Honestly, Kurt is done with sad songs.
They're three weeks away from Nationals, and Mr. Schue has finally seen the light, so he and Rachel will be performing the unbeatable duet 'I know him so well' from Chess. Kurt can do Elaine Paige like he can do anything or anyone, and this is it—this is his dream. He'll stand in front of the audience and the judges, singing an epic sad song from a failed show, but from a cult score among fans and connoisseurs, and there's no way they aren't winning. Really.
Unless—well, unless everyone else in Glee Club keeps on making him feel utterly depressed.
Truly. He and Rachel—they meant no harm. They were just a tiny bit overexcited. After months of worrying about it, it was finally definitive. The two of them would be attending NYU together, and they would be performing a very off-the-book rendering—Kurt is a boy, after all—of one classic West-End ballad at Nationals. It had been in their best intentions that they had stood in front of the rest of the Glee Club to offer their newest, freshest cover of 'Defying Gravity'.
They were practicing for Nationals—which is what everyone else should be doing. Rehearsing. Warming up their vocal cords and adjusting the way the emotional range of their combined singing comes across in front of an audience. Of course, Kurt and Rachel had been also celebrating the brand new world waiting for them in the big city. They made their decision a year ago, and finally, their dream is coming true. They have the rightto be happy, though maybe the choice of song had been a tiny bit clumsy.
Kiss me goodbye. I'm defying gravity, and you won't bring me down.
They were too caught-up in their own emotions. It was really short-sighted of them, but they hadn't fully realized what they were doing—not until it was over, and everyone was kind of clapping, but very much not feeling it. Kurt had gone through a momentary episode of panic, thinking maybe they just sucked, but then Finn had stood up, and so had Puck and Sam with their guitars, in the way they always do, backing each other up. Even Artie had followed them, joining the second voice in the chorus while Finn's deep, sort of broken voice carried the main vocals of—of course—Cat Steven's classic ballad, 'Wild World.'
Now that I've lost everything to you, you say you wanna start something new, and it's breakin' my heart you're leavin'.
They should have seen it coming.
Just like that, after two minutes of a sad, sad song of farewell and separation, Kurt and Rachel's annoying but often accepted and even well-like self-absorption and diva-like egocentrism had been coated by a stinking odor of sheer cruelty. How dare they sing happy songs about how they are going to defy goddammned gravity, when everyone else is so, so sad about the entire club's impending break-up? How dare they sing about losing a love that, well, they guess they lost, and hey, it's okay, love comes at much too a high a cost anyway. Really, how dare they sing that to Finn's face, who's going to lose both his girlfriend and his brother?
It hits Kurt later, during dinner at home.
Graduation is just around the corner, closer each day that passes by. He's moving to New York City. He's moving to freaking New York City. All of a sudden, what only hours before had elated him with brightly colored happiness, now is threatening to choke him up. He isn't just saying goodbye to school, and Lima, and his Glee pals. He's saying goodbye to this. His perfect, newly born family. Carole, who's always such a mom. Kurt hadn't known how much he was craving her until he had her. Finn. His brother. Kurt never thought he'd ever have a brother before but, now, in spite of their long, slightly mess-up history—being Finn's brother is such a big part of who he is. Going back home and having Finn always there, playing stupid videogames and devouring Cheetos and playing drums nonstop till everyone in the house has a headache.
Kurt's dinner is ruined the moment he realizes: he will have to say goodbye to his dad. His dad. Kurt feels sick at that. He has to stop eating, and has to count to twenty to calm himself and not run to hide in the privacy of his bedroom to enjoy the perks of panicking and crying like a baby. But really, how is Kurt going to survive even a day without his dad? He can't. He won't. His dad is—his dad is the pillar holding his life together, and without him, he'll crumble. He knows he'll crumble.
He's crumbling already.
He should be so happy, really.
His dream is coming true. Singing at Nationals. And after that, New York City.
Yet, after a week of nothing but sad songs of goodbye, and a way-too-cheerful phone conversation with Blaine, Kurt feels like he's drowning. He's in such a depressed mood that he's reached a point where he only gets out of his room to go to school, and he's stopped singing in Glee altogether, and he's moving through the hallways in such a zombie-like state of numbness and indifference than on Thursday Mercedes actually asks him if he's taken up drinking again.
It's a legitimate question. Kurt hasn't been such a sad mess since the days April Rhodes used to roam the school being a sorry dropout case with an amazing voice and too much bad advice pouring out of her little, sad, very sad persona.
Isn't April Rhodes making it in New York now, too? Funny how she shares Kurt's dream. She and how many more? How many aspiring stars move the New York every year? How many of those are better than Kurt, harder than Kurt, more self-assured, sexier, more experienced—? Oh, God. He can't even bear the thought of saying goodbye to his dad. How is he going to make it in New York City? He can see it; can see himself ending up just like April Rhodes, alone and sad and singing wonderfully outstandingly to empty halls, and being a loser creep and—
—should he start drinking again?
No one is trying to come up with the perfect ensemble number—preferably set to one of Queen's best, most thoroughly symphonic themes—to accompany Kurt and Rachel's duet, so maybe they won't even win Nationals. Everyone's too sad. Even Brittany's been affected by the grim atmosphere that is hanging over the group during every Glee rehearsal. No one is even a little surprised, no one even really reacts when she suddenly stands up to speak as Puck is getting the band ready for what Kurt is sure is yet another song of goodbye sang to his on-again-off-again girlfriend Lauren.
