Author's note: So AU. Dave is older than Kurt by 5 years, but they are both in their twenties. Written for a prompt as part of the Kurtofsky fest on tumblr (original prompt at the end). This is complete, but there will be a smutty epilogue to follow as soon as I have time.
Warnings: Mention of slavery-themes. Character death, mostly of very minor characters or original characters (i.e. none of the Glee club members, and definitely not Kurt and Dave). Take into account that this is an AU and there will be a certain level of violence in a world in which only 10% of the population has survived.
It was bioterrorism at its worse, untraceable and completely unstoppable. A combination of the Bubonic plague, tuberculosis virus, measles, small pox, all released in high traffic areas with dense populations. London, LAX, Paris, New York, Cairo, New Delhi. Of course they all crisscrossed over each other within days, spreading worldwide before people started putting the pieces together. It had taken them too long, but no one had been looking for long ago extinct viruses, or rare ones.
85 percent of the world's population died within a year, 25 percent of the remaining survivors following year and maybe another 15 the year after. Not that they know exact numbers of course, not anymore, but he estimates that maybe, maybe, there are 700 million people left in the world. It still seems like a lot, but when he considers that there are probably only 30 million people left alive in the United States it's a more sobering thought. It's only just over three times the population of New York from before. Before.
He's lucky. He knows he is. He's alive, as are his parents, and they are together. Most people he knows are the last remaining members of their family, or think they are, and will never know any different. He tries not to think about it too much, it gets depressing, and he's not much use to anyone if he gets into one of his funks. His life has changed so dramatically in the last five years that he can't even remember some things about before. How mundane and fucking simple his life was. He would have even gone so far to say it was boring. He likes boring. In hindsight anyway.
He'd never really paid much attention to his parents jobs, just knew that his mom required him and his dad to go in and get special vaccines every so often. He gave up paying attention. Now he knows those vaccines are the reason his family are still alive. Why the people around him are still alive.
It wasn't a sudden thing, but more gradual, and his parents seemed to pick up on what was happening the fastest, although he only realized it later. His mother had been a doctor and his father an engineer at the local power station. He hadn't known what his parents had been doing, but they had been preparing him, they seemed to know what was going to happen. Not if, when, and he refuses to think about how their basement had been set out with everything to ensure he would survive. Alone. He has them though, although it's been close a couple of times.
He'd been in the military when it had all started, which he supposes is why he has stepped in the shoes of leadership so easily. Watching thousands of people around him die had meant he'd accelerated through the ranks quickly. Too quickly really, but it helps now. He knows things, and that knowledge is power. The people he has with him are survivors. Most are scarred by the battles they have fought, but they fought them and won, and for him that is the most important thing.
Some people find the choice very easy when it's a choice between death and being enslaved. Others not so much. Of course some choose enslavement simply so that they live and have the chance to run again later. That's often the last choice they ever make. He didn't come by his position of power without a fight, and he knows there are people watching him constantly, waiting for him to slip up so they can maybe make a grab for power. Less so now than a few years ago when all the shit went down, because weirdly enough some people like the fact that he's in control, how constant their lives are beneath his rule.
There are days though that he'd really like to just forget how many people are really relying on him for their survival.
Today (~3.5 years after the start of the bioterrorism attacks)
When he hears the short sharp siren indicating the approach of an unspecified group he takes his time heading toward the main gate. He doesn't need to pick up a weapon, but he knows Z will have one. Will have his back. He's another of the few survivors he knew from before, one of his friends from high school and someone who joined the army with him. He's his second in every way that counts, and definitely like his brother the way his parents treat him.
They have a quarantine border, where communication can happen between two parties without actually allowing them entrance into the main compound and he looks around quickly to see who else has come to their side, new people are equal parts intriguing and a risk. There's only twenty of his people, all the people who were on watch, a few from the closer barracks and kitchen, plus Richard, who he doesn't like, who gets drunk on the power of holding a gun and doesn't like being told what to do. Who resents his leadership. He puts the thought to the back of his head for now and studies the group on the other side of the ditch.
There are fences topped with barbed wire on either side, making it impossible to enter the area without clearance and he studies the newcomers. There are only about ten of them, and they look bedraggled and travel weary. He relaxes – they have to be the least threatening group he's ever come across and he almost has to stop a laugh from escaping at the release of tension in his shoulders. He takes in the muscles of the men's arms though, the fact that while lean, they don't seem malnourished. Their clothes show that they're nomadic, although everyone seems clean and healthy. He's not taking any risks though, not with everyone behind the gate. There are groups out, tending crops and animals, but they'll know the drill, to use the southern entry now that the red flag has been raised. He glances over to double check and of course it's there, signaling that they have visitors. Unknown and potentially disease carrying visitors.
"Are you all healthy?"
"Yes." He waits, wanting them to fill the silence "We're not looking to stay." He hadn't thought they were, but it's nice to know his assumptions are right.
"So, what is it you want?"
"We need gas."
"I don't see a car…"
"Well, uh… we have one, it's just… not working. We need gas," the guy repeats, as if he didn't hear him the first time. He lets out a sharp laugh.
"So, you want a vehicle and some gas. What? You think I'm just going to give it to you?"
"No, we'll trade for it. We just want to get to…"
He doesn't finish, which is fair enough. Trust is a hard fought for commodity in this world, and he wouldn't tell anyone his end destination either. He could offer them a place here – he has the room, but he also doesn't know them, and he definitely doesn't trust them. As per usual there is no exchange of names. Not yet, and maybe not ever. It's just something that everyone got used to in the first two years, so many dead that names became meaningless…
"What have you got to trade?" He asks, and it's out of politeness sake really, because he can't see anything on them that might be of interest to himself or his wider group, and his group is large.
The interlopers look between each other and go into a huddle of hushed whispering which he can't help but find amusing, it reminds him of a huddle on a football field, and that gives him a pang of remembrance of before.
"We don't have anything to trade right now. But we will do."
"Yeah… still not going to give you anything."
"Please," a younger one begs, a girl probably, he's not sure. He just shakes his head, because he can't give in to pleas like that, despite how much he might want to. He can't even offer to let them in, not without them undergoing quarantine, and he's not risking his mom to look them over either. He can see some of the people on his side dying to ask questions, hungry for news of where they might have travelled from. Be travelling to. He can't deny them that social interaction, as limited as it might be.
"Look, you can camp in that area over there to your left. That barracks is bare, but it'll offer better shelter than sleeping out in the open. It used to be the quarantine area but we don't need it much anymore. It's secure. And clean. I'll give you the key so you can lock yourselves in." He doesn't add that they'll be locking everyone else out as well. He doesn't want his people mixing with unknowns. Talking is one thing, being close enough to touch is another thing completely.
He reaches to his belt loop for his ring of keys and opens the gate on his side, locking it behind him and noting the raised guns trained on the other group. He has to resist an eye roll, because they aren't even armed, or at least they don't look it, although appearances can be deceiving. Handing over the key to the guy he's been talking to, probably their leader.
"There's running water, drinkable. Not enough for you all to have a shower or anything, but definitely wash up. You have enough food?"
That doesn't answer his question, but he gets them not wanting to be beholden to him. More than they will be if he gives them gas and a ride back to their vehicle. He looks around them, studying them now that they're all within an easy arms reach. He's being studied back in equal measure, and he knows his complete lack of fear of people, of the potential fatal diseases they carry makes some people uneasy, like he is the one who will infect them all.
"I can't give you anything for free," he repeats, "but if you have something to trade then… Then we can talk. Let me know your decision tomorrow. Talk it over."
He leaves them and goes back through the gates to his main compound, ignoring Z's hissed admonishment about just strolling into another group of people unarmed. He heads for the decontamination showers, just in case, keeping a safe distance from everyone else except Z. Like him Z is now pretty much immune to everything, vaccinated and having survived the plague. His own family had all died, and when he calls Z his brother he means it with every bone and breath in his body.
He doesn't give the new group much thought for a while, too caught up with rosters, and mundane activities that somehow require him to make decisions about. He can see they've started a fire, carefully contained between the large stones, and the low quiet hum of song. As he knew would happen he can see some of his own people have set up a small camp on this side, the two high fences and deep wide ditch separating the groups. He can hear their voices raised to talk, but he's not close enough to know what they are saying.
