Hi, I'm CP Coulter, your author for this fic.

First of all, I truly apologize for how long this episode took to be put up. It's been nearly two weeks, and I am sorry for being so so late. My life has been hectic, catching up on everything, and I have not been able to focus on this fic as much as I should have. I have been receiving so many messages over in tumblr and twitter asking about the episode and I feel that I've somehow disappointed everyone in my inability to update as quickly as I used to, and for that so so apologize.

I'm so very grateful for all the support and kind words that the Glee fandom has given me; I truly don't know what else to say except thank you. All the fanworks, the projects, and most importantly the words of support and love sent to me, and the stories of the amazing people who, though anonymous, saw it in their hearts to share with me their personal stories, of how they could relate to the situations in Dalton. I'm so grateful for each and every one of you.

Episode 20 ushers in the final leg of Dalton's season (there will only be 29 episodes). I suppose this is why so many things happened in this particular one-with over 24,000 words, it's the longest one yet, as well as the most "musical" (and it is a Duel episode). I really do hope, with all of my heart, that in spite of its length and tardiness, you will still enjoy this episode.

Also, let us congratulate Chris Colfer for winning the Golden Globe for Best Supporting Actor. He and Darren Criss continue to be my inspirations.

(I do not own Glee)


Episode 20: Double Acts

The good thing about having the kitchen repaired was that it became wonderful to sit on one of the stools in it, propping elbows onto the marble countertop and inhaling the first pump of caffeine to officially begin entering reality from unconsciousness. Not that the mere sight of Shane walking into the House, completely unexpected, with Blaine wouldn't be equivalent to an intravenous injection of fifty pounds of the stuff. Still, once the relief sinks in, laziness returns, and everyone feels too good to do anything serious.

Impossible—they would still have to go to class and today's Warblers' practice will involve something important as the broadcast from Harvey said.

The Twins sat next to each other at the kitchen, making hot cocoa for themselves. Their hands moved steadily without stopping, having memorized a certain exact mix and temperature that they both liked. They were an interesting sight, the other grabbing an ingredient that the other had just put down moments ago, steadily blending, and when they were done, they swapped cups and only then began to drink.

Wes sighed deeply as he too sat on a kitchen stool, still wearing silk pajamas, staring into nothing as he drank his cup of coffee and his eyes getting a bit clearer. David poured himself his own cup, still wearing only socks and pajamas, and hands wrapped tightly around the heat of his drink.

"…Windsor is only ever this quiet in the mornings, don't you think…?" Wes said absently as David took a sip.

"I guess…at least it is in the mornings before Kurt wakes up and finds all the coffee cups again," David muttered, determined to get as much caffeine in his blood as possible within the next thirty seconds. The Twins nodded at his inference.

"Alice has such wonderful reactions," Ethan murmured.

"And he's staying with the Dormouse now," Evan added.

"Should be interesting…"

"Pity the Dormouse being in the crossfire…"

"Why aren't you bothering them right now?" Wes queried, half looking at them suspiciously.

"They're all up there having a moment," the twins shrugged lightly. As much as they would've liked to interfere, someone did just come from a life-or-death situation.

Dwight re-entered the kitchen, eyes red and swollen, still sniffling. He was carrying the broken pieces of his mug and he dumped them unceremoniously into the trash can. He grumbled a little, picking up a different cup from the shelf. He sat next to them, poured in the dark liquid, stared at his coffee, and after a long drawn pause, "…good morning."

"Are you all right…?" Wes asked, staring at him. "You started bawling like a three-year-old the moment you saw Shane."

"Nah, I was just…" another sniffle, a harrumph and Dwight attempted to compose himself. "No big deal." But his hands shook even as he drank. He looked at David. "You're downing that really fast. Are you going somewhere or do you enjoy scalding your digestive tract?"

"Have to go out to the hospital," David answered blurrily. "Katherine's doctor told us he wanted to talk to us about something. It sounded important, so I'm not going to morning class."

"Is that legal?" Dwight asked hoarsely with a raised eyebrow. "I heard Newman will talk about the Environmental Studies exams."

"I'd like to see Newman throw me curveball after all the time I spent reading his textbook while in the hospital," David muttered.

And then from upstairs:


The sound of crashing bodies and panic rung out from upstairs.

"Whoa!—OW!" that sounded like Shane, flattened on the ground.

"Oh my gosh!I'm sorry, I'm so sorry, I—" that was definitely Reed, struggling to get up.

"Reed, what's the matter with you? You don't just leap at the injured!" Kurt's distressed tone demanded.

"I didn't notice that he—I just—holy—he's alive—here, a-and—!"

"Up, get up—come on…" Blaine was struggling to sound both stern while being not completely unamused.

"Well there goes my spleen…"

"Shut up, Shane—!" Blaine snapped over Reed's anxious whine.

"I'm the injured here, I'm allowed to side-comment!"

"I'm sorry, I'm sorry, oh my gosh, I didn't mean to—"

"Here, stay over here and don't get overexcited…"

Wes, with a slow smirk, turned to the others, who looked deeply amused at the commotion upstairs, heard so clearly over the quiet of the morning. "Safe to say Reed's awake…"

"Is there anyone else in Windsor who can be at the bottom of some physical injury within three seconds of waking up…?" Dwight mumbled.

David gestured to the Twins, but Dwight just rolled his eyes. "I meant actual humans, not demon spawn."

The twins only looked pleased. Presently, Kurt and Blaine came downstairs looking absolutely long-suffering as they did. Wes smiled genially at his friends. "So…?"

"Shane being the way he is right now and then putting him in a room with Reed…" Blaine sighed as he sat, taking the coffee pot and pouring himself and Kurt a cup each. "It really makes betting on who gets more injuries before noon interesting."

"And you left them alone together?" David blinked, questioning their judgment even as he brought his cup to his lips.

"Shane made it very clear, with all the glares he could produce, that he would like me to leave," Blaine answered.

"And if Reed's eyes got any bigger at me, I feared they'd actually pop out of his head, so…" Kurt rolled his eyes and pulled over the cup Blaine gave him, taking deep draughts of the drink.

The entire group then lowered their cups with simultaneous clanks onto the marble and heaved deep sighs. It was the morning after the mayhem. And life had returned to a relatively ordinary state. They may have all just woken up, but they all felt as though they were truly exhausted, for one reason or another.

They all sat like that for what must have been a while, staring at nothing, saying nothing, all silent.

Charlie walked into the kitchen to find them all like that. He was already dressed in uniform, and limping only slightly, hoping to get a bite to eat before departing for class. He gave the distant conspirators a long, narrow eyed stare. Then he snapped his fingers loudly. They all looked up.

"Hello?" he said, raising his eyebrows and gesturing expectantly. "You all have classes? If you can remember that far back?"

This woke them and all of them began to quickly finish. "Right!" David sprang to life. He picked up a folder on the countertop and handed it to Wes, "Hey, can you take this to Newman?"

"Can't," said Wes, getting off his stool.

"Why not?" David demanded. "I turn in your homework when you can't."

"Can't," Wes said with finality, draining his cup and setting it down. "I'm coming with you. Good news or bad—you shouldn't be alone to hear it."

David raised his eyebrows a moment, but then smiled faintly if not doubtfully. "All right, then." He tossed the folder to Blaine. "Newman?"

Blaine just nodded as he caught it, waving them both on dismissively, finishing his own coffee. "Go…get out of here, go…"

"Whoa, hey," Charlie looked at the two of them, frowning. "You're skipping this morning? David—this Is your GPA we're talking about here. But what's with Katherine?"

But the Warbler just shook his head. "Mrs. Rivers called me around New Years. She…" He paused a little, lightly drumming his knuckles on the edge of the countertop. He saw all the expectant stares and sighed. "She had apparently not been telling anyone that she's been…having problems."

"Problems?" Charlie asked, confused.

David glanced around the room a little uncomfortably. He didn't look at them. "The accident from a while back…she had surgery then but lately she's having…cardiac arrhythmia. She…needed a second surgery."

Kurt lowered his cup and stared at him in surprise. Blaine put his hand over his and their eyes met for a moment—Blaine just shook his head. David just kept his eyes down, shaking his head and shrugging lightly, as though he couldn't believe it either.

Charlie looked sorry he asked, embarrassed. He shook his head and just waved him off the way Blaine did. "Go. Get out of here."

"Me?" Wes asked.

Charlie sighed. The things he did for these people. "Fine. Go. I'll…tell Howard it was an emergency."

David nodded and hurried to get out of the kitchen, but was accosted by the Twins. They only stared at him as they stood in his way, but he frowned at them. "I can handle it. I don't need your help."

"But if you do…" Evan began, but stopped when he saw David's glare.

Ethan was less intimidated. "…you know you can just ask."

"Fine." David hissed as he pushed past them. Wes chased after him, nodding to the Tweedles, "I'll handle it," as he went past them.

Kurt got off his stool and said, "I'll go…get ready for class."

"Wait a second," said Charlie, looking at him. "Blaine, Dwight and you two Tweedles—you can go to class. Kurt, right? When you get dressed, you come with me. Howard wants to see you."

Kurt looked up at him, confused as the others got up. "Why?"

"It's about your assessment exam. He has your results. He's waiting in his office. Go see him before class, he says."

At this, Kurt glanced to the others, who just stared back at him. Blaine walked up to him and hugged him. "Good luck," he murmured.

Kurt, hugging him in return, nodded, only that little bit anxious. "All right, then. Moment of truth."

The twins looked at him wide, anxious eyes. "Good luck, Alice. Please don't leave us."

Kurt gave them a look and just shrugged lightly. "After all that? I couldn't if I tried."

I'm Kurt. And this is Dalton Academy.

Storm's over, but now we've got to deal with the aftermath.

I've finished my exams and Blaine's brother was found alive.

Ordinarily, I'd say we're pretty much out of the woods.

But I know Alice in Wonderland too, you know—

And I know that just when you think it's over, you find out there's more.

The House head's office was full of books, looking like a small library. The colors for Windsor house were bannered on one side of the wall, and the early morning sunlight was streaming in through the windows, throwing them over the rich redwood desk. Howard was very carefully scrutinizing some papers when Charlie knocked at his open door, Kurt standing next to him and clutching his bag strap. The teacher glanced up and motioned for the two of them to come inside. "Come inside, both of you."

Kurt and Charlie entered the office and sat at the two chairs that faced his table. Howard pulled off his reading glasses with a sigh, putting them down on the table and motioning to Kurt using the papers he was holding. "These are your exams. What did you think of the exams, Hummel?"

At this, the "Alice" merely raised his eyebrows. "They were…adequately challenging." He glanced at Charlie, who was staring at him, at the corner of his eyes. The prefect didn't look all that apprehensive.

Howard considered and nodded a little. "Well, clearly they were "adequate" to you, seeing as how you were the only one out of the three new kids to actually score an average of ninety."

Charlie looked surprised and quite deeply relieved, with Kurt's jaw dropping. His eyes lit up and was about to say something but Howard stopped him. "Wait. Before you get too happy…."

The two stared at him, confused. Howard looked a little uncomfortable. "Now, Hummel, I tried talking to the man, but he was adamant. You scored the best among the three new students and your exams proved that, but Professor Murdoch said that while you scored…adequately in his exam, he's not quite satisfied."

"What do you mean?" Kurt frowned.

Howard folded his hands over the table. "You've done excellently, and your academics will probably get a little easier here on out. But Professor Murdoch's exam was your lowest, and he wants you to be tutored more carefully for his class."

Kurt stared, sensing what was coming, and he almost rose from his seat as Howard added, "…which is why you're to report to Stuart House after school for the next two weeks, for a tutoring session on the subject with the prefect, Logan Wright."

"I'm really sorry…"

"I'm telling you, stop apologizing to me," Shane said, pretending to look sternly at the boy that was now trying to help him fix his bandages. Reed had, with an incredibly un-graceful leap, all but pounced on him after his senses got over the momentary shock of seeing Shane alive next to his bed. Sure the other boy had been knocked sprawling, but it would appear that Shane would have been quite willing to endure further damage if it got Reed to make such a reaction to him.

Kurt had come in only briefly to get changed for school, and he paid the two of them—Reed giving Shane fresh bandages—absolutely no mind until he was about to leave, telling them to not kill Pavarotti while they were left in there.

Shane made no promises.

"To be honest, I'm glad it was just me you jumped," Shane said, grinning broadly. "Because my reflexes are shot right now. Anyone else might've ducked out of the way, and you would've hit the floor and then we'll be the one bandaging you…"

Reed made a gesture that threatened to hit him with the medical kit, but Shane just burst out laughing. As Reed fixed the torn bandages on his arm, Shane added absently, clearly not thinking it over, "Wow, if you react like that to someone like me, I wonder what you'd do if it was your girlfriend."

At this, the smaller boy turned deep scarlet. He didn't raise his eyes or answer, and was so quiet for such a time that Shane frowned a little. "No? No girlfriend? Or is that not the right term?"

He blinked when he received no response. He started to feel apprehensive. "Boyfriend, then? Is it a boyfriend you have? Or…am I shooting myself at the foot here and should I just shut my trap the way Blaine keeps telling me to—and yet I'm still talking! Wow, amazing. I'm so sorry…" He looked down at Reed and pulled away his arm.

Reed, however, shook his head and just pulled the arm back, continuing what he was doing. Shane fidgeted, uncomfortable at his silence. "…Reed…"

"It's not your problem if you can't figure it out, because even I can't…" Reed murmured softly. He could tell this confused Shane, so he added, "I'm still working on it. I…still don't know how to identify myself but you know," and he looked up with a small smile, "I think Kurt's right. The label is unnecessary and pretty much as long as I have everyone…I feel I'll be okay and it'll get figured out. And no…" he turned red, finishing the bandaged arm. "I have neither one."

At the sight of the smile and the change in his tone, Shane felt better. "Well at least tell me someone like you have been kissed. I mean if you haven't been, there's no hope for the rest of the world, you realize."

