notes - when someone says. “Street-racing AU,” I suppose people might expect something hard, fast and dirty. However, I am absolutely incapable of that. Hence, this happened. Title comes from The Anthropology of Water, by Anne Carson, particularly this excerpt:
“The man who named my narrow bed was a quiet person, but he had good questions. “I suppose you do love me, in your way,” I said to him one night close to dawn when we lay on the narrow bed. “And how else should I love you—in your way?” he asked. I am still thinking about that.”a huge, huge, HUGE thank you to zephyrianboom for going out of their way to draw all the beautiful things they did.
mechanism (and how else should I love you -- in your way?)
Kurt spends all day working on Sam’s 1970 Copo Nova, and quite frankly, it’s disgusting. Sam, with his feet planted on the top of Kurt’s work table, is eating a sandwich and looking casual, as if he hasn’t just brought in a completely destroyed, ill-fitted car. Kurt throws unappreciative glares at Sam, but as usual the man is oblivious.
“Even Finn takes better care of his cars,” Kurt finally says, reaching for his jack stands. Disgusting, the engine’s some kind of counterfeit Camaro, Sam had said, and he winces.
“Hey!” Sam doesn’t take his feet off the work table, but he does swallow his bite of sandwich. “Do not compare me to Finn. I care about my baby.”
Kurt raises an eyebrow. “Oh, really?” He points his wrench in the direction of the engine. “What the hell were you thinking, putting this into this beauty?”
“It was cheap,” Sam says defensively. “Plus it was a quick and easy job.”
“Have I taught you nothing about cars, Sam? How many times have I warned you that cheap quick-and-easy jobs usually turn out as a piece of shit?” Kurt sniffs, striding towards his shelf. There should be an engine here somewhere that fits the Nova fine. “Did the Warblers do this for you? I can smell their hands all over it.”
Sam at least has the decency to look ashamed. “It was a quick-and-easy!” He (finally!) takes his feet off the table. “I’m sorry,” he says. “Where’s Finn?”
Kurt sighs. “Home,” he says. “He’s probably done fighting with Rachel by now so it’d probably be good if you popped in to play video games, or whatever quasi-masculine things you like to pretend to do.” Kurt may not act like it but he does care about Finn’s wellbeing, and not exactly solely because of the amount of food Finn eats and subsequently leaves lying around the house. That’s not too big a part of why he cares. It’s not really his house, anyway, it’s Finn’s but Kurt spends more time there than at his own.
“Right,” Sam says. “When’ll she be ready?”
Kurt sighs, makes sure the car is jacked up properly and throws a couple of wrenches onto his creeper. “Monday,” he says. He’s got a date tonight.
“Huge race Sunday night,” Sam says.
“Your loss,” Kurt replies, but he’ll get it done by then, and Sam knows it.
His date, Bill, who just happens to be Finn’s partner in psychology, is the nicest guy he’s met so far. The nicest guy who wants to get in Kurt’s pants (or get him out of them), that is. Kurt holds on to Bill’s shoulder as he tugs his pants off, humming appreciatively as Bill sucks a kiss onto the base of his neck.
“Bedroom?” Bill says.
“Mm, yes.” Kurt slots his mouth back onto Bill’s and kisses like he’s hungry for it.
“Sorry,” Bill pulls away to say. “The room might be in a bit of a mess.”
“That’s fine,” Kurt says. “I live with Finn. Can’t be worse than he is."
“Bill,” Kurt says, later, after the (admittedly) hot sex, still panting a little to catch his breath. “I can’t stay.”
Bill groans and rolls over to smush his head into his pillow. “Was it the sex?”
“No,” Kurt says. “Thank you for the orgasm, by the way, that was – very nice.”
“Alright,” Bill says. “Right back at’cha. Thanks man.”
Kurt nods jerkily and stands to collect his pants. He thinks they might be at the front door, and honestly, that’s just too much effort right now.
“Maybe after a nap,” Kurt murmurs, considering it. Bill hums and pats the empty spot next to him. “I’m leaving, I swear. Just after a nap.”
“Okay,” Bill says. “Tell Finn we’ve got an assignment due on Tuesday, will you?”
Kurt’s already half-asleep by then, so he supposes the weak pat-thing he does on Bill’s shoulder is affirmation enough.
Kurt sneaks out later with a post-it-note on Bill’s dresser. Which, he realizes, might be a bit mean, but to be fair, Bill knew from the start.
The sex was good, though. Kurt considers phoning Bill again sometime soon. They’ll have to do it at Kurt’s place, though. The fact that Bill’s cat was watching the entire thing and the fact that Bill was completely fine with that is something Kurt might not want to do again.
“I just never thought a cat would be able to judge my sexual performance,” he says to himself, and then realizes how completely weird he looks right now, talking to himself while doing the walk of shame in the middle of Brooklyn with a pair shoes that may or may not be covered in cat hair.
