Sebastian loves his car.
He loves everything about it; the shiny finish, the way the roof rolls back, the speeds it can reach, letting the wind rush through his hair, and the way he can experience the glory of all of things at once from a plush leather seat…
According to his father, it’s a 1995 Ford Convertible Mustang, but all he knows for sure is that it has two doors and is the most delicious red color he’s ever seen on four wheels.
There’s something special and poetic about a joy ride on the first day of his summer and that poem is made brilliant by the way he must look right now, with his gorgeous car and celebrity-huge sunglasses. His high school years are officially behind him, but all he can feel is the sun on his back, the wind sweetly beating against his face, and appreciation at how there’s nothing but open road ahead. Some unseemly fixtures of Ohio dot his periphery - gross gas stations, chain restaurants, and dinky apartment buildings - but all Sebastian needs to do is focus on the track with his trademark single-mindedness.
That is, until his engine starts gulping like a dying fish. It only lasts for one terrifying moment before it subsides, and he decides that it was probably nothing. Perhaps it’s just cheering for him - it’s not like he graduates every day.
It’s not the second, but the third time that it emits that “Hurgle Gurgle” noise (he gives the noise a name the minute he realizes that he should probably do something about it) that Sebastian decides it’s not so celebratory.
He pulls over to the nearest parking lot and, the second he’s parked, pulls out his phone. When his first search of ‘I think my car is using mouthwash?’ yields nothing particularly useful, except for deep amusement at the fact that the first search result under ‘I think my car is’ auto-fills with‘cursed’, he tries a different approach.
‘Mechanics near me’ was probably what he was supposed to look up in the first place, so he pretends that he hadn’t honestly considered car mouthwash as the problem as he peruses the results.
It surprises him initially that most of the suggested garages have ‘Lima’ in their name, and it soon becomes apparent that he’s driven further from home than planned.
When he sorts the results by customer reviews (only the best for his baby), the number one result amuses him - possibly more than it should. Hummel Tires & Lube.
Haha, Lube. Now that’s something he’s familiar with. He’s sure that people don’t put sex lube in their cars, but he’s ready to be surprised. He considers, for a moment, making another search for ‘difference between car lube and sex lube’, but decides against it. Instead, he searches for a towing company he can use to get there.
Twenty minutes later, Humphrey, the very judgemental car-tower arrives to get him where he needs to go. Before they get anywhere, the hulking man warily asks him what he was doing in the parking lot of the shadiest Victoria’s Secret known to man. Sebastian’s first urge is to respond with, “I’m actually gay, so I have better taste in my lingerie,” but decides that, without knowing the climate of the town, it wouldn’t be the best move. Sexual liberation is generally frowned upon in Ohio - that’s one of the most obnoxious things about it.
Before answering, he curses the ability of homophobia to wreck his one liners. He drops into a voice he hopes sounds straight and replies, “I wanted to look at the posters.” He delivers it with the shame and pitiful energy of someone for whom that is their only option, which apparently is enough to get Humphrey off his back and get him all the way to his garage of choice, even if the ride is awkward enough that Sebastian is stuck in a perpetual wince throughout.
The first thing he notices about the exterior of Hummel’s Tire & Lube is that it’s shedding. The paint is peeling off in long, thick strips, and it’s enough to make Sebastian wonder if he’s in the right place at all. He can’t tell if it’s just the lucky recipient of pity-inspired five star reviews, or it’s one of those “so trashy it’s good” locations. There’s a large set of shutters that have been hoisted open at the front, exposing a world of confusing hunks of metal and cars seemingly being dismantled. The sight makes him fear for his baby, but with a fortifying breath, he moves on.
Then, as he and Humphrey part ways, he registers the smell. It’s strong and deep, things he might like in a man, but not a scent. It’s not unpleasant enough for him to leave, but unpleasant enough to put him on edge; it’s the kind of discomfort that makes him feel off-kilter. He’s not nervous, of course - that would be ridiculous. He’s the customer here, the one wielding the personalized checkbook, so he’s in charge, regardless of how unfamiliar he is to this process.
A cheerful bell rings when he opens the door, and some scrappy kid (early twenties, if he had to guess) gives him a wan, tired smile.