Reed's blush surprised him. Shane stared and said, "No… You're not saying—"

"It's not really…something I've ever thought about," Reed murmured. "It's never—I mean… I've never been…actually…well, that. Like ever. Kurt and I may have that in common." He stopped, and rolled his eyes. "Well not anymore, after Blaine and he…"

"Really." Shane stared.

"Why do you think I was so worried during the New Years?" Reed laughed hollowly, loosening the bandage around Shane's head at last even as his hands shook. Some of the betadine had matted down the black curls. He had to smile. "A party with the lights going out and everyone grabbing for a kiss… Turns out I didn't have to worry."

Shane was one breath away. They were that close. "…did you think…I was going to kiss you?"

Reed turned deep red. "Oh…well… The thought… Well, that kind of a party—"

Shane was closer now, but he looked serious. Reed just smiled faintly. "What?"

"I wouldn't have ever thought of kissing you then, you know."

Why was it that humans have these emotions that they couldn't name? That surprise, disappointment and relief all at the same time? Words are insensitive to these things. If Reed had been given his way, he'd name them all. He's had all of them, after all.

"Oh…" he murmured. "Well, good."

Shane was still close. "You know I act the way I do, but I won't hurt you. You know that, right?" He gestured a little. "I don't want to get awkward. I'm trying to be good, remember?" he smiled a bit.

It was so different from the other smile—the bright one. Reed was a little puzzled, but he blushed and looked down at his hands. "Yeah. You're being good. And that's…much to Blaine's endless relief, I'm sure."

Shane finally leaned back. He was a little red and now he wouldn't look at him. Reed blinked. "What's wrong?"

The taller boy just shrugged lightly, shaking his head. "What?" Reed laughed, elbowing him. Shane overdramatically winced as though mortally wounded. Reed laughed even more.

But Shane just shook his head, face still red. "…don't do that. With anyone else."

"Do what?"

Shane didn't look at him. "…when I leaned that close to you—it was that close. And you—you never pulled back at all. You just…" he shrugged. "Let it happen." He glanced at him briefly. "You shouldn't let anyone invade your space that way. Even with the maniacs in here. Aren't you scared they'd do something, being that close?"

Reed blinked serenely at him, his response finite—mainly because it was true. "I'm never scared if it's you."

At such words, Shane stared at Reed, trying with great difficulty not to smile, and that smile began to broaden until he had such a huge goofy grin on his face that Reed turned scarlet and got up to put away the kit. "Oh shut up, Shane."

"What?" Shane grinned blissfully, looking absolutely ridiculous. "I wasn't—"

"Yes you were. And you should just…" he gestured halfheartedly, knowing he'd dug himself a hole, "…slow down thatwhatever goes on in that…that curly head of yours…"

"You have one too." Shane remarked with a smirk.

Reed sighed, but not unkindly. "I can see why Blaine has problems with you."

But he smiled at him and Shane was never gladder that he was the first person he wanted to see. It might not have been some wild declaration of love that Shane wanted, but it was clear that Reed, whatever he thought of him, was willing to put up with him.

Charlie walked down the hall with Kurt even though he clearly didn't have to. As the halls began to fill with boys in uniforms, heading to their respective classrooms, Charlie glanced around as though making sure the coast was clear before he could say what he had on his mind.

"All right, Hummel," he began, "I've heard…you know, a bit of what happened while I was gone. The issue with you and Blaine?"

"The fact that I'm now seeing him is an issue?" Kurt raised an eyebrow with a slight smile, not sure how to talk to the prefect.

But Charlie just smiled. "Yeah, that." But he still turned serious. "Anyway, this tutoring thing with Logan. I want you to know, that the moment he goes over or anything—you tell me, got it?"

Kurt gave him a funny look. "…what?"

"I know that you're with Blaine now, and that Logan fought through between you both for a while, I can understand that much from the Twins and Wes and David." Charlie looked grave. "We've had trouble with Logan before, and I'm not going to let this happen again. It hadn't been pretty and…and well, I don't think you should be involved in something like it. So the moment he goes too far, you come straight to me, understand? Not the Twins, not Blaine—me. And I will deal with it."

Kurt crossed his arms with a nearly exasperated sigh. "I think I can—"

"No, you cannot," Charlie said firmly. "I don't care how strong you think you are. But I know Logan far better than you do. He can be all right one minute, but you can't guarantee the next. I have seen him throw Blaine through some oak doors."

Kurt stared, aghast. "What?"

Charlie shook his head quickly, waving it away. "That was in the past. When he was still very angry, and to be quite honest, Blaine fought back. He was lucky Justin hauled me back or I would've—" he looked very tense, and just shook his head with a slow exhale. "I'm just saying is that while I hear from Justin that he's been…changing for the better, which is great news, the transition isn't going to come quickly, or smoothly."

Charlie considered him. "Also from what I hear, you're headstrong and a bit of diva. That's fine—he needs someone to put him in his place. I know you can handle yourself around him. But I just want you to know that if anything goes too far, I have the first person you go to. The Windsor boys don't like him, and if you go telling any of them, especially Blaine, cools will be lost."

Kurt looked at him questioningly. "…what do you mean, especially Blaine?"

"You haven't seen all sides to your boyfriend yet, that's all I'm telling you."

That was new. Kurt thought back to when he and Blaine were talking in his room, and he remembered those words that Blaine said.

And I can't let Logan have his way—you'll see something terrible come out of me the next time he tries, I'm telling you that now. I don't want you to ever see it, but at this point, I think it'll happen.

So Blaine can get angry too. Kurt smiled faintly in spite of the thought. Blaine had always tried very hard to remain calm and make sure nothing goes wrong, and things went as smoothly as he could manage. But he must have his limits too.

He lifted his head and smiled at Charlie confidently. "Fine. But I can take it from here."

"All right, then." Charlie smiled and patted his shoulder. "Good to finally talk to you, Kurt." And he walked off . As he went a few paces down the hall, Kurt had a sudden thought and turned back to him. "Hey Charlie?"

"Yeah?" the prefect asked, turning back to him, walking backwards a little.

"Did Blaine fight back when Logan threw him at the doors?"

Charlie broke into a grin that was Windsor through and through. "Kurt, he pushed David and Wes off, ran back in and hurled Logan into a music stand."

Kurt nodded with a little smirk and headed off to class. Someone had to have landed in Ramsey's office after that fight, but the thought of Blaine getting his own back wasn't bad. Fair was fair, after all.

David peered into the hospital room carefully. Amanda Rivers looked up from where she was reading the newspaper. She was a warm, gentle woman with short brown hair and kind blue eyes, and she smiled at David immediately.

David, who saw that the girl on the bed was asleep, quickly put a finger to his lips to tell her not to say anything as it might wake her. He stepped inside, and Wes peeked in next. Mrs. Rivers smiled even more and waved to him. Wes waved back and followed David into the cold impartiality of the hospital room.

"How is she…?" David whispered softly as he approached.

"I suppose she's a little anxious…" Mrs. Rivers answered. She sighed. "The doctor…said he was coming in anytime around now."

David nodded with a small smile and walked over to the girl on the bed as Wes settled himself on those hard, not-at-all-comfortable hospital chairs with the thin cushions. With the sight of her peaceful expression, her golden brown hair in rich waves now pouring over her pillow, and those long lashes curled up as she slept, David smiled almost bitterly.

It just wasn't fair that she was the one who had to suffer through this. It had been his fault. When he touched her hand slightly, she stirred as though she had merely nodded off waiting for him. Her eyes brightened up in recognition of him. "Hi, David…you're here again?"

David bent down and kissed her briefly before smiling. "Tired of me yet?"

"Don't be dumb," she laughed softly. She saw his friend sitting on the chair, grinning, and smiled too. "Hi, Wes…you taking care of your crazy friend?"

While glad to see her spirits still up, Wes gave her an incredulous look, "Are you nuts? He's positively impossible. How you stand him is beyond me."

This made her laugh. She looked up at David, smiling. David squeezed her hand and said, "How are you feeling?"

"Same…" Katherine shrugged slightly. "…I want to get out of here. I can't stay here much longer, I'll go crazy. It's boring… I just lie here, watch TV…stare at the ceiling…"

David nodded. "Yeah. Hey, maybe the doctor's going to let you off the hook. Never know." He shrugged.

Wes smiled faintly at David. It was a little unsettling, to see him act so casually and optimistic around Katherine, when their discussions in their dorm room showed great evidence of his anxiety. Only Blaine could beat David in a game of nothing-is-wrong-on-the-outside. Wes had to watch all that, and listen, and see his endeavors to try and get something out of David going unheeded.

David sat on the stool next to Katherine as he regaled her about what had been happening in Windsor lately. He told her everything, and she always liked hearing about them. She was particularly worried about the brewing trouble between Blaine, Kurt and Logan—mainly because she had to watch what happened last year too.

"You'd think Blaine and Logan would've had enough of each other already…" Katherine sighed, shaking her head. "And now they've got that poor boy in the middle."

"Believe me, it looks like Kurt can handle himself," David grinned. "I told you about how he chewed out Tabitha that time."

Wes groaned loudly as Katherine laughed, saying, "Yes, I remember. Wes, come on—you've been on and off with Tabitha forever. She's not the only one out there."

"Unfortunately, David has snagged the last angel in the world," Wes said with a big smile, and David swatted him off. Katherine laughed even more. When she started to cough, David gave her a cup of water. She grinned at them. "I like listening about what happens in your school. It sounds like a big weird TV show."

"Only when you're looking at it from the outside," David grumbled. "From the inside, it feels like World War III. At least Chaz is back."

"Well that's good, right?" nodded Katherine. "How about the Warblers? Got a set list for Regionals yet?"

"Harvey and Medel haven't said anything—I think they're trying to make some changes," David answered. "What about your group? Those girls telling you about their practice?"

Katherine was a part of their school's dance troupe. She rolled her eyes with an exasperated sigh. "You know how people keep saying that lead dancers are often stereotyped? Someone really ought to tell Nadia that she is the cause of the stereotype."

David snorted. "She couldn't dance better than you."

"Well, while I'm in here, I have no room to talk," Katherine grumbled. "Ms. Caldwell said that I should take as much recovery time as I need, but if Nadia keeps bothering the other girls, then recovery or no recovery—"

"Katherine—easy…" David put a hand to her arm, and grinned as Katherine started grumbling about her group's general drama. Mrs. Rivers just laughed and shook her head.

Wes looked up as there was a knock on the door, and opened it to find Katherine's doctor. In that one moment, the atmosphere of the room changed. He didn't have to turn around to know that David's hand had tightened on Katherine's and that Mrs. Rivers' smile would have vanished. But he also knew that Katherine would have just smiled.

Katherine's doctor was a tall, slightly graying man with classic Hispanic good looks and though he usually smiled at Katherine, he looked somber now. And it was the one look David had not been hoping to see. "Hello, Mrs. Rivers," he murmured. "Katherine. David."

David rose from his seat and shook hands with the doctor, who now smiled faintly at him. "Here for the news…? Aren't you going to get in trouble missing so much class?"

He always asked that question, and David only ever smiled in answer. The doctor smiled back a little at him and then gave Mrs. Rivers a hug and then stepped back. David stood next to Wes as Mrs. Rivers took her spot next to her daughter, and then it was then only a matter of addressing the elephant in the room.

Wes had not had David hold his hand before. There had never been a need for him to. The truth was, right now, he wasn't even doing it. It was Wes' wrist that he held as the doctor talked, and said things like "arrhythmia", "heart transplant" and "surgery" and then "organ rejection" and "immunosuppressant treatment".

As the prognosis came to light, David was holding onto Wes' wrist like he was clutching a lifeline. There was the news the arrhythmia had been the danger signal and that while the second surgery they had given her helped, it couldn't do everything—they had to consider finding a donor heart or else it would worsen and…

…and all the while, David just clutched at him, shaking very slightly.

But he said absolutely nothing.

Wes just stood there letting David take the circulation from his hand. What else could he do? David never wanted anyone helping him from the time everyone found out that he had a girlfriend and that, a year prior to studying at Dalton, he'd made a mistake.

A mistake that caused Katherine's first injury—her first heart surgery. One David had been responsible for, by being somewhere he ought not have been.

Wes wondered, what were best friends supposed to do right now anyway? Something beyond that awkward cold fear that you were just standing there staring, the urge to do something, anything just to not feel that you were being useless to your best friend. And wondering if your friend needed comforting or if not saying anything would help him keep it together?

Because right now, David looked like it was taking everything he had to keep it together, and it wasn't enough. He would never have grabbed onto Wes unless he needed that little bit of extra to keep him standing.

Wes remembered the auditorium, when his sleeve was the one Kurt grabbed after he saw that hulk from McKinley at Sectionals. It was a little like this…only he couldn't fight his way out of this one. And it wasn't Kurt. Kurt was his friend—but David was his best friend. And anyone could tell you that it made things just a little bit different.

There was a lot of talk about discussing the surgery that had been done to Katherine, and possibly finding a donor, and making sure Katherine gets the best treatment possible. The doctor asked Mrs. Rivers to step outside, so they could discuss properly, leaving the two boys and Katherine in the room.

After the doctor had left, David moved to Katherine, who seemed to be staring at the wall for this long moment. He took her hand, white and small inside his, rubbing the back with his thumb. Katherine held onto him, and glanced up slightly, giving him a small smile.

And so now, the clock was ticking.

David looked at her intently and whispered, "…It's…going to be all right. I'll…I'll help."

"You always do…" Katherine murmured, turning away. She was staring at the wall again. After a moment, she licked her dry lips and whispered, "Go back, David. You miss enough class as it is."

"I think I should—"

"Wes?" Katherine flashed him a smile. "Could you, like, give us a second?"

Wes stared at them both and nodded. "Sure." He gave David a nod and exited the room with a last glance at his friend. David watched him go, and felt Katherine tug his tie down until his face was near hers. She was looking at him with a small smile.

"David. We talked about this."

"I'm just trying to—"

"David." Katherine fixed him with the stare that she had previously bestowed onto the wall. "You weren't the one driving. You weren't even supposed to be there. You just got pulled along. You were trying to get someone else out of there."