Kurt swivels around in his chair when Santana walks in, and he may never admit this to anyone, but the swiveling is the reason he got this chair in the first place. It reminded him of his dad when he stopped at a garage sale out of boredom, so he’d gotten it.
“I have news,” Santana says. “Good news.” Kurt hides the wine bottle before she can see it. Santana hogs alcohol, and Kurt shouldn’t be drunk on the job. It’s his birthday, though. He’s allowed.
“You’ve decided to move to Peru?”
“That ice-cream cake you bought for my birthday isn’t my only birthday present today.”
Santana hesitates. “Happy birthday.” She sits, crossing one leg over the other. “Happy birthday, yeah.” Her mouth twists into a smile. Kurt feels a little shaken.
“That attendant at the gas station who was looking at Britt funny would be a good choice.” She sighs, straightens. “There’s a Warbler outside. In a Supra.”
There are three things in life Kurt hates with a passion. One, the Warblers; two, a Toyota Supra; and three, Santana’s scheming. Okay, there are more than three things, but these three things fit with the situation and Kurt likes to isolate things for the dramatic effect.
“It’s my birthday, Santana.”
“Happy birthday,” comes a distinctly male voice.
Kurt looks up abruptly. There’s a boy – not even a man, a boy, and he swears the Warblers are recruiting younger people every day – standing with his hands shoved awkwardly in his pockets, but he’s grinning wider than Kurt has ever seen anyone grin. He’s dressed well, simple casual – expensive pants, an ironed shirt.
“This is a private office,” Kurt snaps. Across him, Santana raises her eyebrows.
The boy looks apologetic. Kurt catalogues the subtle shift of his mouth.
“I’m so terribly sorry,” he says, taking his hands out of his pockets. “I’m –”
“Doesn’t matter,” Kurt says. “Please leave.”
He does, teeth digging into his lower lip. Kurt really needs to stop staring at his mouth. Santana’s leaning back into her chair, settling in comfortably. By her smirk, Kurt thinks he really needs to stop staring at his mouth. Mouths are nothing special, everyone has one. Most of everyone.
“Would you care to explain why there was a Warbler in my office, Santana?”
“Please,” Santana says. “It’s not an office, pretty boy. It’s a closet with a fancy chair that belonged to an old man who possibly may have died in it. This may not be the best time for an intervention but we’ve all talked and we all agree that you need help. You’re in denial, Kurt. I know it’s not what you thought you’d end up doing, but you love cars, and you love racing, and you love bad boys –”
“It’s my birthday,” he says helplessly.
“I know,” Santana interjects.
“You called me Kurt. You never call me Kurt.”
“I’m really drunk right now, someone dropped off a box of really good wine.”
“I don’t like bad boys. I slept with Bill!”
Santana’s got a look on her face like she’s judging him. “Bill.”
“He had a cat. It was traumatizing.”
Santana stands, glancing around the room for a moment. She walks towards the bookcase and reaches awkwardly behind it to retrieve a bottle of tequila.
“This was your birthday present last year, but you never found it.”
She cracks it open and takes a long swig. “Pretty boy outside wants you to fix his car. His name’s Blaine, by the way. Old school pretty. You like that.”
“Tell him he can fuck off. Meanwhile, you can fuck off, too.”
“He was going to be your birthday present this year.”
Kurt sighs. The wine’s not that good the third bottle in a row. He’s never liked red wine, anyway. “Is he still waiting outside?”
Santana shrugs. “I told him it was a win-or-die.”
“He really is quite good-looking,” Kurt says slowly, reluctantly. “Why don’t we recruit boys like that?”
“That’s a good question,” Santana says, frowning slightly. “Happy birthday, boss.” She clinks her bottle against his loudly and smiles some more.
Kurt tries not to be afraid.
Finn throws him a birthday party, which is sweet, but Kurt took a quick glance at the kitchen as he walked in, and he’s not feeling up to cleaning that up.
Everyone’s wearing matching party hats. It’s actually quite terrifying.
“Happy birthday,” Brittany says, handing him a beer. “Santana said you should save the wine for later.”
He smiles, kisses her on the cheek. “I’m going to go… mingle,” he says.
“You’re not,” Brittany replies, but lets him off easy.
Kurt smiles a little. “I’m not,” he admits, but she’s already gone.
He’s out on the balcony looking down, and the streets are parked full of cars but there isn’t anyone in this city for him, so that’s a little sad, but he’s used to being alone.
“My towel rack only has space for one towel,” he says quietly, mostly to himself but a little to the world, as a sort of fuck you, I’m perfectly adjusted to being alone.
“So we’ll have to share.”
Kurt whirls around. It’s Blaine, standing in front of him, looking taller than he actually is. Kurt watches as Blaine wets his lips with the tip of his tongue.
