You've Got Whatever's Left of Me to Get
Finn's summer hovers in front of him like the sticky sun high in the sky. May shifts into June, then July, so he decides to be busy, because busy means he doesn't have time to think.
He works in Burt's shop. Asks Artie to help him restring the cheap guitar he'd picked up from the thrift store back in junior year. Marathons Clint Eastwood movies. Black Ops tourneys with Sam. Running, aimlessly, until he tastes sour, milky acid in the back of his throat.
"Hey," Finn says, and snaps his head around at the gentle patter of Kurt walking downstairs. Kurt's summer's been busy, too, and he's wearing that look that shows he's expecting something from Finn. It's great to have Kurt in his corner, but it's a little uncomfortable how much he wants Kurt to be there, sometimes.
Kurt flops down on the couch, his palm cool on Finn's bare shoulder. "Do you get pleasure from solitary walks?" he asks, and it's a little too humid for Finn to pay attention as Kurt's words blur into a list of questions, but he guesses his stepbrother's doing some sort of career quiz.
"Um, yeah?" Finn wipes his forehead with the back of his hand, examines it and grimaces at the sticky dampness there. "Yeah. I guess."
"Apparently I'm introverted and judging," Kurt says. He waves his iPad under Finn's nose and Finn shakes his head. Librarian. Photographer. Church worker. Must be the same crappy quiz Ms. P. asked him to take; the one that told Finn he should be a forest ranger, or a chef.
All thorough high school, from before they were brothers, before they were even friends, Kurt's often held the answers. Lately, though, he just asks questions. And, since they'd walked back down the platform at the station together, Kurt matching him step-for-step and Blaine trailing behind, Finn just knew. While he's been busy thinking about how not to think, Kurt's been busy thinking.
"None of my answers recommend a performing arts career," Kurt says with a soft little sigh, and Finn wraps his arms around his stepbrother's shoulders and pulls him close with a tight squeeze.
"I don't get it, bro," Finn says, and breaks away to fold his hands behind his head. There's sweat pooling at the base of his neck, damping the back of his hair. "They never gave a reason?"
"Honestly? They didn't need to," Kurt says. "And you? I'm not asking about Pace."
Finn's warm, sticky and burning with heat, but the sensation is strange. Kurt's intense eyes scan him and make him feel like a cold drink he's draining. Kurt's always seeing through him, through every brush of their fingers, every lowering of his head, every word he doesn't say.
"I'm hardly Sherlock Holmes," Kurt says. "Two weeks ago, you said you were going on a road trip. Ostensibly with Puck, except Puck mysteriously had no knowledge of this trip. I'm assuming because he told me he was visiting his cousin in Illinois. Furthermore, until last week, you'd crunch up the yard after your evening run, and now the only noise I hear each evening is the gentle crunch of Doritos."
"Yeah," Finn says, and he cringes at his sigh, so high pitched and so damn pitiful. "Would have been awesome."
"Would have been?" Kurt's always so gentle with him, and Kurt hadn't entirely understood about the Army. He hadn't been happy, but he'd pelted Finn with so many questions, firing everything he could, attempting to at least understand his reasons.
Finn nods. He curls his arm around Kurt's shoulders again, maps the bone there - he doesn't know the name for it, does it even have a name? - with his thumb. Like Kurt had done, for him. At the end of junior year. Kurt Hummel's pretty good year, and if that was a good year for Kurt, for the pair of them? Well.
Kurt tilts his head back. "Too tall?" he says. "Oh, wait. You are colorblind?" There's a light chuckle, the one that indicates there's no poison behind Kurt's words. "Well, that explains why Carole still buys your clothes."
There's going to be sympathy in Kurt's eyes, and sympathy in Kurt's face, but sympathy's not going to help Finn.
So, he looks away and stares down his body. Down at his pudgy stomach, his gangly legs, and his stupidly large and stupidly flat feet. Wiggling his toes, he traces the patterns in the rug. Really, he's weak. Kurt had asked him if the Army was right for him, and Kurt will never know just how right it would have been, forcing him to go his own way. Be Army Strong, because his inner strength's never there when it comes to her.