"I know, and if I hadn't been there, you wouldn't have had to come get me, and we wouldn't have gotten into that senior's car—"

"Should've, would've, could've," Katherine rolled her eyes. "Listen to yourself. The fact that your first instinct was to throw yourself in front of me when Trent hit the brakes says volumes about you. You tried, from that first time. It still turned out this way. It's just…the way it's supposed to go, I guess."

"Isn't this what I'm supposed to be doing, though?" David murmured, looking intently down at her. But Katherine just smiled faintly and shook her head. "You've been borderline obsessed about looking after me. If I didn't love you so much, I'd find you suffocating and tiresome. You're becoming suffocating and tiresome."

"I love you, Katherine."

"I know, David." She smiled a little. "And as much as I'd like you to keep telling me, you need to…go back to class. You do have a life. I need to be alone with my mom for a little bit to let this all…sink in. And I think you should too." She gave him a look. "Okay?"

David stared down at her and knew that arguing was futile. That was what he saw in the headstrong dancer to begin with, wasn't it? The fact that she didn't need a knight in shining armor—and David hadn't been all that good at that anyway. It was intimidating, how her voice could sound so still even at the face of this news, when David himself was about to break down.

"Earth to David." She smiled a bit more.

"Right…" David came to. He leaned down and gave her a gentle kiss. He allowed her to hold him down to it for a few moments, and she let go of his tie.

She said, "I'll let you know if anything else comes up, all right?"

"Yeah, immediately," David agreed. He kissed her hair and pulled the cover up a little higher over her.

Wes looked up when David came out of the room. Mrs. Rivers was on her way back into the room, and she and David spoke for a moment. They embraced each other—Mrs. Rivers looking teary—but David's words seemed to assuage her. When she vanished into Katherine's room, David's smile disappeared and he turned to his friend.

He seemed to have woken up, so distant as he said, "I'm sorry—did I take that long?"

"No," Wes gave him an incredulous look. "Have I ever complained about time around here?"

David didn't answer and he just started walking towards the exit, with Wes walking with him. He was quiet for a while, and then Wes said, "…are you going to be all right?" He remembered that grip on his wrist.

David glanced at him. "Yeah, yeah…" he nodded, pulling out his phone as soon as they got out of the hospital to tell the others they were on their way back. "I'll be—it's just…something that has to sink in properly."

Wes stared at him. He wanted to say something, maybe reiterate what the Twins keep telling David, but he had the feeling that he would just get rebuffed again. But he put a hand on David's back without looking at him. "All right," was all he said.

Which was also basically what David would let him give right now.

Kurt was copying notes in Newman's Ecology and Environmental Studies class. Once again, Dwight was in there, and even though he was a year younger, he was allowed to stay in that class because it was probably the only subject that he really excelled at—and the teachers were desperate to distract him from his other obsessions. Dwight claimed that he was only good at it because he needed to know which times unusual phenomena were natural, and which times they were demonic.

Kurt jumped a little when a little paper ninja star fell onto his desk in perfect precision. He picked it up, glanced behind him and saw Dwight staring wide-eyed at him. Kurt sighed and opened, with some difficulty, the ninja star.

What happened? Pass/Fail?

Kurt found it amusing that the paper was torn out of a sheet that had a doodle of some kind of map with "Wendigo Woods" written at the side. But he scribbled in his answer in, balled the paper, and threw it back at him. The paper ball bounced off Dwight's head and he tried to catch it—but he fell with a clatter onto the floor.

He popped up immediately, "I'm fine! I just fell." And he sat down again. Everyone glanced back at him only once before continuing what they were doing. It was Dwight, after all—nothing was weird anymore.

Dwight opened the paper ball and read it. His eyes went wide and he yanked out his cell phone.

Phones rang in different spots. From inside Wes' car, both their phones went off and since Wes was driving, David was the one who picked them up. The Twins looked up as the text arrived during their History class, and Reed wiped his hands from his pottery exercise to go get it, while from his Physics class, Blaine pulled out his own phone.

Good: Alice passed. Staying in Windsor.

Bad: After school tutoring with the Knave.

Really bad: TWO WEEKS.

Logan came out of the classroom and was surprised to find Blaine waiting for him. "Hello, Logan," he said coolly, looking for all the world as though he had just fallen into step next to the Stuart prefect in the hall.

"You're here, so I assume you've heard about Murdoch's condition for Kurt, am I right?" Logan asked with equal composure, looking down at his notebook as the two of them began walking down the hall for lunch period.

"Well, you're a reasonably intelligent human being; I didn't suppose for one minute you'd think there was any other reason I'd be here?"

"Really. I also imagined our very moving talk in the memorial garden might have compelled you, but the blazing expression you've got says otherwise."

Blaine glared at him, but Logan, without even bestowing the shorter boy a glance, continued, "No, this wasn't my plan—as you well know my original plan was to move Kurt to Stuart. That backfired and Pavarotti got stolen and now I'm trying to keep under the radar for the time being. I had no idea Murdoch was going to have Kurt signed up for after school lessons." But now he looked at Blaine briefly. "Surprising advantage, and I'm not ungrateful."

"As long as they stay literature lessons, Logan," Blaine responded.

Logan sighed, exasperated. "No promises. Are you that opposed to me becoming so friendly with him? Seeing as how you've got his favor, I don't see why you should be worried."

"You know very well why I'm worried."

Logan looked surprised. "An admission of weakness? From you? Wow…" Logan shook his head. "Things have changed. You really trust Kurt that little?"

Kurt stopped in the hall when he heard his name. He was behind them both, and obvious they had yet to notice he was there. He'd heard this conversation and just like the first time, he wondered what how wide or narrow the gap between these two boys actually were.

"It's not Kurt I don't trust," Blaine said emphatically, stopping Logan in his walk with an arm. He looked up at him with green eyes that never quite had this kind of intensity before. "It's you I don't trust. What you said to me in the memorial garden didn't really do much by way of assurance, you know."

Memorial garden…? Kurt wondered.

Logan turned to him with a smile. "All right. I see where you're coming from."

"Just now?" Blaine raised an eyebrow.

Logan held up his palms and smiled genially. It was a strange sight to Kurt. Logan was able to spar verbally with Blaine the way he ordinarily did, but he didn't look as though all the medication had worn off. And yet he was able to carry on with Blaine as though nothing was wrong. He looked almost…normal now.

Did that mean that Logan was more himself…when he was confronting Blaine? When he was just with Blaine?

Logan smiled at Blaine in a way that didn't actually reach his eyes as he did so. "I'm not going to do anything Kurt doesn't want to do. And considering how terribly loyal he is to you, you can be rest assured that it will be a deeply deeply boring after-school study session."

Blaine stood, cogitating as he stared at him, and then conceded. "Fine. I'll take your word for it." He might still not trust him all that much, but Logan did extend the olive branch (however convoluted an olive branch it had been considering his motivations and their discussion) by sending the search parties out for Shane.

For all he knew, he was softening up the competition, but at this point, he had to put his trust in Kurt, and if Logan knew what was good for him, he really would go by his word to not do anything Kurt didn't want to. But there was no dodging the situation. Short of going with Kurt to the study session, which would make things monumentally worse, there was no feasible reason for him to stop Kurt from going by Murdoch's commands.

Save for the overwhelming, completely unreasonable desire to defend his territory. But he wasn't quite ready to own up to that just yet.

Logan nodded with a smile. "Good. I suppose the threat to my life need not be said."

"No, it does not," Blaine answered matter-of-factly.



And Logan turned heel and left. Blaine stood fuming to himself before turning as well—and nearly crashed into Kurt Hummel himself. He nearly jumped a foot. "Kurt! Uh…how long have you been there?"

"Long enough," Kurt's eyebrow was raised, arms crossed. "And what was that about?"

Blaine hesitated just long enough for Kurt to narrow his eyes. The dark-haired boy could only throw up his hands and sigh. "Fine. All right. But you can't blame me for this. His track record isn't excellent. Especially not with me."

"I know that much," Kurt replied. "And I also know that he's tolerable. To me, anyway."

"Then there's really nothing I can do, is there?" Blaine just sighed. He looked worried. His eyes looked worried even as he looked out the window. There was that hesitance in him that screamed as though he wanted to say something more, but propriety couldn't allow him to.

Kurt took his hand. "It'll be fine. It's you I'm with, remember? Not him. I'm not like that flaky soloist of yours."

"Hey." Blaine threw him a warning look, but he was smiling a little.

"Hey yourself. You get to worry about Logan, and I get to tell you that if that soloist comes back, I might have to smack him for causing all this trouble in the first place."

"So…now that we're fighting over you, you're the one who's making all the trouble?" Blaine raised an eyebrow.

"It's not a fight when you've won," Kurt said simply. The statement earned a priceless expression on Blaine's face.

Kurt continued casually, "I'll come over to your room right after the study session. That way we can have dinner together."

Blaine was rendered speechless—Kurt took control without much effort. He wondered if this had always been the way he'd been, back at McKinley, ensconced in his own grandeur amidst everyone else. But he wasn't unwilling towards the proposition. "Sounds good… Supposing nothing unusual happens in Windsor prior." He grinned. "And I'll have to boot Shane out."

"Give him to Reed, I'm sure he'll be more than thrilled," Kurt smirked. "And I'm sure I'm dying to have a little bit more development between your brother and my danger-prone friend."

"Are you sure you want to subject Reed to my brother…? I suppose Reed might have possibly gotten to your nerves at some point, but I refuse to believe that he deserves to be subjected to Shane's level of—" the look that Kurt was giving him made him grin and almost laugh. "All right. You got me. I was starting to get curious too."

He walked down the hall with Kurt, holding his hand as he did. "It had been a while since Shane actually took that kind of a liking to someone."

"And Reed did tell me that he reciprocates…in his own way," Kurt smirked back at his boyfriend, fingers twined. "They could…probably learn a little something from each other."

"If you say so…" Blaine then glanced at him as they rounded the corner to the lunch room. "You think they'll be all right?"

"They'll be all right…" Kurt remarked, smiling. "As long as it's left up to them, the way it was with us. You think your brother will make the first move?"

"Well if it's moves, Shane's got them," Blaine answered calmly. "I just can't guarantee they're the right ones."

"Shane?" Reed peered into the room he shared with Kurt, where he saw Shane last. "Are you in here, Shane?"

He was no longer there—the room stood empty save for Pavarotti, who seemed to be snoozing. Shane wasn't meant to go home until tonight, or at least that was what Blaine told him when they had to leave the younger boy behind in Windsor (with Howard's hesitant permission). Everyone save for Han had gone to class, and the Caterpillar had agreed to glancing at the monitors every once in a while to make sure that Shane was still breathing or wasn't destroying anything.

Reed glanced around apprehensively, hoping he hadn't gotten into some kind of trouble. A boy who still needed a crutch and had an arm in a sling couldn't have gone too far. He left the room to go look, until he heard music playing from across the hall, pouring out through the crack at Blaine's door.

Surprised, he crept closer, and gently pushed the door open.

He saw Shane there, sitting on the couch, with Blaine's guitar hugged close to himself. His arm was out of its sling, and he was strumming a melody slightly. Stunned, Reed walked in. "Shane?"

The other boy almost jumped. "Reed! Geez, you nearly gave me a heart attack."

"What are you doing? I thought your arm was broken!"

"No it's not," Shane responded airily. "The paramedic who brought me down from the mountain told me I might've snapped a tendon. But when the real doctors got to seeing me, they said I'd just strained bad or something."

"I mean you told Blaine it was."

"He lets me do more of what I want when he thinks I'm wounded."

Reed crossed the room with narrowed eyes. "Don't do that to him! He was worried sick about you all this time! We've all been worried sick about you while you were gone!"

"Hey!" Shane reached out the moment he saw Reed snag his foot on the carpet. He grabbed his arm and managed to hold him steady before the smaller boy went flying. Reed looked up breathlessly, a little startled, to find Shane clutching at the leg he had put his weight on when he moved.


"My leg, you should know, is injured," Shane responded, gingerly lifting it to move it. He sighed. "…I can't dance. I won't be dancing for a while. Guess I'll be missing a couple of recitals and performances…"

Reed stared. Shane was a dancer the way Blaine was a singer, and if that was any indication of his love for his art…

"Well…" Reed stammered. "At least…your arm isn't…so bad."

Shane looked up, and started to laugh. "Relax! Geez… you're right, though." He sighed, picking up the guitar up as Reed sat next to him. "I should really have thought of Blaine. …don't know what I must've put him through again."

"You didn't ask for it to happen…" Reed murmured, but Shane didn't look at him anymore. He hit a nerve and he knew that. "Um…"

Shane just lifted a hand to stop him. "No, no…you're right. I'll just have to think first before doing things… Apparently that's very useful."

An awkward silence followed. Shane continued to avoid his gaze, and Reed was watching Shane strum the guitar lightly, a little fascinated. Shane was idly playing, murmuring a little, and Reed forgot his original errand—to see if he'd eaten anything. "…do you play too? Like Blaine?"

"Hm? Yeah, a little… Not as good as he is. I can barely even read music. I just mimic what I hear."

"Can you sing? I heard you singing a little bit."

Shane now glanced at him suspiciously. "You…want me to sing? In front of you? A Warbler? Is this you trying to give me comeuppance via humiliation for pretending to have a broken arm?"

Reed smiled. "No. I just wanted to hear what the great lead singer Blaine's brother sounded like."

"You should know I sound like a dying bovine."

Reed elbowed him sharply. Shane coughed and laughed. "All right! Fine… Just a little bit."

He began to play a little more, but not so much—he clearly still had a hurt arm—but he strummed along, humming a little at first. He began to sing carefully, his voice of a different quality from Blaine's, but was not, by any means, as terrible as he made it seem.

And if you were here

I could deceive you

And if you were here

you would believe…

When he looked at Reed as he sang, right in the eyes, the other boy felt his breath hitch just a little bit. He had his own voice, and that was clear.

