A/N: First, two apologies. One, I'm sorry it too so long to get this final chapter posted. Thanks for being patient and sticking with the story. And two,I'm sorry about the spoilers for this story in "Bayushki Bayu". It was just something that slipped my mind.
"Little Wonders" by Rob Thomas.
Sachsenhausen, Winter of 1937
Zarya wiped the sweat from her forehead before stooping to gather the next armful of clothes to be laundered. As one of the newer prisoners—and a Russian—she had been given the task of processing uniforms that had been stripped off the newly dead and preparing them for reissue. She gagged at the foul smell. Blood, piss, vomit and, Zarya turned her head away, this time burned flesh from a failed electrical shock "treatment".
She reached for a shirt. The blood stain was fresh and would be easy to soak clean quickly. She plunged the garment into the icy water and submerged it over and over again until her fingers grew numb with cold and the water turned dark. When she wrung the shirt out for the last time, Zarya saw the pink triangle and recognized the prisoner's number.
How long she stood there, shirt clenched in her hands, remembering her brother's last embrace, she never knew. She was alone now. Nothing mattered. A bleak hollowness enveloped her heart and spread through her body leaving her unable to move.
Lima Memorial Hospital, Present Day
Nana Zarya blinked back tears at the final entry she had recreated from Nikolai's diary, her discovery of his death. She flipped through the clean, freshly inked pages of the new journal she had purchased to record the details of Sachsenhausen and was satisfied with her work. Nikolai and Klaus' words had been salvaged along with her own.
She closed the journal and let her thoughts drift back. There had been nothing better to reflect on during the mind numbing weeks at Sachsenhausen than the journal entries. And after Klaus refused to give her Nikolai's diary, Zarya had set herself the goal of memorizing every entry word for word.
"Such sadness on such a lovely face."
Zarya startled at the older gentleman who interrupted her thoughts. He smiled kindly as he offered her his handkerchief to dry her eyes. Blushing, she quickly dabbed her eyes and returned it to him. He settled comfortably into an opposite chair.
"I was hoping to visit Mr. Karofsky. Do you know if he is receiving visitors today?"
Immediately, Zarya raised her chin, her neutral expression quickly turning cool.
"Who are you and what business do you have with my grandson?"
"Did I not say so?"
He spoke her name with a soft note of wonder, as if he couldn't quite believe she was real.
"I am quite certain we have never met." Zarya thudded her cane hard against the floor as she stood to leave. "Whoever you are, you are being quite presumptuous in speaking to me with such familiarity."
"Please, forgive me. I am Karl Heigle. I teach history at William McKinley High School. If I may say so, your grandson is the brightest student I've had in years."
She considered his words carefully before responding.
"Yes, you may say so."
Zarya's wry answer drew a chuckle from Mr. Heigle. She looked him over with a critical eye, silently assessing his reasonably well fitted suit and slight accent. He had stood as soon as he saw her rise which counted favorably towards his manners. And his light blue eyes sparkled, quietly amused, as he patiently endured her scrutiny.
"Well, then—" Mr. Heigle offered Zarya his arm. "—perhaps we can visit Mr. Karofsky together, yes?"
"Unfortunately, David is in therapy at the moment."
"Not so unfortunate, I think."
"If it means I may have the pleasure of your company while I wait."
Zarya gave a delicate, noncommittal shrug as she sat down again.
"It is a public hospital."
"So it is."
Karl returned to his seat across from her and engaged Zarya in conversation while they waited.
Lima Memorial Hospital, Respiratory Therapy Room
David was surprised when Fedir showed up to wheel him down to therapy. But the hospital was shorthanded and he had spent so much time checking on Kir and David, most of the staff knew Fedir by name and were happy for the extra help. David tried to make conversation with his older brother but Fedir was quiet and withdrawn, offering only a tight smile and few words.
They entered the therapy room and David grinned when he saw Kir and Puckerman were there and also in wheelchairs. They looked well. The bantering going on between them reassured David that they were recovering from their injuries.
Puck glanced at the breathing apparatus the respiratory therapist had handed him. It had three plastic cylinders with one ball each and a flexible plastic hose attached.
"Tri ball volumetric exerciser."
She explained quickly as she handed additional devices to Kir and David.
Puck glanced at his exerciser, looked over at Kir's single ball version and smirked.
"She gave me three balls."
Kir held his exerciser up for Puck to see. "Mine's bigger."
The therapist rolled her eyes. It wasn't the first time she'd had to work with teenagers. Her pager went off, she glanced at it then back to her patients.
"Alright, boys, I need to step out for a minute." She threw Puck a playful warning glance. "Try not to use the equipment for unauthorized purposes, 'kay?"
Puckerman winked at her as she left.
"So…" Kir wheeled around to confront David. "…have you apologized to Nana yet?"
"I'm workin' it."
"Not good enough." Fedir added reproachfully.
"Yo, someone wanna clue me on the family drama?"