It hurt. It hurt more than the rejection from Pace, because at least he'd been in charge of his destiny; nailing - or not nailing - the audition was in his own hands. It's difficult enough to explain what happened to Kurt. Finn can't throw a bunch of Army abbreviations at his stepbrother. ASVAB (which he had nailed) and MEPS and DEPS and it all ended up being a big can of word soup that Finn wasn't able to finish; he'll never reach the bottom of his bowl.
"Medical stuff," he says, words rasping through dry lips. "Allergies, and things," and he hopes Kurt won't ask questions because the recruiter's answer had been pretty final.
"Well, there's a very easy solution if you want to fix cars, you big lug!" Kurt says, or maybe tells, and his voice is casual, he's clearly been preparing this. "Certification requires two years of full-time employment, but that doesn't preclude you from taking your ASE exams this summer."
"Beats waiting tables or folding sheets and things," Finn says, but there are tears, warm, sticky, and they prickle at the corner of his eyes. "Guess I could, but I gotta get out of here, man. NYADA's welcome week's in August, but 'til then, I have no idea what she's gonna do. Turn up on the doorstep, all crazy. Saying she loves me, she wants to marry me, but hating me for holding her back."
"Finn, if she did, she'd only be holding herself back."
Finn sniffs a little. It's been over two months, but even mentioning that there was a her, that there was a fiancé, rips the Band-Aid off his heart all over again. "If I had shipped out, it would have been September anyway," he says, and the tears are too easy, embarrassingly easy, and he bites his lip and tries not to choke out his words. "I just... what am I, Kurt. Who am I?"
"We will save up. Audition for community theater. Write songs. Write plays. Dip our toes into every pool."
"The community pool?" Finn asks, and feels a little queasy. "I don't think I'm down with that."
"Goodness, no!" Kurt says, and shakes his head from side to side, his hair staying put, like he's some weird sort of statue. "Ours probably has Legionnaires'. No, Finn. The metaphorical pool. Get those pesky little extra-curriculars so next fall, I'll be bedazzling the front of my Trapper Keeper while you bring tears to James Lipton's beady little eyes."
"Not gonna try next year," Finn mutters, and he feels stupid, which isn't new, because why would Kurt want to swim in an outdoor pool when the pair of them are paler than Wite-Out? "You keep telling me I'm special, but look at me!" He waves his arms down his body, hoping Kurt might finally get how not special he is. "I mean, six months ago? I thought a monologue was that eyeglass thing the Penguin wears. I thought James Lipton was the guy who invented ice tea, and I only even watched that stupid Actors Studio show 'cause Rachel said all they did was swear."
"If I apply again, do you think I'll get in?"
Finn nods. He knows exactly what Kurt will say.
"So why couldn't you?" Kurt says, and reaches for his hands. His palms are still so cool. "You are so determined at chasing what you want. Girls, mostly." Kurt chuckles; he rubs his thumbs over Finn's knuckles, and it's so soothing, so nice to just close his eyes and feel. "You're very determined, Finn. Which leads me to believe that acting really isn't what you want."
"I guess it's not, huh."
There's silence. Finn imagines Kurt's expression. His finger is probably against his lip, and he's probably chewing his cheek a little, his gaze shifting as he thinks.
"Hm," Kurt says, and there's no way Finn will say it because Kurt's just trying to help, always trying to help, but he feels like a bug trapped under a glass, or like Kurt's giving him one of those freaky full-body airport scans. "Then one has to ask, what do you want?"
There are three words stumbling over the tip of his tongue, and it's hard to tell Kurt. Harder than saying I, and love, and you to Rachel for that first time, so Finn focuses on Kurt's low-pitched rumble, not quite knowing what it means.
Kurt isn't just smart. Kurt's special. Every single side of him is special, and Finn can't even find his own star in the sky. Literally, he thinks, and his laugh echoes deep in his throat, because laughing beats the alternative. The words the admissions lady at Pace said, so cheerfully, echo in his head.
You're certainly accomplished. We're just looking for someone who's able to offer a little more.
He's the boy-next-door type. He hit his ceiling in high school. Football players with double-digit IQs are a dime a dozen. And, he looks at Kurt, takes in the eyes he can't find a color for and the mouth he knows hides a voice that flips people's stomachs, and what the hell are either of them supposed to do, because not being the boy next door isn't enough, either.
It hurts to look at his stepbrother, sometimes. It stings his chest, and Finn's not quite sure why.
