It's hard to believe that a few weeks ago, I thought this might just be a one-shot. And then people liked it, so I thought "Hey, maybe a 3-chapter deal." But seven chapters, and now an Epilogue later, this has turned into a full blown story, and one of my most favorite things I've written. In a way, I feel like it's a bit of a love letter to my own mom, who forgave the mother that abandoned her and her three siblings, and who has shown me time and time again the meaning of goodness, kindness, and letting go. And who, by doing so, gave me wonderful memories of my Grandma Dorothy; a woman who I discovered in my adulthood was just as complex and conflicted as I've tried to make my OC, Sandy Girard.

Sandy stood in the wings with Will and the New Directions, waiting for the cue that the judges were done and it was time to take the stage for the awards ceremony. The kids had all broken up into little sub-groupings, and she looked around to see which one her son was ensconced in. There was no surprise there; Dave was leaning against a large empty crate, his front pressed to Kurt's back and arms looped around his slender waist as they spoke to Rachel, Finn and Mercedes. She smiled, warmed as always at the sight of the two boys so obviously in love with each other.

It had been quite the whirlwind getting everything together with Blaine exiting and Dave coming in, not to mention the temporary drama of announcing to the kids that their dance coach of several months was actually Dave's long-lost mother. They'd been shocked to say the least.

"Sandy is Dave's mom?" asked Tina.

"Dave's mom is fabulous?" asked Mercedes.

"Dave's mom is a MILF?" asked Puck. At that, Dave had lunged towards Puck, but Kurt had yanked him back into his seat, murmuring softly. Lauren had swatted her boyfriend none too gently, and Sandy had shot Puck her best death glare.

But after a while, things had settled into place, and they got down to the business of re-strategizing for Nationals. Will had thought that maybe they should just toss everything they'd been working on out, and start over again. Sandy had had no problem voicing her unhappiness with that suggestion, and was surprised that the kids seemed to be used to that sort of thing in glee. For sure Blaine's solo had to be switched out, because his vocal range and tone was quite a bit different than Dave's. But there was no need to throw out the rest of their hard work because one thing had changed. Did Will think that any professional stage production would get anywhere if they just kept starting over from square one upon losing a cast member? So in the end, they kept everything the same, but Blaine's solo rendition of Hot Chelle Rae's Tonite, Tonite was replaced with a duet between Dave and Santana doing Falling Slowly by Once. It was a total departure; but to be honest, they thought it worked out better once again having a slow, emotional song followed by an upbeat one, instead of two up tempo songs back to back like they had originally planned. And as Kurt had joked, it wasn't as if this year they'd have to worry about the performance being derailed by a mid-duet, impromptu kiss.

So it had all worked itself out, and in a little more than a month they had all found themselves jetting off to Las Vegas for Nationals, which was being held in the MGM Grand hotel. It was even a little more exciting than going to New York, because Sandy had worked in Vegas off and on for years, and had tons of experience and contacts there. They saw the usual free Strip features like the Bellagio fountains, the Mirage volcano, and the Sirens pirate show at Treasure Island. But also some fun but lesser known inexpensive outings; like the belly dancers at the Marrakesh Morroccan restaurant, and the Second City comedy show featuring performers still in training (but still hilarious) at the Onyx Theatre. The biggest treat she'd been able to arrange was a behind-the-scenes tour of Phantom of the Opera at the Venetian, with help from one of her friends who was a stage manager there. The kids had thought that the tour was all they were getting, but they had no idea. Though it had maxed out her credit card completely, Sandy had gotten the entire group orchestra seats to the actual show. She'd be paying it off for months, but it was totally worth it to see them all jumping up and down and freaking out as if they'd won the lottery. Kurt had hugged her so hard she thought her eyes might pop right out, after which he'd run over to Dave and thrown himself into his boyfriend's arms. Dave had peered over Kurt's shoulder at Sandy, catching her gaze. Thank you, he mouthed, smiling at her and returning Kurt's embrace.

The first round of the competition itself had gone off without a hitch, exactly as planned. They all navigated to the lobby afterwards to see if New Directions had placed top ten, only Sandy and Dave unscarred by the previous year's disappointment about not making it that far. Will forced his way up to the front, scanning the placard, then spun to the rest of them with a joyful expression. "We did it!" he shouted, pumping his fist in the air. After much screaming and congratulating, they had all retired to their rooms to rest for the final round. That performance had been even better than the first one, and Sandy was sure they had at least a decent shot at the title.

Suddenly, the backstage staff indicated that the judges were about to announce the top five groups. One by one they were called out, the fourth and next to final group being Vocal Adrenaline. Holding her breath, Sandy waited for the last name to be called. Please God, please…they worked so hard, she thought. Please let them make it.

