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An Earlier Heaven

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Blaine takes a moment to glance away from the screen, his eyes beginning to feel the strain of an afternoon's frantic writing. It's only when he notices the dimming light in the room that he realises just how much time has passed. A quick glance at the clock confirms his suspicions.

Blaine stretches lazily in his chair, feeling the kinks in his shoulders. Kurt'll be home soon – maybe if Blaine makes a start on dinner he can persuade him to put those talented fingers to use. He just has to save his work first and then—

"Blaine! Blaine!"

There's a loud slam as the front door bangs shut and it's a good thing Blaine understands the nuances of his husband's tone so well or he'd be panicking by now. Instead, he gets to his feet and crosses the office, an indulgent smile on his face at the obvious excitement in Kurt's voice.

"Where are you?"

Blaine appears in the doorway just as Kurt is rapidly punching numbers into his phone.

"Where I always am." Blaine crosses the room and takes the phone from Kurt's hands. "Good day?"

When Kurt looks at him it's like someone reaches into Blaine's chest and stops his heart, because those bright eyes he knows and loves so well are blurred by a veil of unshed tears.

"Kurt?" Blaine doesn't bother to hide the way his voice cracks with concern. "Baby, what's wrong?"

Kurt chokes out a noise that's somewhere between laugh and a sob, and reaches out to grab hold of Blaine's shoulders.

"Okay, you're really starting to scare me now." Blaine runs his hands slowly the length of Kurt's arms, but before he has time to pull him closer, Kurt breaks the tension.

"The woman from the agency rang."

It takes a moment for Blaine to process what woman from which agency Kurt's talking about, and then the knot in his chest tightens as everything starts to make sense.

"Did she...? Is it...?" Blaine isn't quite able to finish the questions he's fairly sure he doesn't want to hear the answers to. They've already experienced so much rejection, but the pain of it never seems to lessen.

"She said..." Kurt pauses for what feels like a lifetime to Blaine, but in reality is barely long enough for him to take a steadying breath. "There's a girl. She's about five months pregnant and she can't keep the baby. I'm not sure why. But she saw our profile and she liked it." Kurt's hands are clutching tightly to Blaine's jumper now and he's practically vibrating with excitement. "She liked it and she wants to meet us."

It's like Blaine's been struck dumb. There are so many emotions rushing through him, all vying for supremacy, and Blaine has no idea just what he's feeling, much less what to say.

It's clear Kurt expects some reaction though.

"That's great," Blaine manages finally, and it sounds weak even to his own ears, so it's no wonder the happiness drops from Kurt's face like a stone.

"Great?" Kurt lets go of Blaine like he's been burnt. "That's it? Don't you...?" He breaks off then as a look of horror crosses his face. "Have you changed your mind?" The words are so soft, so full of fear that Blaine knows if hearts could really break, both of theirs would be in pieces on the floor by now.

He pulls Kurt to him instinctively, holds that too-stiff body so tightly that he's sure Kurt must be able to feel his heart pounding out of his chest. "God, no!" he chokes out. "I want this – with you – so much."

Kurt relaxes but still pulls back from the embrace. "Then what?" he asks, wariness written all over his face.

"I just don't want you to get your hopes up." The words are reluctant, and God knows the last thing Blaine wants is to be the one to take this away from Kurt, but they've been here before, and Blaine's not sure he can stand to see him broken by disappointment again.

A sad smile graces Kurt's face now and he takes hold of Blaine's hands, squeezing gently. "Hope's all I've got right now," he says quietly. "I know there's a million things that could go wrong, that have gone wrong in the past, but just let me have this for now. Please?"

Blaine's never been able to deny Kurt anything, not since the days of blazers and glee clubs and dead canaries, and he's certainly not about to start now.

***

"Kurt!"

Kurt almost spills the glass of juice he's pouring, such is the volume of Blaine's call. He places the full glass carefully on the counter. "Blaine, I'm in the kitchen, not New Jersey, and I'm quite happy having my ear drums remain in one piece."

Blaine appears around the corner, cheeks flushed, hair just a little askew, and a sheepish smile on his face. "Sorry." Then he thrusts his hands out in front of Kurt's face. "Which one should I wear?"

There's a tiny knot of a frown on his face and Kurt has to resist the temptation to smooth it away – there's only one way that any sort of touching will end up right now, and Blaine's hair's messy enough as it is. Instead, Kurt pretends to ponder for a moment. "The blue one," he says finally.

Blaine surveys it critically. "You're sure?"

"It'll go much better with your suit than the green one."

"But you don't know which one I'm wearing, though."

Kurt picks up his drink and takes a sip before smirking back at Blaine. "You're wearing the one hanging on the closet door."

Blaine looks at Kurt, then back over his shoulder in the direction of their bedroom. "Oh," he says. "I didn't realise I'd already picked one out."

Kurt's grin gets wider. "Better hurry up and put it on. Coffee's brewed, and I can't promise I won't drink it all."

Blaine looks at Kurt steadily for a moment before reaching out and removing the drink from his hands.

"Wha—" Kurt doesn't get the words out before Blaine's lips are on his, warm and soft and promising a wealth of wonderful things that they really don't have time to explore right now. Kurt is exactly two seconds away from rolling his hips when Blaine pulls back, only to rest their foreheads together.

"It'll be fine."

"You don't know that." The words come out a little stiffly and Kurt pulls away, because Blaine should know better than to make promises.

"Kurt." Blaine's a little serious now, his hands firm on Kurt's hips. "Whatever happens today, whatever decision this girl makes, we've still got each other. We're already a family."

Kurt can't help but melt a little at Blaine's words – he's always known just the right thing to say – however cheesy it might be. Kurt allows a hint of a smile to grace his face. "I know," he admits softly. "It's just..." He falters then, teeth worrying his bottom lip.

Blaine reaches out and taps his mouth with a fingertip. "Stop that. If you want it bitten that badly, let me do it." He follows up the words with what can best be described as a lascivious wink and the last of Kurt's tension ebbs away – for now.

"I don't know what I'm worried about," Kurt says with a rueful smile. "You charm these women like you do me, and it'll be like Walton's Mountain around here."

"Or the family Von Trapp," Blaine suggests thoughtfully. "I bet I'd look good in a Captain's uniform."

Kurt finds himself agreeing silently and takes a moment to enjoy the mental image. "Hang on, how did I become Julie Andrews in this scenario?"

"You love her."

"Maybe so, but I'm certainly no nun. Although," Kurt pauses here and eyes his husband speculatively, "I may develop some very nun-like habits if you don't get that cute butt of yours in that suit."

Blaine's eyes widen and he holds out his hands in mock horror. "I'm going," he says quickly. "God, Kurt, don't even joke about that."

Kurt chuckles to himself as he leans against the counter and watches a Blaine-shaped blur move around their room. That threat never loses its efficacy, but he can't help wondering how long it will take Blaine to realise Kurt would sooner lose a limb than give up anything they share – particularly that.

***
"I feel sick."

"You certainly know how to pick your moments." Kurt watches the elevator doors close behind them with a sigh. "You couldn't have mentioned this earlier?"

"I can't help it." Blaine pouts just a little – he really doesn't want to argue right now, and Kurt's never been able to resist that. "I didn't feel sick earlier."

"You're not actually going to be sick, are you?" Kurt asks warily as the elevator lurches to a halt on the next floor.

"I don't think so." Although Blaine would be a lot more sure about that if they could just be at the right floor now.

"Do you want to see if we can reschedule?" Kurt's voice is low anyway, because they're not alone, but it's so small when he asks this.

"No!" Blaine shakes his head emphatically and immediately wishes he hadn't, the sudden movement doing nothing for his current condition. But there's no way they're turning back now – this is too important to Kurt, to them. "Besides," he admits reluctantly, "I'm pretty sure we'll have this problem whatever date we do it."

Kurt frowns for a second as he processes Blaine's words. But then it melts away to be replaced with the sort of tender smile that Blaine will never tire of seeing. Kurt steps a little closer just as the elevator begins to move again. "Are you nervous?" he asks, and there's the faintest hint of wonder in his voice.

Blaine nods his head slightly, but keeps his eyes trained forward for the moment – Kurt's always accused him of wearing his heart on his sleeve, and Blaine knows if he turns to look at him now, Kurt will be able to read every last fear and insecurity written all over his face. And Kurt has been hurt enough times by this process – the last thing he needs is to have to deal with all of Blaine's issues on top of that. So Blaine sidetracks.

"You know what would make me feel better," he murmurs, just a hint of wheedling to his tone. And once he's sure he's got his expression in check, Blaine tilts his head to the side and employs his puppy dog eyes with full force.

Kurt's face breaks out in a smile that Blaine hasn't seen for days and he shakes his head slightly. "I am not rubbing your tummy; we're in an elevator full of people."

It's hardly full of people, but Blaine can't be bothered to argue semantics. Instead, he pouts.

Kurt seems to be aiming for a stern glare, but it gets stuck somewhere around indulgent. "Baby," he murmurs – but the affection in his tone is clear for all to hear. "I promise if you're still feeling poorly when we get home, I'll rub your tummy as much as you want."

"You're the best husband ever," Blaine says in satisfaction, and then lets his head flop down onto Kurt's shoulder. The cramping in his stomach returns full force only seconds later as the elevator lurches to another halt and Kurt takes hold of his hand.

"This is us."

Blaine grips tightly in return, his eyes fixed on the smart offices beyond the elevator's doors – it's not the first time they've been in this building, but it never gets any easier. And the tension he can feel radiating off Kurt makes Blaine want to turn around and run until they're safe in their apartment – locked away from judging eyes and disappointments that break his heart just a little more each time.

***
"There. That wasn't so bad, was it?"

Blaine stares at Kurt incredulously as he closes the office door behind them. Not bad is so far away from any of the terms he would choose to describe the last hour of his life. He was fairly sure that he had single-handedly talked their way out of not just getting this baby, but any baby. Not that he'd done anything wrong, per se – but a nervous Blaine had a tendency to turn into a babbling Blaine, and it was at these times that his brain-to-mouth filter usually chose to fail him. "It was..." He groans and tugs distractedly at his tie.

"Fine," Kurt finishes for him. "In fact, I think it went rather well."

"Are you serious?" Blaine presses the button for the elevator before turning his attention back to Kurt. "I just rambled on and on." There's a ding as the elevator arrives – it's blessedly empty, so Blaine continues as they walk inside. "I couldn't shut up – why didn't you stop me?" Blaine winds up on a plaintive note before pressing his forehead to Kurt's shoulder.

Kurt's hand slides into the cropped curls at his nape almost instantly. "I didn't want to. I thought it was adorable. I thought you were adorable."

A vague memory tugs at the edges of Blaine's consciousness, but he's got other concerns right now. "I practically told them my entire life story. Our entire life story. For God's sake, Kurt, I told them about our first kiss being over a bedazzled bird coffin – I think they could have both lived without knowing that."

Kurt steps back slightly, though his fingers continue their dance across the skin of Blaine's neck. "Blaine, that girl in there is thinking about giving us her baby. Her own flesh and blood. I don't think there's a thing you could have told her about us that she would have considered too much information."

Blaine calms slightly at Kurt's words – maybe he does have a point – and a faint smile curves the edges of his lips. "Really? So do you think I should go back in and tell her about that thing you do with your tongue and the little noises you make—"

"Finish that sentence and I'll never do either again, I assure you." Kurt's expression belies the severity of his words and Blaine feels the last of his tension seep away.

"I love you," he says suddenly, and before Kurt has time to breathe, much less reply, Blaine's hands are cradling his face. He's just leaning in close, unable to resist the temptation of Kurt's lips any longer, when the elevator dings again.

Blaine mutters in disgust about being cockblocked by machinery, and he's just turning around to press the 'close doors' button so then can pick up where they left off, when—

"There you are! I was starting to worry that I'd missed you, or that something had gone wrong—"

Blaine lets out a muted groan at the sight of an excited Rachel Berry practically bouncing with excitement in the lobby. He gets a discreet elbow to the ribs for his troubles.

"Rachel, what are you doing here?"

Blaine can hear the way Kurt's teeth are gritted around the words – Rachel, however, has never been quite so perceptive, and he knows instantly that there'll be no tummy rubbing for him this afternoon. And then, with Rachel's next words, the prospect of rubbing of any sort in his future begins to look rather bleak.

"Blaine told me about your appointment," she replies cheerfully, slipping her arm through Kurt's and completely missing the daggers he shoots at his husband. "What kind of friend would I be if I wasn't here to help you celebrate?" Rachel pauses then, just a crack of self-awareness peeking through as she glances at both Kurt's and Blaine's faces. "It is good news, right?"

For all of her usual self-absorption and overbearing ways, Blaine can't help but love Rachel – especially at times like this. She means well, has a heart of gold – even if her actions aren't always the most appropriate. And as someone who has been guilty of much the same thing on occasion – according to Kurt – Blaine feels a strange kind of kinship with her. And if nothing else, Rachel Berry is living proof that he and Kurt aren't just living on false hopes, that, given the chance, two men are perfectly capable of fathering a happy, well-adjusted child – one who isn't automatically doomed to a life of therapy and dysfunction by virtue of his or her parents' sexuality.

With a smile at her uncertain expression, Blaine slips his arm though her free one. "We don't know yet," he says, and is pleasantly surprised to hear how steady his voice comes out. "But it seemed to go well."

"It did go well," Kurt says determinedly, and Blaine's heart aches just a little because he can hear how hard Kurt wants that to be true.

"Of course it did." Rachel's tone brooks no argument – not that her audience is so inclined. "You two will make perfect parents; they'd have to be crazy to turn you down."

If it's possible, Blaine loves her even more in that moment – for all her usual inappropriateness, sometimes Rachel seems instinctively to know the right thing to say. Impulsive as ever, he leans in and presses a kiss to her cheek. "Thank you." His eyes meet Kurt's over Rachel's head, and Blaine doesn't miss the faint sheen of emotion that lies there.

"There's no need to thank me for the truth, Blaine," Rachel says simply, and then she tugs on both their arms, leading them towards the exit. "Now, come on. I put our names down for a table at Serendipity earlier. My treat."

It's such a simple gesture, and not the first time one of them has treated the others to lunch in their favourite eaterie, but suddenly Blaine finds he doesn't mind the loss of his afternoon plans at all.

***
"Kurt! Have you seen my tie?"

Kurt walks the short distance from lounge to bedroom and can't help but smile at the sight of Blaine, on all fours, burrowing under their bed. Why he thinks Kurt would allow any of their clothing to reside there is anybody's guess. "You're going to have to be a little more specific than that." He settles himself against the door frame and just enjoys the sight of Blaine's rather lovely rear raised in the air. It's a struggle to keep his more lewd thoughts at bay, but he's been trying to get Blaine to pack all day, and if he distracts him now, Kurt knows they'll be flying to Ohio with only the clothes on Blaine's back. Which isn't a bad thing per se – the thought of Blaine sans clothing has definite appeal – but Kurt doubts his father or Carole will see it that way.

There's a sharp crack and Blaine lets out a muffled cry as his head (or some unseen part of him) connects with the bed frame. Kurt winces sympathetically, but can't stop his smile as Blaine shuffles backwards and reappears looking decidedly rumpled. "You okay?"

Blaine sneezes before he has the chance to reply, and Kurt is torn between horror at the prospect of dust bunnies, and the very real urge to kiss the look of surprise off Blaine's face – it makes him look rather like a startled puppy and is entirely too adorable.

"I can't find my purple tie," Blaine says plaintively, rubbing gently at the back of his head.

Kurt steps forward instinctively and tugs Blaine's hands away. He cards his fingers gently through Blaine's unruly curls, checking for bumps. "You'll live," he says finally, fingers still skating over Blaine's scalp, unwilling to give up the sensation just yet.

Blaine leans back into his touch and lets out a contented sigh.

Kurt smiles indulgently down at him and thanks whatever gods there might be that Blaine has long since given up his obsession with gel. "I wouldn’t worry about taking a tie," he says, tugging lightly on Blaine's curls.

"But it's Carole's party." Blaine's words come out mixed in with a groan – he's always had a weakness for hair pulling.

"Which Dad and Finn have organised. You'd be better off packing a flannel shirt."

"Kurt." Blaine's attempts at admonishing are somewhat spoilt by the obvious amusement in his tone.

Kurt doesn't respond – his fingers still their movements and he lets out a deep sigh.

"I'm sure it won't be that bad." Blaine cranes his neck round and peeks up at Kurt through those impossibly long lashes of his.

Kurt smiles faintly and leans down to brush a kiss against his forehead. "It's just...I'm not really in the mood for parties right now, you know?"

"It might be just the distraction we need," Blaine offers, a little hopefully. "Take our minds off things."

"Off what?" Kurt doesn't mean for the words to come out so sharply, but he's just so tired – of disappointment and failure and never quite being good enough. "Off how that baby, our baby is going to be raised by some normal, middle-class straight couple, while you and I are going to spend the rest of our days rattling around this apartment alone?"

"You don't know that." There's a crack of emotion in Blaine's voice, but right at that moment Kurt is a little too caught up in his own pain.

"Yes I do. And so do you if you're being honest. I should have listened to you in the first place – this was just a ridiculous dream."

"Hey!" Blaine turns quickly, or as quickly as his knees will allow, and grabs Kurt's hands. "I never said..." He tails off for a moment before giving a sharp shake of his head and ploughing on. "I want this as much as you. I just can't bear to see you hurting."

Kurt pulls his hand away, the gentleness in Blaine's expression too much for him to bear right now. He can feel it prickling under his skin and he just needs it to stop. "It's never going to happen. We need to face facts."

Blaine wraps his arms around Kurt's middle and tugs him closer. "You don't know that," he repeats, voice taut with suppressed emotion.

Kurt twists in Blaine's grasp, but it's a half-hearted attempt to free himself. "It's been over a week," he says, and he just sounds so broken.

Blaine leans in and nuzzles his way along Kurt's tummy. Kurt can feel the heat of his breath warm through the thin fabric of his shirt. "It's a huge decision for her to make, Kurt. It's bound to take some time."

There's a part of Kurt deep down that knows Blaine's right, but in the thirty years of his existence, life has conditioned him to expect the worst.

"Besides," Blaine presses a kiss to the sliver of skin bare between jeans and shirt. "If all else fails, we could always take Rachel up on her drunken offer."

Kurt tugs back on Blaine's curls and is relieved when a glance at his face shows amusement. "And risk us having a baby Berry?" Kurt demands with rather more horror than he actually feels. "I'd rather get a cat."

