This fic has officially blown past Cry For Deliverance, garnering the most reviews of anything I've even written. The fact that there are so many people who care about my story, and the journey that I've taken Kurt and Dave on is just…completely wonderful, overwhelming, and what gets me through the day more often than not. So much love to all of you, for supporting me and my creative efforts. There have been a lot of challenges writing something so out of my normal wheelhouse, but there's never been a time when writing it didn't feel all kinds of awesome. And most of that was from knowing how much you all were looking forward to reading the next installment.

So, you want to know how it ends? Well, who am I to put it off any longer? XD

A month later, Kurt Hummel sat at his vanity, staring at the jars and tubes scattered upon it. Thirty days; exactly six times as long as he and Dave had been lost. Kurt wasn't sure how a longer expanse of time like that could seem like a tiny blip compared to how long they'd spent wandering in the forest, but the calendar and clock didn't lie. It sure felt like they were lying, though. Kurt was sure he'd aged at least a year during the desperate fight for survival.

The boys had been air lifted to Lock Haven Hospital, about 60 miles from Sproul State Forest in Pennsylvania, where their plane had gone down. Lying on a stretcher next to Dave, he'd reached for the other boy's hand, but couldn't make contact since Dave was unconscious and couldn't reach back. One of the paramedics noticed Kurt's straining hand and tear-streaked face, and lifted Dave's limp hand into Kurt's. The flight took barely ten minutes, and Kurt clung to Dave's hand the entire time. Once they landed though, the boys were whisked away to opposite parts of the hospital.

Kurt was checked over and found to have no injuries, though he was obviously malnourished and suffering from extreme exhaustion. He was admitted to a room and hooked up to an IV immediately; shortly after that his dad, Finn and Dave's dad arrived. Paul was informed that his son had been taken into surgery, and that the prognosis wasn't very good. The staff thought that they could get Dave's fever under control, and luckily it hadn't gotten quite high enough that brain damage was a risk. But the real issue was Dave's arm; the infection had caused the death of a significant amount of skin and muscle tissue. Necrosis, the doctors called it. At the very least, Dave would have to undergo a procedure called debridement, where the dead tissue would be cut away and removed completely. But if they found that the infection had reached the bone, Dave's arm would have to be amputated. Dave's dad put his face in his hands at the news, and Burt went over to put a supportive hand on his shoulder. Kurt began sobbing brokenly, so Finn sat on the side of his bed and gathered him into a hug.

Burt and Paul went to the waiting area of the surgical ward to call their respective wives and wait out Dave's surgery. Burt promised to come back and let Kurt know the minute Dave was out of the OR and in recovery. Finn gently encouraged Kurt to get some sleep, but Kurt knew there was no way he was doing so until he knew Dave was out of surgery. He asked Finn instead to tell him how they had found them, and what had been happening while he and Dave were lost. Welcoming the distraction himself, Finn launched into the tale.

When Burt and Carole had found Kurt's note Friday morning, they'd been quite upset. Burt had called Paul, who was shocked that Kurt hadn't gotten permission from his parents to fly with his brother. He assured them that Dave's uncle was a very safe pilot, and would certainly get the boys to New York just fine. They both tried calling their son's cell phones, but got no answer. Paul called his brother and also got no answer, but left a message. Calls to Mr. Schuster in New York ascertained that the boys had not yet arrived at the hotel where New Directions was staying. The families decided to sit tight for a while, not knowing exactly when the boys had actually flown out, or how long the flight would last. When they hadn't heard anything by noon, however, they called the FAA to see if they had any information. Their worry escalated when they were told that the only flight plan filed by Donald Karofsky for that day was a trip from Lima to South Bend, IN, at eight am that morning. At around two pm, Dave's uncle finally called back; he had unfortunately forgotten to turn his cell phone's ringer back on after his flight and had just gotten Paul's message. He told them that it was in fact his friend Jake who had taken the boys to New York, and that something was definitely up; they should have arrived hours ago. Another call to the FAA was placed, and this time they were able to find the flight plan filed by Jake Marshall. The flight covered more than five hundred miles, in a near straight line through Ohio, across the entire state of Pennsylvania, and into New York State. By this time it was around dinner time, and neither family had heard from their sons. Burt called Blaine to see if he'd heard from Kurt, but Blaine hadn't even known that Kurt and Dave had been kicked off their original flight the day before. By that evening, there was still no sign of the boys in New York, or Jake's plane at La Guardia. It was as if they had simply vanished, and the FAA informed the families that an investigation would begin first thing in the morning. The Hummels and the Karofskys spent a sleepless night, praying for either of the boys or even Jake to call with some sort of explanation. The members of New Directions and Mr. Schuester spent their evening in New York likewise, their excitement about Nationals evaporated now that they knew there was a real possibility that something bad had happened to Kurt and Dave.