“I came by earlier,” Blaine says. “I think you were drunk? Not very professional, is it? I’m sure they covered drunk driving in high school.”
Kurt shuts his eyes, squeezes them closed like it’ll help make Blaine go away. “Please leave,” he says. Or I will call security, he thinks, but doesn’t say.
Security is Puck, but Blaine doesn’t need to know that.
“You’re kind of a jerk, you know that?” Blaine says, unwavering. Kurt opens his eyes, stares Blaine down.
“You’re kind of trespassing. Surely some of your overpriced private school education covered that.”
Blaine’s eyebrows rise ever so slightly. Kurt’s tired.
The sliding door opens, and Santana pokes her head through. “Hello, boys.”
“Santana,” Kurt acknowledges. “Please tell me you didn’t –”
“I did,” Santana says. “You wanted it, come on. It’s a good birthday present. Don’t get drunk now, we’re going to race later, to commemorate him joining us. It was Blaine’s idea.”
Blaine smiles a little. Kurt could kill Santana.
“It’s my birthday,” he says, but the power that had has long gone.
“Happy birthday,” she says, grinning. “Thank me later.”
The streets are empty, but people are starting to gather around, and it’s a little intimidating, mostly because Kurt is actually drunk and Santana’s skirt seems to have lost a few inches of length throughout the evening.
Blaine’s looking calm and confident, leaning against his Supra.
“Who’s the new guy?” Rachel asks, resting a palm against the hood of Kurt’s Skyline GTR.
“He’s a newbie,” Finn says helpfully. “He’s a mechanic in the day, just graduated from a private school in Western Ohio.”
“Not talking to you, Finn,” Rachel says, just short of putting her hand up to stop him. “Kurt, are you drunk?”
Kurt ignores her and starts his car. Beside him, Blaine throws him a wink.
“Hand me the birthday flag,” Santana says. Kurt frowns before it comes into view. It’s vivid pink and he’s quite sure there’s a unicorn in the middle. She corrects her stance, and everyone clears out of the way.
Kurt steps on the pedal harder than he ever has.
Kurt grimaces, stepping out of his car to check the damage. He’d swerved into a barrier to avoid the fucking cat on the road. Between the cat on the road and Bill’s cat, Kurt thinks he might just hate cats for the rest of his life.
“Good match,” Blaine says, coming up behind him. Blaine’s thighs press solidly against Kurt’s ass. Kurt straightens but doesn’t turn around.
The bathtub at Finn’s place is spotless, mainly because Rachel has her relaxing, aromatic baths every other day. Kurt picks lavender because it doesn’t smell as strong as the rest of Rachel’s hundred-dollar gift basket from The Body Shop.
Kurt has long given up on Finn ever knocking. He sighs, settles back into the tub. Maybe if he’s lucky enough, he’ll slip under and Finn will go away. He raises a hand in greeting.
“Tough luck out there tonight,” Finn says.
Kurt shrugs. “It happens.”
Finn shifts awkwardly, like he’s not sure where to sit. Eventually, he decides on the toilet. “Listen,” he says. “If you need financial help in any way --”
Kurt prickles. “I’m not poor.”
Finn scratches the back of his neck uncomfortably. “Yeah, well, there’s nothing wrong with being poor -- not saying that you are, but if you need any financial help, Rachel and I have some money saved up for the honeymoon, but at this rate I don’t really see it happening. The honeymoon, I mean.”
“I do,” Kurt says, quietly. “But thanks, Finn.”
When Finn leaves, Kurt threads his hands through the water. Water is something you can’t hold on to, so when it slips away, Kurt doesn’t feel like he’s to blame.
There’s a metallic sort of sound, someone’s knocking on the shutters.
“Hello?” Blaine’s peering from under the half-raised shutters. Kurt presses his fingers to his forehead to ward off the hangover headache. It’s not working.
“We’re closed,” Kurt says, half-snaps.
Blaine comes in anyway, ducking under the shutters. Kurt wishes he would just hit his head and knock himself out cold.
“I was going to ask if you had a spare engine,” Blaine says. His shirt sleeves are rucked up to his shoulders and Kurt can see his biceps. “There’s this client’s Volkswagen, it’s old but it’s great, and I’ve been looking everywhere for a spare engine that fits. It’s a fussy car.”
“Maybe you’re just not good enough,” Kurt says, to regain his balance.
Blaine’s eyes narrow. “Why do you have to be such a jerk? I really don’t get it.”
“You wouldn’t. You know the way out.”
“Rematch today, you and me, two AM.”
Kurt scoffs. “You wrecked my car.”