From the look on the other guy's face he knows they have nothing, or little, to offer in the way of trade. Except one of their own. And he's fairly certain with a group that looks that closely knit there they won't be leaving anyone behind. Not to a potentially unknown fate. He sighs, and goes and sees his parents. It's something he no longer takes for granted, that they're there for him. He knows they are viewed as elders, wise elders, which he knows amuses them, but they keep it to themselves. His dad sets the water boiling and he braces his forearms on his knees.
"What do you think I should do?"
"Give them the gas, give them a ride to where they need to go… even if they have nothing to trade, putting some good out there, helping people, it's what we need to do."
He resists the urge to roll his eyes at his mom's feel-good happy-clappy comment.
"We could do with more people joining us. I mean, we're nearly 5,000 people, and many hands make light work. Show them how we are and they'll be more tempted to stay."
He concedes their points with a slight incline of his head. They're both right, he doesn't need to hoard the gas, they have plenty, but again that isn't a fact they want to advertise to anyone, not even some people amongst their own ranks. He goes to bed feeling unsettled, decision still not made.
"It has to be me. They'll fall apart without you Finn, and dad needs those pills, we can't leave any of the others here. It would ruin them. I'm the best choice."
"No! You are not even up to be considered."
"Look, I don't like it any more than you do, but I can protect myself, I can survive on my own if I have to run, and… it'll be fine okay? We can't leave them owing them something. Having to come back to repay them."
"We're going to have to come back for you anyway…"
"Then we lose nothing by letting them have me for however long it takes you to find them and come back here."
Finn scrubs his hands over his face and he knows he's won. Knows that he is the best choice, even if it weakens the group overall for a short duration, none of the others could stand to be parted from each other. Not now. He'd studied the people on the other side of the fence, and they'd been armed to the teeth, ready to protect at the slightest provocation. He doesn't blame them, he's the same with his group. It's a matter of survival now.
"Dad will kill me."
"Dad will understand," Kurt replies, hiding a small smile that Finn now calls his dad his own. He likes it.
Decision made he lets Finn announce it to the others, several of them start crying, as he suspected they would, but others are nodding, knowing it is the best option. They clean up, filling their bottles, and he suspects that this little area will be his home for the next few days, at least until he's out of danger from being potentially infectious. He hears Finn call out a greeting and turns to see the same guy from yesterday.
He's built. Not as tall as Finn, but broader and barrel-chested and he can see the barest definition of muscle beneath his shirt. A clean one since yesterday, and wouldn't he love that luxury? He'd kept to the back yesterday, not wanting to be noticed, so that he could just observe, and this man had surprised him. Older than him, but seemingly completely fearless of the potential diseases they could be carrying. He hears Finn tell him that he will be staying behind as a guarantee against the gas and car.
"You're offering me one of your group?" He asks, and he can hear the surprise in his voice, the disbelief. He guesses it is surprising, because they are small close knit group, the idea of one of them being willing to be left behind as collateral seems… wrong. He sighs. It's… necessary though. He just has to hope it pays off.
He still hadn't really decided when he'd started walking, mulling over both his mom and dad's words. He doesn't know what they need the gas for, but he knows that they will return for him. Or, if he listens to his gut instinct, that whoever it is will make a run at the first opportunity. If he can make whoever it is like it here, show compassion and kindness to those who need it, then maybe they can convince the others to stay. It's a long shot, but his life has become a series of long shots so what's another one exactly anyway?
"So they're… mine until you return?" It's common practice now, but he hates the idea of slavery. Here they work out one year doing menial tasks, those that are required for the basic survival of the group, and then they're their own person. They have to stay at the bottom of the ladder until they can be trusted, he's not slipping up and making a mistake by trusting anyone, and he's taken in more than his fair share of people who have run from people less kind than him.
The system works for him though, eases his consciousness a bit thinking of it as an indentureship rather than slavery like some of the others, and he knows that the people he cares for probably, hopefully, care for him in return. Taking on an outsider though, someone he will no doubt be expected to feed on top of giving them gas, and then simply let go? He holds back a resigned sigh, knowing he'll have to keep security tight on whoever it is, and no doubt deal with dissension among his own people, especially if he shows them any special treatment. The guy he's talking to looks furious, that he's even in this situation to start with, and he guesses he'd feel the same way if he had to leave behind any of his close friends.
"Until we return."
"And if you don't return?" He asks, because it's totally realistic. Bandits that prey on travelers like this are rife, although he has had those nearby captured and put to work. He doesn't have a high opinion of murderers even in the best of times.
"We will return."
They guy seems adamant and he shrugs, because having that deep seated belief can't hurt, and maybe the person staying needs to hear it. He looks over the group again, and they all look subdued, surreptitious glances toward one member in particular. The one that drew the short-straw apparently. He grimaces. The guy is non-descript, head bowed, face covered in a good few inches of hair and what skin he can see is covered in dust despite there being water for washing, tired and worried looking, but then again, aren't they all?
He nods tightly, wondering if the guy is useful in any way, has any skills that he could put to use, although he can't even consider letting him in to mix with the others until he's clean. It wouldn't be the first time he's been pawned off with a weak and useless group member. He notes that they've all packed up, except for the one they're leaving behind and even though he doesn't really have the time he watches as they all hug him goodbye.
"He'll have to stay here until he passes quarantine, and the guards will shoot him if he tries to run. Once he's clean then he can come inside, and I'll take care of him."
He feels fingers tighten on his arm and he turns back.
"I will be back for him. He's my brother."
His eyes widen at that, because he can't imagine willingly leaving someone he considers his brother anywhere, and can only imagine that that bond between true brothers would be even stronger. He nods, accepts the unspoken threat in his voice, that he expects his brother to be safe and sound when he returns.
"I'll get the bus."
"Well, how else were you going to transport the gas and all your people back to your vehicle?"
The guy gapes at him a little like a fish out of water, and he feels a spark of humor, something that is rare enough that the sheer novelty has him grinning wider.
He watches Finn and the others drive away in a short convoy of three vehicles, and his throat works convulsively, tight with the pressure of tears denied. Even though he might never see them again he refuses to think about the possibility. The bus had been a surprise, and he'd heard Finn and the other guy talking about possible things Finn could bring back as trade. The use of vehicles means his time here might not be as long as he feared if the others don't have to walk back to their encampment carrying gallons of gas. Of course their small encampment will no longer be secret, but they hadn't planned on staying there much longer anyway.
His dad needs his blood pressure pills, and he's already broken down over the irony of his dad surviving all the diseases as they swept the world to have another heart attack. A mild one thankfully, but enough to worry him. Worry all of them, because his dad has become a parental figure to them all. Taking the remaining pills every second day means his dad has a fortnight until he's out completely. It's his dad. He'd do anything for him, and if that involves staying here locked up in a completely unnecessary quarantine then so be it.
The next morning he hears the gate of the enclosure swinging open, and he feels even more like a caged animal. It's the same guy, and he must have returned sometime in the night. He enters the barracks, bringing food and some clean clothes and what looks suspiciously like soap. He's starving, not having eaten for twenty-four hours, but he'd prefer a book to read to soap; anything to break the boredom that has already set in.
At least this guy seems… decent. Still dangerous though, if simply because of the power he wields having such a large settlement under his rule. He's met too many to think highly of them as a group, knows he wouldn't be alive and whole if it weren't for both Finn and his dad. The men and women that have become leaders in this new age are not nice and forgiving people in his experience.
"I bought you some shaving gear. Thought you might like it given this heat." He nods and murmurs his thanks, but doesn't know if he should bother with the actual act of shaving. The facial hair helps hide just how fucking young he looks without it. He's definitely had less issues with other groups since he grew it, although it's bedraggled and there's one little patch which simply insists on remaining completely bald. "So, what name do you use?"