"Kurt," Finn says, standing up. His words slur from his mouth, like he's drunk on the heat. "I feel like that time Rachel made me go to the tanning salon. All crispy fried. You want a drink?"
"Ooh!" Kurt's eyes widen as he claps his hands together. "Warm milk?"
"It's ninety one degrees out."
"Cold milk?" Kurt says, placing his hands on his thighs. "Cold milk, cold comfort."
Finn rubs the base of his back and pads to the kitchen. He grabs a really ugly tray of his mom's with kittens on it and shoves it back hastily, and life just sucks because there are little reminders of Rachel everywhere. He grabs another tray. He adds cookies, a bag of pita chips, and fills two glasses, remembering that if he adds the ice before the milk, the milk won't slosh on the floor. He adds a light dust of cinnamon to Kurt's glass, because he knows Kurt loves it on warm milk, and that's the same principle, right?
He places the tray on the coffee table and doesn't even sit down before he reaches for his glass and drains it, the chill so welcome in the back of his throat, in his stomach. He holds an ice cube in his mouth, the jolt and the cold spreading to the base of his teeth as he crunches it.
Kurt sips slowly from his glass, and he looks a little awkward, and then Finn remembers: straw. He can't even do a glass of milk right.
"Rachel can't ever understand," Kurt says, and rubs the top of his lip with the side of his hand. "I love her, I love her dearly, but she just can't."
"No," Finn says, and there's something about Kurt's tone that's soft, that's certain, that's familiar, that always helps break his walls down. "I guess I'm just... not Rachel. Not you."
There's silence again. Finn stares ahead, hears the clink of Kurt's glass as he places it back down, and he feels Kurt shift closer, watches Kurt's nose wrinkle. Probably because Kurt's so composed but Finn's just a gangly ball of sweat and Dial soap. Kurt doesn't mention that, though, and places his hand against Finn's waist.
"I don't know," Finn says. Kurt's fingers tap against his stomach and they're so cold, chilly from where he's been holding his glass and it's such a relaxing gesture, but he's sure he's grossing Kurt out. Kurt, with his layers upon layers. He's always in so many layers. Pants neatly pressed, shirt perfectly starched, light sweater stopping just short of his thin wrists.
Kurt's really the only one who can see under the surface, see that there's layers to Finn, too.
"You don't know," Kurt says, and it doesn't sound like a question.
"Yeah. I mean... I don't know what I'm doing. I don't know what my... what Rachel's doing. If she's even wearing her ring. I guess... she'll be back by the end of summer. Probably. Her dads are taking her to London. I don't even know if she'll want to see me."
"Of course she will," Kurt says, and his hand's still there, surprisingly heavy against his stomach.
"Yeah, but. I don't know if I wanna see her." Finn opens his mouth and takes in a lungful of air. "You wanna know something pathetic? I went to bed that night. I closed my eyes, and I could hear that roll of the train, the noise my shoes made as I ran, in my head. So I just stared at my hand for hours. Like it held all the answers. Like it was the one part of me that still had a trace of of her on it."
There's no response. Even to Kurt's ears, the words are probably way too much, and Finn flops his face into Kurt's chest.
"No, you know what?" Finn says. "That's not pathetic. That's just... that's just stupid. I just... worry. I guess."
"No." Kurt's voice is quiet, soft, like gentle summer rain, the kind Finn loves to feel against his body as he runs. "I can still feel the brush of Blaine's hand against mine the first time we met. Sense memory. That's not stupid at all, Finn. I don't have all the answers, but I do know Rachel will do fine in New York."
"I wasn't important to her?"
"Hardly," Kurt's fingers are gentle as they trail up his arm then card through his hair, rubbing slow circles. "You're the most important person to her, but it's not Rachel I'm worried about. Rachel... Well. Rachel wasn't the one who made sure I didn't leave high school with nothing."
"Yeah," Finn says and sits up. He'll fall asleep right there if Kurt keeps doing that, probably sweat and drool on Kurt's expensive shirt or something, and while he's not sure about this college thing yet, he doesn't want to blow his savings on dry cleaning bills. "It's... it's not really Rachel I'm worried about, either."