But would you suspect

my emotion wandering, yeah?

Do not want a part of this anymore

He smiled at him, as though asking for affirmation. Reed smiled a little, leaning a just a bit closer, beginning to sing with him, softly.

The rain water drips

Through the cracks in the ceiling

And I'll have to spend my time on repair

And just like the rain I'll be always fallin', yeah

Only to rise and fall again

Shane continued to play, not even looking at what he was doing, the two of them looking at each other as the music continued. As the taller boy stared, Reed slowly began to smile at him, acknowledging without words that he wasn't a bad singer at all. Shane looked a little embarrassed and turned away.

They started to sing again, voices rising.

If you were here

I could deceive you

And if you were here

You would believe

But would you suspect

My emotion wandering, yeah?

Do not want a part of this anymore

Their voices fell soft as the song came to a close, Reed now leaning on his shoulder a little. Shane welcomed it while it lasted.

But just like the rain

I'll be always fallin', yeah

Only to rise and fall again…

The song slowly came to a close, and Reed glanced at Shane with a smile. Shane looked a trifle red at this point, but he just shook his head with a short laugh. "…first time I ever hear you sing…and…you had to sing with me." He looked at him. "Sing me a solo next time."

"But I liked singing with you, though…" Reed replied easily. "You don't sound like a dead bovine."

"Ah, compliments from the master." Shane affected a look of complete worship. "I'm deeply honored to be given such splendid praise! I could die right now!"

Reed turned red and shoved at his shoulder. "Come on," he said, getting up. "Let's get some lunch. Clearly, your lack of nourishment is getting to you."

But even when he helped Shane stand up, Reed couldn't look him in the eyes, his hands on his toned arm that signified a strong dancer. Singing with Shane made him think of Kurt and Blaine when they sang together. The way they did it—it always sounded like they were talking to each other.

He hadn't let learned that art—he'd only begun singing solos recently—but he couldn't help but wonder if Shane could tell yet, that he liked him.

Maybe he could make it clear, sometime in the future. With a little bit of courage, he decided, remembering the word over Blaine's photo in Kurt's desk.

Harvey and Medel stood in front of the assembled Warblers after school, the two of them beaming. "All right boys, settle down, settle down," he said, gesturing for them to take their seats. The Warblers could tell, by their expressions, that something was in the air, and hastily took their seats.

"Hey," said Blaine, the moment Wes and David sat next to him and Kurt. "Haven't heard from you all day. How did it go?"

"She's…oh, she's…you know…same…nothing I can't handle." David said absently, waving it away. But his eyes looked terribly distant. Wes kept looking at him, apprehensive, and he glanced to Blaine, shaking his head. Kurt gave him a look that demanded an explanation, but Wes just gestured for him to wait as he'd tell them later.

The Tweedles gave each other that sidelong look that suggested they already had a guess on what was happening—that it was something David couldn't handle by himself. But they would wait until they were back in Windsor before they would grill him. Where they could really push him to the wall.

Harvey shot the twins a look as though he could tell simply by instinct that they were plotting, but began. "All right then. As you know, we really have to step up our game. We made it through Sectionals, but to be quite frank, Mr. Schuester from McKinley and I agree that we all weren't in great shape. The tie means that we just squeaked by at this point."

The Warblers glanced at each other guiltily. "We did a little better during the Winter Fest," added Harvey, as though to diffuse the blunt observation. "Kurt and Reed did great—" he paused at the applause that followed, and Kurt beamed with pleasure, sitting up, while Reed just turned red with a smile, ducking his head, "—and we're going to try and keep up that kind of energy."

"We've decided that since Reed has proven quite excellent, we're going to give more of you the chance to go for a lead spot," said Medel with a smile. "After all, we don't know who else could just simply be hiding that ability to qualify for a role."

Kurt smile faltered a little. More competition? After he'd just been chosen over Blaine and Logan, the two long-time leads, for one? There was no way he wasn't getting a lead position for the Regionals, and that was final.

Blaine, who could tell all of these emotions were passing through Kurt without even having to look at him, only smiled affectionately. Kurt's competitive streak was not something new to him—especially after witnessing him and Rachel in action.

"Now," Medel looked around them all, beaming. "Mr. Harvey and I have decided to make a little bit of a competition. For the upcoming Valentines Fair."

"Fair…?" Kurt murmured, and Ethan leaned to him, whispering, "We have a fair every year for Valentines. We ask people from other schools to come, raise money for charity."

"It's lots of fun," Evan grinned. "Lots of people come and we can prank half the attendees and get away with it."

Kurt waved them away as Medel resumed her talk, "The Warblers will be performing for the crowd on the Valentines Fair—and seeing as how it's Valentines, we'll make room for duets than for solos. Two pairs will be chosen to perform onstage."

"Two pairs…?" gasped some of the Warblers. They had never had a double duet before. That meant four leads—the most the Warblers had ever had in a single performance.

So there was room for everyone, Blaine considered. But why was Medel smiling like that?

Harvey continued. "This duel will be a free-for-all. Anyone who wants to perform can and will perform—solo, or duet—in front of us here in Warblers hall. And I should think you'd want to, because there's more than just the performance at stake."

He fastened a level gaze at the boys. "Whoever gets chosen to perform for the Valentines Fair will be excused from any and all Fair-related work. Which means you can spend as much free time as you want, and in the duration of the day itself."

A murmuring started in the hall, especially among the boys looking to spend the day with the dates for the Fair—and watch everyone else slave away setting the whole spectacle up. Everyone sat up as Harvey continued, "Those same four people will also be given extra points for end of term exams…" and now uproar was building nicely, "…and finally, they will be given particular preference for a lead position in the Regionals performance."

Kurt sat up so straight that Reed thought someone had shoved him. Over the roar of excitement in Warblers hall, all the boys more than ready to give it a shot no matter how bleak it may have looked, Blaine looked at Kurt and smirked. "So… you're going to compete."

"Try and stop me."

"I suppose you don't need my help…for, say…a duet?" Blaine asked smoothly. This got Kurt's attention. Blaine just beamed. "Throwing it out there… it is a Valentines' Day performance… But no matter what, I'll be fighting for a spot." His eyes were devastatingly intent onto Kurt's own. "…I want to sing with you onstage. In front of everyone this time."

Kurt flushed deeply in spite of himself. "…then we both better get a spot."

Suddenly there was a bit of talk, murmuring in the room, and the others looked up to see Wes raising his hand silently. Harvey looked up and nodded to him. "Yes, Wes?"

Wes stood slowly and David looked up at him in surprise. "Sir…if you would permit… I know it's not how we usually do it, but I just wanted to get something off my chest. I was wondering if I can come forward and perform a piece."

"You mean you want to sing?" Medel said, blinking, surprised—Wes had sung by himself before in the duels, but it had been some time since he had.

"Yes," he said with finality. "The truth is… I want to sing to someone in this room. …a really good friend of mine. And I just feel like he's not going to listen to me unless I do something this drastic. And…" he took a breath and didn't look at David, who was staring up at him, "…I really need to get him to start talking."

The two directors looked at each other as the Warblers began to murmur in puzzled conversation. Blaine and Kurt looked at each other, and then back at the two—one intent, the other a little frazzled. And between Wes and David, it was the reverse from the usual scene.

Medel looked at the two friends and perhaps knew in her own way what was happening. She looked at Harvey meaningfully. He glanced to her, did a double take, and she raised her eyebrows. He sighed, but smiled, motioning to Wes. "Do what you feel you must." He disliked rifts among the Warblers, and prized their unity. And if this was their own way of fixing it, then he felt he should let them.

"Thank you, sir." He moved forward, his sleeve slipping away from David's reach even as he tried to stop him. The Twins leaned forward, interested, and even Logan raised his eyes from where they were resting on the music sheets.

Wes moved forward, tapping some underclassman Warblers as he went—among them Drew from Windsor, Bailey from Stuart and Jesse from Hanover—all of whom he must've spoken to in private prior to the meeting, as they too rose and followed after him.

The group of them stood in front, with Wes in front and center. The underclassmen started to make a harmony for him, a steady tune in perfect chorus as all the Warblers were able to do.

Wes raised his head, looking at no one in particular, and began to sing.

She's all laid up in bed with a broken heart

While I'm drinking jack all alone in my local bar

And we don't know how—

How we got into this mad situation

Only doing things out of frustration

Trying to make it work but man, these times are hard…

The other Warblers started to chime in, harmonizing with his voice, and the other Warblers looked surprised. The song was meant for something else, true, but the way Wes sang it gave it a different interpretation. He was certainly reaching out to someone.

Kurt turned to David, who looked a little stunned as he lowered his eyes.

Wes continued to sing.

And we don't know we got into this mess it's a gods test

Someone help us cause we're doing our best

Trying to make it work but man these times are hard…

But we're gonna start by drinking old cheap bottles of wine

Sit talking up all night…

Saying things we haven't for a while, a while yeah

We're smiling but we're close to tears

Even after all these years

We just now got the feeling that we're meeting

For the first time…

As the Warblers in front continued to sing, in perfect melody using only their voices, David leaned back in his seat, rather unable to react at the fact that Wes was willing to go this far just to get his attention—to make him understand when ordinary words weren't enough.

And for the first time, Wes met his gaze.

She's in line at the door with her head held high

While I just lost my job but didn't lose my fight

But we both know how—

How we're gonna make it work when it hurts

When you pick yourself up you get kicked in the dirt

Trying to make it work but man these times are hard

Wes didn't lift his gaze away from David's. He didn't know what he had to do to help his friend, but he had to let him know that he was there, and he wanted to help. And that no matter how strong David thought he was, no one should have to endure this alone.

Sit talking up all night…

Saying things we haven't for a while, a while yeah

We're smiling but we're close to tears

Even after all these years

We just now got the feeling that we're meeting

For the first time…

David and Wes had been friends since the beginning of high school. And to both, those years felt as though they had lasted forever, through the topsy-turvy days when they had each other's company through thick and thin. They had been inseparable, but this rift that David was starting to have, even when Wes was right next to him…

He may have forgotten that he had a friend upon whom he could thoroughly rely. And one so headstrong that he would—regardless of what he said—take it upon himself to support him in some way, especially now that he was slowly breaking down.

Oh these times are hard

Yeah they're making us crazy…

As the song came to a close, Wes finally lowered his eyes. As the song ended, the Warblers burst into applause, all quite impressed. The underclassmen were pleased at the approval from the others, but Wes wasn't there to look for approval.

He turned to Harvey and nodded. "Thank you, Mr. Harvey, Ms. Medel."

"You did great…" Medel answered with a smile, putting a hand to his back as he passed her. "All of you. It was beautiful."

"That it was," Harvey affirmed. He smiled a little as he turned to the rest of the boys. "You heard Wes just now. You're going to have to be that good—and even better than that—if you're looking to earn a lead position and all that goes with it."

Talk in the room exploded again, everyone eagerly talking to one another and making plans. If Wes' performance was any indication, it set the bar high.

But as Wes sat down in his place next to David and Blaine, he said nothing. Blaine turned to him and he may have wanted to say something, but Wes only lifted his hand slightly, just a short bend of the wrist, as though asking him not to say what he was about to say next.

Blaine stared at him, and then at David. David was also staring on the ground. And after a moment of terrible hesitation, he exhaled.

"…all right," he whispered. "All right, Wes, I get it."

"We'll talk later," Wes replied quietly.

David nodded. He wasn't sure about what he was going to say. But he had the feeling that telling his friends something—anything—would be sufficient. For both them and him.

Surprisingly, Logan didn't wait for Kurt to leave the Warblers rehearsal. He neither followed him out nor accompanied him to Stuart House. It was the other Windsors who walked him to out of South and Main, and Kurt, as they prepared to separate, collared the twins.

"Tell me the minute you find out what the heck is wrong with David," he told them, watching the boy who seemed lost in thought, walking ahead without realizing his companions weren't doing the same. Wes followed after him. "You're going to interrogate him sooner or later."

"We will," the twins said happily, delighted that Kurt was in tune with their mind at last. "And does this mean we have permission to do as we please with Logan? We were thinking paintballs."

"No." Kurt rolled his eyes and released them. "Just go."

"You going to be okay, Kurt?" Reed asked, looking oddly breathless and wildly overexcited, hugging music sheets.

"Yes…" Kurt answered, puzzled.

"Great—see you back in Windsor!" and Reed raced off in record speed. Blaine looked startled. "Reed! Don't run so fast, you'll fall!" He sighed and put a hand on the small of Kurt's back and kissed him briefly. "Tell me the instant you're done."

"Mm…" Kurt just smiled. "You're distressingly overprotective."

"I like to stake my territory." After saying so, Blaine looked up suddenly, frowning. "Looks like you've got escorts to go there anyway."

Over the grounds, Derek was walking towards them with his intentions clear, and Blaine gave him a nod. Derek only nodded back slightly. Blaine held onto Kurt a little longer and said, "See you back in Windsor."

"See you." Kurt clutched his bag strap as Blaine left, glancing back only slightly as though making sure he would be all right. As he came close to Windsor, Kurt then turned and at Derek, who gave him a quick appraisal before saying, "All right, then. Follow me."

Derek led him towards Stuart House, and Kurt remarked, "You guys always treat visitors like they were visiting spies?"

"If you were from Hanover it wouldn't be an issue," Derek commented. "But you know our beef with Windsor. Especially after a certain prize warbler just went missing."

Kurt tugged slightly at his collar with a cough. The said prize warbler was in his room as they spoke. Derek either didn't notice, or didn't pay attention, or didn't care. They entered Stuart House.

Stuart House was not all that different from Windsor—but it had its own sophisticated charm. Windsor looked like a real living space, beaten with time and antics of many boys through the ages, but Stuart House looked more like a formal location where meetings were held and held an air of strict sophistication. In contrast to the very Tudor-esque look of his House, Stuart looked more like an old manor, with marble and stone holding dominant.