“Hello! Welcome to Hummel Tires & Lube, how can I, uh, help you?” he asks, his face pinched as if he’s trying to remember a script.
Sebastian wishes he could have a copy of that script. He raises his sunglasses off of his face and into his hair as a means of stalling his answer.
“My car needs fixing.”
“Duh,” the other man replies drily, before adopting a horrified look on his face. “Uh-- Sorry,” he continues, visibly cringing. “I meant, more specifically, what the problem might be?”
Sebastian, honestly, can’t put a name to that problem, and so he does what he does best: he deflects. “Whatever. There’s an easy way to make it up to me,” says Sebastian, the cogs in his mind turning at light speed.
“Um, sure. What do you need?”
“Do you have any hot mechanics? Preferably gay, but being straight is not a dealbreaker?” It’s his typical brand of wisecrack, and he honestly doesn’t expect it to go anywhere.
The look that appears over the kid’s face is that of intense alarm, and his eyes shoot over to the garage area, before looking back to Sebastian and leaning in towards him.
“I don’t know who you are, but if you’re trying to fuck with Kurt, please leave.”
“Kurt?” Sebastian quirks a brow, now drumming his fingers impatiently against the reception desk. This guy must be an idiot, if he doesn’t know a joke when he hears one. “I don’t know who that is - and I don’t know who you are either, but if you want me to keep my complaints to myself you’ll hurry this exchange along and get me a mechanic I can work with. Understood?”
“I, uh, okay? Are you serious about the gay thing, though? Because we do have a gay mechanic but if you’re just going to be homophobic, or something-“
Sebastian pauses. Of course he wasn’t being serious, but he can see how his general impatience might have given the opposite impression. Then, there’s a pause in his mind. They actually have one? Could he-- no, if they have a mechanic who’s gay, the mechanic would also probably be forty, or something. Maybe Sebastian could come out of this car trouble with a gay Yoda, though…
“It was a joke, but if there is a gay mechanic, I’m not gonna turn them down. Supporting gay mechanics and all seems… Important.”
Sebastian notices then, just barely, the faintest twitch at the corner of the other man’s lips - it seems the jig is up. It’s obvious that he has no idea what he’s doing. “...Sure, sir. I’ll be one moment.”
With that, he rises to his feet, and heads into the garage. Sebastian can hear a faint peal of laughter in the background as he waits.
Kurt is not having a good day.
First, he gets stood up on his celebratory graduation brunch with Blaine, and then he gets yelled at by not one, but two different elderly men who insist they know their cars better than he ever could, despite all the blatant signs of misuse. He couldn’t so much as check the oil without hearing a panicked, ‘careful with that, sonny!’
Kurt hasn’t been this passionate about there being an age ceiling on car ownership in weeks, since the last time a bunch of geriatric assholes got on his case.
He’s taking a water break between clients when he hears Chris, one of their newer hires with a penchant for pissing off customers, calling him over. He’s laughing about something - Kurt can only hope it’s not another juvenile dirty joke he found on Reddit that he just has to share.
“Kurt? You’re free right now, aren’t you? I’ve got a guy out there who’s very interested in your services,” Chris snickers, in a way that tells Kurt he’s not going to find the situation half as amusing.
“Is Gerald coming back to apologize, or something?”
“No, this guy is way younger. And gayer, I think. Either that, or he’s Gerald’s grandson, here to seek vengeance. I do see some resemblances in attitude, actually…”
Great. The only thing worse than somebody twice his age talking down to Kurt like he’s a fumbling toddler is somebody his own age doing it. Having Blaine talk down to him over the phone today is enough, he can’t handle another one.
He lets out a withering sigh as he sets his water bottle down. “Send him in, but keep watch for a minute or two. If it’s some homophobic asswipe, I don’t want to have to kick him out on my own.”
“Alright,” says Chris. He makes his way to the receiving area with a badly-stifled smirk, and when Kurt strains his hearing a bit, he can pick up on Chris asking the mystery man how his day was, and a gruff, indecipherable response.
Then, he hears footsteps against the concrete, and Kurt can see Chris leading in his newest client. His newest client, who looks to be around his age, and a total dreamboat.