"It's nothing." David mumbled.
"Mishka, she was in tears."
Dave flushed, feeling guilty.
"Dude—" Puck was quickly picking up on the situation. "—you made your grandmother cry? Not cool." He glanced at each of the brothers. "What the fuck happened?"
"I kinda dropped the f—bomb on her."
"Actually—" Kir clarified, "—I believe you quite clearly told her to fuck off."
"Seriously, Karofsky, I just wanna punch you in the face right now."
Puckerman wheeled threateningly towards him but Dave managed to turn his wheelchair sideways and block the attack.
"I know! I screwed up, okay? You think I don't feel like shit over it?" He ran a hand through his hair, frustrated. "I do."
"Then apologize." Fedir spoke quietly but firmly.
David sighed. "I wanted to get her a present."
Kir nodded his approval.
"Why ever not?"
"They never found my wallet." David's voice cracked as he fought to keep from remembering everything that had been done to him. "My cash—atm card—Visa—it's all gone." He fidgeted with his exerciser. "I haven't had a chance to replace everything."
They fell silent, memories of that day still as fresh as their physical injuries.
"I'll cover you." Puck offered suddenly. "I've got my pool money. How much you need?"
"Kurt mentioned a Faberge brooch that Nana admired."
"So—what—fifty, a hundred bucks?"
Dave gave a shaky laugh. "More like five hundred."
Puck let out a low whistle. He had the money but it would make a serious dent in his funds. Then, an idea came to him and broke into a grin. He held out his hand to shake with Dave.
"I'm not taking your money, Puckerman."
"I loan you $500, you pay me back." His eyes gleamed. "With stock in Karofsky Caviar."
Kir chuckled, impressed by Puck's offer. "So, there's a brain behind the brawn."
Fedir nudged his twin. "Down, boy."
"Deal." Dave sealed their agreement with a handshake. "Thanks, man."
"Thank me by making me rich."
"Yeah, I'll get right on that."
They were laughing when the therapist returned to resume their breathing exercises. Puck immediately began flirting again as he waved the volumetric exerciser in his hand.
"So, how does this bad boy work?"
Kir shot him an amused, sidelong glance. "Just wrap your lips around and blow."
For the first time in days, Fedir smiled.
Lima Memorial Hospital, Dave's Room
When Dave and Fedir returned, Azimio was dressed and sitting on his bed, obviously waiting to go home. Dave braked his wheelchair.
"I got this, Fedir."
"Yeah, thanks. You better go back and make sure Kir and Puck don't kill each other."
Fedir chuckled. "Pretty sure killing him isn't what Kir has in mind."
Dave snorted. "Yeah, well, keep him from doing that, too."
"Kir? Not flirt? You'd have better luck asking him not to breathe!"
Fedir left, leaving Az and Dave in awkward silence.
"So you're outta here, huh?"
"Just waitin' on my Dad."
Dave nodded. Another long pause.
"Luke and Zee." Dave bit his lip, fighting back the fear coiling in his gut. "You think…you think they'll be back?"
A sharp laugh burst from Azimio until he saw his best friend's frown and realized he didn't know. Realized that Luke and Zee had to have been on his mind this whole time.
"Fuck, Karofsky, no one told you yet?"
David shook his head.
"Those assholes are still bein' scraped off the highway."
"Takin' a dirt nap. Swimmin' with the fishies. Livin' la vida zombie."
Just then, Azimio's dad arrived to take his son home. With a promise to get together soon for an Xbox marathon, David and Azimio said their goodbyes.
Once he was alone, David wheeled into the bathroom. He locked the door and, shaking with relief to know Luke and Zimmerman were no longer a threat to Kurt, he closed his eyes and wept.
Lima Memorial, Center For Orthopaedics
When Kurt had first seen his ankle, he had been convinced it couldn't possibly look any worse. Until today. Once the doctor had removed his splint, Kurt caught an eyeful of purple and green mottled skin with yellow just starting to tinge the edges. He breathed through his mouth, fighting back a sudden surge of nausea. He looked away, wincing as the doctor examined his injury.
Burt caught his eye. "You okay there, kiddo?"
Kurt swallowed hard and nodded. He reminded himself that this was nothing compared to what David was going through. He drew strength from that and resolved to endure the visit without a word of complaint.
Unless they tried to put one of those atrocious Easter egg colored casts on.
Even David hadn't had to endure that indignity.
"Alright, young man." The doctor nodded encouragingly. "I think we're ready to get you in a cast. Sound good?"
"Wonderful." Kurt said without much enthusiasm.
"I'll be back in about fifteen, twenty minutes then we'll get you fixed up and on your way."
Burt waited till the door closed and they were alone before speaking up.
"We need to talk."
"About-?" Kurt asked distractedly as he checked his text messages.
"You and David."
Surprised, Kurt set his phone aside.
"What about us?", he asked, wary.
Burt took off his baseball cap, smoothed a palm over his head and pulled the cap back down low over his eyes.
