The Outlaw Blaine Anderson
The gun felt solid and real in his hands, the very weight of it seemed to anchor Kurt. Focus him on the task at hand. From far away, under the roar of Kurt's own mind someone was speaking to him, calling his name over and over, but all Kurt had eyes on was Strando, who barked out orders to the others. Kurt stared at him, frozen, but he couldn't concentrate on the words; he felt as if he were hearing sounds through a tunnel, lost as the rage consumed him.
"Kurt," said Sebastian. His voice was muffled by the blow his nose had taken. "You crazy? Give it to me, at least."
Kurt didn't look at him. "You shot my father." He repeated, his voice flat, though his eyes never left Strando.
Again, directed at Strando: "You shot my father."
"Shut up, you idiot," hissed Sebastian. He reached out a hand, his fingers circling Kurt's wrist. He shook him off and began to rise, his legs more steady than he would have expected. Distantly, he realised that his knees were caked in blood. His father's blood. "You wanna be kilt or something?"
"You shot my father," whispered Kurt, gun raised high.
"This isn't you, Kurt, come on." In another time, such concern in Sebastian's voice might have been something to wonder at, to ponder over. But here and now he may as well not even have existed. "Kurt, just-"
But Strando's head was turning now, and he finally sensed the danger he was in, finally sensed what Kurt meant to do. The knowledge made him throw back his head and give a guttural laugh. "Boy, what in tarnation do you think you're doing?" He placed a hand on his hip, shaking his head. He pointed his own gun at Kurt almost conversationally. "You just cool your skirts, now, son -"
"You killed my father!" Kurt's bullet hit Strando's gun dead on, causing sparks to fly and find the sky behind him.
Strando jumped back with a yell and stared at his hand in horror. "Shoot him, shoot him!" he screamed as Kurt raised the gun once more. The others made no move to follow, as they glanced at each other warily. "Shoot him!" Strando turned to glare at Puck, spittle flying from his mouth. "What the hell are you waiting for?"
Puck stood stock still, confusion on his face as he stared at Kurt and back to his newly-appointed Sheriff. "He's-he's my best friend's brother."
"I wouldn't give a fuck if he was the Second Coming - put another eye in his forehead!"
Puck's eyes grew wide and his jaw tightened. "Or what, huh? You'll shoot me down like Hummel?" Puck gave a cold smirk and turned to the others. "Seems to me like Kurt here has got him some valid complaints. Can't say I blame him none." There was a low murmuring from behind him, more than one in agreement.
"What the hell is the matt- I said shoot him! Shoot him! Shoot him!" Strando screamed, pulling his other gun from his holster as Kurt thumbed back his own hammer. "Kill that mother fuc-" He gave a grunt of pain as another body slammed into him and brought him to the ground roughly.
Kurt didn't get a chance to recognise the assailant before Puck was charging at him, grabbing at his arm and dragging him backwards to crouch down behind a nearby wagon. He fought against the hold. "No! No! I had him! I had him!"
"You were standing out there like a dummy, Hummel. You might as well have had a bullseye painted on you!" Puck shook his head. "Where the hell did you even learn to shoot like that?
"Wait, wait-" Kurt looked around frantically. "Sebastian's out there and-" My father's body.
Around them dirt hit air and the soft thud of bullets fell amidst the shouting from the gang behind. Kurt sneaked a glance round the wagon, fighting against Puck's hand. In front of him, Sebastian was crawling weakly, wincing every time a shot danced too close.
"We have to get him!"
"Yeah? Well, I don't copy to that bet. We'd be dead before we hit the floor. Oh, hell, oh, hell. Quinn is going to kill me."
Kurt risked another glance, adrenaline still soaring through his body. Sebastian hadn't made much ground, and the look in his eyes was one of pure desperation, but it was the resignation that was sinking in that finally had Kurt's feet moving. Kurt may not particularly care for the man, but he meant something to Blaine, and perhaps despite their differences, he had even come to mean something to Kurt.
"We have to help him," whispered Kurt, eyes darting as he searched for a clear route.
"And the baby, what kind of life is that? Growing up without a daddy? Shit! Sorry, Kurt- Kurt! Come back, are you tapped in the head? Kurt!"
Kurt bore him no heed, running towards Sebastian's prone body and hissing as bullets tore at his clothes and stole some for themselves. Reaching Sebastian, he skidded in the dirt but managed to hold on and grip his shoulder. "Come on, try and move we have to be-"
The pain was immediate, bringing Kurt to his knees beside Sebastian, pulling a scream from Kurt as his wounded right hand hit the ground, his gun clattering to his side.
"Hell, Kurt, move- move-." Sebastian tried to drag them both as shots rained down around them and the dust rose in great clouds around them.
