Like bright waves gorged with salt and locked in photographs peaks of snow wait to crash into springtime, to spice the ground with winter's brine as it contracts to liquid and slithers through mud to Indian Lake. And like the snow Kurt feels poised yet deadlocked; even his posture is curled and unmoving, hatted head in gloved hands, so that he feels isolated from the natural world—breathing as though through the hole in a ceramic oven, the static of winterwear against his ears like the warm crackle of cooking fire.
He sits, consciously or otherwise, at the same bench where he offered his strange confession to an unwitting witness some months earlier—only two? It feels like longer—and breathes between numb lips cold oxygen for his sweltering brain. All day he has been waiting for someone to ask him, "What are you thinking?" His response will be, "Everything."
For example: Kurt is thinking about the color of the wallpaper in Blaine's bedroom, and of the antiquated map of Europe he keeps by the nightstand, all sepia coastline and ships' emblems, the shoulders of Africa like canyon walls on a dusky horizon. He has not seen either in seventeen days. Seventeen, too—he is thinking about the number seventeen. Everything feels significant. Maybe it should—seventeen, he once read, is the least random number in the world. Seventeen, prime and completely unprimal. The way he felt when he was still with Blaine, seventeen days ago. Blaine's age. Sam's age, he supposes, too.
Kurt is thinking about Sam: about the lines of concern that ghost his forehead whenever their gazes grapple in the hallway, belying his carefree smile. About the clumsy grip of his hands on Kurt's shoulders, a congratulatory gesture after their sectionals win, or the smell of Sam's jacket, lent to Kurt on a chilly afternoon when the heat broke in the choir room. Normally Kurt would never have accepted the gesture, but Sam had insisted, trying unsuccessfully to hide his own shivers. About the cauldron of embarrassment and, more disquieting, disappointment that had bubbled in his stomach when Sam had stared silently out the car window after the second of his admissions those many weeks ago.
Kurt raises his eyes to the water, the ice like dusted glass, yawning where fishermen have carved holes in its pane. He imagines forest spirits stopping the holes with graceful fingers and playing Indian Lake like a flute, raising a sound like whale song.
A car door slams behind him, and his capricious thoughts coax the smells of rubber and engine oil to his nostrils, the lukewarm touch of metal charged with human heat. Steel ratchets and iron lug wrenches clatter in his ears. His head turns and nostalgia camps in his mind's backyard, smoking out with slipshod campfires memories of old car games with Mom and Dad: naming makes and models, their brand insignias sleek, fascinating, like fashion accessories.
His musings drown in surprise that comes to him as a pleasant echo, surprise aged in wine. "Sam," he says.
"Hey," Sam says.
He is wearing what Kurt hopes is his mother's coat, a maroon parka with faux-fur lining that frames his face, pink with cold, in an arc of gray. A half-smile with exhausting shades of maybe-somethings and maybe-nothings spark kaleidoscope sensations that gnash colors together in Kurt's chest.
"What are you doing here?"
Sam's hands are in his pockets, so he uses his shoulder to scratch his chin. "I guess—I need a reason? —I don't know." He hesitates. "Uh—do you mind if—" Kurt shakes his head, and Sam sits beside him.
Kurt waits for him to elaborate, and when he doesn't, he playfully pushes Sam's hood back. His hair gleams like fool's gold.
"...whaaat are you doing?" Sam asks, in that way he does, a wash of shy intrigue and hopeful wariness.
Kurt shrugs and dons a smile of his own. "I couldn't see you."
Steam leaks from Sam's mouth and laps at Kurt's temple. "A tragedy," Sam agrees, sly or sheepish. His ears are red at the tips and long like the chambers of hearts.
"Sorry. You're probably cold. I was just sitting." Kurt doesn't know what to say, but he finds himself wading forward through swamps of words anyway. He has wanted to talk all day. "Living here has forced me to adapt my fashion sense to cold weather. It's a pain, but I'll have a lead on the competitors in suave outerwear, at least." Kurt speaks a laugh. "If that's what I end up doing. I mean, it is what I'll end up doing, it's just that when will be determined by the success of my Broadway career. Or by when I get sick of it. Not that I could ever imagine getting sick of it. But even if I don't, everyone needs a hobby, right?" The awkward laugh again. "Of course you know that. You've got plenty of hobbies. Which—that's not to say they couldn't be more than hobbies, I mean—you're a great singer, I mean, and—admittedly I don't know much about comics or sci-fi or other—not nerdy things, but you know—not that I think you're a nerd, except in a good way—unless you want to be thought of as a nerd—some people think it's chic. —That sounds like I'm saying that I don't think it's chic, but that's not what I'm saying. I think Wil Wheaton is sort of cute. Before and after the weight gain, naturally. Not that he could really ever be called chic, dear god he wore a Star Fleet uniform after all, and don't get me started on those gray pajamas the costume designers called clothes, even if they did do a fair job of showing off Where No Man Has Gone Before, if you know what I mean—but he's a nerd, is the point. I know I said I didn't know about sci-fi, I wasn't lying, it's just that my mom used to watch. She always used to do her hair like Beverly Crusher. So I guess that made me Wesley, heh heh. It makes sense. I bet Wesley got thrown into dumpsters at school. Or whatever they have instead, in the future. Automated waste transportation receptacles. Heh. Though I always thought it was funny that no one was ever gay on Star Trek. The few parts I watched, anyway. That's true of sci-fi in general, isn't it? Though, no, I'm sure I've overheard Puck and Artie blubbering over 'hot alien-girl-on-girl action.' Maybe it's just gay guys, then. Maybe we'll have been wiped out by the time the future finally gets here. I'm joking. It's fine. As long as—as long as you don't mind gay guys around. Heh. I don't know, the future's probably going to be a mess, anyway. Nuclear war, global warming, overpopulation. Loads of spandex. Maybe if—"
Sam's head has drifted closer, and tipped down, so that with narrowed eyes he seems to be trying to gaze around the masks of Kurt's irises. When he interrupts his voice is a lever, an iron bar prying at the blue-green doors of a vault whose combination he cannot guess. His question makes no sense. "What are you thinking?" he asks.