"You're young, Kurt. Everything that happened—it's a lot for the two of you to handle. No one's gonna think less of you if you're having second thoughts about committing to David for the rest for your life."
"Only a Neanderthal could possibly think-!" Kurt sat up stiffly, arms crossed as he realized. "A Neanderthal." He scoffed, irritated. "David put you up to this didn't he?"
"So? He's not wrong here. If you wanna stay with him out of pity—or guilt—that's not fair to either of you."
Kurt took a deep breath, trying not to lash out at his well-meaning father.
"Dad, you look at me like you would give me the sun and the moon. But David…the way his face lights up…the way he tries so hard not to break into a grin the moment he sees me…" Kurt giggled softly, happy. "David looks at me like I am the sun and the moon." He reached over and squeezed Burt's hand. "It's the same way Mom looked at you." He added quietly.
Burt studied his son's face, seeing beyond his set determination and loyalty to the genuine love shining in his eyes.
"Fair enough. But—" He held up a warning finger. "—from now on, you take care of yourself first."
"David needs me."
"He doesn't need you if you're a liability, Kurt. He's not gonna get any better if he's worrying about you."
Kurt hadn't thought of it that way.
"Your friends are goin' back to school Thursday. He wants you there. If you're up for it."
Kurt nodded. "Fine, I'll be there. But after school, I can still visit him, right?"
"Keep your grades up. Don't stress your ankle. Then yeah, I got no problem with you seeing your boy."
Lima Memorial Hospital, Waiting Room
Some time later, Kir decided he was ready to make the short walk to the waiting room with Fedir to check on Nana Zarya. They both stopped short when they saw their grandmother. Zarya had dozed off, her head resting against the shoulder of a man neither of them recognized.
"Oh…my…God." Kir smirked. "I'd wear the little twink's wretched knockoffs for a week if I only had a camera right now."
"You don't think they're-."
"Let's find out!"
Kir entered as quickly as the i.v. pole he was pulling along allowed. He arched a questioning eyebrow at the gentleman who gazed admiringly at Zarya.
"Hello." Kir purred, intrigued by anything that broke the monotony of the hospital.
Karl nodded. "Hello."
"Karofsky, Kir Paulovitch." He grabbed Fedir's elbow and yanked him forward. "And this is my brother."
"Hi, I'm Fedir."
Kir nudged him. "Now, now, Fedir, don't be rude to Nana's…friend."
"Karofsky, Fedir Paulovitch."
"Karl Heigle. You are David's brothers, yes? And Madame Zarya's grandsons?"
"Yes." Fedir answered, noting the way the man held Zarya's hand in his own as she rested.
"I don't believe Grandmother has ever mentioned you, Mr. Heigle."
Karl chuckled. "I do no not see how that would have been possible, Mr. Karofsky, as we have only just met."
Zarya stirred. It was a moment before she focused on the identical, amused expressions of Kir and Fedir. Another moment before she realized her situation. She quickly sat up with a startled, flustered gasp and began smoothing her hair and straightening her collar.
"My apologies, Mr. Heigle."
He kissed the back of her hand, bringing a flush to Zarya's cheeks.
"I hope you are well rested."
"David is asking for you, Nana." Fedir said, helping her to her feet.
"May I have a moment with my grandson?"
Karl nodded. "Of course. Perhaps I should come back another time?"
Zarya smiled reassuringly. "We will not be long."
She took Fedir's arm. Surprisingly, Kir took her other arm and linked it through his.
Zarya was all too familiar with the pleased, smug look on Kir's face. Still, she was grateful that the twins withheld their comments until they reached David's room.
"We would have been here sooner—" Fedir started.
"—but we had to pry Nana away from her new beau." Kir finished.
"Mr. Heigle is hardly my beau."
David glanced up eagerly. "Mr. Heigle's here?"
"Yes, apparently our grandmother has herself a gentleman caller."
Zarya sniffed. "Please, I would never allow a man I have only just met to call on me."
David's eyes sparkled. "Want me to hook you up with him, Nana?"
Zarya eyed him coolly. "As if I need your help to flirt with a man."
Dave laughed at her wry comment.
"Kir, Fedir, take your ill-mannered selves elsewhere."
"Yes, Nana." Kir hugged her on his way out.
Fedir ducked in to give his grandmother a quick kiss then quickly darted away before she could scold him.
Zarya's heart warmed to hear Fedir say it again. She heard his laughter join Kir's as they reached the nurses' station and could only imagine what gossip they would be starting. She turned to give David her full attention.
"I believe you have something to say to me."
David fidgeted with the small gift box he held.
"You've been my mother and grandmother, Nana. You've raised me more than my own parents have. When I lost football, I thought I'd lost everything. But I didn't. I didn't lose you." David bit his lower lip nervously. "At least, I hope I haven't lost you."
Zarya came to his bedside and quickly kissed him on each cheek. David pulled her into a hug.