***
"You boys are quiet."

"It's been a long day."

Blaine shifts uneasily at Burt's question and Kurt's reply. He looks up unwisely and catches Burt's gaze in the rear view mirror – for just a moment it feels to Blaine as if Burt has seen straight through Kurt's lie and is holding Blaine personally responsible.

Then Blaine gives himself a mental shake. That's ridiculous. Burt has no possible way of knowing what is really on their minds, and he's made the flight from New York to Ohio enough times himself to know how tiring it can be.

Burt's not wrong though. They are quiet; have been all day. In fact ever since that conversation the night before when Kurt shone the spotlight so brightly on both of their fears, neither one of them has said anything much beyond casual conversation, as if they are both afraid of damaging the carefully constructed façade of normality.

Blaine tunes out the conversation between Burt and Finn in the front – it's been some years since he followed the Buckeyes' progress with anything more than a cursory interest, and anyway, right now he has more important things on his mind.

Like Kurt.

Suddenly the distance of inches between them on that back seat feels like miles, and it's more than Blaine can bear. He reaches out and places his hand over Kurt's where it rests on the upholstery. There's a split second when Kurt doesn't respond, and Blaine fears he's misjudged the situation, but before he can do anything rash or panic, Kurt turns his hand palm upwards and laces their fingers together.

They still don't speak. But the tiny smile that Kurt offers him, and the gentle press of Kurt's skin against his own, is more than enough to soothe any frayed nerves that Blaine might have had.

The rest of the journey passes in comfortable silence. Blaine's gaze, like Kurt's, is fixed out of the window on the passing scenery. They don't come back to Ohio often – if it wasn't for Kurt's family, Blaine's fairly sure they wouldn’t come back at all; it's not like his own family offer sufficient reason to make the trip – and although it doesn't feel like coming home, because New York has had that covered for years, there are still fond memories here. After all, this is where he met Kurt.

As they near the Hummel family home the memories get even stronger, and Blaine can't help the hint of a smile that curves his lips as he remembers kisses and dates and holding hands, and that wonderful flurry of emotion that filled his stomach, still fills his stomach now, every time Kurt is near.

They're pulling to a halt in the driveway before Blaine realises where they are. He looks to the side, and judging from the yawn and stretching that Kurt's doing, he wasn't being entirely untruthful about his level of tiredness.

"Feel good to be home?" Blaine gives Kurt's hand one last squeeze before he lets go.

Kurt turns to face him, just the hint of a smile in place. "I'll let you know when we get there."

And, oh, Blaine understands instantly what Kurt means and can't help the dopey smile that covers his own face. Because whilst New York has undeniably been his home since the first time he stepped onto the tarmac at LaGuardia, it's different for Kurt. Although New York had been his dream first, and Blaine is in no doubt that Kurt wouldn't want to live anywhere else, he has ties to Ohio, a family he loves – one who loves him in return.

"You're an idiot," Kurt says softly, with a quick shake of his head. But the affection in both tone and gaze more than negate the words.

Before Blaine has the chance to respond with something incredibly sappy, probably but I'm your idiot, Finn has the door open at his side.

"Are you two getting out of there today? Or are you planning to revisit old times on the back seat of Burt's car?"

"Finn." Kurt shoots his best bitch glare at his brother, before flicking a wary one in the direction of his dad. Just like that Blaine feels seventeen again, and he can't help but laugh.

It seems the passing of years hasn't lessened the effect of that look on Finn, if his flinch is anything to go by. "Geez, I was only kidding," he protests, and takes a step back to let Blaine exit the car.

Before any of them have the chance to speak further, the front door swings open with a bang and what looks like a small human tornado comes hurtling down the path towards them.

Finn's son, Christopher, is three years old, and such a bundle of energy that he reminds Blaine vividly of himself at that age – which probably goes some way to explaining the mutual adoration they have going on.

Blaine drops into a crouch, arms outstretched, just in time, because Christopher flings himself on him heedless of safety with a cry of, "Unc' Blaine."

Blaine wobbles for a minute under the force of the impact – damn, the kid's grown since last time – and it's only Finn's steadying hand on his shoulder that prevents an embarrassing tumble.

"Thanks, Finn."

"He's been like that ever since he heard you were coming," Finn says, with a nod at his son.

"Is that right?" Blaine gets to his feet, child settled comfortably on his left hip. He turns his attention to Christopher, who just nods and beams from ear to ear.

"Hasn't shut up about Unc' Blaine in days," Finn confirms. "He'd sleep in that bow tie if we'd let him."

It's only then Blaine notices the spotty tie around his nephew's neck. It had been a joke present from Kurt on their last visit home, a humorous commentary on Christopher's mini Blaine tendencies. Which was a bit rich from him, Blaine had thought, because Kurt was no stranger to such neckwear himself. But Kurt had pointed out, not so delicately at the time, he would never be caught wearing one quite so colourful. As Blaine had already been eyeing the turquoise and pink number covetously, he'd had to concede that Kurt had a point.

"Don't you look very dapper," Blaine comments, giving the tie a light tug and wishing he'd thought to wear one himself that morning.

"Come on, you two. These bags won't carry themselves in the house."

Blaine turns then and spots Kurt eyeing from over the top of a bag full of gifts they'd picked up in the airport. "Uncle Kurt's a slave driver," he says to Christopher, and is rewarded by a childish giggle and a glare from his husband.

"Unc' Kurt's like mommy," Christopher replies in the manner of one sharing an important confidence. "You're my fav'rite."

"Oh yeah?" Despite himself, Blaine can't help the tiny thrill that runs through him at these words. "Well you're my favourite nephew."

Christopher's nose crinkles for a moment and he's clearly thinking. "I'm your only nefew," he says finally.

"Well, yes," Blaine agrees with a nod. "But you're still my favourite."

Before Christopher has time to puzzle out the holes in Blaine's reply, his mom's in the doorway calling his name. Blaine sets him down reluctantly, and can't help but laugh when Christopher looks from his mom to Kurt and then back to Blaine with a look that clearly says see.

"Go on, buddy." Finn gives his son a tap on the shoulder. "Don't want to keep her waiting."

Blaine looks over to where Kurt is still watching him, an expression somewhere between fondness and exasperation on his face. "No," he agrees, "we don't."

***
It's a hectic afternoon by anyone's standards. With Carole working the late shift at the hospital, her family seizes the opportunity to finalise last-minute preparations for her party the following day. There are, to Kurt's complete lack of surprise and not substantial chagrin, many of them to be done.

How there can be so much planning needed for what is, to all intents and purposes, a backyard barbecue, Blaine isn't sure. But he also knows better than to question. So he helps Finn move chairs into their new Kurt-approved places, plays kitchen assistant when he's finally allowed over the threshold, and folds more napkins than he thought existed in the free world.

All of which he has to do with the addition of a second shadow, who, in spite of his mother's best efforts, refuses to be more than a few feet from his Unc' Blaine at any given moment.

Burt, much to his initial disgust, and Blaine and Finn's envy, has been banished to the living room. It's been years now since he's had trouble with his heart, but Kurt has never been able to stop worrying. So on those rare occasions, when he gets the chance, Kurt still mothers his dad with such obvious care that Blaine knows Burt secretly enjoys it – no matter how much he may protest to the contrary.

Blaine has always loved the Hummel home – or Hudmel, as Kurt still insists on calling it. His own childhood home had been a somewhat stark and unwelcoming place, filled with a pervading sense of disapproval that was never actually spoken out loud, but hung heavily in the air nonetheless.

One of the reasons Blaine thinks he has dealt so well with his own parents' rejection – apart from their general behaviour – is that from the moment he entered this house as Kurt's boyfriend, he found everything he ever needed and didn't know he was looking for. In a short space of time, Burt Hummel became more of a father to Blaine than his own had ever been. The love and acceptance he found within these four walls took Blaine's breath away at the time – and still does now to some extent – and made this the first real home he'd ever known.

So despite the concerns that plague him – the adoption decision, how Kurt is handling the whole process, whether putting Finn in charge of the barbecue really is that good of an idea given his clumsiness – Blaine feels more relaxed than he has in weeks.

When dinner time rolls around, they order out. Carole's still at work, Kurt flatly refuses to eat his father's idea of food – especially with all the empty calories he will no doubt be eating the next day – and the rest of them are too damn tired to even think about venturing into the kitchen.

By the time the table is littered with empty Chinese cartons, and Kurt is busily haranguing his father over his fat intake, Christopher has fallen asleep in Blaine's lap.

"I think it's time we got this little guy home."

Finn nods his agreement but casts a longing look at the last remaining egg roll. After a meaningful cough from his wife, and a barely concealed snicker from Kurt, Finn gets to his feet. He crosses the room to Blaine and holds out his hands.

"Here, I'll take him now. Let you get some feeling back in your arms."

Blaine smiles fondly at the slumbering child in his arms and studiously tries not to think. "I don't mind," he says softly, but relinquishes his hold all the same.

Kurt gets to his feet then, too. "I know how he feels," he says with a nod at Christopher. "We've got a big day ahead tomorrow; I think I'm going to turn in, too."

Blaine glances quickly at the clock – it's barely past nine – but makes no comment. Kurt's been looking increasingly more brittle around the edges as the evening wears on, and Blaine has no intention of drawing attention to it. Instead he just nods.

"Sounds like a good idea," he says, getting to his feet and feeling the tingle as his arms slowly wake up. "I'll be up in a minute – I'll just clear this up first."

Kurt nods and gives him a grateful smile, then turns a slightly narrower gaze on Finn. "Make sure you're back here by nine at the latest tomorrow. I can't believe how much you two have left till the last minute, and you are not sticking Blaine and I with all the hard work."

Finn just nods sheepishly, much to his wife's amusement.

"You really have to teach me how you do that one day," she says.

Finn's eyes widen in horror at the thought, but Kurt looks like he can't think of anything he'd rather do. "It'll be my pleasure," he says, and leans in to peck a kiss to her cheek. He turns then and makes a shooing motion at Finn. "Now get that boy into bed, and Amy, we'll talk tomorrow." Kurt winds up with a wink that makes everyone in the room laugh, with the exception of Finn, who just looks worried.

Kurt scurries off up the stairs then, while Blaine and Burt hover in the door way to see Finn and family off. As the door finally closes on the cool night air, Burt places a hand on Blaine's shoulder.

"You head off up to bed, kiddo," he says gruffly and gives a squeeze. "You've all done more than enough today – I'll sort that lot out." He nods towards the clutter of take-out cartons decorating the living room.

Blaine smiles gratefully, because now that the idea's been put in his head, he really is rather tired. He reaches up and pats his own hand gently on top of his father-in-law's. "Thanks." With one last nod, Blaine turns to go, but comes up short because Burt's hand is still gripping his shoulder.

"If there was something wrong, you two would tell me about it, right?"

Blaine turns back to face him and it's clear from the expression on Burt's face just how uncomfortable this is making him feel already. "Burt, there really—"

"I'm not blind, Blaine. And I'm not a fool, so please don't lie to me."

The denial on the tip of Blaine's tongue dries up at these words. It's not like he wants to lie to Burt, there's no real reason he can't know the truth, except that they've talked about this – him and Kurt – discussed it at length, and with the exception of Rachel who it's impossible to keep anything from, they've decided not to tell anyone else unless there is something to tell. It's hard enough handling their own hopes and dreams; they just can't deal with everyone else's on top of it.

He sighs then and runs one hand through his unruly curls. "Things are okay," he says slowly. "Well, not okay exactly, but it's nothing bad, I promise." Blaine gives Burt what he hopes passes for an earnest look. "We've just got things on our mind right now."

The tension visibly drains from Burt. "So no one's sick or anything like that?"

"We’re both as healthy as can be. Promise."

Burt gazes intently at Blaine for a moment, as if he can see the truth of his words written on his face. "Okay, kiddo. That's all I need to know. The rest of it is your business." He gives Blaine's shoulder one last squeeze before letting go. "Just…if there is anything…"

"You'll be the first person we tell." And Blaine means that, because if there's one person he knows they can count on, no matter what, it's Burt Hummel.

***
Kurt's already in his pyjamas by the time Blaine makes it up the stairs. He's perched on the stool at the dressing table, jar of moisturiser already in his hand.

Just like always, the sight of Kurt in this room, the décor and furniture barely changed since high school, causes the breath to catch in Blaine's throat. It might have been thirteen years, but right now Blaine feels like he should be wearing blazer and tie.

"That was quick," Kurt comments, barely meeting Blaine's gaze in the mirror.

"Huh?" Blaine's brain is still a little busy with the past to be able to process the present.

Kurt rolls his eyes, and wow, Blaine really does feel like a teenager now.

"The cleaning up," Kurt clarifies, then his hand stills mid-air. "You did do it, didn't you? Because the house will stink like a Chinese restaurant tomorrow if you didn't, and I don't have time to—"

Blaine crosses the room and places his hands on Kurt's shoulders. "Relax," he says calmly and lets his thumbs press into the knots he can feel. "Your dad volunteered."

Kurt gives him a slightly sheepish smile. "Sorry. I just want everything to be perfect tomorrow."

Blaine leans forward and presses a gentle kiss to the top of Kurt's head. "And it will be. How can it not be with you at the helm?"

Kurt meets his gaze again and smiles gratefully this time.

Blaine can't help but smile in return and then just watches as Kurt smoothes the white cream over his face, his thumbs absently rubbing small circles between Kurt's shoulder blades.

"Are you just going to stand there all night?"

"Just thinking."

Kurt raises one brow. "Do tell?"

"Your dad's worried." The second the words are out of his mouth, Blaine wishes he could take them back, because any trace of amusement vanishes from Kurt's face.

"About what?" Kurt's doing his best to sound calm, Blaine knows that, but the brittle edge to his tone comes through loud and clear all the same.

The last thing Blaine wants is to worry Kurt when they've both already got enough on their minds. But if Burt's noticed then Carole's bound to, and the last thing Blaine wants is for her to spend her birthday worrying about them. "You," he says finally. "Or rather, us."

Kurt's eyes widen at this and the brief flash of panic does not go unnoticed. "You didn't tell him, did you?"

"Of course not." Blaine lowers himself to sit on the edge of the bed behind Kurt. "But Kurt, he's not the only one."

Kurt turns round, his eyes narrowed in suspicion. "What's that supposed to mean?" His body is tense, his expression closing off, and Blaine can see he's preparing himself for a fight, which is so not how he wanted this to go.

He reaches out quickly, taking hold of one of Kurt's hands in his own. It's slick with moisturiser but Blaine doesn't care – he feels like he's anchored now. "I'm worried about you, too," he says, and then holds on tightly when Kurt tries to pull his hand away.

"I don't see why." Kurt stills his efforts when it becomes apparent Blaine isn't about to let go. "You know what's wrong. Don't tell me it isn't playing on your mind too."

"Of course it is." Blaine shuffles forward until he's perched right on the edge of the bed – he feels the need to be as close to Kurt as possible. "You know that. It's just…you've been so quiet today, almost like you're not here. And you barely spoke to Christopher; that's not like you at all."

Kurt's successful at pulling his hand away this time and he gets to his feet. "I'm sure he was too busy having fun with his favourite Uncle Blaine to notice."

If he's being honest, Blaine is more than a little stunned by this response. He'd like to think Kurt wasn't jealous of him over a three-year-old's affections, but that's easier said than done. "Kurt, what's…is this about what he said? Are you je—"

"No!" Kurt shakes his head emphatically as he pulls the covers back on the bed. "It's not that. It's…I'm tired. Can we just go to bed?"

The last thing Blaine wants to do tonight, or any night for that matter, is argue with Kurt, so he just nods his agreement. "Okay."

In a matter of minutes, they're both tucked up under the sheets – but the silence that replaces their usual chatter is overwhelming. Just as Blaine is racking his brains for something, anything to say to make this better, Kurt does it for him.

"He likes you better than me."

It's said so softly that Blaine's not sure he heard him correctly. He reaches out instantly. "No, Kurt, that's not—"

"It's okay," Kurt continues as if he hadn't spoken. "I get it – you're better with kids than I am."

Blaine can't think of anything to say in response to this, so he just tugs Kurt nearer, until they're practically pressed together, shoulder to hip.

"What if our kid doesn't like me?" The words really are barely more than a whisper this time, and Blaine's heart breaks just a little as he wonders how long Kurt's been keeping that inside.

"That's ridiculous," he says, his fingertips tracing their way up and down Kurt's arm. "You're going to be an amazing father."

"You don't know that," Kurt replies, and he sounds unconvinced.

"How could you not be?" Blaine asks, his fingers now tracing their way along Kurt's jaw line before threading through his hair. "Just look at the role model you've had."

There's a huff of breath against the crook of Blaine's neck followed by the gentle press of lips. "How do you always know the right thing to say?"

***
"Why don't you go and watch TV or something?" Kurt begins to whisk the second batch of hollandaise sauce and eyes his father hopefully. "I can sort this out." Although, looking at the state of the kitchen, Kurt has his concerns about just how long it's going to take him.

"No." Burt begins cutting through the bagel in his hand in a fashion that makes Kurt wince. "You helping is one thing, but I'm not having you do it all. It's Carole's birthday. She's had a long week at work, and I want to make brunch for my wife. Is that okay?"

Kurt resists the strong temptation to roll his eyes or make some biting retort. Instead he just nods his agreement. And he doesn't mind, not really. Carole's done wonders for his dad, given him a whole new lease of life, so helping his father cook a brunch of Eggs Benedict for her birthday is the least he can do. Yes, it would be so much easier if he was doing it alone, but there's something really rather sweet about his father's insistence on helping. Not that Kurt's going to say that out loud.

Instead, he just pauses in his whisking for a moment. "Use a chopping board." And when Burt looks at him in question, Kurt adds, "Just humour me."

Burt shakes his head and gives the small smile that he reserves for Kurt – the one that says he has no idea what's going on, but that he'd pretty much do anything for his son anyway. Moments later the bagel is safely on a thick wooden board and Kurt can relax again.

Well, for now, anyway. Because soon Finn will be back, with his list of Kurt-assigned errands hopefully completed, and he'll be back to buzzing around in Kurt's orbit like a particularly annoying fly.

"I shouldn't have let Finn go," Kurt thinks out loud. "He's bound to screw something up." He whisks a little more vigorously than intended and is rewarded with a splash of hot hollandaise on his bare skin. "Shit!" he gasps, and quickly sucks at the base of his left thumb.