Saturday was a blur for their family and friends. New Directions did perform, mostly because they knew if Kurt and Dave did show up, they'd have headed straight for the theater. Of course they didn't show, and their friends didn't really have their hearts or minds in the performance at all. They came in seventeenth, out of twenty competitors, and really couldn't find it in them to care at all. They were scheduled to have spent the entire weekend in New York, but under the circumstances, they got their flight switched and flew home that afternoon. Neither the Karofsky nor Hummel houses were ever empty from that point forward; there were always members of New Directions there, along with Mr. Scheuster, Ms. Pillsbury, and Coach Bieste. Even some of Dave's friends from the football team showed up, including Azimio, who had been vaguely estranged from Dave since his teammate's coming out. Blaine had come to Lima as soon as he'd hung up with Burt the previous day, and had no intention of going back to Westerville until Kurt had been found. He spent both Friday and Saturday nights in Kurt's bed, crying himself to sleep pitifully as he breathed in his missing boyfriend's scent on the bedding.

By the time Sunday came around, and there was still no word, worry passed into paralyzing fear for their family and friends. Finn described how all of the girls and not just a few of the boys had broken down in tears that day. Puck, in fact, had succumbed to a hysterical fit of weeping, bawling into Lauren's chest as she held him close. Everyone just sat around, holding hands, crying and praying as hard as they could. Kurt felt shame, hearing about how terribly his loved ones had suffered, while miles away he and Dave had been ejaculating all over each other in the dirt like a couple of savages. Late Sunday night, their families got the call that they had both been praying for, and wished would never come. The crash site had been located, and although it was too late to send out a search party that night, one would be dispatched at the first light of dawn. They were told that any able-bodied family members or friends who wanted to join the search party could, so Paul called his brother and arranged for himself, Finn and Burt to fly out that night to the William T. Piper Memorial Airport in Lock Haven. Blaine wanted to come, desperately, but Burt had begged him to stay behind and take care of Carole for him. After they arrived at the airport, the four men drove to the ranger station closest to the crash site, and spent an uncomfortable and sleepless night in sleeping bags on the floor. As soon as the sun was up Monday morning, the search party left, hiking first to the scene of the crash.

Finn had become choked up at that part of the story, having to stop a couple of times to wipe away tears and blow his nose. He described how they had found Jake's body, and were so sure that Dave and Kurt's would be next. Initially they were encouraged by the fact that neither boy's remains were found near the plane, and also that their suitcases seemed to be missing from the aircraft. But then they had hiked a little further, and found the area where Kurt had performed the emergency removal of the debris from Dave's arm. The huge pool of blood was still there, albeit mostly sunk into the earth and completely dried. The worst part, according to Finn, was when Burt walked over to the pile of clothes Kurt and Dave had left behind. He picked up his son's graphic tee, staring with horror at the blood-drenched fabric, and fell to his knees crying. He'd been so upset, Finn was convinced he was going to have another heart attack, right then and there. And all while this was happening, you had a smile on your face and Dave's come down your throat, thought Kurt guiltily. Way to go, Kurt. At least someone was having a good time.

The search party spread out, not knowing what direction the boys had gone in. Burt, Finn and Paul had gone east with a few other searchers, and managed to keep to what was apparently a very similar path as the one the boys had taken. Along the way they kept finding evidence that one or both boys had been there. They found the pine branch lean-to where Dave had sung Kurt to sleep, and the remains of their fire. When they came across the stream, they broke into two parties; one kept going east, and the other followed the stream as the boys had done. As it was getting dark, they came to the site where Kurt and Dave had spent the night making love, and decided to camp there until the next morning. They found Dave's discarded bandage the next morning, and took it as another sign that one or both boys were still alive. And about an hour after leaving the campsite, Finn had finally found Kurt at the abandoned hunting cabin.