Kurt looked back to see that while Strando's numbers had depleted, they were still enough to ensure this battle was only going to end one way. A sense of failure and disappointment bloomed in his chest. Blaine would have managed cold revenge without being thwarted by well-meaning idiots who made his decisions for him. Hell, Blaine would probably not have been fazed by such a small injury as Kurt had taken. But then, Blaine wasn't there. He wouldn't be there for him, and this terrible, baffled rage of his was all he had in the world right now.
The dust cleared for a moment, just a moment, but the figure of Strando was clear as daylight to Kurt. He was close enough to see the cruelty in his smile as he raised his barrel towards the two. He supposed he should feel fear, sadness, anger. But all he felt was numb. Closing his eyes, and fleeing the pain in his hand, he imagined a reality where his father still lived, where the Carmel gang were safe. And that Blaine was with him. If only.
"Howdy, boys!" Jesse catcalled. "You miss us?"
Kurt eyes flew open as the sound of hooves hammering the ground accompanied the rebel yell, Nursing his bleeding hand to his chest, he looked, stunned, to his side. "Blaine?"
He barely had time to register the arrival before Blaine was reaching down and grabbing Kurt with one hand, throwing him over the horse's saddle. Behind them, Kurt glimpsed Jesse and Rachel grabbing for Sebastian and dragging him alongside the horse.
"The bank!" yelled Jesse. "Ride the horses through!"
They charged the building opposite, the horses crashing through the narrow doorway with their powerful hooves splintering the wood and coming to a violent halt. Rachel clambered down quickly, and helped lower Sebastian to the ground.
"Kurt, are you okay?" Puck flew through the doorway, dodging as a bullet whizzed past his head. He fired a shot back towards the posse and swung round the door, shielding himself by the wood. "Hudson's soured at me enough without me coming back without you. Could you at least try not to run towards the bullets?"
Kurt held his hand to his chest and stared up into Blaine's concerned eyes. "Why did you do that? You were clear, Blaine!"
"I had to," he said. "Let me see that." Blaine took his wrist gently in his palm, frowning down at the wound. His fingers pressed against Kurt's skin hot, clammy and there. "Your hand, Kurt, oh, God."
"Now's not the time-"
"You!" Jesse pointed at Puck, start barricading that doorway. He wrapped his hand around the inside of his shirt and smashed through the glass in the pane, kneeling down beside it and placing the barrel on the edge. He turned to them with a broad grin. "Of all the buildings in all the town. Someone make sure the horses don't eat the dough."
"You came back?" Kurt's voice was dazed, and it didn't help that the throbbing pain in his hand was causing him to feel light-headed. "You- I don't understand."
"This is going to need stitches. Can you move your fingers?"
"It's not that bad," murmured Kurt, relieved to see movement when he flexed them. "You came back?"
"We heard the shooting- I- no, we couldn't leave you." Blaine raised a palm, and a thumb tracing over a tear Kurt hadn't realised he had shed. "Your father…?"
"Dead." The word tumbled out, harsh and ugly and final. "Out there. Strando killed him."
Guilt flooded Blaine's face and he turned away wretchedly, cursing under his breath.
"No, don't you dare do that," hissed Kurt, spinning him back around with his good hand. "Strando did this, and he's going to pay." Kurt glanced down at the red staining his knees, his own blood mixed with his father's, and then the adrenaline from earlier was easing its way back into Kurt's bones. "I'm going to make him pay."
"Don't be a fool, Kurt! Your hand is busted for one thing! And- that isn't you, it was never you! You are moral and kind and good and-"
"Weak?" spat Kurt. "Weak enough to sit back and let my father's murderer suck in the air he robbed from my own kin?"
"It's not weak! It's smart! You're injured for one, and we are outnumbered for another-"
"I know what I need to do! I'll get him to stop firing! Just me and him, one on one!"
"Look!" Blaine grabbed at Kurt's shoulders and twisted him to see out the window. "There's your pa, right there. And it's painful. It's wrong, but you loved that man and he loved you! You go out there and get yourself killed, all that love will have been for nothing!"
The sight of his father, alone, was enough to set a shake throughout Kurt's body. He sensed that if he didn't batter down his emotions that they would tear him in two. He couldn't allow that. Not before he had avenged his father at least.
"Kurt, this isn't you. This is your anger talking. Your pain. But this isn't you. Don't you see?"
"Can you two save the dramatics for later?" asked Jesse. "You're missing all the fantastic shots I've been making. Look! I just took that guy's hat off."
"You are supposed to be aiming for his head," mumbled Sebastian, slapping at Rachel's hand as she tried to tend to his swollen cheek.
"Christ!" A figure appeared in the doorway and slumped against the wood. He was quickly followed by a second and a third. "He got me, he took half my damn thigh off," Karofsky bellowed.