"Language." But Burt's tone and the glint of amusement in his eyes show how little he's really bothered by it. "You okay?" he asks when Kurt finally removes his hand from his mouth, and upon receiving a brief nod in return, Burt continues. "Don't worry about Finn. He'd be hard pressed to get it wrong after all the instructions you gave him. And besides, Blaine's with him; it'll be fine."

That's true, Kurt thinks. After all, the whole reason for sending Blaine in the first place had been so he could keep an eye on Finn. "Thanks, Dad," he says finally, bumping shoulders with his father gently.

"'S what fathers are for, right?" Burt says. His words are slightly muffled, which draws Kurt's attention.

"Dad!" Exasperation tempered with fondness colours his tone. "We're supposed to be cooking the food, not eating it.

Burt pops the last bit of bagel in his mouth with a smile that barely passes for chastened. "Sorry."

"Hmm." Kurt's not convinced about that, but the sauce needs his attention if they don't want to start batch number three, so they fall back to work in a comfortable silence.

It doesn't last for long, though. Because barely has Kurt taken the pan off the heat before Burt is turning to face him, his brow creased a little in concern.

"What is it?" Kurt's panicking before his Dad even replies – his mind is already running through the list of possible things that could be about to go wrong with his careful plans.

"Are you okay, kid?"

Oh, so that's all it is. Kurt sighs in relief. For one awful moment he thought his dad was going to confess to dropping the cake or something equally terrible. "I'm fine, Dad."

"You're sure? You'd tell me if you were in some kind of trouble, right?"

Kurt rolls his eyes, because really, when has he ever not come to his dad with problems? But then his mind supplies memories of high school, junior year, and he has to concede his dad may have some grounds. "Yes, I'm sure, and I promise I'm not."

That appears to be enough because Burt heaves a noticeable sigh of relief and turns his attention back to the counter. "Right, what's next?"

Kurt's phone chooses that exact minute to begin buzzing in his pocket. He pulls it out, and after a quick glance at the display, says, "I'm going to answer this. You could put the water on for the eggs, and then those bagels will need toasting."

Burt nods in reply, but anything he may have said goes unheard as Kurt hurries through into the lounge, phone now clamped to ear.

"Hello?"

"Mr Hummel? This is Belinda Lang from the STAR adoption agency."

Kurt sinks into the nearest available seat, no longer interested on keeping an eye on his father in the kitchen. "Hi." The word comes out as barely more than a croak and Kurt isn't sure where all the moisture in his mouth has gone.

"I won't beat around the bush, Mr Hummel; I realise you're on vacation."

"It's fine, honestly." What Kurt actually wants to say is 'get to the fucking point, woman,' because he's hanging on an edge right now and her next words will determine whether or not he falls.

"I'm happy to tell you" she begins, and honestly Kurt doesn't hear much beyond that because they're getting a baby. Finally. After the long months of heartbreak and disappointment he and Blaine are going to be parents – and even though this is the moment they've waited for, dreamt of, Kurt can't quite process the news.

He makes arrangements for an appointment that he knows he'll have to reconfirm when they get home, because there is no way his brain is understanding anything right now – apart from the fact that someone has finally chosen them.

The call ends and the line is barely clear before Kurt's ringing Blaine's number. As the line connects he has to force himself to breathe deeply, but as the line rings out and no Blaine responds, Kurt's breaths become quicker, shallower, and he's pacing the living room like a caged animal.

"Why aren't you picking up?" he demands shrilly of Blaine's voicemail. "You need to ring me right back. I don't care what you're doing, you hear? Just come home."

Kurt ends the call quickly and immediately begins scrolling through his contacts for Finn's number.

"Hey, buddy." Burt appears in the door way, his face creased in concern. "What's all the shouting about?"

But Kurt doesn't have time. He waves his hand dismissively in Burt's direction and then clamps the phone back to his ear. He resumes pacing as the phone rings, and spends the time waiting planning the various ways he will torture Finn if he doesn’t answer the damn thing soon.

"Pick up, pick up, pick up," he mutters like some kind of mantra, and Burt's starting to look really worried now.

"Kurt, what—"

"Not now, Dad." Kurt's tone is sharp, but he doesn't have thoughts to spare for other people's feelings right now. He just needs Blaine. "Finn!" he yells into the phone before Burt can protest his treatment. "Thank God. Where the hell are you?"

There's a pause then as Finn begins to explain and Kurt wonders why he's even bothering to ask.

"Never mind that. I need you to come home now."

Another pause.

"I don't give a fuck about the table cloths. I just need you to bring Blaine home right now."

Kurt's not quite far enough gone that he misses the shocked reactions of his family to his choice of words – he never swears. And certainly not like that. Even Carole, pyjama-clad and hovering uncertainly at the foot of the stairs, is watching in undisguised surprise.

Finn's reaction to it all goes unheard, because Kurt cuts off the call with one last, "Now, Finn." Then he flings the phone onto the sofa and sinks down next to it.

"Are you calm enough to tell me what the hell's going on now?"

Kurt lifts his head from his hands, tears already spilling down his cheeks. "I just need Blaine," is all he says.

A piercing screech breaks the silence that follows and is enough to wake them all to the definitely smoky aroma escaping the kitchen.

"The bagels!" Burt says in alarm. But he glances between Kurt and the kitchen, clearly torn between who, or what, needs him the most.

"You go and put out any fires," Carole says with a small smile, before she crosses the room to sit at Kurt's side. "I'll stay here."

Burt casts one last worried look in his son's direction before disappearing into the kitchen.

Kurt, meanwhile, scrubs fiercely at his face. He's no stranger to tears, sure, but this should be one of the happiest days of his life, and yet all he wants to do is curl up in a ball and sob.

Carole places one hand gently on his back and begins rubbing slow, calming circles between his shoulder blades. "Just take some deep breaths," she says, and her tone's all careful in a way that Kurt knows means she's trying not to startle him. "You need to calm down for me," she adds. "You're panicking your father."

"Sorry, I just…" Kurt shakes his head in frustration, because he can't find the words to say what he's feeling.

"It's okay. Do you want to talk about what's wrong? It might help."

"Nothing's wrong." Kurt shakes his head again, emphatically this time. He gets a sceptical look in return, so adds, "I promise. But I just…I have to tell Blaine first. It wouldn't be fair."

Carole doesn't question him further. She nods her understanding and then they sit there quietly, only the occasional bang or shout from Burt in the kitchen breaking the silence.

It feels to Kurt like forever. He knows logically that Blaine can't just magically return to the house, that the shops are several miles away so it's going to take a while, but he needs to get there now because Kurt's going to explode if he has to keep this to himself for much longer. And the fact that he's obviously worrying his parents doesn't help at all.

Finally there's the unmistakeable screech of a car pulling up on the drive outside. Kurt leaps from the sofa as if stung and tugs the curtains back from the window just in time to see Blaine leap from the passenger side. It's when he sees the expression of fear and panic on his husband's face that Kurt realises just how much he's worried Blaine, that he should have at least tried to put his mind at rest.

But it's too late for that as the front door bursts open and Blaine comes tumbling in after it.

The relief Kurt feels is overwhelming. He literally flings himself onto Blaine – it's only Finn's steadying presence behind that stops them both tumbling out onto the porch beyond.

Blaine holds Kurt close, murmurs soothing words into his ear, and does everything he can to calm him down. But Kurt's been wound so tightly ever since that phone call and there's just no way that's happening any time soon.

There's no holding his emotions back now. He's teary-eyed and snotty-nosed, and he's fairly sure that only bats and the neighbourhood dogs understand his frequency right now. But for once in his life, Kurt's appearance is the last thing on his mind.

"She picked us," he whispers, lips pressed close to Blaine's ear.

Blaine's grip tightens on his shoulders, and he pushes Kurt away slightly so he can look at him. "You're serious?" he asks in wide-eyed wonder.

"Yes." Kurt nods his head, and another tear drips off the end of his nose. And then Blaine's back in his arms and Kurt's not the only one crying, and it's a regular sob fest between them as Kurt's family look on in confusion.

It's Finn, of course, who breaks the silence.

"So…uh, you guys are happy, right? I mean, no one died or anything."

"Finn!"

Kurt can't help but snigger, even if it does come out sounding more like a hiccup. He can't believe that Carole isn't used to her son's tactlessness by now. But Finn's grown a lot over the years and Kurt knows he means well.

"No, Finn, no one has died," Kurt reassures, and he doesn't miss the way that both Carole and his dad – who has reappeared at the commotion – both appear to relax as well.

"So, do you think we could get an explanation now after you've scared years off us this morning?" There's a twinkle in Burt's eyes, but Kurt gets a twinge of guilt all the same.

"I'm sorry," he says and genuinely means it.

"You didn't tell them?" Blaine asks.

"Of course not." Kurt's surprised that Blaine even has to ask. "You had to be first."

If possible, Blaine's smile widens at that, and the familiar look of adoration, that Kurt will never get tired of, crosses his face.

"Tell us what?" Carole prods. "You're killing us with the suspense here."

Kurt's cocks a quick glance in Blaine's direction and receives an eager nod in return. It seems they're both almost as excited about sharing the news as they are about the news itself.

"We're getting a baby," Kurt blurts out all at once, unable to keep it inside any longer.

Three stunned expressions stare back at him. And Finn apparently speaks for them all when he says, "Huh?"

Kurt glances at Blaine and shakes his head in amusement at the reaction. "We're going to be parents," he clarifies.

And as the room explodes in a flurry of hugs and kisses and excited exclamations, everything suddenly hits home for Kurt. It's not just that they're getting a baby, they're going to be raising a baby, and as Kurt looks over at Blaine, who's currently being lifted off the ground by Finn's enthusiastic hug, he hopes his husband has some idea of what he's doing, because Kurt's damned if he does.

"I'm going to be a Grampa?" Burt asks when the excitement fades. Kurt resists the temptation to roll his eyes at the redundant question, because he can see the sheen of emotion in his father's.

"You sure are," Blaine replies, stepping over to Kurt's side once again and sliding an arm around his waist. "We were thinking we'd get you a rocker for the porch."

Finn and Kurt both snigger their amusement, but Burt appears to be seriously considering the prospect. But before the conversation can progress further, Carole reappears – Kurt hadn't even noticed her leave – from the kitchen, bottle of champagne in hand.

"I think this calls for a bit of a celebration. Finn…actually, Blaine, be a dear and grab the glasses for me."

"But that's for your party," Kurt protests, eyeing the bottle he'd carefully selected only the day before. And then it hits him. "Oh my goodness, and I haven't even said happy birthday. We totally stole your thunder."

Carole waves his protests aside. "Don't be silly. When you get to my age it's just another day. But this is huge; I can't think of a more worthy occasion to raise a toast to."

Before Kurt can protest again, there's a loud pop, a giggle from Carole as the liquid fizzes over, and Blaine is pressing a drink into his hand.

"To Kurt and Blaine," Carole says, lifting her glass in the air and slopping some over the side in the process.

"And the baby too," Finn adds, before raising his glass to his lips and drinking eagerly.

"To families," Burt says finally with decision, and as one they all raise their glasses.

***
It's a long and exhausting weekend, fully of so much joy and celebration, and when the cab pulls up out front of their apartment on Sunday evening, Blaine doesn’t think he's ever been so glad to get home.

It's not that he hasn't had a good time – the Hummels are as much a family to him as they are Kurt, and he loves them dearly – but so much has changed in their lives since they left New York and Blaine's barely had time to catch his breath, much less process any of it.

Kurt's through the door and in the elevator with a speed that belies the tiredness he's been complaining of since they left Columbus. Blaine just follows with a hint of a smile on his face – he learnt many years ago just how unwise it was to point out such things.

It's so good to be home. Blaine can't wait to sleep in his own bed again, and Kurt apparently has particularly missed their couch, if the way he is currently sprawling over it in cat-like fashion is anything to go by.

"Tired?" Blaine can't help but tease just the tiniest bit as a yawn practically cracks Kurt's jaw.

"I can't believe I have to go to work tomorrow. I'll have bags under my eyes at this rate. Bags, Blaine!"

"Speaking of which," Blaine grabs their case from where Kurt had abandoned it. "I'll just dump this in the bedroom for now; I'll worry about unpacking it tomorrow."

Kurt doesn't comment on this – he's very busy rearranging the couch cushions into a suitable pillow. He does, however, raise one eyebrow sceptically.

"I will," Blaine protests. He casually slides the case inside their room and shuts the door on the resulting thud as it hits the wall.

Kurt presents entirely too tempting a sight right then and it's only moments before Blaine has flopped down on the sofa beside him. "Budge up," he says, and then wriggles determinedly until he is satisfied with his position, pressed between Kurt and the sofa back, one arm looped snugly around his husband's waist.

"I just want to enjoy this tonight," Blaine adds, and slowly slides his fingers under the hem of Kurt's shirt – the skin of his stomach is so soft and warm. "It's nice seeing everyone, but I miss having you to myself like this."

Kurt shifts in Blaine's arms, turning until they are face to face, scant inches apart. He reaches out with one hand and begins gently stroking his fingers through Blaine's curls. "It is rather nice, isn't it? Peaceful."

Blaine grins, leans closer and rubs the tips of their noses together briefly. "I guess we should make the most of it," he says, with a wry smile.

"Oh really?" Kurt trails his hand down from Blaine's hair, along the buttons of his shirt. "And just what did you have in mind?"

Blaine's eyes widen at that. "No." He shakes his head suddenly. "I mean, yes, obviously. Always yes. But I meant…it's not going to be just us for much longer."

Kurt nods. "I know."

"We're going to have a baby," Blaine says, and it's like he's hearing the words out loud for the first time, just the slightest hint of panic in his voice.

"I know," Kurt repeats, his fingers now retracing their path through Blaine's curls.

But Blaine's distracted now. He's too busy looking around the apartment, spotting things like their metal coffee table with its sharp corners, or the glass bowl on it that Kurt loves so much, all the potential hazards that lie in wait in their apartment, and it's just suddenly starting to hit home. "We're not ready." He turns a worried gaze on Kurt. "We can't—"

Kurt silences him with a kiss – it's always been the most effective way to calm Blaine down and Kurt's not above exploiting that fact. "We'll be fine," he says when he finally pulls back. "We've got nearly five months to get ready."

"I suppose." Blaine isn't quite sure just yet, but he allows himself to be distracted as Kurt starts to nuzzle along his jaw line.

"Besides," Kurt continues. "It's you and me; how hard can it be to manage one tiny little baby between us?"

There's obvious amusement in Kurt's voice, and Blaine can't help but grin in response. "I'll remind you of that in six months time when you've got baby sick on your Marc Jacobs blazer."

"Don't even joke about it." Kurt dips his head again and kisses Blaine hard. "Now, about that making the most of it," he says, lips still so close that Blaine can feel the vibration on his own.

And just like that all Blaine's baby-related concerns fade into the background. He's up and off the sofa in no time, hand held out to his still-lounging husband. "Come on, then."

"Eager much?" Kurt asks as he reaches out and allows Blaine to tug him to his feet.

Blaine opens his mouth to reply, but someone else apparently thinks this is a good time to knock on their door.

"Ignore it," Kurt says, now reversing their roles and leading Blaine bedroom-bound.

Blaine is torn between the part of him eager to be alone with Kurt at last, and the part that has had good manners drilled into it relentlessly since childhood. "Are you sure?" he asks, and glances uncertainly between the door and their bedroom. "It could be—"

"Which would you rather?" Kurt says pointedly, following Blaine's gaze.

Which is a silly question, because there is no doubt which Blaine wants, but—

"Kurt Hummel! I know you're in there!" The banging sounds starts again in accompaniment; Rachel Berry is not one to be ignored. "You open the door right this instant or I will be forced to run scales in your hallway."

Blaine bites his lip uneasily at this pronouncement. Rachel will most certainly make good on her threat – they both know that. The last time Kurt tried to deny her entrance to the apartment there were more than a few disgruntled complaints from the neighbours. Something Rachel is clearly banking on.

"Fuck." Kurt lets go of Blaine's hand with seeming reluctance. "I'm going to have to let her in."

Blaine knows it's true, but it doesn't stop the pout his lips automatically form. "But what about…" He nods towards their bedroom forlornly.

Kurt presses a quick hard kiss to his lips. "Hold that thought; I'll get rid of her."

But as Kurt crosses the room to the door, Blaine doesn't hold out much hope.

Rachel has her arms folded tightly across her chest, brows drawn in an intense frown, and is decidedly not happy. "And just when were you two planning to tell me I'm going to be an Auntie?"

Blaine's stunned. A quick glance at Kurt shows he's faring no better. Though apparently they both realise now is not the time to point out Rachel won't actually be related to their child.

"How do you know that?" Kurt asks sharply, and Rachel's scowl deepens.

"I had to find out about it on Facebook. From Finn of all people!"

So much for keeping it quiet for now.

"I'll kill him," Kurt mutters as Rachel flounces her way inside the apartment. And given that any chance of sex that night appears to have just vanished, Blaine's rather tempted to help.

***
"Hey, Blainey."

Blaine starts in surprise at that opening gambit, because Cooper never calls – it's always Blaine who has to make the effort to keep their constantly floundering relationship alive. So a phone call from his brother, out of the blue, is quite definitely a cause for concern. He places his coffee carefully down on the counter before replying – Kurt will kill him if he breaks another of their mugs.

"Hey, Coop," he says carefully. Blaine can see Kurt's eyes widen in surprise on the other side of the room, and even Rachel stops her incessant twittering about her latest audition. "What's up?" The question comes out as casual as Blaine can make it, but there's no disguising the concern behind it.

"I was going to ask you the same thing," Cooper replies, and it's then that Blaine notices his brother doesn't sound his usual ebullient self.

"Oh, well, I'm good, I guess." Blaine frowns into the phone – aware his brother can't see it, but confused nonetheless. "Is everything okay with you? And Lucy?"

The mention of his daughter distracts Cooper for a moment, and in the silence that follows Blaine can't help feel a pang of sympathy for his brother. Lucy's a beautiful little girl, from what Blaine remembers and the countless pictures he's seen – but things between Cooper and her mother had ended messily, and the Andersons are kept very much on the periphery of her life.

"She's fine," Cooper says eventually. "Great, actually."

Blaine glances over at the picture of the grinning toddler on their bookcase and can't help smiling in return. It's a smile that gets even wider when he thinks about the other pictures that will be joining it very soon. And then Blaine's heart sinks, because he has a very good idea exactly why his brother's calling.