Tall. Tan, but not to the extent that he looks orange. He has these eyes that seem to be forever set to the “smoldering” setting, and legs for days. Kurt chastises himself for so much as thinking these things - but then he remembers exactly how dismissive Blaine had been that morning, and he decided to indulge in a little eye candy. It’s only fair, after he had to skip brunch.
“What are you in for?” Kurt asks, hoping he doesn’t sound flirty. Even if he has the primal need to flirt within an inch of his life with this guy, he tries to hold himself back.
Before he actually answers the question, Sebastian turns to the man who saw him inside. “Good job,” he tells him - because he’s delivered exactly what he asked for. It turns out that, after drab-looking buildings and run-down infrastructure, Lima’s number one export is hot young mechanics who just might swing his way. Maybe his car’s done him a favor after all.
“I tried to do an oil change, and after driving it for a bit, my car started making some weird noises, so I figured I could get my work checked by a professional,” he says, making no secret of his wandering eyes. Sebastian’s never thought of blue coveralls as a flattering look before now, but then again, he’s never seen them bring out somebody’s eyes so perfectly.
“Sure. Chris, can you wheel it into the shop?”
Chris nods, and says “I need the keys, so I can put it into neutral.”
Sebastian pulls his keys out of his pocket, but not before nailing Chris with an intnese glare. He’s grasping the keys tightly in his hand. “Will you promise to me that you will not hurt my baby? I love that car more than anything.”
“Uh, totally. You’re in good hands here at Hummel Tires & Lube,” Chris replies, and it sounds like another scripted line to Sebastian.
Instead of responding with words, Sebastian tosses his keys at Chris, not breaking his stare for so much as a second. Chris scurries off once the keys are in his hand, leaving Kurt and Sebastian alone.
Kurt soon realizes that this could be dangerous for his monogamous lifestyle, being alone in a room with a guy who’s this hot, has been checking him out, and adores his car, which is easily one of the hottest things a guy could adore. Blaine didn’t understand Kurt’s adoration for his beloved Nav, and this stranger, in comparison, seemed like he’d totally get it.
The man, from Kurt’s cursory glances, could get it in many ways.
Sebastian, since giving up his keys, has been checking out his mechanic. There’s a beat of silence before he notices something over his chest, glimmering unlike every other oil-coated surface in the joint.
“Are those rhinestones?” Sebastian asks before he can stop himself. They stick out to him, and his lips twitch into their signature smirk. His tone is mocking, but it’s not intentional - his voice has always had that cadence to it, and his smirk usually matches it.
“Yeah,” answers Kurt, masking his alarm. Attractive as this guy is, Kurt wouldn’t put it past him to either be some confused bully (which he has way too much experience with) or one of those self-hating gays. In a flash, his usual defense mechanism kicks in. He gives the man a quick once-over, sets his eyes in a mean, critical gaze, and quickly latches on to the biggest fashion faux pas he can find on his person. “Is that a popped collar?”
It is, in fact, a popped collar. Sebastian realises this, and quickly reaches to flatten it.
“Uh, yeah. My- my collar got popped up in the wind.”
“It’s windy outside?”
“It’s always windy in a convertible, babe,” Sebastian replies far more smoothly, glad for the chance to change the subject.
“Wait. You-- you have a convertible? For real?” Kurt asks, shocked enough that he breaks out of his guarded stance. His head whips sharply over to where Chris walked off, eager to see for himself. The car, already halfway to the garage area, is still out of sight.
“Yeah. If you think having a convertible is a turn on-”
“Which I do not,” Kurt interjects, but his voice is distracted and a bit disingenuous, still looking towards the entrance of the garage.
“-you are going to flip your shit when you see the rest of my car.”
As the car in question slowly rolls into view, Kurt’s eyes widen to the size of its tire plates.
It’s sleek, in near-perfect condition externally, and as Kurt eyes the license plate (a vanity plate which reads: 5EBAST1AN) he immediately recognises the make.
There’s no concealing the excitement in Kurt’s voice. “Is that a-”
“V8 Convertible Mustang, in red? Yes.”