"I am so sorry, Nana…please forgive me."
"Foolish boy. As if you would be rid of me so easily."
David let her go then unveiled the brooch and presented it to her. Zarya removed the pin she was wearing and fastened the new jewelry onto her collar.
"Thank you, Mishka."
She took a seat next to his bed.
"And now I hope you will accept my apology, also."
Dave shook his head, puzzled. "There's nothing for you to—"
"Yes, there is. I should never have permitted Kurt to take something of yours without knowing your wishes. I was wrong to do so."
Zarya drew the newly copied journal from her satchel.
"I have something for you as well."
Kurt isn't doing so well.
Dave barely had time to read Mercedes' text before there was a soft knock and Kurt opened the door to his bedroom. Hurriedly, he turned his phone off and set it aside. He flashed a quick smile, hiding his concern.
"I heard you would be coming home today." Kurt hobbled in on his crutches and looked around for an empty space to set the shopping bags he also carried. "I thought you might need a few things." He found a place for the bags. Then, swinging a smaller bag from his fingertips, he turned and walked slowly towards David. "Actually…" Kurt bit his lower lip, glancing up shyly. "…Kir suggested a few things."
"Oh?" Dave grunted as he sat up and carefully swung his legs over the side of the bed. "Gimme!" He snatched the bag with one hand and wrapped the other around Kurt's waist, drawing him close. His smile faltered when he realized Kurt had lost weight. Shadows darkened his eyes, changing the blue to a stormy sea green.
"Nothing." Dave shook his head. He opened the bag and slowly, eyes widening, pulled out a red satin thong. "Which one of is this supposed to be for?"
Kurt smirked, enjoying the blush deepening across the other teen's face.
"Red really isn't my color, David."
"Uh-huh." Dave rolled his eye.
"Don't worry…" Kurt winked, "…I doubt you'll be wearing them for very long."
David choked back a laugh. "Is that right?"
"I missed you." Kurt set his crutches aside and closed the distance between them. "I've missed this." He wrapped his arms around Dave's neck, pressing his body against his warm, broad shoulders.
David put the thong in the gift bag and set it on his nightstand. He pulled Kurt down into his lap, settling his weight on his right leg, then ran his hand along Kurt's air cast.
"You been staying off your ankle?"
"Mostly." Kurt glanced up, a sudden suspicion crossing his mind. "What about you, David? Have you been using your eye drops?"
"I—was just getting ready to take care of that."
"David…" Kurt laid his palm against his boyfriend's cheek, his expression soft but worried. Immediately, David gripped his wrist, stopping him. "It's okay." Kurt kissed him. "It's okay." Another kiss and David's hold on Kurt eased. He closed his eyes, trembling as Kurt's fingers slid the eye patch off.
For a moment, Kurt said nothing. With both eyelids closed, the only difference Kurt could see on David was the redness and bruising on his left side. Those were from the initial attack, not the surgery.
"Where's your medicine?"
Kurt pressed lightly against David's chest. "Lay down, I'll get them."
"You're not supposed to—"
The fridge was close enough that Kurt was able to stand on his good foot and stretch over to get the eye drops.
"If you would scoot over, I would be able sit down and rest my ankle."
David felt the bed dip as Kurt climbed in and awkwardly moved over to give him room. Kurt waited expectantly.
"Open your eyes."
Kurt was firm but not unsympathetic. Nana Zarya and Mr. Karofsky had already told him what to expect. And he had prepared himself with youtube videos and extensive Googling.
"Fine. If you're going to be difficult…" Kurt planted his knee firmly against David's side. "…we'll do this my way." He swung his other leg—cast and all—across David's waist, being very careful not to brush against his injured thigh.
David's eyes flew open at the same time that he grabbed Kurt's waist to keep him from falling. He froze when he realized what he had done. When he realized Kurt had a full view of his missing eye.
Wordlessly, David did as told. He studied Kurt's face, searching for any sign of revulsion. Kurt, quite matter of factly, leaned over to put the eye drops in.
Secretly, Kurt was relieved that David's eye actually looked much better than most of the graphic photos he had studied. Yes, his eye was gone. But there was no gaping, skull like empty socket staring back. Instead, the surgery had left a band of pink tissue covering the area. Dave flinched at the first drop. Kurt tried to be quicker with the last two. He capped the bottle and put it on the nightstand.
David grabbed his eye patch and slid it back on.
Kurt tugged the patch to straighten it and smoothed David's hair over the elastic. His fingers lingered in the curls.
"I know, I know, I need a haircut."
"I like it."
David's hands pressed against the small of Kurt's back, warm and insistent—not that Kurt needed to be persuaded to curl into those arms.
"What's going on, babe?"
"Liar." Dave took Kurt's hand in his, pressed a kiss to his palm, then held it to his chest, thumb rubbing slow, lazy circles over his skin. Kurt smiled at the familiar gesture. "Wanna talk about what happened?"
"I think you need to."
