Written for the 2014 Kurtofsky Fest.
Prompt: Some sort of summer camping trip, post OMW. As friends, or dating, whatever you want. (A/N: Heads up – I totally went with 'whatever you want').
Warnings: Angst. Mentions of past suicide attempts, mentions of past drug/alcohol abuse (not main characters). Mention of divorce. Original characters. Unrequited feelings. Sort of.
Author's note: My experiences of camping are so wildly different from what I see portrayed in movies in the USA so I went with that and created a camp which I would like to exist (and hope somewhere it does – the idea came from a post I saw about a camp run for children that fall outside the gender-binary).
Expect the Unexpected
The day he's discharged from hospital his dad picks him up and they sit in the car in awkward silence before his dad finally starts the car and heads out of the lot. He's not really paying attention to anything, he's said sorry so many times he's lost count and he hates feeling like he's disappointed his parents. He feels like that feeling will never go away. He looks up, away from his fingers clasped in his lap and out the window. He frowns.
"Uh Dad…? This isn't the way home."
"No. It isn't. I need to talk to you."
"And a Motel 6 was your first choice?"
"I've been staying here…"
His heart sinks even further and he works the tightness in his throat.
"Your mother and I… are having some problems."
"Oh my god… this is my fault."
"David. Not everything is your fault. And this… is definitely not your fault. I can't deny that your actions have worked as a catalyst but if things had been okay to start with it wouldn't have had any effect. We've had ongoing problems, and we've always done our best to hide them from you and your brother and sister. Now I think that maybe that wasn't our wisest decision and it wasn't in your best interests to think that our relationship was somehow perfect. It's not."
He has no idea what to say, clasps his shaking hands together and gives up controlling the tightness in his throat, silent tears slipping down his face.
"She wants you to go to one of those camps."
He can't help the sob he lets out.
"Those camps aren't going to change me dad."
"I know that. Your mother… is… scared." Dave snorts this time, although suspects it sounds like another sob. His mother had come to see him once while he was in hospital. And he was there for five days. He's seen his kid brother and older sister more often than her. Neither of them care, and it had been such a relief when they'd both fallen on him and hugged him (and then punched him but that's their way). His mother is scared more of what other people say. She's not scared of him. He doesn't know what to think or feel about her anymore. "I'm not defending her. I know that you have no choice in this matter, that you somehow thought you had no way out… but you do."
A part of Dave is waiting for his dad to say the words, that he has to go to one of these camps just for his mom and he feels like throwing up. He doesn't want to go, doesn't want to hide who he is if he's going to stay alive.
"David. Do you trust me?" He looks up at his dad, and yeah, of course he trusts him. He nods, wipes his dripping nose on his sleeve for lack of anything better. "I would never send you away to one of those camps, especially since reading about some of them." His dad shudders and he feels a little part of himself inside uncurl. "But… I am sending you to a camp. If I've lead your mother to believe that it's a certain type of camp… well. That's her own fault."
"What kind of camp is it?"
"Come inside and I'll show you."
Kurt has been looking forward to the camp for weeks, particularly since his not-so-amicable breakup with Blaine. He's needed to look forward to something, especially hearing the recriminations on how he shouldn't have broken up with Blaine. He doesn't need to hear that from people who are meant to be his friends. So he'd talked with his dad, pulled out of the road trip the others had been planning and registered to go to a summer camp for the first time in his life.
He's never been what he'd call a fan of the great outdoors, but sleeping in cabins is something he thinks he can cope with, and hot food he doesn't have to cook and interesting sounding workshops and… everything. He's scoured their website, knows there will be an advocate from NYADA there, as well as people from various other support groups to talk to. He can't help but think of all the like-minded people that are going to be there.
As he drives he has plenty of time to think. It's a 12-hour trip his dad hadn't been happy about him taking, so he'd agreed to split it up over four days. Still something his dad had balked at but he'd reminded him that he was moving to New York and there were plenty of other scarier things in his life. Driving was something he at least knows how to do. He wishes that maybe he wasn't doing this alone, but at the same time he's enjoyed the independence and freedom. He's sung along to whatever music he's chosen with no complaints or people trying to out-sing him. It's been wonderful really.
When he passes the sign for October Mountain State Forest he gets a little thrill, he knows Pittsfield is the closest town and that he's bypassed it. He'll be able to go and explore later if he feels the need to, although he doubts he will. He follows the signs to the campground, then the smaller ones that indicate where he should leave his car and then he's pulling his bag out and heading for the registration desk.