“Oh my god. This is amazing. This is a dream come true.”
“Want me to pinch you?” Sebastian offers with that typical lecherous smirk, for which he receives a swat on his arm.
Kurt quickly recoils when he remembers that this person is still a customer, and probably doesn’t appreciate being swatted. Even if he thinks the plate is a bit tacky, everything else so brilliantly outweighs its cheesiness. This guy is hot, and his car is hotter. Kurt wonders if this is some fidelity test, like in those Catching a Cheater shows. If Sebastian is the honey trap, Kurt is going to become Winnie the Pooh if these sweet reveals keep hitting him.
“Sorry-- I’m sorry, I’ve just been dealing with so many Ford Fits and Honda Civics… This is a true breath of fresh air.”
Sebastian finds that hard to believe with that weird odor still lingering around them, but he likes how excited his mechanic is, and the way he’s already gravitating towards his prized vehicle. While his dad probably didn’t buy it for him under the impression that it would be a total babe magnet, it’s a definite perk of having a cool car.
“I’m sure these are pretty hard to come by, at least in this town. Go ahead, open it up-- I still need it fixed, you know.”
“The issue is an oil change, right? I’ll pop open the hood and check it out,” Kurt says as he walks closer, feeling the ‘awesome’ radiating off it in waves. He pops the hood open, careful not to mark up the shiny outside with fingerprints.
One look at the engine is enough to break him out of his reverence. Kurt swiftly realizes that this guy must have seriously fucked up the oil change if his engine is looking like this.
“What brand of oil did you use on this?” Kurt asks, wondering if he used a type that was incompatible with the older car.
“Uh, the grocery store standard, I think.”
Kurt slowly turns back to face him, trying to keep his expression neutral. Customer service is key, he reminds himself, with a voice in his head that sounds disturbingly like his father’s.
“They sell oil in grocery stores now? What stores are you going to?”
“Uh, literally every store?” Sebastian scoffs, folding his arms over his chest. This poor grease monkey really must not get out much if he’s asking questions like that. “What kind of grocery stores do you go to, if they don’t have basic vegetable oil?”
Kurt feels like there’s a record scratch reverberating through the room. The words repeat in his head, sounding more and more manic and high pitched as he hears them. Vegetable oil? Vegetable oil? Vegetable oil? Vegetable oil?
Before he knows it, Kurt is laughing like his life depends on it. There’s something about being stood up, yelled at, and flirted with by a cute guy who thought that he could use vegetable oil for an oil change that makes him lose it. How is this day real?
“What are you laughing at?” Sebastian asks, and Kurt can only laugh harder. He’s clutching his stomach now, nearly doubled over with the force of it.
Kurt keeps gasping out the beginnings of sentences that he can’t finish for his laughter. “Why would you”s and “You can’t”s keep wheezing out, but they go unfinished.
“I just-” begins Kurt, and he takes a deep breath to fuel the rest of the sentence, “I cannot believe that you did that. That’s hilarious.”
“Why? Oil is oil,” says Sebastian, crossing his arms even tighter as if in defense.
This makes Kurt laugh somehow harder, so hard that Sebastian wonders how he’s still standing, and has to fight the urge to take his arm to help keep him upright.
Kurt, meanwhile, is just thanking his lucky stars that he didn’t make any serious considerations of flirting with this guy, of all the guys. Sure, he’s cute, but he’s clearly a few screws short of a working engine. He’s definitely an actual oil change away from one.
For some, beauty is at the cost of pain, but for this kid, beauty is at the cost of being a total doofus, and Kurt can not get over how hilarious that is to him.
“Will you stop laughing and tell me what’s wrong with my engine?”
“What’s wrong? What’s wrong is that you put vegetable oil in it! What’s wrong with your engine? The real question is what isn’t wrong with it, now that you- I can’t even say it.”
Sebastian can feel his skin flushing. It starts at the tip of his ears and spreads, slowly but surely, until his face matches his car perfectly.
“I Wikihow’d the oil change process, and they said nothing about the oil types!”
“No, stop,” gasps out Kurt, “I can’t take it-- this is too good! You used Wikihow?”
