One of the many, many things Kurt Hummel excelled at was choosing perfect presents. Scouring eBay and scoping out thrift stores and garage sales for unique yet affordable finds wrapped him up in a blanket of accomplishment far greater than any gift he could receive. Kurt even had an iTunes mix for the occasion, although, unfortunately, this particular occasion left him flummoxed.
"Eighteen at last then, eh?" Kurt said, browsing through the latest Cake Wrecks entry on his laptop.
Finn nodded, blowing on his hot milk. "Dude, I know. I can get married."
Kurt spluttered. "What?"
"No! I'm not gonna get married!" Finn shook his head. "I just… could, if I wanted to. Kinda cool, don't you think?"
Kurt's problem was that, in spite of a tendency to mix blue and green plaid and use barbecue sauce as a sandwich filling, Finn was annoyingly proficient at gift buying. This, in itself, was not too problematic. However, Finn was turning eighteen several weeks before Kurt, which meant Kurt would have to set the precedent. And, as that awful Fairground Attraction song stated, Kurt's gift had got to be perfect.
Last Christmas, he had received a signed copy of the sheet music from Rent, and an aquamarine keffiyeh scarf which matched his eyes perfectly. Burt was delighted with his fishing license and baseball card, and Carole's eyes had sparkled with happiness after opening her gaudy orange tea set. Kurt suspected 'lack of taste' was filed in the Hudson DNA between 'insanely large hands' and 'liable to wear double denim' but grudgingly had to hand it to his brother.
"So," Kurt said, casually, attempting a subtle approach. "What do you think you'll get for your birthday then, Finn?"
Finn shrugged. "Dunno. Stuff? Socks, I guess. And Mom usually makes me this awesome red velvet cake."
"You must want more than that, though. Surely?"
Finn scrunched his eyes up. "Hm. Well, Reds tickets would be pretty cool, but your Dad can't keep a secret to save his life, so I'm fairly sure that's what I'm gonna get from him."
"Sport, socks and cake." Kurt paused. "Come on. You're only eighteen once. What are you really hoping for?"
"Well," said Finn. "There is this one thing I want, but… it's not exactly something you can buy."
"Oh? A surprise party?" Kurt prompted him.
"No. I… well, yes, that would be really cool, but… forget it. I'm just being stupid, Kurt." Finn looked a little… hurt perhaps? Or constipated; it was difficult to tell at times.
"Wonders never cease," Kurt said, but patted his brother on the arm affectionately.
Kurt had, of course, already planned Finn's special day in exacting detail, including persuading Carole to share the photograph of five year-old Finn wearing nothing but a catcher's mitt with the announcements section of the Lima News. Still, he returned to his laptop, nitpicking the spelling on cheap cakes, because he had no idea what to get the brother who didn't have everything, but who didn't seem to want anything, either.
Short of getting Finn horribly, terribly drunk (and the last time Kurt had done that, he'd ended up with two hundred plus pounds of weepy Finn sniveling on his silk Marc by Marc Jacobs shirt and crying about feelings and confusion) Kurt had to resort to the next best thing: asking Rachel.
True to form, Kurt knew Rachel would also be searching for the most perfect of presents because Operation Finn Gift was written in the neat schedule she pinned inside her locker, cursive script flanked with lurid pink glitter stars which smelled like cotton candy.
At precisely ten minutes past eight on Monday morning, between 'perfect my smile for Tony acceptance speech' and 'practice natural yet sophisticated hallway saunter', Kurt grabbed Rachel's slender arm and dragged her into the girl's bathroom.
Rachel brushed imaginary dust from her kilt. "I suspect you want me to divulge my plans for Finn's birthday." She looked at her reflection in the mirror, smile bright and confident. "Well, I've taken the liberty of preparing a moonlit picnic, and purchased a star from the International Star Registry. Whenever Finn looks up at the sky, he will see his place in the cosmos."
Kurt rolled his eyes. "You do realize that's a scam, and that your star is legally named SAO-13268 or something equally mundane?"
Rachel coughed. "Yes, Kurt. I am perfectly aware. My research was both thorough and meticulous. However, I came to the conclusion that Finn is," she paused, searching for tact, "able to suspend a certain amount of disbelief and believe it truly is his very own celestial body."
Kurt smirked. "As much as I feel like I should defend my brother, he can be more than a little gullible. However, do you not think a serenade under the stars is a little, well, inappropriate considering the two of you are 'just friends'?"
Rachel looked away from her bright smile in the mirror and examined her nails, almost as though she was hiding something under them. "Well. Finn does love the outdoors."
"That's very helpful, and not at all evasive." Kurt paused. "Although I suppose it's a better idea than when you took him to Barbrapalooza last year."
