When Burt had invited Kurt’s friend to join him, Finn, and Carole in the living room to watch the Buckeyes, he’d never dreamed he’d actually say yes. He’d only offered as a friendly extension of their introduction, but once the kid finished shaking his hand, he flashed an oddly nervous grin and explained what a huge college football fan he was.
What was even stranger was that Kurt didn’t object. He merely said softly, “You don’t have to do it just to be polite, Blaine. They really don’t care either way. We can do whatever you want.”
“No, this is fine. This is great,” Blaine said, obviously doing his damnedest to out-polite Kurt.
Once Blaine passed him on their way into the living room, Kurt threw his patented could you possibly embarrass me more, Dad? look over his shoulder at Burt. Burt shrugged in return. They went through another round of introductions with Carole, but Finn seemed to have met Blaine already. Burt filed that away in his mind as odd.
Of course, Burt had heard about Blaine before. He’d dragged some details out of Kurt before he’d let Kurt go to theater things with him. A singer in Dalton’s glee club. Seventeen. A safe driver. A nice guy. A good listener. No, Dad, no felonies or misdemeanors—and really, shouldn’t you be more worried about Puck’s influence on Finn? Burt had wanted to ask if Blaine was gay, just to get his bearings, but Kurt hadn’t offered that information. Kurt’s whole face changed—and not in a good way—whenever Burt broached questions that would be standard for a parent to ask about a new boyfriend but not a new friend, so Burt went with his gut and didn’t press the subject.
Burt settled on the couch beside Carole and Finn. Kurt and Blaine sat on the loveseat, Kurt with his hands folded primly in his lap but toeing distractedly at the coffee table leg. Blaine held his back so straight it looked like he could have balanced a stack of books on his head, like they did in those manners classes. Kurt had said Blaine’s family was rich. Maybe he’d had one of those classes. Hell, maybe manners classes were part of the Dalton curriculum. As much as Kurt had been gushing about Dalton lately, it wouldn’t surprise Burt.
Either way, when Burt looked to his other side, at Carole doing a seated victory dance in celebration of OSU’s field goal and Finn punching the air but forgetting he was holding a can of soda, then frantically sopping up the spill on his jersey with the afghan, it was hard to believe these people were all sitting in the same room. Burt cheered at the screen and gave Finn a high-five.
“Wait, was that Saunders kicking?” Burt nearly jumped when Blaine spoke up. “I thought he was still on the injured list.”
Burt blinked and said, “Uh, I think they just cleared him to play yesterday.” It hadn’t been fair of him, but Burt had to admit, he’d assumed the college football fan thing had been for show until that moment. He continued, “Good thing, too. I don’t think Vitrovsky could’ve done it, with that cross-wind they’ve got going today.”
“The special teams are going to be in big trouble next year, with Saunders and Hemming graduating,” Blaine agreed. Kurt looked at Blaine as if he’d started speaking in tongues, but Blaine didn’t see his expression.
Things relaxed after that, somewhat. Conversation wandered comfortably during a long non-scoring stretch of gameplay, over everything from school and glee clubs to cars and family. Blaine was trying too hard, effusively complimenting Carole on what turned out to be store-bought vegetable dip and working references to the Dalton honor code in at every opportunity, but he was nice, and he was even better at drawing Kurt into the discussion than Burt was. On top of that, he often turned to Kurt and focused on Kurt alone, speaking in a voice too low for anyone else in the room to hear over the TV.
He didn’t mean to eavesdrop, but Burt found himself listening in on one of these quiet conversations as he walked behind the loveseat when he returned from the kitchen with a can of soda.
“You said you were on the football team,” Blaine said.
Kurt’s cheeks reddened, just a little. “I was. But I was the kicker. All I had to know was who was the Lucy to my Charlie Brown and which set of goal things to kick through. Dad, didn’t you already have your one beer for the day?”