There's a group of about ten people handing out information and directing people. He knows the camp is limited to only 150 people and that he's only lucky enough to be here because he asked to be put on a waiting list; apparently they'd never thought of creating a waiting list before. They give him a map, his cabin circled in red, tell him that dinner is at 6.30pm and to settle in and explore. That gives him four whole hours. He thanks them and takes in a deep breath, full of anticipation for the next two weeks and heads in the direction of his cabin.
They'd stayed in Buffalo overnight and left early this morning so he'd arrived before lunch, his dad, brother and sister doing the drive together which had been nice. Given them all a chance to talk without his mom hanging around, waiting to catch them in a lie. He's barely tolerated the last few months, although when his dad had started the separation proceedings he'd asked to move in with him, which had helped alleviate some of the pressure of lying to his mom, although sleeping on a couch had taken some getting used to it was still better than his old bedroom.
They've left now though, given him tight hugs and told him they'd see him in a couple of weeks. He's not sure how but he feels closer to his brother and sister since he came out, he guesses it's because they've accepted him for who he is. Or that he's now being open and honest with them. His dad has just said he doesn't understand but that he wants Dave to be okay. Before, he'd never have thought his family could be so supportive and caring. Most of them anyway.
His thoughts drift between the book he's reading and his family when the door to the cabin opens and he lets out a huff of surprise, because Kurt Hummel is not someone he was ever expecting to see walk through the door.
"Karofsky. What…" Kurt's gone pale and he wants to go and see if he's okay but suspects that that might not be welcomed right now so he stays where he is, lying on his bunk with an open book on his chest.
"Kurt, you look terrified…" Dave pauses and then lets out a long breath. "You know you don't need to be scared of me anymore right?" He'd hoped that Kurt knew this already, but judging from the look on his face the words stood repeating.
"I – of course I know that. I just… I haven't been scared of you in a long time. Just… I definitely wasn't expecting to see you here." Kurt pauses and takes a few steps inside, closing the door. "Uh, why are you here?"
"Same reason you are."
"Oh. Right. Huh…"
He wants to simultaneously roll his eyes, raise his eyebrows and shake his head. He's never really gotten Kurt's outlook on life, that some things, if not all things, need to fall into neatly prescribed boxes with labels on them. He just doesn't get it. Things for him have never been that cut and dry. He watches as Kurt selects a bunk, a little touched that despite there being nine to choose from Kurt still chooses the one immediately beside him. He's glad for the familiar face if nothing else.
He goes back to reading his book, or at least pretending to read. He can watch Kurt too easily over the top of his book and it's distracting, watching him unpack. There are a dozen or so little bottles that Kurt places on the shallow shelf, clothes placed carefully in the single drawer beneath the bed until there's not enough room left and Kurt ends up squashing more in anyway, swearing as he does so. Dave lets out a little huff of amusement because it's funny, seeing Kurt get annoyed and not so... perfect.
"So did you drive, bus or fly?"
"I drove. My dad made me take four days to get here. It was kind of nice actually."
"Uh..." a horrible thought hits him. "Anderson, your boyfriend, he's not... here as well is he?" He finds it weird that he doesn't mind the idea of Kurt, but seeing an established couple around the place... ergh.
"He's not coming," Kurt starts, looks as if he's going to say something else before moving away and he feels relieved. "I'm sorry for not... staying in touch."
"After... back in February?" Kurt asks, looking pained and it clicks.
"Oh... don't worry about it. I had a lot going on." Not that he would have turned away Kurt's friendship had it actually eventuated of course, but it's not anything he can change and he's gotten better at accepting shit like that. Or at least trying to not let it bother him as much. "So, you had a proper look around yet?"
"No. I really only just got here, registered and then came here. You?"
"Yeah, I got dropped off before lunch. Been killing time so I had a good look around," he states and then wonders if maybe it was an invitation. "You want me to come with you while you look around?"
"Oh, no, it's okay. I'll be fine…"
"I don't mind. And it's not like I've got anything better to do."
"Well, only if you're sure."
He shrugs, because he really doesn't care.
He's a little in shock and it feels quite surreal. Of all the people that he could have met here he can't believe that it's already someone he knows. Seeing David again had caused old guilt to wash through him as he considered his forgotten promises in the hospital room. He knows he's been busy but he suspects that David could have done with a friend over the last few months. He can't change the last few months, but he can change how he acts from now on.
Following David out of the cabin doesn't dispel the surreal sensation in the least and he feels a little hysterical giggle rise through him and he lets it out. David turns and smiles, looking like he wants to be let in on the joke and he just waves his hand, not knowing where to even start. He walks with David back to the registration area, David pointing out the large dining hall and then the bathroom and he stops in his tracks.
