His parents let him skip school the next day. It's the last day before spring break anyway, so it's mostly going to be teachers handing out crosswords or popping in videos. Dave decides to make proper use of his newfound free time by making the lists he’d planned to do over the weekend. He labels the top of each paper with the name of the college he’s considering, then carefully pencils in pros and cons as he thinks of them. When he's done with all three, Dave spreads them out on the floor to compare.
Being forced to put everything that he's been thinking on paper makes a number of things clearer. For one, Dave figures out he really isn't all that enthused about OSU. The pros list he has for them is half as long as the ones he made for Miami and Boston, and most of them are stupid things like "being able to score cheap tickets to Buckeye games." Dave reads the list through carefully twice just to make sure he really can’t think of anything else, then without ceremony throws the list in the trash. He pulls Miami and Boston closer together and compares them side by side.
It's not an easy decision. Most of the pros Dave that has listed apply equally to both universities. Broad program selection. Small class size. Willingness to admit Dave. He reads through the letters they sent him, and though they differ in the details the amount they're offering in their National Letters of Intent is about the same. So it really comes down to the campus and what he wants. Does Dave want to attend a huge urban college on the eastern seaboard? Or would he rather go to a smaller suburban school in western Ohio?
A week ago, Dave would have answered yes to the first question in a heartbeat. Now, he's not so sure.
The truth is, Dave recognizes a lot of his own thinking in Kurt's. The plans that Dave made to come out in college were always for a place that was far away from here. Boston had been his favorite choice simply because Dave knew that being gay there would be easy. Kurt had almost undoubtedly thought the same and Dave can imagine what it would be like to have that dream and have it taken away.
He can't help but think now, though, that this whole time they've been selling Ohio short. After all, look at Dave's parents. They knew Dave was gay for months and waited for him to tell them. Or Puckerman, who had noticed Dave wasn't tossing slushies anymore but kept quiet and was now apparently chill with the fact he liked dudes. Or the protesters Dave had seen on his college tour, the ones with the brightly painted faces who made Dave realize that coming out would be okay. Lima may be years from celebrating gay marriage like in Boston, but it's not exactly the cesspool of homophobia that Dave used to think it either.
Once he acknowledges that, his choice becomes blindingly clear.
"I'm signing for Miami," he tells his parents when they get home that night.
The two of them look nonplussed. After a moment, his dad ventures, "I thought you had your heart set on Boston, son?"
Dave shakes his head. "I didn't really like the campus," he admits. "It was too big, too noisy and you couldn't really distinguish it from the surrounding city. It didn't feel like a college campus to me, you know? I liked the visits I made to Miami much better. I feel like I would do better there and besides I think their coach plans to use me more anyway."
His mom reacts to the shift in his enthusiasm with aplomb. "Well, it'll be certainly nice to have you closer to home," she says diplomatically. "Only an hour, that's not too long for you to come home some weekends."
"And if you think they'll play you more, then you're more likely to stay on the team for multiple seasons," his father adds sagely.
Dave grins, because his dad still doesn't know any more about sports than he did when Dave first started playing, but the fact that he's making an effort means everything. Dave maybe hugs both his parents then and tries not to think about how over the past week that might have started to become a habit. He's not sure if he minds if it has.
Church that weekend is kind of awkward. Dave and his parents don't go every week, but they always try to make the major holidays. So while he's not certain, Dave's pretty sure that in previous years they never had anyone stare at them throughout the entire Easter mass. It’s not even that they’re whispering behind their hands or anything; it’s just that when Dave looks, it seems like half the congregation is always watching them, a strange mixture of curiosity and disapproval on their faces. He can tell his mom notices too by the way that the corners of her mouth turn down. When the mass is over, she ushers Dave and his father out without stopping to talk to anyone and then doesn't say a word the whole car ride home.
Dave remembers suddenly how Mercedes had talked about wanting to take Kurt to some gay-friendly church she found. He understands now why the “gay-friendly” portion was so important and wonders if she ever actually managed to talk Kurt around. He wonders how she found out about the church in the first place and resolves to ask her about it the next time he sees her. Of course, knowing Mercedes she'll probably knee Dave in the junk for what he said to Kurt in the cafeteria, but he figures it's at least worth a shot.