Kurt hears the creak of failing hinges. "—mm?" he manages.
Sam holds his eyes a moment longer and then pulls back, watches his hands on the picnic table. He licks his lips. "I came here because—I followed you." He clears his throat. "I followed you here, because at school you seemed—weird. I was. I don't know. Kind of worried about you I guess." Kurt suspects he is trying to make it sound less... just less than it sounds. He is failing.
"Uhm—oh," he says. The still winter vista enhances the illusion that time has stopped, clock hands hanging still like icicles from a black line, an infinite space between metronome tics or heartbeats.
"So," Sam says. He looks at Kurt again.
Kurt wants to answer: "Green eyes. That they're the rarest kind. More than basic color: amber pigment exalted by scattering light."
Instead he says: "I don't understand why I feel like this."
Sam licks his lips again. "You mean—because of the break-up."
Kurt shakes his head. "No. I mean yes—because of the break-up. But I broke up with him—so why do I feel so miserable about it?"
"Because you're a good person, Kurt," Sam says.
Kurt sighs. "He used to bring me roses. The first Friday of every month. Sometimes he wouldn't even give them to me, if for some reason I was out with glee club or something else—I'd just come home and there they'd be, in a vase on my nightstand." Sam's pupils grow slowly, camera apertures, islands rising from green seas.
"Should have tried amaranths," Sam mutters. When Kurt gives him a questioning look he shakes his head.
They trade glances and silence for a while.
A wind bites their foreheads, and like the denouement of beach waves it drags loose matter back and forth, filling their bootprints, until it is though they never came—as though they have simply been here forever.
"What are you thinking?" Sam asks again.
And Kurt thinks: Everything.
With unsteady breath and a clumsy, too-slow turn of his body, Kurt's face falls forward, tastes the cold of Sam's lips, papery and chapped; and he holds himself still, his mind in white out, frostbitten and bound in a cast of high notes.
Time restarts. Sam pulls back too soon and Kurt's brain shakes off its coat of snow. Full reverse. "I—I'm so sorry, I don't know what I was—It didn't mean—" Fuck.
But Sam looks calm, if dazed. "—it's—it's ok," he says. He licks his lips. "Yeah," he says, apparently agreeing with himself. And then they are kissing again, damning things like stylish outerwear and public exposure laws.
Time restarts. Sam pulls back too soon and Kurt's brain douses its robe of flame.
"—I can't," Sam says.
A sharp note like the squeal of a tea kettle rends the melodies playing in his head, sweeps up the webs of musical staffs shining like spider silk in dark corners. Kurt takes a breath and forces his best coy smile.
"I think you can," he disagrees.
Sam lets out an exasperated sigh that seals itself with pleased vexation. "Well yeah," he admits. "But I don't want to." No doubt he sees Kurt's fast progression from shriveled to enraged and thus hurries to clarify: "No I mean I do want to. I mean—I really, really do." His eyes show enough white around the greens that Kurt almost believes him. "I've been—ever since you told me about... what you did with Blaine... you said you'd thought I'd care, and the hell of it was—I did care. The thought of it for some reason just made me..." His hands shake.
He shakes his head, takes a deep breath, and continues. "What I meant was.. I don't want to be... you know, a rebound."
"You're not," Kurt says immediately, but Sam holds a hand to his chest. Kurt's heart fights to meet it, batters his ribcage.
"Yeah—I mean, I know—or I hope, anyway, that... you know, that we could be... more than that. But if we... I mean you broke up with your boyfriend of however long two weeks ago, Kurt. I know you don't think that's why you... you kissed me. And... maybe even it isn't. But I don't know if I could... believe it, that it wasn't." He looks pained, apologetic, and Kurt has the urge to hug him. It doesn't seem appropriate. "So I'd just—I'm not saying I don't want to ever, just. Maybe... give it some time?"
Impatience volcanoes under his skin, force open cracks in his willpower that seethe with red light. But it's sweet—it's very sweet. Kurt's romantic side—which, he concedes, is his front, back, left, right, top and bottom—quivers pleasantly. He bites back a wide grin and nods. "Ok."
Crescents of joy slide and settle in Sam's eyes. "Ok."
Kurt takes Sam's hand and holds it on the bench beside him. The sun averts its gaze behind high trees but peeks through its fingers. Light falls in diamonds on the ground.