"Communal showers. Oh god…"
"No one's going to pick on you for being gay. They'd get sent home and it would kind of be hypocritical…"
"I… are there separate shower cubicles?" His mind is racing. He's not confident about his body in the slightest, and stripping naked to wash with other guys is something he'd never thought he'd have to deal with. He didn't think this through. Maybe he should leave. Dave is pushing him, hand gentle on his lower back and he can hear him talking through a fog of panic.
"Kurt… it's okay. Look… there are separate cubicles. You can lock them. You'll be okay…"
"Oh… oh god, sorry, I just…"
"Were freaking out a little."
"A lot actually."
"Yeah well, I was being polite."
Kurt can tell David is holding back asking a question, probably still being polite and he guesses that they're not actually friends. Just friendly acquaintances at this stage and he wonders what he can say or do to change that. Everything probably.
"I always showered at home, after gym at school. I always made sure my timetable had gym either before lunch, right before school finished or before a free period. I never really liked gym."
"Good thing you never have to go to another gym class in your life huh?"
"Dancing is plenty enough for me. So, now that I'm over my little panic about the showers where to next?"
"There's a nature walk to a waterfall. But you're not really dressed for hiking."
He looks down at his oldest pair of jeans, his black Doc Martens and blue and white checked shirt. He's as prepared as he's ever going to get and he can't help but be a little amused that David thinks he's somehow dressed up. Particularly after driving for a couple of hours.
"A walk sounds good actually, let me stretch out all my muscles. And then a shower before dinner."
"Uh, you don't want to get changed?"
"David, these are my oldest jeans. I packed clothes I don't mind getting dirty. I am aware I'm at a camp for the next couple of weeks."
Jesus Christ. It explains why they're so fucking tight. Old jeans that look painted on and Kurt must have grown since whenever he bought them. Ugh. He really hadn't thought this through, being at a camp with other guys who won't punch him immediately for an admiring glance. Not that he's admiring – fuck yes he is. He looks up at the sky, wondering if he wants it to start falling or if he's looking for heavenly guidance. He really doesn't know anymore.
"Just let me get some bug spray and we can be off. How long is it?"
"Only an hour there and back. I did it earlier."
It was a nice walk, he'd noted a camping spot with the stones for a campfire near the start and suspects it's used for outdoor camping. He walks with Kurt back to their cabin, not surprised that another couple of guys have arrived while they've been gone. Kurt extends the invitation to join them and he's selfishly glad when they decline, although he does want to make other friends while he's here, particularly if they are going to go to MIT, which is where he's headed in September. He's grateful for his early acceptance and that he didn't muck up his grades with everything that's gone on.
They walk in silence, and it feels comfortable for a little while before he starts wanting to talk. He just doesn't know what to say. He and Kurt have little in common that he knows about, have a mismatched history at best and yet here they are. Doing a nature walk together. He lets out a huff of amusement, shaking his head and catches Kurt turn to look at him.
"I know, it's kind of weird right?"
"Uh… you mean this?" Dave asks, waving his hand vaguely in an all-encompassing manner as he can manage. Kurt nods, grinning and looking away and he laughs again. "Yeah. It is kind of weird. Wish I could go and tell my younger self where I'd be in two years…"
"Me too… oh the things I would tell myself."
"Really? You always seemed like you had everything figured out."
"Hmm. No. I wish I had everything figured out. I still don't really."
"I'm just really good at faking it."
He nods, although his mind has gone swimming in the gutter and fuck he's so screwed. So much for thinking he was over Kurt Hummel. Surely there have to be other guys that will catch his eye, be single and actually return his affection. He can only hope. They continue talking, about school mainly, steering away from the topics that might cause issues and it's nice. He learns Kurt is going to New York, he tells him he's going to MIT.
He doesn't talk about how he hasn't seen his mom in three weeks, only spoken to her on the phone. He doesn't mention his parents separating. He wonders if Kurt even remembers that he'd told him his mom wanted him to go to a conversion camp. He's slowly patched up his friendship with Az, lots of Xbox hours spent calling each other names before things had even started resembling normalcy for them. He doesn't think their friendship will last through college but he hopes he's wrong.
They're reminiscing about the lunch food when he notices Kurt about to reach out and touch some of the climbing vine on a tree.
"Uh Kurt, I wouldn't touch that if I were you…"
"It's poison ivy."
"Oh! Um. Thanks."
"You don't get out a lot huh?"
"Well… not in this sense. My dad was never comfortable with the idea of sending me off to summer camp. This one… well, he figured I'd be okay. You go camping a lot?"