"Right. I'm Dave. You can consider me your… carer for the duration of your stay." The inflection on the word carer makes his skin crawl and his jaw tightens, but he nods. It could be worse, he could have used the word owner, or master, for most people in his, Dave's, position, the words are easily interchangeable. Dave leaves the things at the end of the bed two over, not encroaching on his personal space, and he knows it might be partially due to the quarantine but it feels quietly respectful and he appreciates the gesture, empty though it might be when he hears the gate swing closed and locked.
He goes back the next morning, early enough so that he can fit in a decon-shower before starting his day. Kurt hasn't shaved, and he can't imagine how hot and scratchy it must feel. He has to shave daily, using a cut-throat razor and soap lather because he hates the wastage of disposable razors now, although that's what he'd left with Kurt. He's not about to arm the guy. He'd definitely call his lifestyle sustainable now, and minimalistic, but probably more luxurious than some others out there.
He doesn't hold high hopes of Kurt saying anything to him, not beyond the bare necessities and he sighs as he leaves the food for the day, giving him a tight smile. Today he needs to go and inspect the fields. He has a ten day roster that he works with mentally: crops, livestock, fuel, buildings, power, medical, vehicles, people and training, water, security and administration. They don't always follow on from each other, but he tries to spend four to five hours a day on each specific. There are people in charge of those areas, people who all answer to him, including his parents, but he needs to have an overview of all the areas constantly.
As his second Z does the same, along with a couple of other guys, and any problems are brought to his attention pretty quickly. After three years their system flows pretty smoothly. A solitary new person though, that is… unusual. There are usually groups. He wonders if it's just him Kurt doesn't want to talk with a decides to talk to his mom.
He blinks, because that is not Dave's voice, and after just four days he recognizes it, has come to look forward to hearing it twice a day. This isn't even a male voice, and is the last thing he expected.
"Um, hello." His throat feels croaky due to lack of use and he scrambles to sit up.
"I'm Katherine. Dave's mom."
"He has a mom?" He knows it sounds wrong, but he's surprised that there's another parent alive. That it's a mom.
"Well, you didn't expect him to just spring from the ground did you?"
The crinkles forming around her eyes caused by a gentle smile make him smile back slightly, still a bit perplexed until he sees the bag at her feet.
"What are you… are you a doctor?"
"Yes, Dave just wanted me to check you over. Is that okay?"
Apart from feeling like an animal at the vet he nods, wondering if she actually is a doctor, or just someone who has fallen into it because they have a nurturing demeanor. When she pulls out a stethoscope and lime green otoscope he knows he might be dealing with the real thing. He takes off his shirt when she asks and answers her questions, letting her hands gently feel his lymph glands and press over his skin.
"You look like you're in really good health. A little too lean in my opinion, but nothing that can't be remedied. Did you have the plague? Or tuberculosis?"
"Tuberculosis," he answers, and he knows his lungs mustn't sound normal. He blinks and shakes his head, he can't believe that he's actually talking to a doctor. "What kind of doctor were you? Are you?"
"From before you mean?" He nods. "I was a pathologist. I mainly did research around contagious and extinct diseases. I've had a bit of a crash course in relearning some things."
"I was one of the first that realized and started putting things together. It's part of why we have what we have here."
He's not sure what she means by that, but he knows they have electricity. That it's an army base. The crops they had travelled past were well tended and fields were harvested and ploughed depending. He's starting to see the bigger picture and he wishes he'd thought to ask if they had a doctor.
"The reason we needed the fuel was so we could find my dad some pills. For his blood pressure."
"Oh. That would have been easier than the gas you wanted. We have… a lot."
He grimaces and rubs his face, the coarseness of his facial hair annoying him, but the fact that he could be back with his dad right now, with his pills, that makes his heart twist a lot more.
"I think you're very healthy, but three more days and I'll have another look just to be sure okay? Then you can cross the bridge."
He nods, mind still on the fact that they'd been so set on finding gas they hadn't thought of other possible solutions. He lies on his bed in a funk for a good few hours before deciding to do some exercise just to have something to do, especially now knowing his lungs are damaged. When Dave shows up with an evening meal and a couple of books he's grateful.
"Thanks. For the books. It's getting pretty boring in here."
"Yeah, sorry about that. My mom pointed out you were probably getting a little stir-crazy."
"Just a little. I'm not used to the confinement."
"I get it, but I can't take any risks you know?"
He nods, because he does understand, but it doesn't make him like it.
Three days later he's nervous. His mom has said Kurt is in full health, which he'd known really from the beginning, but he feels like the time when he was a kid and they had to introduce his puppy to the cat and all hell had broken loose. He knows everyone is excited about there being new blood, but there's also speculative eyes, potential jostling for position and that's what makes his skin prickle.
He enters the quarantine enclosure and his mom is already there, having checked Kurt over one last time to be certain. He's changed into the clean clothes, and actually shaved. He looks… fuck he looks young. Maybe not even fifteen, sixteen tops. The slightly too big clothes don't help, and he looks like a little kid wearing his dad's shirt or something, cuffs rolled over about four times and shirt tails almost to his knees. Long limbs like he still has a serious amount of growing to do before they seem in proportion.
"Huh. You look… different."
That earns him a frosty glare and shit, sometimes everything he says seems to antagonize the guy, although if he's actually the teenager he looks then he guesses that surliness is just normal. His mom gives him a small smile, like she knows something he doesn't; as per fucking usual. She pats his cheek and he glares at her, although now Kurt is looking amused and he feels like he's really missing something. He sighs and just hold the gate open for his mom, wondering if he offers to carry Kurt's backpack would earn him a scathing look or thanks. He's not going to risk it either way, the guy wants to be independent, Dave'll let him be independent.
Through the other two levels of security gates he can see Z standing alongside his dad and a bunch of others. The various heads of different sections and it feels like a lot of pomp and circus just for one person. Then again it's been nine months since they've had a new person join them, even if it might not be for very long. That's something he's stressed to everyone he's spoken to, that this isn't the usual situation, and he just hopes there's no animosity because of it.
He introduces Kurt to his dad, then Z, along the line of all the people and he can see Kurt's eyes widening with the realization that this isn't a small operation they have here. He gives him a small tour, just touching on the bare minimum, what Kurt will see in a normal day. There are hangers filled with vehicles, lab, bunkers… this is almost a purpose built facility, and he'd been left in charge. Or rather, the only one left alive with the rank and sufficient security clearance to make the most of the facilities.
"And this is where you'll be staying. With me." He's not exactly thrilled with it, but letting Kurt bunk with others just doesn't sit right in his gut, and he's taken to listening to his instincts when they tell him things like that. He'd seen Richard watching Kurt, and fuck he hopes Kurt is savvy enough at least to never be alone with him.
"Is this… is this your room? I have to sleep in your room?"
Kurt whips around and looks at him furiously, and it seems to be his default expression: angry with Dave.
"I know it's less than ideal, but it's for your own protection. If people think you're…mine they won't… bother you."
Kurt looks furious at that, being reminded of his lack of position and he wishes he could do or say something that would help. But he can't, except for what he is doing already, and that might not be enough. He has knowledge, and that is power. He also has the body and manpower to enforce it if necessary, which he always hopes he won't have to do.
"And if I don't mind them bothering me?"
"Really?" He shakes his head, not even wanting to consider the shit that could happen to this kid if he just lets him go. There are some people who aren't right in the head, who have lost their entire families in gruesome ways… He shakes his head again. "You might think you're all that, but you're not. You probably can't even remember what it was like before." For some reason that makes all the anger leech from his expression and instead he's being studied, Kurt frowning as if he's trying to puzzle something out.
"How old do you think I am exactly?"
"Uh… eighteen? Maybe?" Dave guesses, deliberately adding on a few years to his earlier estimate so it isn't such a blow to his ego.
"I'm twenty-four," Kurt states and Dave's eye bug. "I know I don't look it, the beard helps. Helped."
"Huh. Right. That's… surprising. Well, doesn't change the fact that you look fifteen. It's either this or the bunk house, and I can't guarantee your safety there. Plus it's a matter of trust. How do I know you're not going to run at the first opportunity?"
"Where would I run to? My brother and father are god knows where, looking for something they may or may not even recognize if they even find it, and if I had just asked a simple question, spoken up rather than just hovering in the background, we would have got some medication for my dad and not even needed the gas we… traded."
