His dad helps him move into the tiny studio that is going to be his home for the remainder of the year. The only available on-campus rooms had been shared ones and Kurt is not about to narrow his already slim chances of having a sex life. He tells his dad that there won’t be enough closet space and Burt doesn’t argue.
The studio is above a bakery, and so they sit there for a quick lunch before Burt has to leave and Kurt is alone. The woman behind the counter has ruddy cheeks and curly hair and offers him a free cupcake, which Kurt refuses politely. He even spares her a speech about what the saturated fats and refined sugars do to one’s skin, because a semester in New York has served to both deplete his bank balance and educate him in more ways than one.
Kurt unpacks immediately, because carefully color-coding his favorite outfits helps him relax a little. Getting dressed for your first day is of utmost importance of course – even if all he has to do today is register and get his class schedule. Nevertheless, Kurt goes through four different outfits, before settling on a relatively subdued dark YSL trousers, a deep red Dior shirt and his favorite D&G coat from the Spring/Summer 08 collection.
His apartment is sadly lacking in a floor length mirror, but he can see enough of his reflection in the one above the sink of his cramped bathroom to be certain that he is looking fabulous.
From there it is a short walk to campus, and Kurt gets to his destination before he can let his nerves get the better of him. It is huge and filled with people, most of whom seem in a hurry, and none appear to notice him. Kurt may be back in Ohio, but it is big enough for him to easily disappear amidst the crowds, if not quite fit in.
The first week of classes goes by in a blur. Kurt has a lot to catch up with and spends most of the time that isn’t sleeping in the library. He likes the desks there and the atmosphere is much more conductive to studying than his bedroom, which is constantly permeated with the delicious aroma of the bakery. It is really making sticking to his strict diet, rather a strong test of will.
Kurt isn’t averse to socializing, but the problem of arriving a semester late is that everyone else already has friends and isn’t all that interested in befriending the weird new gay kid. He soon knows all the librarians by name however, and has no time to feel lonely.
Gail - the youngest one – has taken a particular shine to him and often tries to offer helpful, if unwanted, suggestions.
“How about joining some sort of a club?” she asks him one late Friday afternoon, when Kurt is one of only three library occupants in that particular section. He has reached the point of not only having fully caught up on all his classes, but has also completed his assignments for the entire following week.
Joining a club is not a bad idea. Kurt would be interested in the music society, choir, drama, the college newspaper - to mention a few - only he has not actually done much about joining anything, he is not quite sure why. Perhaps a combination of some misplaced loyalty towards Glee and a period of mourning for the life he had just about began making for himself, before having to transfer.
There is something in Gail’s tone however, which makes him realize that he is being pathetic, and Kurt Hummel maybe a lot of things, but pathetic is not one of them.
“Fine,” he says and, head held deliberately high, goes on a search for a suitable activity that he can partake in.
Kurt knows that Finn goes to Ohio State, but they don’t appear to share any classes and not at all surprisingly, Finn is not a regular library attendee. Kurt is sure he sees Finn in the distance once or twice, but their paths had not yet crossed.
He shouldn’t have been so surprised to see Finn, looking the same as ever (well, it has been only about six months, but Kurt feels entirely different himself) at the open audition for the choir. Finn did get a music scholarship after all.
For a brief second, Kurt considers turning around and fleeing, but before he can do so, Finn sees him. (It is difficult to be inconspicuous whilst wearing a bright orange jacket with a fuchsia scarf, Kurt supposes.)
Finn grins and waves and he looks so genuinely pleased to see him, that Kurt feels a little ridiculous for not seeking him out weeks ago.
Kurt has wanted to call him – almost does, a number of times – he knows that Finn would not mind seeing him; after years in Glee they had developed a solid, if at times awkward friendship, but Kurt couldn’t quite bring himself to do so. He doesn’t know if he is as cured of his crush as he wants to believe and seeing Finn would make it rather difficult to start a-fresh. A little voice in his head that sounds suspiciously like Rachel Berry, reminds him that he is not in fact starting anything, but he refuses to listen to it.
“Kurt, what are you doing here?” Finn asks and ignores Kurt’s offered hand in order to engulf him in a tight hug. It is warm and lovely and Kurt curses his fair skin, because it must make the flush of his cheeks quite obvious.
