A/N: Ha HA! Fear not, loyal readers, we have returned with a quick and speedy update and we hope that the ending of this one is more to your liking. This is not yet the end, but we're on the home stretch now.

North Shore High School

Chapter 22 Part 2

Toby screamed and threw himself out of the bleachers, "IAN!"

Up on the upper level Izzy scrambled down through people, shoving them out of the way, "IAN!" he shouted, wide-eyed in horror.

But, Ian was still standing, and a second later the gun thunked down against the floor. Toby half-grabbed him, half-slammed into him a moment later, almost losing his balance, kicking the gun away as hard as he could, grabbing Ian by his arms, "Ian—!?"

Ian gave a sobbing sort of laugh, "It wasn't even loaded."

A few people were still screaming in confusion and fear, and Toby held him, so shocked he was shaking violently, his grip on Ian's arms shaking hard, "...it... it wasn't... loaded..." he repeated slowly, angry at Ian, and terrified for him all at once.

Ian's knees gave out, and he collapsed limply against Toby, sobbing. The jock staggered, but caught him, wrapping his arms tightly around Ian, on the verge of tears himself. Toby held him tightly for the first time in front of the whole school, terrified to let go of him, looking up at the crowds, daring them to say anything. A bunch of teachers scuttled over like vultures, not so intimidated now, and trying to tug Ian away from Toby.

Maggie was pushing Izzy to get him to go down the bleachers as she followed close behind and they got down from the bleachers finally, and ran to them.

Toby gave Isaiah a glare that could likely wither flowers but wasn't quite strong enough to do the same to humans, still holding Ian to his chest, before he reluctantly let go, and with a wary glance up at them, he handed Ian gently over to his friends.

Ian was trembling by then, and he was quite clearly nearing the verge of uncontrollable sobbing, but the teachers started pulling him away, and Ian's only three friends in the entire school protested as best they could.

Toby grabbed hold of Ian again and wouldn't let go of him, "Stop—" he shouted, "Stop! Leave him alone, for five minutes!"

There was really nothing that could have been done about it, but a second later Ian fainted, causing everyone to lurch after him, but he was caught, and removed from the premises promptly.

Ian came-to a little while later at the hospital, where a concerned nurse told him gently that they needed to take photographs of all the bruises on him, and they had to do a sexual abuse kit—much to Ian's protest—to catalogue what all had happened. When that particular humiliation was over he was taken in for an MRI, and then he got to sit and wait.

The doctor brought the MRI results in to Ian and his parents after some time, and it revealed a few fractured ribs, and one that was fully broken, which explained the pain in his chest that he had taken for emotional strain. He wondered why all of a sudden they cared about the bruises everywhere else, but assumed correctly that it was probably because he'd had a psychotic breakdown and held the whole school hostage. Ian sighed and settled in to wait for the police to show up and haul him off to prison.

He lay there for a few hours before the room quieted, and the door to the room opened gently, "...Ian?"

It brought him back to when he'd been in the hospital before, and Toby had come to visit him then too.

"Hey," Ian greeted blankly.

Toby closed the door behind him softly, setting his duffel bag down as he sat slowly beside the bed. "Hey..." he murmured softly, biting his lip, "You, um... you feeling better?"

"Yeah," Ian answered hoarsely, looking amused at such an understatement, "A little. So are they ready to haul me off to jail yet?"

Toby scratched the back of his head, "Yeah, I spent all afternoon at the police station. I told them what happened before the football game. They're looking into that before they do anything to you, but you're indefinitely suspended."

Ian actually looked a little relieved, "Oh thank God. I didn't think I'd be able to show my face on Monday."

"You could get expelled, Ian," Toby scolded, stroking Ian's hair back from his face.

"I don't think so," Ian said, "I hope not…The gun wasn't loaded…"

Toby shook his head, running his hands over his face. "You ever pull something like that again I don't know what I'd do."

"It needed doing," Ian argued with a shrug, adding, "And I'm not sorry."

Toby extricated his fingers from Ian's hair, an unreadable look coming onto his face. "Oh." he said, quietly, "Oh."

Ian pressed his lips together tightly, looking away.

"You've lost your mind," accused Toby, decisively, "You've gone nuts, and that's why you're throwing away everything that means anything to you."

"Maybe I am," Ian agreed softly, "But I....I don't know. I didn't mean for that gun to be empty, Toby. I wanted to end my problems. I was going to."

"Ian, that's something attention whores do."

Ian snorted, and laughed at that, "Yeah, well, can you blame me? I just...I just wanted them to see what was going on. Those...they tore me up every chance they got. I just wanted people to know what it's done to me."

"Ian, you beat off all the people who do care," Toby argued.

"No, I didn't," Ian denied, his fist tightening on the sheets as he looked down, "I didn't."

"You did, Ian," murmured Toby softly, "At least, you beat me off."

"Yeah well, I was going to—to talk to you on Friday….after I got that stupid comic…only you—you weren't there, and they were, and...and…." Ian choked up, tears starting to brim in his eyes, though he valiantly fought them off.

"Ian, you pushed me off every day of the week before today. Every day."

Ian turned his head away, so Toby couldn't see the tears that were streaking down his cheeks, and he clenched his jaw, his pride not letting him say what he really wanted to.

"I get that you don't want to be with me anymore, Ian," Toby confided, "But why would you go make it into some sick kind of show?"

"I-I," Ian stammered, pausing and swallowing thickly in a sad attempt to get himself together, "I didn't mean—I just—Toby, I—"

"Ian..." Toby exhaled slightly, "Before I met you, I used to think I had to prove myself to everyone. Before I met you, I might have beaten the shit out of you for telling the whole school I told you I loved you. But I don't care. I really don't care, Ian, I've got nothing to prove to them anymore."