There was chatter in the House and the halls, but subdued. Kurt spied a number of boys in the common room, poring over their books or assignments, while a few others were clearly discussing politics in the kitchen—which was furnished with more coffee arsenal than what Kurt was comfortable on seeing outside of a coffee house.

A boy with brown hair came downstairs, music beating out of his headphones, and greeted Derek as he took them off. "Hey Derek." He looked at Kurt and blinked. "And…Alice?"

Kurt bristled. How everyone in the school seemed to know this nickname was a testament of the Twins' influence, but at least this boy probably knew because he was in the Warblers. "His name is Kurt, Bailey," said Derek with a frown.

"We've met," Kurt responded, smiling at him.

"You here to rehearse with Logan or something?" Bailey asked, his eyes friendly. Kurt looked at him, confused. This also seemed to confuse Bailey. "For the Warblers? The Valentines' Fair? I passed the anteroom and I heard him messing with his keyboard—I figured—"

"He's just here on Murdoch's orders—for tutoring." Derek responded coldly.

"Tutoring?" Bailey snorted a little. "What for? I heard your grades were the highest among the newbies that took the exam." This puzzled Kurt more than ever, and Derek was now glaring at the friendly boy on the stairs.

"Where's Julian?" he demanded.

"In there with Logan."

Derek went striding up the stairs. Kurt glanced at Bailey, who looked apologetic. "Hey, did I say something wrong?"

"No, you didn't," Kurt replied firmly.

"All right," Bailey said, looking surprised. He watched as Kurt followed after Derek, looking a trifle worried. After a moment of hesitation, he crept upstairs after them.

Derek led Kurt up to the anteroom that once held Pavarotti. The only door open in the area was Logan's and Bailey had been right—there was music coming from inside. Derek opened the door to find Logan at the keyboard and Julian sitting by the window, music sheets in hand.

Logan's room was the size of Windsor room, and he was the only occupant. The difference was that the room was clearly just made for a single occupant. If there was ever a King's room, it had to be his, nestled at the corner of the floor. When the three Stuart boys now looked at him, Kurt never felt more in their territory in his life.

But Logan smile and rose. "Hey, Kurt. Sorry I didn't walk you back here—I went ahead, I just had so many ideas for that contest Harvey and Medel talked about."

"Yes, he did," Julian looked exasperated, waving the music sheets. "I'm not even a Warbler and I have to deal with all this too. Why don't you have Bailey or Thaddeus or some other Warbler sing with you or something?"

"You did say you already had a single out," Kurt remarked, walking to Logan.

"Doesn't mean I'm amiable to singing for little private school choirs…" Julian answered coolly.

"Ignore Julian, he's got a stick shoved up his back end," Logan glared at him, to which his friend only answered, "Only because you put it there, Logan."

"You both can now stop this shameless flirting before you further embarrass me," Derek said sarcastically as Logan glared further at the actor. Derek looked at his best friend and then to Kurt. "We'll leave you two to it."

Julian leaped off the window seat and offered the sheets with a flourish to Kurt with the smile that Kurt recognized from his TV show posters. Kurt gave him a look and took the sheets. "Good luck," Julian remarked with another smile and he sauntered out of the room.

Derek gave Logan a long look. Logan stared back, and sighed in answer, holding up a pill bottle. Derek nodded and left the room. As soon as they were gone, Kurt turned to Logan. "You keep interesting friends."

"I don't actually keep them—it just surprises me they put up with me the way you do," Logan answered, smiling at him. He motioned for him to sit down at the second chair by his desk. Even as he sat, Kurt glanced at the keyboard in the room, and the music sheets in his hand.

"So basically, I'll just be tutoring you for Murdoch's literature class, right?" Logan asked, pulling over some of the textbooks. He sat next to Kurt, close enough for Kurt to notice, but not close enough to defy prudence. "That means…" and he plopped a book with a thump onto the desk. "That all I have to do is to technically tell you what sort of things he likes to see on his exam papers."

Kurt raised an eyebrow. Logan smirked. "You don't need my help, I know that well enough. He's probably just out to get you. But to tell you quite honestly, the fact that you're taking "tutoring" with me will already help the odds lean to your favor with him."

He flipped open the book. "He did the same thing with Blaine when he first came here."

"Did he?" Kurt felt a little intrigued.

"He does that to all the new people who won't stay under his thumb," Logan informed him. "But after he sent Blaine to me for tutoring—which is basically me giving him everything short of an actual crib sheet—he was all right."

Kurt remembered the talk the two had in the hall. "…was that how you and Blaine got close?"

"Hm? Sort of, I suppose." Logan shrugged, taking down page numbers on a sheet of paper. He didn't look at him. "It helped that we were both Warblers too." After a pause, he added, "…so you know that we used to be together?"

"The way you two deal with each other makes it obvious," Kurt said bluntly.

"Ah…well…" Logan smiled faintly. "That was…then. Here." He handed him the page numbers. "I can almost guarantee you that the next exam coverage will be on those pages only." He smiled.

Kurt took the paper and stared at it incredulously. "That's it?"

"That's it." Logan shrugged. He leaned a little to him, smiling. "That's basically all the tutoring you need for the day. You're welcome."

"This school is ridiculous," Kurt remarked in distaste. "How it's even still standing is a feat."

"I know, but it's still standing for the same reasons it's ridiculous: too many donations in exchange for the odd power trip here and there. I'm living proof of it."

"How did you get back…?" Kurt asked, looking up at the green gaze. "You were…expelled, right?"

"Well, there's my father…and then money…and then my father," Logan answered calmly, rather close to him by now. "That and Murdoch likes to think of me as one of his best students. He would like to keep me in Stuart, and so he helped me get back on board."

The workings of the school continued to amaze him. Murdoch must have wielded Sue Sylvester's power but terribly less conniving and clever at it if his own students could crack him so easily. "I'm supposed to be here for the next…" Kurt glanced at the clock by the bedstead. "…hour and a half."

Logan considered, nodding. "Hm. You have a point there." He thought it over, then gestured to the music sheets. "Help me out, then?"

"Help you how?" Kurt crossed his legs and raised an eyebrow. Logan pointed to the songs on the sheets still in Kurt's hands. "I need a duet partner to sing a song."

Kurt looked down at the papers as Logan, without difficulty owing to his long limbs, pulled over the keyboard from where it rested nearby. Kurt now looked up at him, tense. "You want me…to sing with you? For the duels?"

Logan glanced at him, scooting a bit closer as he brought the keyboard before them both. At the question, he turned slowly to look at him. "Are you offering?" he asked quietly, looking intently at him.

Kurt's chest tightened. "It was just a question."

An awkward silence followed.

"While it would be nice…" Logan said distantly, not looking at him, "…you know, seeing as how Medel seemed to really like our duet from last time… if you're not comfortable with it, I can make someone else sing with me on the day itself."

Kurt knew Medel liked them together, as singers. The automatic offer for Regionals was a sign. If that didn't guarantee them both at double win for one of the four slots, nothing did, but Kurt wasn't prepared to sing a love song with Logan over Blaine.

"So…are you willing to maybe…sing with me, just for a bit—for now?" Logan murmured, beginning to play the music a little. He looked at him intently, hesitant to plead too far. "We do sound good together, you know."

They did. Since the first time—they had. After a long pause, Kurt sighed.

"I…suppose I can offer you my talents as help, but just for now," he finally said, with an airy tone to hide the fact that his lips suddenly felt dry and he felt an awkward knot. He prodded a few keys with his hand. He couldn't forget how Logan sounded when they sang together. He always sounded as though he were really, truly himself. "I'm not singing with you for the duel. Just practice—so we're clear."

Logan just smiled faintly at him for a long moment. "…Thank you, Kurt."

It sounded genuine. Kurt glanced at him at the corner of his eyes as Logan turned ahead to the music sheets, hands lying on the keyboard, very close to his again. Logan closed his eyes and took a breath.

Let me hold you for the last time

It's the last chance to feel again

But you broke me, now I can't feel anything

Kurt looked up at the words. Logan wasn't looking at him. He was only singing, in that voice that sounded so familiar by now, with his own colors in it.

When I love you and so untrue

I can't even convince myself

When I'm speaking it's the voice of someone else

Oh, it tears me up

I tried to hold on but it hurts too much

I tried to forgive but it's not enough

To make it all okay

He started to play, and music filled the air. Kurt stared at him, and the fact that he could sing like this. This was the only time he would ever be able to fight through the murky fog and speak. When he sang—Logan became someone else.

You can't play our broken strings

You can't feel anything

That your heart don't want to feel

I can't tell you something that ain't real

Oh, the truth hurts and lies worse

How can I give anymore?

When I love you a little less than before?

The words had meaning for sure. Kurt closed his eyes, and Logan turned to him, watching intently as the countertenor now took the words.

Oh, what are we doing?

We are turning into dust

Playing house in the ruins of us

Logan, watching him, felt his heart pounding, and rejoined him, the two of them looking at each other.

Running back through the fire

When there's nothing left to say

It's like chasing the very last train

When it's too late, too late

Oh, it tears me up

I tried to hold on but it hurts too much

I tried to forgive but it's not enough

To make it all okay

Their voices filled the room, the music pouring out of the room. Bailey, standing in the hall, looked up at the music, stunned. The Stuarts in the hall also looked up. At the sound of the song, Derek stopped in his walk, and Julian raised his head with a strange smile.

You can't play our broken strings

You can't feel anything

That your heart don't want to feel

I can't tell you something that ain't real

The two of them looked at each other as they continued to sing, singing without hindrance, enveloped in the music and the words. All of Stuart House, not having heard this kind of singing in a long time, looked up to listen.

Oh, the truth hurts and lies worse

How can I give anymore?

When I love you a little less than before?

Their voices continued to meld and intertwine, words weaving through one another's. And finally the music dropped to its finale, a slow tone, the two of them lifting their eyes to look at each other.

Let me hold you for the last time…

It's the last chance to feel again…

The music closed, the two of them left breathless by the song. Logan sat staring at Kurt with a strange expression, and Kurt stared back for a moment, until he licked his dry lips and turned away, looking at the keyboard. Their silence lasted for a long time as they both tried to get their breaths back.

Logan turned to the keyboard. "…I've gone too far, haven't I?"

"We were just singing," Kurt whispered.

"…you know that's not true." Logan looked at the ceiling for a moment. "…I can't help it…around you."

"It's better than let you keep it bottled up. And then it explodes. Then where will we all be?"

Logan glanced at him, gazing at his silent profile for a long moment. "…don't tell Blaine."

This surprised Kurt. He looked up to meet Logan's eyes. Logan shook his head, looking away, fingers drumming on the surface of the keyboard. "Don't tell him. If it'll hurt you and him…don't tell him."

Kurt shook his head. "If you think one song number is going to break him and me, you're sadly mistaken."

"Well as long as that's clear…" Logan murmured, running a hand though his hair. He looked distant again, as though remembering something far off. "…he's definitely not going to let you go over one song."

"What do you mean by that?"

"Same thing you did. That Blaine…can be extremely loyal—to a fault." He stared out the window. "Troublesome…almost."

Kurt watched Logan and felt himself smile slightly. So these two liked to hate each other…but while that may be true, memories stay and the two of them remain, in some ways, respectful of each other.

Maybe Logan sensed that, because he said, "What happened with Blaine was a long time ago, Kurt. And that fell out badly." He turned to him. "…I can't make that same mistake with you. You're…I'm too attached to you to lose you. Maybe you don't reciprocate… but if you've noticed, I can't feel a whole lot. So there's not a lot of pain either. So whatever we have right now…if you want to call it some twisted kind of friendship…I'll take it. Better than being without you."

He stopped and looked at him intently. "…can we at least be that?"

It took a moment, but there wasn't much to think about. Kurt raised his eyes to him.


"I told you—"

"David." Wes backed him to the wall of their room. The rest of the conspirators stood behind him, all staring at David. "If you won't tell them, I will."

"Tell us what?" Blaine demanded. "David, what's going on? You've barely talked all day—and that in itself is not normal. As far as we can tell, something's wrong with Katherine. I think you need to tell us so we can help you somehow!"

The Twins now stood on either side of David, who was basically pushed to a corner.

"David…" Wes moved forward and put a hand to his shoulder. "I don't like seeing you like this, man. If you can't tell all of us, at least tell me! I was there, I saw the look on your face—"

"All right!" David swung at him angrily. He looked around at their expressions and gave up. "All right."

He looked apprehensively at them, who looked at him in concern. He took a shaky breath and pushed past them. He went to the couch in the living area and sank into it with a sigh. "…she…the doctors said that…the surgery can only do so much, that she'd most likely need a transplant, but the thing is, if this kept up, she'd get worse and…" He sighed, putting his head into his hands. "I can't shake the thought that at any given minute…"

"You have to stop thinking that." Blaine strode over and sat next to him. He looked at him in concern. "You can't keep doing this to yourself."

"I just—I can't…" David tried to get the words out. He drew shaky breaths, looking around himself and looking for something to lean on. When he threw his hand out in a helpless gesture, someone automatically grabbed it. He looked up at him. Wes only stared intently, waiting.

David exhaled, staring at his friend. "I can't lose her. This just isn't fair! I've tried—I've tried everything. And she's still…" A deep, resigned sigh. "It's coming down all around me. I know you guys keep telling me it's not my fault but it is."

"Not even she thinks that." Wes said, sitting on the table, leaning towards him.

David just shook his head and avoided their gazes.

"You do everything you can for her," Wes said patiently. "If you really think you have so little time, then don't spend it like this, David. I mean…knowing her the way I do, she would get so pissed off that you were sitting here and blaming yourself for everything. She would chew you out, that's for sure. You know that, right?"

David gave in to a small, bitter smile. Wes continued, "What happened back then…it was an accident neither of you wanted. And you did everything you could to make it right, to make her happy—everything. I know because I saw you do it. And correct me if I'm wrong, but not everyone can say that they tried just as hard as you did."

"It's going to be all right," said Dwight, coming over. He looked awkward and fidgety as usual, but he sat in their circle with them. "It's not over yet. You can't give up now—you've gone too far. You can't give up on you and her already."