"Go for an experience, Kurt. Perhaps something the pair of you could experience together?" She raised an eyebrow.
"Okay, you're really beginning to perturb me, Rachel. I'm going to back away slowly, now."
"Bye, Kurt!" Rachel said, cheerily, and continued to practice her Lea Salonga smile.
What the hell was that about? Kurt shut the door behind him with a satisfying slam.
On Tuesday, he cornered Finn's oldest, but not always closest, friend.
"Puck! Might I borrow you for a moment?"
"I'm getting him a bottle of Jack," Puck replied. "What? Your panties have been in a bunch all week, and it was either this or boy problems. And you might be my man Kurt, but you would never, ever go to me with your boy problems."
Kurt gulped audibly. "True. And I suspect said bottle of Jack will be more for your benefit rather than his, considering Finn is less able to hold his alcohol than Tara Reid."
"Damn right," said Puck, and raised his fist in the air. "He'll keep offering it to me and Lauren, and we can get wasted on his dime. It's the perfect crime, man."
"Sometimes I like the way you think." Kurt said, and turned his head over his shoulder to flash Puck a smile. "And that truly, truly scares me."
"Oh, wait. There is this one thing he really wants," Puck paused, and winked. "Can't tell you, though. Bro code."
Kurt scratched his head as Puck waltzed off to the Nurse's Office. His friends were behaving weirdly. Well. More so than usual.
Wednesday was Glee rehearsal. Kurt contemplated the merits of asking Tina, even though she and Finn had perhaps shared two words of conversation in the past three years. He would be surprised if Finn had remembered Tina's last name, truth be told. Aside from Glee, the two just had absolutely nothing in common.
Tina wasn't in the choir room, although Kurt had a pretty good idea where she might be, as Mike wasn't in the choir room, either. He extracted his cell from his pocket.
Help! Finn. Birthday this Saturday. What did you get Mike?
Not sure my birthday 'present' for Mike would be appropriate, Kurt. ;)
What do you mean?
'Present', Kurt. Think about it.
TMI, TCC. TMI.
That evening, Kurt brought Finn a tray of snacks and attempted to ask him again. Finn had been acting really strangely all week. He'd alternated between avoiding Kurt, and saying really strange things to him. Perhaps he was coming down with the 'flu?
However, Kurt was one who would resort to underhand tactics if required, and knew Finn wouldn't turn down a plate of chocolate chip pancakes for love nor money.
"Don't need a present," said Finn, through a mouthful of pancake, syrup dribbling down his chin.
"Not even that one thing that you really, really wanted?"
"It's… it's not something you can buy, Kurt." Finn's cheeks were the color of red vines. Poor Finn. He really was coming down with something.
"Can you just put me out of my misery, Finn?"
Finn ran his hands through his hair, nervously. "Can I, uh, talk to you about something important, dude?"
Kurt wasn't in the mood for that at the best of times, let alone now. "Can it wait? French homework," he lied.
"Um, okay. I guess so. Thanks for the pancakes, Kurt."
"We'll talk about this tomorrow, I promise. Do you need some Advil or anything? Juice? Your Buckeyes comforter?"
"What? No! No. I'm fine. See you later, bro."
Kurt left Finn's room, shut the door and exhaled deeply. He was quickly running out of friends to ask, with the exception of Blaine. He also knew full well what Blaine's answer would be, and wasn't about to have his ex-boyfriend gather the Warblers to serenade his ex-crush. It would be mortifying, most of all for him, and besides, he didn't think the Warblers were particularly au fait with the eighties soft rock oeuvre Finn loved so much.
It was times like this he really missed Sam, because Sam would have known exactly what to get Finn.
Damn his brother. If this continued any longer, the only thing Finn would be receiving from him would be a jock strap sprayed with industrial strength biofreeze.
Thursday loomed, rainy and miserable, and it matched Kurt's mood perfectly. He wasn't sure which particularly desperate, masochistic part of him decided to ask Brittany and Santana, but he was more desperate than a penguin in the Sahara, so ask he did.
Santana was wearing a tight red shift dress, looking every inch the devil with barely a hint of disguise. "Come on, Kurt," she said, snorting derisively. "This is Finn dumb but dim we're talking about. I'd be surprised if he knows how to change a light bulb, let along remember when his own birthday is."
"And that's where you're wrong," Kurt replied. "Finn shares his birthday with John Wayne and Hank Williams. His memory is a dark and dangerous place; he can't recall the photosynthesis equation, but when it comes to songs or movies featuring horses…"
Brittany interrupted Kurt, a wistful look clouding her features. "Stevie Nicks, too. I wish I shared my birthday with Stevie Nicks," she shook her head, and Kurt couldn't help but smile as Satanta patted her arm. "I dunno what I'd get him. It has to be something that would make him happier."