"He's with us!" Puck said to Rachel, who was raising her knife. The others helped him in moving aside the boxes to allow him entry, their eyes darting warily around the room as they entered.
"We ain't with you," said one that Kurt recognised to be Azimio, a regular at the shop. "We just ain't with that crazy son of a bitch out there."
Azimio lowered Karofsky down, while Puck knelt down next to him, ripping parts of his shirt up to tie a tourniquet around the wound.
"I'm Sebastian, by the way." Puck eyed the offered hand warily, and the owner even more. "That looks pretty bad. Perhaps some more of your clothing would help stem the flow. Mayhap the pants?"
It was too much colour and it was too much noise. All Kurt wanted to do was centre on the fury inside, let it take him. Let it mould him. Let it allow him to take revenge. But Blaine wouldn't let him follow the feeling down, he wouldn't give Kurt up.
"-are you listening, Kurt? This isn't what your father would have wanted."
"Hell's bells, Blaine, let the kid alone. Hey, Billy, find a piece and pick a window. The pickings are ripe."
"Pipe down, Jesse," snapped Blaine. He turned back to Kurt, his hand cupping his cheek gently, thumb brushing against his lips. "There's got to be a back way out of here. Maybe you and your friend can ride to safety. We can hold these-"
Kurt slapped the hand away. "Ride to safety? And leave you all to die? This is all my fault, Blaine! What they did to my fath- what they did? And you expect me to just leave you here?"
"He makes a fair point," Sebastian chipped in.
"This is not your fault! You didn't ask for any of this, Kurt. I should have turned you loose the first chance I had. But I didn't. I couldn't. Because- because of the way I feel about you. I love you, Kurt. Don't you get that? Don't you see? And to see you dead in the dirt like just another low-down cowhand would tear my heart out!"
Kurt sucked in a breath at the words. "I love you, too," he whispered, stunned to realise that he could feel so much when loss weighed down so heavily upon him. "I love you, too, Blaine."
"As a friend." Jesse turned to the others and nodded with a stern expression on his face. "A friend. That's the way it is in a gang, you see."
"Yeah," Azimio eyed them warily. "You do seem a friendly bunch."
"Oh, Lord in Heaven, I can't take anymore of this," said Sebastian. "Rachel, be a dear and slit my throat, please."
"Sebastian, there is nothing noble and dramatic in my slitting your throat."
"I'm not looking for noble and dramatic, you idiot."
Rachel tossed her head. "Perhaps we should take lessons from Jesse here on how to conduct ourselves, though of course I did become the most infamous of us in the last four towns."
"Because you designed your own wanted posters!" snapped Jesse. "You hung them from every darn rock and tree and dog."
"They were fetchin'," said Sebastian begrudgingly. "Now about that throat slitting?"
"You let them alone. I think that it's deeply thrilling," Rachel wiped at the corner of her eye and smiled at Kurt and Blaine. "Why don't you ever say things like that when we are in moments of great doom and peril, Jesse?"
"What are you talking about?" Jesse said, reloading his barrel. "I do!"
"Yes, but you are usually talking about yourself-"
Karofsky got up shakily, pressing a trembling hand to his thigh. Glancing up, his eyes met with Kurt's. For a moment Kurt felt as if there was something there, that there had always been something there waiting for Kurt to see it, but before he had a chance to decipher what it could be, Karofsky bowed his head and limped to the window furthest away. Following Jesse's suit, he broke the window and took aim across the way.
Blaine, who had been watching the look that passed between them, lowered his head. "Don't you mind none, Kurt. It's not been a good day."
"I hadn't noticed," said Kurt, a bitter laugh erupting from his throat. His lips upturned in a parody of a smile, but that collapsed away and he felt the stinging tears rise again. He raised his good hand to his mouth to hold back the choking sobs.
Blaine pulled him close, his eyes sad and wondering. "Don't hold it back, it ain't nothing you can stop. Don't you worry none."
Rachel shook her head slowly, overwhelmed at the scene before her. "Do you remember, Jesse?" she murmured. "I had that terrible gaping wound right across my hand, and did you cradle me? Did you react like Blaine did to Kurt?"
Jesse scowled. "You had a splinter."
"A huge splinter!" Rachel threw her arms wide. "It was an ell if it was an inch!"
"That's your pretty mouth, darling."
"Again I can't help noticing that you are sorely lacking in Blaine's affectionate manner."
"A mite too affectionate if you ask me," muttered Azimio.
"Hey, don't knock it." Sebastian winked. "It can be a lonely trail."
"Of course I love you," replied Jesse, his brows furrowed. "You're everything to me. You are the only one who can match me, both in delinquent prowess, as well as sharing my emotional depth and penchant for headline spinning misdemeandours. "
Rachel tapped her foot. "I'm waiting."