"Wow. So this isn't new to you…"
"Oh, I don't think this can even be placed in the same category of my previous camping experiences. The next couple of weeks are going to be totally… different."
"Well, I have to agree with you there. It's… kind of scary though isn't it?"
He could laugh, or he could agree.
"Yeah…" Going home will be scarier though he adds silently. He knows he'll have to come out to his mom eventually and he's just hoping that he'll be better equipped to deal with it when he goes home.
There are five others in their cabin, making it a total of seven but leaving three empty beds. David seems to hit it off with a guy called Tim and they end up chucking a ball around outside. Everyone is from Ohio or surrounding states and he knows it has to be a deliberate grouping, on the off-chance that people know each other like he and David. There are two, Mark and Cody, who are clearly a couple and are from Michigan. They haven't made any effort to unstick themselves from each other's faces and Kurt just hopes they don't end up having sex when they think everyone else is asleep.
Luke and Xander seem nice enough, Luke's joined David and Tim throwing a football, while he and Xander seemed to wordlessly agree that getting out of the cabin was their wisest option and at least watching the guys throw a football was better than staying and being forced to endure Mark and Cody and all the associated sounds and images; Xander muttering under his breath about porn and orgies, making Kurt laugh. They sit on sun-warmed grass, a slight breeze stopping it from being unbearably hot.
"The views pretty nice here huh?"
"I guess..." Kurt replies, looking around at the trees and lake, and he supposes it is quite pretty.
"I wasn't talking about the actual physical scenery. I was talking about them," Xander gestures with his head and Kurt looks in the direction of the head jerk and oh... the others playing football. He's not really looking for anyone, too focused on getting what he can from this camp and then preparing for his move to New York. He says as much and Xander sorts, rolls his eyes.
"There's no harm in looking. And I plan on doing plenty of looking."
Kurt hums non-committedly because he's always tried not to look. To try and be as unassuming and non-sexual as possible so that people were never threatened. Not that it ever really seemed to work but it had become a habit. When he's not on stage or performing he shrinks away from attention. Sure he wears clothes that some might describe as attention grabbing, but he has always considered it a protective layer. Armor that people can attack while hopefully leaving him intact.
Fortunately orientation is scheduled to start and they all head off to the main hall and he feels a little relieved when David bumps his shoulder in a friendly way, settling in a chair next to him. Everyone goes quiet as they listen to the history of the camp, how it came about and how they believe it helps. There is general housekeeping, health and safety and stern warnings about alcohol and drugs being completely banned.
"Your cabins sleep anywhere between six and ten. As some of you have probably already figured out we've assigned you your cabin based on your geographical location, on the off chance that you might know each other and help ease you into camp. The second week we'll change it up and do it some other way."
"There are workshops. Some of them are compulsory. We took into account the surveys you all did and based the core workshops off those. There are sign-up sheets just over on the wall there. Finally, I just want you to each know that you are not alone in the circumstances that bring you here. And I don't mean the obvious fact that you all identify as gay or bisexual. I'm talking about more specific things like the fact you are not out to your friends or family. That you've tried to commit suicide," Kurt can't help his eyes quickly flicking to David before focusing again on the stage. "Some of you have lied to your family about what kind of camp this is. For some of you it's a football camp. For others it's a conversion camp…"
He's not even touching David but he feels him tense beside him and he looks at him again and then he remembers, back in the hospital room, David saying that his mother wanted him to go to that type of camp and his stomach churns. He reaches out, self-conscious despite the fact that he's held David's hand before, and grips his fingers. David looks at him, eyes wide, then his hand is being squeezed back and he smiles, turning his attention back to the speaker on stage.
" – so for those of you that need it there's a training regime. Any of you can join it but those that are meant to be going home in two weeks fitter and stronger physically as well as emotionally and mentally will be woken at six every morning."
There are collective groans which make others laugh, including some of the camp leaders. Kurt's glad he's not going to be one of those woken, not only because of the timing. He would hate to have had to lie to come here; the entire speech is reminding him of just how fortunate he is to have his dad in his corner.
After the rules are once again driven home the orientation session ends with ice breaker activities, having to find people with certain talents, or that come from a particular state to fill out a bingo-card. It's fun and definitely loosens everyone up and gets them talking to one another. He's already found a few other guys that like performing as much as him and when he looks to find David he's in deep conversation with some others.