After relaying his side of events, Finn asked Kurt if he wanted to talk about what had happened to him and Dave. Kurt could see the confusion and curiosity on Finn's face, and realized that Finn, Burt and Paul had most likely heard him calling Dave "honey" at the cabin. Kurt shook his head; he just couldn't talk to Finn about any of it. It was too fresh; too raw and overwhelming. So Finn just smiled understandingly and held Kurt's hand, waiting with him silently. After a few hours, Burt returned and took Finn's place on the bed next to Kurt. Putting his hand on Kurt's shoulder, he told him that it had been very close, but the doctors had decided not to amputate Dave's arm. Another day and they would have had to for sure; another day after that, and Dave would have certainly died. But instead they went with the debridement only. It was still very serious, however - the doctors had to remove a great deal of Dave's bicep and tricep, and even a portion of his shoulder's deltoid muscle to remove all of the infection and dead tissue. It would take months of physical therapy before Dave would regain the use of his arm, and even then, it would never be the same. Dave would be permanently disfigured; although plastic surgery, if he chose to have it, could help with that in the future. He would certainly never play football or any other sport seriously again, but he would eventually be able to function almost normally in his day-to-day life. Luckily, Dave was left-handed, so at least he wouldn't have to re-learn how to make it his dominant hand. Kurt had already known that Dave was a lefty; they had joked about it, with Dave saying how happy he was to at least have the use of his good hand to jerk Kurt off with. Kurt closed his eyes, once again distressed by the colliding of his and Dave's private world, with the very real one that they'd been returned to.

Kurt was able to leave the hospital and fly home the next day after a night of observation. Dave would likely spend the entire week in Pennsylvania, and fly home with his dad and uncle the next Tuesday if all went well with his recovery. Kurt went to Dave's room to say goodbye before he left; Paul vacated, giving the two boys privacy. Dave was pale and silent, lying against the crisp sheets of the hospital bed. He had dark circles under his eyes, and his arm and shoulder were engulfed in an enormous white bandage. Kurt moved to sit on the edge of Dave's bed, taking his hand. Kurt didn't know what to make of Dave's shuttered expression, and for the first time in days, had no idea what the other boy was thinking. He was about to say something - anything - when Dave spoke in a quiet, almost detached voice.

"I just want you to know, Kurt, that I don't expect anything from you," he said. Kurt stared at him, not having expected this at all. "I won't hold you to anything that you said, or that we did. I meant all of it, and I think you did too. But things were different then. We made it out, and it's not just the two of us anymore. We have to think about our families now, and our friends. And you have to think about Blaine, too." Kurt felt tears rise to his eyes, nodding. It hurt like hell, but he knew Dave was right. They were back in the real world, and it was time for Kurt to deal with the consequences of the decisions he'd made while he was gone. "My arm is really messed up," Dave said. "It's going to change the plans I had for rest of my life, and I think I need some time alone to deal with that, too. So maybe it's good that I'm going to be here another week, while you go home."

"I'll call you when you get back to Lima?" said Kurt. He hadn't meant for it to come out as a question, but it did.

"We should play it by ear, I think. Let's see how we both feel then, okay? You can call if you want to, but I promise I won't be upset if you don't."

Kurt had swallowed the lump in his throat, and got up from the bed. Bending, he brushed a light kiss on Dave's forehead. "Okay. Goodbye, Dave," he said.

"Bye, Kurt. And thank you again, for saving my life." Kurt saw a spark of emotion in Dave's eyes for the first time since he'd walked into the room. "And for taking care of me. I'll never forget it."

So Kurt returned home with Finn and Burt. All of his friends wanted to come see him, but he asked his Dad to have them hold off for a day or so. He'd been isolated for so long, he didn't really feel up to having a lot of faces or voices to deal with right away. Burt asked if he wanted Blaine to go back to Westerville before they arrived, but Kurt said no. He needed to see Blaine, and knew that Blaine needed to see him too. Carole was allowed several uninterrupted minutes to cry and gush over her stepson, then she stepped aside so Blaine could have his turn. Kurt started to tear up when he saw his boyfriend; Blaine was a mess, with unruly hair, circles under his eyes, and wearing clothes that looked like they'd been slept in. It was obvious he'd been horribly worried about Kurt, and the guilt stabbed at him painfully. Burt gently suggested that maybe he and Blaine should go up to Kurt's room for a while, and that was when Kurt knew that his dad had pretty much figured out what had happened between him and Dave.