David looked at him, and the other Windsors that surrounded him. They were looking at him, and holding onto him with a hand on his arm or his back. They didn't look like they were going anywhere either. They were there, his support system.

Blaine nudged him slightly with his shoulder. "I know you feel like you've got to do this by yourself. And we're really glad for you—that you've lasted this long taking care of her the way you do. But I think…it's time for you to let us help you even a little bit. You did the same for us. And we want to help. Even if it's just to listen to you or just be there. You don't have to do this alone."

We put a hand on his shoulder and smiled. "So what do you say? Let us help a bit? Just a little. Let us listen to you or something."

There was a pause, and David looked at the Windsor boys who surrounded him, all simply waiting for an answer, and eager to help him the way they'd always done for one another. He felt himself choke up just so slightly.

"…a little…a lot…" David laughed bitterly through the mists in his eyes. "Yeah—okay. I need help. I really…really need help. I—"

The Twins laughed and piled onto the couch, grabbing him into a hug. Blaine smiled as Wes punched his friend lightly on the shoulder. David let the Twins smother him for a little while—those towering twins that still acted like they were five—and even hugged them back, but he smiled at Wes.

There was a gentle knock at the door, making them all look up. Reed was peeking in, smiling, with Kurt next to him. The two looked at each other and looked at the boys inside the room.

"David," Kurt said calmly, "I was on my way in when I saw someone hanging around outside… and seeing as how girls aren't supposed to be in the grounds, I offered to let her inside."

"Her…?" David stared.

Reed stepped aside and a pretty girl in comfortable, ordinary clothing peered into the room. David, eyes still streaming, leapt to his feet. "Katherine…?"

"Hi, you," she smiled, waving a little bit, still thin and pale.

"Katherine—" David broke away from the others and ran to her. "What are you doing here? You shouldn't be here—you should be resting or—"

"I told my mom that…I wanted to get discharged. Put up a bit of a fight, but when I told her my reasons, I guess she understood." Katherine shrugged slightly with cashmere-covered shoulders.

She looked up at him with those pretty eyes of hers that always made David want to smile. "It's not going to change, the situation. And while I may have this axe over my head, the truth is…if I really am going to die…I don't want to spend my days inside a gray hospital room. I want to spend it outside, with people—my mom, dad, my sister, brother, my friends—And the first person I thought of to really go to right now…was you."

David was tearing up again. Kurt and Reed looked at each other, smiling as they watched David hold Katherine tightly, running a hand through her hair. The other Windsors just grinned.

Katherine saw them all and gestured for them to come join them with a short laugh. The Twins needed no second telling; they leapt at the two so hard that they could've been sent sprawling. They took the initiative in sweeping the others into the group hug, ignoring Dwight's grumble of discomfort of being pulled along in spite of his protests.

As Reed made to join them, he saw Charlie at the other side of the doorway, staring mistily at the scene.

"Chaz…are you…crying?" Reed stared.

"Shut—up! I'm not." Charlie turned scarlet, hastily wiping his eyes and glowering down at Reed from his great height. The shorter boy burst out laughing and Charlie turned heel and stomped down the hall, still sniffling only slightly.

The Twins let go of the group for a moment to run out and drag Charlie—protesting vociferously—into the fray. Reed just laughed even harder. Wes, who was the one pressed closest to the two, looked at Katherine and David and grinned at them both. "I may be the third wheel here—but you have no idea how happy I am right now."

"Don't be ridiculous, Wes," Katherine said sensibly. "I don't know what David would do without you."

"Sadly true," David smiled at his friend. "…thanks, Wes."

Wes just shrugged, inwardly pleased, but he just smiled and then started hauling the boys off them. "All right, let's give them time alone, people! Move! Get out of my room!" He pulled the Twins off the pair.

The Twins started whining, but Charlie got to his senses and hauled both along. He was their height but much stronger, pulling them by the backs of their blazers. He glanced back to David and said, "David, you've got fifteen minutes in here with your girl before you have to bail and go somewhere else. Still against the rules to have girls in here, you know."

"Sure," David smiled, holding Katherine's hands. "Thanks, Chaz."

Wes was the last to run out. He gave David a smile from the door. David lifted his head from where it was leaning against Katherine's. "Later," he mouthed. "Thank you."

Wes smiled at him and nodded. He was rather glad to see David acting more or less himself again. He left the room, closing the door behind him.

David stood with Katherine in the middle of the room for quite a while, holding onto her gently. Katherine simply leaned her head against his strong shoulder, staring into empty space. David held her hand in his, and noticed sadly how small her frame had gotten. He sighed, rubbing the back of her hand.

Katherine sighed in answer, clutching at him. "…I'm so glad to be out of that room. I couldn't stand it anymore…it was just so… lifeless in there. It just keeps telling me why I'm in there. I'm so happy to be outside and…and be normal…"

David smiled briefly, resting a hand on her brown hair and giving her a small kiss. And it was then that a thought came to David. "…do you want to dance?"

His girlfriend, a talented young dancer, now raised her eyebrow at him. He smiled in a way more like his old self. "Just in here…just us both. Nothing crazy. I just…wondered if you wanted to. There was a song that I…wanted to sing to you."

Katherine flushed slightly, staring as he momentarily broke their embrace and ran to the stereo in the room. He pushed some buttons, and it started to play. At the first few bars, she flushed even more, recognizing a favorite slow song from one of her favorite movies. "What…"

"Hey." David beamed, coming up to her and taking her hands again. "You like to dance…I like to sing… Let me do this for you. You said you missed dancing, right?"

Katherine laughed softly, lowering her gaze as David looked down at her, slowly guiding her to the middle of the room to dance. He brought her close. They could hardly be "dancing", but with bodies close, sharing warmth and tremulous expressions, it made her feel more like herself, and him more like himself, once again. The music continued to play.

David leaned his cheek into her hair, clasping her hands as he sang softly:

You're in my arms

And all the world is calm

The music playing on for only two

So close together

And when I'm with you

So close to feeling alive

Katherine felt the tears well up, but she just blinked them away and bit her lip, not quite looking at him as she danced. She held tighter onto him, exhaling shakily. David held her warmly against him as he sang,

A life goes by

Romantic dreams will stop

So I bid mine goodbye and never knew

So close was waiting, waiting here with you

And now forever I know

All that I wanted to hold you

So close…

David didn't really have a plan, and from his experience, plans got ruined sooner or later. But all he knew well was that while he had her, while he was still with her…Wes and his friends were right. He couldn't give up. No matter how the story ended, each moment they both could have was what mattered.

So close to reaching that famous happy end

Almost believing this was not pretend

And now you're beside me and look how far we've come

So far we are so close…

They moved around the center of the room, David able to feel every movement of the body against his—warm, wonderfully alive—and for this moment, entirely his. He smiled down at her, singing to her and watching her smile.

How could I face the faceless days

If I should lose you now…?

We're so close

To reaching that famous happy end

And almost believing this was not pretend

Let's go on dreaming for we know we are…

He leaned forward, moving a hand over her cheek, the two of them looking intently at one another.

So close

So close

And still so far…

He leaned forward and gave her a long, soft kiss. She returned it, a tear running down her cheek. This was what she'd wanted. Just time, with David. All the time in the world. Beyond this bubble between them, reality loomed, but while they had this time, the dark thoughts were kept at bay. Thoughts that she couldn't bring herself to think about anymore—thoughts that he had to stop dwelling on as well.

She felt her throat tighten and she smiled tremulously at him, tears welling up so fast it stung her eyes. "I love you, David. I don't know why I'm crying. Like I'm scared. But I can't be…I don't want to be scared anymore. It's so tiring…"

David, eyes misty, just shook his head. "You think I want an explanation…?" He held her tightly against him. "…I love you, Katherine."

Katherine buried her face in his shoulder and he held her tight, and only then did he allow the tears to slip down his cheeks, when she couldn't see.

Time. They were fighting time. David felt himself take a breath, and Katherine's body move when she did the same. It wasn't really a fight when they know that in the end, time would win.

But with each breath…it made them feel like they won.

"You think they're all right in there?" Evan asked, tilting his head as he looked up at the wall of Blaine's room, where they had all gathered once again. Blaine, who was so used to having everyone over all at the same time, no longer cared that Dwight was spilling salt everywhere and that the twins were making a fort out of the couch pillows. They had Nerf pistols, small ones, and were trying to pelt everyone methodically—except Kurt, whose glare simply dared them to muss his perfect coiffure made them think twice.

"They're fine," Wes murmured as he stared out the window. It was cold out. It was snowing lightly outside the dark windows. Evan smiled at him and patted his shoulder. "You were great, little Hare."

"I'm just glad he's…all right," Wes shrugged, feigning nonchalance, knuckles pressed against his mouth just so. "Didn't like seeing him like that. He's supposed to be the solid one."

"There's no one solid in this house except maybe Chaz," Dwight grumbled, rolling his eyes. "Everyone's as volatile as a freaking ceremonial cauldron."

"Speaking of volatile things…" Blaine got up from his study chair and sat next to Kurt on the bed, taking his hand. "You got back from Stuart early. Really early." He glanced down at his pocketwatch. Kurt smirked at the sight of it. White Rabbit indeed.

"We didn't do much studying," Kurt responded calmly. "He told me that all Murdoch really wanted to hear was that I had kowtowed to his wrath by agreeing to take tutoring…"

"Ah…" Blaine nodded slowly, understanding completely. Kurt added, "Logan did tell me…he did the same to you."

"Mm." Blaine nodded a little bit, turning away as though the memory physically stung him. "That was a while back…and he did ease up once he heard that I got tutoring from Logan."

"You really should tell me that story one day."

"What story?"

"What really happened between the both of you."

Blaine looked at him, wondering if he was serious, and noted the smirk tugging at the corner of Kurt's face, and that twinkle in his eye that suggested someone looking for trouble. He smirked back. "No, I will not tell you that story."

"What? Why?" Kurt stared. "I want to know!"

"It's just…" Blaine shuddered a little. "It's like opening Pandora's box. So much evil flying out—"

"Come on." Kurt frowned. "It can't be that bad! You were in love with him!"

Groans resounded from all around the room. "Please, Alice—don't bring that up," Evan begged. "We liked to think of that time as a big hallucination."

"His," Ethan said, to clarify. "Not ours—we went on record to have completely advised the Rabbit against fraternizing with the Knave."

"On a marginally related note, we also went on record that we knew absolutely nothing about anything that involved pudding during that past year." Evan smiled innocently. "This includes any explosions in the school cafeteria that may or may not have put the ovens out of commission."

Blaine just glared at them, but Kurt waved his hand to get his attention, looking expectant. "Well? You have to tell me, you know. How are we supposed to go without learning from the past mistakes?"

"You are most definitely not a mistake," Blaine smiled, leaning to him, so close that made him blush. Shane, from where he sat at the couch watching Reed draw something in his sketchbook, groaned. "Oh mush. Get a room already!"

"You're all in mine," Blaine shot back, staring daggers at his brother.

"His room, then?"

"Oh not there, please," Reed glanced up with a small smirk. "The canvases for my presentation in the Dalton Art Hall are still drying. Wouldn't want anyone getting too rowdy in there. Would get paint all over the furniture…"

"You test my love for you, van Kamp," Kurt said coldly from the bed, making the smaller boy laugh.

Blaine laughed and shook his head, then looked up at Kurt. "So have you decided yet? If you want to sing with me or sing a solo for the duel tomorrow?"

"Choose wisely!" the twins yelled from the fort, evading a very annoyed Wes and Dwight's Nerf attacks. "We're going to put up a fight!"

"You?" Kurt raised an eyebrow. All this time that he'd been in the Warblers, he'd not quite heard the twins sing on their own other than the short moment back when they'd sung Trashing the Camp with the rest of the house.

"Harvey wants energy, he gets some energy." Evan grinned. He frowned when Dwight crowd in triumph after managing to hit him in the temple. He shot back a couple of times and Ethan added, "We're singing together! You better be ready to beat us!"

The thought was inconceivable, to the rest of the house. Blaine and Kurt were easily two of their best Warblers, both having taken lead position. There was no doubt in anyone's mind that if they chose to duet, they would snag lead positions—if their singing I Should Tell You was any indication of their ability.

Blaine looked at Kurt. "Well…are we going to sing?"

Kurt seemed to hesitate a little. "…Blaine—I think I'll sing solo."

This surprised Blaine somewhat, but it didn't seem to displease him. He sat up and smiled curiously. "Oh?"

"My last lead was a duet, with Reed. And my last duel had me singing with you. I want to sing by myself for now—show them I can handle a solo position too. I want to show them I could hold my own for…say…Regionals?" He smiled.

Blaine laughed softly. "You're pretty driven."

"Well, I try." Kurt beamed. "Besides…" he smiled a little, "…as much as I'd like to sing with you, I think I want to try singing to you. I haven't done that yet, I think. And…" he remembered singing with Logan back in Stuart House. It made him feel guilty just slightly, as he'd now sung with him more times that he'd actually sung with Blaine. "…I'm allowed to express myself through song."

Blaine seemed to consider this and slowly smiled. "All right. Well, that's an idea too." He sat up and smirked. "But you're going to have to deal with me singing to you too."

Kurt narrowed his eyes at him. There was something about the way he grinned that seemed suspicious. 'What are you planning?"

"Nope—can't tell you—I'm competition," Blaine grinned. "You'll have to wait. And you'll have to deal with it when it comes."

Now Kurt felt really worried. "What? What do you mean? What are you thinking of doing?"

"Well if we're going with public declarations of love through song…" Blaine grinned and just walked away, leaving the sentence hanging in the air where it was. He turned to the living room. "Shane—you ready to go?"

At this, the two on the couch looked up. Reed turned white, his drawing hand paused mid-stroke. Shane glanced at him and then looked at Blaine with a smile. "Yeah. I'm good."

"Good for what?" Reed asked, looking at him.

