Author's note: Had to get this out while working on other things because it wouldn't leave me alone because I was at the beach and was watching surfers and apparently my mind can't let things go.
It's been a good afternoon of surfing, the heat of the sun making the water feel bracingly refreshing, even though it's still cold enough to require a full body wetsuit. He lays his board down, laughing and joking with the other guys as they strip off, discussing wipe-outs versus successful waves caught. As hobbies go he can't go past surfing, and the way it ties in with his work as an oceanographer just means he has more time than most to indulge. He'll never complain.
"Dude, Dave, you're getting checked out."
He just rolls his eyes and ignores Bryce's wiggling eyebrows and unzips the suit down his back, using the long ribbon before peeling the black neoprene down his arms.
"Seriously! The guy over there that looks like he'd rather be in an air conditioned room right now…"
He doesn't even bother turning to look; Bryce has cried-wolf one too many times and he really isn't interested in anything right now. He's actually on holiday for once, and okay sure, checking out the status of the beach at the same time, because he kind of grew attached to it while he was doing his doctorate. Despite him not turning Ashton and Neil have both chanced a quick look, because of course they're nosy as hell.
"I think Bryce might be right, except now the guy is really interested in his book."
He makes a scoffing sound, and continues pulling suit down, his thighs are always the hardest part to get on, but at least taking it off at least looks a bit more graceful. Not that he cares. Because he isn't getting checked out. Right.
"Oh yeah, you're definitely getting checked out," Neil says, and he's not sure if it's because he's happily married or not, but Neil seems to be extra lecherous and interested in their sex lives. Also he's usually spot on with his observations, but he still resists turning around, because that would be obvious, and he's on holiday. And all the other reasons he thought of just a moment before. Pulling on his shorts he shakes his suit, dislodging the worst of the sand.
"Come on – Trish promised me her famous sweet and sour meatballs."
"Yeah, why is my wife cooking your favorite dishes while you're here anyway?"
"Because she likes me best?" Dave jokes, and the rest laugh, because there's definitely a grain of truth there. They were all at Berkley doing the mathematics and physical sciences together. He's been out to them since their first year, knowing that any friends he was going to make needed to know because he didn't want to be friends with people who would drop off the face of the earth once they did find out he was gay. Of course they'd spent a good portion of their time setting him up with every single gay (or possibly maybe gay) person they knew. Some of them had actually been decent.
Now his tastes are a little more discerning and while he appreciates their interest and support, he also doesn't need it. He picks up his board and shifts it under his arm, his eyes darting to the side out of sheer curiosity to see someone covered head-to-toe and also sitting under an umbrella. It's not that hot. The guy is also wearing shades and a hat, and when he turns back to his friends he just rolls his eyes again, placing his suit and towel over his board for the walk back to the jeep.
He tuts under his breath when Neil leads the way, directly toward the guy who was allegedly checking him out which isn't the most direct route back to the car and everyone there knows it. Another quick glance and the way the guy seems to shift, shrink in on himself like he's trying to avoid notice has him frowning. It reminds him of something. Someone. He stops and takes a closer look, blinking a little in surprise when recognition washes over him.
He sighs, moving to a sitting position and wishing he hadn't been recognized, because he really does need a break away from everyone right now. Everything. The beach had been a last resort to escape the four walls of his hotel room, and he'd figured, hoped, that he'd covered himself up enough to not be recognized. No such luck apparently. He'd been enjoying the scenery, and watching the skill of the surfers, and then later enjoying the other assets of the surfers once they had come out of the water and started stripping down. Obviously he wasn't as subtle as he'd thought, and someone has just called his name. He lowers his sunglasses down his nose with one finger, peering over them and trying to extrude 'please just fuck off' vibes as best he can.
"It's… Karofsky? Dave Karofsky? From McKinley?"
Jesus fucking Christ. He blinks and does a quick sweep with his eyes and well hello.
"Dave… I didn't recognize you."
There's a small amount of sniggering from behind Dave, where his friends are standing and waiting, and they're sufficiently silenced when Dave turns and glares at them. At least that's what he assumes he does.
"I – yeah. I recognized you of course. How are you?" He asks, and it's with a grin and it's open and sincere, none of the polite false façade that people put on around him the majority of the time. He feels like answering honestly for once, tell him he feels like shit, is exhausted and tired of the fucking paparazzi, which is probably photo-documenting their entire conversation right now along with made conversation.