Kurt's face is blank. He's gone from gentle rain to a cloudless sky, and Finn just can't read him, so he cups Kurt's face in his hands and pulls him closer. There's a tear streaking his cheek. Finn doesn't have the answers, maybe because there aren't any answers, so he leans close and gently sweeps his thumb against Kurt's cheek. There's that happy giggle of Kurt's he loves, so he brushes his lips against Kurt's skin, tastes salt on his tongue and pulls away slowly. He presses his nose against Kurt's skin then shifts back and offers Kurt an easy smile.
Kurt doesn't return it. He's silent, and Finn focuses on the A/C which hums softly. Kurt's steady breaths are a dull tick, like his dad's old German watch his mom gave him for his eighteenth birthday, the one he's always been scared to wear.
"That was..." Kurt starts, and it's strange, hearing him stumble over his words. "Can we be honest with each other?"
Finn's glad Kurt's closed his eyes, because he shakes his head, unable to stop everything tingling, and swarming, and just why is it so hard to look at his stepbrother sometimes?
"Finn." Kurt's voice is barely above a whisper. "Finn?" he repeats, tongue sweeping over his bottom lip as he opens his eyes. "Is this?" his voice isn't soft, but his eyes are. "I don't think this is the answer," he says, lowering his eyes, slithers of hazy, summer blue that catch the last of the evening's light as it filters through the gap in the curtains.
"It wasn't going to be an answer," Finn says, wondering why Kurt's closing his eyes again, wondering if they're trying to hide from the same thing. "There wasn't even a question. Just. Forget it."
Finn can't, though. His lips still taste of salt, of sweat. At first, he thinks it's the tears from Kurt's cheek, that thing Kurt mentioned earlier - sense memory - is messing with him, but he presses the heel of his palm against his eyes and it's damp, and he's crying. He clutches his other hand in the fabric of Kurt's sweater, soft and familiar against his palm, because he can't let go.
Maybe he doesn't have to.
Soft lips are against his, a little salty and milk-sweet, swallowing the words he's glad he didn't have to say. Everything's gentle, and light, and he raises his hands on instinct, cups a face cool against his palms. He parts Kurt's lips, traces them with his tongue, and it's so familiar. There's gelled hair crisp between his fingers. There's not long, shiny hair that falls through his hands like silk, but that doesn't seem to matter, now.
Finn only breaks away when he cups Kurt's jaw and feels stubble, and Kurt's cheeks are rosy, a shade of pinkish red that remind him of his favorite apples. He places the tips of his fingers against Kurt's now-warm skin and rubs small circles, but Kurt's biting his lip in that way he does when he just wants to think.
"You kissed me," Finn says. "This... that doesn't make sense."
"Nothing this entire year has made sense," Kurt says, then he sighs, and it's a little musical, not quite happy, and not quite sad.
"Yeah. Maybe not." Finn stares down at their linked hands. It seems to mean so much more, so he lets go. "But you know something? What does make sense? Us. We're in each other's corners. We got each other's backs and I guess... yeah. It sucks. But this year's not over yet, huh?"
There's so much quiet around him, and Finn hates that, because he's forced to think. All he can think about is Kurt, and kissing Kurt, and it's nothing like the first time he'd kissed Rachel, or Quinn. The world didn't stop. There were no fireworks. The world didn't fuzz and fade around the edges; nothing exploded behind his eyelids. There's something about it Finn doesn't have a name for, can't quite put his finger on. Maybe it shouldn't have felt so comfortable; maybe it shouldn't have felt so easy?
"I don't need to set you free," Finn says, needing to break the silence, "because I'd never hold you back. And I'm gonna get you to New York."
Finn has to be honest with himself; he has no idea. Kurt, and maybe Puck, are the only people he can admit that to, and even so, he still wants the world to swallow him. He wants the world to swallow him while the world just wants him to dream big.
"Perhaps you could work at a bakery?" Kurt says. "Lift some bags of flour? Seemed to work quite well for Peeta Mellark in winning his love int-ow!" he finishes, as Finn bats him on the arm, because Finn spent most of that Hunger Games movie looking at Jennifer Lawrence's boobs, but paid enough attention to know that Peeta guy was a total drip.
"Yeah, you'd totally go for that," Finn says and pokes him in the chest. "You'd go for that because you'd get, like, so much cake."