Burt flinched when he realized Kurt and Blaine were looking at him. He shook his head and tried to pretend he hadn’t been listening. “This is Diet Coke.”
Kurt gave him that look that reminded Burt so much of how Kurt’s mother had looked when Burt had tracked grease into the house. “You know just as well as I do that studies show that even diet soda leads to increased risk of heart disease. I made you a whole pitcher sparkling pomegranate juice with club soda.”
Burt sighed and handed his Coke can to Kurt, who accepted it gratefully. By the time he came back with the pomegranate soda stuff, the Buckeyes were on first-and-goal, but Burt’s attention caught on something far more interesting.
Blaine and Kurt had pulled the coffee table as close to them as they could and commandeered the veggie platter. Blaine had arranged a cauliflower defense and a carrot offense, with a cherry tomato as the ball. Kurt interrupted his very intent explanation of an I-formation by eating one of the wide receivers, which sent both of them into a fit of giggles.
Burt sat down again and tried to concentrate on the game, but he couldn’t focus on the action on the big screen. Burt had tried explaining the basics to Kurt when he’d gotten on the football team, but Kurt had shown absolutely no interest—he had been too busy complaining about stirrup pants. And yet here Kurt was, leaning in close to the other boy and grinning that elusive grin he saved for The Sound of Music Sing-Along and New Directions winning at Sectionals.
His son was head-over-heels in love. No other explanation for it. Perhaps because any other implications still intimidated Burt a little too much, all he could think was, please, don’t let this be another Finn.
Carole rubbed Burt’s shoulder and asked if something was wrong, but he smiled and said everything was fine. He didn’t have to explain further, because the Buckeyes scored on a beautifully executed quarterback sneak. He, Finn, and Carole jumped out of their seats and whooped and cheered, but just as he was about to turn toward the loveseat to ask Blaine what he thought of that play, he heard Kurt’s voice.
“Wow, boys really do taste like dip.”
Blaine’s hand was still cupping Kurt’s cheek when Burt looked over. It was clear neither of them had seen the touchdown; they wouldn’t have noticed if a bomb had gone off in the backyard. A little surprisingly, Burt found himself not feeling an overwhelming need to clean his shotgun the way he’d always thought he would the first time he saw his son’s universe narrow down to another boy.
Burt couldn’t see Blaine’s face from his angle, but he could pretty much hear the blush in his voice. “Sorry,” Blaine stuttered. “The veggie dip—I don’t think it had garlic in it, did it? But I guess it still—”
Kurt’s grin threatened to split his face in two. “That wasn’t a criticism, just a—well, you haven’t met Brittany, but—I’ll explain it someday, promise.”
Burt whipped his head around and focused on the screen barely in time to avoid Kurt catching him staring. He still watched out of the corner of his eye as Kurt leaned back from Blaine, looking over Blaine’s shoulder and apparently remembering that there were other people in the room. Burt saw Kurt scoot so he was facing the TV again but still close to Blaine. He laced their fingers together.
“I really hate football,” Kurt said to Blaine with a smile that made the unspoken but I adore you as clear as day.
It didn’t surprise Burt when they left to listen to music in Kurt’s room at halftime. Burt was honest with himself. He was nervous at the prospect of his son growing up, far more nervous than he had been with the dopey cheerleader. Because then, it had been so obvious that she couldn’t possibly break Kurt’s heart, and now, it was so obvious that this kid could shatter it with a word.
It helped a little when Burt saw that he could still make Kurt blush to the tips of his ears just by saying, “Basement door stays open, Kurt,” though. It didn’t hurt that he made Blaine pale when he gave him his just because I like you doesn’t mean I won’t hesitate to kill you if you hurt him look, either.
As he listened to the boys’ laughter echo and fade down the basement steps, Burt thought back to what he’d dreamed being a dad to his son would be like when he first held his baby in his arms. As far as the details went, this day hadn’t been anything like what he’d imagined back then. But he had imagined his son being happy. That was enough.