Dave prints out the National Letter of Intent from Miami and signs it Monday night. He gives it to his father to sign too, who hesitates briefly.
"This isn't because of Kurt, is it?" he asks. "Because you know, David, you shouldn't pick a college just because--"
Dave cuts him off. "Boston would have been more about Kurt, Dad. Miami is about what I want."
His father nods, signs the letter, and puts it in his briefcase to fax the next day. "Just thought I'd check."
Tuesday is the last day of what Dave's sure must be the shortest spring break in the history of ever. (He hates the Lima school district and their scheduling system with a passion sometimes.) Dave decides not to waste it, gets up early and does some running before plopping himself in front of the Xbox to settle in for a serious gaming marathon. He's just starting up the console when there's a series of knocks at the door.
When he opens it, Kurt's standing there in a slate grey peacoat on his front step. "Hey," he says, sounding awkward.
"What are you doing here?" falls out of Dave's mouth before he can think better of it and Dave steps outside. He pulls the door shut behind him -- which is stupid because it’s not like there’s anyone at home he’s trying to keep this conversation secret from -- and looks down at Kurt guardedly.
Kurt, for his part, raises tentative eyes to meet his. "You said I owed you some explanations," he says. "I think you're right.” His eyes flicker to the door. “May I come in?"
If this conversation is about to go anything like Dave thinks it might, then Dave definitely doesn't want to have it inside his house. "There's a park a couple blocks from here,” he suggests instead. “Why don't we head there?"
Kurt makes a face but nods. He lets Dave lead the way and they don't talk on the way over. The playground is empty this time of day, so Dave sits down on one of the swings and stretches his legs out with a little satisfied grunt. Kurt huffs a laugh but sits gingerly on the swing next to him anyway.
They're both kind of determinedly not looking at each other when Kurt says, abruptly, "I dated three guys while I was at Dalton."
Dave's not sure what he's supposed to say to that, so he keeps silent and waits for Kurt to explain.
"You met the first guy. Blaine? He's the one who came to McKinley to talk to you after the locker room kiss," continues Kurt. "We weren't dating at the time, by the way. That didn't happen until a few months later, after I transferred. We broke up when he left for college because it made sense at the time and we'd also kind of realized we were maybe too similar to each other. Relationships are hard when you both share all the same weaknesses and the same strengths."
Kurt snorts. "Okay, that's giving myself way too much credit. As much as I would like to have been that self-aware, honestly?” he says wryly. “I was just devastated by the loss of my first boyfriend. I started going out with another guy just to prove that I could and made sure he was the complete opposite of Blaine to make my point clear. That guy's name was Ethan."
"You don't have to tell me about all the people you've slept with, Kurt," Dave interjects harshly, because he really doesn't see where Kurt is going with this.
"Ethan was five or six inches taller than me, blond, muscles," persists Kurt, "and for your information we didn't sleep together. In fact, we mostly just kissed. But Ethan was the one who made me aware I had a certain appeal to select members of the rainbow coalition -- namely, to large guys who were looking for someone they could easily pin down. It wasn't my thing," he comments dispassionately, "but it certainly was Ethan's, and I couldn't deny I wasn't thinking about Blaine whenever he did it."
Dave feels his hands curl tight around the chain of the swing. "So on that Friday then--" he forces out.
"I wanted to forget about Boston and was looking for someone who would make it hurt," Kurt says plainly. "With the way you used to shove me into lockers, I was sure you'd fit the bill."
Dave tries to laugh, but some kind of strangled sound comes out instead. "So you really weren't kidding when you said you wanted a taste of the Fury," he says at last.
"It isn't my fault you apparently have the naming aptitude of a five-year-old," Kurt defends wildly, waving his hands. "How was I supposed to know you'd be all weirdly considerate and tender?"
"Maybe you should have taken into consideration the fact I've had a crush on you since sophomore year and would have done anything for a second chance," Dave shoots back.
Something in Kurt's face changes sharply at that last part. "Oh my Gaga," he breathes. He stands up abruptly and moves a few paces away, turning his back toward Dave. The line of his shoulders is tense, and when he speaks Kurt's voice is weird and borderline hysterical. "I was your first, wasn't I?"