He moves as quietly as possible, not wanting to wake anyone else but his sleeping bag makes inordinately loud rustling sounds in the silence of the cabin. He pulls on his sweats and when one of his trainers thunks to the floor he grimaces, waiting for someone to wake. To be fair if they've slept through some of the snoring last night then Dave moving around quietly isn't going to wake them but he really doesn't want to be inconsiderate.
"Oh god, what time is it?"
"Shit, sorry. I didn't mean to wake you… It's just before six. I'm going to go train with the other guys. You can go back to sleep."
Kurt sits up, rubbing his eyes and squinting in the half-light and it's odd seeing Kurt like this. It makes him feel a little less on guard about his own appearance.
"Uh… are Mark and Cody in the same bunk?"
"Yep. I think they zipped their sleeping bags together."
"Ugh. God I wish there was a rule about no sex."
"Well they did say not to do anything that might make others uncomfortable. You could always tell them how it makes you feel."
The thing is it doesn't make him feel too uncomfortable, more of a reminder of what he doesn't have. He knows he won't be alone forever, that some guy will come along eventually, but he figures he has time.
"They're just so… couple-y," Kurt says, pulling a face and Dave snorts as he ties his laces.
"No worse than you and Anderson."
"Really? We were that bad? I really don't think we were that bad. We wouldn't ever zip our sleeping bags together."
"Kurt, you brought sheets and a duvet with you." Kurt opens his mouth to say something and then decides against it. "I'll see you later."
He leaves with a smile on his face, although that's soon wiped when the coach starts them running and he second guesses his decision that exercise would be good for him. He could still be in bed. He manages to keep up though, isn't quite the last in the pack as they run but forgoes the extended training session with weights and drills. He goes and collects his things to shower and notes that everyone is still asleep, except for Kurt, whose bed is empty.
He sees Kurt walking toward him from the shower block and even though he's over his infatuation he still has to admit that Kurt is one of the best looking guys he's ever seen. Yesterday when Kurt had been freaking out about the possibility of being bullied in the shower he'd almost told Kurt that he was more likely to get flirted with in the shower than bullied. He'd kept his mouth shut though, because that would have definitely freaked him out more.
"Yeah. Nice and hot and the water pressure is great. Just annoying you have to keep pressing the button every ninety seconds to keep the water going."
"Cool. I'll see you at breakfast."
When he arrives at the dining hall Kurt is sitting with some guy he vaguely remembers as Sean, one of the guys who were also out running this morning and is now sitting next to Kurt and dripping sweat. He doesn't know if he's imagining it or whether he knows Kurt, but he looks uncomfortable, edging away but with a polite smile on his face. He doesn't get why Kurt won't say something.
"Hey Kurt," he sits opposite and that's definitely relief in Kurt's face. He turns slightly to face the other guy. "Sean right?"
"Yeah," the guy says with a smile, nodding, and he looks friendly enough. He doesn't want to overstep his place, as Kurt's acquaintance, but he feels like he needs to say something. Except he's bound to get chewed out by Kurt later. Fuck. He looks between them, trying to figure out what to do and then notices Sean looking between him and Kurt. "You guys knew each other before huh?"
"Yes. We went to school together," Kurt offers and Dave shuts his mouth on what he was going to say, waiting to see where exactly Kurt's going to go with this.
"That's pretty cool that you decided to come here together."
He doesn't even bother opening his mouth this time, just looks at Kurt and hopes he gets the message that he'll follow whatever lead Kurt decides to take.
"Yeah, it's nice…" Kurt says, and smiles at him across the table.
Sean looks between them again before standing, saying he's going to go and hit the showers but doing some general eyebrow waggling in his direction and Dave has no idea what he's trying to convey, or if it's even to him. He watches him walk out and then turns to Kurt.
"You know, if you're feeling uncomfortable you really need to say something. I'm pretty sure he was interested in you."
"Oh. Really?" Kurt twists to look in the direction Sean disappeared to and Dave can't help but be a little surprised. He'd put Sean in the same category as him when it came to Kurt, big, very sweaty and completely lacking in any of the same interests Kurt has. Although he could be totally wrong and Sean could be an opera singer for all he knows.
"Yeah. If anyone gets in your face like that you need to tell them to step back. You don't have to put up with it, especially here."
"I know, I'm just not used to people wanting to be in my personal space. I like my personal space."
"He liked your personal space too."
"Ha ha. I… do you really think he was flirting?"
"I didn't hear what you guys were talking about, but judging from the body language I would say yes. You might want to make it clear to him that we aren't…" he waves his hands, knows he's starting to blush. "You know. That we aren't a couple."
"I didn't say that. What would make him think that?"