Ian covered his face in reply, a silent sob clenching in his throat, and Toby was quiet, thinking he'd gone too far before Ian opening his mouth again, croaking, "Toby...will you..." He paused as if he wasn't sure he wanted to say it, then whispered half-heartedly, "Hold me?"

Toby leaned forward at once, much like had been waiting for Ian's request, draping himself carefully over the other teen while wrapping strong arms around him and kissing him on the temple affectionately and tenderly.

"I…love you," Ian managed quietly, barely audible.

"I know," said Toby softly, "And you know too what I'll say back."

"Say it anyway...." Ian whispered, grabbing a handful of Toby's shirt, "Please….I gotta hear it."

"I love you too," the jock replied, feeling infinitely cheesy when he did, but he knew that Ian needed a not-ruined moment.

Ian sighed against Toby's chest, and his shoulders untensed a little, sagging like a weight had been lifted from him somehow.

Toby kissed Ian's neck softly before claiming with a shaky smile,"You're sending me a lot of mixed signals right now, Ian."

"I know," Ian agreed faintly, "I know....I'm just...I....." Toby felt the older teen's hand move, grasping onto his own, and he held it gently, moving his thumb over Ian's skin. It was the hand attached to the wrist with the ugly bruise around it, where someone had grabbed Ian's arm and likely squeezed very hard, and it was a sobering sight to Toby, even if Ian wasn't aware.

Toby held him for near an hour, in a pained sort of silence, because neither of them knew what to say to the other, and the jock's green eyes stayed focused on the bony bruised wrist as he felt like he shouldn't have been there in the hospital in the first place—so far as he was concerned, Ian didn't want him anymore. But then, he also felt that it didn't matter now what Ian wanted, it mattered what he needed, and right now he needed Toby.

He stayed at the hospital until he had to go for the sports event that night, which he seriously considered skipping, but his cell phone kept ringing with calls and voice mails from his coach, so Toby sighed and stood up.

"You'll be okay without me...?" he asked softly, squeezing Ian's hand one last time before letting it go.

"Yeah, I think so," Ian nodded, then grinned slightly, a little bit of his old attitude returning to him, "Don't get hate-crimed while you're there."

"Well, see how it goes," replied Toby with a wry smile, ruffling Ian's hair, "Since we're outed."

"Give me a kiss," Ian ordered, and Toby leaned down obediently and did as he asked, nearly sweeping Ian up in it so effectively that when he pulled away the skinny teen felt a little dizzy. Toby grinned down at him cheekily, slung his duffel bag over his shoulder, and sauntered out with the strut that he never would lose, and that Ian was, though he would never admit it, beginning to love that about him.

He grabbed his sketch-pad off of the swiveling table beside him, and for about twenty minutes after the jock left, sketched undisturbed, until the door opened slowly.

"Shh," hissed Maggie's voice, "He's probably resting."

Isaiah snapped something hotly back at her, but Ian couldn't really hear until they ducked into the room completely.

"Hey," Ian greeted them with a little grin, folding his sketchbook closed and setting it aside.

Izzy smacked Maggie triumphantly, "Told you he'd be awake."

"So how much chaos did I cause?" Ian asked, lacing his thin fingers together in an arch-villain-like gesture.

"Well for one," said Maggie matter-of-factly as she plopped down onto the foot of his bed, "There's still girls who can't stop screaming. For two, you're on channel twelve—and for three, the whole school knows you and Toby are serious. Were serious…or whatever."

"I'm on channel twelve?" Ian perked, raising his eyebrows, and grabbing the TV remote.

"The story of it, yeah. No juicy gay stuff included," sighed Izzy, flopping into Toby's vacated chair, looking like he had something else on his mind.

Ian flipped to channel twelve glancing at Isaiah, "What's wrong?"

"I feel really stupid," he replied, looking up.

"How come?" Ian asked, raising his eyebrows slightly.

Izzy wet his lips, "Because Sylar was serious," then he added almost as an afterthought, "Dude."

"Yeah, well," Ian shrugged, at a loss for what to reply, "Yeah..."

"It makes perfect sense," mumbled Izzy, sinking down into the chair, "That's why you were so pissed, and didn't want to go home with me, and he came to visit you in the hospital."

"Speaking of," interrupted Maggie, wrinkling her nose and looking around conspiratorially, "I can still smell him."

"Yeah," Ian laughed a little nervously, looking to the side, "Yeah..."

"So he's been here?" Isaiah demanded.

"Yeah, he came by. He had to go to his game, though," Ian confirmed, shrugging.

Maggie wrinkled her nose, picked up a complimentary bottle of air freshener, and sprayed it around the room, waving her hand in front of her nose.

Ian snorted, "Oh come on. He doesn't smell!"

"Nope," agreed Maggie, "He wears too much cologne to smell."

"I like his cologne..." Ian muttered in weak protest.

"I have a sensitive nose, Ian," chided Maggie, sitting back down on the bed once she had replaced the air freshener.

"Yeah, that's why you used up the entire can of air-freshener," Ian grumbled good-naturedly.

"He'll be back to secrete his pheromones," Maggie soothed, "Don't worry."

Ian rolled his eyes, "He does not secrete pheromones, Maggie. That's ridiculous."

"Actually, he does," she replied, holding up a finger matter-of-factly, "All organisms do."

Ian gave her a flat look, to which she just grinned at him in reply, "It's good to have you back, Ian."