"For what? A ring? Give me ten minutes to sort out this vermin and we'll see what we can find in those safety deposit boxes back there."
"No, for you to say something insulting or demeaning. Or- wait, you mean you do mean it? A ring?" Rachel's beam was wide and bright. "Really truly?"
"Please, God," Sebastian sighed. "Let me bleed to death."
"I knew it. I knew that deep within the confines of that chest, there lay a heart that only paid heed to me!"
"Rachel." Jesse turned from the window, hand pressed tight to his breast. "Ever since the first moment I saw you, I knew that ours were hearts that were meant to beat in mutual rhythm for all etern-"
"Will you concentrate on the damn posse across the road trying to kill us!" Karofsky yelled from the other side. "Lands sake, I can't believe I've been chasing a bunch of washer women all these weeks!"
"Ain't that the truth," agreed Sebastian. "Try living with it. There's nights I've nearly entered a sheriff's office with my own wanted poster." He winked again and Karofsky's cheeks reddened. Shaking his head and grumbling under his breath he returned to his position.
"Karofsky's right, Blaine. Give me a piece. I can aim just as good with my left." Kurt shrugged at Blaine's sceptical eyebrow. "Okay, I can make enough intimidating noise firing from my left. How's that."
"Just give the kid the gun, Blaine," added Jesse. "We need all the help we can get. If anything he can make me look good. Well, look gooder."
"Damnit!" Blaine shook his head, running a hand through his curls. "Fine," sighed Blaine, placing a gun into Kurt's hands. "But stay back. Let us handle this. If there's even the tiniest chance of you getting out of here, I want you to take it. Promise me that."
"I've already told you- I'm not-"
"Promise me, Kurt"
Amazingly, Kurt could feel his mouth stretching into a smile. Grabbing Blaine's hand, he gave it a tight squeeze. "I promise."
Blaine gave a swift nod, and grabbed Kurt's arm giving it a tight squeeze. He then turned and joined Karofsky and Puck by their window, pulling his own gun from his holster. Azimio and another ex-member of the posse fired from the door, while Sebastian lay against the counter, cursing them all under his breath.
"Okay, Billy," said Jesse. "You and Rachel take over the firing while I re-" He gasped as Rachel grabbed his hair, pulled it to the side and fired from the window. Kurt gaped at the bullet hole embedded in the wood above Jesse's head.
"I love you, too," Rachel said with a smile, blowing at her smoking pistol.
"I always told you I'd believe you more if you didn't sing it to me." His mouth began to move in a grin that he never had chance to complete, his head springing to the side and back before he slumped down against Rachel's chest, a dark stain marring her shirt.
"Jesse?" Rachel's voice sounded impossibly young. "Jesse are you- no, no, Jesse!"
Kurt moved quickly, lifting Jesse from her and easing him to the floor but it was too late. His eyes stared up at them and past them into the unknown.
"Oh, Rachel," breathed Kurt. He looked up at the others. At Sebastian's grim expression, at the concerned interest of Puck and the others, at Blaine. Blaine who looked so terribly hurt and so terribly lost. Lastly he glanced at Rachel. Her jaw was tight and her eyes dry. Kurt recognised that anger immediately, he also recognised the danger. "Rachel, I-"
She shook off his hand and picked up her gun. Kurt knew what she planned before she even acted, but nevertheless he was too slow. She was running for Pavarotti who was the nearest to the partially barricaded door, and Kurt barely had time to grab for her. She easily evaded Blaine and Karofsky's reaching hands as she climbed up upon the horse, and with a guttural yell was charging through the entrance into the hell outside.
"I have to go after her!" Blaine called as he ran for Jesse's horse, that was chewing through forms disinterestedly. Kurt was close at his heels. "Stay here, Kurt. We need cover!"
"No," snapped Kurt as he followed Blaine up onto the horse. "You aren't going out there alone!" He kicked in his steers, holding his gun high in his left hand. "Come on, Blaine! Hurry!"
They rode into the battle, hard and fast, Kurt firing at the attacking fray with his unpractised hand. He gasped as a bullet soared close, and shot back into the shadows, wincing at the responding cry of pain.
"Do you see her?" called Blaine, pulling the horse back to avoid a targeted area.
"No, I can't- wait! There!" The dust from the bullets and horses was high in the air, making it difficult to see, but Kurt managed to spot Rachel, her horse reared back and her hair flowing in the wind. Through the night, he saw a silver gleam flying with perfect speed and aim, the blade embedding a firing opponent before she was lost in the chaos once more.
"Blaine," yelled Kurt into his ear. "We have to go back. We are too exposed!"
"No, not until I find her. She-" Blaine hissed in pain and grabbed at his neck, throwing himself backward in the saddle. The motion caused Kurt to lose his balance and both fell from the horse and hit the ground hard. Winded, Kurt attempted to sit up, eyes searching for Blaine.