“It’s a Skyline GT-R, Kurt.” Blaine’s crossed his arms over his chest, lower lip slightly jutted out like he’s pouting. He’s eighteen, Kurt reminds himself. He doesn’t need reminding, but Blaine’s a fresh-faced kid and Kurt doesn’t deal with that, doesn’t deal with rich boys living their wannabe bad-boy phase and realizing they can’t live like Kurt lives, in an apartment above the garage that’s dusty because he never comes home.
“I don’t have anything to race you with.”
“Never pegged you for a sore loser, Kurt.”
Kurt turns around and walks away. Behind him he can hear Blaine’s barking laugh and the scuff of his shoes against the concrete floor.
Briefly, Kurt wonders what it would feel like to be fucked by Blaine against the floor.
Kurt wakes up sweating and sporting an erection that he thinks could possibly poke him in the eye. The clock blinks 2 AM.
“What the hell,” he murmurs, and reaches for a pair of jeans.
Kurt sets the car into park and gets out, not exactly sure why he’s here. He’s dressed to kill, the tightest pair of jeans he owns and the fitted black shirt from that college interview with NYU.
Blaine’s Supra’s parked a little further up front, and Kurt frowns.
Kurt turns around. Blaine has to stop sneaking up on him like that. One of these days, Kurt might actually kill him by accident.
“You made it,” Blaine says, nonchalantly. “Shall we?” His eyes linger at the base of Kurt’s neck, where the shirt is unbuttoned.
Kurt shrugs, feeling oddly exposed. Blaine walks him to his car.
“Huge race coming up on Saturday night,” Blaine says, making conversation. “The prize money’s huge this time around, I figured you could use it to fix up your garage. Maybe get a bigger office.”
Kurt feels a hot flash of anger and wounded pride. “Not all of us have blood money.”
Blaine’s jaw hardens, and Kurt wonders if he’s pushed too far. “Which is why you need the prize money,” Blaine finally says. “I could win it for you. If you wanted.”
“I don’t need your pity,” Kurt spits out.
“Your car’s screwed,” Blaine says, and that’s when Kurt realizes Blaine’s directing them to the Supra. “There’s no way it’s going to win you the race.”
“My screwed up car is better than you in a Supra, Blaine.”
Blaine raises his eyebrows. “If you say so.”
Kurt wrenches his arm away from Blaine’s grip and turns around, walks away.
Behind him he can hear Blaine’s footsteps against the asphalt running to catch up. A grip tightens on his forearm.
“Hey,” Blaine says, quietly. “I didn’t mean it like that.”
There’s a streetlight in the way, so Kurt pushes Blaine up against it and kisses him until he forgets to breathe.
He leaves, because that’s what Kurt does, he leaves so he doesn’t get left behind – because Blaine is eighteen years old and has more money than Kurt has ever imagined, because Blaine smells like sandalwood and expensive soap and because of the smear of grease on the underside of Blaine’s jaw like a compound of two worlds, like Blaine’s real and unreal at the same time, for him and not for him.
(What Kurt dreams of –
Sunlight filtering through the blinds, Blaine bathed in light, light like water, light like a different body entirely wrapped around his, fingers splaying and curling against the sheets.
“You’re thinking of something,” Blaine says, voice smooth.
Warm, Kurt thinks, murmurs it against the pillow. Dust motes like feathers, or feathers like dust motes. He’s not quite sure. A hand on his chest like an anchor, or a safe-guard. Stop this heart from beating? No, that’s not quite it.
“Can you tell me,” Blaine says, not quite a question, and leaves it at that.
“No,” Kurt says, because there’s nothing to say, not really, not really.)
Kurt jerks off in the bathroom later, swallows a groan and cleans come off his hands quickly so it doesn’t drip.
In the morning, Santana leaves a post-it note on the door and the keys under the flower pot and her car is parked directly in front of the garage, the Ford Mustang V8 staring at him.
I had an extra, the post-it note says. Maybe it’s time to give up the Skyline.
The Skyline was Dad’s, never modified. Dad died two months after buying the car and Kurt’s kept it the best he can.
He shuts his eyes. If he won, he could get Dad a new headstone. So he turns around, looks back at his baby parked neatly in front of his garage, the number plate blacked out, and sighs.
“This is not goodbye,” he says, feels a little silly for talking to a car. “I’ll get you a new engine; maybe change your wheel caps.”
Bill works shifts at the coffee shop, so Kurt swings by to grab a latte.
“New ride?” Bill says, handing him his change. “I see a couple of guys with a bad case of car envy.”
Kurt laughs on an exhale. “It’s a loan,” he says. “Mine’s in need of some fixing up.”
“You should call me tonight,” Bill says, a little hesitantly.
Bill doesn’t leave until the next morning, so Kurt kisses him by the open doorway down the stairs, and feels like it’s oddly domestic. Bill turns to leave, but stops short.
“There’s someone for you, I think,” he says, before stepping aside to leave. Blaine’s standing there, looking awkward with a duffle bag across his shoulders.