"I don't think I own you or anything okay? I just want you to be… okay when your brother comes back. He was pretty adamant that he'd be back."
"That's Finn for you. And… thanks. This isn't as terrible as I thought it would be."
"Yeah well, I'm trying to make the best of a shitty situation."
When he follows Dave into the mess hall for dinner he can feel eyes on him constantly. Not just Dave's, but everyone's. It's creepy as fuck, just the level of watching, like he's a new species. He hadn't realized just how comfortable he'd got with Dave in the last week. Being in this new environment throws into stark awareness just how quickly he'd become comfortable. He accepts the plate and eats the food quietly. He's been enjoying the novelty of fresh fruit and vegetables, not usually a part of his diet with them on the move so much, except for the little they can forage.
"So tomorrow I'm going to leave you with my mom. That okay?"
He wants to ask what Dave will be doing, and why can't he just tag along with him, although he supposes Katherine is definitely a good second choice.
"I don't need a babysitter."
"You can't sit in my room all day, able bodied people put in a day's hard work. You said you were pre-med. Before. You can help her out. They always need help."
He can only imagine, and actually that sounds promising, interesting even. He'd enjoyed what little study he'd done before he'd gotten sick. He's a survivor though, like the majority of his group of friends. Katherine's company is good, and he knows that they actually have a team of doctors here, with their families, having survived solely due to the fact that they were all vaccinated. It had been a ready-made community, just needing a place to settle.
He sticks close to Dave's side, despite hating the way it makes him feel, like he somehow needs a protector, first his dad and Finn and now… he sighs. He knows he doesn't need them, but the fact that they seem to think he does, even Dave who has only known him for a week. Than again he'll take feeling protective over other guys that feel …amorous toward him. He'd totally been argumentative before, he really doesn't want to be bothered by anyone. Doesn't want to bother them either.
He spends the rest of the evening watching Dave interact with the others. There are a lot more than he originally thought, potentially thousands. He'd asked Dave where he parents where, only to find out that they were at home, that there are actual homes here. It reminds him of a large school camp, but better organized. He watches them play football and he grins, Finn and Puck would love this. There is more than one reason for the game, it seems to lift everyone's spirits, offers a form of exercise and he supposes creates a team environment.
The lights are meant to go out at ten, and he watches as Dave pulls out a trundle from beneath his bed, and he breathes a quiet sigh, grateful he's not actually expected to share his bed. He lies in the dark and breathes quietly, wondering just how long he will be here. He knows Finn will return with the others as quickly as he can, fearing the worst fate imaginable for him, but he knew mentally that he was the only one that could stay. He's the only one with a close remaining family member still alive, everyone else has had to watch their family die. Moms, dads, brothers and sisters… that he has both his dad and Finn sometimes makes him feel guilty. Seeing Dave with his parents this morning had been heartwarming though, and maybe people see him and his dad and feel the same way. It makes him wonder and he falls asleep thinking of his dad.
The sun wakes him the next morning, and he eats silently in the kitchen with Dave, and there's coffee. Even just the smell is making him crave it, and his attention to it must be obvious, because Dave pours him a cup and slides it over to him without saying anything. He used to drink it with milk and sugar. A lot of milk and sugar, but now he sips slowly, savoring the bitterness on his tongue because he hasn't tasted this in far too long. Dave just watches him, and he can tell he's silently amused.
There aren't many other people out, and what people he does see all seem to be heading for either breakfast, or somewhere else in small groups. He follows Dave through a secure door, into a long building and looks around. It's a hospital. There are beds along both sides, looking like it can easily fit twenty on each side. It looks incredibly well fitted out and he wonders if they ever actually use it, or whether anyone who becomes sick is put outside in quarantine. After so much death he couldn't blame them for being paranoid. Katherine comes through a door at the end and she greets them with a smile and he definitely likes the softer tone of voice Dave uses with his mother.
"So, what are you up to today?"
"I need to go and check on the water treatment, so I'll be gone most of the day. Z will be checking in on you."
"I'm sure we'll be fine Little Bear," Katherine states, patting Dave's cheek and he has to bite his lip to stop an amused laugh from escaping.
"Thanks mom," Dave bites out, which Kurt finds even more amusing. "I'll see you later. Kurt." Dave stalks out looking irate and he looks toward Katherine nervously.
"I don't get many chances to embarrass him. Got to keep him humble somehow hmm?"
"I… yes? I guess?"
"Hmm. Come on, let me show you around."
He's not sure how his mom could embarrass him like that, but he keeps a tight leash on his anger until he gets to the water treatment plant. Their location is not far from a river, strategic in that there is a hydroelectric dam, providing some additional electricity, plus a large store of water they can use not only for themselves, but for irrigation and watering cattle. Also the water is used to cool the reactor, the hot water coming out providing their hot water. It's a purpose built base and he's grateful to whoever planned it out, because a lot of thought has gone into it. It's been designed to support twenty thousand military personal for ten years, and the way he has been utilizing things he knows he can make things last indefinitely.
He meets with Mike at the plant and helps scrub out some of the treatment pools, rinses carbon filters and discusses plans for future work that might be needed, and what they will need to make it happen. He's finished there earlier than he thinks and decides to head for the waste treatment, a far less pleasant place, but just as important. Everyone works for a minimum of a month here and another month in water treatment. He's not budged on that, because he needs people to understand how it works, and to respect the resource for what it is. They need both for hygiene, which will ultimately keep them alive.
He still finishes earlier than he really wants, not wanting to go back and see his mom just yet. He knows there's something she isn't telling him, and he also knows there's no chance of her sharing it with him unless it suits her, so he's destined to her pet names until she decides to tell him. He just wishes she wouldn't do it in front of Kurt.
He'd watched him this morning, sleeping. He'd looked less troubled while asleep, still young, and he guesses he's just one of those people that will always look much younger. He knows he looks his twenty-eight years, feels it, and then some. Kurt though, he looks soft and innocent, like he hasn't had to commit murder to protect the lives of the ones he loves… He sighs and heads back to the hospital, metaphorically dragging his feet and taking his time. Stopping and talking to anyone that wants to bend his ear. He gets there eventually though, and he can't find his mom or Kurt anywhere. A little bit of searching has him talking to Pete, who tells him his mom has taken Kurt to the herb gardens.
The herb gardens are split into two main parts, medicinal and culinary. The culinary ones used to add certain vitamins and minerals to their diet, as well as flavor. He stops when he hears his mom's laugh and it's a sound that will always make him smile, even when he's annoyed with her and he heads down the narrow path between the raised beds. He can hear Kurt's voice, he's reciting the names of the plants, along with the uses.
He's about to ask if they are having fun when he finally spies Kurt, and… he's shirtless. There are tan lines upon tan lines, indicating that he spends a lot of time outside, wearing a variety of different tops. He's lean, but all the muscles are clearly defined, and he looks normal, man-sized rather than the adolescent look in too large clothes. His clothes he realizes, which are so many sizes too big of course they swim on him.
He doesn't think about his own sex drive or sexuality very often. He doesn't have the time or energy to worry about it usually, and when the urge gets too much he jerks off in the shower to take care of the base need. Seeing Kurt like that causes a flare of interest and he guesses he'll be taking a longer shower than normal tonight.
"David. Productive morning?" His mother is smirking at him and he doesn't hold back the roll of his eyes.
"Yeah. Actually. Very productive. Everything okay here?"
"Mmm. Richard stopped by. Azimio sent him on his way."
"He wasn't a problem?"
"He tried to be," Kurt replies instead, standing up and brushing his hands on his knees. He pulls the t-shirt back over his head and it's like a transformation, taking years off his age again. Except now he knows there is a man there, definitely a man, he feels he needs to get him proper fitting clothes. Which he might admit are for slightly selfish reasons, but only upon pain of death.
"What do you mean he tried?"
"Just seemed to think he could boss me around. I said I only took orders from you, Azimio or your parents. That my chain of ownership wasn't up for discussion. He didn't seem to like it very much. Or me."
"Is he going to be a problem?" He means the question for his mom, but they both answer with shakes of their heads.