They sat at the bottom of the bed, hugging and crying for a while. But then Blaine took Kurt's face in his hands and kissed him on the lips, and Kurt started to feel uncomfortable. Blaine didn't pick up on it; he was so immensely relieved and happy to have his boyfriend back in his arms, and he tried to deepen the kiss. As soon as he felt Blaine's tongue touch his bottom lip, Kurt pulled away and got off the bed. Blaine looked at him, totally hurt and confused, and Kurt didn't blame him at all. "Blaine, I need to tell you something," he said shakily. Blaine's hurt expression turned sympathetic and concerned, and Kurt had nearly collapsed under the weight of what he was about to do to this boy, who obviously cared for him deeply. He thought about working his way up to it gradually, but didn't think he could manage it. He needed to confess, and Blaine needed to hear the truth without Kurt trying to justify his actions.

"When Dave and I were in the woods together, we got…close," he started.

"What do you mean, close?" asked Blaine, in a voice that suggested this couldn't possibly be going where it sounded like it was going.

"Really close," replied Kurt, heart racing and tears coming to his eyes again. It seemed like all he'd done since the crash was cry, and he was getting really tired of it. "We did…stuff. Me to him, and him to me. We were together, Blaine."

"You mean, you kissed him? Made out with him?" asked Blaine. He looked sad and disappointed, and not just a little disgusted.

Kurt wanted to die, knowing that Blaine couldn't even conceive of the things he'd done with Dave. How could he? Kurt hadn't done any of them with his boyfriend, after all, and they'd been dating for three whole months. How could he tell him what he'd participated in, after less than a week with Dave? You knew there would be consequences, and you said you didn't care. Time to pay the piper, Kurt. "Yeah, uh, that. But a lot more than that, really. We…" Kurt had to pause, his breath hitching in a sob. He couldn't even look at Blaine when he said it, even though he knew it was cowardly. "We had sex, Blaine."

"What?" gasped Blaine, sounding shocked. Kurt looked up, and the devastation on his boyfriend's face almost made him wish he'd never made it home. "What are you talking about? You were only gone five days, Kurt!"

"I know," Kurt sobbed. Regret poured through him; this was even more painful than he'd expected. "And I'm sorry. I'm so, so sorry I cheated on you like that. I could try to explain about how isolated we were, and how we really, really thought we were going to die out there. But it doesn't matter. I could never make you understand what it was like for us. And even if I could, I don't deserve your understanding."

"Understand?" said Blaine loudly, his voice rising to a shout. Kurt cringed, knowing that his family could probably hear everything. "I'm supposed to understand…what? That I've never even taken your shirt off, or rubbed you through your pants, but you fucked Dave Karofsky?" Kurt nodded, nose running and tears streaming down his face. Blaine was so angry, but Kurt knew he deserved whatever Blaine had to say, so he stood there and listened instead of running from the room like he so badly wanted to. "Do you know what we've been through here?" yelled Blaine. "Me, and your family, and your friends? Hardly eating or sleeping, and living on tears and prayers! And the whole time you're…" Blaine threw out his hands, as if grasping for words. "You're doing what? Sucking Dave's dick? Letting him suck yours? Did you let him touch your ass, Kurt?" Blaine marched up to him, absolutely furious, and grabbed Kurt by the front of his shirt. "Did he put his fingers in you? Did he put his cock in you?"

Kurt shook his head. "No," he said quietly. "But I put mine in him."

Blaine's eyes went wide, and for a moment, Kurt was sure his boyfriend was going to hit him. Instead, he shoved Kurt away, stumbling back a few steps. "You fucking bitch!" he said, hatefully.

"That's enough!" Burt's voice came loudly from the doorway to Kurt's bedroom. "Blaine, I know you're upset, but you can't talk to my son like that. You need to leave, now."

Blaine looked at Burt, and the anger drained away to sorrow in an instant. His eyes welled with tears, his expression clearly showing how betrayed and completely destroyed he was by his boyfriend's infidelity. "That's fine with me," he choked out. "I can't even look at you anymore, Kurt. It makes me sick. Don't call me, ever!" With that, he took off out of Kurt's room, and they heard the front door slam loudly a moment later. Kurt dissolved into harsh, gasping sobs, and his dad gathered him into his arms, letting him cry it all out.