"You're not fine. You've lost weight. You look like shit." Dave felt Kurt pull away and, without much effort, held him still. "Don't turn away, Kurt. Not from me."
"I took someone's life."
Kurt's heartbeat pulsed against his skin like a trapped hummingbird.
"No one can change that, David. No one can make that better."
He buried his face deeper into Dave's chest. A desperate, muffled sob escaped as Kurt folded his body into David's.
Dave tilted Kurt's face to his, kissing him lightly. Another kiss, deeper, slower, lips lingering a breath apart. "You chose my life over Gleb's." David's mouth moved to the delicate curve of his cheek, followed it down to his jawline. "If you had to do it again…" His breath was warm against Kurt's ear. "…what would you do?"
"I don't know."
"You do know."
Dave held Kurt's troubled gaze fast with his own, refusing to let him look down or pull away. Gently forcing him to face the truth. His thumb traced Kurt's trembling lips.
"I'd pull the trigger."
Crying, Kurt threw himself against the broader boy and wrapped his arms around David's neck.
"…why?..." David prodded softly, knowing Kurt still needed to take that last step.
"…it was…" Kurt shuddered. "…it was the right thing to do." David tightened his embrace. "I hate this! I hate that he made me—" He broke off again.
Dave said nothing, holding Kurt, rocking him until, emotionally drained, the smaller boy gave in and laid his head against his shoulder. Dave nuzzled his temple.
"Let it go, babe." Kurt sighed, exhausted, eyes starting to close. "The hardest part is over."
Kurt fidgeted in his seat, trying to settle down before Mr. Heigle started history class. Everyone's phone—including his own—had been burning up with rumors that Dave Karofsky would be coming back to McKinley this week. As his boyfriend, Kurt had naturally assumed that he would be the first to know when David returned. Unfortunately, whenever Kurt pressed him about it, David would only shrug, smile and make a playfully evasive comment about Kurt pining away for him.
10:15. No David. Kurt put his phone away as Mr. Heigle called the class to order.
Kurt's head snapped up to see David using a walker to shuffle into the classroom.
"—you are late."
"I have a note, Mr. Heigle."
"From your doctor?"
David couldn't keep from grinning. "From my nana."
Mr. Heigle's eyes lit up as he accepted Zarya's note. He scanned it briefly, refolded it and tucked it into his pocket. "So, I am given to understand you are ready to give your presentation, yes?"
Mr. Heigle slowly looked over the classroom, as if giving the matter serious consideration.
"I suppose if your classmates would prefer your presentation to a surprise quiz—"
Mr. Heigle chuckled at the enthusiastic outburst from his students. He nodded to David as he took an empty seat in the front row.
"Whenever you are ready, Mr. Karofsky."
David took some items from the book bag on his walker and set them on the podium. Then, straightening his shoulders, he began.
"I'm Dave Karofsky…and I'm gay."
He waited for the murmuring to quiet down before continuing.
"If I had said those words in Berlin in 1936, I would have been thrown in jail. Or killed like my great uncle, Nikolai Karofsky."
David stepped out from the podium so his classmates had a clear view. He unzipped the pants leg of his convertible khakis to show the scar on his left thigh. And then he removed his eye patch.
"Today, seventy-five years later, in the U.S., being gay still almost got me killed."
He picked up materials from the podium and handed them to Kurt.
"In 1936, it was the S.S. persecuting gays. In 2011, it's S.S.A.A. and other groups just like them."
Kurt was surprised to see that David had handed him his wristband, attendance booklet and workbook from S.S.A.A. along with S.S. propaganda.
"Would you pass these out for me?"
Kurt nodded. Then he sat back and watched the rest of David's speech, glowing with pride over every word.
Eventually, David was fitted with a prosthetic eye. Kurt no longer needed his cast. Sometimes they talked about what happened. Sometimes they were just grateful to fall back into the predictable monotony of daily life at McKinley.
David followed Kurt as fast as he could, trying to hurry to the gym before the convocation started. He groaned when they finally reached the assembly. They were the last ones to arrive. He blushed, feeling like every student was watching him as Kurt walked him past the first set of bleachers. He didn't realize at first what was happening. He heard the thud of students coming to their feet. Then the first, tentative sound of clapping that quickly swelled into a roar of applause.
"Fuck, we're late!"
Dave grumbled under his breath, irritated that his leg had slowed them down.
Kurt smiled mischievously.
"I wouldn't be so sure about that."
"Is that your dad?"
"Hm, I believe it is."
"What's he doing here? Why is he up there with Principal Figgins?"
"I'm sure we'll find out."
"Kurt, hold up."
David stopped, holding on to the walker with one hand and grabbing Kurt's arm with the other.
David searched his face, trying to decipher Kurt's unreadable expression.
"Did you win an award or something?"
A secretive smile played across Kurt's lips.
