"Kurt," says his dad once they're outside the office. Coach Beiste and Principal Figgins are still in there, looking very serious as they talk; Kurt tears his eyes away. His dad looks, if it's possible, even more serious. "I need to know. Did you do this?"
Kurt is shaking his head even before his dad is finished. "No," he says, and he knows his voice is high and quivery with distress, which can't be a boon to proving his trustworthiness, but he can't help it. "Dad, I swear, I didn't. I - I thought about it, because I wanted to win and it worked for JFK, but I didn't -- I decided not to do it."
His dad gives him a long, hard look. Kurt stands silently under the scrutiny for about three seconds, ignoring the curious glances that students in the hall are throwing them as they walk past, before he says frantically again, "I didn't do it."
"Okay," says his dad, shifting his baseball cap up on his forehead.
"...Okay?" Kurt asks, a little shellshocked.
"You don't lie to me, Kurt; you're bad at it, for one thing, and you're a good kid. So." His dad spreads his hands. "You say you didn't do it, you didn't do it. And if you didn't do it, they're not gonna find any proof of it, so you won't get suspended." He points at him. "But we're gonna talk about this whole JFK business tonight."
Kurt has the sinking suspicion that, though his expression and manner seem genuine, his dad is actually trying to employ the guilt method to convince him to confess. Ordinarily, he would probably respond to that with a well-placed sharp retort (one that would earn him a restriction of his eBay rights) and a perfectly executed turn on his heel complete with dramatic exit, but right now, on top of losing the election and the knowledge that NYADA will never accept him now, his dad's disbelief doesn't rouse much more than devastated listlessness. "Fine," he says, quiet. His throat feels tight and he doesn't want to cry here. "Can I go?"
His dad frowns. "Well -- yeah, I know you've got class. But Kurt--"
Kurt doesn't wait; he turns and heads for his locker, where, if he knows Rachel Berry at all, she'll be waiting -- possibly with Blaine -- to find out what Principal Figgins wanted.
“What? No,” Blaine protests, leaning against the bank of lockers as Mike takes out his books for fourth period. “You can’t be serious. They’re amazing!”
“I can appreciate their showmanship,” Mike says, lifting a hand in cheerful self-defense. “But a cappella is more your thing than mine, and,” he sticks his head in his locker, rooting around; his voice echoes out, “they move really stiffly.”
“It’s not like the Aires were much more grac—” Then Blaine glances up and sees what’s storming down the hall toward them.
Genial arguments over who should have won The Sing-Off fly right out of his head. His stomach feels like it drops into his shoes. “Kurt?” he asks, pushing himself up straight.
Kurt — ashen and red-eyed and clutching the strap of his bag, his face set in a way that Blaine has learned to find worrisome — grabs his wrist and pulls him away from the lockers, tugging Blaine along in his wake. It only takes a second or two of stumbling over his own feet for Blaine to get with the program; he’s sort of aware that Mike is staring after the two of them, but he’s mostly concerned with the way that when he caught a glimpse of Kurt’s expression a second ago, he looked like he was trying not to cry.
“Kurt,” Blaine tries, walking along right at Kurt’s side and peering into his face. He’s definitely crying now, though they’re moving so quickly and his expression is so blank that Blaine thinks that the students who they’re passing wouldn’t even be able to tell. He doesn’t answer, though, and he doesn’t let up with his tight grip on Blaine’s wrist, which is almost scarier — they never hold hands at McKinley.
Kurt leads them past the water fountain where Strando and one of the other football players are yelling and spraying each other in the face, through the wing that everyone (everyone who’s able to, anyway) is currently avoiding because it smells like the cats that Anatomy & Physiology are dissecting, and he yanks Blaine into an empty classroom, pulls the door shut behind them, and kicks several textbooks in front of it.
“What’s—” is as far as Blaine gets before Kurt folds into him. Blaine has no idea what’s going on, but this, he can do. He immediately wraps Kurt up in his arms. “Are you okay?”
Kurt takes a deep, shuddery breath and says into his neck, “I lost.”
Blaine knows he can’t feel anywhere near as bad as Kurt does, but those two words still hit like a punch to the chest. Kurt wanted it so badly, and Blaine is firmly convinced that President Kurt would have been the best thing to happen to this ridiculous school in years. He shuts his eyes. “Oh, Kurt, I’m so sorry,” he says genuinely, and he squeezes him.