"I know everyone is sad because you're all leaving, but families are still families even when mum and dad aren't living together anymore. They still love each other," Brittany says, her eyes moving around the room, as she keeps nodding her head. She's serious. Sweet and naïve and sad and serious, and no one is really surprised that she comes from a broken home. "Artie's going to be living in college now, but he says he'll always love me, and I will always love him, too. We'll be together again. Santana is buying a house in Malibu, right next to Barbie's. Maybe Artie and I will go live with her and Barbie when I'm older, and you all can come, too. When we're older. Now I'm staying in Lima to be my own woman."
"Yeah, sweetie," Santana says after an uncomfortable stretch of silence, frowning deeply, as if she's confused about whether she should be mad, or dismissive, or just plain sad because, after all, Brittany is staying in Lima to be her own woman, so there goes their epic lesbian romance. She chooses to just shake her head, looking away as she says, "No way in hell you can come love with us."
Dave chuckles, "Barbie?"—and Kurt, sitting inches away from him, shivers.
That particularly dangerous train of action-sensation-reaction, however, gets killed pretty quickly, as soon as Puck starts playing his ugly-ass electric guitar, winking at Lauren and he announces, "For my girl. 'Going away to college.'" He goes all punk then, loud and vibrant and bad boy in love and as good as Puck gets when he gets really, really good, singing sappy lyrics like, just don't forget to think about me, and I won't forget you; and, and if young love is just a game, then I must have missed the kick off.
It's all sorts of pathetic how Kurt feels tears coming to eyes at that.
So maybe it's cute and romantic and very sad that bad boy Puck has managed to fall endlessly in love with Miss Bad Attitude Zizzes. It's a kind of perfect match made in hell, and it works even when it doesn't, and doesn't it just suck that Lauren is going away to college and Puck isn't?
But everyone's got a story like that these days.
Even Kurt has a story like that, even if nobody knows it. And it sucks, because he wasn't supposed to.
Just two days ago Blaine called him to let him know that it's official: he's been accepted to Juilliard. Kurt told him about NYU, and isn't it justgreat, that they're both going to New York, like they planned, except well, as just very good friends and not boyfriends. But isn't it just great?
Kurt is genuinely happy for Blaine, really, because he knows how much Blaine wanted to get in Juilliard, and how hard he's worked for it. Hell, Kurt is even happy for himself, because he doesn't want to move to New York and be a complete stranger to the one million homosexuals living in the city. He'll at least know one of them, and a Juilliard boy for that, so that's something. Obviously, the fact that he can meet up with his ex at Lincoln Center will get him cool points with anyone else he might meet at school, or in a bar, or—
But it wasn't supposed to be like this. He was supposed to be with Blaine when he moved to New York. He was supposed to have a real boyfriend, and some actual life experience. So talking to Blaine about how great it is, that they're both going to be living in New York, and just thinking about him—it doesn't help his depression any more than Puck going on and on about how, I haven't been this scared in a long timedoes.
Because Kurt is scared. New York is a dream come true—the place you go to live the dream. But whatever his dreams and aspirations are, Kurt's just a small town Ohio boy. He's months off from the city life, and he can already feel that loneliness creeping in. He and Blaine, they are both made for dreaming big in the biggest city—they could have ridden together into the city sunset. Instead, Kurt's going to get there alone, after playing the role of just one half to yet another going-away-to-college break-up.
Dave hasn't done any kind of sad goodbye singing yet, and Kurt's certain he will not. Ever. In fact, Dave and Kurt don't really even talk about college much—except that time the letter had finally arrived, and Burt's meeting at the bank had worked out well enough, and it was finally official: Kurt was going to school in New York City. Dave had actually high-fived him, and Kurt had been left feeling awkward and very much uncomfortable under his own skin for the remains of the evening. But apart from that unfortunate moment, college is a topic of conversation they are very obviously avoiding. Kurt hasn't even googled the famous 'Engineers' Dave might or might not be playing for next year. It wasn't definitive; he said. That's why he hasn't told Kurt. And if it isn't definitely yet, it may be irresponsible and all kinds of stupid to start picturing Dave in a fixed geographical location that might be at the other end of the country, or crossing the street from Union Square.
There are thoughts, hopes and fears that Kurt just does better avoiding.
In fact, he's good with being practical about his situation with Dave.
After the assembly, since Dave had been out of football practice for two weeks because of his arm, and had much more time to spare, most of their evenings together—twice, three times a week—had been spent trying to get PFLAG running smoothly under Ms. Pillsbury's management, ready for whoever might need it after they're gone. There had been other things, too, but all of them perfectly platonic, uncompromising, pg-rated, and friends-without-benefits-of-any-kind appropriate. That is to say, they've basically spent the better part of the two weeks since winning Regionals just staring at each other during rehearsals, or across the hallways, or across Kurt's living room, while Dave tried to help Finn with his Algebra and Chem finals. Not saying or doing anything actually relevant to the current state of affairs; just occasionally touching like it's no big deal, bumping into each other like fools, and meeting in the hallways on their way to lunch in some kind of accidental way that isn't accidental at all, and is only making Kurt feel pathetic, stupid, and a lot more childish than he should be feeling only weeks before graduating high school.