Kurt considers shutting the door. Instead, he stands with his arms crossed over his chest, and waits.
Blaine doesn’t wait until Bill’s gone before he walks up. “Boyfriend?” he asks.
Blaine looks torn for a moment, his heel halfway turned.
“You don’t have to leave,” Kurt says. His mouth is dry. He darts his tongue out to wet his lips, feeling the cracks.
“I need a place to stay,” Blaine says, “and the truth is I don’t know anyone here, and I can’t go home.”
Kurt blinks. Turns around, walks back up the stairs, waits. Feels his blood ringing in his ears like fingers tapping rhythmically.
Turns back around, says, “Well? I don’t have any champagne to welcome you with. Close the door, please. The wind brings dust and I’m never here long enough to clean.”
“Thank you,” Blaine says.
Kurt doesn’t answer.
Blaine, Kurt discovers, doesn’t move quietly, so it’s a lot harder to forget that he’s there. The guest bedroom is set up – Kurt hands Blaine the bed linen so he can do it himself – and Blaine’s unmistakably settling in, the sound of doors opening and shutting.
Kurt makes tea and does his accounts.
“Didn’t know you wore glasses,” Blaine says, sitting down opposite him across the dining table. “But then again, there’s a lot I don’t know about you. Your last name, for one.”
Kurt resolutely doesn’t look up.
“I guess you don’t know about me, either. My last name’s Anderson.”
Kurt looks up slowly, steady. Drags his gaze up from the base of Blaine’s neck, lingering over his mouth and stopping at his eyes.
Blaine swallows. Kurt resists the urge to clear his throat.
“Tea?” he says instead.
Thursday night, Rachel takes Blaine out dancing, because they’re friends now. Kurt hasn’t spoken to him much, sometimes he nods when Blaine enters the room but otherwise there really isn’t anything to say.
Kurt takes a long, scalding shower, drags the loofah over every bit of skin until it pinkens, a thick layer of soap over every inch slowly sliding off. It’s his sort of mini-vacation, a hot shower and soap that costs sixty dollars a bottle.
“I’m going to be a chapter in his life,” Kurt, skin scrubbed red-raw from the burning shower, says to himself on the fogged-up mirror. “The rebel phase chapter of his autobiography.”
It’s raining out. Kurt doesn’t remember the last time it rained. (He thinks it might’ve been the day he signed the lease for the garage and the apartment, but surely it couldn’t have been that long ago.)
He watches TV, mutes it so he can listen to the rain, watches the actors’ mouths move in silence and makes up the words.
The door opens, and Blaine walks in, drenched to the bone and bumping into the table by the door a little more than usual. Kurt watches as Blaine walks towards the sofa.
“Hey,” Blaine says. He’s drunk, Kurt can smell the alcohol on his breath.
Kurt gets a glass of water and sets it in front of Blaine. There’s a soaked curl on his forehead, reminding Kurt of seaweed and driftwood.
“Goodnight,” Kurt says, tries to walk away but Blaine catches his arm. The water in Blaine’s hand sloshes and spills, dripping onto the floor. “Let me go, Blaine.”
“I don’t understand you,” Blaine says. Kurt takes a look outside. It’s not raining that heavily anymore. “I really just don’t.”
“You’re not supposed to,” Kurt says, because that one thing is keeping him from giving into the curve of Blaine’s spine and the way his Adam’s apple bobs when he swallows and Kurt isn’t supposed to be like this – he’s not supposed to have feelings –
“I don’t want you to understand me either,” Blaine says, “but it feels like you can look right through me and it’s like you’ve got the upper hand, you know, because you’ve figured out how my mind works and it makes me angry because I don’t know how you work and I don’t know myself anyway – I just don’t understand,” and Kurt thinks that Blaine is blissfully still eighteen and there are so many things he won’t know yet, maybe won’t ever know.
“I’m not a child,” Blaine says. “I’m eighteen years old and I’ve seen a fair share of this world so stop treating me like I should be drinking out of juice boxes and eating alphabet soup.”
“You’re drunk, Blaine,” Kurt says. He doesn’t know how to handle this, Blaine soaking wet and dripping onto the hardwood floors, his shirt sticking to his body obscenely and his pants hanging low on his hips from water weight.
Blaine slams his fist against the table. The vase falls and shatters – it was a present from Rachel, Kurt remembers, and he’s angry because it was his souvenir from a lifetime ago.
“Fuck you,” he says, viciously.
Blaine steps forward and grips his shoulder tightly, hard enough to hurt. Kurt jerks, wrenching his shoulder away from Blaine’s grip. It fucking hurts, and he hates Blaine for that, briefly, but not quite shallowly.