“Well, maybe you should Wikihow on how to talk with customers, because I think you’re doing a pretty bad job right now,” says Sebastian, hoping that the heat beneath his skin isn’t too obvious. He’s a little bit charmed by the tinkling sound of Kurt’s laughter, but his embarrassment far overshadows any attraction brought on by the moment.
“Fine, fine, I’ll fix it, but it’ll cost a fair bit, considering that I’m going to need to get rid of all of the oil and give you an actual oil change. You know, with… With motor oil,” Kurt manages, barely, stifling another fit of laughter through it.
With a quick, furtive glance at the room around them, Sebastian realizes Kurt’s amusement has caught a few eyes-- scratch that, every eye in the room, even over the whirs of engines and the clattering of tools.
An older man, working on a car from across the room, barks out a “Be nice, Kurt! The customer is always right.”
The older man is bald and has a kind nature about him, and Sebastian assumes he’s on his side against this gorgeous bully.
“Dad! This kid put vegetable oil in his car!” yells Kurt.
“He what?” Says the old man (Kurt’s dad, apparently), and he begins to laugh too. It’s louder, more bellowing, but similar enough for Sebastian to see the family connection through his malcontent.
The laughter gradually dies down, but the red hue on Sebastian’s face does not. Kurt, noticing this, feels the need to put him out of his misery.
“If you want, you can go get some food or something and I’ll take care of your car,” he offers with a smile. It’s an olive branch of sorts.
“As if I’d leave anyone alone with my baby,” Sebastian snipes, effectively slapping that branch right out of his hand.
Kurt is affronted for a moment, but if this customer insists on sticking around, it’ll pay to have him in a decent mood. With that, Kurt decides on offering a bigger branch his way. “Okay. If you want you can pull up a chair and watch me work, but it’ll be pretty boring. If you want to pick some music to play while I work, you can,” he suggests. Music privileges in the shop come at a high premium, since all of the mechanics have different tastes.
“I think I could do that,” Sebastian huffs. He was very much enjoying his playlist before the oil change of doom cut his journey short. “Do you have a dongle?”
“Chris!” yells Kurt, “Give the man your dongle!”
As Chris and Sebastian work out the sound system of the garage, handling the many cords and buttons involved, Kurt begins looking at the engine, cleaning it up as best he can. Right before Sebastian presses play, Kurt turns to him.
“Before the music drowns me out, I feel the obligation to tell you that this is, in fact, not a V8 engine,” says Kurt with the soberness of a doctor delivering a grave diagnosis.
“What? It’s a V8. ” Sebastian replies, completely certain of it. He’s already been made out to look like a total fool, but he knows what car he has, at the very least. It’s his car. His baby.
“I am looking at the engine, and it really isn’t. There’s nothing wrong with having a V6, but I wouldn’t recommend flexing the fact that it’s a V8 if it isn’t-- wait. Do you know the difference?” Everything Kurt’s heard so far tells him he doesn’t.
“Of course I do.”
Sebastian does not.
“Do you want me to explain the difference? Because I can explain it and show you why this is a V6,” Kurt offers, genuinely looking to be helpful.
“Nope, that will not be necessary, because I know for a fact it’s a V8. I mean-- Look at it!” Sebastian gestures towards the vehicle, as if that proves his point.
“I am looking at it, and it is a V6,” says Kurt, and instead of answering, Sebastian just presses play. Sebastian pulls up a chair as the opening to ‘Drive My Car’ floods the garage, much to the confusion of the majority of its staff. There’s something very unusual about Kurt letting a customer play music, judging by their reactions, and Sebastian finds himself feeling very special for having that privilege.
Despite his deep and sudden, yet fluctuating hatred of the mechanic who is fighting him on everything, he still makes sure to sit somewhere that gives him a good view. Sebastian may be an idiot who doesn’t know the difference between oil types, but he knows a pretty thing when he sees one.
Kurt, however, knows a fucked up engine when he sees one. It’s not pretty under the hood, but he’s seen worse and salvaged it before. He gets to work, tapping his foot to the beat as he goes.