"And our last group, in the running for winner of the National Show Choir Championship…" There was a pause, and then, "Newwwwww Directionsssssssss!"

Yelling and flailing, the McKinley High glee club made their way onto the stage. Looking around at the kids, and at Will, she knew that even if they didn't win the whole thing, just getting this far was more than they had ever expected. Will squeezed her hand, and she blinked back tears as the placements were revealed, one by one. She kept expecting to hear their name, but it never came. Finally…unbelievably, the only two groups left on stage were Vocal Adrenaline and New Directions.

"Ladies and gentlemen," the MC announced. "Your first runner up is…Vocal Adrenaline!" Equal measures of applause and gasps rang through the theater, and Sandy whirled around, meeting the shocked gazes of the glee club. "Your 2012 National Show Choir Champions are the New Directions of Lima, Ohio!"

They all ran into each other's arms; a mass of group hugging, crying and laughing. Their trophy was brought out, and they raised it high. Sandy caught sight of more than one blissful kiss between the members of glee. Finn and Rachel. Puck and Lauren. Brittany and Santana. And of course, Kurt and Dave. The curtain dropped, and Sandy slipped off to a quiet corner offstage. Bringing out her cell phone, she tapped an entry in her contacts.

"Sandy?" Paul's deep voice sounded through the tiny speaker.

"Yes, it's me," she responded. "They won. They won the whole freaking thing, Paul!" Tears leaked out of her eyes, streaming down.

"Really?", Paul responded, and Sandy could tell his elation was completely genuine.

"Yeah, they did. They were brilliant!" She paused for a moment. "I wish you could have seen it," Sandy said. "I wish you could have been here. They were amazing. David was amazing."

"Not really surprised," responded Paul. "And I wish I could have been too. Tell David I'm so proud of him, and that I love him, will you?"

"Of course."

"Can you tell him something else?" Paul asked.

"Sure."

"A letter came from Columbia in New York City today," Paul said. "He said it was okay to open it while he was gone, if it came from there or Fordham. Tell him he got in, and with a partial sports scholarship."

Sandy looked over at Dave holding hands with Kurt, the sight becoming blurry as her tears overflowed once again. "I'll tell him," she sniffed. She heard her name called. "I have to go," she said. "I'll see you at the airport when you pick up David, okay?"

"Sure," said Paul. "See you then, Sandy."

She wiped her eyes, heading back towards the New Directions. She was immediately enveloped in hugs from all of the kids. Except one, of course. Her son stood slightly off to the side, smiling but with somewhat of an uncomfortable posture. When she was released, she walked over to him. "Congratulations, David," she said, making no move to touch him, or reach out physically in any way. "You were fantastic. I don't think they could have done it without you."

Dave got a funny look on his face, and suddenly, Kurt was at his side. He glanced at Kurt and smiled ruefully. "Thanks," he said. "You know, I think the same goes for you. I don't think we'd be standing here right now, if it wasn't for you." He shuffled his feet awkwardly, and Sandy wrung her hands together nervously.

Kurt rolled his eyes at both of them. "Seriously, guys?" he said. "Just hug each other and get it over with. I promise, the world won't implode or anything."

Sandy stood still, but after a moment or two, Dave drew closer. He reached out his hands, then withdrew them. Sandy was fairly sure that he was going to start backing away completely; when without warning Dave grabbed her shoulders and hugged her to him tightly, as if he was afraid he'd lose his nerve.

Sandy gasped , her arms going around her son for the first time since he was only six years old. It felt just as wonderful. Scratch that, she thought. It's even more wonderful. Back then, he hugged you just because you happened to be his mother. This time, you've earned his embrace, and his acceptance. About time you got your priorities straight, Sandra. "I love you, David", she whispered into his ear.

Dave pushed her away from him gently, though he kept his hands on her shoulders. She could see that his eyes were as teary as her own. His mouth quirked up in a heart-wrenching, beautiful smile. "I know, Sandy," he said. "I know you do."

Sandy wanted to burst into loud sobs and throw herself back into her son's arms, but resisted. This is about what he needs. What he's comfortable with. Don't push it, it's more than you ever thought you'd get. And it's way more than you deserve. She smiled back at Dave. "I'm glad," she said, simply.

She felt a touch behind her, and realized that Kurt had come around to their sides, rubbing both of their backs gently. "So," he said. Kurt's tone was light, but his eyes glowed with love and pride for both of them. "You guys ready for the big group picture?"

"Absolutely," said Sandy and Dave, in perfect unison. They looked at each other, startled for a moment, then began laughing. They each took one of Kurt's hands, and made their way over to the rest of the group, grinning happily the whole way there.

Stick a fork in it, this fic is doooooooone! :D My everlasting and utmost thanks to all of you, for making the whole of this fic better than the sum of its parts. {{{{{{hugs}}}}}}}