"Look, Coop," he starts, uncertain of what exactly he's going to say next. Fortunately, Cooper has other ideas.

"Were you ever going to tell me?" he asks, the hurt palpable in his voice.

Blaine rests one hand on the counter and grips the phone just a little bit tighter with the other. "I'm sorry," he says. "I didn't…How did you find out?"

"Finn."

Blaine could have almost laughed at the irony of that were he not too busy wallowing in guilt.

"He made some rambling post on my Facebook wall about how awesome it was that we were going to be uncles, and I didn't have a fucking clue what he was talking about."

Blaine hangs his head slightly. "Cooper—"

"I know we don't stay in touch as much as we should, little bro, and I'm probably more to blame for that than you, but why wouldn’t you tell me something like that? I mean, this is huge."

"I'm sorry," Blaine replies weakly, and just for a moment feels very much like the little brother he used to be. "I forgot." It's a poor excuse, and Blaine knows that, but it sounds marginally better than the truth.

"You don't just forget something like that," Cooper points out. "Well, some people might, but you don't, Blaine."

"Fine." Blaine drags his free hand roughly through his hair and lets out a sigh. "I would have told you, at some point. I just…I didn't think you'd be that interested. It's not like you make any kind of effort to be a part of my life, is it?"

There's a moment of silence that follows and Blaine finds that he's holding his breath waiting for his brother to reply.

"I'm sorry," Cooper says eventually, and it's soft and genuine, and Blaine lets out his breath in a rush of surprise because why is Cooper sorry when he's the one in the wrong? "You're my brother and I love you, and I'm sorry if I ever made you feel like that wasn't the case."

"It's okay." Blaine catches a glimpse of his reflection in the polished glass fronts of the cupboards Kurt had insisted on – he looks stunned.

"Good. Well, that's that cleared up. Now tell me all about it."

Blaine laughs, he really can't help himself – Cooper has never been one for introspection, and it seems nothing has changed in that regard. "What do you want to know?"

Cooper huffs. "What do people usually want to know when someone's having a baby? When's it due? Is it a girl or a boy? As favourite uncle I need to know these things."

It's a struggle, but Blaine manages to hold back a snigger at this. "Favourite uncle?"

"I'm a famous actor, Blaine," Cooper says with exaggerated patience in his tone. "Finn's a mechanic. There's no way I'm coming in second place in that competition."

Carefully side-stepping the issue of Cooper's questionable stardom and the contest for the affections of a baby not yet born, Blaine focuses on the more practical parts of Cooper's conversation. "We don't actually know yet. Claire – she's the birth mother – says she's about five months along, and the doctor seems to agree with her."

"What did the sonogram show?"

Blaine takes a swallow of his now-lukewarm coffee. "She hasn't had one yet. I think there was this whole pregnancy denial thing going on for a while – she only saw a doctor recently."

"But everything's okay with it, right? I mean, if she hasn't seen a doctor—"

"It's fine," Blaine interrupts before Cooper has the chance to voice some of his own well-buried fears. "Apparently the doctor's pleased with her progress, and we've got a scan set up for later this week."

"You make sure to let me know the sex, you hear? No forgetting." Cooper pauses then. "You are going to find out, right? I know you're one of those sappy I don’t care as long as it's healthy people, but I can't imagine Kurt not wanting to know."

Blaine looks over to where his husband is on the couch chatting to Rachel whilst trying to pretend he isn't listening in. Kurt catches his gaze and looks up with a smile that always has Blaine wondering just how he got so lucky.

"Blainey?" Cooper prods when no response is forthcoming.

Blaine gives himself a mental shake and pulls his focus back to the conversation at hand – considering how little of the two of them Cooper sees, he has them surprisingly well figured out. "Yes, we are. But for the record, we're both happy as long as it's healthy; Kurt just likes to be prepared."

"When are you going to tell Mom and Dad?"

The question comes a little out of left field and leaves Blaine stumbling for words. "I wasn't…I don't…" The words just don't seem to want to leave his mouth. Or rather, Blaine can't seem to find the right ones to say what he wants to say, which is I have no intention of telling them, without it sounding as bad as he knows it will.

"You're not going to tell them." It's not a question and they both know it.

"Not right now." Blaine feels some of the tension drain out of him – Cooper might not be the most sensitive of people, but he knows enough about Blaine's relationship with their parents that he won't judge. "Dad made his feelings on the subject perfectly clear last Thanksgiving; I won't let his ignorance spoil this for us."

Cooper just hums in acknowledgment – his relationship with their father is only marginally better than Blaine's. Cooper might be straight, but he's hardly following in his father's footsteps. "What about Mom?"

Blaine sighs – it's not as if he hasn't already thought about this, over and over, but it's just not that simple. "They come as a pair." He scrubs at his face for something to focus on rather than the empty pit he can feel reopening inside his chest. "She'll never stand against him; you know that."

They both know it's true. Martha Anderson may not have been the stern disciplinarian her husband was, but she'd always acquiesced to his methods, however much she may have disagreed with them. And in some ways it's her that Blaine finds harder to forgive.

"I guess," Cooper says, but he still sounds uncertain.

"Just…if you speak to them, don't say anything. Not yet. Please?" Part of him feels guilty for putting his brother in the middle of it, but Blaine knows Cooper speaks to their parents even less than he does to him, so the chances of this being an issue are very remote.

"Of course not." Cooper sounds stung at the insinuation. "But you know that—"

"I know." The words come out a little sharper than Blaine intents, but this unwelcome reminder is already starting the take the shine off his happiness, is sitting like a hard ball of something right in the middle of his chest, and he can't help but blame Cooper just a little bit for bringing it up. "And I will, eventually. Just not yet."

"Fair enough. Look, I'd better shoot; I've got an audition at one and I need to start prepping."

"Practise that pointing?" Even after all the years that have passed, Blaine still likes to tease his brother about his more unusual methods.

"Ha ha," Cooper says, then adds, "Kurt still picking your clothes out for you?"

And considering that he's wearing a sweater and pants that Kurt did indeed choose, Blaine knows he's lost that round. "Touché."

"Okay, well you say hey to Kurt for me, and let me know how that scan goes, right?"

"Will do."

"And Blaine?"

"Yeah?"

"Congratulations, seriously. I'm proud of you, little brother."

Blaine's still smiling as he places the phone back on its base – for all the distance and years between them, he really does love his brother.

"You haven't told your parents yet?"

And with those six words, Rachel Berry manages to single-handedly wipe the smile from Blaine's face. When he turns, she's sat on the sofa staring at him in wide-eyed surprise, while Kurt made various 'shushing' motions at her.

"I don’t mean to be rude, Rachel," he says, knowing full well that that's exactly what he's about to be. "But it's really none of your business."

Blaine doesn't wait around to hear any more of her opinions on the subject – besides, if the expression on Kurt's face is anything to go by, he'll make sure she stays silent. Instead he heads over to his office and quietly shuts the door behind him.

It’s not like he and Kurt haven't already had this conversation – several times. And Blaine gets why it's hard for Rachel and Kurt and everyone else with loving, supportive parents to understand. Parents are supposed to love their children unconditionally, not judge and undermine.

Not for the first time, Blaine thinks it would almost be easier if his father's anger and rejection had been physical, because at least then he'd have bruises to point to and say look, and people would understand just how much it hurt because they could see.

He'd stopped living his life to please his parents a long time ago, and the thought of letting them back in now, of giving them any sort of power over his emotions again, well, it just doesn't bear thinking about. Not right now.

***
The steady click of his new Prada loafers against the tiled floor is a soothing constant to Kurt's frayed nerves.

Hospitals have never been his favourite of places. They hold far too many memories – of his mother's death, his father's heart attack, those few horrible hours when he'd thought Blaine had been blinded – for him to ever be at ease within their sterile walls. But today…today he wouldn't be anywhere else.

The feel of Blaine's hand in his is another balm to Kurt's state of mind. There are times when his husband's endless optimism grates ever so slightly against Kurt's more cynical nature, but after a night spent tossing and turning, fretting over the numerous things that could go wrong, the buoyancy of Blaine's spirit is more welcome today than any other.

Kurt's a practical person. He knows that logically the chances of anything going wrong are remote; that this visit is more a formality than anything else – an opportunity to confirm what they already know, and find out that one detail they don't. But life has kicked Kurt in the teeth too many times over the years, so there's no resting easy until he's seen it for himself.

"It'll be fine." The words are accompanied with a gentle squeeze of his hand, and for once the irritation Kurt feels at such platitudes is missing. Instead he turns to Blaine, a ghost of a smile on his lips.

"You think so?"

"I know so," Blaine replies, with a quick kiss to Kurt's cheek. "Now we'd better get moving – don't want to keep them waiting any longer."

Kurt's eyes track the direction of Blaine's nod and he notices them for the first time. Mrs Lang, the adoption agency lady of whom he's become so fond, and Claire, the girl for whom Kurt has no words to express his feelings.

It all seems to move so fast from there, and moments later – or so it feels to Kurt – they find themselves inside a brilliantly white hospital room, facing each other on opposite sides of the bed, while Claire's clothes are carefully adjusted to reveal her swollen stomach.

Kurt's torn. On the one hand he wants nothing more than to stare at her tummy, to touch, to marvel at the miracle taking place within. But on the other he's paranoid, concerned that they'll be viewed as some pair of gay vultures just waiting to snatch a baby from this poor, God-fearing girl.

But common sense prevails, and Kurt remembers he's not in Ohio any longer, and the doctor who arrives to take the scan is friendly and pleasant and makes an obvious effort to include them without excluding Claire herself.

"Right then," the doctor says, as she squeezes a good dollop of clear gel on Claire's tummy. "Let's have a look at your baby."

Kurt's impressed that she doesn't even flinch as the cold liquid touches her skin. He's even more impressed when, with a small smile, she says, "their baby."

There's a moment of silence then as the doctor gets to work and Kurt faces the difficult task of reining his emotions in. He glances over at Blaine and is relieved to find that he too is similarly misty-eyed, then wishes they'd had the sense to stand on the same side of the bed, because he really just needs to touch right now.

Almost as if he'd spoken his thoughts out loud, he feels a smaller, cool hand take hold of his decidedly clammy one. An action that Claire then promptly repeats with Blaine.

"Nervous?" she asks, and there's just enough of a tremor in her voice to indicate that she certainly is.

Kurt glances from her to Blaine and then back again with a shaky laugh. "Terrified."

Blaine smiles softly at him then, a wealth of emotion in his eyes, and opens his mouth to speak. But before the words have chance to leave his mouth, a low pulsing sound fills the room, and suddenly Kurt has eyes for nothing other than the ultrasound monitor.

"That's a good, strong heartbeat," the doctor observes as she moves her hand firmly over Claire's exposed skin.

Kurt doesn’t think he's ever heard a more wonderful sound – not even Patti LuPone live comes close to hearing the steady heartbeat of his unborn child. And as he stares intently at the monitor in wonder, Kurt can slowly see head and limbs start to take shape.

The next few minutes are something of a blur for Kurt. He knows he should be concentrating on what the doctor is telling them, that this is important, and he does catch odd phrases like good size and all looks healthy, but more than anything he can already feel the comforting weight of a warm, soft body in his arms, and it's all he can do to keep from crying.

Taking a moment to pull himself together, Kurt manages to tear his gaze away from the screen and faces the doctor. "Can you tell the sex?" he asks, and then winces as his voice comes out far higher than normal.

"Are you sure you don't want it to be a surprise?" Blaine asks, before the doctor has time to reply. And there's a teasing smile on his face that tells Kurt all he needs to know.

"I think we're in for enough surprises as it is," Kurt replies promptly. "And don't even pretend you don't want to know." There's a temptation to finish up the sentence by poking his tongue out at Blaine, but Kurt remembers their audience just in time.

"You're sure then?" the doctor asks, looking from one to the other.

Kurt glances back over at Blaine and after a moment they share an unspoken nod. "We're sure," Blaine says, his eyes still locked on Kurt.

The silence that follows seems to drag on forever as the doctor carefully manoeuvres the scanner over Claire's stomach. "There we are," she says at last.

Kurt's attention snaps back to the monitor expectantly. What he thought he was going to see, he isn't exactly sure, but it's the same image as before and he has no idea how anyone is supposed to tell the difference from that.

Fortunately, the doctor appears to know exactly where to look. "Gentlemen, you're having a little girl."

That one word seems to echo around Kurt's brain, getting increasingly louder each time. "A girl," he repeats, almost as if testing the word out, then turns wide eyes on his husband. "We're having a daughter. Blaine!"

Blaine looks as stunned as Kurt feels, if not more so. "A daughter," he repeats faintly, and then looks at Kurt – there are definitely tears in his eyes this time.

"Well hug then, or something, will you?" Claire gives a gentle tug on both their hands, which she is still holding, and then lets go. When neither of them move, she makes a shooing motion.

Kurt's a little startled by the action. Blaine, on the other hand – and of course it would be Blaine, who has always been relentlessly tactile – has no such problems. He's across the room and gathering Kurt in his arms in seconds, and Kurt can feel the brush of lips and warm air against his neck as Blaine repeats his words in a gentle murmur. "We're having a daughter."

Hearing the wonder and joy in Blaine's voice makes it all the more real for Kurt – though how much more real it could possibly get than seeing your baby on screen, Kurt isn't sure. But all he knows is that this is happening, that they're finally getting the child they've longed for, and it's like every wonderful moment he's ever experienced in his life has been rolled into one and then multiplied several times over.

And then a tiny spike of guilt embeds itself in Kurt's heart when he catches a glimpse of Claire on the bed. There's something almost wistful in her expression, and with one last squeeze of his arms around Blaine's frame, Kurt pulls away reluctantly. Because yes, this is the happiest moment of their lives, but for Claire it's something entirely different.

"You don't have to apologise for being happy," Claire says, and Kurt's starting to wonder if she can read minds, or if he's started wearing his feelings on his face to quite the extent that Blaine does. "Don't feel bad; I'm glad to see she's so wanted."

And a quick look at her face is enough to tell Kurt that this is the truth. That yes, this is difficult for her – the way she steadfastly doesn't look at the monitor is proof enough of that – but that underneath it all she is happy in the knowledge that her baby, their baby, will be so obviously loved.

"Thank you," Kurt murmurs, and never have words felt so inadequate before.

Before emotions can bubble over any further, the doctor takes a hand – crisp and professional – and suggests that Kurt and Blaine head outside and make those phone calls she knows they're dying to make – another mind reader, Kurt thinks to himself – while she finishes off and tidies Claire up.

Kurt casts one last longing glance at the now-still image on the monitor, but the urge to hear his dad's excitement wins out.

***
Blaine feels like he's still in a bit of a daze as they exit the hospital room. So much so, that he sinks down gratefully into the first available chair he spots.

"You okay?" Kurt asks, gazing down at him with the cutest frown of concern marring his face.

"Fine." Blaine nods. "Just a bit…" Words fail him to describe how he's feeling, so he makes a vague gesture with his hand. "You know."

Kurt evidently does, because he hmms his understanding and begins to slide his fingers slowly through Blaine's curls. "You don't mind me telling dad straight away, do you?" he asks finally.

"No, course not." Blaine smiles and butts his head softly against Kurt's hand to encourage the petting to continue. "I only wish we could be there to see his face."

Kurt grins. "I know, right? She's not even born yet, and you just know he's going to be wrapped right around her little fingers."

"Unlike us, you mean?" Blaine teases, because really, right now, he feels like he would do anything for that little girl, so he can only imagine how much stronger it's going to be once he's held her.

"You, maybe," Kurt says, and gives one last gentle tug on Blaine's curls before removing his hand and fishing for his phone. "I think it's fairly clear already where the discipline in this parenting team is going to come from."

"Oh hush, you," Blaine says, but he's grinning and knows damn well that Kurt's right. "Go make your phone calls. Just make sure Finn keeps it off Facebook this time; Cooper'll kill me if he finds out like that again."

"Don't you want to ring him now?"

There's a familiar mix of concern and pity in Kurt's expression as he looks at him. It's an expression that's becoming all too familiar every time Blaine's family is mentioned just lately. He knows Kurt doesn't mean anything by it, that it's just because he cares, but something about it burrows its way under Blaine's skin like an insidious itch.

Kurt would be mortified to hear that, Blaine is more than aware, and it's the very reason he'll never say anything. But none of this makes him want to claw at his own skin any less.

So instead, all he does is glance at his watch and shake his head ever so slightly. "I'll do it later. It's only just after eight in LA; he'll still be in bed."

Kurt looks at him consideringly for a moment, but much to Blaine's relief says nothing further on the subject. Instead he leans forward and presses a light kiss to Blaine's curls. "Okay," he says softly. Then with a quick glance around them, he adds, "I'd better head down there to use this." He gestures with the phone to illustrate his point.

Blaine nods. "I'll wait here for them to finish up," he says as softly in return. He could go outside with Kurt, share in the undoubted excitement that will follow Burt hearing the news, but given everything Claire will be going through for them in next few months, waiting for a few minutes for her is the least he can do.

And it's not even that long as it turns out. Kurt has barely disappeared around the corner before the door behind him clicks open.

Ever the gentleman, Blaine is on his feet by the time Claire emerges from the room. She's buttoning a pale blue cardigan over her matching sundress, and with her dark curls caught in a long ponytail, Blaine is struck suddenly by just how young she seems. It stirs an almost parental instinct within – which he knows is just ridiculous because he is only ten years older, but it's there all the same.

"Okay?" she asks before Blaine has chance to speak

Blaine nods. "Kurt's just down the hall ringing his dad," he offers by way of explanation. "Are you okay?" Blaine's reluctant to ask the question because how can she be, and what could he possibly say to make it better anyway?

"I'm fine." A faint smile crosses her face and, well, that's unexpected.

"You're sure?" There's a voice, one that sounds uncommonly like Kurt, at the back of his mind telling Blaine to shut the hell up – but he just can't seem to help himself.

The smile grows. "Yes," Claire says firmly. "I'm sure." She pauses then and seats herself next to the chair Blaine has just vacated. "I won't break, you know."

Unsure of exactly what to say or do in response to that, Blaine just nods and says, "Okay."

"It's sweet that you care," she continues, and looks up at Blaine with clear blue eyes. "It just shows me that I made the right decision."