So when later that evening after Cheerios practice, he finds Dave waiting cross-armed by Kurt's car, Kurt comes to a sudden decision. Or maybe not that sudden at all.
"David," he says, as means of 'hello'.
"What's gotten in you?" Dave asks, frowning, straight to the point. "You've been moping all week."
So that's why Dave's been waiting for him. Kurt sighs. It's true. He's been moping all week, but he doesn't want to talk about that. He doesn't want to go crying to Dave like a baby about how he's scared out of his mind, because now that the time has finally come to be a grown-up he only wants to crawl into his dad's chest, hug him, and never let go. Because he is such a child, and he's so scared of being alone, and that the big city will crush his dreams, and he will hate Rachel two days in, and he will hate school, and maybe he won't have what it takes—
No way he's saying any of that to Dave.
Instead, he decides to use this chance—this late, sad, sad Friday evening—to try and stop behaving like a child. Be brave. Stop testing the waters and just jump in with both feet. He had sung about it: just close my eyes, and leap. Maybe this is how Kurt stops being afraid, and starts defying gravity. Either something happens or it doesn't, but really, Kurt can't take the suspense anymore. It's only making him feel worse, like too many things are slipping through his fingers all at once, and he can't tell which things he can let go of, and which he needs to cling to. So this thing with Dave, if it's nothing, then they have to put it to sleep and let it rest in peace. But if it's something—if they're going to make something out of it—then they're running out of time, and fast.
"We need to talk," he says, taking out his keys to open the car and nodding at Dave to get inside. He's made a decision. "Is your dad at home?"
Getting in the car with eyes narrowed but swift movements, Dave simply shakes his head, fastening his seatbelt as Kurt starts the engine.
He's never been here before, not exactly—but he's seen the scene play out so many times on TV that he knows what to expect. Or, at least, he knows what to expect if things get out of hand and he is forced to surrender all means of controlling the situation.
He's driving towards Dave's house. He's only been there once—before their first trip to the Peachpit, almost a year ago—and he isn't sure he remembers how to get there, so he just lets Dave indicate him the way, and doesn't think much beyond Dave's next instruction. But he's going to Dave's house, and before he started driving he made sure that they would be alone, and Kurt knows how these things usually end. He's okay with it. They just need to talk. Whatever happens or doesn't happen after they talk will only be the result of whatever their agreement is—either they move forward, or they move back. First they talk, then they make a decision, then they follow through.
It's going to be okay—and the weird, thick, suffocating tension between them will finally dissolve.
One way or another.
Yet, as soon as they settle in Dave's kitchen, Kurt's calm resolve quivers. Dave's favorite album—Muse's Absolution—is playing in the stereo, the loud angry music is seeping in from the living room through the cracked door. A lovely set of songs about the end of the world, and isn't that just appropriate? Even the name, absolution, is ridiculously ideal for the occasion.
"Want something to drink? I've got Dr. Pepper, iced tea, beer… water if you want."
"Iced tea. Thank you." It's been months of dancing around the issue, so hell if a little bit of a stimulant won't be helpful, now they're getting ready to have it all out.
Still, this will work out better if they find a way to stop being so polite to each other.
It's not easy. The setting isn't ideal for a big dramatic scene, and it's excruciatingly awkward, just sitting at Dave's kitchen table, seeping iced tea from his glass while Dave drinks glass after glass of Dr. Pepper, as if he actually needs that much sugar to be able to handle the absolutely insane situation they find themselves it.
For a while, neither of them says anything.
Kurt takes the opportunity to try and think things through before he starts speaking, explaining his proposition about how to proceed now. It strikes him as funny in the most morbid way, how Dave's house feels a safer haven than Kurt's had, when he had thought of where to go to have this conversation. They're alone, and it's important that they're alone, but if the walls were to magically hear their conversation and tell someone about it, somehow Dave's dad seems like the lesser of two very bad evils—which, being completely honest, should be enough reason for Kurt to stand up and leave without as much as a word of goodbye. He knows his dad—his wonderful, wonderful dad, who Kurt is going to have to leave soon—wouldn't approve. Shouldn't that be enough reason to just not do this?
"Cards on the table, right?"
Dave speaks, and Kurt stops thinking of his dad altogether. Dave shouldn't have been the first one to talk. Things are very much not going according to plan already.
Still, Kurt nods, and doesn't say anything. All of a sudden a rebellious thought assaults him. Maybe, he thinks—maybe he really doesn't want any of the cards on the table, and this is a truly bad idea. But after ten minutes of a tense, loaded silence, Dave's drunk enough on Dr. Pepper to be riding an epic sugar high. He looks ready and uncharacteristically determined, and Kurt knows it's too late now. He thinks back to 'Defying Gravity'. Too late for second guessing alright. He can't get out of the mess they're in now, he knows; not after 'Speechless', and asking Dave if his dad was at home and the whole package of implications of that. If he runs now he'll be the biggest dick on the planet, and what then? What happens tomorrow when things remain as beautifully unresolved as they do right now?
He should say something at least; take the reins back in his hands and get back in charge. But he doesn't. He simply nods and opens his eyes and ears as Dave clears his throat, has another swig at his drink, and starts speaking.
"Graduation's less than a month away. Then we're both leaving."
"Where are you going?"