He ends up with grease all over himself, but when the job is done he’s proud of his work. He turns back to Sebastian who’s sitting in his folding chair with those ridiculous sunglasses now perched on his face with so much swagger he looks like a child emperor. When Kurt looks at him, he slides the shades down his nose, revealing his eyes (still set to smolder, much to Kurt’s chagrin), and hits him with a smile.
“How’d you do, babe?” asks Sebastian, his voice slow and decadent. Having his say in the music playing overhead combined with the sight of Kurt bent over his engine has mellowed his mood considerably.
“It should be good as new, if not better. You can work out the bill with Chris up front,” says Kurt, rubbing his hands on his coveralls, leaving behind tracks of grease.
Sebastian stands up, nodding slowly as he observes the way Kurt’s hands move. He must be good with them to get his oil changed so fast. He takes a few steps closer, keeping his pace slow, like he’s approaching prey. “And, how would I go about leaving you a tip?”
Kurt laughs, nervousness on his breath as he huffs it out. He hesitates before he gives his answer. Sebastian’s probably just flirting for the sake of it, but even with Blaine gunning for the douche-of-the-week award, Kurt can’t go leading anybody else on. “Chris can handle that too. I’d appreciate it; I’ve been hoping to take my boyfriend somewhere special this weekend.”
Boyfriend. Kurt places enough emphasis on the word for Sebastian to know that they’re having two conversations at once - one for business, and one for pleasure. Pleasure that won’t happen anytime soon.
They make eye contact, and it carries a mutual understanding, as if they’re screaming “did you feel it too? Am I crazy?” with their eyes. Sebastian knows this understanding and accepts it for what it is - a missed opportunity in a car garage that he’ll never visit again. Good mechanics are like doctors, says his dad: the less you see them the better they are at their job.
Sebastian feels an ache to see Kurt again, because something about this encounter feels heavy to him, feels significant. He figures it just feels that way because it reminds him that he’s grown up - he fucked up that oil change all on his own, thank you very much, and now he’s had it fixed in the very same way.
“Got it,” Sebastian replies, albeit reluctantly. When he first transferred to Dalton, he might have pushed that boundary further, just to see how far he could get - but unfortunately, he’s matured since then. “I’ll do that. Thanks again, Kurt.”
As Sebastian turns and walks towards the front desk, Kurt tries to count how many customers have remembered his name correctly since he began putting in shifts at his dad’s shop. He also wonders, more quietly in the back of his mind, if he’ll ever hear Sebastian putting that spin on it again.
The heat must be getting to him, thinks Kurt, if the way an almost-stranger says his name is making his heart hurt. He wipes the beads of sweat off his forehead and tries to forget how much he used to crave romance. He has romance - with Blaine. One bumpy patch between them didn’t change that.
As Sebastian turns his keys in the front door lock of his family’s home, the events of the day continue to play on his mind. Drive My Car has been stuck in his head for hours straight, as has the snide, mocking, melodic sound of a certain mechanic’s laugh.
From the light emanating through the edge of the doorframe, Sebastian can see his father is in his study. There’s one more thing that’s yet to settle in his thoughts, and he knows his dad has the means to put it to rest.
“Dad?” Sebastian says, gently nudging the door open. As he peeks his head through it, his father turns in his seat to face him.
“What kind of engine does my car have?”
“That would be… A V6, I believe,” his father answers, relieved for the distraction. “Why?”
“Are you sure?”
“Yes, I’m sure. That’s what was written in the papers I signed for it.”
“Cool. Settling a bet with a friend.” says Sebastian, in lieu of the embarrassing truth. He can only hope that he doesn’t look too beaten down, even if Kurt has so clearly bested him with basic engine knowledge.
“What the hell kind of bets are you and your friends getting into? I used to bet on sports games and horses, and now you’re betting on engine types?”
Sebastian can’t tell if it’s a genuine question, or just his dad’s diversion from work, so Sebastian just shrugs and steps away. His first instinct is to call Kurt and say that he checked the documentation, which totally says it’s a V8, but he soon remembers he didn’t take a number.
Instead, as he shrugs and leaves his father’s study, he resolves that if he ever causes any damage to his baby again in Lima of all places, he’ll go back to HT&L and tell Kurt then.