“And someone,” Kurt continues, and God, just listening to him makes Blaine’s heart clench in his chest; his muffled voice is wrecked and he’s audibly crying, back shaking under Blaine’s hands, “stuffed the ballot boxes in an attempt to rig the election in my favor—”
Blaine’s hands momentarily still. “—What?”
“—And Principal Figgins is convinced it was me, so they’re considering suspending me and he called my dad in and everyone looked at me like I was some common criminal—”
Blaine starts bewilderedly rubbing his back again, trying to think of the most calming thing to say, but Kurt surprises him again. He abruptly puts his hands on Blaine’s shoulders and stands up straight, lifting his head. His face is red and squashed and streaked with tears. “I didn’t do it,” he says, still holding Blaine’s shoulders and looking him right in the eyes. “I didn’t.”
“I know,” Blaine says immediately, and he doesn’t give a thought to where they are; they’re in a room with the door shut and partially blocked and they’ve stepped away from the window that looks out into the hall. That’s more than good enough for him. He lowers his hands to Kurt’s hips. “I know you would never do something like that.”
Kurt blanches. “I thought about it,” he admits, after a second. “In a moment of weakness.” He sniffles and reaches up and uses two fingers to delicately wipe first under one eye, then the other. Blaine lets go of him with one hand so he can open his bag hanging at his hip and dig around for the packet of tissues that he knows is in there somewhere. It’s hard to do without looking, but he doesn’t want to break eye contact with Kurt. Kurt snorts softly, clearly making the attempt to pull himself back together. “Some law and order candidate.”
“Of course you thought about it,” Blaine says, and his hand closes around the Kleenex. He pulls them out of his bag and offers the pack to Kurt. “You wanted this so bad, Kurt; you deserved to win. But you didn’t cheat. That’s what counts.”
“I suppose,” says Kurt. He doesn’t sound convinced, but he does smile, small and watery, at the appearance of the tissues and take one to dab at his face. “Not that that will convince anyone in the administration.” Sour: “Suddenly they’re all about discipline.” He blows his nose. Blaine feels uncomfortably close to fury for a few seconds, thinking about how pale Kurt was when he met him; the way that he jumped at shadows and talked about his teachers and how his hands shook faintly when they first exchanged numbers in the parking lot at Dalton, but getting angry isn’t going to help anything here.
“We’ll figure this out,” Blaine promises, and he holds out his hand. Kurt eyes him dubiously for several seconds, but puts the used tissue into his outstretched palm, and Blaine tosses it in the trash can behind his left foot and then hands him another one. “I know you didn’t do it.”
“My transcript won’t.” Kurt has one arm wrapped around himself now, and he’s gesturing with the tissue in his other hand. “I’m never going to get into NYADA with a record of juvenile delinquency.” (Blaine privately thinks that ‘juvenile delinquency’ is a slight over-exaggeration, though he (A) completely understands the concern and (B) would never say so out loud.) “Not even successful juvenile delinquency!”
Blaine looks at him for a few seconds, and then he opens his arms and says, “Come here.” Kurt shoots him a look, but Blaine doesn’t lower his arms and after a few seconds, Kurt shuffles in and lets Blaine hug him close again. Kurt is warm and tall and solid against Blaine, smelling like his just-right familiar faint hint of cologne; he hooks his hands together in the small of Blaine’s back.
“You’re innocent; you can’t be punished for something you didn’t do,” Blaine says quietly to him. “And if they do try to put it on your record, we’ll fight it. We’ll be detectives if we have to; I’ll bet we can figure out who the perp is.”
Kurt gives a couple shaky breaths of a laugh, puffs warm against Blaine’s nose. “You watch too much CSI,” he says. “And we can only form a detective team if I get to be Sherlock Holmes. Deerstalkers are more my style than bowler hats.”
“Deal,” Blaine says fondly, and when he smiles at Kurt, Kurt faintly but genuinely smiles back.
It turns out that a lot of people want to talk to you when you're an independent candidate with no political history who won a seat in Congress on a write-in campaign. By the end of the day, Burt is pretty sure he's seen more video cameras and satellite links in the last 10 hours than he has in the rest of his life combined. Carole was able to join him when her shift ended, and it was great to have her there when he accepted his opponents' concession speeches (Sylvester's was the nuttiest thing he's ever heard, filled with venom and insults that cracked him up) and gave his first interview as Ohio's newest representative-elect.
Now, though, is the best part of his day: he gets to go home and be with his family, and not talk to another damn reporter again. At least until tomorrow.
