Neon lights glimmered on asphalt after the rain, highlighting the colors of the city as it continued to bustle with life at this late hour. The smell of the recent downpour hung in the air, allowing a certain calmness to the lively scene. Past an intersection there was a noticeable amount of commotion in an empty lot not far from one of the busier night clubs. Lazily parked in the space were three white and blue cars with cyan neons illuminating the dark lot. One of the cars was obviously vibrating from the amount of bass coming from its speakers. Within the circle, the drivers chatted as if the volume was hardly a problem, enjoying the atmosphere. Creating small little ripples in a puddle as he tapped his foot out of uneasiness, Kurt seemed rather distracted from the conversation Nolo and Karma were having next to him. A few nods here and there, but his eyes were locked on the streets. His mind was a little hazy from running around with Karma and Nolo-- they didn’t often get together alone, but did so sometimes to hang out on their own downtown. Having gotten closer to Vert over the past year, Kurt did feel awkward leaving him behind to hang out with those in Teku that were actually his age.
Kurt snapped back to reality when he caught Nolo speaking to him, completely missing whatever he’d just been talking about.
“...Is something wrong Kurt?”
“Oh no, I’m fine.” Kurt answered quickly, pulling his eyes away from the road.
Karma glanced at Nolo then back to Kurt. “I thought you were enjoying tonight, didn’t seem any different than before. You sure everything’s fine?” She asked with light concern.
Kurt shook his head and gave a light chuckle. “No, no I’m fine really. I just got a bit.. distracted.”
The two were quiet for a minute before Nolo spoke up again. “Well, it’s getting pretty late. 1 a.m’s kinda my limit right now, so I’m heading off. I’ll catch you guys tomorrow, alright?”
Kurt gave a nod and Karma said goodnight as Nolo returned to his car. The source of the booming music started to fade as he left the lot, reminding Kurt of the light headache he was distracting himself from. He groaned slightly, leaning against his car.
“I’m going home now too Kurt, you should probably do the same.” Karma said with a sympathetic expression.
Kurt smirked, “Let me sober up a little and I’ll be off, okay?”
Karma rolled her eyes and said, “Stay safe.”
Kurt watched her leave the parking lot, taking the once noisy spot to a quiet halt. He could hear the light rumble of his car and the turned down music from inside. He slowly made his way to the driver’s side and slumped into his seat. Even the bright lights of the interior design hurt his eyes, so he closed them quickly and simply sat there for a moment. He was competent enough to drive- that wasn’t a problem for the most part. But just as his mind drifted he felt his phone vibrate. At such a late hour he didn’t expect it to be anyone but one of his friends, so he took a look at it. It was Vert.
“You still up?” The text read.
“Yeah.” Kurt sent back, not exactly hoping he’d be hearing from Vert tonight.
Kurt waited for a reply. “I know you said you were busy today but if you’re free now, we could hang... if you wanna meet me at the corner of Cedar and Beech? Past the highway.”
This was exactly what he felt guilty about-- hanging out with Nolo and Karma because they were his age, it left Vert out like it did today. On top of that, they were straight up lying about their plans in most cases to leave them out. And while in some cases Vert did end up being busy, it was always awkward when moments like these came up and he had to act like nothing was happening.
“Yeah, sure. I’ll be there in a minute.”
As Kurt slipped his phone back into his pocket, his hand resting on the clutch for a minute, he took a moment before starting his car. It was late, but he wanted to hang out with Vert- partly out of guilt. Kurt shook his head and quickly cleared the feeling from his mind, putting his car into gear and pressing his foot down on the pedal. His car quickly left the lot, taking a turn towards the corner he agreed to meet Vert at. The streets were starting to lighten up at this hour, giving him a quiet drive for a few blocks. The tires of his car easily riding over the damp asphalt of the street. At the next intersection Kurt took a right, heading further down the road and underneath the highway. The tall city buildings started to fade as the roads flattened out- the surroundings mostly consisted of dirt and shrubs, reminding Kurt that he was still in the deserts of southern California. Turning into the last street and towards the corner lot he planned to meet Vert at, he could already see the faint glow from the neons on his friend’s car. As he pulled up Kurt saw Vert hanging outside of his car, turning in response to his Slingshot’s tires treading on the gravel. Kurt parked his car next to his friend’s and got out to greet him.
“Thanks for meeting me here so last minute. It’s been pretty hectic this week with my dad finally being back in town.”
Kurt nodded thoughtfully. “It’s cool. I was just gonna head home anyways after Karma and—“ he cut himself off quickly, realizing he may have easily just ruined the idea that he didn’t do anything all day before now.
“You saw Karma tonight…?” Vert paused for a second before responding, as he assumed Kurt was alone all today like he was.
Kurt swallows and continues with a pang in his chest already forming. “...Yeah, and.. Nolo too.” He decided to name anyone else as it likely wouldn’t change whatever would come next.