“Stop being so fucking condescending,” Blaine grits, and Kurt raises a hand, ready to – do what, exactly? Kurt doesn’t know, he hadn’t thought this far out but —
He grips tightly at the back of Blaine’s head and pushes him into the wall, pressing a thigh in between Blaine’s legs and kissing him.
No, no, no, this is what you’re trying to avoid– but Blaine’s kissing him back, moving fervently against his mouth and Kurt’s so angry he bites. Blaine’s mouth opens around a moan and Kurt shoves his tongue in, swirling and tasting stale alcohol, and it’s disgusting, really, it should be, but Blaine grips his ass with both hands and fire runs through Kurt’s veins.
“You’re just so fucking cocky,” Blaine pulls away to grit at him, and there’s a thin trail of spit between their lips that Kurt unwittingly focuses on, “you think you’re so great with your whole I don’t need anyone so fuck off act but you’re just a fucking fake.”
Kurt narrows his eyes, dangerously angry. He slams Blaine back against the wall, holding him up so his feet barely reach the ground, and Blaine moans, wide-eyed.
“Fuck, you’re strong.”
Pressed against Blaine bodily, Kurt feels the damp of Blaine’s clothes seeping into his. He fumbles for Blaine’s belt. “Here’s how it’s going to go,” he says, fingers slipping on the buckle. He grits his teeth, pulling the belt out of its buckle and letting it hang loosely at Blaine’s sides. “You can fuck me against this wall, right here, or we could go to my bedroom and you’ll fuck me against the headboard hard enough that everybody in this building feels it. What do you say, Blaine?” His tone is condescending, and he knows it, teasing and taunting Blaine because he needs to feel like he’s still got the upper hand.
“Fuck you, so hard,” Blaine says, “I don’t care how.”
Kurt takes them to the bedroom.
“I’m sorry. I really shouldn’t have,” Blaine says quietly, fiddling with the sheets. Kurt wishes his fingers would stop moving.
I would’ve hit you, Kurt thinks. “I’m sorry for -- you know. The sex,” he says instead.
Blaine starts laughing, his shoulders shaking with it. “I’m not,” he says.
His laughter is infectious. Kurt swallows a giggle. “I’m not, either.”
“But seriously, though,” Blaine says, calming down. “I’m really sorry for – smashing your vase.” He swallows, reaches out to trace the bruise on Kurt’s jaw with a thumb. “Hit me back.”
“Hit me back,” Blaine says. “Growing up, it was like that. An eye for an eye, you know? I smash your vase, you smash my face – it’s really no big deal.”
Kurt shakes his head. “Look, I accept your apology. I’m not going to hit you back. End of discussion.”
Blaine watches him uncertainly. Kurt doesn’t know what to say, but the phone rings, disrupting the moment.
“I have to get this,” Kurt says. Blaine nods.
“Of course,” he says, and climbs out of bed.
His pants are somewhere in the living room together with his shirt, Kurt remembers, but they’re probably wet anyway.
Kurt thinks about telling him not to go, but Blaine’s already halfway out the door and Santana’s impatient.
Blaine’s nowhere to be found, outside, so Kurt takes the call in the kitchen because the bedroom smells like sex and of all the things Kurt can’t deal with, this is one.
“How do you like the ride?” Santana asks. Kurt’s leaning against the kitchen counter, and the windows are open enough that sunlight catches on the edge of his skin. He presses the phone closer to his ear, unsure, wobbly. Blaine’s in the living room, fiddling with the TV’s radio stations. Kurt hears static buzz.
“It’s good,” Kurt says. “Listen, I don’t think I’ll be racing on Saturday.”
Santana’s assortment of Spanish curse words is not something Kurt hasn’t heard before, so he soldiers on through it.
“Kurt?” Blaine’s voice is steady, calm, as he steps into the kitchen. The sunlight hits him and he looks sleep-addled, young, like someone who should be playing varsity polo and Kurt doesn’t know where to go from here.
“Santana,” he says. “I need to go.” He presses the phone against the counter, not quite sure if he’s turned it off, but it doesn’t matter.
“You’re eighteen years old,” Kurt says, “and that scares me, because what if you’re not done growing up and – you just – you scare me. I don’t really know what to say, but my last name is Hummel, so you can put that in your autobiography.”
Blaine laughs a little. “I won’t have an autobiography, I don’t think.”
“I’m a stress-drinker,” Kurt continues. “I really hate cats and if we’re being really honest, I hate a lot of things. I don’t know how to crochet. I’ve been fixing cars since I was a kid and the Skyline belonged to my dad.”
Kurt shifts uncomfortably against the counter, fingers squeezing cool ceramic.
“I really like cats,” Blaine says, but smiles, crooked. “We’ll make it work.”
Blaine leaves for work, and Kurt sits on the couch drinking bitter coffee before he goes downstairs. It’s a lot to process, so he shelves it for later and thinks about the modification work he can do on the Skyline, instead.