"The look on that woman's face," Carole says, grinning behind the wheel of the truck, and Burt guffaws.
"I don't think Sue Sylvester is real used to losing," he says.
Carole snorts companionably, and then she glances over at him. Her smile flashes brightly in the lights of an oncoming car passing them in the other lane. "I'm sure she isn't, Representative Hummel."
"I'm not 'representative' til January," he reminds her, but they're grinning at each other like a couple of kids.
"I can safely say that I never saw myself as a congressman's wife," Carole says. She's still smiling, and she's been nothing but supportive and amazing through this whole thing, but not for the first time, Burt feels a small prick of conscience.
"I know it's not exactly what you signed up for--" he starts, but she cuts him off as she turns onto Marlville Street.
"Don't you even start that again, Burt," she says briskly. "Or have you completely forgotten who suggested it and looked up the rules for a write-in campaign in the first place?"
"You haven't exactly let me forget," he says, grinning again.
"You're damn right I haven't." Carole stops at the intersection at the end of their street, then takes the familiar left. "Tomorrow, we'll start talking about logistics and what this means for careers and where we're going to live. Tonight, we're going to celebrate."
"Sounds like a plan," Burt says, and, not for the first time, can't figure out how in the hell he was lucky enough to have Carole come into his life. Something like that must come through in his tone, because she aims a softer smile at him as she pulls into the driveway.
There's a familiar green Subaru parked in front of the house. "It looks like Blaine is still here." Carole puts it in park and switches off the ignition, grabbing her purse from the backseat and her sunglasses from where she'd clipped them to the sun visor.
"Blaine's always here," Burt says. "Between him and Rachel, we might as well open up a hotel for teenagers who never quit making funny faces when they sing."
Carola laughs softly, unbuckling her seatbelt and patting him on the arm as she climbs out of the truck. "You like them both and you know it," she says.
"I'd like 'em more if they were quieter," Burt says and hears Carole laugh again as she walks up the front path, keys jingling. He takes a second to look around as he locks up the truck; there are leaves all over the front yard. He's been so busy with the campaign that business around the house has definitely suffered. He makes a mental note to get raking, or at least get the boys on it, by the end of the week. It won't be pretty if those leaves are still on the ground when the first snow falls.
When he steps into the house, he follows Carole's voice to the kitchen. Finn is juggling two plates with half a sandwich already hanging out of his mouth. When he sees Burt, he tries to grin and quickly has to raise a plate to catch his sandwich. "Hey!" he says. "You won, right? It's totally official?"
"It's totally official," Burt confirms, and he laughs and hugs Finn back as Finn tries to give him a back-slapping hug while both hands are fun.
Finn pulls back to say, "We watched you on WLTW; you were awesome."
"Thanks," Burt says, as Carole squeezes his arm and beams.
"It was a very impressive acceptance speech," she says. "Even if you wouldn't take off the baseball cap."
"Hey, that's how people know me," Burt protests, and he grins as she scoffs.
Carole glances over at Finn again. "Finn, that's a whole lot of sandwich, even for you."
"Oh, it's not all for me," Finn says. "This one--" he hefts the plate with the sandwich that he'd been holding in his mouth, then frowns and lifts the other plate instead, "--this one is for Blaine."
"He and Kurt upstairs?" Burt asks, and Finn -- looking a little more sober and almost weirdly guilty now, which is all that Burt needs to know when it comes to how Kurt is taking his own election news -- nods. Getting that call from the school in the middle of this wild day was the worst, for sure; for a half a second, Burt thought the lady was gonna tell him something awful. By comparison, being called in to have Kurt accused of cheating in the student council elections didn't seem so bad, though it was puzzling and disappointing and Kurt seemed to have taken it awful hard. They'd played phone tag in the afternoon, Burt calling him after the official results came back and Kurt leaving a congratulatory, genuine-sounding message while Burt was on the air with that lady with the short hair from MSNBC, so -- he doesn't really know what the deal is.
Now that the day's over, though, he's gonna find out.
"Tell you what; I'll take it up there."
"Really?" Finn asks, but he hands the sandwich over when Burt reaches out for it. It looks like a grilled cheese, with a handful of chips sprinkled along the side of the plate.