Over the next week, Kurt's friends came over in small groups, bringing flowers, gossip, and other treats to cheer him. It took a little while, but slowly Kurt warmed up, and by the end of the visits was smiling and even laughing a little. He told his dad that he thought he would be ready to go back to school that Monday, even. He started thinking about his wardrobe again, and got back into his daily skincare regime. School went well on Monday, and on Tuesday evening, Burt got a call from Paul letting him know that he and Dave had arrived home. Burt relayed this information to Kurt, who didn't really know what to do with it. Should he call Dave tonight? Go over to his house? Maybe, despite what he said in the hospital, Dave might call him? Undecided, Kurt picked at his dinner that night and went to bed early, tossing and turning most of the night.

When he woke up the next morning, he decided he'd call Dave after school. Finn was going over to Quinn's, and Burt and Carole would still be at work, so he'd have some privacy. Fingers shaking, Kurt dialed the Karofsky's home number. It was still on the refrigerator, stuck on with a sushi-shaped magnet, from when the families had been in constant contact while their sons were missing. Dave's mom answered, and took a moment to thank Kurt for everything he'd done for her son, before telling him she was bringing the phone up to Dave's room. Kurt could hear Dave and his mom murmuring to each other, and he held his breath without even realizing he was doing it. Then suddenly, Dave's voice was on the other end of the line. "Hey, Kurt," he said in a completely neutral tone.

Kurt exhaled in a rush. "Hi," he said, wincing at how eager and breathy he sounded. He tried to tone it down. "How are you feeling?" he asked.

"Not too bad," Dave replied. My arm and shoulder hurt a lot, but they've got me on Vicodin. It's pretty good stuff."

"I'm glad," said Kurt. The conversation trailed off awkwardly, with neither boy saying anything for a minute or so. Taking a deep breath, Kurt tried again. "Do you know if you're coming back to school this year?" There were only five weeks left in the semester after that one.

"I'm not sure. The doctors say I just need to take it a day at a time, and not overdo it. I'll have to decide as we go along, I think."

"That sounds smart," said Kurt. The stilted conversation was killing him. Was this really the same boy who had declared his love for Kurt, and who had brought him to heights of pleasure Kurt didn't even know existed? Kurt cut to the chase. "Can I come over sometime this week?" he asked.

"What for?" Dave asked simply, and Kurt's heart dropped into his stomach.

"What do you mean, what for?" he replied. "So we can talk to each other. Spend time together."

"I don't know if that's such a good idea," said Dave.

"Why?" said Kurt, hating how needy and shrill his voice suddenly sounded. "If it's because of Blaine, you don't have to worry about that. We broke up the night I got home. I told him everything, and he walked."

"I'm sorry," said Dave mildly.

"You are?" Kurt asked. Until that moment, he hadn't realized that he'd expected Dave to take the update on his relationship with Blaine as anything but the greatest of news.

"Yeah, sure. You guys were really good together. I'm sorry he couldn't forgive you."

Kurt couldn't believe it. The hurt crawled up his chest into his throat, threatening to suffocate him. "Why are you being like this?" he whispered brokenly into the phone. "I thought we had something together. You said…you said you loved me. That you'd loved me for a long time."

There was a long pause, then Kurt heard Dave sigh heavily. "We both said a lot of things, Kurt. Things that would have never been said, if we hadn't crashed. I've been thinking about it a lot, you know. And it just seems to me like that time we spent together was…separate, from where we are now. Like it happened in an alternate universe or something. Don't get me wrong - it was good there, and real. But now that we're home, I don't know how to make it fit into this reality. We probably shouldn't try."

Kurt's eyes burned with tears, and his chest ached. He felt completely gutted by Dave's disinterest. He knew it was pathetic, but he had to keep trying. "But Dave," he said, voice trembling. "We made love to each other. We took each other's virginity. How can that be so worthless to you?"

He heard Dave clear his throat, and when his voice returned, it was shaky as well. "It's not, Kurt. I swear. It was worth everything to me. But it's over now. You have to see that."

"I told you I loved you," said Kurt, tearfully. "I've never said that before, not to another boy."

"I know," said Dave. "And I'll remember it forever, I promise. But things were different then. You thought I was going to die. And let's face it, you were coming when you said it. I'm not sure that we should be attaching too much meaning to something you said under those circumstances."