Shane turned to the smaller boy and smiled a little. "I only came to see you. I've seen you. And…now I have to go home. Well," he shrugged, "as much as the word can be used loosely—I'm basically just staying in our house here in Ohio."

"So you're…leaving." Reed stared.

"I don't go to Dalton," Shane answered with a shrug. "I have to go back home and recover—then it's back to Walcott, remember?"

Kurt carefully watched the medley of emotions racing across Reed's face as he struggled to sort them out. Clearly he was torn between Shane staying and going (the latter can be supported, but the former could barely be articulated) but in fine style, Reed seemed to recover himself. He managed a shaky laugh. "Right. Of course. Makes sense."

"Why can't I just be at Dalton?" Shane said loudly to his older brother with an incredulous look.

Blaine gave him the level gaze of someone who had endured a year of staying in Windsor and understood precisely what madness meant. "You've met everyone in this house. If I threw you in with the mix, I might actually go crazy."

"You're boring," Shane made a face at him as he rose, seeming not to notice Reed's intent gaze. "Live a little. Isn't your prefect back? You can take in another stray…" He tried to give him his best "pity me" look, but Blaine, a veteran defender against Shane's whining, pleading and overall tantrums when he didn't get his way, just passed him.

"Let's go…" the elder brother said as the Tweedles started to wave at them. "Say goodbye to everyone."

Before Shane or Kurt could say anything, Reed leapt to his feet. "We'll walk you to the car!"

"We will…?" Dwight raised an eyebrow incredulously, but Evan elbowed him hard in the ribs. Dwight rolled his eyes with a sigh, exasperated, wondering why everyone can't just go and be together instead of all this difficulty. Straight to point, and all that.

The troop came downstairs together—"What are you off to destroy this time?" Charlie had demanded, and when informed that they were merely seeing Shane off, the prefect looked rather relieved—and headed out to where Blaine's car was parked.

Shane turned back to the others as Blaine took out his keys and unlocked the car. "Well…I guess this is it. Again." He grinned. "See you around."

"No mountains." Wes warned. "Far far away from mountains."

"I study in Colorado, near the Rocky Mountains—that's not really helping the cause," Shane replied with a sidelong glance.

"He's right," Kurt said, smiling as he gave Shane a quick hug. "Stop making us worry about you, will you? Sometimes you can be as danger prone as Reed, you know?"

Shane glanced at the painter and smiled. "Me? Nah… Can't be injuring myself. Because between Reed and I, someone has to keep the other on their feet."

Reed smiled faintly, telling him, "I had fun taking care of you for a change."

"Don't get used to it." Shane winked.

"Here." Dwight stepped forward and suddenly shoved something to his chest. Shane was nearly pushed back, but he caught it, and held it to the light. It was a crystal pendulum. "Uh…what's this?"

"Good luck charm," Dwight mumbled, a little red and not quite prepared to explain in detail. "Keeps you safe. Makes it easier to find you if you were…you know…lost again. I gave Blaine one too."

Shane glanced at his brother, who just smiled and shrugged. "Yes he did." He added a "play along" expression, which Shane eagerly complied with, turning to Dwight with a big grin. "Thanks! I could use this! You know, I'm a geographical idiot, honestly. Let's go out hunting again sometime."

"If you can keep up with me and not end up being fodder, why not…" Dwight just shrugged and stepped back.

Reed then stepped forward, and immediately, all of Shane's attention was his. The smaller boy smiled and held out another tube. "I…managed to finish this painting. Wanted you to have it. You know that first one I gave you…it wasn't really finished. And it did fall so…maybe this can replace it."

Shane, curious, made to open it, but Reed grabbed his hands. "No! Don't look at it. When you…get back home, you can."

Shane stared at Reed's hands on his and turned a little red before looking up at him, seemingly bedazzled. "…okay. Sure. Whatever you want."

Blaine rolled his eyes. Shane's IQ was plunging and he could tell. "Shane? Let's go before we add brain damage to your list of injuries?"

The younger brother shot his brother a glare but quickly turned back to Reed and smiled. "See you again some time."

Reed hesitated for a moment, hands still on his. He felt breathless, mind racing as he looked up at Shane's green-gray eyes. The last time they'd said goodbye had seemed lacking. And here they were again. It was another chance. Carefully, he whispered, "…you mean that? You won't…suddenly up and disappear on me again?"

Kurt raised his eyebrows. As far as daring went for Reed, this was leaps and bounds, and even Shane could tell. He smiled gently and clasped Reed's hands. "I'm not going to disappear. If you need me, I'll be right over."

It was Reed's turn to color scarlet. He nodded a little and released the taller boy. "…okay."

"Okay," Shane smiled at him, that same happy grin he saw that morning after Reed made it clear that he would tolerate him. "See you." Shane nodded to Kurt. "Take care of my brother please! He's like a snail—solid outside and too soft and gooshy inside. His pace with romance is explained that way too."

Blaine resisted the urge to toss his brother into the car. "Shane—let's go!"

"Don't worry," Kurt laughed in answer as Blaine started the car. "I've got it covered."

The Twins happily helped Shane into the car, Evan nearly forgetting to hand him back his crutch, and slammed the door shut after him. The brothers smiled at the Windsor conspirators. "See you later," Blaine told Kurt, who nodded. Shane waved at Reed, and the engine roared; the two were off to the direction of the main gate.

As they watched them go, Kurt stood next to Reed, arms crossed and smirking. "…and…you didn't say anything. Again."

"Not yet…" Reed whispered, smiling as he watched them go. He was clasping the Rembrandt ring Shane gave him, hanging from a silver chain around his neck. "…I'm going to. When…when I'm ready. I'm not brave yet…like he is. But I will be."

"Looking forward to it, then." Kurt smiled.

While the others headed back to Windsor, Reed stood watching after the car still. It wasn't like the last goodbye at all. It felt like he'd forgotten to say something, or failed to come through his end of the bargain the last time they'd said it. But now…it didn't even feel like goodbye. It felt like it wasn't too late.

And Reed finally realized what he wanted to sing for the duel. A song that should've been for Shane if he had stayed, but maybe now wasn't the time yet. Maybe he had to say it to himself first, so he knew it was true. And was it ever true…

And as he headed back to Windsor, he felt…happy.

I don't know but I think I may be fallin' for you

Dropping so quickly

Maybe I should keep this to myself

Waiting 'til I know you better

I am trying not to tell you but I want to

I'm scared of what you'll say

So I'm hiding what I'm feeling

But I'm tired of holding this inside my head

Kurt, hearing him, started to smile as his friend rejoined him, face flushed, as they both headed back to Windsor House. The two linked hands, Kurt almost bursting out laughing at the spring in Reed's step.

I've been spending all my time just thinking about you

I don't know what to do; I think I'm fallin' for you

I've been waiting all my life and now I found you

I don't know what to do

I think I'm fallin' for you…

I'm fallin' for you…

Reed burst into his room and threw himself onto the bed, staring at the ceiling in wonder, barely able to respond to Kurt's obvious laughter at his starry-eyed expression. He grinned as his friend threw a pillow into his face. Reed pushed it off and picked up the ring.

He remembered New Year's Eve at the party. That midnight countdown.

As I'm standing here and you hold my hand

Pull me towards you and we start to dance

All around us I see nobody here in silence

It's just you and me

I'm trying not to tell youbut I want to

I'm scared of what you'll say so I'm hiding what I'm feeling

But I'm tired of holding this inside my head

Reed leapt off the bed and swung around the bedpost, almost tripping as he did so and Kurt looking exasperated as he tried to keep his friend together. But even he couldn't help but smile as Reed's mood persisted—and persisted to the point that people would actually feel guilty about trying to make him stop when he looked so happy.

And even as he stood in front of the Warblers the next day, singing this same song, the rest of the group were moving along to the music, grinning at each other at the sight of the bright look on Reed's face. Even Medel and Harvey looked amused.

Reed lifted his head, eyes gazing into the distance.

Oh I just can't take it…

My heart is racing…

The emotions keep spinning out…

He grinned as the Warblers started clapping along as they moved to his song and even he started to move a little bit, feeling simply, unbelievably light.

I've been spending all my time just thinking about you

I don't know what to do; I think I'm fallin' for you

I've been waiting all my life and now I found you

I don't know what to do

I think I'm fallin' for you…

I'm fallin' for you…

The song came to a close and the Warblers burst into cheers and applause at Reed's best performance to date. Reed, flushed and bright-eyed, bowed politely, brushing the hair out of his eyes as even the two directors clapped, nodding their approval.

The Twins hooted and catcalled as Wes and David cheered, clapping so hard that their hands hurt. Kurt was laughing and Blaine just grinned, knowing exactly who the song was for.

As Reed returned to his seat, he received approving jostles from the rest of the boys—almost getting knocked over—and it was clear that everyone thought that he was one of the best performers. Before Reed, a majority of the Warblers had dueled, from Windsor, Stuart and Hanover, but so far only Logan and Reed had shown promise.

Logan had sung the same song he practiced with Kurt—but he had sung it with Julian, who had been "borrowed" for the occasion. They both did excellently, but Kurt knew it wasn't the same. Julian was a great singer, but his countenance put some of the boys off, and the truth be told, it just didn't have the same meaning as when Logan and Kurt sang it.

Kurt glanced to Logan, who had also clapped for Reed, and pushed down the guilty feeling. Logan could still qualify—he was one of the strongest contenders, with or without him. While there was no doubt that if he'd sung it with him, they'd be catapulted to a guarantee of the lead… He just wasn't the one Kurt wanted to sing to.

"That's quite a bar being set," Medel said happily, grinning at the boys. "Let's keep going, shall we?" She looked at the list with Harvey, who then said, "Ah. Our countertenor is next."

Kurt smiled, blushing politely at the applause he now garnered from the others, who were expecting his performance. As he rose, he felt Blaine and Logan's eyes on him. He shook off the feeling and walked confidently to the front.

He stood in front now, the spotlight on him. He nodded to Drew, who was the one holding the guitar this time. Kurt wanted no backing vocals. He just wanted to sing this song, alone, to Blaine. As he caught his eye, he smiled as though saying that the song would explain everything.

He took a deep breath and began.

Take me where I've never been

Help me on my feet again

Show me that good things come

To those who wait

Tell me I'm not on my own

Tell me I won't be alone

Tell me what I'm feeling isn't some mistake

'Cause if anyone can make me fall in love…you can…

Blaine began to smile slowly, eyes lowering for a moment as he now understood—the reason Kurt wanted to sing alone. True, he wanted to sing with him…but it was different to be sung to. Especially when Kurt could sing the way he did—when he meant it the way he did.

Kurt smiled at him.

Save me from myself, you can

And it's you and no one else

If I could wish upon tomorrow

Tonight would never end

If you asked me, I would follow

But for now I'll just pretend

'Cause if anyone can make me fall in love, you can

The Windsors grinned at each other as the two continued to gaze at each other as Kurt sang. David, clearly in a far better mood than before, elbowed Blaine's side, and the other boy just swatted him off as though trying to stop blushing. He only nodded to Kurt, who smiled a bit more.

Harvey looked to where Kurt was staring so intently, and divined what was going on. He smiled to himself and at the two boys.

It was a love song after all.

If you asked me I would follow

But for now I'll just pretend

'Cause if anyone can make me fall in love—

Only you can take me sailing in your deepest eyes

Bring me to my knees and make me cry

And no one's ever done this

Everything was just a lie and I know, yes, I know

Kurt caught his breath for a moment, staring intently at Blaine—seeming to have forgotten the rest of the world. This was not lost on Logan, who watched them both with that small, silent smile that never quite became a real one. He lowered his eyes, looking at his hands, nodding slowly to himself.

Kurt always sang beautifully, in his opinion. It was just that he couldn't help but continue to wish that the song would, at some point, be directed to him—that gaze that was being given to Blaine, who returned it unwaveringly, was something he wanted more than anything. He wished he could stop wishing, but if he knew how, he would.

This is where it all begins

So tell me it will never end

I can't fool myself

It's you and no one else

If I could wish upon tomorrow

Tonight would never end

If you asked me I would follow

But for now I'll just pretend

If anyone can make me fall in love, you can…

The song slowly came to a close. And at the final line's conclusion, the Warblers started applauding again—along with a smattering of catcalls and hoots from the Windsors and Hanovers. Kurt smiled, laughing a little at them and nodding to Blaine, who was applauding with a different kind of smile in his eyes—gentle and understanding.

He turned to the two directors and grinned at them. Medel just laughed but Harvey nodded in approval and gestured for Kurt to return to his seat.

"Well there you have it," the man rose from his seat with the clipboard. "We're almost to the end, but it looks like the bar is going even higher now. Let's see…" he looked down at the sign up sheet and smiled a little bit, curious. "Evan and Ethan Brightman are next."

"Yes!" The Twins leapt up, grinning. They gave each other high-fives and eagerly ran forward, waving to a few other Warblers over to join them. David and Wes grinned and fled their chairs.

"This is unusual," Medel said with a curious expression at the Twins, who have never dueled before. "What brought this on, you two?"

"You wanted energy in a performance," Evan quipped, grinning.

"And we'll give it to you," Ethan chimed in.

"This is for a Fair," Evan said.

"So let's dance!" Ethan said happily.

Harvey nodded and gestured for them to go on, looking intrigued. Kurt leaned forward with Reed, also looking curious.

David landed down onto the piano and cracked his knuckles and the other Warblers took to position. The Twins grinned at each other as David began to play the music. And then in chorus, they began to sing, hands clapping to the beat, the Twins stepping forward to take the lead, moving perfectly synchronized.

Woah-oh, oh-oh, oh-oh, oh-oh

Woah-oh, oh-oh, oh-oh, oh-oh

I kinda feel like it don't make sense…

Evan moved forward dancing along to the music, taking the first part with a grin at everyone and clearly very taken by the music as he swept along.

I'm thinking, baby, you and I are undeniable

But I'm finding now love's unreliable

I'm giving all I got to make you stay

Or am I just a roadblock in your way?