The doorbell buzzes, it’s probably Santana, but Kurt smells like sex and he doesn’t want to deal with people right now.
A voice comes on over the intercom. “Hey. You there?”
It’s Finn. Kurt waits until he goes away.
Which he does, eventually, long after Kurt’s tugged on all the frayed ends of his red sweater, rolling them into balls and blowing them across his palm for lack of something better to do.
When he gets downstairs to the garage, Santana and Brittany are sitting in his office, legs crossed and in Santana’s case, eyes fixed on him. Brittany’s fiddling with one of the model cars that came free of charge with the purchase of an engine.
The office is a lot smaller than he remembered. He sinks into his swivel chair.
“You’re welcome,” Santana says.
“It’s not going to last,” Kurt replies.
Brittany sets the model car down. “You need to get a pair,” she tells Kurt. “Your wheel caps, I mean. Two of them are loosening.”
Kurt works on his Skyline silently while Santana judges him with her eyes.
“I’m thinking of getting a Honda,” Brittany says. “The weatherman says Hondas are good.”
“Please,” Kurt scoffs, tossing the rag onto the table. “Hondas are for show.”
“For fuck’s sake,” Santana says. She hasn’t bothered to take her feet off Kurt’s work table yet. He considers throwing a wrench in her direction. “The only way a Honda is for show is if you change everything completely.”
“That’s harsh,” Brittany says. Santana shrugs in response.
“I called Tony up. He said you could race Saturday night, if you change your mind.”
“Thanks,” Kurt says as he kneels down to inspect the wheels. “The wheel caps need tightening. Britt, hand me the toolbox, will you please?”
He brings the spare engine to Blaine’s workshop. Out of common courtesy, really. Some people bring flowers, Kurt brings an engine. Go figure.
Blaine’s workshop is a tiny thing in a crowded street, called Joe and Joe. The Help Wanted sign flutters against the wall.
Blaine’s working, Kurt can see his legs under the car, so he leaves the engine on the counter and walks away.
Kurt stops, doesn’t really know what to say. “I brought you the engine,” he says without turning around. “If you still need it.”
“Thanks,” Blaine says cautiously. “Santana mentioned you weren’t going to race on Saturday.”
Kurt shoves his hands in his pockets, shrugs. “Maybe I should take a break from all this.”
“You’re famous,” Blaine says. “I Googled you.”
Kurt laughs, feeling his shoulders slump with it. “I washed your jeans,” he says. “Hope that’s okay.” He weighs the Mustang’s keys in his palm. Santana’s keychain digs into his fingers and he grips it harder.
“Kurt,” Blaine says, sounding strange. “Would you like to stay for lunch?”
Lunch is a ham sandwich from the deli across the street – Blaine and the owner know each other on a first name basis, and Kurt resists asking him why he didn’t stay with the deli owner instead.
“The thing is,” Blaine says, swallowing and blotting his mouth before he speaks, “the thing is this isn’t just a summer thing for me. All cards on the table, yeah, maybe someday I’d like to go to college and get a degree in something I picked on my future career list back in high school.”
Kurt waits, raises an eyebrow. “Doctor?” he guesses after the pause. “Lawyer, probably.”
“Broadway,” Kurt offers. In a way it feels like he’s cut off a piece of his skin and handed it to Blaine on a platter. “It was a thing for me, but it didn’t work out.”
Blaine rests his chin in his hands, watches Kurt. It’s disquieting. Kurt’s fingers twitch for something to focus on.
“Life,” he says. “That’s what didn’t work out.”
Blaine doesn’t miss a beat. “Do you think we should’ve gone with more cheese on this?”
They have sex in the bathtub and Kurt discovers that it’s leaking water onto the floor, which is funny at first and then continues to be funny for as long as they sit in it – Blaine leaves the shower on and it compensates for the water lost.
“What’s next,” Blaine says, “on your reading list?”
Kurt doesn’t know. He thinks about the books in his bedside drawer, and the ones stacked by the couch, runs through them mentally. He’d picked them up at garage sales. They’re probably older than he is.
“Anna Karenina,” he says. “Most probably.”
Kurt reads from Kinds of Water, holds it higher to avoid the splash when Blaine moves in closer.
“No accident of the body can make it stop burning,” Blaine murmurs. Their wine balances precariously at the side of the tub.
Blaine traces the lines of Kurt’s tattoo, the small one he got on his ribs when he was sixteen, and he remembers taking the train for that, sitting on the hard plastic seat with a signature from his father in his hand. What is sin, the tattoo says, and in a way it’s his own version of all glory to God.
Kurt spreads his legs wide because years of practicing and cheerleading in high school helped and Blaine looks at him like he’s never seen anything better.