There's a hint of a lump forming in Blaine's throat now and he silently wills Kurt to return, because any minute now he's going to be bawling on Claire's shoulder and that really wouldn't be appropriate at all. So with a hard swallow and a blink of his long lashes, Blaine manages a weak, "Thank you."

"You didn't have to wait for me," she adds then. "You must have people you want to call too."

That's an awkward question because they've kind of skirted around Blaine's family situation throughout the whole adoption process, and the last thing he wants is for it to affect their chances now. He could lie, should lie probably, but this is Blaine and there's no way he can do that to someone who is trusting him to raise their baby.

With a mental cross of his fingers, he gives a slight shrug. "Not really. My brother's in LA and he's usually in bed till noon."

Claire grins. "Sounds good to me," and just as Blaine thinks he's going to get away with it, she adds, "What about your parents?"

And there's a question Blaine's been trying to avoid for years because, really, what abouthis parents? "My parents are…it's complicated," he admits eventually, and then sinks back down into his chair. He's surprised when Claire covers his hand with her own.

"You don’t have to tell me anything you don't want to," she says softly. "But you should know, nothing you say is going to change my mind. We aren't our parents; thank God."

There's something in the way she says those last words that tells Blaine's he's not alone in his complications, and then he's forced to wonder why he's so surprised by that: she's nineteen years old, pregnant, and alone in New York, when the rest of her family are back home in Kansas. No half-decent parent would allow their child to go through that alone.

"Your parents are…" Blaine trails off, uncertain of exactly what he wants to ask.

Claire's smile strains a little but it's still there. "Can I borrow your answer?"

Blaine nods, laughs, and then turns his hand palm up so their fingers lace together. "Thank you," he says, and squeezes gently.

"You're welcome. And thank you, too. If I can't raise this baby myself..." She rests her other hand on her stomach at this point and something in Blaine's chest clenches painfully. "Then I couldn't ask for better people than you and Kurt. You'll make great parents; I know it."

"How?" It comes out a bit more croaky than he'd intended, but Blaine just doesn't understand how she can be so sure when he's plagued with doubts himself.

"D'you know what made me choose you guys?"

Blaine's intrigued now, because he's been asking himself that very question since they found out. Given how many times they were overlooked in the past, it's only natural that to wonder what made them stand out this time. So he smiles at her in what he hopes is an encouraging manner. It is, apparently.

"I saw you. That first day at the agency. Before we met in Belinda's office, I mean."

"Okay." Blaine's racking his brains to remember, but as he recalls they were more than a little distracted that day.

"I'm not surprised you didn't notice me." Claire grins broadly then as she adds, "You were too busy trying to get Kurt to rub your tummy at the time."

Blaine doesn't need to see his face to know it's bright red – he knows exactly the moment she's referring to. "You were in the elevator?" he asks, and then without waiting for a reply, says, "Well, that's not embarrassing."

Claire shakes her head decidedly. "There's nothing to be embarrassed about – it was a lovely moment."

Blaine's not convinced. A fact that is apparently written on his face, because Claire continues. "Your profile was great. On paper you made wonderful parents, and I might have even chosen you based on that. But it was that moment that helped me to decide on you guys more than anything else."

The heat in his face receding a little, Blaine asks, "Why?" because he still doesn't get it.

Claire's expression fades into one of seriousness. "Because, Blaine, if you and Kurt love this baby even half as much as it's obvious that you love each other, then I couldn't wish for anything more for her." She takes a deep breath then and the smile returns.

"Oh." It's one syllable and it's totally inadequate for the situation, but it's all Blaine can manage. As he struggles to control his emotions, he can't help but think that if their little girl grows up to be half the woman that her mother seems to be, then they'll end up very proud parents indeed.

***
As much as he loves his job, and the independence that being his own boss gives him, there are days when Kurt can't wait to finish work. Days that are full of clients who can't quite grasp that endless scatter cushions and beige walls do not a design scheme make. Days when he envies Blaine the luxury of working from home with only himself and a distant editor to please. Days when he wants nothing more than to head home, crack open a bottle of wine, and just relax on their couch – preferably in the arms of his husband.

Today has been very much one of those days, so when Kurt enters their apartment intent on indulging himself, there's no stopping the gasp of horror that escapes at the sight that greats him.

It looks, on first inspection, like they've been robbed. But then common sense tells Kurt that robbers tend to actually take things rather than just rearrange them. And this... this looks very much like someone has decided to see if all the furniture from their apartment could fit into the living room. Blaine's desk is currently obscuring his path to the couch, and frankly Kurt could cry. Instead, he shouts.

"Blaine!"

There's a clatter of something being dropped – that Kurt tries very hard not to think about – before Blaine appears in the door way of his office, pile of books in hand. Dishevelled is one way to describe how he looks, and it takes an extra effort on Kurt's part to ignore the slightly sweaty, tousled appearance of his husband's hair, and focus on the matter at hand – rather than on the things his brain is now suggesting might be a better idea.

"Hey, babe. You're home early." Blaine weaves his way through the various obstacles and deposits the books on their cluttered coffee table. "I was hoping to have this done before you got home."

Kurt raises an eyebrow at this and sweeps another gaze around the room. "Blaine, it's four o'clock. Unless you thought I wasn't coming home till, say, next Wednesday, I can't see how you hoped to have this done by then. And while we're on the subject," Kurt continues, warming to his theme now and trying to ignore the slightly despondent look on Blaine's face. "What is this, exactly?"

Blaine flops onto the couch with an oof and grins up at Kurt. "I'm cleaning out my office," he says, like it's the most obvious thing in the world. And really, Kurt supposes, it should be.

"I can see that." Kurt carefully navigates the bookshelf, a standard lamp, and an overflowing trashcan – all of which seem determined to block his path – and seats himself on the couch too. "But what is not apparent is why?"

Blaine runs one hand through his slightly damp curls and frowns. "So we can start on turning it into a nursery."

There's soft smile that crosses Blaine's face when he says that last word and it's enough to stop Kurt's irritation in its tracks – for a moment. "She's not due for another three months. You didn't need to move out quite this early."

"But we'll have to completely redecorate," Blaine points out stubbornly. "It's not exactly suitable for a little girl."

Kurt mock shudders. "I should say not." Then he reaches over and pats Blaine's leg gently. "We don't need to worry about that yet; it'll be transformed in no time at all. I've been working on a scheme in between clients, and I happen to have the phone number of the best painter/decorator in the entire state. You won't recognise the room once we've done with it."

"Oh. I didn't realise." Blaine rubs at his face and gazes around the cluttered room.

"What is it?" Kurt asks quickly – he's known Blaine long enough to know that something's going unsaid. The way he's avoiding looking at Kurt is indication enough.

"It's nothing." Blaine meets his gaze finally, but the expression in his eyes makes a lie of his words.

"It obviously is something." Kurt reaches out and takes hold of Blaine's hand to anchor himself - he hates when Blaine does this, when he buries his own feelings about something in a misguided effort to save Kurt's. "Is this about the decorating? Because I didn't think you'd mind – you never have before."

"This is different." Blaine's thumb is rubbing distracting circles on the inside of Kurt's wrist. "This is the nursery. Our baby's nursery. I just thought we could do it together."

"You mean like actually paint it ourselves?" Kurt sounds a little incredulous, because honestly the thought has never occurred to him.

"We don't have to, if you don't want." Blaine tries to tug his hand away from Kurt's and it's obvious from the expression on his face that he's trying to downplay how very much he wants this.

"No." Kurt tightens his grip on Blaine. "It might actually be fun." He uses his grip then to tug Blaine in closer, free hand sliding round the back of Blaine's neck, burying in his curls.

"I'm all sweaty," Blaine protests and starts to squirm.

Kurt's having none of it. "Just the way I like you," he murmurs as he closes the distance between their lips. Just as he's starting to lose himself in the feel and taste of Blaine, a loud beeping noise from the direction of their kitchen startles Kurt.

"Dinner's ready," Blaine says, a sheepish smile on his face as he pulls back.

Kurt swoops in with one last, hard kiss to Blaine's lips. "You'll keep," he says with a grin.

They get to their feet then, Blaine heading towards the oven, and Kurt to take one further look at the disarray their home is now in. "I don't think this is going to work."

Blaine comes to a halt halfway across the room and turns on socked feet. "We can arrange it any way you want," he says. "I don't mind."

Kurt shakes his head, eyes still roving over the clutter. "It's not that." He turns then. "You can't work out here, Blaine."

"I'll be tidier, I promise."

Kurt makes no effort to hide his laugh at this. "I'll believe that when I see it. But that wasn't actually my point. You need an office. You can't write a potential Pulitzer prize winner sat on our couch."

Blaine rubs at the back of his neck with one hand and smiles. "Actually—"

"You know what I mean." Kurt knows Blaine is about to point out that most of his first novel was written in their cramped studio in Brooklyn, but they didn't have a choice then. Now it's different. "I can't believe I didn't think of this before. All this time I've been so worried about what would happen if we didn't get a baby, I never stopped to think what would happen if we did."

Blaine retraces his steps, and in no time at all has his hands on Kurt's waist. "It's okay."

Kurt shakes his head. "You know what this means, don't you?"

Blaine just smiles and waits – he knows better than anyone just how rhetorical Kurt's question is.

"We have to move."

***
"Okay, this is far enough." After a cursory glance at its cleanliness, Rachel plops herself down on a nearby bench. Legs crossed, hands clasped over her knees, she looks up at Kurt expectantly.

Kurt, being much more discerning about where he seats himself, gives the bench a discriminating look. "I thought we were supposed to be taking a walk?"

Rachel gives him her best bitch, please look. Even after almost twelve years in New York, Kurt is satisfied to note that it comes nowhere near his own. It's enough to show that she's onto him though, even if Kurt has no plans to cave instantly.

"What?" he asks. The innocent face he gives her in return is one he's been honing since childhood; there are few who don't fall for its charms. Unfortunately for Kurt, twelve years in this city has fostered Rachel's inbuilt cynicism and given her natural immunity to it.

"Kurt Hummel," she says sharply, in much the tone Kurt imagines a mother uses to her wayward child. "Don't you play dumb with me. There are only two reasons you ever suggest we do this, and as I happen to know you haven't been shopping lately and thus have no new clothes to show off, that means you have big news." She pauses here with a self-satisfied smile. "Now spill."

Kurt smiles in spite of himself. There is something really heart-warming about how well Rachel knows him, even if it is a little irritating at times. "Fine." There's no point in dissembling further, so with one last reluctant glance at the bench, Kurt drops down beside her. "You got me."

"I knew it!" Rachel shifts eagerly to face him, the triumphant gleam unmistakeable in her eyes. "Tell me everything."

"I hate to disappoint you," Kurt says, and it's only a tiny little lie. "But I don't have any titillating gossip."

Rachel's expression drops and an all too familiar pout appears – this one has nowhere near the effect on him that Blaine's does, though. "But you said." She doesn't actually do it, but Kurt can hear the foot stamp at the end of her words.

"I do want to talk to you though." All thoughts of his pants now forgotten, Kurt shifts sideways on the bench and folds one bent leg across its surface.

"You're not sick are you?" Rachel clutches his hands in hers, eyes wide in concern. "Or Blaine? Or…oh, Kurt," she squeezes his hands almost painfully now. "Did something happen with the baby?"

Kurt's so busy being relieved that he doesn't have to find a way to introduce the topic casually, that he doesn't think before replying. It's only a slight nod followed by a murmured, "Yes," but it's enough to have Rachel drop his hands like hot potatoes and clutch hers to her chest with a horrified gasp.

"Oh, no." Kurt shakes his head quickly, realising his mistake. "Not like that; it's nothing bad, I promise."

Rachel heaves a sigh but still has one hand pressed over her heart. "Don't do that to me," she says faintly.

Kurt smiles sheepishly and takes a moment to appreciate her love of the dramatic. "Sorry. I didn't mean to worry you."

"It's fine." Rachel shakes her head and lets out a nervous-sounding laugh. "It's just…" She pokes at his arm with one hand. "Don't scare me like that."

They laugh together then, briefly, and Kurt feels a flash of relief that things are still as they should be.

"So what, then?" Rachel asks after the moment's silence stretches ahead of them. "You can't just scare me like that and then say nothing. I know you had a meeting with the adoption agency yesterday."

"Finn?" Kurt guess, tearing his gaze away from a group of young children playing nearby.

Rachel shakes her head briefly and Kurt can't help but admire the soft, stylish waves that frame her face perfectly – New York has been good to Rachel Berry in more ways than just her career. "I rang your office yesterday afternoon; your assistant told me."

Kurt can't find it in him to be annoyed at Chloe for her lack of confidentiality. Mainly because he suspects that Rachel gleaned that particular piece of information after relentless interrogation – and to the uninitiated, Rachel on a mission is unnerving to say the least.

"What have I told you about harassing my staff?"

Rachel's pout comes back in full force, and this time it's accompanied by the puppy dog eyes. "She likes me."

"She's terrified of you."

There's a split second then when Rachel's eyes widen, her expression falters, and Kurt wonders if he's gone too far. For all her brashness and ego, Rachel can be surprisingly sensitive underneath at times. Just as he's looking for a way to recast what is undoubtedly the truth, Rachel smiles broadly, her emotions rivalling a weather vane with their changeability.

A playful slap on the arm follows.

"I know what you're doing, Kurt Hummel. Don't think that I don't. But we're not leaving this park until you tell me what's going on with my niece or nephew."

Once again Kurt doesn't bother to point out the lack of familial ties – for one thing, Rachel feels like family even if she isn't, and for another, Kurt's already seen Finn make much the same mistake on Facebook a few days previous – the flaying his stepbrother had received, albeit virtual, is enough to warn Kurt off the subject forever. Besides, neither he nor Blaine have sisters, and it will be good for their child to have a female influence – even if the prospect of what that might entail is enough to keep Kurt awake at night.

"So, spill then," Rachel demands impatiently.

Rather than reply instantly, Kurt holds out a small, pearlised box for her to take. Never one to turn down a gift, Rachel takes it eagerly. After tugging the ribbons open she stares at the contents in confusion.

"A cupcake?" She looks from the cupcake to Kurt then back again, as if to check she hasn't made a mistake. "Not that I don't love chocolate cupcakes," which of course Kurt already knew, "but why are you giving me this?"

"Just eat it," Kurt says, and mentally curses himself for thinking this would possibly work – Rachel Berry is the most stubborn of people he knows; there's no way she'll just do it.

But apparently he's either wrong, or he's caught Rachel on a very good day. Because no sooner is she told than she's peeling the wrapper off carefully and sinking her teeth into the moist sponge.

There's a moment's silence then while she chews – a rare commodity in any conversation with Rachel, so Kurt savours it.

"I don't get it," she says eventually after having swallowed her mouthful. "What does giving me cake have to do with the baby?"

Kurt sighs out loud this time. "Just look at the cake, Rachel. Really look."

With a dismissive toss of her head, Rachel does indeed turn her attention back to the cake. "I fail to see what…oh! It's pink. Kurt, why is there a pink heart inside my cake?"

A roll of Kurt's eyes follows this question. "Think about it," he says as encouragingly as he can manage.

Rachel's brow creases in frustration once again. "I don't get it," she mutters, more to herself than to anyone else. "A pink smile. Oh! Pink!!" She turns back to Kurt with wide eyes. "It's pink," she says. "Pink."

"I can see that, thank you, Rachel."

"Stop being obtuse." Rachel follows her words u with a quick slap to Kurt's thigh. "It's pink. Like, baby girl pink. You're having a little girl," she exclaims excitedly.

Hearing those words again, feeling his insides turn to goo at the very prospect, all irritation with Rachel vanishes. "We're having a girl," he confirms.

With rather a loud squeal, Rachel flings her cupcake to the floor and then herself onto Kurt. He's not overly impressed with the waste of food – the local birds, on the other hand, descend into a frenzy of feeding.

Kurt allows the hug to go on longer than he usually would – he's been feeling surprisingly benevolent of late – but eventually the threat of creasing to his clothes dictates it must end.

"I can't believe you're going to have a daughter," Rachel says finally, dabbing at her eyes with a tissue. "Kurt, I'm so happy for you."

"Thank you," Kurt says warmly, and means it completely. "Now enough about me and your shocking waste of food," Rachel glances ruefully at the few remaining crumbs of her cake, "Why don't you tell me what's been going on with you lately?"

All thoughts of the baby seem to vanish for the moment and Rachel's face takes on a surprisingly innocent expression. Kurt is not fooled. "Nothing much," she says with affected casualness. "Just busy with rehearsals really."

"Oh really?" Kurt arches one brow in disbelief. "Because a little bird tells me you were seen coming out of Sardis last Friday with none other than Jesse St James."

***
"And there's extensive closet space in the master bedroom." Their realtor casts a pointed glance in Kurt's direction as she says this – clearly thinking she's summed up at least one of her client's priorities.

And from just how wide Kurt's eyes go as he takes in the aforementioned storage, Blaine has to admit she's at least a little bit on the money.

This is the third weekend they've spent inspecting the best apartments that New York has to offer – or at least within their price range, anyway. The first two of which they'd been accompanied by an overly enthusiastic Rachel Berry, but when her tastes began driving their search into the Upper East Side, Blaine had politely but firmly insisted she be left at home in future – he wasn't sure his nerves or his bank balance could stand any more.

If he's honest, the succession of buildings they've seen have been much of a muchness to Blaine – save for location, there's very little to distinguish between them. It's just bricks and mortar at the end of the day; it's the people within those walls that make a home. And with Kurt and their daughter by his side, Blaine's pretty certain he could live in a shack with a smile on his face.

It's different for Kurt, though. And not because he thinks any differently to Blaine about what really makes a home, but because this is what he does, his bread and butter. The aesthetics of a property are as important to Kurt as the size, location – it's all part of the same whole. So Blaine is happy to just tag along, give opinions when asked for, and just enjoy the sight of Kurt in his element.

Only, he doesn't seem to be.

Spacious closets aside, Kurt appears more disenchanted with each passing property. And for someone who has been known to attend house sales just for the fun of it, Blaine knows for certain this means something isn't right. And if that hadn't been enough, the sight of Kurt inspecting the kitchen, listlessly trailing his hand over granite countertops that would usually inspire unguarded delight, confirms it.

Blaine turns to their realtor, who is currently hovering expectantly in the doorway. "Could you give us a minute?"

Her eyes brighten for just a moment, and Blaine thinks she smells a sale. He rather suspects she couldn't be further from the truth. She nods then and steps out into the hallway, Blackberry already in hand, and Blaine turns his attention back to his husband.