"Blaine," he gasped, on seeing he had landed a few feet away, his body still and a vibrant red seeping into the ground around him. No, no. Please, not Blaine, too. No!.
Crawling towards him, using his good hand to press him onward, Kurt could feel the bile rise up in his throat. Was this the way his life was meant to be? Good people entering it, only to be lost too soon. His mother, his father. Blaine? Was Kurt perhaps some curse that brought down and stained the souls of all he touched? He sobbed as he moved, slowly- too slowly, towards Blaine, the sounds painful and racking to his own ears. Dimly, he realised that Blaine had fallen close to his father and the pain was afresh inside.I've lost them all, he thought, as he finally reached Blaine. Everyone I've ever loved.
"You back, boy?" Strando yelled, staggering out. Shots rang out from behind Kurt but all failed to connect with their mark. Strando fired a shot and Kurt heard a hiss of pain from the bank. "Hold your fire! Unless you want this boy's blood on your hands!" Silence fell.
Kurt squinted through the clouds of dust for Rachel but could not find her or Pavarotti. From the grunts of pain coming from the posses side of the road, she hadn't gone far. Hopefully it was close enough to stop Strando. Wrapping his arm around Blaine's chest, he pulled him towards him, resting him on his thighs. The wound Blaine had taken was to the neck and blood flowed free. Please, Kurt thought. Please live.
"You see the mess you made, Hummel? All this fuss?" Strando began to limp towards him. "You think I'm happy about your pa? I ain't. That ain't it at all, but it was justice. I think you know that deep down. Well, if he raised you right, you do." He stopped and coughs racked out of him, deep and rough. "I don't mean you no harm, boy, this ain't no place for you. You belong at home with your stepma and brother. This is going to mighty hard on them. Especially since Fabray turned that boy out and what happened to old Hummel here. You want to cause them more heartache? Huh? Come on, you just- you just come to me now and it will all be-"
"Stay back," said Kurt, glaring up at Strando. "Don't you come near him."
Strando grinned, teeth yellowed from years of chewing tobacco. It was a malicious grin, a cruel grin. "Come on, son. Don't you want to go home?" Kurt saw the glint at his side as his gun began to rise. "Go on home to that family of yours."
"I said stay back!"
"Maybe I'll hang you side by side?" Strando hissed, pretence of concern falling away. "Hmm. You'd probably like that. Make a nice example of ya. Teach others not to be foolish. To stay where they ought." Strando indicated towards Blaine with his gun. "I'll hang him dead, though, I ain't listening to that death rattle all the way back to McKinley." He smiled. "Might want to move yourself from under him, unless you want a hole in your pretty skirts." He cocked the trigger. "Imagine that, me catching Blaine Anderson. Ain't that something. Don't that beat all?"
Strando's trigger finger came down and Kurt was on the move. Grabbing at Blaine's holster, he rose up, thumbed the hammer on the gun and let fly at Strando, who answered in kind. Kurt closed his eyes and braced himself for the explosion of pain which must surely follow - or perhaps it wouldn't, perhaps he wouldn't feel it at all, let alone hear it. All he wanted, more than anything, more than his happiness with Blaine, was that his own bullet found revenge for the person he had loved most his entire life.
And then he did hear the report from both guns, and there was no pain and he was still standing. He opened his eyes slowly.
"Well, don't that beat all?" Strando said again, before falling backward and hitting the dirt hard.
The gun dropped from Kurt's hands and he followed it to the ground. Crawling around Blaine, he pulled him to him tight and buried his hands in Blaine's curls, interlacing it with his fingers as he rocked back and forth. Just over yonder, Kurt's father lay still and gone and Kurt could almost feel its draw. Pressing a kiss to Blaine's temple, Kurt felt overcome by a weakness and collapsed onto his side. The pain inside seemed to be spreading, becoming more real by the second. Blaine still in his arms, Kurt glanced at the stars above. So Strando was dead, but there it was: he'd achieved what he wanted this day, and did it really matter? His mother and father were still gone, as remote and silent as those very stars. His side hurt, and he sensed rather than felt the intruder that lay there, hot and angry. He got me, after all, he thought. Ain't that something?. How simple, how easy it would be to give up, to stay on the ground and just go with them.
With a sigh, Kurt lowered his hand to press once more into Blaine's hair and closed his eyes.
Dawn had risen, but there was a deep frost on the grass. Kurt couldn't recall the last time he'd even seen frost, and never in summer. He stepped out from the shade of the trees and stepped on to the grass, feeling it crunch satisfyingly beneath his feet. He reached down to feel the cold shards forming on each blade, but his hand was numb. Ah, yes. He'd been shot there. Maybe the nerve endings were dead.