“Finn, how wonderful to see you. I transferred here at the start of the semester, have had an insane few weeks catching up with everything. How are you?” Kurt says and hopes that Finn will not ask him too many questions, besides, he has an audition to go to.
He sings Mr Cellophane for old times’ sake and is immediately welcomed by the stern conductor lady, who reminds him of Sue Sylvester for about five seconds, before she smiles and she is nothing like Sue at all.
Kurt blames her and Finn for the onslaught of nostalgia that hits him and when he is feeling particularly sentimental, he finds it difficult to say no.
“Listen, I’ve got a class,” Finn looks at his watch and grins, “About ten minutes ago, so I’ve got to run, but lets meet tomorrow, yeah?.”
Finn suggests they have a coffee, but buys Kurt a slushie instead. It is orange flavored and too cold, but Kurt accepts it anyway, because it feels like a symbolic gesture and that in itself is surprising – last time they met, Finn would not have been amble to spell symbolic, had he known what it meant.
“I figured, I owed you one,” Finn says and shrugs and that is the end of that conversation. Kurt wants to ask why now, because it has been years since the slushie incident, but Finn’s shoulders are squared and he looks like he won’t appreciate the question.
“Thanks,” he says and drinks from it a little too quickly - gets a brain freeze and fails to hide it.
“So, Kurt, don’t take this the wrong way, but why are you here? What happened to that elite performing arts school?” Finn asks after he stops laughing. He doesn’t really bother with small talk, never has, and it makes Kurt smile.
“A number of reasons,” Kurt says and is about to start on the familiar lie, but there is something so honest and unguarded about Finn’s open gaze and he finds himself telling the truth instead. “My dad is sick and I have to be closer to him, I shouldn’t have left him alone in the first place, that was very selfish of me. This is a great school and afterwards, I can always move to New York,” he shrugs, it is nice that Finn has known him for long enough that Kurt doesn’t need to explain about his mum or anything else.
Finn nods slowly, seemingly processing the information. Kurt expects him to ask for further details or about drama school, but he doesn’t. “I am glad you are here,” is all he says.
Instead of classes or their current lives, they end up talking about High School and what everyone from Glee is up to these days. Kurt, who prides himself with being the gossip-queen, is astounded at the fact that Finn seems to know as much as, if not more, than him.
The biggest surprise is Rachel and Quinn, who have an off campus apartment in UCLA and look after baby Jane together. Puck is known to visit them often.
“Wow, who would have seen that one coming,” Kurt says, though he feels like perhaps he should have, because there is a fine line between hate and sexual tension.
Finn looks away at that and shrugs. “Well, I dunno, it’s not that strange, people change.”
People do change. Kurt still spends a lot of his time in the library, because he is a perfectionist and because he likes it there, but most days he meets Finn for lunch. And then there are the choir rehearsals, which are not like Glee rehearsals at all, but everyone there is fairly nice and Kurt has missed singing. He doesn’t make any deep bonds with any of them, even though Finn always makes sure to include him in any group social activities, but feels content.
Finn seems to be working hard, in as well as out of classes – he doesn’t tell him ay first, but soon Kurt finds out that Finn has a job at a diner, in order to supplement his scholarship and the little money his mother had been able to save.
“She didn’t think I would ever make it to college, you know,” Finn tells Kurt one day when he brings him his milkshake.
Kurt is waiting for Finn to finish his shift and trying to make notes for a pol sci paper on the Balkan wars. He has been sitting there for almost an hour and has read at most four pages, because it is difficult to concentrate with Finn right there. It is a fairly quiet afternoon and Finn spends all his free moments trying to make Kurt laugh by doing ridiculous things like juggling with sponges.
Kurt supposes he should have just done his notes and then met Finn after work, but Finn had asked him to come by and as much as Kurt Hummel believes he is a changed man, saying no to Finn Hudson is not a skill he has acquired.
“I don’t blame her you know, I wouldn’t have made it to college if it wasn’t for Mr. Schue,” Finn adds, with a self depreciating smile that seems out of place on his open face.
Finn is always asking Kurt to parties, and Kurt is always refusing these invitations. It is easy at first, because midterms are fast approaching and Kurt wants to make a good impression on his professors. The truth is a little more complicated. Kurt doesn’t think that he can control himself in the presence of Finn if he is to drink and going to a college party and not drinking is a bit like going to swim in an empty pool.
Finn doesn’t push the issue - instead he keeps turning up at the library.