Honestly, Kurt hadn't wanted to know. He hadn't wanted to ask. He'd figured Dave hadn't told him for a reason. It wasn't definitive—that's what he told Santana. So what's the point of worrying about—?
"Don't know yet," Dave says, suddenly looking away. "Right now it depends on my mom's money and I don't want to talk about that. Anyway—" He seems to be struggling with every word, and Kurt genuinely wishes he could think fast of a way to help him out of this mess. He said that they should talk, why is he letting Dave handle it all by himself? Closing his eyes, Dave sighs loudly, almost groaning before he speaks up again. "We have two options here. We can let this thing just be. Forget about it. Keep being two gay buddies—"
"—and get to college being two blushing virgins."
In just half a second, in between Kurt speaks and Dave actually processes his words, Kurt contemplates what would happen if he crawled beneath the kitchen table.
He truly does.
What the actual fuck?
He hadn't meant to say that. He hadn't even meant to think that. But it's one legitimate thought, and one legitimate reason, and even though he can pretend he's experienced enough to be meeting up with his ex at Lincoln Center, the truth is that he is a blushing virgin—and being away in a big, dangerous city, away from his family and friends—it scares him for more reasons that just the obvious ones.
Still, he hadn't meant—he hadn't thought—
Kurt honestly doesn't know where those words have come from. Or, well, if he knows, he'd rather just not tell, because there is no mistaking the raw pain in Dave's eyes as he stares down at Kurt, cheeks red, all his confidence trashed in a second, and his voice shaking like a leaf, even if he means to sound angry.
"What the fuck, man? That's not what—"
"It makes sense, though."
Kurt had been meaning to say, I know. He had meant to retreat and be pacifying and swallow his very unfair, very uncalled for accusation. But as he starts to speak, a wild, crazy idea takes possession of his brain and of his mouth, and not only can't he stop thinking about it, but he can't stop talking about it, either. It makes sense. It's only natural, in fact. They're eighteen. They're alone except for each other, in that sense.
Scared, but strangely excited, Kurt's eyes rise to meet Dave's. He's trying for a warm, honest gaze, but in fact he has no clue about how his words are going to come across once he starts to actually say, "What happens if we don't let this be, Dave? What happens if we don't forget about it? What happens if we meet up again in the locker room, after an assembly, or after football practice, when there's no one else around?"
What happens then?
"Kurt, I don't—"
"Let's face it. It's not like there's an army of gay men waiting for us outside this house." He's talking. He's finally talking, and he's not shutting up, and maybe he has gone insane, but he's saying crazy things that actually make sense inside his head, despite Dave's expression of puzzlement, and shame, and pain. Kurt can make it better, though. "We have—we have something, Dave. It could work, you know? For a while. It's what all virgin seniors do. Haven't you seen American Pie?"
What the fuck is he on?
Why is he pushing this? What has Dave slipped him in the iced tea?
He groans to himself, punches himself mentally. Still with the fucking unfair accusations. Still with putting this on Dave, when it's Kurt who can't shut up about American Fucking Pie.
Kurt hates American Pie. He hates it with a passion. What is he even saying? He's not forgotten what his father told him about sex—he's not forgotten what it means, what his dad said. It's not that he doesn't care about that, or that he's lost grip of his own sense of sarcasm and doesn't remember where its limits should be. For heavens' sake, what is wrong with him? He isn't deliberately trying to hurt Dave, or himself—he isn't that much of a basket case. He isn't trying to sabotage their friendship, whatever its boundaries might be. He definitely doesn't enjoy the way Dave's face is crumbling, the ruins of it shattering more and more after each word Kurt says—and, truly, he is especially not enjoying the way Dave's pain is slowly turning into anger, bringing about memories of the last thing Kurt should be thinking about while having this ridiculous, gone-to-bedlam conversation.
Kurt knows it's coming.
He knew it was coming before he mentioned American Pie, and yet he didn't stop, and it's much too late to stop now.
Dave stands up slowly, breathing in deeply. He moves away slightly as he clutches the edge of the table, but lets it keep on functioning as a barrier between them, somehow sheltering Kurt from what's happening next. Now. Without even blinking, Dave just grabs his empty glass from the table and, as Matthew Bellamy wails, this is the last time I'll forget you, he throws it across the kitchen. Just like that. Bang, and the loud, shrieking impact hits Kurt right in the chest. He feels the million shattered fragments of glass flying across the room as if they were inside his chest, piercing his skin from the inside.
He braces himself. He knows what's coming. He should have never said—
"Fuck you, Kurt. Fuck you." Dave's voice is low, dangerous in a way it's never been before. Not even when he said, I'll kill you. This is different. This is real. Dave's eyes are glazed, and suddenly tears are streaming down his cheeks as he looks at Kurt so desperately, so painfully, that Kurt feels that Dave might die if either of them looks away. So he holds Dave's gaze even if it hurts him. "How fucking dare you—fuck you." And just like that, all of a sudden, his firm steady voice just wrecks into a fit of broken, rusty sobbing. "I fucking love you. I fucking love you and you fucking know it. What the fuck, Kurt? How can you ask me to—to what? Fuck you so the next guy's got it easier?"
Cards on the table, they had agreed.