The sun was rising rapidly, and it cast great bars of gold on the grass. Such an expanse of greenery! It stretched for miles, further than he could see. What a welcome change from the endless plains, the dark beautiful forest and this lush expanse. And farther, right at the edge of this world, was a lake. He could see it shimmering in the distance. Perhaps he'd go on right over and see what was there.
He turned to see his father standing there, and his pleasure slipped away to confusion. "You aren't supposed to be here - are you?"
Burt shrugged. "What are you doing here?"
"You always answered a question with a question." Kurt gave a rueful smile. "I have to tell you, pa. It was frustrating sometimes."
Burt laughed easily. "Only sometimes?"
"You said was."
A great sadness crested within Kurt. "You know why." He looked around his father, to where the trees were swallowed up by the dark. "What's through there, then?"
"Just trees. Never much if you don't look beyond." He opened his palm, revealing a small crushed bullet. Tipping his hand, he let it slip from his grasp to the green below. It landed with a harsh ping.
"There's something on the tree."
"Mother's portrait." Kurt frowned. "Now, how did that get up there?"
Burt squinted. "Are you sure? It don't look like your ma much."
"Of course it is," said Kurt, striding over to the tree in question. "See? It's - oh." He studied the Wanted poster, and it was a crudely-drawn portrait of Rachel. She'd hate how they did her chin. He smiled to himself.
"You know I love you, right?"
Kurt reached out to him. "I know, of course - don't step away from me."
Burt came close, produced a damp washcloth and wiped it across his son's brow. "Kurt, you ain't gonna leave us, are you?"
"Who?" asked Kurt.
"You were mighty brave."
Kurt pushed his hands away, turned around. The sun was blazing. It was so hot! The forest was gone. Had there been a lake? The grass was as dry as hay underfoot. "Where did you go?" he asked.
"But I'm right here."
"No, where did you go?"
Burt didn't answer. He began to hum softly. Kurt recognised the melody. A vague memory, his mother singing it to him as he drifted off to sleep. His father began to sing:
My love is a rider, wild horses he breaks,
But he promised to quit it all just for my sake;
He sold off his saddle, his spurs, and his rope,
And there'll be no more riding, and that's what I hope.
"Kurt," said his father. "You know, don't you?"
"I don't know -what?"
"You two go on, get out of here. You mind me now. The boy needs air."
"Get out of whe-"
A harsh light laid down heavy on Kurt's eyelids, and he fought to open them. A groan escaped his lips as he turned his head to the source, a flickering candle-light on a familiar bedside table.
"There, honey." Carole. A damp cloth found his face and patted at his skin. "It's about time you woke up."
"I don't-" Kurt licked at his dry lips desperately, looking down and seeing his right hand bandaged against his chest. Another bandage covered his skin there, and he felt a dull ache in his ribs. "Carole, my father-"
"Shh, sweetheart." She cupped his face and stroked gently at his cheek, her eyes were filled with unshed tears. "Don't upset yourself so. The fever has only just broken."
"Fever?" Kurt blinked and attempted to sit up, groaning at the pain. Another figure stood in the doorway, a dark yet familiar shadow. "Finn."
"Kurt." The name was cracked and broken. "I'm glad you're okay. I'm so sorry about- I'm just so sorry, Kurt." He turned to Carole. "Can we still move him? Now he's awake?"
She nodded and patted gently at Kurt's chest. "The wounds are clean. I've packed plenty of supplies to keep it that way. It has to be tonight, Finn."
"Move me? Move me where."
"For you own good, darling. The townsfolk don't know you are here. They would have conniptions if they found out we lied to them. It's because of their sorrow over your father that they have taken me at my word and not raided the place."
"You can't stay, Kurt," said Finn, moving into the light and taking Kurt's uninjured hand. "Not after, well, Strando."
"Strando killed my father," hissed Kurt. And Blaine. "I don't regret that. I won't."
"True enough, and that's the same song the others have sung. But you still killed a man, Kurt, and you helped the Carmel gang, heck, some are saying you helped them escape in the first place-"
"We know. But there's going to be a trial and what with the gang escaping and all, things don't look too good for you."
"Escape?" Kurt barely registered the knowledge that he was to be tried. "Who?"
"A few weeks back now, Puck brought you back to us." Finn's face twisted in distaste at his friend's name. "He had help. That fair woman and another of the gang." He rolled his shoulders. "I've been meeting with Rachel most nights, letting her know how you are doing. She- she's quite something, isn't she? Very loud for one so small."
"Did Blaine- did he-" A wave of nausea overcame him and Kurt fell back against the pillows. Darkness threatened to tell him down towards it, and he fought a losing battle to stay conscious.
