Title: How Things Work
Pairing,Character(s): Kurt, Finn, Sam, Puck, Burt, Carole, and all the rest of the ensemble.
Rating: G for this chapter.
Spoilers: Season 1
Disclaimer: DEFINITELY not mine.
Summary: Junior year brings with it a whole new set of challenges, including a new student who refuses to follow the rules of WMHS. Kurt's just trying to find his way in a world of changing reputations, a sort-of brother, and the magic of sex.
Notes: So, rumors say Kurt's getting a boyfriend named Sam next season. I don't know about you, but I'm cringing at the thought of even more characters being added when screentime is already stretched so thin among the current cast. Sam's gonna have to be pretty awesome to get away with dating Kurt. Either that, or he's a better manipulator than our favorite divas...
How Things Work
"I was planning on going shopping with Mercedes tomorrow," Kurt said as he buttered a slice of bread and offered it to his father. "But she's not sure if she needs to go on a 'family bonding experience' and take a rain check. Would you like some, Carole?"
"Oh yes, please," Carole said, holding out her plate to accept the slice of bread Kurt was offering. It was homemade and only an hour old, but Kurt had used the bread machine and set it on the timer when he woke up this morning, so it didn't really count. Still, it was warm and went perfectly with the chicken dinner she had helped him make.
"I was thinking, if she does, I'll come down to the garage. It's been a while..." Kurt glanced over at his dad with a little smile before nodding toward Finn and raising both the butter knife and an eyebrow in question. One for you?
"Do you actually work at the garage?" Finn asked, accepting the bread from Kurt and somehow managing to inhale half of it in one bite.
"Of course I do," Kurt said, bristling only a little defensively. It had taken some time and a lot of talking to get Finn readmitted to the house, but Burt had been impressed by Finn's Gaga rescue, and the four Hudson-Hummels were trying their best to smooth things out. Still, things had changed. Kurt hated how things had changed. There was now an uncomfortable scrutiny of everything Finn said to him, or how Kurt responded. He had to be extra-careful to give Finn his space (not that he had ever perved on Finn when they shared the room—he was gay, but that didn't mean he'd steal glances at Finn when he was changing! Unless it was just his shirt or something...) and Finn seemed to be watching his words. Most of the time. "I do know a thing or two about cars..."
"But... but it's you," Finn said, his forehead wrinkling as he waved his bread in a gesture at Kurt. "You're all girly and stuff..."
Kurt could feel his father tense beside him, and he kicked Burt's foot under the table. He could fight his own battles, thank you very much. "Just because I'm gay doesn't mean I don't know the difference between an impact and a tappet wrench."
"A what? No, I mean, no no, that's not what I meant!" Finn seemed to be realizing he had made a mistake and was trying to backpedal. "I mean, it's you. You're all fussy about your clothes and being clean and stuff like that. Not because you're gay. But working with cars is dirty, right?"
Kurt had to smile a little, relaxing, and he gave his father's foot another kick. "Yes, I am rather fastidious about my appearance. But I do own coveralls, Finn, and work gloves. I would sooner die than get grease all over my Marc Jacobs..."
"Finn, you've always wanted to learn about cars," Carole said, stepping smoothly between the boys before Burt had a chance to speak up. "Why don't you go to the garage with Kurt tomorrow? He can show you a few things..." Kurt could just hear what remained unsaid: and it would be a great bonding experience. Carole tried so hard to push Finn and Kurt together. After Finn's faggy outburst, she was always paying close attention to what Kurt and Finn did together, trying so hard to get them to get along. A few months ago, Kurt would have been over the moon at getting Finn's mother involved in trying to push them together, but now... now Kurt honestly didn't know what to think of Finn. He was still gorgeous, of course, and still sweet, but he wasn't perfect anymore, and Kurt could actually breathe in his presence without getting all dippy and Rachel-y. Summer vacation had made things definitely odd in the Hudson-Hummel house, but Kurt and Finn were falling into a routine of sharing their room without usually being in the room together, except at night. And the addition was coming along quite nicely. Finn's room would be smaller than Kurt's, but it had more windows and would be close to the kitchen, a fair trade, in Finn's opinion.
