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A Veiled Memory Painted Across the Sea

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I can do this. I can do this. In the last few weeks, those four words had become his silent mantra as this day had slowly come closer. His family needed the money and Kurt was willing to sacrifice a small piece of himself to help those he loved. The deal was simple—the agency had made that clear—for the sum total of his father’s debt, Kurt would become a surrogate for a stranger’s child. It wasn’t the ideal of situations, actually in Kurt’s mind it was the exact opposite. He had always dreamed of meeting the right man, marrying, then settling down and having a family. But his father was ill and the money was desperately needed for their family—his stepmother and stepbrother included. And there was no way that Kurt could pay the debt back on what little he made annually as a private tutor. So when this opportunity had presented itself, Kurt had jumped at it, knowing that he couldn’t look a gift horse in the mouth.

 

As for his family knowing about the deal, Kurt had lied—telling them he had found new employment with a good family for a year. It would allow him time to conceive and give birth to a little life that he wouldn’t be allowed to keep. Although, it hurt his heart to think that he would care and provide shelter for nine months to baby, but would never be allowed to keep it. It wasn’t allowed, the mere thought of his fantasizing about keeping this child would not be tolerated —the agency had made that abundantly clear to him. He had signed a contract and was bound to follow it to the letter.

 

Wiping the tears from his eyes, Kurt blinked against the harsh light of the burning fire. It was the only light source in the room; it was how it had to be. Kurt wasn’t allowed to see the face of the man whose child he would bare—the agency believed that it was better that way. Kurt’s hands trembled as he smoothed the crease in his pants; his hands were clammy and the first drops of sweat were just beginning to form along the collar of his tailored shirt.

 

I can do this. He thought to himself, and he could and he would. Never mind what happened to his heart or his body when everything was said and done; this deal was about his father…about his family. For once in his life, Kurt vowed that he would selfless and what could be more a selfless act than selling his ability to have children for the right sum.

 

Straightening his shoulders, Kurt turned and glanced towards the bed where it sat a few feet from him. Tonight, he would be visited for the first night of a contractual seven. Kurt would have week with the stranger in hopes of falling pregnant. And if it took, he would live out his pregnancy in a nice home in the country under the watchful eyes of midwives and the agency, of course. It was only a year out of his life and it was a small price to pay in Kurt’s mind. And besides, it wasn’t as though he couldn’t have children later on with the man of his choosing.

 

Kurt smiled faintly to himself as he thought that there were worst locations to lose his virginity at. The inn was almost picturesque in its design—nestled along the rocks of a cliff, facing out into the vast churning waters of the ocean. If Kurt had wanted too, he could believe that this was his honeymoon, for the daylight hours were his to do as he wished, but when night fell, he had a duty to perform…some would argue what he was experiencing was no different than an actual honeymoon with a spouse.

 

The creak of the bedroom door dragged Kurt from his thoughts. The moment was here and Kurt knew that he couldn’t back out of this…his family needed the money and it was a small price to pay if it meant saving them all from ruin. Wiping sweaty palms on the leg of his trousers, the young man turned towards the door, anxious to see, to know what fate had in-store for him. Kurt snorted, unable to stop the sound as his mind conjured the image of an odious man for his mind’s eye; it would just be his luck if fate played a cruel trick in the form of a fat, old, and balding man instead of a man in his prime—young, handsome, and fit.

 

As the door opened wider, the fire cast a dark shadow over the face of the man, and what a man he was. Even in the dim lighting, Kurt could make the man’s broad shoulders which seemed to take up the whole width of the door. Breathing deeply, the tutor took a step back as the man fully entered the room and closed the door behind him.

 

“I don’t bite, honest, unless it’s your predilection.” The other man’s voice was rough, one fitting a hard laborer rather than a wealthy gentleman. Kurt sputtered, stunned at man’s lowbrow remark. The other man held up one hand to communicate a nonthreatening presence. “I apologize for my rudeness; I had no right to say it.” Kurt responded by giving the man a wary smile, unsure of what came next and hoping the other man would take the lead and save him some embarrassment.

 

An awkward silence fell upon the room as each man studied the other; neither one really knowing where they should go from this moment—the rules of courting didn’t apply here. It was a whole new territory to navigate, especially for the gentleman. In his youth, he had frequented brothels and knew the protocol: negotiate the price with the owner, pick the girl of your liking, and enjoy the rest of your night. And repeat, if so desired.