"Because you let him think we came here together? Everyone else who is here together are couples that are busy cleaning each other's faces with their tongues… I'm pretty sure he thinks that we're a couple… actually you know I don't know. Fuck it, I'm going to go and get some breakfast."
David is right of course, people seem to assume that he is with David, and he does nothing to correct them although if he was asked outright he'd tell them; no one asks though. It doesn't stop the flirting, which takes a few days to get used to, but he starts to enjoy it, flirting back a little with those he feels have no expectations. It feels good, and David has started pointing it out to him every time Kurt gets checked out. It's doing wonders for his ego.
Now that he's more aware he starts noticing people more, and it's definitely a study in human nature. He notices guys checking out David and the first time he lets out a delighted laugh, making several people look in his direction. He waves a hand apologetically and tells David he'll tell him later. They're meant to be camping under the stars tonight, something he's not looking forward to, what with the borrowed sleeping bag, bugs and complete lack of four walls.
He trails after David, helping where he can as others seem to gather firewood automatically, putting up tents with ease and pulling out enough food to feed the seven of them for a week, despite being less than a twenty minute walk from the main camp and having every intention of returning tomorrow morning. They have a camp counselor, Ryan, with them, and he's not quite sure of their purpose, other than making sure they don't set fire to themselves.
Everything is set up when Ryan starts giving directions on food Kurt finally feels like he can contribute, cooking a sausage stew that looks incredibly unappealing but smells amazing. The mashed potatoes are a good accompaniment and he understands the need for bringing so much with them now. Everything tastes slightly smoky with the campfire but he likes it. Mark and Cody offer to do the washing up and everyone lets them, knowing they'll come back eventually.
"More smores for us," Tim says, grinning as he opens the crackers and marshmallows, pulling out long handled prongs.
"You done this before?" David asks.
"Not over a campfire. I tried over the gas burner once and… it didn't work."
David snorts and passes him a fork with three marshmallows already firmly impaled on the end.
"Just watch and learn."
What he learns is that it's messy. And delicious. And really freaking hot. He's sure his mouth will recover one day. With them all lulled into a warm comfortableness with food and sugar he's only half paying attention when Ryan starts talking, giving what is effectively his life history. He talks about the fear of coming out, trying to commit suicide, becoming addicted to drugs before getting help when he was in his late teens. Why coming to the camp and helping other teens struggling is so important to him.
It starts the metaphorical ball rolling, Tim opens up next, talking about how while is out to his parents no one else back home knows. He's got a football scholarship and needs to decide whether to come out knowing it might cost him his scholarship. Ryan points out that he shouldn't and they all look at him like he's dreaming. A lot of things shouldn't happen.
Xander is out to everyone in his life, is happy with every aspect and seems to have had a dream high school experience. Kurt feels a little envious as he listens. Luke is only out to his friends and his mom, scared of what his step-dad will do and say to come out to him. Kurt sucks in a deep breath.
"I'm out to all my friends and family. However I was bullied at school. Every day… the jocks, oh my god they seemed to take my sheer existence as an insult and it became… personal." He stops, not sure how to continue, he doesn't want to make David feel bad or go into too many details of their history. "I found out that one of the guys on the football team was in the closet."
"How did you find out?" "Do you know where he is now?" "What did you do?"
"I…" he looks at them helplessly, not sure what to say.
"I was a jock in school. In the closet. Scared shitless when I realized I might be gay. Tried to ignore it and hope it would go away, that it was just a phase. There was this one kid. Proudly out, glad to be different and I hated everything he represented. I bullied him so badly he transferred schools to get away from me…" Kurt swallows, reaching for Dave's hand and just clinging to it tightly. "He was so fucking brave. He came back to my school and wanted to help me. I didn't want to be helped. Not then anyway. I ended up transferring schools and when I got outed and bullied at my new school I tried to commit suicide. He came and visited me in hospital…"
"Wow…" "Are you still in touch with him?"
"I… yeah, I am."
"And you're okay with that?" Xander asks him and Kurt frowns.
"That he used to bully. You used to be bullied… and yet you two are… friends."
Oh. He looks at Dave who is grinning, shoulders shaking in what he can only assume is silent laughter.
"Wait, didn't you guys go to the same school?" Tim asks.
They both nod and he can see now that they're making the connections.
"I found out Dave was gay when he kissed me in the locker room."
"Definitely not my proudest moment…" Dave mutters and Kurt shrugs, because the kiss isn't what scared him, it was more Dave's actions afterward, the slightly more menacing nature that seemed to threaten violence if he wasn't silent. He doesn't bring that up. "I didn't think there was any way back from there."