"Oh… you know. Good."
The simple way Dave raises a disbelieving eyebrow makes him smile, and it's almost like being home with his dad, someone else who buys none of the lies and can see through things. It's nice but also quite surprising that someone he hasn't seen in years is able to see him as himself so easily.
"You here working or on holiday?"
He hesitates again, wondering if it's safe to say, whether what he will say will filter through to the media.
"Holiday. Ostensibly healing my broken heart."
"Right." Dave pauses, seems to think something over. "You want to join us for dinner? Home cooked meal?"
"You live here?"
"No. Used to though. Just here on holiday and visiting a friend," he says, waving a hand behind him at the three other men and he wonders which one is the friend exactly. They'd all looked pretty tight. He brushes his hands over his pants, brushing off imaginary sand and stands, taking off his sunglasses.
"Fuck. You're Kurt Hummel."
"I… yes." Kurt replies, sharing a smile with Dave and eyes looking at the three other men.
"Dude. You know Kurt Hummel?"
"We went to school together," Kurt interjects, shooting Dave a quick look. He has no idea if he's out or not, although either way he looks much happier than the last time he saw him, but that wouldn't take much, because a hospital bed is a far cry from the beaches of Hawaii. But the fact that Dave has never even dropped his name in passing makes him feel a bit more relaxed.
"Did you… uh. Did you just invite Kurt Hummel to dinner? At my place?"
"Yep. Trish would be okay with that. Right?"
"Well yeah. He's on her list!"
He has to hide back a smile, he knows about those types of lists, remembers making one himself back before he got his big break playing Scott Greyson, America's answer to Jack Harkness. Any woman that thinks he's like that character though has another thing coming.
"I need to warn her – can you imagine what she'd do to my balls if I don't warn her?"
He lets out a little laugh at that and feels relived that the others are laughing too, although the guy does look a little worried and he feels like maybe he should reassure him, that he definitely won't be sleeping with anyone, especially a woman. And no one's wife, regardless of a stupid list.
"You haven't actually answered you know. About dinner?"
"I… yes. Okay. That would be… nice."
Dave lets out a loud laugh and inclines his head up the beach toward the car park, and he guesses it is pretty close to dinner.
"Come on then, let's catch up."
Trish's nails dig into his forearm and he lets her drag him into the kitchen.
"Is that actually Kurt Hummel?"
"Yeah. I thought Neil phoned and told you."
"I thought he was joking!"
"How the fuck do you know Kurt Hummel? And why didn't you tell me?"
"I never told anyone because it's not like I ever thought I'd bump into him again. It's not like we were friends or anything."
"But friends enough to invite him here for dinner?" Trish asks, and she's bordering on hysterical.
"Look, he's just a normal guy. Stop freaking out."
"I can't serve him sweet and sour meatballs!"
"Why not? They're delicious."
"Oh fuck… no one is ever going to believe this."
He snorts and leaves her to her mini freak-out, going back to rescue Kurt from his friends, who are apparently regaling him with the time they plastic-wrapped him to the flagpole as a graduation prank. Awesome. Kurt's laughter is infectious though and he can't feel embarrassed when his friends are making Kurt laugh like that, even if it is at his expense. He prompts Neil with a 'drinks?' and that galvanizes him into action, gesturing everyone through to the deck and offering beers. He keeps on doing a second take each time he looks at Kurt, because it's odd seeing him in person. He looks good. Better than in high school. Much better. Of course he's seen him mature onscreen and through the media, but Kurt is definitely holding back, his laughter from before only briefly reminding him of the old Kurt.
Despite Trish's freaking out dinner goes off without a hitch, although she apologizes continuously and Kurt reassures her every time. Talk is superficial, kept that way deliberately because no-one really knows Kurt, or wants to pry. He can tell Trish is dying to ask questions, but she holds back, something he's grateful for. Kurt learns all about them, drawing them into conversations about how they met, what their jobs are, seems genuinely interested. And even if he isn't he makes a damn good job of pretending he is. He insists on helping wash up, and Trish's shocked 'Kurt Hummel is in my kitchen doing my dishes' makes it totally worth it, because he's going to mock her for it. Later.
There are a couple of moments of awkwardness before Neil tosses him the keys to the jeep and he thanks him with a nod of his head. Sitting around talking to Kurt and trying for a proper catch-up while they're all there doesn't exactly thrill him. He listens as Kurt thanks Trish (again) for dinner, and then heads toward the jeep.