Dave's crude words, and his much cruder implications, are making Kurt's head spin. Or maybe it's not the crudity at all, but I fucking love you. Shouted across a room glistening with fragments of broken glass. It couldn't have happened any other way, Kurt realizes as he fights off nausea and tears and laughter. He feels like his nose is going to start bleeding any second, kind of like he felt that time, when he'd thought that Dave was going to punch him, but instead he grabbed his face and just kissed him. God. Please. Kurt wishes Dave would just kiss him now. Shut him up before he opens his mouth to—
"Don't you fucking dare play the martyr, David," Kurt hisses, and he's done trying to find out where all the venom is coming from. Maybe, if they're going to move forward, if they're going to do this, he just has to get it all out. Whatever the cost. So he narrows his eyes and points his finger. "That's my role."
It's one bitter reminder—again, of the last thing either of them should be thinking about right now. You are not the victim. It's just another card on the table, but the one card Kurt had promised himself he wouldn't play. What Dave did. This time, Kurt is fully aware that he's hurting Dave deliberately, even if he still doesn't really want to, and doesn't understand why he's doing it. Where the hate is coming from. What is he so scared of. He doesn't really understand, but—it's one clear wake-up call. They should just let this be. Whatever there is between them—it isn't going to work. Whatever there is between them—it hurts, and it burns, and it always feels like this—like all the right kinds of wrong pushed together, one on top of the other, piled up in a mountain of wrong that's going to come crashing down soon, and it's going to crush them.
Why can't he stop, then? Why can't they stop? Why not just part in amicable terms and be done with it?
"You're right," Dave whispers, after the weight of Kurt's accusation finally sinks in. "I'm an asshole, and you're a fucking saint. Fuck you. That still doesn't make me your fucking whore."
Kurt stands up immediately, his neck bending backwards as if Dave had actually slapped him. Kurt's not whoring himself out—this is not about that. Fuck it, the American Pie shit had been a fucking cruel joke. Damn it. Clutching the back of his chair, Kurt takes a deep breath, trying to get back some control. He doesn't know what he's feeling, or what he's doing, or why he hasn't left already. How the fuck did they get from iced tea and Dr. Pepper to this?
Quietly, he commands his voice to soften, and relax, and just be fucking pacifying for once. "Dave, you said it. This thing—good, bad, or the worst fucking idea in the world—graduation is one month away. That's how long we have to figure it out."
Then, Kurt thinks, as if only now he's finally realizing, it's gone. This thing between them. Gone. Forever.
So what if they let it go and they miss the chance to—?
"Didn't you hear what I just said?" Dave's voice is shaking so much that Kurt feels dizzy just by hearing him speak. "I said I fucking love you. I hate every fucking second of it, and everything it means, and I fucking hate you, too. Fuck." He closes his eyes then, and Kurt lets out a breath he hadn't known he was holding. He's biting his lip, and he hates that, and there's blood sliding into his mouth as Dave opens his eyes again, setting them on Kurt and refusing to let go as he whispers, "I might be in love to the fucking bones here, but I won't be your whore."
"No one's fucking asking you to, you stupid oaf." Really, Kurt's literally going insane. What is happening? Why is he being deliberately hurtful? Why does it bother him so much that Dave keeps using his love as some kind of fucking moral leverage, like he's the victim here because Kurt isn't the one in love to the fucking bones? How is that Kurt's fault now? "Damn it, David. What do you want from me? Do you want me to say that I love you, too? I can fucking say it if you want me to, but I'm pretty sure you don't, right? You love your penance, don't you? Fuck you, David. This one's on you, and you know it. I'm not asking you to be my whore—and it would be nice, if we could just stop using that word." He takes a pause, then, to make eye contact and breathe in, calm his racing heart and try, for the last time, to be open, and kind, and soothing. "Seriously, who do you take me for? You think being with you means nothing to me? After everything? If you think that, then fuck you, Dave."
It's as raw and honest as it's ever going to get between them, and now it's finally out.
Slowly, and sort of miraculously, the universe begins to restore its balance. Dave moves back to sit on his chair, and so does Kurt. They both make an effort to recover their composure. They stop crying. Their hands unclench and their arms cross over their chests as they look at each other, breathing in deeply, digesting each word, each implication, one at a time. When Dave finally speaks, his voice is lower, and softer than it's been since Kurt's memories can reach.
"What do you want, Kurt? Just tell me. The truth. Plain and simple. Try not to feed me any American Pie bullshit this time."
Standing up again—and so much for keeping his composure, really—Kurt moves to lean against the fridge, hoping the icy cold oozing off the surface will help him clear his thoughts. He breathes in, then out. Once. Twice. Fair enough, he concedes. Pity that Kurt's been asking himself that same question for months now, and he clearly doesn't a true, direct answer.
What do you want, Kurt?
He wants his ridiculously crazy life to behave just once. He wants things to have gone according to plan. He wants none of this. He truly, really didn't ask for any of this—Dave, and Dave's tainted love, and their stupid, terrible, terrifying bad romance. Mama Monster would be proud, really.You and me could write a bad romance, all-fucking-right.
Kurt was supposed to be with Blaine. He was supposed to move to New York City with his boyfriend of eighteen perfect months, untroubled by thoughts of sexual inexperience, or being sheltered from the real world, or how many mistakes he might have left unmade, and how much he hasn't learned from them. Instead, Kurt is caught in this messy, ugly bad romance, and—now what?