The Warblers burst out laughing at the song choice, amused, and were also starting to move to the beat as Ethan now sidestepped his brother, stepping in front of him and grinning as he moved and sang to the music.

Cause you're a pretty little windstorm out on the boulevard

Something like a Sunset, oh you're a shooting star

And I might drive myself insane

If those lips aren't speaking my name

Ethan winked at Kurt and Reed—who collapsed laughing—and the Twins returned to the group, clapping their hands above their heads, urging the others to do the same. The Two started chorusing together, grinning and dancing along to the music with all the energy they promised the directors.

Cause I got some intuition,

Or maybe I'm superstitious

But I think you're a pretty sweet pill that I'm swallowing down

To counter this addiction, you've got me on a mission

Tell me darling, can I get a break somehow?

(How) could I say no?

The entire group started to sing, even the Warblers sitting down, grinning at the infectious energy the Twins spread with their grins and their movement. They were even making faces as they danced, as though imitating Blaine's onstage antics, who burst out laughing in spite of himself.

She's got a love like woe

Woah-oh, oh-oh, oh-oh,

Girls got a love like woe (la-da-da)

I kinda feel like it don't make sense

Because you're bringing me in and now you're kicking me out again

Love so strong, then you moved on—

Now I'm hung up in suspense,

Because you're bringing me in and then you're kicking me out again

Ethan then stepped forward as the music dropped, the music stopping, and only David's playing remained. "Cause we only have one life…"

Evan leaned behind him, "The timing and the moment, all seem so right…"

The twins back to back, as came together in singing:

So would you say you're mine?

(We'll be just fine)

Would you say you're mine?

(We'll be just fine)

The Twins looked up and grinned and began urging everyone to clap along again as the music came back in—and they happily obliged.

She's got a love like woe

Woah-oh, oh-oh, oh-oh,

Girls got a love like woe (la-da-da)

I kinda feel like it don't make sense

Because you're bringing me in and now you're kicking me out again

Love so strong, then you moved on—

Now I'm hung up in suspense,

Because you're bringing me in and then you're kicking me out again—

The hall was clapping along and singing to their music, fascinated by the Twins who had never quite stepped into the limelight before singing-wise. They were certainly very good, and they put everything that had into it with no holding back the way they always did.

Even as they danced with each other, moving through the chairs and urging others to move along with them—they certainly knew how to work the audience up.

And when the song ended, the hall started clapping wildly and leaping to their feet as the Twins started high-fiving everyone in the group in front. Medel was laughing happily, clapping for them. The Twins proceeded to make deeply exaggerated bows at everyone, blowing kisses and pretending to accept flowers.

Harvey just shook his head with a short laugh at the two hamming it up in front and began to gesture for silence. It still took a few moments before order could actually be restored, especially as the Twins continued to hug people as though they'd just won Grammy Awards, on their way back to their seats.

"You two are impossible," Kurt told them as they finally relocated themselves to their seats.

"Yes, but you liked it," Evan grinned with a wink.

Reed just laughed and shook his head. "Fine…maybe we did. But you two are still impossible."

"We'll take that as a compliment," Ethan answered, smiling smugly as he leaned back in his seat. "We're going to snag a position and we'll happily pelt the lot of you with paintballs while you slave away for Fair preparation."

"I don't think so," Blaine smirked as he rose from his seat. "I've yet to perform. And seeing as how you both know what I'm going to do, I think I can give you a run for your money."

As the Twins laughed, Kurt stared at him, perplexed. He'd seen how Blaine performed onstage at Sectionals—and as far as hamming it up goes, he'd so far ruled with those moves he subjected everyone to. But didn't he say something about public declarations? "What are you talking about? Blaine! What are you up to now?" He raised an eyebrow.

To which Blaine coolly responded, "Patience… Prepare for humiliation, I don't plan on holding back." He grinned and headed to the front.

"For the love of—" Kurt sank his face into his hand and Reed just patted him in sympathy, but now without a cherubic grin.

Wes leapt from his seat and tagged David. "You going to come with us or what?"

"Oh, so he's doing that one?" David grinned as he looked up. "I thought he was saving that for the real crowd on Valentines?"

"Kurt's here right now—let's grill him while we have the chance," Wes answered, which earned him a magnificently rendered glare from the countertenor near them—that glare could set things on fire. The two just grinned and ran off to join Blaine, the Twins following.

"Ah, Blaine…" Medel smiled as he approached her from where she sat by the instrument rack. "Our final performer. Are you ready?"

Blaine scooped up a guitar and grinned as he tuned it up. "As I'll ever be…" he shot Kurt a look, and his boyfriend only rolled his eyes at him. This only made him smile more as he glanced to the others. "You guys ready?"

"Whatever, dude, you're the one Kurt's going to kill for this," Wes grinned. "Staking claim and all that."

Blaine laughed. He began to strum the guitar to the melody, and the Warblers behind him started to whistle casually for a moment. Reed perked up, curious, as Kurt raised his eyes. Logan raised an eyebrow at the grin on Blaine's face.

Blaine slowly started moving forward, eyes fastened onto Kurt, as he began to sing:

Let's pretend baby…

That you've just met me

And I've never seen you before…

Kurt sat up, staring as Blaine started to move through the audience, grinning, the Warblers in audience snickering. Blaine was grinning adorably at him, moving to the music in that way he always did as he continued to sing. At the next line, he nodded to the other Warblers.

I'll tell all my friends…

That I think you're starin'

And you say the same to yours…

Kurt sank his face into his hand again, deep scarlet. Blaine wasn't just standing in front singing to him—he was actually going to him, singing directly at him. Reed was laughing so hard that he was barely able to sit straight as the Warblers in audience started to move to the music.

Blaine suddenly tossed the guitar off to Bailey in the nearby seat—who caught it and continued playing smoothly, clearly in on the act as well.

And oh, we'll dance around it all night

And then I'll follow you outside

And try to open up my mouth

And nothing comes out right

Blaine reached Kurt, leaning to him and grabbing his hand and pulling him to his feet—Kurt frantically peeling his hand away as he colored crimson, presumably wishing the floor would eat him right about now. Blaine was undeterred, dancing around him in that unnecessarily hammy way.

And I wanna fall in love with you again

I don't have to try; It's so easy

Who needs to pretend?

But because it's so funny

Let's just think about it, honey

Let's just fall in love again…

The Warblers were restraining themselves from cheering too much at this, watching Kurt try to successfully glare at Blaine through his hand on his scarlet face. Harvey stared, raising his eyebrows at the spectacle as the Warblers still in front continued to dance and grin. Singing in front was one thing—but this performance was beyond even serenading. Medel was trying—and failing—not to grin so much.

Blaine moved around Kurt, trying to pull the hand from his face.

I'll call you in three days

Not too soon, not too late

And I'll ask your roommate if you're home…

He leaned to Reed on this last line, winking at him. And the smaller boy erupted into laughter and turned traitor, shoving Kurt forward to Blaine. Kurt almost lost balance, but Blaine held onto him with a grin and started pulling him forward to the front. The Warblers cheered. The Stuart ones stared, aghast.

You call me on Thursday

And we'll hang out all day

Then fall asleep on the phone

The Twins, from the front, started urging everyone to clap again, this time doing more—they were hauling people to their feet to join their dancing in front. Blaine reached the front with a very reluctant Kurt, keeping hold of his hand and urging him to dance with him.

And oh, I'll hold your hand when we drive

And we'll lose track of all the time

And we'll tell everyone

That we ain't never felt so alive…

Kurt was just smirking slightly at him now, unable to quite believe that his composed boyfriend was actually capable of these levels of crazy, but even he had to start moving along a little when he saw the other Warblers leaving their seats and joining the dance party in front.

And I wanna fall in love with you again

I don't have to try; It's so easy

Who needs to pretend?

But because it's so funny

Let's just think about it, honey

Let's just fall in love again…

Blaine smirked, pulling him close as Kurt leaned to him, clearly starting to humor him. His hand at the small of Kurt's back, he moved close to him and started to lean him back, swaying him from side to side before leaning him fully back:

We'll fall disgustingly fast

And we'll stop hangin' out with friends

And they'll be so offended…

At the last line, Blaine was so close over Kurt's face he could've been kissing him in another inch, and the Warblers erupted into hoots and catcalls. Medel laughed out loud in surprise, mouth open, Harvey dropped his head into his hand at this madness—nearly all the Warblers were standing by now and joining along to the song and there was no stopping them by now.

Kurt grinned and just shoved Blaine back, the latter pulling them back straight up and taking his hands to dance with him as all the Warblers began to sing along with Blaine:

And I wanna fall in love with you again

I don't have to try; It's so easy

Who needs to pretend?

But because it's so funny

Let's just think about it, honey

Let's just fall in love again…

Let's just fall in love again…

So, let's just fall in love again…

At the end of the song, everyone cheered, applauding and hooting at one another, especially the two in the middle. Kurt and Blaine received a great deal of playful shoves and nudged from their fellow Warblers—most of them shaking Blaine's shoulders as though to congratulate him for some reason. Logan was one of the few who didn't join in the madness, but he too nodded a little as he clapped lightly at the performance, smirking slightly.

Kurt just laughed shortly and shook his head, giving Blaine an attempt at a dagger glare. "You—!" And he couldn't articulate any words that would explain how much he wanted to smack Blaine at this moment while at the same time perhaps kiss the breath out of him. He ended up with a roll of the eyes and sighed with a smile. "You're an idiot."

"Whatever works," Blaine smirked.

When the Windsors poured back into their dormitory afterward, they were still laughing so hard they could barely stand straight. The uproar in the Hall could barely be controlled after that number, and it took Harvey a good fifteen minutes before actual order was restored. And even then, they were a rowdy group as they started to place their votes, catcalling and shooting jokes. Kurt was crimson the whole time he was filling out his own vote—for himself, of course—and Blaine just sat with a grin on his face, maybe proud of instigating it all.

"The look on your face, Alice!" Evan howled as he hung on the banister rail, his twin hanging onto him.

"Your face looked so hot we could've made pancakes on it!" Ethan choked, gasping for breath.

"Do not ever do that again!" Kurt shot at them all. "Putting me on the spot like that with that crazy song number—"

"Oh you liked it," Reed grinned, earning himself a glower from his best friend. "You even started dancing at the end!"

"We should've shoved someone during that dip Blaine gave you!" David exclaimed. "If Blaine kissed you in front of Harvey and Medel—"

"We'd've all ended up in Ramsey's office, maybe?" Kurt retorted, still red around the ears.

"But it would've been so worth it…" Wes gasped, trying to stop laughing and leaning onto David's shoulder, rumpling his friend's blazer. This brought another fresh round of laughter among them.

Kurt sighed and shook his head, smiling at Blaine who was still holding his hand. "I can't believe Harvey and Medel wouldn't announce the winners."

"Well there were a lot of performers this time around, the vote's going to be complicated—and they'll have their input weighed in too…" Blaine smiled. "But they did say they'd post the winners tonight on the school website; at the page for the Valentines' Fair program."

"I hope I get a spot," Reed said meekly. "It would be nice not to have to work during the Fair."

"Hoping to go with a date?" Kurt smirked at his roommate as they all headed upstairs to their rooms. This made the smaller boy blush, his answer of "hoping…" barely audible.

"I honestly don't see what you see in Shane," Blaine shook his head.

"Thank goodness you don't—it'll be worrisome if you do," Reed raised an eyebrow. He headed to the room he shared with Kurt ahead, leaving the couple in the hall. The Twins had vanished again, perhaps looking to terrorize their prefect, who was living in relative peace at the end of the hallway while the conspirators had been away for Warblers' meeting.

Wes and David walked on to their room, talking about how David planned on taking Katherine to the fair, while Wes planned on finding a date at the fair itself. He had resolved to get over Tabitha, who Derek would be taking. This pleased David, who never quite liked that girl.

They ignored the usual sound of the blaring television in Dwight's room; he was probably on another marathon—which was often disturbing to hear seeing as how he could quote nearly every episode in Season One word for word.

Kurt turned to Blaine, who smiled. "So, Kurt Hummel…" Blaine murmured, pulling him a little bit closer. "May I ask if you had anyone in mind to go with you for the Valentines' Fair? I understand it's still a bit of a way off, but…" He smiled.

The countertenor smirked at him. "First you declare to the entire Warbler group that you and I are together, nearly brought the whole Hall to shreds, breaching several personal boundaries, mine in particular… and now you're politely asking who I will go with to the Fair. Right, Blaine. I've half a mind to let you go stag."

Blaine laughed. "You're not really mad about that, are you?"

"A little warning would've been good," Kurt sniffed. "But I did say half a mind…"

Blaine leaned forward and kissed him. Kurt resisted with the incredible effort of almost one second before he finally just let him, kissing back. Blaine pulled away slightly, leaning close, lips still a breath away. "How's your mind now?"

"…a little hazy," Kurt admitted, gazing at him through veiling lashes.

"Good…" Blaine's breath wafted hot over his cheek, hand pressed firmly onto his back, keeping their bodies against each other as he leaned closer to kiss him again—

—until an earsplitting scream erupted from Kurt's room.


Kurt and Blaine came bursting through the doors, and from behind them there were pounding footsteps in the hall, and suddenly Wes and David nearly knocked the first two over as they came in.

"What happened?" Dwight gasped as he broke through them, medallions clutched close and sprayer in hand. "Who screamed?"

"Reed!" Kurt gasped, looking at his friend, standing at his side of the room. He was standing, unharmed, not bleeding and was generally in one piece. "What is it? Why were you screaming?"

Reed turned to them, face white as he pointed with a shaky finger towards the golden cage that stood at Kurt's side of the room.

Cage door open, standing empty.

"Pavarotti—he's gone!"

On the next episode: Valentines Day is hectic enough in Dalton without having to deal with losing a prize warbler, New Directions, Pure Energy spies, love song duets and rumors that the food is laced with laxatives. Anyone could tell you that it's rare that a Dalton Valentines' Day is described as "romantic" but if any of the Windsors had a say in the matter, this year's was going to be perfect.