"Liposuction?" said Santana. Kurt shook his head, hoping for once Santana wouldn't push it.
"No, like, Dots," Brittany said. "Dots are awesome. You could borrow my fondue and make, like, a giant dot!"
Santana sighed. "Britt, remember the rainbow microwave incident of 2008?"
"But rainbows are awesome!" Brittany placed her hands together, spreading them apart in a crude parody of an arch. "Finn thinks Kurt is awesome, too."
"Of course he does, Britt," said Santana, tersely. "They're brothers."
"Like we're sisters. Right?" She clapped her hands together, giggling.
Kurt scratched his head. "Uh, okay. Thank you for the… input, ladies."
The two Cheerios may have been conniving and dense in equal measures, but they could also be incredibly perceptive. Kurt pondered Brittany's comments briefly before realizing this was the woman who had entered the choir room in tears two weeks ago mistaking her male cat's hair-balling for morning sickness.
Friday arrived far, far too soon. Kurt sighed, flopping down on his bed, head in his hands. Unless Foreigner decided to announce an impromptu tour of the Midwest in the next, he checked his watch, three hours and nineteen minutes, he was utterly screwed.
Trust Finn to have been born at one minute past midnight. He probably all but punched his way out of Carole's womb to get his first taste of milk.
Finn's voice interrupted his reverie. "Hey, Kurt? Can I come in? I, I really need to show you something."
Kurt opened his door, and rolled his eyes. "If this is about that picture of a radish that looks like a butt again, Finn…"
"No. It's not that." He sat on Kurt's bed, patting his thigh. "C'mere, Kurt," he said with a nervous, but gentle smile.
"What on Earth has been going on with you this week, Finn? At first I thought it was the 'flu, but now I'm leaning heavily towards alien abduction."
"Neither," Finn said, softly. He took Kurt's hand in his, lightly brushing the surface of his palm. He was inches away from Kurt's face, so close that Kurt could count the freckles dotting his nose and cheeks, and smell the peppermint frosting on his breath. Kurt saw Finn's dimple rise as he smiled, and saw his long, pale tongue flick nervously against his bottom lip.
Kurt's first thought was that he never realized Finn's eyelashes were so long. His next thought was that Finn was kissing him. Dear, sweet lord. Finn Hudson was kissing him. It was clumsy, like inhaling a six foot tall, sentient junior mint. Finn's large hands were rough in his hair, there was a little bit too much tongue for Kurt's liking, and yet he couldn't deny the sparks that flashed behind his eyes. Finn was pure, clammy, sweet-smelling boy, and God, was it glorious.
Kurt broke away, panting and stood up, feeling more than a little dizzy. Out of all the things he wanted to say, his brain could only form one word.
"I just really wanted to kiss you," Finn replied, blushing fiercely, unable to meet Kurt's eyes . "I, uh, I have for quite a while, now."
"Did you not think the best way to tell me you liked me was to, well, tell me?"
"Well, yeah," Finn at least looked sheepish, to his credit, "I've been trying to tell you all week!"
Kurt scratched his head. "You… you have?"
"Totally. I thought you'd get the hints. I mean, I told Puck and Brittany how much I liked you, and I didn't tell Rachel but I think she kind of suspected anyway because she said something about her two Dads and something about this pan having sex, I think?" He paused, taking a deep breath. "I had a lot on my mind, so I guess I wasn't really paying attention …"
"Finn Hudson, you are the biggest, stupidest, densest, most frustrating boy out there." Kurt shook his head, and stared down into Finn's eyes, rich and open, and he had this nagging feeling they were both going to regret this, but couldn't quite bring himself to ponder the ramifications yet. He took a deep, deep breath. "Care to kiss me again?"
"Sure, Kurt. But don't think this means you don't have to get me a present. This is awesome and everything, but you'd still better bring it tomorrow."
Kurt groaned. In all honesty, he just wanted to drag Finn on top of him and kiss him until their mouths were numb, until the sun rose up through the clouds like in every clichéd romance movie he'd ever seen, but he just couldn't. He had a present to buy. Kurt never backed down from a challenge, and Kurt never, ever admitted defeat.
Though, Finn was breathing hard against him, squirming in the seat of his pants, and Kurt found himself dragged into his stepbrother's lap, surer lips velvet smooth against his, warm fingers rubbing circles around the twin dimples in his back, and... oh God, was that grinding?
Stupid birthdays, Kurt thought to himself, so hard and wanting he couldn't feel the circulation in his toes. Stupid Finn, he thought, yet, he couldn't have erased the smile from his face if he'd tried.