He wants to make mistakes and learn from them. He wants to stop being such a baby. He wants to fool around with a boy, and stop being afraid of everything and be ready for being a grow-up. But that's not why he wants to be with Dave. Just a few weeks. Just to see—damn it. Whether he asked for it or not, he's surely caught in a bad romance, one of those Lady Gaga writes songs about—maybe the kind of stormy love-hate story that only happens once in a lifetime—and Kurt's done with being afraid of where this thing between him and Dave might take them.
He tries out a slow, drained smile. "I don't want you crawling to my feet so I can have some sex experience before I get to college."
It's true. If things progress to that, well—that's the point of close your eyes and leap. You jump in, let yourself go, and let the current take you where it may. Whether that's awkward sex in a motel room after senior prom or a handful of stolen kisses in between now and graduation—just jump in, stop worrying so much, and try not to think too far ahead for once.
"Funny," Dave smiles, not a hint of genuine joy masking his hard expression. "'Cause that's exactly what you said you wa—"
"Will you fucking shut up for a second?" Instinctively, Kurt walks back to the table, leaning over the back of his chair to, almost deliberately, stand right in Dave's face. Yes, that's what he said—but Dave knows as well as Kurt does that that had been a lot more about pushing Dave, than about Kurt giving himself away like he's dessert. So Dave better fucking quit the whining now. "You asked me what I want, now listen. I'm standing here, in front of you. In your house. In the middle of a Friday evening after a horrible, horrible week, and yes, this is a mess and I should go home. But before I go, I'm fucking telling you that I want you. I want this. God and his fucking henchmen fucking know I shouldn't—that I should just let it be, as you so beautifully put it—but, fuck, David. I can't. Believe me, I have tried."
As if pushed up by a spring, Dave stands up in one swift movement, walking around the table with the speed of an athlete. In less than a second he's holding Kurt's face in his hands, bodies pressed together from forehead to foot. He doesn't say anything, only whimpers against Kurt's lips, whispers Kurt's name as if it hurts him.
Kurt concentrates on keeping his breathing steady, so he doesn't pass out. It's too intense, too messy, too ugly, too painful. Yet, he can do nothing to pull away, to stay quiet and not say, "We try, okay?" It's supposed to be a question, but it ends up sounding like a promise. Even if he's granting himself a way out. It's just one month. It's a temporary arrangement. They'll play it by ear. "We try, and if it becomes too much, we stop."
No hard feelings, he wants to say, to ease the tension. But hard feelings are all there is between them. The good, the bad, and the ugly—it's all so impossibly hard. Yet Kurt knows that if he tries to brush it off with a joke, Dave will get defensive again. So he goes quiet, and waits for Dave to nod against his forehead. "Okay."
Kurt nods, too. He thinks, I don't want to break your heart. And it's true, too, and much too late. He still can tell that his own face is changing as Dave's fingers caress his cheeks. His features are softening, sliding into place, returning to the face of a much, much younger boy. An innocent boy.
Dave's kiss is softer than it's ever been, too. It's different. He kisses Kurt with his mouth, and he kisses him with his hands, sliding slowly down Kurt's neck, fingers wrapping around his nape as Dave pulls him closer, hands grabbing clothes, pushing them slightly away, but with no urgency. Kurt's teeth break into Dave's closed lips, tongue rolling into his mouth as Kurt's throat breaks into a tiny, painful whimper.
It's nothing like before.
It's not desperate. It's not angry. It's as if, for once, they've managed to purge the darkness clotting, rotting between them. They've screamed, and cried, and hurt each other with recriminations and reproaches and empty accusations and now—now it seems like it's finally over. Finally behind them. What Dave did. What Kurt can't do. It doesn't matter now—not even as Kurt pulls away, and lets Dave keep on cradling his face in his hands, pressing their foreheads together as Kurt finally speaks.
"I should go home." He feels Dave nodding, and for a just a few seconds they just stand like this. Kurt doesn't dare move until Dave finally drops his hands, standing back. Kurt clears his throat. "Is it okay if I come tomorrow morning so I can drive you to your car, or do you want to go now?"
Dave shakes his head, his eyes scanning the kitchen. "I better clean this up before my dad comes home."
Kurt nods. "Okay." As they walk into the living room in their way to the front door, Matthew Bellamy reminds him, it scares the hell out of me, and the end is all I can see. It gives Kurt the strength to smile as he turns to say goodbye. "See you tomorrow," he says.
Kurt finds out about the 'Engineers' thanks to Finn.
It's just one week till Nationals, and he's spent the entire afternoon at Rachel's rehearsing, or, rather, listening to her whine about how Finn's spending way too little time with her now that their time together is running out. Kurt's spent quite a lot of time explaining to her that Finn's scholarship to Ohio State won't be much good unless he manages to pass every final, so of course he needs to study; maybe, Kurt figures, that's why the sight of Dave and Finn killing zombie soldiers from the couch instead of actually studying surprises Kurt when he gets home—and not exactly in a good way.
"You're supposed to be studying," he says, as soon as he closes the front door behind him.
"Hey," Dave greets him, eyes glued to the TV screen. "We're taking a break."
"Yeah, dude," Finn says, eyes narrowed in concentration and fingers white on the control. "We're celebrating."
By killing zombies? Despite the absurdity of such a premise, Finn's words manage to grab Kurt's interest. So, debating whether he should go and sit with them, or go upstairs and finish that paper he really needs to finish, he asks. "Celebrating what?"