Kurt's come to a halt in front of the kitchen window, but it's obvious to anyone with eyes that he's not actually taking in the view. He's gazing off into the distance and there's a tiny crease of a frown on his brow that worries Blaine to see.

"Kurt?" Blaine steps closer and places one hand on his shoulder gently, so as not to startle. "Are you okay?"

"Huh?" Kurt turns, confusions written on his face now. "What?"

"You looked like you were a million miles away then." Blaine's eyes flick over Kurt's face, searching for any signs to tell him what's going on. "Anything wrong?"

"What?" Kurt's voice comes out a little higher than usual, something Blaine knows is a sure sign that he's feeling guilty or caught or trying to hide something. "No! I was just thinking is all."

"Oh." It takes some effort for Blaine to keep his tone as causal as he does. "About what?"

Kurt shrugs half-heartedly. "Moving. And whether it's the right thing for us to be doing now."

And that was definitely not what Blaine was expecting. Kurt had been the driving force behind the whole moving idea – Blaine had been quite content to remain where they were for now, but Kurt had been insistent it was imperative they moved before the baby was born.

"Are you serious?" Blaine asks incredulously – but one look at Kurt's face is enough to answer that question for him. "But I thought you were…" Blaine shakes his head, trying to clear some of the confusion. "What changed?"

Kurt turns his gaze back to stare fixedly out of the window at nothing in particular. "I just don't think we've thought it though enough. Moving's a big deal."

To say that Blaine's shocked by this remark is something of an understatement. Granted, there hasn't really been much thought put into it on his part, but Kurt never never makes decisions lightly, and certainly not about something he considers as important as their home.

Which means something else is going on, something that Kurt, with his tense posture and neutral expression, is trying to keep from him, and if there's one thing Blaine can't bear between them, it's secrets.

"What's going on?" The words come out a little sharper than he intended, but haven't they learnt over the years what keeping secrets can do?

Kurt turns round, all wide-eyed innocence, and he's good, Blaine will give him that. But thirteen years of loving that face – and the person attached to it – has taught Blaine to read it better than Kurt would like at times.

"Kurt." Blaine pitches his voice lower, coaxing almost, and he steps closer to hook one hand around Kurt's waist.

"Blaine." Kurt lengthens the sounds of his name in a sing-song fashion. That, and the faint curve of his lips, let Blaine know it's nothing serious.

"Stop trying to distract me by being adorable." Blaine leans forward until their foreheads are pressed together. "Now spill, Hummel."

Kurt squirms a little but Blaine simply brings his other arm into play.

"It's nothing, really," Kurt protests weakly. "I'm just being silly."

Blaine tilts his head slightly so their noses kiss. "Kurt," he says, borrowing his husband's sing-song method of a moment earlier.

"Fine." Kurt huffs and Blaine can feel the warmth of his breath on his own lips. "But not here." He pulls back slightly and shoots a pointed glance at the realtor, who is hovering with a poor attempt at unobtrusiveness in the doorway.

"Okay." Blaine lets his hand fall from Kurt's waist reluctantly with just the slightest wish that they were in their own apartment right now. "Let's get out of here."

And so they do. Much to the disappointment of their realtor, who really doesn't seem at all appeased by Kurt's promises of being in touch.

They walk without any real discussion of direction, but the Village has been their home for so long that every street has a familiarity to it. But it's no surprise to Blaine when they turn the corner into Washington Square Park. It's one of his favourite open spaces – an opinion shared by many if the afternoon crowds are anything to go by.

"Fancy a game?" he asks, with a nod to the chess tables as they pass.

He receives a glare for his troubles. Kurt is notoriously bad at chess – he doesn't have the patience and can't see the point. Blaine, on the other hand, finds it soothing. There's been many an occasion when writer's block has struck, and he's wandered down here to take on a stranger in the familiar battle of strategy and wits. Truth be told, Blaine rarely wins – he's a little too rash to play with any real finesse – but he enjoys it nonetheless.

"You're not funny," Kurt replies. "Now, go buy me a pretzel."

Blaine finds himself being shoved ever so gently in the direction of the food vendor to the left of the imposing arch, and is relieved to find that the majority of the crowds seem more interested in the street entertainers present than they do in the opportunity for food.

Pretzel in hand, he crosses the short distance in front of the arch to where Kurt has taken a perch on the low wall that runs on the other side. His arms behind him, supporting his weight as he leans back in the sunshine, he looks beautiful. Blaine could watch him like that for hours, but the pretzel's not getting any warmer, and Blaine isn't any further to discovering the truth behind Kurt's sudden change of heart.

"So," he says, seating himself beside Kurt and handing over the snack. "Are you going to tell me what's going on?"

Kurt turns his head slowly to the side, eyes squinting against the glare of the sun. "It's nothing, really. I'm just being silly."

"It's obviously something, Kurt," Blaine points out, trying his hardest not to be distracted by the way Kurt nibbles on his food. "You were really excited about the idea of moving. I don't care how silly it is, I just want to know what's bothering you." He leans in and nudges Kurt slightly with his shoulder. "Please?"

Kurt sighs and lowers the pretzel to his side. "It's just…you know that job I was working on last week?"

"Taffeta woman?" Blaine asks, remembering only too well Kurt's diatribe on her lack of taste.

"Yes, her." And Kurt's nose scrunches in distaste. "She mentioned that one of her friends was moving to Boston to be near her grandchildren and was selling her house in the Village."

"Okay," Blaine says slowly – he's still a little confused as to where this is leading, but he knows better than to ask questions at this point.

"I went and had a look at it. I know we should have gone together, but it just sounded so good and it was right nearby and I couldn't wait."

"And?"

Kurt sighs again. Not a soft, gentle one. But a deep, sad-sounding sort of one. "It was perfect."

Blaine's brow creases with a frown of confusion. "Isn't that a good thing?"

"No." Kurt shakes his head vehemently. "Because we can't afford it and it's not what we decided we wanted anyway, and now all I've done is spoil every other home in this city because they'll just never match up."

"But if it's perfect, then it doesn't matter what we said we wanted before, does it?" Blaine wisely leaves the issue of cost alone for the moment.

"But perfect for me doesn't mean it's perfect for you, and I don't want you agreeing to live somewhere just for my sake. What if you hated it and ended up resenting me forever?"

Blaine suppresses a chuckle at this and doesn't point out to Kurt that really every home they've had since they've been together has ultimately been his choice, not Blaine's. Not that it matters, because really, apart from location and a roof over his head, Blaine really does have very few requirements.

"Well, why don't you tell me about this perfect house and find out?"

Kurt eyes him warily for a moment, almost suspiciously. "There's no point. Didn't you hear me? We can't afford it."

"Humour me."

Kurt remains silent for a moment or two, and Blaine can almost sense the internal struggle going on. Finally, he shifts in his seat, turns to face Blaine directly and crosses his legs in front of him. "Fine. Just remember you asked for this."

Blaine watches Kurt intently as he describes the house he's so obviously fallen in love with, and if the description alone wasn't enough to make Blaine agree, then the look on his husband's face would be.

"How much?" he asks finally, sure he doesn't actually want to know the answer, because if Kurt says it's too expensive, then it really is. But the idea of having an actual yard that their child could play in, having a third bedroom for any future additions to their family – it really is too perfect. And more than anything else, Blaine wants to make Kurt happy.

"Too much," is all Kurt says.

"Shouldn’t we both get to decide that?" Blaine argues stubbornly. "All these apartments we've been looking at cost a fortune anyway, and at least with this house we'd actually own it – it would be an investment."

"I've already done the math, Blaine. Even with your advance, we would still struggle to make the twenty percent deposit."

And with those words Blaine feels like he's caught a little bit of Kurt's sadness – almost like he's pining for something he's never had and never knew he wanted, but desperately wants all the same. "Timing sucks," he says, dragging one hand through his curls. "If it was next year—"

"I know." Kurt pats his hand gently. "It's not your fault."

"Maybe we should put off moving then?" Blaine suggests tentatively. "There's no real rush, is there? I mean, I know we wanted to do it before the baby is born, but it's going to be months before she does anything but lie in a crib all day long – how much space is she really going to need?"

"Do you have any idea how much stuff babies need?" Kurt raises one eyebrow at his husband in question.

"I know that." Blaine gives a dismissive wave of his hand. "I do pay attention sometimes, you know. I'm just saying that maybe we should wait until we find somewhere we know we'll be happy, rather than rushing into it for the sake of a deadline that's really not that set in stone. We could look at other houses, cheaper ones?"

"There aren't any," Kurt replies mournfully. "Not where we want to live. And neither of us is willing to compromise on that."

Blaine leans forward and presses a quick kiss to Kurt's cheek. "Then we'll keep looking. Something will turn up; I know it."

"My husband, the eternal optimist." There's a hint of sarcasm to Kurt's tone, but the warmth of his smile negates it completely.

"It's why you love me." Blaine grins smugly. "Now, how about I take you out somewhere fancy for dinner to get your mind off things?"

"Always thinking with your stomach," Kurt teases with a smile, and gives Blaine's tummy a light poke.

"Not always. I do think with other things sometimes." And Blaine follows his words up with a wink, just in case Kurt didn't quite get his meaning.

Kurt gives his arm a quick smack. "There are children about," he exclaims in mock-scandalised tones.

"Well, then," Blaine says, standing up and brushing off his trousers. "I'd better take you home where there aren't any."

Kurt reaches out and takes hold of the hand Blaine's offering him. "Not for long," he points out.

"Not for long," Blaine agrees, and then uses his hold on Kurt's hand to tug him in for a kiss.

***
"This is all very covert." Rachel bounces lightly on the sidewalk while Blaine hails a cab. "I feel like I should have dark glasses and a trench coat on."

Blaine glances over his shoulder with an indulgent smile – Rachel's love of the dramatic has not lessened any with age. "Your carriage awaits," he says, with a nod at the yellow cab pulling in at the kerb.

Blaine holds the door open and Rachel climbs in, smoothing her cream sundress beneath her. It's more than obvious to anyone with eyes that the not knowing is driving her mad.

It only increases when Blaine hops in beside her and gives the address to the driver.

"Blaine." The way she elongates the sounds of his name reminds him so much of Kurt that Blaine can't help but smile. And much the same as he does with his husband, he returns the favour.

"Rachel."

They could have made the journey quicker on the subway, or possibly by foot, but the prima donna in Rachel Berry does not allow her to travel any other way than taxi or private car. Usually it irks Blaine slightly, especially considering the unnecessary cost; however, it's unseasonably warm today, even by New York's standards, and he's rather glad of the air-conditioning.

Rachel pokes his side and as Blaine squirms, whines, "You know I how I hate secrets."

"Patience," Blaine chides in a calm manner he knows will drive her crazy – Kurt always reacts exactly the same. "We're almost there."

"Blaine Anderson-Hummel! You tell me right this instant, or I'll…"

"You'll what?" Blaine teases as she tails off.

He gets a loud huff in return and a face full of Rachel's hair as she turns to face the window with a toss of her head. "I'll think of something," she mutters.

Blaine just grins to himself and leans in to rest his head on her shoulder.

"I hate you," Rachel says, but leans her head against his nonetheless.

"And I love you, too." And Blaine really means it. Rachel's hard work sometimes, there's no way even he can deny that, but even her flaws are part of who she is, and who she is is someone Blaine loves dearly. For all her bluster and ego, Blaine knows there isn't a thing she wouldn't do for him and Kurt if it was in her power to give, and that's why he's trusting her with this.

"Here we go," the driver is saying after what seems like only seconds on the road. And as the cab eases to a halt at the roadside, Blaine momentarily mourns the loss of the crisply cold interior.

Rachel glances eagerly out of the window and then turns wide eyes on him. "Blaine, is this—"

"All will be revealed," Blaine says, as he hands a few bills to the driver. "Out you get."

Rachel exits the cab with more flounce than Blaine thought possible, and the cabbie meets his gaze in the mirror.

"Got your hands full with that one," he says, with a nod in Rachel's direction.

Blaine just smiles, then thinks of Kurt and wants to tell the driver he doesn't know the half of it. Instead he just says, "She's worth it," and clambers out into the sunshine.

Rachel, once again, is bouncing slightly on the balls of her feet. "This is Kurt's house, isn't it?" she demands, gesturing at the building behind them.

"I think the lady who owns it might take issue with that description."

"Don't be obtuse." Rachel fixes him with a glare that even Kurt would be hard pushed to better. "You know what I mean. This is the house that Kurt fell in love with."

Blaine's eyes widen slightly. He's not sure why he's surprised that Kurt told Rachel about this – they all tell each other far too much about their lives for it to be healthy – but he is. However, it makes the explanation process a whole lot quicker, and for that, Blaine's extremely grateful.

"He told you about it?" Blaine asks, as they clamber the steps towards the front door.

Rachel rolls her eyes. "Of course. He rang me from inside going on and on about how he'd found his dream home and lost it again in the space of an afternoon. You know how dramatic he can get." She pauses then and turns to face Blaine, her nose scrunched slightly. "I'm surprised he told you. I mean, I said he should, but you know Kurt when he gets an idea in his head."

"It took him a while." Blaine produces a key from his pocket and quickly unlocks the front door. He pushes it open gently and then gestures for Rachel to enter.

She steps inside, heels clicking on the floor. "Oh, Blaine, it's beautiful."

Whilst he certainly doesn't share Kurt's passion for interior design, Blaine still has an eye for aesthetics, and Rachel's right. Kurt was right. The high ceilings, cornicing, wooden floors - Blaine can already picture them living here, the clatter of tiny feet along the hallway, and it just feels so right.

He shuts the door securely behind them and they make their way through the house, peeking into every room as they go. If he's honest, Blaine's really only giving the rooms themselves a cursory glance – Kurt loves them, and that in itself is enough; what he really wants to see, the thing he hasn't been able to get out of his mind since Kurt mentioned it, is out the back.

They head downstairs, to Rachel's delighted exclamations over the kitchen and its modern design - with its clean lines and granite counters, Blaine can already see Kurt at home there. Then through what appears to be a living room of sorts and out of the French doors along one wall.

As they step outside, they find themselves in a white-walled covered area with scattered rattan furniture to relax on. The yard extends beyond that, further than Blaine had imagined, into a long patioed area, dotted with plants and urns and various sculptures that could be easily removed to make way for sandpits and swings, and bike-riding experiments. And he knows then exactly how Kurt feels. How it will now be impossible to imagine himself living anywhere else.

Some of what he feels obviously shows on his face, because Rachel turns to look at him, a knowing expression in place. "You're going to buy it, aren't you?"

There's no point dissembling at this stage – he's already played most of his cards quite publicly. "I'm going to try."

They make their way back inside silently and climb the stairs into the hallway again. "Are we going up?" Rachel nods at the staircase curving elegantly upwards. "There are still the bedrooms to see."

But Blaine shakes his head. "I've seen all I need to," and he turns back towards the front door once again.

"You're really going to try and buy this place?" Rachel reaches out and touches Blaine's shoulder to get his attention. "I thought Kurt said it was too expensive?"

Blaine sighs, because this is a part of his plan that he's been trying not to think about until it's absolutely necessary. "It is," he agrees. "We don't have enough money at the moment."

"So you're what, planning to rob a bank?"

"If only it was that easy." Blaine raises one hand and rubs at his face, buying a little time before he has to explain himself.

And it is a little time too, because Rachel Berry certainly isn't famed for her patience. "What's going on, Blaine? Because we're not talking about small change here, are we?"

"When I was ten, my Grandfather died – my father's father, that is."

"I'm sorry," Rachel says automatically. But her face is screwed up in confusion and she adds, "But I don't see what—"

"I'm getting there," Blaine says, and gestures with his hand for her to stop. "He was rich, like obscenely rich – he'd built up his own law firm from the ground. Anyway, when he died, obviously most of his money went to my father as his only child, but some of it he left in trust for Cooper and me."

"So you've had money hidden away all this time?" Rachel demands incredulously, and Blaine can tell she's moments away from calling Kurt to fill him in.

"No." He shakes his head furiously. "I don't have it. It is mine, but I don’t have it yet. It's held in trust until I turn thirty. I think he wanted to make sure we didn't blow it on stupid things. Course, it didn't matter what age Cooper was."

Rachel's frown returns. "But you're twenty-nine," she points out, immediately spotting the flaw in Blaine's plan.

"I know." Blaine can't help but smile at her then; it fades with his next words. "That's why I'm going to see my parents and ask them to release it early. They're the trustees and I can't get a cent of it early without their say so."

"But you'll have to tell them about the baby, won't you?"

Blaine just nods, and his shoulders droop ever so slightly – this part of the plan still sticks in his throat.

"But I thought Kurt said didn't want to, that your dad would—"

"I know." Blaine hates to interrupt, but the last thing he needs to hear right now is a repetition of what he already knows he's going to face when he heads back to Ohio. "But it'll be worth it if we can get this place."

Rachel flings herself on him then, all arms and sniffles and teary eyes.

Blaine allows it for a moment – it's not like he isn't used to her outbursts. But finally he takes hold of her forearms and gently pulls her away. "You okay?" he asks, reaching in his pocket for a clean handkerchief.

Rachel sniffles and takes the proffered tissue with a grateful smile. "I'm sorry. It's just such a wonderful thing that you're doing, and I can't help wishing that I had someone who loved me enough to do that for me."

Blaine takes a step forward and presses a quick kiss to the top of her head. "It'll happen. There's always Jesse, right? How are things going between you two?"

It's a blatant attempt at changing the subject, and Blaine gives a mental sigh of relief when Rachel goes with it.

"I'm taking things slowly," she admits. "We have fun together, but I don't want to rush into anything just yet."

"Probably a wise decision," Blaine says with a slight nod – if even half of what Kurt has told him about Jesse St James is true then it's a very good idea. But the two of them keep returning to each other's orbit, so Blaine can't help but think there must be something at work there. "Kurt thinks you're avoiding him, you know?"

Rachel smiles sheepishly. "I might be, just a little. I love Kurt, but you know what he's like. He'll have so many opinions on it, and I just want to enjoy what Jesse and I have for now, without it being put under a microscope."

"Fair enough. My lips are sealed on the subject. Now, shall we?" Blaine nods towards the front door, key in hand.

Rachel casts one last look around the elegant hallway. "You're really going to do this?" she asks quietly.

"Yes." And Blaine's never felt more certain that what he is doing is the right thing, the best thing to do.