"You want me to drop you back at your hotel or…?" He leaves it hanging, wondering if Kurt's actually given much thought to what he wants. With no other thought to someone else. Been selfish. He doubts it, but then again he really doesn't know Kurt. Never did.
"Do you mind if we go for a walk along the beach? It'll be deserted now right?"
"Uh, yeah, except for all the couples on their honeymoon having sex in the dunes…"
Kurt blinks at him and then laughs, sliding into the passenger seat and clicking the belt in place while he does the same, feeling a little uneasy at how normal this feels.
"Had experience with that have you?"
"The honeymoon or the sex in the sand dunes?"
"Either. Both…" Kurt says, still laughing.
"Sorry to disappoint, but I haven't done either of those things."
"Hmm. Only done the one and I can't say I recommend it."
He keeps quiet, because it's the first reference Kurt has made to his failed marriage, and he doesn't know what to say so he just pulls out of the drive slowly and heads toward the beach, choosing a more secluded spot away from the hotels so hopefully lessening the chances of amorous beach goers.
"You want to talk about it?"
"No. I really really don't. Thank you for the offer, but… no."
"That's cool. Have you kept in touch with anyone from school?"
"McKinley? A few. More from NYADA, although I lost touch with quite a lot when I moved to LA."
He listens as Kurt tells him about Hudson and Berry, their continuous on-again off-again relationship that sounds exhausting. Despite Kurt saying he only kept in touch with a few it sounds like he knows what everyone is doing.
"More than me then. I haven't kept in touch with anyone and my dad moved to Florida with his new wife five years ago. Said there was a higher chance of me visiting if he had a beach a short distance away." He doesn't add that he's right. He avoids Lima, has no real happy memories there and his mom's family made it clear he wasn't welcome.
"Friends from… before, well, I think I value them a bit more, knowing they were my friends for just me. Do you know what I mean?"
"I'm sorry I never… kept in touch. You know, after."
Kurt doesn't need to elaborate on which after he's talking about and he shifts.
"Seriously? You're going to go there?" He turns his head to give Kurt a quick look, although in the dim light of the car can't tell much. He shakes his head, almost amused that Kurt would still be thinking about something like that so many years later. "It's like… over half our lifetime ago now and we were kids. Don't worry about it," he says, pulling to a stop beside a little used boarded beach access path to protect the developing dune area. Opening the door causes the little overhead light to come on and he sees Kurt looking pensive.
"Look, you forgave me for making your life a living hell for a few months. That… that meant a lot more. The fact that you even came to the hospital was enough. Just, let it go. Now come on, you want to do this or not?"
He nods his head decisively and gets out of the car, quickly sending a message to his handler-slash-bodyguard again, letting him know that he's still fine before sliding his phone into his pocket and following Dave carefully in the light from the moon. He shoves the thought that it appears intimate and romantic to one side and firmly ignores it. From the conversation at dinner he knows Dave is out, an oceanographer and is currently working at some coastal research place he's not heard of before. Not that he's heard of any really, now that he thinks about it, but regardless, right now they're both in Hawaii and about to go for a walk.
He'd enjoyed dinner, the easy flow of conversation amongst old friends, even if he hadn't been a true part of it; it had been nice to simply be on the fringe, listening and laughing. He had felt their curiosity, grateful they hadn't given into it though. For him his marriage ended two years ago, the pretense simply upheld for appearances sake, along with this holiday where he's meant to either party and sleep with random people, or cry brokenly into his bottle of alcohol at the bar. Neither of which appeals or would help despite his publicist's opinion that he could at least act a little broken about it. He's just more than a little tired of acting though.
"Are you happy?"
"That's a loaded question to ask someone."
He wants to point out that the last time they talked was pretty loaded too, but doesn't want to bring it up any more than he already has so instead keeps quiet.
"I'm very happy."
"Good. I'm glad."
"Are you? Happy I mean."
God. Dave is right, it is a loaded question and one he's not actually prepared to answer, although he supposes his silence is all the answer Dave needs and they walk in silence for a few moments and he's actually contemplating taking his shoes off and putting his feet in the water.
"You know in high school how I would always pretend that everything was okay?"
"You were pretending?"
"Mmm. Acting even then. I…I'm sick of it."
Dave lets out a huff of laughter and he stiffens, feeling like an idiot for even opening himself up that small amount and he steps away.