Blatantly ignoring Finn's protests, Dave hits pause and turns to Kurt. He's smiling. He looks so happy—Kurt's momentarily thrown off-balance. "Turns out my dad won't have to mortgage the house to send me off to Cambridge, after all," he says.
Cambridge? The university? Kurt's breath sort of gets trapped inside his lungs. "Cambridge, England?"
Finn barks out a rather undignified laugh. "Dude. Cambridge, Massachusetts. He's going to MIT, and turns out, that's the best school for engineers and math geeks in the whole world, so yeah, I'm gonna pass all my finals, 'cause Dave's here's a freaking genius."
Kurt's breath still hasn't found its way out of his lungs, though right now he doesn't particularly care. MIT. Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Kurt's doesn't know much about engineering schools, but MIT sounds like a really big deal. He knows that Dave had applied to a lot of schools all over the country, and he knows that he didn't have any kind of geographical preference, but honestly Kurt had trouble following a word he said every time Dave had mentioned something about the different kinds of engineering programs. Yet, right now he's outrageously happy for Dave. MIT. And doesn't that sound like a classic soap-opera move? Kurt's sort of having a secret affair with his ex-bully, a jock everyone used to think was dumb as a rock but who's actually going to attend one the best universities in the country.
"Wow, Dave. That's fantastic," he says, smiling wide. "Congratulations."
He thinks that maybe, if Finn wasn't in the room, they could kiss, and then Kurt would let Dave lie him down on the couch, and—maybe they'd find a better way to celebrate than shooting off zombies' heads.
"Thanks." Dave smiles shyly at him, and for a second Kurt thinks that maybe Dave can read in his face what he's thinking, and maybe he should really go to his room now and finish that paper while Finn and Dave finish their stupid videogame.
"Well," he says, burying his flushed cheeks under a well-mannered smile. "I'll be upstairs if you need me."
Kurt would lie if he said he wasn't expecting Dave to find a way to follow him. Yet, he is genuinely surprised when the knock on his door comes only five minutes later.
"Hey," Dave says from the other side of the closed door. "Can I come in?"
Instead of answering, Kurt just stands up from the bed to open the door. "Hey," he says back like some honest-to-God fool. "Um, Finn?"
"Rachel called," Dave shrugs. "He said five minutes but, by using a very simple statistics formula, I can assure you it'll be over fifty."
Kurt laughs. It's so weird, really. Dave bragging playfully about his math skills while sneaking out to pay Kurt a visit in his room. Wicked. He might be two steps away from being an urbanite college boy, but Kurt can do nothing to help the blush creeping up his neck. "MIT, huh?"
"Yeah. Still can't fucking believe it."
Dave's still smiling widely as he gets inside Kurt's room, leaving Kurt alone to decide whether he should close the door or not. If Finn comes up to look for Dave, and the door is closed—that'll be hard to explain. But if the door is open and they get carried away—that'll be a lot harder to explain. Still, Kurt chooses to leave the door open, in case Dave's statistics rule fails, and makes a mental note to remember to close it if it turns out that Dave hasn't come up to just talk.
"You know what you're gonna major in?"
Dave shrugs, moving idly across Kurt's room without sitting anywhere. "Not sure. They got this flexible engineering degree program. Sounds like a good idea. With the new energy resources and a technological revolution every weekend, flexibility sounds practical."
Kurt nods. "Sounds great." Actually, flexible engineering sounds like nerdy sci-fi stuff to him, yet somehow a lot more grown-up than I want to be a Broadway star.
"Yeah, well—" Dave frowns, suddenly stopping to lean against Kurt's desk. "Um—I came up 'cause wanted to ask you something."
There's something in Dave's dead-serious expression, in the way his hands are fidgeting with the hem of his red McKinley t-shirt—something that gets Kurt's hair on edge, and makes his voice tremble slightly as he asks, "What?"
Dave swallows before he speaks, and for a second Kurt gets distracted by the up-and-down movement of his Adam's apple. "Since we're supposed to drive to Nationals, I thought that maybe—um, maybe we could go together. You know, just you and me. And maybe on the way back we could take a little detour, go to Columbus, to that stupid bar to, I don't know, celebrate, I guess."
Kurt frowns. Go together? Just the two of them? Take a detour and go to Columbus?
Admittedly, it had been the disappointment of a lifetime when Mr. Schue had announced that the National Show Choir competition would be taking place in Cincinnati, Ohio, this year. After their big failure in New York, everyone had been expecting some great opportunity to redeem themselves this year and, honestly, not being able to even leave the freaking state in what was their last chance to do something important with Glee Club—it had been a real bummer. Of course, Mr. Schue had tried to comfort them, assuring them that the homefield advantage might help them win over a few votes—which would be awesome if their arch-enemy wasn't the Glee Club from Carmel High School, in Akron, Ohio—the five-times consecutive winner Vocal Adrenaline.
It had only gotten lovelier after the Cheerios won Nationals. Yes, it was a little hypocritical on Kurt's part to resent that, after he had won, too, but the Cheerios were once again hoarding the school's budget to the point where it was either driving their own asses to Cincinnati, or recycling the epically tacky costumes the Glee Club wore when Mr. Schue won Nationals, like a million years ago. Obviously, no one was in the mood for another 'Night of Neglect' event, after last year's debacle, to try and get some money, and they all would rather crawl to Cincinnati than get anywhere near those disco nightmare prehistoric costumes.
