirls on his ceiling, Crutchie’s words swirled in his mind.

You owe Davey an explanation sooner rather than later.

 


 

stage five: acceptance

A week.

A week went by with Jack making no contact with David whatsoever.

After Crutchie left that fateful day when he had visited, Race hadn’t so much as referenced the situation that Jack was dealing with. The latter didn’t know if that was for better or for worse. The talk with Crutchie, if anything, only added to Jack’s stress regarding the whole thing. He knew he had to make it right with David, but he didn’t want to think about exactly how. It would mean simultaneously confessing and ruining everything they had as friends.

To say Jack was an anxious mess would be an understatement.

His constant fidgeting and pacing became so bad that, in the middle of watching Brooklyn Nine-Nine, Race had to call Spot and ask for his boyfriend to get his brother to calm the fuck down. And so Spot showed up twenty-five minutes later, two pints of Ben and Jerry’s and a six-pack of beer in hand. Race, despite wanting to stay for the festivities, pecked Spot real quick on the lips (with a “PDA is gross, you fuckers,” from Jack) and retreated to his room.

“If you got me anything other than The Tonight Dough, I’m going to shove that spoon up your ass,” Jack commented as Spot made his way to the couch after grabbing two spoons from the kitchen.

“First of all, only one thing goes up my ass and you guessed wrong. Secondly, who said I didn’t get this stuff just for me? I have to listen to you whine for the next two hours, after all,” Spot retorted, sitting next to Jack on the couch and handing his brother his ice cream.

“Ha ha,” Jack deadpanned, opening up his respective pint and moaning as soon as the ice cream entered his mouth. “Fuck, this shit is orgasmic.”

Spot cringed as he popped the lid off his own snack. “Never make that sound in front of me again, Kelly.” Jack, ignoring Spot’s requested, continued to moan with his mouth full, which earned an elbow in the side from Spot. Jack promptly stopped, only after replacing his moans with a string of curses. “Don’t know why Race called me over here. You’re fuckin’ fine.”

“I’m only fine because my depressed soul has been replenished by Jimmy Fallon’s creamy goodness.”

Spot’s and Jack’s straight faces only lasted about two seconds before they both busted out laughing. It was then that Jack really noticed the stony exterior that Spot had up when they first met at age fourteen was completely diminished between the two of them. Sure, Spot still kept his guard up around everyone else (except maybe Race), masking his emotions with witty and sarcastic statements, but he was here now laughing freely with his adoptive brother. And Jack couldn’t be more thankful to have him.

He would never give Spot the satisfaction of saying that out loud, though.

“Oh my god, you are so gay,” Spot said after a while, both of their laughter subsiding. 

“Not gay, pal. Bisexual. We’re greatly looked over,” Jack responded. Spot rolled his eyes, obviously having heard this a thousand times before. After a beer or two each and an hour or so of catching up on their lives and gossiping about Race (“I’m literally in the room next to you guys! I can hear you!”), Spot decided to finally cut to the chase.

“So I know you know that I’m not here just to sit like a couple of teenage girls at a sleepover and gossip about boys,” Spot said, scraping the last of the ice cream out of his container. Jack nodded, finishing off his dessert as well.

“Yeah, I know. I was hoping you’d forget about it, though,” Jack complained, setting down his empty container and pulling a blanket up over his body like a little kid. Spot placed his container down, too, and pulled the blanket off Jack a bit so it covered them both equally. If this were a few years ago, Spot would have taken the whole thing altogether.

Character development, Jack assumed.

“Takes more than a pint of ice cream and two beers to make me forget.”

Jack chuckled nervously, wondering how Spot was going to ease himself into this conversation.

“So I heard you fucked things up with Davey.”

Okay, so Jack didn’t expect him to dive headfirst.

“I uh… yeah. Race tell you?” Spot nodded, inaudibly telling Jack to continue. “I don’t know, man. I just― I’ve been off lately.”

“I and everyone else could tell. It’s been going on for weeks. You’re going to hate me, which I really don’t care about―” which meant that Spot did care “―but I told Medda you were in some weird funk thing.” Jack snapped his head up at the mentioning of their foster mom and was about to retaliate about bringing her into this (she didn’t need to worry about Jack more than she already did) before Spot held his hands up in defense. “Listen, I was fuckin’ worried about you, okay? I didn’t know if it was depression or an anxiety thing or what. But Medda said to leave you alone for a bit, so I did.”

Jack reeled things in his mind before saying, “So then why are you here?”

“Because Race asked me to be. That, and it was about time you told me what the hell was going on.”

Jack considered his options. He knew Spot wouldn’t hold anything against him if he told his brother that he lov― mildly wanted to shove David against a wall and do explicit things with him. But again, saying things out loud made them real.

Maybe it was time Jack finally accepted that this was real. The more he pushed it away, the worse it would get. And it couldn’t really get any more worse than how it’s been.

So throwing caution to the wind, Jack took a deep breath and said, “I’m in love with Davey.”

Jack didn’t know what he anticipated to happen, but he sure as hell didn’t imagine Spot to just sit there with the continued unamused expression on his face.

“Okay,” Spot said eventually.

“‘Okay?’” Jack asked in minor disbelief. “What do you mean ‘okay ?’ This is far from okay, Spot. This is the end of the fucking world―”

“Calm down,” Spot ordered, an air of authority in his tone that Jack had no room to argue with. “This isn’t the end of anything. I knew you liked the kid.”

Jack opened and closed his mouth like a fish out of water, trying to figure out how to answer. How could Spot know? Jack hadn’t said a word about it. If Spot knew, then did everyone know? Did Davey know…?