 

The young tutor continued to focus his attention on the other man, nervous by the man’s sheer presence. It wasn’t the man being there which made Kurt nervous; it was the butterflies Kurt had felt when at hearing the man speak for the first time. And if he was honest with himself, it was a feeling he wanted to experience again. Kurt flushed at the thought; he couldn’t recall ever having felt this way before at simply hearing a man’s voice…maybe it was caused by the flicker of the fire or the romantic air of a seaside inn. The young tutor didn’t know; but in this moment, he couldn’t be bothered to care.

 

“Do you draw?” The stranger’s voice asked, startling Kurt. Blinking in slight confusion at the question, Kurt paused, waiting for the other man to speak again, which he finally did, after a few minutes of silence. “I only ask, because I noticed the sketch pad on the table by the window.”

 

Biting his lip in embarrassment, Kurt spoke for the first time. “Sorry. Yes, I do draw. Landscapes, mainly.”

 

“Why only landscapes?” The other man asked, his voice sounding intrigued by Kurt’s answer.

 

 “I used to draw portraits of my family when I was younger, but I stopped soon after my step-brother, Finn, told me that all my people seemed to resemble deformed garden gnomes in the face.” Kurt gave a small laugh at the question. “And I’m afraid he was right. My portraits were awful. Turned out, I was much better at drawing sheep.”

 

The stranger laughed at the comment. “Well, then you are truly lucky; who doesn’t love a good landscape with some sheep?” Kurt blushed further at the compliment; although it was subtle, Kurt could hear the praise in the other man’s voice. The pair had fallen into a comfortable silence before the stranger spoke again. “My name is Noah, by the way. I don’t know if they had told you that.”

 

“No, sir, they hadn’t,” the twenty-one year old replied. “And my name is Kurt.”

 

Moving closer to the fire, the now named man took a seat on the lower ottoman set before the flickering flames. With hooded eyes, Kurt scrutinized the stranger, letting his gaze roam across the man’s fire lit face, from the slope of his jaw to the soft hair curling behind the man’s ear. Based on what he was able to see now, Kurt concluded the man’s gruff voice matched his face. Although Noah was a wealthy gentleman, Kurt could tell from the lines of his face that Noah wasn’t afraid to work, especially in the blazing noon-day sun.

 

“Come and sit with me by the fire, Kurt,” Noah requested, holding his hand out for Kurt to take, which he did. Grasping it in his own, Noah pulled him towards the other ottoman. Noah knew that if they were going to go through with his agreement, then they needed to be comfortable with one other. And he was willing to take the time to get to know this man, who was going to give him a child. On the plus side, it didn’t hurt that Noah found himself intrigued and attracted to the slim brunette with the lilting voice.

 

As the pair sat before the hearth, they found themselves falling into easy conversation, discussing their dreams, their passions, and their loves. The more they talked, the more they found themselves wishing that this could be whole and real. Yet, they both knew that more could never happen; they had lives and responsibilities outside these four walls which couldn’t include the other.

 

“You are beautiful.” Noah whispered as he reached out to brush Kurt’s bangs back from where they had fallen across his forehand. As the blush spread across his cheeks to the tips of his ears, the young tutor wasn’t sure what which had exactly caused it—Noah’s flattering remark, the feel of Noah’s touch upon his skin, or a combination of both. “Has anyone ever told you how cute you look when you blush?”

 

Kurt shook his head in response, feeling the warmth in his cheeks and ears intensify. No one had ever looked at him with the hunger he saw reflected in Noah’s brown eyes. And the feeling it created was intoxicating, but then again, it would seem everything about this man was. Kurt licked his lips and gave Noah a cheeky grin. “Is this the part where you kiss me?”

 

Noah snorted at the question before letting it drift into a deep chuckle at seeing the mischievous look upon the tutor’s face. “I think it is.” As he closed the distanced between them, Noah brought his hands up, cupping Kurt’s face as his mouth pressed against the tutor’s. Noah felt Kurt tense slightly before releasing it; taking that as a sign to continue, the dark-haired man licked at Kurt’s mouth, seeking entrance into his wet, hot cavern. Shyly, Kurt opened his mouth to the wondering appendage, letting it rub against his own a few times before finally understanding what he was supposed to do. Their tongues dueled briefly for control of the kiss prior to Kurt conceding defeat, before the kiss broke. Panting slowly as he drew in a lungful of air, Kurt rested his forehead against Noah’s, allowing himself the opportunity to stare deeply into the other man’s brown eyes.