"I think he'd like to think he can be a problem. I'm just going to go and wash up. I take it my time in the garden is up?" Kurt asks, and he looks between his mom and him and he just shrugs.
"You can hang out with me, or come back here with my mom. It's up to you. Lunch now though?"
Kurt nods and he watches him walk away, following at a shorter pace with his mom, who is carrying a basket filled with cuttings. He can feel her eyes on him, and he knows she's about to tell him whatever it is she's been hoarding to herself for a week. She puts a hand on his arm, stopping his forward momentum with the tiny gesture.
"He's gay too you know…"
"Jesus Christ mom!" For fucks sake, he can't believe he's having this conversation with her. He cares even less about Kurt's sexuality than he doesn't about his own. So next to nothing.
"Hey! You watch your language young man!"
"Really mom? Really? You think my language is the issue right now? I think I'm going to go check the security. You and Kurt enjoy lunch."
Katherine assures him it's nothing he's said or done, simply saying that Dave can be a little temperamental about certain things, and that they can enjoy lunch with Paul. He wonders if she told Dave more about their encounter with Richard. He knows intimidation tactics when he sees them, and he's infinitely glad that Dave is the leader here, and not someone like Richard. The more time he spends with Katherine the more he is convinced that Dave is the leader he is because of his parents. He has them, their influence, to keep him grounded.
Richard is the power hungry type, and he knows he probably didn't handle the situation as best he could. Instead of ignoring the taunts and name calling he'd replied, taking ownership of the homophobic slurs thrown at him, which had only seemed to freak the other man out. Then Azimio had turned up, his simple presence promptly diffusing the situation. Richard had left, but he's fairly certain it's not the last he'll be seeing of him. Unfortunately.
He spends the rest of the afternoon with Katherine, two other doctors and an herbalist, learning the properties of the different plants and how to store them to best maintain the properties. It feels good to be learning again, and useful information as well, things he knows he will be able to apply to his life. Herbs and food that promote thinning of the blood, which can help his dad's heart, others that promote good immune systems, more that stimulate uptake of vitamins by the body. It's a glut of information and he just hopes he can remember it all.
Cleaning the benches down and washing his hands he can't believe how fast the time has just flown, and a small part of him feels guilty that he hasn't thought about the others much at all. It's now dinner, and Katherine joins him in going to the mess hall, where Dave apparently eats the majority of his meals. Dave is of course there and he sits down opposite him silently, still feeling like he has somehow done something wrong despite Katherine's assurances.
He falls into bed long after Kurt has fallen asleep, or at least he assumes so. He had deliberately made himself busy after dinner, unavailable to talk to Kurt. Asking Z to show Kurt to his room; after hearing a bit more about the run in his mom and Kurt had with Richard he's glad Kurt's staying there, but he's also wondering if maybe he should sleep in the bunk house, just to put some distance between them. He's being ridiculous of course. Not sleeping in his room would raise far too many questions so he crawls into his bed and hopes sleep claims him quickly.
"I'm sorry, for annoying you, or whatever it is I've done. Your mom assures me it's not my fault, but I can't help but feel that it actually is my fault."
"It's not your problem. Don't worry about it."
Silence fills the room once again, but he can tell Kurt isn't asleep by the unsettled rustling and uneven breathing, but he keeps quiet.
It feels like an uneasy unspoken truce between them. Awkward and polite, and he's convinced that Dave is barely tolerating him. Humoring him. He gets to work on cars after telling Dave in passing that his dad is a mechanic. He helps change oil and carry out simple maintenance. Other days he goes into the fields, gardens… collects produce. He helps in the kitchen and learns how and what to cook to feed several hundred people. He's starting to get to know other small groups of people. Learn their names, their stories. There are no very old people, and very few young, those wiped out in the early stages of the pandemics, but he can sense the community atmosphere that the group as a whole has, and the group is definitely bigger than they ever imagined. Part of him never wants to leave. He still counts the days though, and it's been fifteen days since he last saw Finn. Twenty since he's seen his dad, and that's the longest he's gone without seeing him since he got sick.
Despite all the people around him he feels desperately alone, and he hopes that tonight will be a night that Dave comes back late to his room. He feels like he needs a good cry, the emotions having finally built up enough to want to brim over. He doesn't get his wish of course, and when the lights go out they lie there, silence heavy between them. He still feels like Dave is angry at him, and he's sure Dave's mom told him that he's gay the moment she had a chance. He normally keeps it quiet, it's safer that way, but there had just been something about Richard that made him furious.
He'd thought, originally, that Dave had a problem with it. Dave's become jumpy, careful not to touch him even accidentally, or even look at him. But he's continued to sleep only a few feet away. Confirmation that Dave definitely knows came a few days after, surprisingly from Azimio, who had sidled up to him and asked if it was true. He'd expected… well, not easy acceptance. And not a warning about Richard being a shit stirring asshole. He only hopes he's not causing Dave too many problems, although he's starting to suspect that he is.
He works hard to prove that he is a contributing member, tries to ignore how much he is coming to admire Dave – his leadership and people skills alone have him in awe. He's nice, handsome with a stunning smile on the rare occasions he's seen it, and he knows he has developed a low-level crush. He keeps it hidden though. Not only so he doesn't make Dave uncomfortable, but he doesn't want to antagonize anyone else who might think he's trying anything with him…
He wakes with tears on his face, the room is still dark. This happens sometimes, when he hasn't had a chance to vent emotionally. He's been on his best behavior since he arrived. Well, except for a few snide comments to Dave and the sniping to Richard anyway. He can hear Dave mumbling, something, no, he can't quite make it out. The fact that Dave is a sleep talker had been surprising the first night, but now he likes the quiet deep rumble. Occasionally he even has conversations with him, not that they make any sense, but he feels less vulnerable around Dave knowing that this happens while he is asleep and unaware.
Kurt has made his own soap, mixed in lavender, ground almond and maybe even some almond oil, the smell wafts out of his bathroom after Kurt has had a shower, delicate, and he has to stop himself from wondering if it has a taste on his skin. He's gone from having to jerk off maybe once a week to once a day, usually right after Kurt showers, and he's certain he's developing a Pavlovian response to the smell of lavender.
Avoidance for the majority of the time is his main (and only) defense, to his burgeoning attraction. Even if Kurt was interested, he can't act on it in good conscience. Not under the current circumstances with Kurt here under duress. He doesn't even know how to go about asking a guy out he's so out of practice. It's been nearly four years, and that's a depressing thought.
He's found out so many things in the middle of the night. Quiet whispered confessions that he only hears because Kurt thinks he is asleep. He knows Kurt misses his mom. And his friends and dad. That he likes strolling through the greenhouses because he likes the smell. That he's never had sex before. That he likes it here. That he's starting to like Dave.
After that confession he'd withdrawn into himself a bit more, hoping some emotional distance would help even if he couldn't really put any more physical distance between them. It hadn't helped. If he hadn't heard Kurt say the words he would never have suspected. There is a polite veneer when they interact in public, and he knows it is convincing because everyone tells him how nice it is to see him with a new friend, like he's in kindergarten or something.
There is another reason for keeping a distance though. Richard has been talking. Telling everyone that Kurt is gay like it is some form of disease and that the reason Dave has him staying in his room is so he can make use of Kurt's body. Which he refuses to do. So he'd called a meeting, just the main group, not including Richard, ensure Kurt was busy with his mom, and informed them that yes, Kurt was gay. It helped that most of the already knew he himself was gay, that having been one of the main bones of contention when he'd first taken on the mantle of leadership. He's assured that no one actually cares, they have more important things to worry about, and what he gets up to in his private time is no one's business but his own. They also tell him that Richard isn't even worth listening to, and he knows that is the general consensus but he still has to be wary of mob mentality.
It is day twenty-two when he stumbles into his room to find a naked Kurt. He turns abruptly, cheeks flaming and closes the door behind him, breathing through his mouth to avoid the fucking scent of lavender.
"Sorry! I just thought I'd have a quick shower before dinner. I was looking after the kids, got covered in their snacks, sand and some… dye I think? I'll be out in just a second!"