Dave's face burns and he’s suddenly glad Kurt chose to turn his back for this. "Wasn't anyone else I liked with you gone," he mutters to the mulch.
Kurt's shoulders start shaking and it takes Dave a minute to realize that he's laughing -- not in the "ha ha isn't it hilarious that I broke the jock's heart" kind of way, but more in a slightly unhinged fashion that suggests "how is this my life" instead. Dave doesn't really know anything to do in this kind of situation so he just waits patiently until Kurt stops laughing and sits back down.
"I'm sorry," Kurt says. He looks down at his hands. "I never would have done that if I knew it would be your first time. Your first should be special."
Dave kicks some mulch. "It wasn't that bad," he says quietly and pauses. "Up to the point where you left."
"I'm sorry," Kurt says again. "I guess in some ways I still thought of us in this ‘former tormenter with his favorite target’ mindset and I just wanted to get out of there as cleanly as possible. I should have known better."
"I wouldn't say that," disagrees Dave. He gestures between them. "I mean, look at us, we're not exactly friends."
"I think maybe we could be," replies Kurt. He plays with the edge of his sleeve for a moment before asking hesitantly, "So what are your plans for Boston?"
Dave gains an understanding of Kurt’s earlier hysteria as he suddenly laughs from deep in his gut. "I'm not going to Boston, Kurt."
Kurt's eyebrows disappear into his hair. "You're not?" he asks disbelievingly.
"Nope," agrees Dave. He pushes himself off the swing and shoves both hands in his pockets. "I thought about it and realized I'd really rather sign for Miami."
"Miami, Ohio?" Kurt repeats, like he's checking for brain damage.
"Miami, Ohio," Dave confirms. Then, because it seems important, he says, "There's nothing wrong with Ohio, Kurt. You've just got to be willing to look past a lot of crap to see it. People everywhere are becoming more accepting all the time, and on the colleges I visited being gay wasn't a big deal at all. Hell, even at McKinley Puckerman approves of us."
"Puck? Noah Puckerman?"
"Yep." Dave pauses. "Does he really call you Princess Peach?"
Kurt snorts. "Behind my back, I wouldn't doubt it," he says dryly. He seems more fondly exasperated by the news than displeased.
Dave files that away for future reference. "My point is," he continues, "that if even the über-straight jock who used to toss you into dumpsters every morning can go from that to having your back, then maybe you really should give Ohio more of a chance."
Kurt exhales loudly. "I'll consider it." He looks up at Dave. "So where exactly is Miami University?"
Dave stares. "Really? You were giving me crap for choosing Miami and you don't even know where it is?" Kurt stares back at him, unrepentant. Dave gives up. "It's about an hour south of here, small college town," he offers.
"About an hour," says Kurt thoughtfully. “Huh.” Dave waits, but Kurt doesn't elaborate any further.
"We cool?" he says finally, just to break the silence.
Kurt stands and brushes himself off. "Yes, Karofsky, I believe we are 'cool,'" he says drolly. The special emphasis he places on the last word makes it clear that he's mocking Dave.
"Watch it, Hummel," Dave growls. He grins and Kurt smirks back.
School the next day isn't that bad. People are still talking about Dave pretty much nonstop, but none of the other jocks are trying to slushie him or anything. Apparently being two hundred pounds and having a somewhat undeserved reputation for fits of berserker rage are more than enough to serve effectively as deterrents for most people. Dave moves his equipment back into his locker after homeroom and dares anyone with a glare to tell him otherwise.
Puckerman gives him an approving nod when he catches Dave in the halls and Dave gives him his own satisfied little jerk in return. Unfortunately, this causes him to miss the sight of an incoming Finn Hudson, who skillfully manages to corner Dave against the lockers.
"Karofsky," Hudson says firmly and Dave prepares himself to receive a verbal onslaught like no other. Instead of lashing into him about Kurt, though, Hudson just starts babbling -- about fire alarms of all things and the need that they have for their batteries to be regularly replaced and the importance of fire alarms, though highly undervalued by many people in today's society, in the unlikely but still very possible event of a fire. He’s just moved on to firefighters and how they’re really good at putting out fires if you ever accidentally forget to change your batteries when it hits Dave that Hudson's trying to ask whether he and Kurt used protection.