"Hey." David took Kurt's hand in his. "Whatever it is, you deserve it." He looked around at the standing ovation. "You deserve all of this." He squeezed his hand. "Whenever you have a moment to shine, you take it, babe. No apologies. No second guessing yourself."
Kurt nodded, moved by the open admiration on his boyfriend's face. And by the fact that David genuinely had no idea that all of this was for him.
They reached the center of the gym and David eyed the bleacher steps, heart sinking as he realized the only empty seats were in the upper rows.
"I'm never gonna make those stairs."
Kurt feigned surprise as he steered David towards a row of chairs placed front and center in front of the bleachers.
"Oh, look, here's a spot." He smirked. "How convenient!"
David stopped short when he saw his family sitting on either side of an empty chair.
"Kurt, what's going on?"
Kurt helped him the last few feet to his seat.
"Sit down, David." Kurt winked playfully over his shoulder. "I'm taking my moment to shine."
The lights dimmed. A spotlight snapped on just as Kurt reached his mark and turned to face the audience. But the first verse, sung with slow deliberation, was all for David.
Let it go,
Let it roll right off your shoulder.
Don't you know,
the hardest part is over?
Mercedes stepped up to sing the next verse as the rest of New Directions took their places behind her. Dave couldn't help smiling as he listened to the lyrics. He caught Kurt watching him and knew the irony wasn't lost on him, either. They shared a moment in silence, remembering Klaus and Kolya. The rest of the glee club joined in as the tempo became more upbeat.
Our lives are made
in these small hours.
These little wonders,
these twists and turns of fate.
Time falls away,
but these small hours,
these small hours still remain.
Principal Figgins thanked New Directions, made a brief announcement dedicating the assembly to Dave Karofsky and then turned the mike over to Coach Beiste. It was hard for David to listen. Her praise for his athleticism only served as a painful reminder that he would never play with his football team again.
"David…" Paul spoke softly, nudging him out of his thoughts.
Dave gave Coach a shaky smile, trying to appreciate her good intentions.
Coach Beiste motioned to Finn and Puck who stepped forward carrying a framed football jersey.
"So, in honor of Dave Karofsky's contributions, the McKinley Titans have unanimously voted to permanently retire jersey number 67."
Dave's mouth opened in surprise. He caught Kurt nodding his head towards his dad and knew then that Burt Hummel must have suggested this. Retiring his football jersey.
Finn grinned as they carried the jersey over and presented it to Dave.
"No one else deserves to wear it, dude."
Speechless, he could only say "thank you" with a nod.
"You don't get any prizes for being a jerk."
David looked up, surprised. Burt Hummel had taken Coach Beiste's place at the mike and his first words captured everyone's attention.
"There aren't any awards for screwing up. No scholarships for the number of locker shoves completed or long distance slushie throwing."
Dave couldn't keep a guilty blush from warming his cheeks. Burt paused, letting his words sink in.
A murmur went through the students.
"High school isn't about being perfect. Or smart. Or athletic. It's about growing up. It's about getting stuff wrong—really wrong, sometimes—and using those experiences to make you a better person. And when someone achieves that goal, that deserves recognition."
Dave caught Kurt's puzzled look and realized he had no idea what his dad was doing, either.
"Hummel Tires and Lube is proud to be the founding sponsor of the Spirit of McKinley Scholarship Award."
Burt stepped aside and let Principal Figgins take over again.
"Thank you, Mr. Hummel."
Burt picked up something from his chair then walked towards Dave as Figgins continued in the background.
"The Spirit of McKinley consists of a $500 scholarship to be awarded annually to the McKinley senior who has been nominated by the student body and faculty as the most improved student based on attitude and personal achievement. In addition, the winner's name will be inscribed on an award plaque to be prominently displayed in the trophy case."
David hesitated to accept the check and plaque Burt pressed into his hands.
"I don't deserve this."
Burt glanced over at Nana Zarya sitting next to David.
"Tell him not to argue with his elders…and take the damn check."
Zarya chuckled. She laid a hand over her grandson's forearm, preventing him from giving the check back to Burt. "Do not embarrass me by being rude, Mishka."
David shifted uncomfortably, caught between his own feelings and his grandmother's words. Burt smoothed over the awkwardness by clapping one hand on his shoulder and gripping his other hand in a firm handshake.
"I'm really proud of you, kiddo."
Dave smiled, secretly pleased more by Burt's praise than any award or recognition he could have ever received.
"—present the first recipient of the Spirit of McKinley Scholarship Award—" Figgins' voice filled the auditorium. "—Dave Karofsky!"
Sachsenhausen, Summer of 2019
They stood in the Appelplatz, silent, respectful of the tragic history that had affected their own lives so personally. David shivered and clasped Kurt's arms to pull them closer around his body.
"I'm holding you."
"Tighter." Dave whispered, snuggling into Kurt's embrace and breathing in his boyfriend's sun warmed skin. Kurt's body tightened against his, holding him fast as if he'd never let go.