"Yeah, no rush," he replies and bites down hard on a knuckle, needing the pain to distract him from the fact that Kurt is naked in his bedroom. It only partially works and he takes in a deep breath, recalling the discipline from when he was a new recruit. Straightening up he stands at attention, mind starting to categorize every sight and sound. The door opens a mere minute or so later and he relaxes and turns.
"You… cut your hair."
"Yeah. Was getting a bit too long even for me. Um. I guess I'll see you at dinner?"
He nods wordlessly and resists the urge to just bang his head on the doorframe to his bedroom. He is an adult, he needs to remember to act like one. That thought stuck firmly in his mind he showers before dinner for once, changing and heading for the mess hall. He can hear Mark and Adam talking about their coffee making project; growing beans, roasting them, and then convincing people to go through the horrible trials of tasting incredibly bad coffee. He stops to talk to them for a few minutes and is in the middle of hearing how they've developed a new method of roasting when he hears the startled scream of pain from inside.
He's not the only one who runs, but people get out of his way with a little coaxing, or he simply lifts them bodily out of the way. He isn't surprised when he sees Richard and Kurt at the middle of the commotion. What does surprise him is the fact that Kurt has him pinned to the ground, arm twisted behind his back and fingers pressed at such a sharp angle he's sure Richard must be in excruciating pain.
A simple hand gesture gets people backing up, all eyes wide and watchful. He looks for Z, and for once he's no where to be seen. Mike is there though, along with Mark and Adam so he approaches and hunkers down, wondering if he will be dealing with an angry Kurt or not.
"You want to tell me what's going on?"
"This fucking fag just grabbed me! Let me go! Make him let me go!"
He watches dispassionately as Richard tries to flip Kurt off without success, squealing in pain as Kurt applies more pressure.
"Yeah. That sounds like exactly what he would do, in a busy mess hall in front of dozens of witnesses. Kurt?"
"Richard here seems to think I am offering you sexual favors for protection. Seems to think I should be offering him the same. Then threatened to just take what he wanted if I didn't agree."
"Right." He glances around the nearby onlookers. "Any of you hear what was said?"
"Nope, but Richard made the approach, angry like."
"I was a bit closer, heard him calling Kurt names. And you names as well." He shrugs, name calling is the least of his worries. Threats of rape however…
"Kurt did grab Rick, but only after a few minutes of him being in Kurt's face. I probably would have punched him way before then."
He's pretty sure Kurt mumbles something about punching him now while he's down and he forces himself not to react. He knows Richard would have been the aggressor in the altercation, and he can't let this type of behavior go unpunished. There needs to be mutual respect amongst all members for this to even work, and he knew from the start that Richard's sense of self-entitlement would bring him to this. He just doesn't know what to decide.
"I'll take him to the cells. Feed him. Sort something out tomorrow."
"You're locking me up! You can't lock me up!"
"You want a bullet instead?" Dave asks, and he's completely serious, although he hopes like hell it won't come to that. Richard is struggling frantically against the hold Kurt has on him, and with a single look Kurt stands, stepping up and away gracefully, putting himself well out of reach of Richard who jumps up, arms flailing violently and lashing out.
He grabs him and twists, forcing him into a brisk walk out of the mess hall, people clearing a path in front of him. He can sense he has a few people following him, which is good. He doesn't need Richard to go accusing him of anything. He asks Mark to pat him down and they remove the guns in his hip holster and ankle brace. That alone makes him angry. He insists on weapons only being carried while active security patrol is being carried out. Richard continues to grumble and he ignores it, knowing it will only make him angrier if he listens.
He organizes someone to sit with him, another to get them all meals. He wants to go and check on Kurt but knows he needs to get this sorted first. Richard has started ranting about how incompetent he is as a leader, and that he knows to be false. He might not be the best in the world, but he tries and feels he does a pretty damn good job. Charlie turns up and he asks him to take statements, just while it's fresh in everyone's minds.
Just over an hour later he manages to leave, a discussion group sorted for tomorrow, to sort out possible solutions. He can't find Kurt in the mess hall, is told that he went back to his room.
He knocks this time, pushing the door open slowly when there is no sound. His eyes are rimmed with red, obviously from crying and he licks his lips, crossing his arms over his chest and leaning against the door.
"Are you okay?" He nods, and Davewants to reach out, just give him a pat on the shoulder, or squeeze his arm, tell him he's not as alone as he feels. He crosses his arms tighter. "Are you sure?"
"I'm fine," Kurt snaps and at least there is some anger there, although he suspects it's the adrenaline from the fear finally leaving him, shaky and possibly in shock. "I'm not weak! Just because I'm crying? Because I'm gay? That doesn't mean I'm weak! That I'm not able to protect myself!"
"I know. I would never call you weak. You're a survivor. What happened is just another thing you've survived. You'll be fine."
Kurt is silent.
"I'm sorry if I've caused you more trouble. I didn't… want him saying those things about you."
"There are worse things I could be accused of." Kurt's eyes flash briefly with annoyance and he shakes his head. "I wasn't talking about being gay. That at least is accurate. I meant the trading of sexual favors for protection. There are far worse things, like murder and rape and… I could go on, but everyone whose opinions I care about, they don't care about what I do in the privacy of my own bedroom. If Richard had been thinking straight he should have realized that."
"You're gay." He nods. "And… everyone knows?"
"Pretty much. It was common knowledge before, but last week when Richard began his little tirade to discredit me I let everyone else know. I imagine the grapevine has taken care of the rest. Way more effective than a mass text message."
Kurt just stares at him and he knows he probably feels like Dave's been lying to him all along, but he's not going to apologize. He meets his gaze and just stares back before Kurt nods once before declaring he's going to bed. He's not sure whether to join him, and now that Kurt knows, his mind sparks with the little suggestion that they're going to bed together. The fact they've shared the same sleeping place for over three weeks apparently means nothing in the face of Kurt knowing his sexuality. It takes him ages to fall asleep
The sound of gunfire wakes him, and he notes Dave has shot out of his bed, is already halfway to the door, and it takes a special type of person to run toward gunfire. He follows more slowly, drawing one of the jackets around him and blinking blearily in the brightness of the floodlights which have lit everything up like daylight. He just moves with the few other people heading in the general direction before he feels a hand on his chest, bringing him up short.
"Kurt, you don't need to see this."
He sighs and pulls the jacket around him tighter.
"Just tell me."
"Richard's… dead. Looks like he apparently had another gun concealed somewhere. He shot Karl before Karl shot him back. Several times. There's blood everywhere."
"Huh. Okay. I'm… I'm going to go back to bed. For the record though I was going to be a doctor. Blood doesn't scare me."
"I know. Nothing scares you."
He nods, huffs a little in amusement and then shuffles back to Dave's room. He doesn't fall back to sleep easily, feeling jumpy with everything that has happened and finding out that his crush isn't such a pipe dream. Apart from the fact that Dave hasn't shown any sign of interest at all. He mulls that over and then realizes someone has just died. Another person injured. He didn't even ask how Karl was. He thinks about getting up again and going to ask, but knows Dave probably want as few people there as possible. He tries to stay awake, waiting for Dave to return so he can ask, but is unable to fight off sleep for long.
The next morning Dave still hasn't returned and he tidies the room before heading down to breakfast. It's like the first day all over again, everyone staring at him, but he ignores most of it, settles himself in his usual spot and is soon joined by a few others. Of course the conversation centers around what has happened last night, and he's relieved that Karl is fine. In the hospital with a gunshot wound, but otherwise fine. He feels a little bad that he doesn't feel worse that someone has died, but when someone voices aloud the same sentiment he feels relief flood through him and agrees quietly.
He still hasn't seen Dave by the time he finishes breakfast, and without a clear outline of what he should do today he heads for the hospital. He can see if Katherine needs any help at least. Karl is laying in one of the bed, looking pale but he gets a grin from him when he walks in. He asks if there is anything he can get him and Karl shakes his head, telling him to go and find Katherine. He can't find her either, but he does find Angela, and he works with her, quietly cleaning, listening as she talks about how at least Richard has saved them the effort of going through a trial.
"Sorry, black humor. It's gotten worse since… well. You know."