"Oh for freak's sake," he says in horror and yanks Hudson's head in close.
"I'm only going to say this once," he whispers fiercely. "He had a condom. We were safe. Now considering this is your stepbrother we're talking about, both of us are going to agree to never speak of this again. That clear?"
Hudson nods and Dave releases him. Hudson rubs his neck a little and then looks at Dave oddly. "Just -- be good to him, okay?" he says weirdly and walks off before Dave can ask him what he means.
He gets his answer the next day when Kurt comes up to Dave after the final bell and without any warning pushes him flat to kiss him against the lockers. Dave's hands drop to Kurt's hips automatically and he kisses back for a few seconds before it occurs to him where they are and he hurriedly pulls away.
Kurt's looking at him, eyes bold and determined. "So, I lied," he says.
Dave's heart sinks even as he has no idea what Kurt's talking about. "What?"
"There was still one school I was waiting to hear back from yet,” he explains. “Theater schools are generally pretty good about letting you know whether or not you're in right away so I figured I'd been put on their waiting list in case someone else dropped. Well, they emailed me last night.” He grins. “I've been accepted."
"That's great, Kurt," Dave says breathlessly, because he can't think of anything else to say. Then something occurs to him. "Wait, what school?"
"The Conservatory of Music at the University of Cincinnati," Kurt replies. “It’s a lot cheaper than Boston and Cincinnati has need-based financial aid so what they’re offering me is actually possible.” He takes a deep breath. "I checked and it's only about an hour away from Miami, so I'm not saying it would be easy, but it’s really not any further than when I thought the distance would be Lima and Miami and I was willing to try that so--"
"Kurt," Dave interrupts dazedly, because no way is this actually happening. "Are you asking me to be your boyfriend?"
Kurt keeps babbling over him. "And we'd have this whole last month of school and all summer to see if we actually worked first and, okay, I never thought I’d say this, but I really think that we--"
Dave kisses him just to be able to answer. "Yes," he says when he pulls back, absurdly pleased to discover that Kurt closed his eyes. "I would love to be your boyfriend."
Kurt's eyes snap open. "Really?" he says. "Because I should tell you now, my dad wants to threaten you with a tire iron."
Dave would laugh, but having met Burt Hummel he's fairly certain that Kurt's serious. "Even then," he replies.
"And I'm going to warn you now," Kurt continues, "we're taking things slow. I know I might have given you the wrong impression at first but I am totally a flowers and romance kind of guy."
"I wouldn't expect any differently of you," Dave says honestly and laces their hands together just to prove his point.
Kurt looks down at their linked hands and pauses. "You really should stop calling yourself the Fury, you know."
Dave shrugs. "Kind of used to it at this point," he says. "Besides, it's easier to shout at games than 'Karofsky.'"
"I can think of other places it'd be easier to shout," replies Kurt immediately before burying his face in Dave's chest, shoulders shaking in mortified laughter.
Dave pats him on the back. "Yeah, we're both going to pretend you never said that," he says dryly. He tips his head toward the exit. "You want to make out under the bleachers?"
Kurt tilts his head up at him and smiles. "I thought you'd never ask."
When I first came up with the idea for this fic, I seriously only planned for it to be about 2k of porn. I was looking for something easy to write as a personal break from the generally crushing angst of the Rehabilitation Saga and I figured it could be something quick I wrote while we were all waiting for the new episodes to air. So this fic started life as an attempted flashfic, but over the weeks it quickly exploded to become THE MONSTER THAT SWALLOWED OHIO instead. Incidentally, it also became my love letter to Ohio, my former home, with all its endearing foibles and hopeless charm. This one's for you, Buckeye State.
Major thanks go to my mom, who answered countless questions at all hours about circumstances in various regions of Ohio, and to all my friends at Miami and OSU who provided the minor details necessary to make this story work.
I'd also like to give a tip of my hat to whoever designed the website for Boston Conservatory, which is the single most intuitive and easy to navigate website I have ever seen for a college in my life. Kudos, BC.
And a final thanks to all my readers, especially if you actually took the time to read this little bit of rambling. Your comments, as always, are ♥♥♥