Burt had remained silent through this exchange, and Kurt looked up to see his father studying him, waiting for something. He gave a little smile and a nod, turning his eyes from his dad to Finn. "That would be a great idea. It would be such a travesty for you to be part of the Hummel family and not know your way around your own engine."
"Sounds great," Finn said with a nod and a relieved smile.
"Are you really sure you're okay with this?" Finn was asking the next day, though, adjusting the cuffs of his ill-fitting coveralls anxiously.
"Stop squirming," Kurt retorted around a mouthful of pins as he knelt at Finn's feet. "Or I'll stab you with the needle." They hadn't had any spares that were tall enough for Finn without being far too big in the middle, so Kurt had suggested Finn go with a smaller pair and he'd let down the hems. It's a quick fix, won't take more than five minutes. The sleeves were a bit too short, but it was better than Finn's idea of just wearing grungy clothes. How would that look, to the customers! "We'll have to get you your own coveralls, ones sized to you, before you plan on coming back, but this will do for today." He patted Finn's shin before rising back to his feet, plucking the pins from his mouth. "Hmm..." He set his head to the side, studying the taller boy, and Finn shifted awkwardly. "I suppose it'll have to do," he said after a moment. "But if those sleeves bother you, let me know. I'll bring the needle, just in case."
"Thanks," Finn said. "Really, though, if you wanted to spend time with your dad..."
"He'll be working," Kurt said, waving his hand. "It's not like we get all mushy at the garage. He does his job, I do mine, and we swap horror stories over dinner. This one time, I swear to god, there was a six foot python in the engine of a car we towed in. I will admit to screaming like a girl when I saw that thing move." He grinned. "Dad flipped out when he heard me. Thought I had cut my hand off or something."
"Can that happen?" Finn's eyes were wide. "Get your hand cut off..."
Kurt laughed, shaking his head and heading toward the door, tucking the needle and thread into a pocket of his own coveralls (identical to Finn's, except his fit him perfectly and had his name in the patch over his chest. Finn didn't have a patch). "Nah. Not for the stuff I'll show you today, at least. Just behave yourself, and you'll be fine."
"Junior!" When Kurt hopped out of Finn's truck at the garage, he was greeted enthusiastically by one of the other mechanics. He grinned and waved back.
"Hey there, Jason! You gonna let me use your torch today?"
"Hell no!" Jason laughed back, giving Finn a nod before turning back to his work.
Finn looked over questioningly at Kurt and Kurt shrugged. "They never let me weld. Just because of one little accident..."
"He nearly burnt down the shop." Burt had come up behind the pair, clapping his hands on their shoulders. "Kurt, Mrs. Johannesburg brought her car in. Should be simple enough."
"Again?" Kurt rolled his eyes but gave a nod. "C'mon, Finn. Mrs. Johannesburg is like the hypochondriac of the automotive world." He tugged surprisingly well-fitted work gloves out of his pocket and headed toward a white station wagon.
"Thinks things are wrong when everything's fine," Kurt explained. "There usually is something wrong, but I'm putting my money on a burnt-out bulb. Still, I'll show you how to run a complete diagnostic. It makes her feel better."
It was so odd, being better than Finn at something completely masculine. At least he wasn't entirely hopeless. "Now turn that… no, the other way. Lefty-loosey."
"But I am turning it left…"
"No, you're turning it right. Here, see? Left this way…" Kurt circled his finger clockwise around the nut. Both of the boys were elbow-deep in the engine of the car, and Finn had somehow managed to get grease smeared across his nose. Kurt's exposed skin was spotless, but it had taken him years of practice to reach that level of expertise.
Finn grunted a little as he loosened the nut with a nod. "How'd you get so good at this, anyway?"
"I've been working here for years," Kurt said, tugging his sleeve up to rub an itch on his own nose with a clean part of his wrist. "Ever since… since I was seven, really."
"Seven?" Finn frowned over at Kurt. "Isn't that awfully young?"