Kurt feels a little sick, stomach churning and he's just about to excuse himself when the sound of sirens make him jump. Angela laughs and pats his hand, shaking her head before wiping her hands.
"Sounds like we have visitors," she says, eyes sparkling. His eyes fly to the gate he can't even see from his vantage point. His dad. Finn. They hadn't heard a siren when they had approached last time, but then again they had approached on foot, and hopefully his dad and friends are not. Fuck. He starts out walking, briskly, but soon breaks into a run once he sees the gate. There's no one on the other side yet but he knows that those watching will be able to see. His progress is stopped by Azimio, just simply stepping in front of him.
"They're maybe ten minutes away. Definitely looks like your group. It's their van and trailer."
Azimio nods and stares off into the distance for a second.
"You know, once you're out, you're out again. Maybe you want to say goodbye to a couple of people first?" Azimio asks, although it sounds more like an order than a suggestion and he nods, because of course… once he goes out he'll be risking infection, and he wonders how Dave could visit but doesn't stop long to think about it. He'll be seeing his dad and friends again in just a few minutes, after missing them for weeks. But first he needs to pack. His movements feel faster than normal, time just slipping past and when he opens the door to his room he finds Katherine, packing his bags.
"I was going to bring this down to you."
"Uh, thanks. Have you seen Dave?"
"He's been organizing the burial."
"Don't worry, he'll have started heading back as soon as the sirens went off. We're on lockdown until he says so."
"Oh." So that means he can't leave until Dave gets back, which is fine, he wasn't going to leave before then anyway, and now even thinking about leaving makes him feel a little worse. Torn. He decides to leave his bag where it is, thanking Katherine for packing for him before heading back down to the main gate just in time to be able to see the van and trailer with his own eyes. Then there is another van, and another, and they've obviously found a car dealership or something. He isn't even aware he's crying when he feels Katherine wrap him into a hug and he gives her a watery smile, hugging her back tightly.
He laughs and cries when the vans pull to a stop, and he watches as they tumble out, laughing and waving at him. He steps up to the chain link fence, fingers gripping the wire and he's as close as he can physically get to them for now.
"You… You're in such big trouble young man!"
He laughs some more, and hears Katherine laugh beside him, say 'I think I like your dad already.' His dad looks good though, everyone does and he just wants to be there, enveloped in a massive group hug. Across the divide they've clambered against the fence, all calling out greetings and they're all there. About thirty of them and despite how much he has enjoyed the experience of being settled and almost part of civilization again, he would give it all up for these people in a heartbeat. Which is what he actually has to do.
"I'll go get your bag. You stay here," Katherine says, patting him on the arm.
It's all a jumble of information, he listens and talks, asking and answering questions in equal measure. They found the drugs they needed, and he tells them that they had some here, a fact which makes his dad look sad but he forges on. He hears about how they found the new vans, stocked up on food, replaced camping gear. Mercedes tells him she got him some new clothes, but laughingly teases him that given how he's put on weight they might not fit him anymore. He gives her the finger. It feels good.
Katherine returns not only carrying his bag, but with Dave, who looks… sad, and he guesses organizing a burial isn't the nicest of activities. He takes his bag from Katherine, it feels heavier than it did, and then stops in front of Dave.
"I haven't had time to say goodbye to everyone."
"They'll understand. These are your people. Your family."
"I… yeah. They are." Except some of these new people feel like family now as well, Katherine especially and the sense of being torn intensifies. He pauses, take s deep breath and then wraps his arms around Katherine, whispering thanks and goodbyes. He lets go reluctantly and turns to look at Dave, wrapping his arms around him before he can overthink it. Dave returns the hug, tightly, like he doesn't want to let go. This is worse than when he'd said goodbye to Finn and the others, at least he'd had the belief that he'd see them again. This is so much less certain. He might never see Dave again. Drawing back his eyes search Dave's face, before he kisses him softly, a gentle peck just on the edge of his lips, softly saying thank you and good bye all at once.
It doesn't end that way though, suddenly a hand is cupping his face and there's a hand on his lower back, like a half-hug and Dave is kissing him. In front of his dad, and Dave's mom, and a whole bunch of other people, some of who a whopping and catcalling. The pressure of his lips is distracting, stubble scratching his skin because Dave hasn't had time to shave yet, the hand on his face gentle, in contrast to the one on his back which is digging in, pressing his body flush against Dave's. It doesn't last long, as kisses go, no tongue, and he really wishes there had been, and he's breathing a little rapidly when Dave pulls away, hands dropping to his sides and taking a step back.
"Take care of yourself."
"You too," he manages to croak out.
When he walks through the gates his tears start again, and he doesn't know if he's crying for what he's leaving behind, or because he's back home with the people he loves.
He misses him. He knew he would, but not this much. They had stayed for three days, had actually carried out a proper trading session, leaving one of the vans for the gas and vehicle loan. He'd rather have Kurt though. They had given them medication, stocked them up with enough supplies to cover the basic medical needs to their group of thirty. He'd watched from a distance how Kurt was with his father and brother. Affectionate
A small part of him wishes he'd acted on his impulses sooner, but a larger part is glad that he didn't. He didn't want Kurt to feel obligated, to want to stay, to possibly come to resent him because he'd kept him from his family. Although he never bought it up that they could all stay. Fuck he's an idiot. Too late to do anything about it now though and that knowledge brings him down for a few weeks. What he wouldn't give to be able to send a simple text message. Or even a letter.
Weeks after Kurt is gone he runs out of the soap Kurt had made and left behind. He'd started using it ostensibly so it didn't go to waste, but it smells like Kurt is still here. That is fading too. He throws himself into working, touching base with everyone, helping people start up new projects. A flour mill. A cheese press. Things they don't actually need yet, but will do.
He helps set up irrigation for newly ploughed fields, talks about killing a few cows for the meat, lays the foundations for a couple of new houses. Anything and everything that could possibly exhaust his mind and body so that he falls asleep easily at night, rather than lying there wishing he could hear the quiet sound of Kurt breathing. Or even better, the secret nighttime conversations. Sometimes, rarely, he dreams that he has a conversation with him while he's asleep and it puts him in a funny mood for a couple of days. Their paths only crossed for thirty-two days, not that he was counting, he just doesn't understand why it feels like it was longer.
They've stopped in a small abandoned township, and he feels like a scavenger, going through the belongings of dead people, but they do what they need to do in order to survive. Occasionally they come across the actual dead bodies, and they all hold their collective breaths for days afterward, hoping none of them have caught anything. They mostly have naturally acquired immunity now, but it's still a justified fear.
They collect food and groceries past their use-by date, and it makes him remember the fresh produce from his time with Dave. He had found the doctors bag while still camped out, and he knows Katherine had given it to him, a farewell gift, for a dream he'd been forced to give up. He hasn't taken it out or shown it to any of them, keeping it secret.
They've been gone for nearly two months when he finds Quinn being sick. His heart stops and mind races, trying to go over the things that might bring on nausea. He sits her down on the ground, feeling for a fever and is relieved when there isn't one. He's certain he will panic about every little head cold from now on, but he'd rather be safe than sorry. He gets his stethoscope and otoscope, ignores Quinn's wide eyes and questions and looks. He doesn't even really know what he's looking for, but everything looks normal.
"How do you feel?"
"Tired. Sick. I… I'm not well."
She says it with tired resignation, like she just wants to give up and that scares him more than the idea of her being sick. They've all fought for everything they have now, worked hard and he doesn't think any of them would ever quit. But Quinn definitely looks like she has no fight left in her.
"It's okay. How long have you been feeling like this?"
"A couple of weeks."
He opens his mouth to tell her of and closes it abruptly. That's the last thing she needs, but his mind is racing, because he's pretty sure no one else has been feeling sick. There are other things though. Cancer is the first one that springs to mind, but there is so much he just doesn't know and he misses Katherine and the others more than ever.
"It's okay. I'll… figure something out okay?"
She nods in quiet agreement and he goes to find his dad. It doesn't take much, the idea of Quinn being sick, any of them being sick, have them all agreeing to go back. It will take them a couple of days of solid driving, but no one seems to mind, and they've managed to refill their tanks and gas reservoirs recently. He drives the first shift, his dad beside him with the map, navigating for their convoy and shotgun on his lap just in case.