 

Grasping Kurt’s hand in his own, Noah hauled the tutor to his feet, circling his arms around the other man’s waist so he could maneuver them towards the bed. Kurt went willingly, enjoying the closeness of the man pressed against his length. When they had reached the foot of the bed, Noah stopped, stepping back slightly in order to have space to remove his clothes. While Noah began removing his clothes, Kurt could only watch, fixated as more and more tanned skin was revealed. Shifting his eyes away from Noah’s chiseled chest, Kurt blushed when he realized he had been caught staring by Noah, who held an air of amusement. Kurt ducked his head in embarrassment, letting his eyes focus on his feet. But Noah wasn’t having any of it; hooking his finger under Kurt’s chin, he lifted, forcing Kurt to look him in the face. “You have nothing to be embarrassed about, Kurt.”

 

The tutor bit his lip in reply before surging forward in a fit of spontaneity, laying a firm kiss upon Noah’s lips. The Jewish man gave a small laugh as their lips met, happy that Kurt had decided to take an active role. Looping his arms around Kurt’s waist, Noah moved the smaller man the last remaining feet to the bed, and proceeded to push him down on the bed. As Kurt lay against the quilt covered bed, Noah allowed his eyes to roam, letting them drink in the sight of Kurt’s arousal. Smirking to himself, Noah dropped to his knees and began divesting Kurt of his boots and socks. With a kiss to Kurt’s ankles, Noah rose to his feet, hands reaching out to make quick work of Kurt’s trousers.

 

Leaving Kurt’s cotton drawers on, Noah crawled up the bed, pressing a small kiss to the side of Kurt’s knee as he inched closer to the man’s obvious arousal. With lust-filled eyes, Noah swept his eyes to the other man’s face, making sure the man wasn’t in any distress by his actions, which apparently he was if the arm flung across Kurt’s face meant anything. Sighing to himself, Noah settled on his rear, lightly straddling Kurt’s knees as he did so. Once seated, he grasped Kurt’s arm and brought it down, away from the man’s face. Kurt blinked owlishly into the dim lighting, smiling sheepish when he noticed Noah’s concerned face peering back at him. As he opened his mouth to speak, Noah stopped him with finger pressed firmly against his lips. “You’ve got nothing to be embarrassed or sorry about, Kurt. You’re gorgeous and I promise you’ll love all the things I have planned.”

 

Kurt shivered at the earnest expression upon the other man’s face; he knew from the hunger in Noah’s eyes there was no going back. That thought spurred Kurt forward, triggering him to grab Noah’s right hand and bring it towards his erection as he reddened profusely at his action. Noah chuckled at Kurt’s actions as his hand slipped inside Kurt’s smalls and closed around the straining member. Kurt shuddered when the cool hand encased itself around his heated appendage. Wanting to feel more, Kurt lifted his hips towards the sensation, silently conveying to Noah that he needed to do something…anything.

 

Noah was unable to stop the smirk spreading across his lips as he witnessed the emergence of Kurt’s wanton behavior. A brief pause, then Noah began to stroke his hand up and down the engorged shaft; his thumb caught at the mushroom’s slit, collecting the pearly fluid there before spreading it across the erection with each down stroke. As Noah’s hand worked, Kurt’s moans seemed to be growing louder and louder to the other’s man ear and it was a sound Noah liked hearing—a man unafraid to voice his pleasures. After a few more short strokes, Noah decided it was time for a change. Leaning back on his feet, Noah withdrew his hand from Kurt’s undergarment, causing Kurt to whimper at the lost of contact. Noah murmured a soothing word to the brunette before clutching the sides of Kurt’s drawers and tugging, signaling to the slim man that he needed to lift his hips. Once the garment was gone, Noah shifted further down Kurt’s legs, allowing himself the room needed to bend forward and take the straining member into his mouth.

 

Kurt gasped loudly as the wet heat engulfed him causing his eyes to roll back in his head at the new sensation. The brunette twisted his hands into the blanket as he thrust his hips up, his body seeking the hot wetness within Noah’s mouth. After a few minutes of torture, Noah stopped, letting Kurt’s cock fall from his mouth as he smirked at the ecstasy written across the man’s face.

 

“Take off your shirt.” Noah ordered with a hoarse voice. And Kurt bobbed his head in reply as his fingers scrambled to push the little pewter discs through their holes.

 

Once the shirt was undone, Kurt rose on his elbows and pulled the shirt off, tossing it over the side of the bed before laying back down. After the brunette was settled again, Noah grinned as he pushed off the bed to retrieve a small glass jar from his coat pocket. With the vial in hand, he crawled back onto the bed, returning to his spot straddling Kurt’s lower legs. Dropping the vial beside Kurt’s hip, Noah placed a chaste kiss there before taking Kurt’s erection back into his mouth. Noah smiled around the appendage when he felt the pads of Kurt’s fingertips caress his brow, carding into his hairline and twisting into the short strands, as Noah puffed his cheeks out and flicked his tongue along the underside of Kurt’s cock at its head.

