David isn’t the first one to arrive at Albert’s apartment, which doesn’t surprise him. What does surprise him is the oddly somber mood that he just walked into.
Albert and Katherine are on the couch, and Finch is on the floor (which is something that Kath gets on him about constantly). Race is curled up in an armchair. It’s obvious that he’s been crying.
David runs a hand through his hair. So that’s what Albert’s text was about. Race is notoriously bad at taking care of himself, and sometimes the only way to get any information out of him is to gather a bunch of his close friends and be aggressively supportive until he cracks.
“Al? What’s going on?” he asks, kicking off his shoes by the door. “Tony?”
“Go ahead and sit down,” says Katherine. She gestures to the open spot beside her. “It’s a long story.” Albert nods in confirmation.
“Not really.” Finch leans back to look up at her. “Race’s brother is an asshole who needs to learn how to shut his mouth. What else is new?”
David grabs a couch pillow from Katherine and sits. Race sighs from across the room. “You can’t beat up my brother, Finch.”
“Why not? I ain’t scared of no TERF.”
Oh. That clears some things up.
“Honestly, Race, as much as I’m against violence - and as little as I know about the situation - I’m thinking that he kind of deserves it,” David says.
Albert scoffs. “Definitely.”
“But we don’t beat people up,” Katherine reminds them. “Instead, we troll them on Instagram.”
“Damn straight,” says Finch.
“I’ll ignore that,” says Albert.
“Regardless, I’m gonna need the full story.” David glances at Race. He seems unresponsive to everything they’re saying, just staring into nothing, which is a warning sign if David has ever seen one.
Albert sighs. “Race was home for his cousin’s wedding last week - remember? - and Michael wouldn’t shut up about his ‘lifestyle.’ Kept using his deadname.”
David winces. “Shit.”
“That’s not the worst of it,” he says, lowering his voice. “He was trying to turn their parents against Race, and - you know he was already on thin ice with them.”
“They believed him?” David looks between Albert and Race, but doesn’t get an answer. That either means it gets worse and Albert knows it, or Race hasn’t told.
Which means his parents bought into it.
Katherine sighs and twists her bracelet. “At a funeral, too. Of all places.” Finch is, quite obviously, filled with rage at this prospect.
There’s a long moment before Race speaks again, shifting in his seat and making fleeting eye contact with David. “Of course they believed him,” he says. “He’s the golden child. Successful, wife and kids, ‘just wants to protect me.’”
David raises his eyebrows. “You know they would’ve found something else to blame you for, if it wasn’t this. They’ve never treated you fairly. You know that.”
Race moves his head incrementally, in a way that could be a nod. Kath lets out an audible sigh of relief; clearly they’ve been at this for a while, with much less success.
Albert looks directly at Race, with sympathy and fatigue and probably a little anger. “I don’t know if he does.”
“Al,” is all Race can manage.
“It’s fine if it’s not now, not to us, but you have to talk about this sometime, Race,” Katherine says. “This isn’t something you can just laugh at and forget about.”
“There’s nothing to say. You know the story.”
“We know a facet of it,” says David. “We know what you’ve told us.”
Finch looks like he’s going to say something, but decides against it, likely because it’s another death threat against Michael. Warranted, but not the most helpful. Finch doesn’t get genuinely angry often, but when he does, he’s a force to be reckoned with.
Race inhales deeply. “I don’t care about Michael,” he says. He shakes his head at his friends’ dubious looks. “No, really, I don’t. I don’t give a shit about what he thinks of me. But my parents - ”
He cuts himself off sharply, and looks at the ceiling for a few seconds.
“I still love my parents,” he continues. “And - fine. It fucking hurts that my biological family, my parents and my brother and these people that came from the same gene pool as me, are the same people that are fighting against me. Like - I couldn’t even stop my mom from believing this bullshit, she’s so easily swayed.”
Race looks like he’s struggling for words, which David can understand. He doesn’t know what he expected, exactly, but all this…it’s a lot to carry around, especially if it took five days for him to open up to Albert about it.
“They always trusted him more than me, I guess.” Race presses his face into the arm of the chair. “And I have to go back for winter break, and I just - ” David isn’t sure if he’s crying or not, but either way he desperately wants to walk over and comfort him. “I don’t think I can do this anymore,” he finishes, his voice cracking.
David glances at Katherine, who’s toting a disposable coffee cup. There’s another on the table that he guesses Race refused or forgot about.
“I’m staying on campus,” Albert says. “We live together. We already kind of spend all our time in each other’s space, you know? I’d miss you anyway.”
David shrugs. “My family lives like twenty minutes from here - I won’t be sleeping at their house.”
“I’ll only be gone for a week and a half,” says Finch.
Katherine leans forward, propping her elbows up on the coffee table. “God knows I won’t be at my dad’s house. You don’t have any obligation to go. We’re better company than them, anyway.”
Race is definitely crying now, but he’s not trying to hide it anymore. He wipes his face with his sleeve. “Sorry.”
“Don’t fucking say you’re sorry,” Albert warns.
Finch grins. “Michael is gonna be sorry.”
“Hell yeah,” David says under his breath. Katherine is close enough to hear him, and she snorts.
David stands to go to the kitchen and get them all water, ruffling Race’s hair on the way over. “We love you, bud. We’re gonna stick around.”