Suddenly, anger pushed past the hurt, and Kurt felt his entire body flush with it. How dare Dave claim his declaration of love was meaningless? "Fuck you, Karofsky," he hissed into the phone, ending the call abruptly. It had been the last communication between the two boys.

Today was thirty days since they'd been rescued. And today, Dave was coming back to school to finish out the last two weeks of the semester. Breathing deeply, Kurt applied his moisturizer and styled his hair carefully. He slipped into the outfit he'd selected the night before; a form-fitting green, black and red plaid shirt with studded shoulders and cuffs, tucked into black ultra-skinny chinos. He topped it the ensemble off with Marc Jacobs black and burgundy lace up boots, and a vintage double-prong leather belt. He knew he looked hot, and he hoped Dave Karofsky ate his heart out when he saw every inch of his fabulousness. Let him see what he'd thrown away so carelessly; he wanted Dave to drool when he saw him. Kurt Hummel was a badass, Dave had said it himself. And there was no better day than today to start acting like one.

Kurt's swagger and confidence lasted until he saw Dave standing at his locker, bandaged arm cradled in a blue and white sling. He stopped dead, feeling the occasional brushes against him as the other students hurried past his still frame. He felt like running to Dave, running away from him, and throwing up all at the same time. Dave was fiddling with the lock, trying to get it open with just one hand, and hadn't noticed Kurt at all. Kurt took advantage, taking a moment to get his self-assurance back. Throwing back his shoulders, he walked over to Dave, leaning against the wall of lockers and plastering one of his most charming smiles on his face. "Morning, Dave," he said breezily, as if he hadn't been waiting desperately for this moment since they had both returned to Lima. "Welcome back."

Dave looked over at him in surprise, a genuine smile blooming on his lips. "Hey, Kurt," he responded. "Thanks."

Kurt was pleased to see Dave's eyes roam all over him, like a starving man would eye a triple-decker club sandwich. Kurt brought his hand to the top button of his shirt, toying with it and enjoying how Dave's eyes zeroed in on the movement and darkened. Kurt licked his lips, determined to be as nonchalant as possible. The bell rang, and he raised an eyebrow. "I guess that's our signal," Kurt said airily. "Have a nice day, Dave. See you at glee." He walked away, putting a sway in his hips that Naomi Campbell would have found entirely worthy. It took all of his effort not to look back and see if Dave was enjoying the show.

The day crawled along slowly. Kurt didn't have any classes with Dave this semester, only glee for his free period at the end of the day. Finally, two-thirty rolled around and Kurt sashayed into the choir room, filled with what his dad would call "piss and vinegar". He knew what he wanted to sing today; a perfectly diva-liscious rendition of Over It by Katharine McPhee. He even knew exactly the look he wanted to shoot Dave as he sang the chorus; Gaga knew he'd practiced it in his mirror enough times since finding out that Dave was returning to school that day.

Wanting you to be wanting me
No, that ain't no way to be
How I feel, read my lips because I'm so over…
Moving on, it's my time
You never were a friend of mine.
Hurt at first, a little bit
But now I'm so over…
I'm so over it

He stopped short when he got to the door, though. Dave was already there, and was being hugged and gushed over extravagantly by everyone in the club. He took in the pleased flush on Dave's cheeks as Rachel kissed him, and as Sam punched him lightly in his good arm. Even Mr. Schuester embraced him, thumping his back in that manly way straight guys seemed to specialize in. As he watched Dave soak up the affection and acceptance of the other members, he wilted, all of his defenses gone. He'd never be able to bring Dave down like he'd imagined. Screw his pride; the joyful look on Dave's face as he fist-bumped with Santana was worth every tear, and every sleepless night. He wanted Dave to be happy, he realized. More than he wanted to be happy himself. And fuck your alternate universe theory, Dave, he thought. Because if that's not love, I don't know what is. Blinking back tears, he walked into the choir room and up to Dave, waiting his turn. Dave released Brittany from a one-armed bear hug and turned, freezing when he saw Kurt. They both stared at each other for a long moment, sensing the tension of everyone in the room, who feared the drama their reunion would bring. Finn had been discreet about what he'd heard Blaine scream accusingly at Kurt last month, but word did have a way of getting around McKinley. However, Kurt just held out his arms and smiled softly at Dave, saying, "I'm so glad you're back." They hugged, just a little more than was definitively platonic, but enough so that everyone's worries were soothed.