And Kurt wonders, keeps wondering, if Blaine ever thought that growing up rich could end up like this, in a cracked bathtub with a boy who can stretch his legs any way he wants. So he’s a bit more vocal than he usually is, even if only to keep Blaine in the moment.
“I’m not a runaway,” Blaine says in the morning. It’s a sticky summer so they’ve thrown the blanket aside – well, Blaine folded it with the air of a gentleman and Kurt placed it on the chair – and they’re lying in Kurt’s bed. Kurt’s staring at the cracks on the ceiling, Blaine’s got his eyes closed. Occasionally Blaine’s foot twitches, so Kurt anchors it with his own.
“Okay,” Kurt says.
“I have a stack of postcards from Rome,” Blaine continues, “because my parents think I’m on holiday. Joe’s been great, though. He had an opening at his workshop and he hired me without doing a background check.”
So you’re a liar, Kurt thinks, but doesn’t say. He understands, kind of.
“I should mail one soon. Dear Mom and Dad, it’s great here. I’ve met a lot of new, exciting people. Love, Blaine.” He sounds uncomfortably small, like lying makes him curl away his skin.
Kurt takes a deep breath, lungs aching with it.
“What happens when summer is over, Blaine?”
Blaine shifts so he can look at him properly. “It’s not my call,” he says, and just like that the tables are turned.
“I –” Blaine’s right, though. Kurt’s been thinking about leaving since the first moment, because that’s what Kurt does, Kurt leaves, and feels like the bigger man because it was his call, and maybe it’s sick, but that’s how it is.
“The way I see it,” says Santana, holding out a cup of coffee like a weapon. “You’re scared.”
Kurt doesn’t answer, but he does take the coffee.
“You’re scared that you won’t be able to leave,” Santana continues. “And maybe you need to see some kind of therapist for your problem with leaving people behind.”
Kurt doesn’t even dignify that with a response. Beside Santana, Rachel nods empathetically.
“Santana’s right, Kurt.”
Kurt loves Rachel like the overbearing sister he never had, and when he says loves he really means adores her and wishes her dead simultaneously at some points of their relationship.
Rachel says, “Where do you envision yourself, two months into the future?” like the guidance counselor she’s training to be.
Kurt pulls a face. “Not in college,” he says, adds, “Ms. Berry,” for dramatic effect.
Rachel swats him on the arm. If someone had told him three years ago that Rachel Berry would be studying to become a guidance counselor at a high school, Kurt would’ve laughed. Mostly at the fact that someone was actually talking to him, but also because Rachel hated every guidance counselor who had ever set foot in McKinley that told her to tone down a little, be less abrasive.
“Rome,” he says eventually.
“You know what,” Santana says. She sounds quieter than she’s ever sounded. “Rome is a really nice place.”
Kurt ends up racing on Saturday night, drives the Skyline out onto the street and watches Blaine by the side of the road, hotdog in each hand. Beside him Finn’s tying his shoelaces, and Blaine hands both hotdogs back to him when he’s done.
Kurt smiles, a little. He rolls the window down, unsure what to say.
“Isn’t it time to retire the Skyline, Hummel?” Dan asks from beside him, not quite kindly. He’s got a '67 Shelby Cobra, he’s one to talk.
Beyond Dan, Blaine looks worried. Santana’s twirling the flag like a baton.
“Ten grand, Hummel. What are you going to do with ten grand?”
Kurt thinks about it, really thinks. “Go on vacation,” is what he comes up with.
Santana holds out the flag. Blaine’s eyes are shiny. Kurt thinks of magpies.
After Kurt wins, Blaine kisses him with the excitement of a child, Kurt holds on to his back and feels how tightly-wound he is, like someone’s shoved the world into a body too small to accommodate it.
“Ten grand,” Blaine says, when they break apart. “What’re you going to do?”
Kurt thinks about the garage, the office in the back with the mildew he hides behind replicas of famous paintings, the cracked bathtub in the apartment, the wheel caps on his Skyline, the new headstone for his father.
Kurt picks up one of Blaine’s postcards from Rome. It’s of the Pantheon.
“Does it really look like that?” he asks. Blaine shrugs.
“I don’t know, I’ve never been.”
“I figured we could decide for ourselves if it really is what it seems,” Kurt says, and he’s extremely nervous about this, blood thrumming in his fingertips. “Besides, I think your holiday stories would need a little authenticity.”
Blaine grins. “You’re not serious.”
Kurt shrugs. “If you say so.” He lets go of Blaine. “We could always spend the rest of the summer in the cracked bathtub until your fingers prune. Of course, I wouldn’t recommend it, but if you insist.” He smiles, walks calmly away, down the street.
“Hey, wait up!”
Kurt quickens his pace.
Blaine catches up, slots his fingers in between Kurt’s and squeezes.
“Thank you,” he says.
Kurt squeezes back.