"Yeah, I've got this," says Burt, and he sheds his coat on the way through the hall. Behind him, he can hear Carole's voice and then Finn saying, "He's really sad about losing and Blaine is helping, and kind of stuck, so I figured--"
Burt doesn't know what Finn figured, because the sound of his own boots on the steps drowns out Finn's voice. Kurt's door is about halfway open at the top of the stairs, and when he knocks on the doorframe and leans in, he figures out what Finn meant by 'kind of stuck.' Blaine is lying back against the pillows, half sitting up, and Kurt is fast asleep with his head on Blaine's opposite shoulder. His arm -- and most of his torso -- is flung across Blaine's chest and his back is slowly rising and falling, his face smooth and peaceful. The entire posture reminds Burt of the way that Kurt used to cling to that stuffed rabbit that he carried around everywhere as a kid; it makes him think of when Kurt was a tiny thing whose hand was dwarfed in Burt's instead of a lanky teenager who's taller than him and is going to legally be an adult in six months. It's a sobering moment, and a reminder that Kurt's gonna be leaving sooner than Burt knows it.
Blaine has wrapped one arm around Kurt's back and is reading a paperback with his free hand; after a second, Burt realizes that there are wires trailing down from his ears, which would explain why he hasn't glanced up yet. Burt clears his throat and raps on the door, louder this time, and Blaine starts and his head rises quickly. His eyes widen when he sees Burt standing in the door. Burt is pretty sure, just from watching his reaction, that his first instinct is to try to get out from under Kurt, but then he doesn't; he reaches up and yanks his headphones out of his ears.
"Mr. Hummel, hi," he says, quiet and sounding a little breathless. "I'm sorry; I didn't hear you come in."
"It's okay," Burt says. "You doin' homework?"
"We're reading Catcher in the Rye in English," Blaine explains, clearly keeping his voice low for Kurt's benefit, and he lifts the cover of his book toward Burt to demonstrate. Burt nods; he remembers a copy of it lying around the house last year, Kurt reading in between cooking, nagging, and obsessively checking and re-checking Burt's IVs.
"We watched your victory speech, and the interview with Rachel Maddow; congratulations." That's the thing about this kid -- he ought to look awkward as hell, being found with Burt's son draped all over him like a starfish, but after that initial deer-in-headlights moment, he's having this conversation like this is a totally normal way for them to be talking.
"Thanks." Burt takes a few steps in and puts the plate down on the bedside table closest to Blaine. "Finn figured you might be hungry; he made you a sandwich."
Blaine blinks. "He did?" he asks, sounding surprised and a little doubtful.
"Think he felt bad for you guys," Burt says. He tilts his head at Kurt. "How's he doing?"
He looks down at the top of Kurt's head, and his expression goes so tender that Burt almost feels like he's intruding, which is ridiculous, because Kurt is asleep and this is his house. "He's upset," Blaine says, and he looks up again. Burt thinks that that short of a status update probably means that Blaine has learned his lesson, after that talk they had in the garage in March, about not telling him too much when it comes to what's going on with Kurt. "But he's really excited about you winning."
He nods, and he makes a split second decision. He can talk it out with Kurt later, after dinner. Let the kid sleep. "If you want somethin' to eat besides a sandwich, we're ordering Chinese," he says. "You're welcome to stay."
The more that Burt is around Blaine, the more dubious he is about the kid's parents. It's weird enough that the boys have been dating for eight months and friends for over a year and he's never so much as seen them at a distance at a performance or school activity, but sometimes, he or Carole will say innocuous things to Blaine and his whole face will shift and his eyes will go huge, like he wasn't expecting that kind of welcome. "Okay," Blaine says, after half a silent second. "Thank you."
"No problem," Burt says, and he leaves the two of them in the calm quiet of Kurt's room.
Carole has always been a 'rip the bandaid off all at once' person; she thinks it's part of the reason that she and Burt got along so well so quickly when they first met. Neither of them suffers fools or is one to let something fester. They come right out with it.
So while she and Kurt are washing dishes, after the family has had dinner and Blaine has been seen to the door because it's a school night, she says, "Kurt, I'm sorry about the student council elections."
She glances over; his shoulders have gone stiff as he dries a plate with a dish towel, and he doesn't turn back toward her. "Thank you," he says. "Dad told you?"
"And Finn," she says, scrubbing at a dab of sweet and sour sauce, and she waits.
Kurt doesn't disappoint. "I assume you're also aware of the accusations against my moral character," he says, sounding somewhere halfway between bitter and upset.
"Yep," Carole says, "and I don't believe them for a second." Kurt looks over quickly, at that. "And neither does your dad." She looks at him steadily, and after a few seconds, he gives her one of his tiny close-mouthed smiles; the genuine ones, which she had to work so hard to startle out of him in the early days.