"-him now, Finn, it's almost dawn and you know how itchy Sheriff Nelson has been getting. It won't be long before Burt's name won't be enough to keep that door closed."
Hands at him now, gently easing him into clothes, fingers pulling his bangs back from his face and a gentle kiss to the forehead. A slight sting as hands brushed his side and air below his feet. A woman's voice humming.
"Take care, Kurt. Come back to us one day."
Flashes of the night sky as he was heaved up onto a horse, rope binded around his waist and a solid chest at his back. An arm holding him tight and the harsh breathing of the animal carrying him.
"They are north of here, at the old railway line. You take care of him, Hudson."
"You stick to taking care of your new wife, Puckerman."
A snarl and a kick, and then the rock of a horse hightailing it for the hills.
"Kurt? Come on, wake up. We're here." A hand slapped at his face and Kurt shoved at it groggily. Blinking awake, he realised that he was lying on his back on the cool ground, bathed in the light of the moon.
"North of McKinley, up by the valley. Pa took us fishing here once, remember." Finn untied the binds, encouraging Kurt to hold tight to the reins as he climbed down. "And you hit me with your rod because I splashed you."
Kurt smiled at the memory, wrapping his arm around Finn's shoulder as he helped him down. "Of course. You spoiled my Sunday best!"
"Yeah? Well, your singing was scaring off all the fish!" Finn helped him stand, Kurt holding the saddle of the horse to keep you upright.
"It's probably his tone. Amphibians respond to only the most gentle of melodies, it reminds them of a slow tide. It's quite understandable. It's hard for an amateur to pull off perfectly."
"Rachel!" Kurt span round at the side of his voice, his shock clearing the last of his dizziness. "You're- I can't believe it!" He grabbed her tight, burying his face in her hair. "I'm so sorry about Jesse."
"Thank you, Kurt, thank you." She pulled back, wiping at her cheek harshly. With a brave smile she said; "I've been working through my grief by writing a series of tragically inclined sonnets. Sadly, not enough words rhyme with corpse."
"Horse?" suggested Finn.
"Oh, yes, good! Remind me of that later, Kurt." She pulled him her again, mindful of his injured chest. "I'm so sorry about your father. I wish that we had never involved you any of this- I wish I could turn it all back." Tears were running free now and Kurt had to fight from joining her. "Back to when Jesse and your father were safe, back to when Sebastian was still here-"
"Shh," soothed Kurt, "I know, I know." Strange how so short a time could make you care for someone so deeply. "And Sebastian?" He stepped back holding at arms length. "His wounds were fatal?"
"No." She wiped at her eyes and gave a small smile. "Took off somewhere yonder with that ex-sheriff of yours."
"Karofsky?" Kurt turned to Finn in surprise. "Is this true?"
Finn nodded, rubbing at the back of his neck. "Guess he thought he'd be best off taking his chances with a known felon rather than the town baying for his badge."
Kurt laughed harshly. "I'm not sure even Karofsky deserves to be stuck on the trail with Sebastian."
Finn stepped forward, taking firm hold of Kurt's shoulder. "As far as McKinley knows, you rode out after the gunfight. Might be dead for all we know." Finn looked over Kurt's shoulder and blanched. "Sorry, I know that your friend- I didn't mean-"
"It's fine." Her smile, for the first time since he had known her, didn't meet her eyes. She tucked a stray piece of her behind her ear and looked away. "We'll look after you. I mean, better than last time, obviously."
"I can't believe that I'm saying goodbye," whispered Kurt, thinking of that long lost flyer from Harmony's show. It was all he had ever wanted, but he could never have imagined the cost would be so high. "Wait, you said we and Sebastian-" Kurt trailed off, eyes wide, the name already leaping from his tongue. "Is he-?"
Rachel nodded, and for a moment the sorrow left her eyes. She indicated to her side, at a tree that overlooked the three. He stepped out of the shadows, his hat low and his walk almost crooked but Kurt knew him. Kurt would know him anywhere.
"Howdy, Kurt," Blaine said, limping towards him and raising the brim of his heart. All weakness that had held Kurt down slipped away as he ran to the other man, his body slamming into his so hard, that Kurt's ribs groaned at the contact.
"Blaine! I thought- Oh, God- I thought-" Kurt pressed his face into the crook of his neck, feeling the rough scabbing of a healing wound against his cheek. Arms wrapped around him tight and Kurt held on for dear life, for fear someone would take him away once more.
Finn coughed loudly. "I reckon I oughta get back to ma. She's not going to want to be alone."
It was with great difficulty that Kurt could leave Blaine's arms, but Finn was his brother. And this could be the last time that he would ever lay eyes upon him. "Finn. I don't know what to say. Thank you. Thank you for everything."