 

When the brunette’s cries became ragged, Noah’s hand fished around blindly for the vial before clasping it in his hand. Never loosing focus, he managed to uncork the small bottle, drizzling some onto his fingertips before reaching down to brush them along Kurt’s puckered hole. Kurt’s breath hitched as he felt one of the digits press against his opening; feeling the man tense, Noah doubled his efforts on pleasuring Kurt with his mouth, attempting to take the brunette’s mind off what Noah was doing. Pushing a slick finger in, Noah focused on stretching the virgin hole by thrusting his finger in and out of the tight space for he had no intention of causing Kurt pain later on.

 

As his hand grew tired, Noah pulled his finger from Kurt, pouring more oil onto his fingers before inserting two of the digits into Kurt. Hissing at the slight pain he felt when the fingers entered, Kurt turned his mind away from the pain and instead tried to focus on feel of Noah’s mouth on him. Once the tutor’s tension had uncurled once more, Noah resumed his stretching, scissoring his fingers within the hole, preparing it to take the size of his girth. Thrusting the fingers further into Kurt, Noah’s pads brushed against the little bundle of nerves which he knew he would find. Kurt’s body jerked at the new sensation causing Noah to release the other man’s cock and smirk.

 

“You like that.” Noah asked as he brushed his fingers against the nerves again.

 

“Y-yeah.” Kurt stammered, thrusting his hips, trying to urge the fingers deeper. “Please, more.”

 

Noah grinned at the request. “Don’t worry, I’ll give you more.” He told Kurt before pulling his fingers out. Kurt whined at the lost, but Noah quickly shushed him as he leaned across the man and grabbed one of the pillows. Setting it closer to him, he swung himself off of Kurt and sat down next to him. As Noah moved around, Kurt couldn’t stop himself from watching, especially when his eyes had been drawn to Noah’s erection as the man leaned across him. It was reddish in color, wider than Kurt’s, but around the same length. Swallowing against the dryness in his throat, Kurt licked his lips as he continued to stare at the other man’s member.

 

Catching Kurt’s eye, Noah drew it away from his appendage and back towards his face. Kurt reddened slightly at being caught, earning a grin from Noah. The Jewish man tapped Kurt on the hip as he spoke. “I need you on your stomach with your knees bent.”

 

Briefly, Kurt’s face twisted into confusion but he quickly let it go and did as the other man asked, deciding to trust that Noah knew what he was doing. When Kurt was settled on his stomach with his rear in the air, Noah took the pillow and shoved it into the space left between Kurt’s stomach and the bed. “The first time will be easier on your stomach.” Noah explained as he added more oil to his fingers before reinserting two fingers. He found Kurt’s prostate again and pushed, alternating between scissoring his fingers and playing with the little nub. When he deemed Kurt ready for more, he pulled his fingers out and quickly thrust three in. Kurt gasped at the intrusion, overwhelmed by the feeling of fullness; pushing back against Noah’s hand, Kurt begged for more as Noah’s fingers continued to massage his prostate and stretch his opening.

 

Noah watched as Kurt came apart, loving the euphoria, which came from being the one who caused it. “Soon, gorgeous, soon. I’ll give you everything you want. You’re almost there.”

 

Kurt groaned at the statement, unhappy with Noah’s words. “I-I’m ready, I promise. Oh god, please Noah.” Kurt begged, twisting his hands into the blankets to stop from grabbing at his own erection. As Noah prepared him, Kurt’s cock had been left trapped between his stomach and the pillow, neither surface giving him the friction he so desperately craved, and the softness of the pillow on his wet hot cock drove him slowly mad with need.

 

When Kurt’s pleas grew in volume, Noah finally decided that the other man was ready. Taking his fingers out one last time, he poured the last of the oil on his own erection, slicking himself up before slowly inching his way into the furrowed hole. As he entered the slimmer man, he heard Kurt let out a low moan as he bottomed out, his stomach resting against the almost translucent skin of Kurt’s rear. Noah paused, giving Kurt time to adjust to the sense of being full; as he waited, he let his fingertips caress the small of Kurt’s back in a soothing manner, hoping to give some comfort to the brunette. Finally, Kurt thrust back into Noah, showing his lover that he was ready for more.