He thought of Klaus and Kolya. Silently, he hoped wherever they were that they could see this moment. He counted it as a small victory to be standing here, in Sachsenhausen, embracing the man he loved without fear of being killed.
Klein's Bakery, Berlin, Summer of 2019
David studied the old photographs on the wall, a record not only of the bakery's history but of Berlin's past as well. He was totally oblivious to Kurt's frequent, admiring glances, assuming his boyfriend was intent on selecting a pastry…not possessively ogling him. He reached the last framed photo. After reading the caption, he straightened and scanned the small bakery for Kurt. He was surprised to see him still at the counter.
David slipped his hands around Kurt's hips and leaned his chin on Kurt's shoulder.
"I can't decide between the Streuselkuchen and the Bienenstich."
"Get 'em both."
Kurt pretended to be horrified. "Do you have any idea of what that will do to my hips?"
"Get one of each and we'll share."
"And by share you mean I get two bites and you get the rest."
"Works for me. You get to keep your boyish figure." Dave playfully slapped Kurt's ass. "I get to feed my manly appetite."
"Mm, we'll discuss your manly appetite back to the hotel."
Dave kissed his neck. "Better get those to go then."
Kurt placed his order. A moment later, the clerk handed him the credit receipt to sign. He paused only a moment before signing. Dave, watching over his shoulder, chuckled.
He smiled at his signature.
Kurt Hummel Karofsky.
Red Square, Moscow, Summer of 2019
St. Basil's Cathedral was a colorful backdrop to the crowd gathered around the Place of the Brow in Red Square. For centuries, the Brow had served as the dais for declarations and important announcements. Today was no exception. The tension in the air mounted as the leader of the group finally succeeded in quieting them down enough to read the words many of them thought they would never hear.
They had waited years for this moment.
Kurt didn't understand the Russian, but when David's arm tightened around his shoulders, when he saw the tears on his cheek and felt the tremble of his hand in his as his grip tightened, he knew.
Moscow had legalized gay marriage.
A thousand voices shouted as one. Kurt's throat tightened with emotion, remembering the shame that word had once carried in a Cleveland restaurant long ago. And now, in Red Square, it was a cry of triumph for the gay and lesbian activists of Russia.
Without warning, David grabbed Kurt's hand and started pushing through the crowd until they reached the front. He yelled something in Russian to the GLBT activists. They yelled back, cheering and applauding. Before Kurt knew it, David was pulling him up the few stairs onto the Brow.
He broke from Kurt, went down on one knee and fumbled in his pocket for the jewelry box he'd been carrying with him since their trip had started, waiting for this place and this moment to propose. He took Kurt's hand in his, looked deeply into those sea green eyes…and forgot every word of his carefully memorized speech.
"You…me…wedding?" Dave finally managed to get out.
Kurt was speechless. Since he was a child, he had imagined his marriage proposal down to every precise, exquisite detail many times. Not once had he envisioned that proposal taking place at such a historic moment in front of an international audience.
He quirked an eyebrow, considering. It was certainly unique. And memorable. Slowly, his lips curved upward.
And it would top anything Finn could come up with for Rachel.
Kurt threw himself into David's arms with delighted shriek.
"Is that a yes?"
"Yes, David Paulovich Karofsky, I will marry you."
Someone translated his answer into Russian for the crowd and another cheer went up.
Kurt wiggled his fingers anxiously in David's face.
"Put the damn ring on my finger already!"
Nervously, David slipped the ring onto Kurt's hand. "If you don't like it—"
Kurt immediately cut him off. "Tiffany's 1837 ring in sterling silver and midnight titanium." Beaming, he held his hand up to admire the engagement ring. "What's not to love?"
"Uh…actually…I asked them to change the silver to platinum. And added a diamond." Dave smiled. "Hope you don't mind."
Kurt's eyes widened, suddenly realizing he was wearing a custom made Tiffany ring. He pulled his boyfriend—correction, fiancee—down for a kiss.
After David's proposal, several more couples crowded to the front, all wanting the same opportunity to use the Place of the Brow for their own engagements.
Kurt and David stepped down. They made their way through the crowd, accepting handshakes and congratulations from dozens of strangers. Eventually, they found a clear space to catch their breaths. They shared a look—then both started laughing at the same time, caught up in the wonderful, exuberant madness of the moment.
David swept Kurt into his arms, spinning him around before setting him back down.
"So, now what?"
Kurt scanned the square. "I think we've seen everything here?" He pulled out his tourist map. "Oh…wait…" He bit his lip, then continued softly. "…there's the Sachsenhausen memorial. We don't have to—"
"I'd like to see it." Dave decided, firmly putting Kurt's doubts to rest.
The memorial was incorporated into the Kremlin Wall Necropolis behind Lenin's Mausoleum and an easy walk from St. Basil's and the Brow. They found it quickly and climbed the short grey steps to where the bronze engraving had been installed in the red brick behind a bust of Stalin.
"David, is that-?"
