Disclaimer: I own nothing you recognize.
A/N: Title stolen from For Good from Wicked. Belated fills for Hummelberry Week on tumblr. Today's theme: angst.
It's the end of July and Ohio is hot.
Kurt picks Rachel up early in the morning, his SUV loaded up with towels and a cooler. When she stumbles out into the sunrise, he offers up a thermos of coffee. Despite drinking half of it, Rachel falls asleep against the window twenty minutes into the drive. That doesn't seem to bother Kurt, who just turns down the radio and keeps his eyes on the road in front of them. The nearest beach is almost an hour away and, by the time they get there, sweat is pooling at the small of his back despite the air conditioner. Pulling into the nearest parking space, he shakes Rachel awake.
"You still want to do this?" he asks, trying to keep his voice neutral and falling. Somewhere towards the end of the question, Kurt's voice breaks and he has to look away for a minute. Rachel rubs his back, saying as many soothing things as she can think of right now. When Kurt turns back to her, they exchange a little look and nod, then they're climbing out of the car.
The nice thing about this beach is that they allow people to bring in small grills. It's barely seven in the morning and they're both sweating miserably as they poke at the charcoals inside in the grill they borrowed from Kurt's family. Smoke keeps blowing into Kurt's eyes and there's a lingering smell of cooked meat that makes Rachel feel queasy, but neither one of them complain. Even without the smothering humidity, today seems too important to waste whining.
Tomorrow, Rachel will be leaving for New York for the third time this summer. She will register for her classes at NYADA and spend the week with her dads in some hotel until it's time to start moving furniture into her dorm room. Kurt is staying in Ohio with plans to spend the year working at his dad's garage before he reapplies to NYADA. This time, he's also sending an application to NYU and Julliard, even though he isn't thrilled at the idea of going there.
When they manage to get a small inferno going, Rachel squeezes Kurt's hand briefly. The sun begins to settle into a high place in the sky and her friend's cheeks are pink from the heat. She inhales deeply, despite the smoke and smell, then says, "I'll go first."
Systematically, Rachel begins to toss things into the fire. There are pictures and playbills, ticket stubs and hand written notes. All of them hold memories of her friendship in Kurt and, maybe she's being over-dramatic, but Rachel likes to think that when they burn, it smells like his cologne. Everything seems to curl at the edges for a moment, then blacken and crumble.
[There's a metaphor in this], Rachel thinks vaguely as she watches the fire.
To see her friendship with Kurt literally go up in smoke is strange. A part of Rachel wants to dig through the fire and rescue it all, because surely burns on her hands wouldn't hurt as much as the awful feeling in the pit of her stomach right now. Except, as Kurt starts to toss in his own contributions, a strange sense of relief washes over her as she remembers why they're doing this.
After what seemed like a thousand talks, Kurt said he didn't want to hold Rachel back. Even if they were given in ways that seemed forced and unhappy, it thrills Rachel to have his blessing to go to New York. For so long, it had been [their] dream: a shared, intimate belief that they would take the world together, starting with The Big Apple. Leaving without Kurt feels like unfinished business, which is why Rachel suggested this little bonfire.
"You know, some cultures believe that burning something purifies it and prepares it to be reborn," Rachel says quietly, once Kurt has fed everything to the fire.
He smiles despite the fact his eyes are watering, "My mom was cremated, you know. It was her last wish."
Rachel did not know this, but the knowledge makes her feel guilty. Kurt mentions his mom so rarely, that it's easy to forget that she's dead and not just [absent] like Shelby is to Rachel. Not knowing what to say, she just slips her hand into hers, ignoring the fact that he doesn't give her a reassuring squeeze like usual. They watch the fire burn for a little while longer, until the breeze sends the smoke into their faces and they both turn away to cough.
After a little while more, there's nothing but smoldering ashes. Kurt doses it with water, then dumps the ashes into a designated area by the beach entrance as Rachel packs up the rest of their stuff. Neither one of them is particularly fond of beaches and they didn't plan on staying. Besides, the noontime crowds were starting to stream in and they both had to get ready for Rachel's going away party.
As they drive back to Lima, the car is silent except for the radio. Neither Kurt nor Rachel want to acknowledge that, for all intents and purposes, they just went to the funeral of their friendship. (For the time being, at least.)