"When are you going? Back to Ohio, I mean?"

"Thursday. Kurt's out of town overnight at some design convention. I've had a look at flights, and I should be able to get there and back without him being any the wiser."

"You're not telling him?"

"No," Blaine says firmly, then fixes a look on Rachel. "And neither are you. I don't want to get his hopes up."

"I'm not Finn, you know," she says, her tone offended. But when Blaine continues to stare meaningfully she sighs. "Fine. I promise not to say anything."

"Thank you." Not that Blaine really thought she would – not deliberately at least – but it's still good to hear the confirmation.

They make their way out of the house then. Blaine locks the door securely behind him and then heads down the steps to where Rachel waits on the sidewalk. He's barely reached her before she's hugging him again.

"Sorry," she says, her voice muffled in the side of his neck. "I'm just feeling really emotional today." She pulls back abruptly then, dabbing at her face with Blaine's hanky.

He makes his way to the kerb and hails a passing cab.

"I could come with you," Rachel says softly, coming to stand at his side. "For moral support."

Blaine's heart swells just a little at the offer – it means the world that she would be willing to offer, even if there's no possible way he can accept.

"I'll be fine," he says, and tugs the car door open to let her in. "But thank you for the offer. It means a lot."

Rachel seats herself carefully in the taxi and looks up at Blaine. "You're not coming with me?"

"No, I'm going to walk back," Blaine replies, already shucking off his sweater. "I could use some time to clear my head."

"Fair enough." Rachel reaches out quickly and takes hold of Blaine's hand. With a quick squeeze, she says, "Good luck."

Blaine smiles back and says, "Thanks," as he slowly pushes the door closed behind her.

He stands on the sidewalk for a moment then, watching until the cab turns out of sight, before adding, "I'll need it."

***
It's not the first time Kurt's found himself wearing a blindfold by any means. It certainly is the first time he's worn one in the company of others.

"Is this really necessary?" he asks, fingers twitching at the edge of the fabric obscuring his vision.

Blaine, or at least he assumes it's Blaine, smacks his fingers away. "Patience," Blaine chides.

Kurt's not sure who he wants to smack the most right now: his husband, or his best friend, who he can hear snickering away to herself at his side.

"Is it left down here?"

And there's another thing that's driving him crazy – Jesse St James appears to be playing the role of chauffeur. Kurt's kept quiet about it so far – almost sixty seconds – and he's reached his limit.

Ignoring the fact that Blaine is responding politely to Jesse's question, Kurt demands to know, "What's hedoing here?"

He gets another slap on the hand for his troubles, from the left this time, so he lays the blame firmly at Rachel's door.

"Kurt, be nice." Rachel's tone speaks of dire consequences should he disobey. "Jesse's driving us – we're going out on a date later."

"And why are you here?" There's no slap forthcoming this time, something Kurt's infinitely grateful for – he's still busy working out ways to make her pay for the first one.

"There's no way I'm missing this," Rachel says, like it's the most obvious thing in the world – Kurt can feel her practically vibrating with excitement beside him.

"And what is this?" Kurt demands, his attention focussed more on Rachel than Blaine – she's definitely the weaker link in this chain of secrecy.

"Stop prying," Blaine chides again, but the amusement is obvious in his tone. "You'll find out soon enough."

"But I hate surprises," Kurt whines.

"I know, baby." Blaine pats his hand comfortingly, but Kurt is sure he can hear the smile in his voice – apparently it's true that losing one sense heightens the others. "But we'll be there in a minute. You just have to be patient."

"If you tell me to do that one more time, I swear—"

"We're here!" Rachel's excited shrill cuts across Kurt's words and effectively stops him in his tracks.

"Finally." Kurt's hands reaches instantly for the blindfold. "I was starting to think we were heading for Brooklyn."

"Just a minute longer," Blaine says, and Kurt is thwarted once again as his hands are pulled away from his face.

Mentally planning all the ways he is going to make his husband pay for this, Kurt allows himself to be guided out of the car. Hands he assumes to be Blaine's settle on his shoulders and turn him on the spot.

"Ready?" There's no mistaking Blaine's voice or the shiver that runs through Kurt as warm breath ghosts over his ear. Momentarily distracted by this, Kurt finds the blindfold removed before he has the chance to employ sarcasm.

Of all the many possibilities he's run through in his head on the journey over, none of them came anywhere near to what Kurt finds when he opens his eyes.

He recognises the house instantly, of course. Even after reluctantly acknowledging it would never be theirs, Kurt has struggled to let go. He's passed by accidentally a number of times – only the appearance of a SOLD sign a few days earlier finally curtailed his excursions.

There's silence in their group – which, considering who it contains, is nothing short of miraculous. Even Rachel, though practically vibrating with suppressed excitement, remains silent.

Kurt really doesn't know what to make of it all. Of course Blaine isn't cruel enough to taunt him with what he can't have. But even if the house was still for sale, there's no way they can afford it – so what the hell is going on?

Before he has the chance to speak, Blaine's lips are distractingly close to his ear again. "Well? Aren't you going to say something?"

Normally Kurt would address the waver of uncertainty in Blaine's voice, but right now he just can't think straight. "It's a house," he says dully, then pulls away from Blaine and turns to face him. "What are we doing here?"

Blaine looks momentarily thrown, but true to form recovers quickly. "I thought you might like to go inside?"

Kurt's on the verge of giving Blaine the verbal tongue lashing of his life when a glint of silver catches his eye.

Blaine has keys.

And he's grinning at Kurt in that oh-so-meaningful way that he does, which really means only one thing, but it's too impossible to be true and Kurt's not sure he can allow himself to think it even for a moment.

"It's ours?" he asks quietly, and even as the words leave his mouth, a loud voice at the back of his brain is screaming at him not to be so stupid.

"Near as dammit," Blaine says, and Rachel's not the only one bouncing with excitement now. "There's some paperwork you need to sign, and a few legal formalities to get through, but other than that, yeah, it's ours."

They almost tumble to the floor as Kurt flings himself on Blaine – only Jesse's steadying hand on Blaine's shoulder keeps them from meeting the sidewalk. Though, honestly, Kurt's just that happy right now he doesn't think he'd even care.

"I can't believe this," he gasps finally, pulling back a little and staring at Blaine with an expression he knows must still register the shock he's currently reeling with. "When? How? Why didn't you tell me?" Kurt stops again and gives his head a shake – this is all a dream; it has to be. But when he looks back Blaine is still holding the keys, still smiling, and they're still on the sidewalk outside his dream home, so Kurt finally allows himself to believe. "Have I mentioned lately how much I love you?"

If possible, Blaine's smile widens. "Once or twice. But something like that always bears repeating."

Returning that bright smile, Kurt winds his arms around Blaine's neck and tugs him in closer, capturing his lips in a kiss that is soft and tender and threatens to turn into something decidedly non-PG and really not suitable for their current surroundings.

It's Jesse's pointed cough that brings them back to the present, and as they pull apart sheepishly it's to the sight of Rachel whacking him on the arm and hissing "Idiot. That was just getting good."

For once, Kurt takes pity on him and doesn't point out his obvious embarrassment. He slips one arm around Blaine's waist and squeezes. "Let's go inside."

No one needs telling twice, apparently, and Rachel almost beats Kurt to the top of the stairs. Only almost, though, because Kurt's not above elbowing and the odd nudge to get his own way.

Blaine's only seconds behind him and Kurt steps to one side so he can open the door. Only Blaine doesn't. Instead, he holds out the keys and smiles. "I think you should have the honour," he says.

Kurt wants to. He wants to so bad. But Blaine, well, he would give Kurt the world if he asked for it – and today he's come pretty close – so would it really hurt to let him have this one small thing? "No," he says decidedly and keeps his hands by his sides. "You should. We wouldn't even be here if it wasn't for you."

"Kurt, honestly, I don't mind. I know how much this means to you."

"Oh for goodness' sake." Rachel sighs in exasperation. "If one of you doesn't unlock the door in a minute, I'm going to do it myself." She reaches out for the keys dangling in Blaine's grasp, and that's all the motivation Kurt needs.

"Back off, Berry." Kurt feels his stomach do a little flip as his fingers curl around the cool metal of their future, and in no time at all he has the door flung wide and is leading the way.

"Let's go downstairs," Rachel pipes up. "I want to take another look at the kitchen."

Kurt turns to her, eyes wide. "When did you…" he tails off as he spots a sheepish looking Blaine trying to appear inconspicuous. "Co-conspirators, eh? I'm sure I should be mad at the pair of you sneaking around behind my back like that, but," Kurt pauses to take in his surroundings, "who am I kidding. Thank you." And he follows this up by dragging the pair of them into another hug.

"Kitchen," Rachel pipes up in the midst of the squash, and Kurt pulls back, eyeing her in amusement.

"I never realised you had such a thing for granite worktops, Rach."

Rachel just smiles and gives what she obviously thinks is a sly wink in Blaine's direction. Kurt can't help but wonder how the hell she managed to keep a secret of this enormity quiet for any length of time – she has the best of intentions, but discretion is really not one of Rachel's many qualities. However, he lets her have her moment, and follows without further protest as they head downstairs.

The champagne bucket and flutes waiting for them on the counter top are explanation enough of Rachel's eagerness. "You?" Kurt questions, with a glance at Blaine.

"Actually, it's from Jesse and me," Rachel says before Blaine has time to respond. And when Kurt turns to look at her, he sees her tucked closely into Jesse's side, holding his arm close, and she looks happier than he's seen her in a long time, so any slightly barbed remarks he might have been planning to make die on his tongue.

"Well, thank you, then," is all he says with a nod at Jesse that is returned instantly.

"Now, hurry up and get that bottle open," Rachel says, the usual officiousness creeping its way back into her tone. "Jesse and I have reservations at two."

"Well, why didn't you say?" Kurt's tone is heavy on the sarcasm, but as usual it's wasted completely. He turns instead to Blaine. "You definitely get the honours this time."

This time Blaine doesn’t argue, and moments later they're all clutching glass flutes full of crisp bubbly champagne.

"To Kurt and Blaine," Rachel pipes up, raising her glass in the air and causing a little to slop over the sides. "And their new home. May you both be very happy here."

Kurt relaxes into the snug hold of Blaine's arm around his waist, and can't help but think that if his smile gets any wider, his face may very well split.

"And the baby," Jesse adds, uncharacteristically quiet.

"Yes!" And there goes some more of Rachel's champagne – Kurt gives pause to wonder how many bottles she's had beforehand. "To Kurt and Blaine, and baby makes three!"

Her glass quickly drained, while others are politely sipping, Rachel places her flute on the counter – thankfully with a little more grace this time. "As much as I'd love to stay and share this wonderful moment with you, we have dinner reservations that just won't wait." She turns to Jesse and gives him a meaningful glance. Kurt is amused to see how quickly he deposits his glass on the counter also.

Then in a flurry of air kisses and promises to visit really soon, they're gone.

"Alone at last," Blaine says wryly, between sips of his champagne.

"I still can't believe this is ours," Kurt says, and he sounds almost dazed as he trails his fingers over the smooth marble. "I never thought…" He steps closer to Blaine and removes the glass from his hand. "You're amazing, you know that, right?"

"I may have been told once or twice," Blaine agrees, and his smile crinkles the corners of his eyes in a way that makes Kurt want to kiss him forever.

"How did we afford it though?" The last thing Kurt wants to do is poke holes in his dreams, but he has to be sure it's for real.

The smile fades a little on Blaine's face for a moment and Kurt immediately wishes he could pull the words back.

"I went to see my parents," is all Blaine says, but it's enough. The fact they have the house is indication of the outcome of the visit – the look in Blaine's eyes is a sign of what it cost to get there.

"I love you so much." Kurt doesn't even wait for Blaine to reply before he's pulling him close and kissing every available inch of his face. "I don’t know what I did to deserve you."

"You just got lucky I guess." The teasing tone in Blaine's voice is a firm indicator that he doesn't want to take that conversation any further, so Kurt rolls with it.

"You're going to get a whole lot luckier tonight, let me tell you."

"Why wait till tonight? We've got a entire new house to christen."

"No time," Kurt says, pulling back with a shake of his head. "I need to start measuring up, and planning colour schemes, and we'll need to get new furniture." Kurt pauses and takes a deep breath. "We've got less than a month until the baby is due; there's no way we're going to be ready in time."

Blaine smiles his infuriatingly calm smile. "It'll be fine," he says, and presses a kiss to the tip of Kurt's nose. "I've got plenty of people lined up to help us move. And you always did say Finn would be good for moving furniture."

***
"You didn't tell me he'd be here." Finn glares at Blaine over the dresser they're currently manhandling upstairs.

Blaine casts a quick glance around, looking for the apparent stranger Finn finds so offensive. He sees nothing. "Who?" he asks finally, face scrunched in confusion.

"Jesse St James," Finn hisses, and takes his eye off the task at hand long enough to clip the nearest door frame.

"Watch that paintwork, Finn!"

Finn looks surprised that Kurt is able to identify him as the culprit from another room. Blaine is not. "Sorry," he shouts in the direction of the hallway – it's much easier to just agree with Kurt when he's stressed, and moving house certainly seems to cause that. Then he turns back to Finn. "I never thought to mention it to be honest. I didn't realise it would be a big deal."

"Well, it is." The sound of Rachel's laughter from the next room just causes the scowl on Finn's face to deepen.

Finally settling the dresser down in its Kurt-ordained spot in their bedroom, Blaine looks at Finn warily. "Is this about Rachel?" he asks tentatively, feeling he's about to get involved in a situation he'd very much like to avoid, however fond of giving advice he might be.

"What?" Finn drops his end of the dresser down a little sharply, and there's a moment where they both hold their breaths waiting for Kurt's admonishment. When it doesn't come, Finn turns to him, wide-eyed. "Why would you say that?"

Blaine shrugs. "I know there's history there, between the three of you; Kurt told me what he did. But that was years ago, and you and Rachel haven't been together for a long time."

Finn just stares back at him for what feels like the longest time, and a knot of worry forms in Blaine's belly that he might have caused offence. Finally, Finn lets out a sigh. "Me and Rachel were together for a long time; I just don't want to see her get hurt by him again. He's an ass. But I love my wife."

Blaine holds up his hands in a placating manner. "Fair enough. I never meant to cause offence, and I'm sorry we didn't tell you he was going to be here. If it's any consolation I don't think Kurt was too keen on it, but we need all the help we can get."

"No worries." Finn rubs awkwardly at the back of his neck. "I'll just try and stay out of his way."

"When you two are quite finished gossiping like old women." Kurt bursts into the room, clipboard in hand, and glares at them both meaningfully. "Finn, go downstairs and help. There's a pile of furniture that needs to go into the dining room – here's the map of where it all needs to go." He tears the top sheet off his pad and waves it at Finn with a flourish. Finn takes it with a look of deep confusion and Blaine struggles to keep a straight face.

"I don't know what you're smiling about." Kurt turns to Blaine now, gesturing with his pen. "I need you to go down to the kitchen and stop Dad from lifting anything heavier than a mug of coffee. I know he wants to help, but I've got enough on my plate organising this without worrying whether my father's going to give himself a heart attack moving the patio furniture."

Blaine just nods his agreement. He knows that what's driving Kurt's behaviour today is a desire to make everything perfect – for them – so he can't find it in himself to do anything else. Finn, on the other hand, now has a slightly mutinous expression on his face.

Blaine gives him a slap on the shoulder. "Come on then, I guess there's no peace for the wicked." And with the application of a little gentle pressure, he steers Finn towards the door.

"But I don't see why I have to do all the heavy lifting," Finn mutters. "I'm not—"

Blaine cuts him off with a nudge as they exit the room – he doesn't have to see Kurt to know he's working himself up to another tirade in response to his brother's complaints. "It's fine," he murmurs. "We'll head down to the kitchen. I snuck a few beers in the fridge earlier; they should be nice and cold by now."

Finn turns to him with an almost adoring look. "Dude," he says, and raises his fist for a bump. Blaine's a proper gentleman and doesn't want to leave him hanging, so he obliges in return.

"Blaine Anderson-Hummel! Don't think I didn't hear that."

The sound of Kurt's shout follows them as they head down the stairs, but since he doesn't actually forbid it, Blaine figures they're good.

Carole's busily arranging the kitchen cupboards when they get down there, and she seems so happy in her work – humming to herself – that Blaine hasn't the heart to point out that Kurt will only rearrange it to his tastes after she's done. But then he spots her referring to a sheet with very familiar handwriting on it, and he can't help smiling to himself – Kurt really is leaving nothing to chance.

Blaine gives her a quick smile and then glances round for Burt – he spots him outside eyeing up the aforementioned patio furniture – and heads out to join him.

As the patio door slides back, Burt looks up guiltily and holds up his hands. "I wasn't going to move anything."

Blaine grins at him because he's known Burt Hummel long enough to know how he works. "Really?"

Burt crosses his arms over his chest and huffs, and in that moment the resemblance between father and son strikes Blaine forcefully. "Well, maybe I was thinking that this chair would look better over there. Get a bit more sunshine on it." He pauses then and looks at Blaine hopefully. "Want to give me a hand shifting it?"

"More than my life's worth," Blaine replies. "Yours too, for that matter."

Blaine's relieved when Burt just laughs ruefully and doesn't take offence. Sure he's had years of Kurt giving him endless strictures on what he can and can't do, but Blaine's never really felt comfortable doing it – he's not his father, after all.

"You may have a point there," Burt agrees. "Kurt would know even without seeing – I swear that kid has eyes in the back of his head. And Carole's nearly as bad," he finishes up with a nod towards the kitchen where his wife is still merrily organising.

There's silence then for a moment as both men take in their surroundings – this is still by far Blaine's favourite part of the house.

"Nice spot you've got here," Burt says after a moment. "Reckon you could get a pretty decent barbecue in that bit at the back there."

Blaine hmms in response and then adds, "I was thinking of putting a sandpit down there."

"Probably more appropriate," Burt agrees. "Kurt's never been a big fan of barbecues anyway."

They fall into silence again. It's comfortable enough, but Blaine can't help thinking that there's something going unsaid. And then, it isn't.

"So, Kurt tells me you went back to see your folks. How was it?"

Blaine tenses. This is definitely not a subject he wants to discuss – even Kurt had practically had to prise the details of his trip out of him. But this is Burt Hummel, a man Blaine idolises, and there really is no polite way he can tell him to mind his own business. So instead, he shrugs. "You know."