They gazed in silence, overwhelmed. The Sachsenhausen Memorial dominated the wall, stretching from one corner to the other for several yards. Front and center was the life sized figure of Nikolai Petrovich Karofsky. Kurt blinked back tears. Nikolai was wearing the coat he had never worn in life…even down to the little gosling carved into the top button.
David straightened from where had been examining the artist's signature in the lower right-hand corner.
"This is Klaus' work."
Kurt nodded. "I know."
Hundreds of figures stood on either side of Nikolai. Each one engraved with precise detail. They read the bottom of the plaque and soon realized that every Russian who had died at Sachsenhausen had been included.
They watched as the setting sun literally transformed the memorial, the deepening shadows changing it from a moving tribute to a stark, breathtaking reminder of Sachsenhausen. Abstract stars became barbs on a wire fence stretching across the figures. Solemn smiles turned haunting as their gazes darkened. Every line had been placed just so to interact with the light; every detail carved with an artisan's eye and a careful hand.
Kurt intertwined his fingers with David's.
"This must have taken a lifetime."
He whispered, hesitant to break the stillness of the moment.
David nodded. "It'll last a lifetime...and longer."
Kurt turned away from Klaus' engraving to look at their joined hands.
"True love always does."
David looked into Kurt's eyes for a long moment before breaking into a smartass grin.
"Wuv, twu wuv."
Kurt rolled his eyes. "You are never watching 'The Princess Bride' again."
David chuckled. "C'mon, we're gonna be late."
"You wanted to see the Bolshoi Theater at sunset, remember?"
"Do we have enough light left?"
"We'll make it—" David winked. "—even if I have to carry you!"
"You would…Neanderthal." Kurt added affectionately under his breath as he quickened his steps to keep up with his fiancee's long strides.
"Oh, look, the Metropol Hotel!"
"No time, Kurt."
Kurt made a mental note to make sure they came back to the Metropol during the day when he would have plenty of time to admire the remarkable architecture. And then, before he realized it, they were standing at the fountain in front of the Bolshoi, watching the audience gather for the evening performance.
He looked up at David hopefully. "Do you think we can still get tickets?"
"Mm, maybe." David reached into his pocket. "Or we could use the ones I already have." He playfully held the tickets just out of Kurt's reach. "L'après-midi d'un faune."
"Impressive, I actually understood your French…in spite of the atrocious accent."
"You're gonna insult the man holding your ticket to the Bolshoi?"
Kurt slipped his arm into his David's with a flirty smile. "Did you really get us tickets to see 'Afternoon of a Faun?'"
"If I say I'm sorry, may we please go to the ballet?"
"That's not much of an apology, babe."
"What if I say I have chilled caviar waiting for us back at our hotel room?"
Dave laughed at Kurt's attempted wheedling. "I own a caviar company, remember?"
"Yes, but what if I say that we don't have anything to serve the caviar on…except me."
He let Dave think about that as he trailed his fingers across his throat and down the open vee of his shirt.
David licked his lips, wishing they had skipped the Bolshoi and gone back to their room instead. He hugged Kurt to his side and guided him across the plaza to the theater's main entrance. David showed their tickets, accepted the two programs and led Kurt down the center aisle to their seats. He loved seeing Kurt's eyes light up with wonder as he took in the magnificent ceiling and decorated balconies.
Finally, they sat down and Kurt had a chance to glance at his program. He didn't need to read Russian to recognize the principal dancer for the evening.
He was the internationally renowned bad boy of ballet himself.
A/N: "Thank you" doesn't even begin to convey how much I appreciate each and every one of you. I'd have to add another chapter to recognize everyone who has supported and promoted "Paragraph 175".
Still, thank you to all of the tumblr Pirates who have done SO much word of mouth publicity for me; to pink-mama and previouslysane for contributing their beautiful artwork; Tsormick for offering to be my beta; lizzypoodle, Piper and cornflakesareglutenfree for helping me with parts I had doubts about and Ella Greggs for catching a historical mistake.
Thank you to The First Mrs. Hummel and Lucy Hale for keeping me inspired with their incredible writing.
And thanks to JasonDragon64 and debraelq and many otherswho have followed me through several stories now.
There are so many of you whose words have made me laugh and cry. I'm humbled that, hopefully, I was able to treat the Holocaust with the sensitivity and respect it deserves yet at the same time not sugarcoat what happened.
I'm planning to rewrite Klaus and Kolya's story into a stand-alone novel and self-publish on Amazon. I'm on tumblr as rubylis and on twitter as rubylis1 if you'd like to check on the progress and purchase a copy when it becomes available.
Finally, I am now able to catch up on my reading! I hope all of you will check out these stories, too:
Fatal Kiss by The First Mrs. Hummel
The Kurtofsky Drabbles by cornflakesareglutenfree
Days Are Long by Tsormick
Counters by Louise Strange
It's been a long, wonderful, amazing adventure. Thanks for letting me share it with you.