"He's failing to mention that for the week leading up to Valentine's Day he anonymously sent me gifts and dressed in a gorilla suit…"
Fortunately it breaks the building tension and he's glad no one but him and Dave know the timeline of events. Conversation turns to future aspirations and more light hearted things, especially when Mark and Cody return with clean dishes but looking decidedly disheveled. They talk together for long hours, switching to ghost stories which leave his skin crawling and really wishing they were not staying outdoors. It's close to midnight when Ryan suggests they call it a night and they all shuffle off to bed.
There are two of them to a tent, barely room to move and he lets Kurt change and get into his sleeping bag before changing in the dark himself. Something has been bugging him for the last few days and tonight is the last night they're in the same cabin together, with tomorrow bringing about the new formation of cabin groups. He's not looking forward to it. He crawls into the tent, shucking his jeans off before deciding to sleep in his shirt and boxer-briefs. Unlike Kurt he didn't bring proper pajamas for a sleep out.
"Kurt…?" he whispers, barely able to hear his own voice.
"Can I ask you something?"
"Are you… are you and Blaine still together?"
"I… no. He's… well I'm going to New York and he seems hell bent on thinking that we're over because of that and it's exhausting fighting for something when you're the only one fighting or willing to work on it."
"Why do you ask?"
"Oh, I couldn't figure out why you seemed happy to let everyone think that we're together when you already have a boyfriend… but I get it now." He doesn't want Kurt to think that he's interested, even if he were. He might be? He shakes his head, worming down into his sleeping bag and hoping it warms up quickly against his bare legs.
"Pretending to already have a boyfriend kind of makes it… safer? I don't know." He shrugs in the dark, unable to really verbalize what he means.
"You think I'm using you to somehow protect my virtue?"
"That's not what I meant."
"I can protect my own virtue, and I thought it was mutually beneficial…"
"Kurt, I just couldn't figure out why a guy like you would pretend to be with a guy like me…"
"A guy like… what?"
"You and me? Together… it's no wonder all the other guys keep flirting with you and checking you out."
"Dave…you get checked out just as often. I'm just not as good at picking it up as you are. Trust me; there is nothing wrong with the picture we make together."
"Uh…" He has no idea what to say to that, hadn't been expecting the vehemence of Kurt's tone. "Okay?"
"You don't need to sound so unsure, trust me."
He just hums noncommittally.
He doesn't know any of his new cabin-mates well at all, which he figures is the whole point of the exercise. They're meant to share meals together for the first two days and he struggles to make conversation, although at least he still attempts it. There is one guy who has apparently been separated from his boyfriend and is sulking over it, something he's laughing about on the inside. Not maliciously, just glad that his previous cabin likely wasn't the only one with a sickeningly handsy-couple that everyone tried to avoid.
He waves at Dave when he sees him, hangs out with him when he can although they're in different workshops now with their respective cabin-mates and have different activities in their spare time. He hadn't realized last week just how much time they'd been spending together and he'd never have thought before last week that he'd ever have enjoyed spending so much time with Dave. He does though. It's effortless, he doesn't need to pretend anything, doesn't need to impress him…
The third morning he gets up early, knows Dave will be up running with the others, because he'd moaned about it to Kurt in a brief few minutes of conversation they'd managed yesterday. They can eat breakfast together today and he figures forgoing an extra hour and a half of sleep is a small price to pay to ensure he doesn't miss Dave leaving for breakfast. He sees the guys heading out on a run, knows the field is where they will come back to so settles down on a bench to wait.
Everyone gets up at six in his cabin and goes training. It's punishing but there is also a more intense sense of camaraderie. It reminds him of actual football camps and he knows that every guy in the cabin played at school. None of them came out at school, he doesn't blame them, but it does make him the odd one out, even if he didn't come out voluntarily. He's pretty sure they think he and Kurt got caught in a compromising situation. He doesn't know how to correct them, and he really doesn't want to go into his whole life story. Again.
He runs mindlessly, finding it easier now than ten days ago, although when Sean seems to slow down to purposely drop back to run beside him he's a little surprised. They're almost finished the laps, the coach yelling the cool down exercises and the drills that some of the others are expected to do. He's the only one that doesn't have to, although he's joined in the last few mornings anyway.
"So, are you missing Kurt?"
"Uh… I guess?" He's not sure where Sean is going with the question, it's not like Kurt has moved country, they still see each other all the time.
"You guys seem pretty close."
He frowns and then realizes that of course Sean thinks Kurt and him are a couple.
"Uh yeah, we've been through a lot together," as he says it he realizes it's true. He doesn't know if he'd have been as forgiving as Kurt if the tables were turned.