"Shame we couldn't have stayed there really."
"Hmm. What? Where we just were?"
"No. Where you were before. It looked like a pretty solid set up."
"It is," he replies, and he's told his dad about it. "You would want to stay somewhere? Permanently?"
"Of course. It's safer, better in the long term. I just figured they didn't have the room for more people. I mean, it was pretty clear the way you got farewelled that they would have kept you if they could."
"I didn't get asked if I wanted to stay."
"I think your answer would have been pretty obvious if that invitation didn't include all of us, hmm?"
"Yeah, I guess."
He'd thought about it before, briefly. He supposes inviting a group of unknowns to join them is risky. Personalities clash, and things can happen. He was one person and that ended up with Richard dead and Karl injured. He gets people being cautious and not taking risks. He doesn't blame anyone for wanting to protect people. So Dave might have been interested him in other circumstances, but not enough to invite him to stay. He just has to hope he doesn't mind him turning up on his proverbial doorstep again.
They arrive late afternoon, and he's discussed with the others that he'll be the one to do the approach. He knows how things work at least. He's relieved when he sees Azimio standing there. Dave is not in sight, which he knows simply means he's further afield than usual.
"Kurt! Hey man! Good to see you"
"Azimio. Good to see you too. Is Dave around? Or Katherine?"
Immediately Azimio's stance changes.
"You need a doctor?"
"Ah… yeah. Just someone to talk to really."
Azimio nods sharply and leaves, returning within minutes with Katherine. He's pretty sure they must be wearing matching grins when they spot each other. He explains Quinn's symptoms, and from the look on her face he can tell she's figured out what it is. Despite that he follows her directions as he looks again in Quinn's ears, down her throat, and listens to her chest. It takes a long time, because Katherine insists he look in everyone's throats, so he can have a form of comparison, and everyone is scared enough that they comply with no comment.
Once again he finds nothing, and it's frustrating, because he knows Quinn isn't making the symptoms up. It's very hard to fake vomiting and looking waxy pale all the time. Katherine tells him she going to get something from the hospital, and he packs away his things, hoping she returns soon. When he hears the gate creak open he knows Dave will be there, and when he walks into the midst of his group of friends he just stares, drinks his fill and he looks… tired. Like he hasn't been sleeping.
"Dave. Hi. What are you doing? We aren't even all healthy this time…"
"My mom has a theory. You must be Quinn. Nice to meet you." Usually Quinn would have a snappy reply, but instead she just smiles weakly and nods as Dave kneels down beside her where she's sitting in the shade of the van. Dave's voice drops even quieter. "My mom has asked me to ask you if there's any chance that you're pregnant. Is there?"
She nods again and Kurt's eyes widen, glancing around at all the people he considers family. Who? At least the conversation is quiet, whispered rather than shouted, and he gets why Dave has come in know, risked himself. Again.
"Okay. Then we have two options, you can either pee on this little stick here, or I can run the portable ultrasound here over your stomach and see if we can find a heartbeat. Or we can do both I guess. Up to you."
He hadn't dared hope that it might be Kurt and his group when he heard the sirens sound. He'd steeled himself for disappointment as he approached the main gate and then been overwhelmed when he'd seen Kurt standing, pressed against the fence and talking to his mother. He'd stopped and just watched, enjoying the sight before startling a bit when his mother left and went toward the hospital. That meant serious business and he'd rushed after her only to have her turn on him.
"You're not going to miss your chance this time. You're going over there and inviting them to dinner. In a weeks' time obviously, but still. I like Kurt. Ask them to stay. Forever."
"Yeah mom, I know."
He waits for the reading on the stick, although the little plus sign already looks pretty well formed to him, it says to wait two minutes. Kurt is rubbing her back and he wonders who the father is. No one has stepped forward yet, they all look concerned and he has no idea if a baby will make them freak out, or be relieved that it's not a deathly illness. Then again they had someone die of childbirth last year due to hemorrhaging so it isn't a ballpark either.
"Yeah. It's positive. Explains the nausea and tiredness. You might have an extreme case though."
"An extreme case of pregnancy?"
"Oh, right… of course."
"Yeah. Look, Kurt, can I talk to you? In private?"
That gets a soft snort of amusement from Quinn, and he guesses finding out that she's not going to die is probably a relief. Kurt is nodding and he excuses himself to unlock the quarantine compound, greeting Finn by name for the first time. He knows no one else really, although he recognizes Kurt's father. The man is watching him carefully, and he guesses he deserves that. It actually puts a little thrill though him, that he might have to do something as mundane as meet his boy-, Kurt's dad. Fuck. It's an equally terrifying and exhilarating thought.
He walks away, the opposite direction of both the fort and the quarantine compound, Kurt walking beside him silently. His mind is going through all the ways he could start the conversation and discarding every single one. He doesn't know how to voice what he's thinking and feeling. It's dusk, getting cooler earlier as autumn arrive and the setting sun makes dust motes sparkle. He glances back, he can't see anyone but he knows Z probably has a scope trained on him. He pulls the finger in the general direction of the Fort and Kurt gives him a funny look.
"You wanted to talk?" Kurt asks, and he knows a prompt when he hears one, and he still really has no idea where to start so he just opens his mouth.
"Yeah. Sorry. Just… I missed you. I didn't think I would."
"Oh." He cringes at the surprise in Kurt's voice, but he's not sure what he might be surprised about. "I missed you too. And I'm not just saying that." He feels a slow flare of warmth in his stomach, which increases when Kurt reaches out tentatively and laces their fingers together.
"I didn't really want to leave before, but… I just assumed that I would leave. It didn't occur to me until later, the possibility of staying. You never… you never brought it up. I thought you didn't like me."
He curls his hand and tugs Kurt a bit closer to him.
"I like you. But I didn't want to do anything before, it wouldn't have felt… right."
"Oh. I… that kiss felt pretty right to me."
He huffs and shakes his head, running his other hand through Kurt's hair, can feel Kurt's hand twisting in the fabric of his t-shirt and he lowers his head, brushes his lips over Kurt's softly. It's exploratory, gentle, but quickly moves to slightly more frantic territory. Kurt shakes his hand out of his grip and he can feel them both under his shirt, gripping and running over his bare skin. He opens his mouth and lets his tongue stroke over Kurt's top lip, using his full advantage when Kurt's mouth opens.
It's still fairly gentle but he can sense the urgency in both of them, just a reassurance that they're both here, now, together. He places a hand over the curve of an ass cheek, pulling Kurt closer and forcing his hand to his back. Fingernails scrape over his shoulder blades and he groans; tries to stall the thrust of his hips but fails. He thought that might scare him, but he has apparently forgotten already. Nothing scares Kurt, and the hips pressing sharply back against him are proof of that. He lets go a bit, sucking his bottom lip into his mouth before biting on it.
It earns him an appreciative hum-moan combination and he moves to Kurt's neck, licking and kissing and wondering if it would be completely in appropriate to get naked right now. Probably. So, clothes remain on, but he has no motivation to stop making out with him, so he continues his intense licking, and he tastes dusty. He wants him using his special soap again.
"I… um, don't really want to, stop, but… we have –"
"Yeah. People waiting for us. I know." He kisses him again slowly, just holding him in the circle of his arms, and he knows what he needs to say now. "I never got a chance before, didn't even cross my mind that I needed to ask, because people have always approached me first. But would you like to stay? All of you?"
Kurt smiles, brighter than the sun and nods.
(Complete - but M rated epilogue to follow as soon as possible.)
Preferred rating: Any
Wanted: "H/c, AU, d/s, angst, postapocalyptic, happy ending"
Unwanted: "anything Blaine related, too much fluff, suicidal themes, emotional abuse"
Prompt 1: "For whatever reason, Dave owns Kurt for a week. Literally. (Can be at some point in canon -maybe Burt bankrupted and/or was manipulated into selling his son- or complete AU)"
Prompt 2: "Inspiration from the song Radioactive by Imagine Dragons"