The rest of the week passed quickly. Now that the ice had been broken, Kurt and Dave smiled at each other in the hallways, and spoke casually during glee. On the surface, it seemed like they were back to the status of their relationship prior to the crash, though a little warmer and friendlier. More familiar. But underneath, Kurt never stopped longing for Dave. Never stopped wanting to press him up against his locker and kiss those lips he missed so much. Never stopped wanting to call Dave every single night, and desperately beg his former lover to want him again. He knew Dave wasn't as unaffected as he pretended to be. He'd caught Dave looking at him in the choir room more than once, with the same soft expression he'd had on his face when he told Kurt that his kisses always made him feel better. And one time, their hands touched when Kurt passed over some sheet music, and both of them froze in place for several seconds. But regardless, Dave wanted to compartmentalize. And Kurt, loving Dave as he did, was helpless to do anything other than give him what he wanted. Even if it was breaking his own heart to pieces every day.

But the last week of school, Kurt started to think that maybe by giving Dave what he wanted, he was keeping him from having what he needed. Namely, himself. He'd thought a lot about why Dave wanted to put their romantic relationship in the past, going over every word he could remember Dave speaking both before and after their rescue. He thought about how Dave found infection preferable to dehydration, because the infection wouldn't put Kurt in danger. And how he'd been completely serious about Kurt leaving him behind to increase the chance of rescue; not for both of them, but just for Kurt. It was like Dave had this crazy idea that Kurt was worth more than he was. And if that were true, it followed that Dave had probably convinced himself that Kurt couldn't really want to be with him, not unless he was quite literally the only other person in existence. He knew he'd made his desire to be with Dave quite clear since they returned to Lima, but Dave probably thought Kurt was confused, or maybe unfairly influenced by how many times Dave had made him come his brains out. He doubted that Dave really, truly understood how deep and real Kurt's love for him was. And by acting as he had the past week - unconcerned, carelessly light and easygoing - he'd have certainly proved Dave's assumptions correct. Kurt full-on facepalmed. Boys are so stupid, he thought. And I just might be the stupidest one of all.

It was time to lay all of his cards out on the table, one last time. In a way that was so genuine and heartfelt, Dave would finally be able to see the truth of what Kurt had been telling him all along. It would be hard to make himself so vulnerable again, to open himself up one more time to Dave's possible rejection. But he had to do it, because Dave deserved nothing less than everything Kurt had in him.

On the last day of school, in the last glee club meeting of their junior year, Kurt raised his hand and asked if he could say a few words. Mr. Schuester nodded, and Kurt walked up to the front of the room to stand by the piano. He took off his fedora, brightly colored scarf and lime-green blazer (he blushed a little when Santana gave a wolf whistle at his mini-striptease), so he was standing just in his jeans and a plain black t-shirt. He caught Dave staring a little at his arms, and it gave him the last little boost of confidence he needed to go through with what he'd planned.

"So, tomorrow is the first day of summer break," he said, and paused for the predictable whoops and cheers. "A lot of things can change from one school year to the next. At the end of last year, Lauren wasn't even interested in glee; now she's not only one of our most valued members, but she's dating another gleek." There were laughs, and Puck placed a smacking kiss on his girlfriend's cheek. "And things were more than a little weird between Finn and me. But now when I look at him, all I see is the brother that I never knew was always missing from my life. And I know he feels the same way about me." Finn smiled and nodded, winking.

"There's a lot that will change between this year and next, too," Kurt continued, addressing the club as a whole. "Time passes. Hurts get healed, relationships sometimes fade away." He picked up his colorful scarf. "Things that were so bright and vivid become dulled and washed out by time and distance. With enough distance, we can convince ourselves that maybe the colors were never really that intense, that beautiful. But it's not true, not at all."

Kurt suddenly looked directly at Dave, locking eyes with him. "I told you I loved you last month, and in that moment you believed me with all of your heart. I know you did." Kurt heard a couple of gasps, and saw that Dave had gone pale, but he kept going. "After just a couple of days, you started convincing yourself that I didn't mean it, not for keeps. That it wasn't as real, or as true, or as beautiful as it was the moment I said it. By the time you got back to Lima, it was even more faded; not just by time and miles, but because you worked at convincing yourself. Every day, the truth of what I said gets more and more diluted in your mind. By the time next year rolls around, you'll probably have persuaded yourself that I didn't even mean it at the time. You'll have made yourself forget what it even sounded like, I bet." Dave looked down, sucked in a trembling breath, then exhaled slowly. He looked back up at Kurt, his eyes sad and apologetic.