Vert was quiet for a moment, but Kurt quickly started again. “I’m sorry, Vert- I didn’t mean to not include you. I know I said I was busy earlier, and I lied- but…”
Kurt hopelessly trailed off seeing that Vert was obviously conflicted and hurt hearing this. “This was the one day I was actually free this week after being with my dad and you guys lied about being available?” Vert asked in disbelief. He’d be fine with his friends just not being available, but now he knew they were all together and lied to him about it. They were a team, they were all friends- so of course he was hurt that this would happen. “I actually saw Shirako today, so you guys lied to him too?”
A wave of anxiety fell over Kurt as he stood there and listened to Vert. Right. They all did lie to Vert. Shirako as well. It wasn’t supposed to be a big deal, the three of them didn’t think of it as such... but they didn’t think about what would happen if Vert or Shirako did find out. How selfish, to not even think about how doing such a thing would hurt someone else- any logical human being would realize how it could backfire so easily. The two of them stayed silent for a moment, Kurt not sure what to even say next. He didn’t want to make Vert feel like he was being left simply for their age difference, even though it was true. Vert was always the youngest, even all the way back to their time at Highway 35. Kurt knew that difference always got to Vert when others were better than him or had more experience. Sure, he wasn’t exactly a kid anymore, but even the older member of Teku felt the difference a no doubt like hanging out in their own age groups sometimes. They had nothing against the Vert or Shirako, if anything they all made the assumption that Vert joining them would make it feel less bad for Karma and Nolo to seperate. But this all stung a little more with the fact Kurt was likely the one person Vert was closest to. They both hadn’t been with Teku too long, and after Vert’s old friend Alec decided to continue helping Tezla with his work, Vert returned home from the World Race with one less friend. Their friendship wasn’t immediate, but out of this new team they already knew each other best. But as time passed and the two of them got to know others on the team a bit more. This ultimately left Vert behind again when Kurt found himself getting along very well with Karma and Nolo.
With Kurt’s own relationship with his brother, he could always feel the difference in his friendships with those his age and those younger than him- it didn’t make them any less of friends, but he always ached to actually know some people his age. He wished it wasn’t about age though. It shouldn’t be, but it was and he made it that way the moment he and the others purposefully didn’t include Vert. But here he was, putting a dent in their friendship over lying and avoiding hanging out with him. He didn’t want to think of it like that, but he was purposefully planning nights without Vert in mind and straight up lying about it. Didn’t matter what it was, it was bad.
Kurt didn’t even look at Vert as he tried to process some sort of response. He sighed and broke the tense silence. “Listen… I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have avoided hanging out with you like that.” Though he felt guilty and needed to apologize, Kurt knew a lot of what Vert was feeling was less about being left out and more about the fact the more superior members of Teku left him out for his age. “I can’t lie about this and say it has nothing to do with you being younger than the rest of us. We’re all older than you, Vert. The others just wanted to hang out a little by ourselves because it’s…. different. But I never intended for it to come out like this and hurt your impression of us.”
Vert sighed, leaning against his car. “I don’t want to feel like I’m holding you back from just having fun. But…” he paused, looking like he still was trying to process some of the thoughts on his mind. “I just thought we were like, finally on the same level— after Highway 35, I started to feel like you and the others didn’t see me as some dumb kid.”
“I don’t see you as a dumb kid.” Kurt started quickly, but stopped for a moment before continuing. “Karma and Nolo were glad to see me join because I was around their age, it felt nice for me too.” He said. “We end up just hanging out like friends and not a team because of that. But… I just wasn’t thinking about how much we were distancing you and Shirako from all this.”
Another moment of silence in the tense night time air before Vert spoke again. “I know, I get it— you leave us out because we can’t tag along— we’re not old enough or whatever.” Vert said, ending with a stifled laugh, as if it was funny it was that obvious to him. “That’s not something I can help , and this whole thing… I don’t even know how long you guys have been excluding me. I thought Teku was finally a place that could make up for the friends I had on the Wave Rippers.”
“I know saying sorry doesn’t count for much at this point. It was shit for us to assume this wouldn’t hurt to find out.” Kurt replied earnestly, look at Vert in the eyes when he said it.
Hearing something like that made his chest stir. The feeling of being ignored by friends you thought you had something good with left anxiety lingering on his shoulders. Even the one person Vert thought he had become good friends with didn’t seem to see it the same way if he was able to ditch him for others that easily. But he let his mind settle for a moment. Kurt seemed flustered being found out like this. and he sounded sincere for the most part.
“Listen, um…” Vert started, back turned already as he headed back for his car. “Let’s catch up tomorrow okay? All of us?”
Kurt watched Vert as he obviously failed to feel better about the situation at all. He didn’t know what the kid was thinking, and he didn’t know if tomorrow would be better. “Yeah...sure.”
Kurt watched him get in his Deora, the headlights blindingly illuminating the lot as it left. He stood there for a moment in a cool, silent night as his mind failed to process the right feelings for his actions tonight.