"Thank you." He goes back to pulling dishes out of the rack to dry them, and for a moment, she thinks that is the end of that. But then Kurt says, voice thin, "I just really wanted to win."
Sometimes Carole misses the days when kids were small and all it took to get the anguished tone out of their voices was a bandaid and a lollipop. It's not that she has minded putting more effort into figuring out what's going on and what she can do to help, as Finn as gotten older and then as Kurt came into their lives. It's that, when they were little, it was easier to fix the hurt. She says, with all of the sympathy she possesses, "I know you did."
"I could have made a difference in that school, for lots of kids who get picked on," he continues, and Carole thinks (not unkindly): Wait for it. "And that level of political experience would have looked amazing on my NYADA application."
She shuts off the tap, leaning on one elbow on the edge of the sink and letting her hands drip sudsy water down the garbage disposal, so she can give him her full attention. He is taking this very seriously ('political experience' and all), so she gives it the same respect. "It would have," she agrees. "But honey, you know you have a lot of other great things to put on that application, right?"
Kurt slowly turns to look at her, one eyebrow half-raised. "Such as...?"
"Such as being an original member of your glee club," she says. "Never falling off the honor roll, even when your dad was sick; keeping up your grades and being involved with the new school while you were at Dalton, winning that game for the football team, running your dad's successful Congressional campaign, and don't think I haven't seen that YouTube video of you single-handedly winning the cheerleading national championships about a million times."
He cracks a tiny smile. "Dad is absurdly proud that a child of his was on ESPN2," he says, but it doesn't sound sarcastic in a negative way.
"I read your essays, Kurt," she reminds him. "College admissions might not be mine or your dad's specialty, but I know good stuff when I see it." His essays were good; they were a little heartbreaking, in all honesty. Funny and genuine and dramatic and flippant while serious at the same time -- Kurt writes like he talks. One of the prompts had asked for a moment when the candidate had overcome adversity, and Kurt's introductory listing of the options that he had at his disposal had been the darkest of humor, but he'd gone on to write about the last year and how it had changed his life. And, granted, Kurt is 17, so 'life-changing' might not hold the same scope as it could for an adult, but the essay's conclusion that it had been a really good year -- well. Carole will never be Kurt's mother, but she'd been so proud in that moment, and so thankful.
"They would be stupid not to accept you," she tells him. "And if, if they don't, then one of your other schools will. I think we both know that you're going to New York."
Kurt stands there in the kitchen with a dripping glass in one hand and a dish towel in the other for several long seconds, then he blinks a few times, puts the glass down on the counter, and takes a few steps over to bend down and hug her. It's a little bit of a surprise; he's now nowhere near as standoffish as Carole has seen him at several points in their shared past, but Kurt has never been especially touchy-feely. She leans up to hug him back.
"Thanks, Carole," he says, muffled by her sweater, and she smiles and pats him on the backs of his shoulderblades, where her hands are resting.
"Anytime." He steps back, raising his head again, and they smile at each other. "Now, come on," she says. "We have dishes to finish, and I believe someone said something about celebratory cake?"
Kurt brightens. "It's less of a cake and more of a phyllo-wrapped baked brie with red raspberry chutney." He assures her: "Everyone will love it."
Carole is fairly sure that Burt and Finn won't love it, and will in fact prefer a sheet cake, but Burt won't say so in a serious fashion and she can probably kick Finn under the table before he starts complaining. "Sounds good," she says gamely, and starts thinking about the most diplomatic way to suggest that they also make a small vanilla cake with chocolate frosting.
Kurt smiles at her and turns away to the shelf of cookbooks, most of which are absurdly fancy and belong to Kurt. Carole tends to cook from memory and instinct, Burt grills (and cooks under direct supervision) more than he uses cookbooks, and Finn is best in the kitchen with a panini maker or a jar of peanut butter and a spoon. Kurt, though, spent years doing most of the cooking for himself and Burt, and he seems to genuinely enjoy making complex creations with lofty dreams.
Carole is distracted from ruminations on her family's cooking abilities by the sight of her wet handprints on the back of Kurt's vest. She winces. "--Kurt?" she asks.
"Yes?" he asks distractedly, already flipping through one of his cookbooks.
She considers it for a second -- then smiles brightly at him. "I'll see if we have any raspberries left in the freezer."
Carole is still all for ripping the bandaid off all at once, but some things, for the sake of domestic harmony, are best left unsaid.