Kurt motioned for Brad to come to the piano. "So while the memory's still there, I want to sing something for you. And I want you to think about the colors, how bright they really were. What my voice sounded like when I said it. How it made you feel, hearing me say it to you for the first time. How we were one, with our bodies and hearts and minds, when I told you that I loved you."

Brad began to play the intro, and Kurt took a breath before closing his eyes and starting to sing.

Your fingertips across my skin, the palm trees swaying in the wind...images

You sang me Spanish lullabies, the sweetest sadness in your eyes...clever trick

Well I'd never want to see you unhappy, I thought you'd want the same for me

Kurt opened his eyes, seeing nothing but Dave as he sang the chorus. He hoped Dave didn't think that he was grandstanding, or being a drama queen. It was just that Kurt was able to sing things that would break him completely, if he only tried to say them.

Goodbye my almost lover, goodbye my hopeless dream

I'm trying not to think about you, can't you just let me be?

So long my luckless romance, my back is turned on you

Should've known you'd bring me heartache

Almost lovers always do

By the time Kurt got to the bridge, he could see that Dave was struggling not to cry. He didn't want to cause Dave pain and anguish, but he needed to show him the hurt and sorrow his rejection had caused. He wanted Dave to understand that Kurt's grief was a direct result of how much he loved him. Only someone who really loved you could hurt so badly when that love was taken away.

I cannot go to the ocean, I cannot try the streets at night

I cannot wake up in the morning, without you on my mind

So you're gone and I'm haunted, and I bet you are just fine

Did I make it that easy to walk right in and out of my life?

Kurt saw that Dave had lost the battle with his tears. Big, fat drops of moisture dripped down his cheeks, and the emotional reaction that Kurt had been so starved for from him caused his throat to close. There was a long pause of silence; Brad stopped playing, and Kurt could hear sniffling, as his friends shared the poignant, gloriously painful moment with Kurt and Dave. Kurt didn't cry, but the tears were clear in his voice as he barely managed to sing the chorus one last time.

Goodbye my almost lover, goodbye my hopeless dream

I'm trying not to think about you, can't you just let me be?

So long my luckless romance, my back is turned on you

Should've known you'd bring me heartache

Almost lovers always do

The room was completely silent as the last note from Brad's piano faded. Kurt allowed his tears to finally come, flooding his eyes and spilling over on to his own cheeks. As he continued to hold Dave's teary gaze, bigger boy's face crumpled completely. There was a loud screeching as Dave dragged himself out of his chair and started moving quickly down the riser steps. Kurt closed his eyes. It hadn't worked. Dave was running away from him. Running away, and taking all of Kurt's hopes and dreams for their future with him. The ache started in his chest, and this time he didn't know if he'd be able to survive the lo- Ooof!

Kurt's despondent thoughts were complexly cut off by the feel of two hundred and twenty pounds of what smelled, and most importantly felt like Dave Karofsky crashing into him. He felt the familiar strength of Dave's arm band around him, and squeeze until he had trouble catching his breath. Opening his eyes and looking up, Kurt saw him. Not the angry, confused and closeted Dave who had turned his pain outward onto others. Not the polite, distant Dave who found it hard to hold Kurt's gaze for more than a few seconds at a time. Not the affable, friendly but clearly guarded Dave of the last two weeks. They were all part of what made up Dave, but the boy he was looking at was his favorite Dave of all. This was Dave as he had been in the woods, with nothing to hide behind and no wish to do so. This was the Dave who shared his body, his thoughts and his feelings with Kurt. And as their lips met, he knew that this was the real Dave Karofsky.

Because this was the Dave that Kurt loved with all of his heart, and the one who loved Kurt completely in return.


I hope you all enjoyed the conclusion to this tale. I hate to use the word epic to describe my own stuff, but daaaaaaaamn, its feels pretty freaking epic to have finally brought the adventure full circle. Thanks again to all of you for making every moment of effort completely and totally worth it.

BTW, "Almost Lover" is by A Fine Frenzy, and when it popped up on Pandora, I knew I had to incorporate it into the story.