Kurt shows him a smile, a beautiful one. Finn rarely gets to see the tips of his little teeth, and rarely hears him laugh. In that moment, there's something about Kurt that's brighter than the sun, and Finn knows he'll never forget the sight. It'll be five minutes, maybe five hours until Kurt's not being so gentle, until they're driving each other insane, but right now, there's something about Kurt's smile that spreads even more warmth through Finn's body, heating the tips of his toes.
Right now, he thinks, Kurt's perfect.
"Why New York, though, Finn?" Kurt says, suddenly. "Ohio has many reputable schools with music programs. Baldwin-Wallace. Ohio Northern. CCM. Otterbein. And Pace is hardly renowned for its athletics."
"Yeah, it's really not," Finn says. "The Setters ended at 1 for 9 last season. That's, like, worse than the Titans during the days of Coach Tanaka, and that guy couldn't manage a single push-up." Then, taking in the look on Kurt's face, realizing their expressions are more alike than either of them would ever admit, he sighs. "Doesn't quite soften the blow, does it?"
"No," Kurt says, his fingers trailing lazy patterns along the underside of Finn's wrist. "It doesn't."
"I was... kinda looking at Ohio Northern. Their music education program looks awesome, and they have a bunch of talent awards, but I wouldn't be with her. I wouldn't be with you," he says, and knows he's being childish, clutching Kurt closer, but he's got him in his corner, and Kurt's the one constant of the year, and it would be pretty stupid to let him go.
Kurt grasps his hand and places it against his chest. "And there's where you're wrong, Finn Hudson," he says, and Finn's able to feel the steady pound of Kurt's heartbeat through the crisp fabric of his shirt. "You are here. You always will be, and you'd better get used to it."
It's such a simple word. He knows that's not what Kurt meant, but Finn thinks he'll always be here, while Kurt's there. The words that want to bounce off Finn's tongue scare him, and he should probably lock them up in his head. Kurt's face is open, all pale skin and soft pink lips, and it hurts, because Finn still just doesn't know.
What he does know is he's crossed a line with Kurt, with his brother. It's too late to back down, and really, if he leans closer, it won't change what's already happened. When he presses his lips against Kurt's jaw, softly, he trails them upwards and there's no protesting from Kurt as Finn finds his mouth again, kisses him a little more forcefully and he can enjoy it. Enjoy how cool Kurt's skin is against his palms before it heats under his touch, how Kurt's stubble rasps and scratches his lips, and thinking isn't going to help him, nor is trying not to think, so he lets himself surrender, lets himself feel.
"That..." Kurt starts, eyes sparkling in the light as he adds a little shake of his head, "that was definitely you kissing me."
"Yeah." Finn cups Kurt's jaw again then shifts his head up and scratches the back of Kurt's head. Kurt's response is familiar. He makes a pleased rumble, almost cat-like, before he bats Finn's hand away. "It definitely was. Thanks. For, uh, for being you."
Kurt's face is flushed, still. His apple blush, Finn decides he'll call it, because if it has a name, he knows he'll see it again. He can't deny the tiny shred of pride running through him, because he'd done that, his words had done that, actually made someone happy for a change.
"Well," Kurt says, as he folds his hands in his lap. "I think we've established I can't be anyone else."
"I wouldn't..." Finn lowers his voice. "I wouldn't love you if you were," he says, and Finn's heart beats faster in his chest. Until, he realizes, he's bracing himself for impact as he clutches Kurt's hands tightly in his, still so close he can see the flecks in Kurt's eyes, so close he can feel Kurt's breath mist over his face.
"You love me?" Kurt says, and Finn assumes his blush will fade, his face grow pale, but he doesn't look angry, or upset.
Not for the first time, Finn can't quite place the look, a mixture of surprised, nervous and confused coloring Kurt's face and Finn just knows. He knows this won't be the only question Kurt will ask. There will be whens, and whys, and hows. There will be Blaine, tiny Blaine who sings better, and dances better, and looks better, and boxes, who he actually really likes, but there's only one answer he can give.
"Yeah, Kurt," he says quietly. "I do."
1. My feels for my OTP have been on the back-burner a little. Then the finale happened, with the pinky swearing and the shoulder touching and the unhappy ending, and oh boys.
2. There's something so nostalgic and almost melancholic about these two. I love exploring the idea of them becoming not-quite-brothers and not-quite-more but existing comfortably between the two.
3. Feedback, or indeed any discussion about this ship, is cherished and loved.