"You think I don't know about pretending? Back in high school it was an entire fucking show and I tried to end it early. Nothing is worth that pretending though. It's self destructive trying so hard to be something you're not. Trying to make everyone else happy but not yourself."
He keeps silent, but he knows Dave definitely has a point, one he used to believe strongly in but has somehow forgotten about, although he's not sure when he forgot. He runs a hand through his hair and rubs at his face, finally starting to feel a little more settled, like he's made a decision subconsciously although he's not quite aware yet what it is. Either way he feels more relaxed then he has in days and just hums quietly under his breath, walking in silence before Dave suggests they turn around.
As he settles himself into the passenger seat of the car he suddenly wants to ask, to know about the one subject area that has been glaringly avoided all night. By everyone.
"Are you single?"
He probably shouldn't have asked while Dave was starting to drive, because the car stalls a little and hops and he holds in a smile and bubbling laugh, wishing he didn't have to and he could just let loose.
He realizes then that it could be construed as a come on and he shakes his head, suddenly and intensely embarrassed.
"Not what I meant, not that I wouldn't –" he stops there before he can incriminate himself further, because Dave has to know he was checking him out at the beach earlier today. "In my experience becoming friends with someone, a gay someone, especially one who is in a relationship… makes things complicated. Apparently some men view me as a threat."
Dave is looking a bit stunned, and he has no idea about which aspect exactly. The possible sex? He hopes not, because that wasn't on offer at all. Mention of friendship? Him being a threat? Or maybe he's forgotten his boyfriend somewhere? The longer Dave is silent the more curious he becomes.
"You want to be friends?"
The doubt in Dave's voice has him frowning, wondering if maybe Dave isn't interested and considering how normal Dave has treated him all night maybe he isn't. And he knows he made overtures of friendship before, but this time… well. He has no idea but he'd really like to get to know him better, because the Dave he's seen today is definitely someone he thinks he can like. Actually have in his life as a genuine person who sees old school acquaintances and invites them along for dinner.
"I'd like to get to know you," he says out loud, and it sounds a little suggestive, especially coupled with the walk they've just been on, but he finds he doesn't mind that so much. Doesn't mind if Dave thinks that he is interested – if it's one thing he can handle now is rejection.
"I… okay? And I'm, yeah I'm single. So no jealous boyfriend to worry about."
'Yet' Kurt thinks to himself, because he can't imagine Dave remaining single, although he doesn't know his history, maybe he prefers to be single. He hums again, feeling quietly pleased and when Dave pulls up outside his hotel he holds his hand out, breath puffing out in amusement when Dave just stares at it.
"Can I have your phone?"
He doesn't give his personal phone number out to anyone, but he knows he can trust Dave with this and he rings his phone before hanging up, quickly creating a contact and adding in his e-mail address.
"Just – use it okay? I'd like to stay in touch."
"Sure. I'll ring the next time I'm in LA."
"Don't wait until then. I mean it. I've enjoyed tonight. Thank you."
"Anytime," Dave says, and he seems pleased although also a little confused. It's kind of adorable.
"Great. I look forward to hearing from you."
"Yeah. Sure. Night Kurt."
He gets out of the car, amused and a little touched that Dave is sitting and waiting, as if he isn't safe the few yards to the glass front of the hotel lobby. He turns and waves before turning back, feeling a little ridiculous and squashing the thought that he hopes he hasn't been seen. Who cares if he has? He takes the lift up to his room, popping his head into Mark's room and letting him know he's back completely safe and sound before he locks himself in and starts to undress. His phone vibrates and he checks the message, smiling when he sees it's from Dave. He'd meant it, but even this is pushing it.
You have no idea where Dana Point is do you? the text reads, and he frowns, because Dana Point is wherever Dave works (he remembers that much from the dinner conversation at least), and no, he doesn't know where it is and he sends back a reply. My US geography knowledge is not what it once was, but I imagine you will soon enlighten me. And if he doesn't he'll just bring up the map and search the place. He's halfway to doing that when he gets a new message: It's an hour south from LA. I'm in LA every other weekend.
He feels warmth spread through him and he smiles as he sends back Good to know, and it really is good to know, because he suddenly feels grounded, as if Dave's company has reminded him of everything he used to be. What he wanted to be. He feels content when he finally pulls the covers over his body and decides that this break wasn't a complete waste of his time after all.