Still, making as always the best of a bad situation, they had all decided to travel together, taking four cars and sharing the costs of gas and provisions for their road trip, and just having a good time together—one last adventure before saying goodbye for good. Now Dave is asking Kurt to drive with him, just the two of them, alone, which, one, would be very hard to explain, and two, well—
He blurts it out before he can stop himself. "This is our last chance to be together."
Looking much more resigned than disappointed, Dave just nods, as if he had been expecting exactly that answer. "Yeah. Yeah, of course."
Of course he had been expecting that answer. It was Nationals. The whole group should be together—one last time. Yet, as soon as Kurt says the words, he realizes. This is our last chance to be together. That's why Dave is asking him. After that, after Nationals, then there's only graduation—and it's over. School and Glee Club but also them—this crazy secret relationship made of clandestine make-out sessions and a lot less drama and a lot more fun that Kurt would have ever thought it would be. When school is over, Mercedes will still be his best friend, and Finn will still be his brother, and Rachel will be there every day—and they all will still call each other friends. But Kurt and Dave—they won't be this, this weird thing that isn't boyfriends and isn't friends and isn't anything you can put a label on—they won't be this ever again.
Dave's almost out of the room when Kurt speaks again. "Yes," he says, smiling confidently as Dave turns around to look at him. "You're right. Just you and me. Okay."
Dave smiles back at him, crossing the distance between them in just two steps to drop a hard, quick kiss on Kurt's mouth. "Cool."
It is cool—for once. Kurt doesn't even have to think too hard to come up with an explanation they can give everyone. "We'll tell Finn about the Peachpit," he tells Dave. "He'll understand, and I'm sure he'll have my back if my dad asks. We're two gay friends, so it makes sense that we want to celebrate winning Nationals—or drown our sorrows if we don't win, but we aren't thinking about that—by going to a gay bar and having a bit of gay fun. It's actually fair, so I'm sure they'll get why we're driving together. Santana might get snarky, but she'll cover for you, right?"
Dave nods but, instead of giving his okay to Kurt's wonderfully simple plan, he just smiles and leans in for a second kiss, catching Kurt in mid eye roll.
It's only a road trip, and a very small one for that matter.
It means nothing. It's not telling people about them. It's not going further than the occasional but only slightly accidental episode of dry sex. It's not lying about the way that they feel. It's not even going out on a freaking date.
It's just driving together. Getting in a Dave's pick-up truck, and sharing a confined space for two hours—talking, maybe, singing along to whatever the radio is playing.
The week flies by and they don't even notice. In between finals and getting ready for Nationals, Kurt doesn't even think about it—the road trip. Not much, anyway. He isn't even thinking too much about it when the day actually comes, and afternoon falls, and he and Dave are together, the wide empty road sprawled out forever in front of them. What is there to think about? 'Thunder road' is playing, and Kurt really can't think much further beyond that.
The screen door slams. Mary dress waves.
Dave won't sing a sad song of goodbye to him, but he will do this. Drive him to Nationals and force him to listen to Springsteen for two hours straight, turning his head to Kurt and offering a tiny smile as 'Thunder Road' starts plying, and Dave sort of starts lip-singing and their eyes get caught and, really, he tries, but Kurt can't look away.
So you're scared and you're thinking that maybe we ain't that young anymore.
"You know," Kurt says, stupidly wishing that his words don't break the spell, "Cambridge isn't really that far from New York."
It doesn't mean anything besides, if we ever meet again, don't be a stranger. This thing they have only works if it's temporary, messed-up and doomed to be over before they can even think of maybe try and start fixing everything that's broken between them. Kurt knows, and Dave knows, and maybe that's why the spell doesn't break.
"I know," Dave says, fingers drumming on the steering wheel, eyes jumping from the road ahead and back to Kurt again and again. "When my gay college friends insist on going down to Manhattan to catch a show, I'll tell them I had a fling with a very promising Broadway rising star."
A fling? Kurt actually laughs. Yeah, try and explain the longer version of that story. "There'll be so impressed," he says.
"Totally," Dave chuckles. "If they behave, I might even introduce you to them."
Hey, what else can we do now, except roll down the window and let the wind blow back your hair?
That'd be nice, Kurt thinks. He's sure that the theater geeks at NYU will also be impressed that Kurt had a dirty little secret thing with an MIT guyand a formal relationship with a Juilliard boy.
These two lanes will take us anywhere. We got one last chance to make it real.
Dave's back to mouthing the lyrics and humming just like that, and this time his hand's tapping his denim-clad thigh. It's easy to get lost in the song, Oh, oh. Come take my hand. Kurt knows that, according to the very strict code of every rom-com ever written, he should reach out and still the drumming of Dave's hand on his leg, wrapping his fingers around it.
If you're ready to take that long walk from your front porch to my front seat, the door's open but the ride, it ain't free
But life isn't a rom-com, so Kurt claps his hands together and squeezes them between his legs as, slowly, he lets his eyes finally fall off Dave, and slide to rest somewhere across the windshield. It's getting dark. The brightest stars are beginning to shine, jutted across the dim purple sky.
The road, except for the four cars behind them, filled with the rest of the Glee Club, is lonely, nearly finished, and Bruce Springsteen keeps on singing.
Mary, climb in. It's a town full of losers, and I'm pulling out of here to win.