“Earth to Jack.” Jack snapped out of his gaze and looked at Spot with worried eyes. “I knew because you’ve been my brother for the past, what?, eight years? You look at Davey the same way you look at Race’s mom’s cannoli cake.”

“Are you comparing Davey to cake?” was all Jack could manage out.

“I am because it’s the only way you’ll get what I’m talking about.”

Jack was silent for a minute or so, coming to terms with the fact that he really did love David. He loved David and wanted to hold him as they fell asleep and to kiss the back of David’s neck while they studied and to memorize David’s body the way he memorized terms for a bio exam. He wanted David, not just physically but mentally and emotionally. Jack wanted to openly love David.

“Then tell him how you feel,” Spot said, once again shaking Jack out of his thoughts.

“Did I just say all of that shit out loud?” Jack asked, a blush creeping up his neck.

Spot nodded. “Yeah, and I have to admit, it was poetical. But seriously. Tell him how you feel.”

“Says you.”

This caused Spot to raise an eyebrow. “I did. And I got a boyfriend to prove it.”

Jack sighed, knowing Spot was right about something for once.

He chose to acknowledge that by grabbing another beer and cracking it open.

~*.*~*.*~

Jackie [12:28 am]: meet me under the staircase in the art building after ur last lecture on monday?

anxious gay [2:57 am]: Ok.

~*.*~*.*~

Jack was sat under the stairs in the art building on campus, staring at his phone’s messages to make sure David actually agreed to meet him and that his mind didn’t just make it up. Sure enough, not two minutes later did Jack hear footsteps enter the building and make their way over to the staircase, quickly finding their way behind it. David ducked under the incline and sat, swinging his bag off his shoulders and out of the way.

When David looked up, the first thing Jack noticed was how tired his friend appeared. His blue eyes didn’t hold their usual energy but were instead weighed down by dark purple bags. A smile didn’t grace David’s face as it usually did in Jack’s presence, and the latter was egotistical enough to think that all of this was because of him.

A thick stillness hung from the stairs above them, with Jack finally breaking it. “Hey, Dave.”

David, taking the invitation to speak, skipped the pleasantries and instead said, “Unless you asked me here to give me an explanation for how you’ve been treating me the past few weeks, I really don’t want to talk to you.” David’s tone was cold and calloused, as if he practiced what he said in front of a mirror multiple times before meeting with Jack. And maybe he had. But after a few seconds of Jack not responding, David choked out a quiet, “Sorry.”

This broke Jack out of his stupor. “You have nothing to apologize for,” he said softly. “I’ve been such a dick to you. And I do owe you an explanation.” David quirked his eyebrows inward expectantly at Jack, who took a deep breath knowing it was time to fess up the last month or so of his life.

“I realized something four or five weeks ago. It caught me by surprise, and… and it honestly scared the shit out of me. Remember when I walked out of the dining hall and Kath followed me?” David slowly nodded. “That’s when I had this… intrusive thought, we’ll call it.” Jack took another deep breath, willing himself to go on. “I, for lack of better wording, didn’t handle it well. And instead of dealing with it, I took it out on you. And I’m really sorry about that, Dave.”

David nodded, but there was something about his face that showed he still didn’t understand. Jack knew he would ask about it, because if there was anything David hated, it was when he didn’t fully comprehend something.

“I get what you’re saying about not handling your thought well, but why did you take it out on me? Why didn’t you just come talk to me, Jack?” The hurt in David’s voice was almost too much for Jack to bear. “You were fine with everyone else but―”

“Because my thought was about you, Dave.” David’s face flashed from hurt to anrgy to genuinely puzzled, and Jack became aware of the fact that he couldn’t hold this back anymore. “Dave, I’m in love with you. I’m so fucking in love with you, and I didn’t know what to do about it. I don’t know what to do about it, and now you probably hate me even more than you already do, and I―”

Jack was quickly cut off by a pair of lips crashing against his own, and a few seconds passed before Jack realized they were David’s lips crashing against his own and oh Jack could get used to this. Before he could even properly respond, David was pulling away.

“And people say I talk a lot,” David mumbled, his face slightly flushed from acting on such an impulse. Jack, however, could not find the right words to say.

“I… you― I thought you... hated me…?” Jack spluttered out, his mouth not quite catching up with how fast his mind (and heart) was racing. 

David rolled his eyes, though there was no malice behind it. “Jackie, I like you. I really like you. And… I thought you somehow knew, and that’s why you were distancing yourself. I was so fucking scared that I lost you and I just―”

It was Jack’s turn to shut David up with his own mouth, but properly this time. David responded instantly, his arms snaking around Jack’s neck, the latter’s hands finding their way to cup David’s face. The two sat there, slowly kissing and pulling one another closer with every passing second. Finally, Jack broke away, resting his forehead against David’s, the two sharing the small amount of air in between them.

“You have me, Dave. Fuck, you so have me. It’s gonna take a lot more than that to lose Jack Kelly.” David smiled at this, the first real smile Jack had seen in weeks from the other boy.

“Go on a date with me,” David said after a beat, punctuating his sentence with a chaste kiss to Jack’s lips. Though the sentence was full of confidence, Jack saw the anxiety behind David’s eyes. As if Jack had the audacity to say no.

“Dave, I’d go to the ends of the Earth with you.” Jack rubbed David’s cheekbones with his thumb, hoping to somehow ease his friend (friend? partner? boyfriend? They could work out the terminology later) of his worry.

David grinned and leaned into Jack’s touch, mumbling something that sounded like, “You sap,” before closing the gap between them once more.

Jack loved David.

And finally accepting it was the best thing he had ever done.