Burt nods. "I've a fair idea. Rather hear it from you though."

Blaine gives a sigh and sinks down into one of the rattan chairs – it's a lot comfier than it looks. He rubs one hand over his face, trying to clear his thoughts and buy himself some time. "My dad," he starts finally. "He's not like you, you know?"

Burt does know. Blaine's let enough titbits of his family life slip over the years that he'd be hard pushed not to. "It took a lot of guts going there. You didn't have to."

"But I did have to." Blaine sits bolt upright in his seat now, feeling something like anger build within him. These last few weeks he's tucked his feelings away safe, to be examined at a much later date, but Burt seems intent on that being now. "They're my parents," he says bitterly. "What does it say about them that people call be brave just for visiting them?"

Burt takes off his hat and scratches his head. "I don't know, kid. I wish I did."

"It's not even that he doesn't love me." Blaine rakes one hand through his hair, undoubtedly messing his hair even further. "I know he does, somewhere, deep under all the ignorance and fear. But it's just not enough, is it?"

Burt steps a little closer and rests one hand heavily on Blaine's shoulder. "He say something to you?"

Blaine makes no attempt to contain the bitter laugh that follows. "When doesn't he?" Then he shakes his head to clear the feelings away; he doesn't want to become consumed by them. It would just be giving his father more control over his life than he deserves. "I don't know why I'm surprised. He made his feelings about us having children very clear last Thanksgiving. I knew he didn't agree with it, but I just thought… Now it's actually happening, you know?"

"Maybe once she's born?" Burt squeezes his shoulder firmly and Blaine's is grateful for the grounding touch.

"No, I don't think so. Maybe Mum, but not Dad. And even if he did, I'm not sure I'd want someone around her that will always make her feel just a little bit less worthwhile than everyone else."

Neither one of them draws attention to the fact that Blaine's really talking far more about himself than his unborn child – but it doesn't have to be verbally acknowledged for each of them to know the other is thinking it.

"I don't know what to tell you," Burt admits, reluctance clear in his voice. "The man's an ass; I've thought so for a long time. Look, Blaine, I know I'm not your father, but I love you just as much as if you were my own kid. I'm proud of you, and I can't think of anyone I'd rather have raising my granddaughter."

Blaine doesn't even bother to hide the tears in his eyes as he looks up at Burt. It takes a moment or two for him to get his emotions under control before he can speak. When he does finally manage it, it's to say a very shaky, "Thank you." Followed by an equally emotional, "That means the world to me."

"Come here." Burt smiles at him warmly, arms open wide, and his meaning's unmistakeable.

Blaine doesn't need telling twice. He's an incredibly tactile person, and yes he has Kurt for touches and kisses and that kind of physical intimacy, but this is different. This is something he's been starved of from his own family for a long time. He scrambles out of his chair and all but throws himself into Burt's arms. They may not share DNA, but if the whole adoption process has taught Blaine anything, it's that biology does not make a parent – and Burt Hummel is the only real father he's ever known.

***
"I really don't see why we have to go to this," Burt grumbles, and fidgets as Carole adjusts his tie. She shoots him a warning look and he stills instantly.

"It's Rachel's opening night, Dad," Kurt says with the tone of one who has been over this numerous times. "It's a big deal for her."

"We want to show our support, Burt," Carole chips in. "She might not be with Finn anymore, but Rachel's practically family."

"I just thought we could spend our last night together."

"And we will," Kurt says. "We've got seats right next to each other."

"Not what I meant," Burt says gruffly. "We don't get to see nearly enough of you and Blaine, and it would be nice to spend our last night here with you, not in some dark theatre, dressed up like a dog's dinner." Burt finished up by running one finger under the collar of his shirt and tugging pointedly.

A gently slap from Carole to his hand put a stop to that. "We'll be back before you know it. There are only a few weeks until the baby's due. Besides, Finn can't keep running the shop on his own."

"I guess." Burt reluctantly slips his arms into the jacket his wife is holding out for him. "Still don't see why we have to wear these fancy clothes." He turns to Kurt. "No kilt this evening?"

Kurt rolls his eyes. "That was one time, thirteen years ago. Let it go, Dad."

Burt chuckles and turns away, muttering something under his breath about Tony Orlando.

"Well, I think it's a great idea," Carole says, and does a little twirl in front of them. "How do I look?"

"Beautiful," Blaine replies instantly, and takes her hand to kiss.

Carole laughs girlishly, a flush on her cheeks, and Kurt has to resist the temptation to roll his eyes. Blaine has always been quite the charmer, and it's definitely a skill that's growing with age.

"You look lovely, Carole," Kurt says, and he really does mean it. Her outfit is not quite what he would have chosen for her, but it's flattering, age-appropriate, and there's not a hint of stonewash denim in sight.

"I can see I'm going to have to keep my eye on you tonight," Burt says, moving closer and slipping an arm around his wife's waist. "Don't want any of these city blokes getting any ideas."

Kurt shakes his head at his father's antics before turning to Blaine. "Did you book the cab?" he asks, with a glance at the clock. "I'll never hear the end of it if we're late."

"Relax," Blaine says, handing Carole her wrap. "It'll be here any minute, I'm sure."

"You boys won't be able to do this for much longer," Burt says suddenly. "Once that baby's here it'll be diaper changes and night feeds for you both – none of this Broadway malarkey."

"Yes, thank you, Dad. We're well aware of that." Kurt turns to Blaine with a small smile. "And it's more than worth the sacrifice."

Blaine returns the smile, and says, "Absolutely."

Burt smiles at Kurt then and gives a gentle pat to his shoulder. "It really is," he agrees.

The loud honk of a horn shatters the moment. "Taxi's here," Carole announces quite unnecessarily.

"Come on, let's go." Kurt chivvies. "Have you all got everything you need? Because we're not turning back."

"We're good to go, Kurt, now stop panicking." Burt places one hand in the small of his wife's back and guides her towards the door.

Kurt turns to Blaine and finds him standing there smiling back at him. "Ready to enjoy one of our last nights of freedom?" he asks, offering his arm.

"Definitely." Kurt gives a decisive nod – he may not have followed his original dream onto Broadway, but his love for it hasn't lessened any. "Shall we?"

They link arms and head towards the door. It takes a moment of shuffling to get them both out of it without letting go, but soon they are on the top step, Blaine turning to lock the door behind them.

Just as the key turns, the phone begins to ring shrilly in the hallway behind them. Blaine pauses and looks to Kurt in question.

"Leave it." Kurt gives a dismissive wave of his hand. "It's probably Rachel demanding to know where we are."

Blaine bites uncertainly on his bottom lip – a habit Kurt has no intention of ever trying to cure him off; it does wonderful things to his insides. "I should probably get it, just in case."

Kurt shakes his head as he watches Blaine reopen the door and head into the hallway – it's like Blaine's manners won't allow him to leave the call unanswered.

It's a relatively short conversation; for that, Kurt is glad. He wasn't kidding when he said Rachel would throw a fit if they were late. He loves her dearly, but no one can throw a tantrum quite like that girl. But when Blaine steps back outside and his hand is rather obviously trembling as he closes the door, Kurt feels his chest clench in panic.

"Blaine? What is it?"

Blaine turns to him, eyes wide with something Kurt can't quite get a reading on. "It's the baby," he says hoarsely.

Kurt feels like someone has reached into his chest and ripped out several vital organs. He grabs hold of Blaine's hands tightly. "What do you mean? Is something wrong?"

"Is everything all right, you two?" Burt calls from the sidewalk.

"Not now, Dad," Kurt replies shortly, but his eyes remain fixed on Blaine's the whole time. "Tell me," he demands.

"The baby's coming," Blaine says after what feels like the longest wait in the entirety of Kurt's life. "That was Belinda – Claire's gone into labour."

A breath Kurt didn't realise he'd been holding rushes out of him with a whoosh. "Are you joking?" he demands, tugging on Blaine's hand as he does so. "Because that's not even funny, Blaine. She's not due for at least another two weeks, and who knows what kind of complications that could lead to." He pauses then for a deep breath. "You're joking, right?"

But Blaine shakes his head. "Not joking," he murmurs, and pulls Kurt in close. "We're about to become parents."

"Oh my God. Oh my God." Kurt pulls back from Blaine, gesturing wildly with his hands. "It's too soon. It can't be happening. We have to get to the hospital right now; what if something happens and we're not there?"

"That won't happen," Blaine says, placing his hands on Kurt's shoulders and then smoothing them down his arms. "They've only just taken her in. We've got ages yet."

"Blaine? Kurt? Is everything okay?" Carole is standing at the bottom of the steps watching them both warily.

"The baby's coming," Blaine tells her with a dopey grin on his face that kind of makes Kurt want to shake him, because it's too early.

"Well, what the hell are you standing around for then?" Burt hollers through the open cab window. "Get in; we've got a hospital to get to."

Just a little dazed, Kurt lets himself be led down the steps and into the cab. It's only when the door slams shut behind them that he comes back to his surroundings. "Maybe we should get you two another cab," he says, looking between his Dad and Carole. "We're going to have to head to the hospital first, and you might miss the start."

Burt huffs loudly and looks at his son in disbelief. "If you think I'm going to sit watching some fancy show while my granddaughter's being born, you've lost your mind." He shifts in his seat then. "Driver, we need to get to the hospital, fast. Which one is it?" he demands, turning back to them.

"Beth Israel," Blaine answers promptly, which is a good thing because Kurt suddenly realises he can't remember—it's like the news has wiped the ability to think from his mind.

Burt finishes his instructions and then they're off. Fortunately rush hour traffic is over, and though it's still reasonably busy, they move at a fair pace, and the hospital is not that far. Kurt spends the journey gripping Blaine's hands so tightly that his knuckles turn almost white, and he stares out of the window – afraid to make eye contact with anyone lest his emotions overtake him. And all the while he finds himself praying to a god he doesn't believe in, because there's no way anyone would be so cruel as to let them get this close only to snatch it all away.

A hand on his knee and a soft voice calling his name penetrate Kurt's mind eventually. Carole is watching him carefully, a faint smile on her face. It's only then that he remembers she's a nurse; she'll know.

"It's too soon," is all he says, but it's enough.

Carole squeezes his knee. "Oh honey, everything will be fine. Babies are born a bit early all the time – never does them any harm. Finn was almost a month early and look at him now."

"Really?" Kurt asks, because he doesn't quite think he could bear it if she was just saying that to make him feel better.

"Really," Carole replies.

That word causes the tension to flee from Kurt's body – well, most of it anyway. He leans further into Blaine's side, then takes their clasped hands and raises it to his lips for a kiss. "It's going to be okay," he murmurs.

"It really is," Blaine agrees, and presses a soft kiss to his cheek.

***
Blaine can't remember a moment in his life when he's felt this terrified. Not coming out to his parents, finally acting on his feelings for Kurt, not even his pre-wedding nerves compared to the gut-wrenching fear he feels right now.

Because one false move, one trip, one anything, and the consequences for the tiny, precious bundle he's currently holding don't bear thinking about.

Kurt's hovering by his side – alternating between excitement, nerves, and sheer adoration – as they make their way into the waiting room, where they know two very impatient grandparents await.

As if to bear out the truth of that, Burt's on his feet before they've even made their way through the door. They walk slowly into the room – Blaine genuinely is worried about dropping her; he can't even begin to imagine how Finn managed this and kept Christopher intact.

"Is everything okay?" Burt glances nervously from the baby to Blaine and then over to Kurt.

Blaine's unable to tear his eyes away from his daughter – his daughter – for more than a second, gazes back down at her and murmurs, "She's perfect. Ten tiny little fingers and ten tiny little toes."

"She has thumbs too," Kurt points out, as a perfect little hand wraps around his finger.

"Hush you," Blaine says, and leans down to press the softest of kisses against her fuzz-covered head.

"She certainly doesn't look any the worse for her early arrival." Carole reaches out and strokes a finger along the baby's cheek. "How's Claire doing?"

"Tired," Blaine replies in between cooing noises. "And emotional. But I suppose that's only to be expected. But she's okay physically." He pauses then and finally tears his gaze away. "Would you like to hold her?"

"I'd love to," Carole says, "but I think we'd better let Grampa go first."

Burt clearly doesn't need telling twice, because he's there, arms outstretched, cradling his granddaughter as though she were the most precious thing ever – and as far as Blaine's concerned, she is.

The second Burt takes her, Blaine's arms feel unbearably empty. Which is incredibly strange, because he's only held her for ten minutes at most, but already he is struggling to remember what it felt like before. Now he understands why Kurt had been so reluctant to relinquish her. He doesn't have long to think about it though, because Carole is dragging him and Kurt into a bone-crushing hug.

"I'm so happy for you both," she chokes, and Blaine can see there are tears in her eyes when she pulls back. And if Blaine's honest, he's not too far from tears himself – ever since he took that phone call earlier, he's been running on pure adrenalin, and now it's all over, he just feels kind of a wreck. A happy, fulfilled, emotional wreck, but a wreck nonetheless.

"Am I too late? Did I miss it?"

There's a loud bang as the waiting room door flies open and into the wall behind to admit Rachel Berry, dressed to the nines in her opening night finery.

The moment she catches sight of the baby, she lets out a gasp and clasps her hands to her mouth.

"Rachel, what are you doing here?" Kurt frowns at her in confusion.

"I got Blaine's text," she replies distractedly, her gaze fixed firmly on the small pink bundle in Burt's arms.

"But your party? It's your big opening."

The look that Rachel gives Kurt then is scornful at best. "There isn't anything in the world I would miss this for," she says, and her eyes flash with such emotion that Blaine believes every word.

It seems to satisfy Kurt too. "Would you like a hold?" he asks, as he takes his daughter carefully from Burt's reluctant arms.

Rachel's eyes are wide and Blaine can see the shine of tears in them. "Can I?" she asks softly, almost as if she doesn't believe she's being given the chance.

There's a part of Blaine that wants to say no, that wants to take his daughter far away from people with grabby hands who want to take her from them for however short a period it may be. Fortunately, his larger, more rational side wins out. "Of course," he says instead. "She needs to get to know her Auntie Rachel, after all."

Kurt hands the baby over carefully and with a flash of reluctance that Blaine is relieved to see – at least he's not the only one. "Just be careful of her head," he instructs sharply.

It's a sign of Rachel's excitement, or immediate devotion to the baby, that she doesn't bite back at Kurt's command – instead simply takes his instruction to heart and cradles their daughter so carefully, as if she's afraid of breaking her. And Blaine knows exactly how that feels.

Unable to bear the distance any longer, Blaine crosses the few short feet to Rachel's side. He stands closely and reaches out to stroke the soft hair covering his daughter's head.

"She's beautiful," Rachel murmurs.

"She really is," Blaine agrees. He knows most people think that about their own children anyway, but he has never laid eyes on a more beautiful person than this little one – except possibly Kurt.

"She has your hair," Rachel points out with obvious amusement and the scant dark curls. Realistically she gets that from Claire, but Blaine can't help but be pleased at that small connection, however slight.

"So have you boys come up with a name yet?" Carole asks.

Blaine looks over to Kurt. They share a soft smile, an unspoken conversation, and Blaine gives a brief nod. Kurt takes a deep breath and turns to address his father more than anyone.

"Her name is Elizabeth Rachel Anderson-Hummel. Liza for short." At Blaine's pointed cough, Kurt adds, "That part is still under discussion."

Burt lets out a laugh at that and reaches out to ruffle his son's hair. "She'd be so proud of you," he says, voice full of emotion. "Both of you."

Apparently the emotion of the occasion is too much for Rachel, because she turns her face against Blaine's shoulder and sniffles loudly. Blaine places one hand in the small of her back and rubs gentle circles.

"You might not be related to her by blood, Rach," Kurt says softly. "But we wanted you to know you're as important to us and to Elizabeth as if you were."

Rachel's sniffles turn into a full-blown sob then and Kurt wraps an arm around her shoulder.

"Would you like me to take Elizabeth? Give you three a moment together?"

Blaine smiles gratefully at Carole. He loves Rachel dearly, and wants nothing more than to give her a big hug right now, but he'd be much happier knowing his daughter was in the arms of someone a little less highly strung.

Carole eases Elizabeth out of Rachel's arms and smiles at her whimpers of protests. "Shhh, baby," she coos. "It's okay."

Seconds later Rachel has pulled both Kurt and Blaine into a fierce hug – she has surprising strength for someone so tiny. "I love you two so much. You have no idea what this means to me."

"We might have a small idea," Blaine says teasingly, and feels the breath rush back into his lungs as Rachel releases her grip.

"You two are going to make the most amazing parents." There's a wistfulness about her smile that Kurt picks up on as well.

"There's still time for you," he says softly. "Don't give up hope."

Rachel exhales dismissively. "I don't have time for pregnancy and all that rubbish – I have my career to think of. Besides," she pauses here for what Blaine is sure is dramatic effect, "what do I need children of my own for, when I have a perfect little niece to spoil and indulge her every whim?"

"There will be no spoiling, Rachel Berry," Kurt says firmly, in his most authoritative tone. But Rachel simply brushes him off with a dismissive wave of her hand.

"Of course not," she says airily. "Now," she continues in the tone of one speaking thoughts out loud. "What age do children start riding ponies?"

Blaine takes one look at Kurt's horrified face and Rachel's thoughtful one and can't keep down the laughter bubbling in his throat. Burt and Carole are experiencing similar problems it seems, because soon the waiting room rings with the sound of their laugher.

Little Elizabeth is not amused, however, and quickly makes her displeasure known. Blaine quickly scoops his daughter from Carole's arms and rocks her gently back and forth. Kurt crosses to his side and peeks at the baby nervously. "What's wrong?"

"I think she's just a bit startled. She's not used to all this noise."

Kurt lets out a sigh of relief, Blaine's words having put his fears at rest. But then he gives voice to another very real one. "Blaine," he says very quietly, almost whispering into his husband's ear. "She's going to turn our daughter into a mini-Rachel. What are we going to do?"

Blaine leans forward and presses a slow kiss to Kurt's lips. "It'll be fine," he murmurs, pulling away. "Whatever happens, we'll face it together."

Kurt's silent for a moment, obviously thinking. Finally, he looks from his daughter to his husband, love shining in his eyes. "Like a family," he says in a tone of almost wonder.

Blaine knows where that tone comes from – there was a part of him that never thought they'd make it to this point. So he kisses Kurt again and then leans down to peck a soft kiss to his daughter's cheek. "Like a family," he agrees.