"Well, I think he's definitely been missing you. He's been watching you since we got out here."
"What?" Dave twists to look in the direction Sean is indicating and sure enough he can see Kurt, watching them and he's suddenly self-conscious. "How long has he been there?"
"Since the second lap or so? You really didn't notice him?"
"I… no. I really didn't."
A year ago he would have swung between shame and delight at the idea of Kurt watching him work out, now he just feels… content. And warm, but that could be the running. He's not really looking for a relationship right now, he can barely figure himself out and he knows without his therapist telling him that it isn't a good place to bring someone else into. Kurt's friendship however… the idea that they might walk away at the end of the week something akin to actual friends is something that he finds he truly wants.
He watches as Kurt walks over, doing the stretches automatically, knowing he's not going to be joining in on the drills this morning. Sean gives him a quick clap on the shoulder, mutters about him being one lucky motherfucker and he shakes his head with a smile, because he would be lucky, but he's also happy with just how he is right now.
"Hey Dave…" Kurt grins, eyes crinkling and Dave blinks, frowns, wondering when exactly Kurt started calling him Dave.
"You're up early," he says, mind unable to let go of the fact that after a week of Kurt calling him David he's suddenly not.
"Thought we could do breakfast. Not that we have any choice in the where but now that I can choose my company I thought I'd come find you."
He really doesn't know what to say, but he at least nods his head. He sort of feels like Kurt is maybe flirting with him a little, which is weird. He's gotten used to some of the other guys saying things like that, knows they're flirting but he's not ever had it from Kurt. He's not even sure if it's even flirting. He really isn't ready to have a boyfriend and he's only just gotten over his thing for Kurt and and and… He sucks in a deep breath, letting it out slowly, forcing himself to relax. He'll worry about that when and if anything eventuates.
He agrees to meet Dave in the dining hall after he showers and changes, and he seems distracted when he finally arrives at breakfast, although he's not sure why and he doesn't want to pry. No one disturbs them while they eat, and he keeps up a little stream of conversation, for some reason feeling oddly uncomfortable when silence falls between them. They only have five days left and he wants to cement their friendship before they have to go back to the real world.
"Do you want to do that little nature walk with me again?"
"Now. Well, after breakfast. I just feel like some quiet time."
Whatever Dave was worried about seems to be forgotten and he starts talking, mainly about the new guys in his cabin and he's happy to listen, adding in his own observations about some of the others. They keep talking as they rinse the dishes and stack them for cleaning, and he can almost feel Dave relaxing as they continue to talk. They amble toward the start of the path and he's glad he's already in comfortable walking gear, having figured on day three that he was going to live in his jeans and whatever clothes suited the activities of the day.
" – good because it reminds me that I'm in a better place now. I'm lucky to have the support that I do. Could be better, but it could be worse."
He hums his agreement, enjoys the sound of birds, the sun breaking through the leaves. They keep walking and now that he knows what poison ivy looks like he keeps a careful eye out. He's learnt so much about being outdoors and about himself. Found the outdoor aspects of the camp surprisingly enjoyable, more than he thought he ever would and he wonders if it's started a lifelong appreciation.
"You know how sometimes things just creep up on you, things that you least expect and they turn out to be the best thing in your life?"
"I – uh. What?"
"I just didn't expect to come here and find I enjoyed it so much."
Dave has stopped walking and he turns to look, cocks his head to the side with the unsaid question.
"Uh… I… Kurt, I'm just not ready to be someone's boyfriend…"
Kurt blinks. Frowns. Not quite sure how that has come up.
Dave's mouth opens and shuts silently for a second and Kurt plays back what he was saying in his head, realizing he never mentioned the outdoors.
"Sorry, I just thought that that's where you were, uh, heading with that…" Dave mutters, and his blush is adorable.
"I wasn't. I was talking about being outdoors…" he says. "Not that I wouldn't be interested, but I only just broke up with Blaine and will be starting college, moving to a new city… things you'll be doing too. I just thought it would be nice to have another friend who will be going through the same things as me and able to understand some of what I might be feeling."
"Friends. I hope that's okay?"
"More than okay."
"You say that now. I can apparently be quite high maintenance. I might phone you demanding help choosing an outfit or to complain about how much work I have to do…"
"I think I'll live."
(Or beginning depending on how you look at it)
Author's note 2: I may one day write a second part because this totally felt like a first chapter of something, rather than a one-shot, but I need to finish the other WIPs first. Also I am sunmontue on AO3 and sunmontuewrites on tumblr if you're ever VERY bored.