"It's not like I was fixing cars when I was seven," Kurt said. "Dad just had me fetching and carrying and holding. Learning the names of the tools and parts and stuff."
Kurt sighed, leaning over to check the crankshaft. "It was… after Mom died. Dad… he didn't like being apart from me. Before school, he'd always give me a really tight, long hug, and sometimes he wouldn't let go. He'd call me in sick. And just as soon as school got out, he'd be right there, waiting to pick me up. The garage would function without him for the ten minutes it took him to come get me and return." He gave a nod, pulling back a little to wipe his gloves on a rag. "Then he'd sit me in the corner and make me finish my homework, but he'd always be looking over at me, you know? Making sure I was still there. And when I finished my work, he'd put me to work in the shop. I liked it. Liked being near him. He wasn't the only one afraid of losing the rest of his family."
"I… don't know if Mom did that," Finn said. "I was just a baby when Dad died…"
"She probably did," Kurt said. "It's easier with a baby. No school, and they want you to hold them all the time anyway."
"Yeah." Finn nodded slowly. "Most of my baby pictures, she's hugging me really tight."
Kurt glanced behind him, at where his dad was working on a transmission. "I… when I started middle school, I told him to knock it off. I didn't want…" He gave a wry little laugh, shaking his head. "I didn't want to be seen as gay, getting hugged by my dad, having him fuss over me…"
"Dude," Finn said. "You are gay. No offense."
"None taken," Kurt said, glancing at Finn with a little smile. "But hey. I was eleven and stupid. I still came over to the garage, but I took the bus. I… I don't know. We kinda grew apart. He was still there, he just… he kept his distance, like I told him to. And I…" He looked down at the engine, his smile fading. "I missed him."
"You still miss him," Finn said, unusually astute. Kurt's eyes flickered to him in surprise before dropping back to the car in front of them. Unusually astute, perhaps, but Finn also was usually pretty on the ball about how his friends were feeling.
"Yeah." Kurt rested his arms on the edge of the car and sighed. "High school changed things again. I wanted my dad back, but by then…" He shrugged one shoulder. "Things were awkward between us. And they were getting better, and I thought…" Kurt shook his head with another wry smile. "Well, hooking up our parents was both one of my more brilliant and definitely not one of my better ideas."
"Mom loves Burt," Finn said.
"And Dad really loves Carole," Kurt replied. "I mean, he really does. He told me. She's not Mom, she'll never be Mom, but she can bridge the gap Mom left behind."
Finn was quiet for a while, tugging the nut loose and setting it aside before speaking up. "I like having... having a dad. I like your dad. But..."
"He's always wanted a straight son," Kurt said, interrupting Finn's attempts to verbalize his thoughts. "And the captain of the football team to boot. You're a much better son than I am."
"Hey!" Finn swung the wrench up, and Kurt instinctively leaped back, though the wrench wasn't aimed at him. "Don't talk like that!"
"Keep it down," Kurt hissed, reaching out to push the wrench away, leaning back over the engine, though his eyes flicked toward the other side of the shop, where his dad was working. "You don't want him to throw you out again, do you?"
Finn sighed, the wrench sagging to rest on the engine. "You don't get it, Kurt. I'm not the better son. You just said it—he threw me out. You are his son. You're the one he sticks up for."
"And," Finn said, lifting the wrench to point it at Kurt, "you're so much more of an ideal son to my mom, you know? She loves having someone to talk clothes with and cook with her and all that shit you like. She's really happy now, and it's not just from Burt." He shook his head a little. "I never realized she wasn't..."
Kurt hesitated before reaching over to cover Finn's hand with his own gloved one. "Okay," he said. "How about we don't talk about our parents anymore? We've both got one pretty awesome one, after all."
"Yeah," Finn said, his fingers twitching around the wrench beneath Kurt's hand (that was totally gay, but would Kurt be offended if he pulled his hand away?). "And we're lucky that they want to share us."
"Right," Kurt said with a little smile, lifting his hand away. "Okay." He cleared his throat a little and nodded. "We've got to get this engine put back together today, so you need to pay attention."