Finn gave him a soft punch in the shoulder, smiling sadly. "Maybe, maybe- you can come say howdy sometime?" He suggested, his stare hovering over Rachel and then back to Kurt. "Just- maybe once a year or something."
"I'd like that, Finn. I really would." Even as Kurt said it, he knew it to be a lie. But sometimes in life, a lie was a kindness. "Wait," he said as Finn turned back to his horse. Hands feeling at his trouser pockets, he wondered if maybe it was left behind in his old room- but no- Carole had known. She had remembered and kept it close. Removing the beloved handkerchief, he raised it to his face and inhaled deep. In the dark halls of his memory, he fancied he could smell his mother's perfume once more. Goodbye, he thought as he took Finn's hand and placed it in his palm. "Could you bury this at her grave?" That part of him was gone now, that part of him was no more.
Finn nodded, although his head was tilted in confusion. "They buried your father next to her. Ma insisted." Kurt smiled tightly at that, touched at the kindness Carole had always bore him.
"Say my goodbyes for me. Tell her I love her." Kurt grabbed his brothers arm. "And you, too."
"You were a good brother, Kurt." Finn wiped at his eyes with the heel of his hand. "I'm going to miss you." Without waiting for a reply, Finn turned and climbed back up onto his horse, spurring her away without looking back.
Blaine came up behind him as he watched Finn ride into the rising sunrise. "We need to get going, Kurt." Blaine murmured into his hair, pressing a gentle kiss at his temple.
Kurt turned to him, slipping his arm around Blaine's waist and drawing him closer, their bodies moulding together. He leant down and pressed his lips gently against Blaine's, mouth turning into a slow smile as they parted, Blaine tracing his lips with his tongue. "Blaine, please, I..." Kurt paused, meeting Blaine's eyes, in the pale moonlight. Dimly, Kurt head Rachel make her excuses as Kurt pushed closer, needing more.
Groaning low in his throat, Kurt watched Blaine's eyes flutter shut before their lips pressed together again, Blaine kissing the words from Kurt's mouth. The pain, the love, the anger. There was so much Kurt had to say, but none of that mattered for now, as Kurt raised his hand to Blaine's cheek, caressing soft skin and stubble as Blaine's own hand clutched at Kurt's shirt, pulling them even closer until Blaine was moaning into his mouth. Blaine's hands were frantic at first, searching Kurt's back as though committing it to memory, but his fingers moved so carefully as they reached up to card through Kurt's hair then slid down to rest gently at the nape of his neck.
Kurt broke away with a tiny gasp. Blaine stared up at him, his smile slightly cocky but the eyes brimmed with sincerity. "I can't believe you are okay," he whispered, thumbs tracing Blaine's jaw line. "I was so convinced I had lost you."
"Flesh wound," shrugged Blaine. "But you- I didn't know what to do with myself when I came to." The smile vanished and his voice lowered. "I'm so sorry, Kurt. All of this- it's all my fault. I should have let you alone. I should have insisted that we leave you."
"There still would have been a posse. There still would have been bloodshed."
"But not yours, Kurt. Or your father's."
"You can't know that. My father would have gone with Karofsky no matter what. And me? If you conked me on the head and left me to be found on a dirty floor you are sure as heck I would have come after you!"
Blaine smiled weakly, playing with Kurt's fingers as he glanced away. "This life, Kurt. You are worth so much more than this life. I can't ask you to live it. It's dangerous and immoral and- I can't see you hurt again. I just can't."
"Then I won't get hurt."
"You can't promise that."
"No. I can't. No one can. But I promise to try." Kurt shook his head. "We can't change what happened, how we came to be. But we can have a future together, Blaine. Truly. All I want to be is with you. No matter where. No matter how."
Blaine closed his eyes and pressed his forehead to Kurt's, inhaling him deep. "I love you so much. It was you. It was you I was looking for all along. You're the dream."
Kurt kissed him again and pulled away with a smile, taking Blaine's hand, he let him direct them to Pavarotti. Blaine helped Kurt up, apologising as Kurt winced at the effort, and Kurt slipped his arms around Blaine's waist, resting his chin against his shoulder. He slipped another tie around them both to ensure Kurt didn't topple from the house, should he fall unconscious once more.
"We are going to have to get you a new handle," announced Rachel, riding up alongside them. "Something that doesn't tie you to McKinley. Something cowboy like. And menacing. That cherub face of yours is going to be quite the hindrance."
"Well, Jesse was right partial to calling me Billy, so let's stick with that." Rachel grinned at this. "Hmm. What about William Bonny?"
"Oh, I like it," said Rachel. "It has an added touch of class. You should add an initial, however. An initial exudes mystery."
Blaine shrugged. "Needs work. But I'm going to stick to Kurt, if it please ya."
"Whatever you say, Brian." Kurt pinched at Blaine's side, resting his head on his shoulder once more.