The first time he does it, Kurt must have looked so shocked that Finn actually laughs at him. “Hey now, it’s been a while since I found out they give you free books in this place.”
“Did you have to ask for directions?” Kurt asks - voice deliberately haughty.
“I asked for directions to you, all signs pointed this way… anyway I have to study as well, so I thought I’d drop by, if that’s all right?”
It is. Of course it is. And Finn seems to do well with someone there to make sure he doesn’t get distracted or fall asleep. Kurt is the one that is on the losing side of their arrangement, because the sight of Finn with an open book in front of him, brows furrowed in concentration and pen all over his hands, is shockingly appealing.
This means that he does more daydreaming than actual studying and ends up having to catch up at home.
It is worth it, because sometimes Finn brings him coffee, or potato chips, which gets them nearly thrown out of the library on more than one occasion and would have resulted in further action had Kurt not been so friendly with all the librarians. It’s nice to have friends in high places.
One sunny afternoon, when Kurt is in the library by himself, because Finn has a class, Gail comes over to his desk.
“Where is your man today?” She asks, her voice open and curious and Kurt finds himself blushing crimson, before he can deny the accusation.
“He is just a friend,” he says after a pause.
“He must be very good friend.”
“He is,” Kurt cuts her off and it must have been clear in his tone, because she smiles a little wider, but doesn’t say anything else. Still, the damage is done, because now Kurt can’t stop thinking about it. It is true – Finn does spend a lot of time with him. In fact, they are practically dating, only without all the good parts. Kurt has always been foolishly optimistic, and now that there is hope – no matter how hard he tries, Kurt is unable to extinguish it.
The Friday after midterms, there is a big party and when Finn insists that they are going, Kurt has no time to think of an entirely new excuse.
Getting ready takes so long, that by the time he gets there, the party is at full swing. He passes somebody throwing up on his way in and briefly considers turning around, when he spots Finn by the punch in the same moment that Finn spots him and waves. The sense of déjà vu is overwhelming. There is no escape now.
Kurt can only pray that no one throws up on his new shoes.
He has a cup of the sweet tasting, but decidedly alcoholic punch, before deciding that its deceptive taste will be the death of him.
Finn stares at him like he’s lost his mind when he asks for a beer, but he does give him a can. It tastes horrible, but that means he can sip it for the remainder of the night and not get drunk and therefore not get stupid.
The party is loud and crowded, and Kurt is surprised to note that he recognizes a bunch of people and a couple of them even seem happy to talk to him. He even forgets about Finn for a brief moment, so engrossed is he in defending Wicked as the greatest musical of the 21st century. He decides he rather likes this Debby girl with the mousey brown hair. Maybe it is the beer speaking, but perhaps it is time to end his self imposed period of isolation.
He is pontificating on the finer things in life, whilst waiting his turn for the bathroom when Finn jumps on him. It is a hug, and a very drunken one, because Finn has little problem with the taste of beer. He is grinning like a loon, and his hair is sticking up and Kurt is still certain that he is the most attractive person there.
The guy that leaves the bathroom gives them an odd look, and Kurt blushes, because Finn is leaning on him and he is very warm. Kurt thinks that perhaps it is time to take Finn home.
It is a fairly short walk, and Finn isn’t as far gone as Kurt had feared, because, occasional stumble aside, he is able to make his own way.
“Did you have fun?” Finn asks, when they are about to go their separate ways. “How was the beer?”
The night is cool and the gentle breeze makes Kurt shiver a little. “Yes,” he says. “Good.”
Finn reaches out to hug him again, but ruffles his hair instead. There is nothing that Kurt hates more than someone messing up his hair, but Finn’s hand is warm and solid and so Kurt forgets his objections and leans into it. Finn lowers his hand from Kurt’s head to the back of his neck and when Kurt shivers, it is no longer from the cold.
Finn leans in then and Kurt thinks he is dreaming, because there are cool lips on his forehead. He closes his eyes as the lips move to the side of his face, then linger on his jaw and just as Kurt is ready to scream – his lips. The kiss is soft and exploratory, and apart from Finn’s hand cradling Kurt’s neck they keep their hands to themselves, but Kurt’s heart is beating so hard, he thinks he might actually pass out.
All in all, Kurt thinks, his first college party could have gone worse. He really should have gone to one lot earlier. Ohio may not be New York, but Kurt will make do.