 

With his hands hooked on either side of Kurt’s slim hips, Noah slowly drew his cock from deep inside Kurt before thrusting back in, loving the feeling of Kurt clenched tightly around him. After finding his rhythm, Noah’s thrusts became faster as he plunged into the tight hole, his cock nudging against that special spot on every up-thrust from Kurt, who seemed to be enjoying himself if the sounds falling from his lips were any indication.

 

Pausing briefly, Noah’s hands left Kurt’s body, so he could move, laying his chest on the brunette’s upper back; in his new position, Noah reached out and twisted his fingers with Kurt’s before yanking Kurt’s left ear into his mouth and nibbling it.

 

“Are you close, beautiful?” Noah whispered, his hot breath blowing across the wet shell sending shivers down Kurt’s back.

 

“S-s-so close, Noah.”

 

The Jewish man grinned unable to hold back his delight at hearing Kurt’s stutter. “Good,” Noah replied. Once he freed his right hand from Kurt’s, Noah brought it to the other man’s mouth, brushing the tips along the edge of plump lower lip. Upon feeling them on his lips, Kurt’s tongue darted out and licked.

 

“Exactly right, gorgeous.” Noah cooed. “I need you to wet them for me; I need them nice and wet.” Kurt opened his mouth to the questing fingers, his tongue twirling around them as they moved within his mouth.

 

When he was satisfied, Noah removed the digits and snaked the wet hand down to wrap around Kurt’s ignored erection. The brunette released a moan as Noah’s hand found his heated skin and pushed, silently imploring Noah to stroke. With a smug look, Noah decided to take pity and began to stroke, his hand twisting up and down the wet slick shaft. A few strokes later, Noah resumed his thrusts, slower than before but no less deep.

 

The sensation was overwhelming for Kurt; he felt so full, and yet couldn’t seem to get enough of it. Although it was a strange awareness, he found himself craving it, wanting it to never end. Turning his head to the side, he pressed a kiss to Noah’s cheek and then his lips. This time, Kurt took charge, his tongue demanding more and more from Noah’s mouth; it was only when air became a need, did he finally break the kiss. Resting his forehead on the bed, Kurt shoved his hips backwards into Noah, encouraging him. The brunette was so close; he could sense in it his very bones.

 

Then finally, Noah thrust sharply against his prostate as he simultaneously gave his cock a hard twist, causing Kurt to explode in his hand. As he listened to Kurt’s harsh pants, Noah pressed a quick kiss to the man’s neck as he wiped his semen stained hand on the pillow. Once clean, Noah pressed one last kiss to Kurt’s neck and pulled his left hand from Kurt’s. He had given Kurt his pleasure; now it was time for Noah to take his own. With his hands back on the brunette’s hips, Noah began impelling his leaking cock into Kurt’s tight channel, chasing his own completion. He had been so close for so long, but this night was about the man beneath him, the man who would hopefully give him a child he so desperately craved, so Noah had focused the whole of his attention upon him, ensuring Kurt’s pleasure above his own. When Kurt clenched unexpectedly around him, Noah was finally pushed over the edge, shoving deep into the man as he released his seed, causing Kurt to shudder involuntarily as the hot fluid coated his channel.

 ***

 

My darling baby,

 

As I write this, I know that I have no right to call you mine, but as you grow larger and I feel you move and shift, pressing against my skin, making your presence known, I can not help but wish that you were mine to keep. Mine to see grow, yet all I can pray for is the hope I will see again one day and that your new mother  will love—

 

“Kurt?” A voice called out into the small bedroom, interrupting Kurt as he wrote to his unborn child. Closing the diary, Kurt turned to look at the woman, who had spoken. “The doctor’s here to see you.”

 

Kurt nodded in reply, not letting his face show how much he loathed the thought of having to see the doctor, let alone allowing him to touch Kurt’s person. The doctor, in question, was a horrible, nasty little man who seemed to take great pleasure in examining his patients, no matter their gender; he set Kurt at unease, one that he had never experienced before. The young man gave Miss Pillsbury a wan smile as he pushed back his chair to follow her out of his room.

 

Emma Pillsbury was one of the two women, who ran the home, which the agency employed to care and provide shelter for the surrogates during their pregnancies. The other woman was Miss Sue Sylvester, an older woman, who was loud and brash in her manners, where Miss Pillsbury was quiet and tried to offer comfort to the home’s occupants during their pregnancies and the weeks following. While a few of the other surrogates thought Miss Sylvester an uncaring woman, Kurt understood why she took the position she did with them. To give up one’s child was a terrible emotional burden on a person and Ms. Sylvester knew this, so she dished out the tough love to ensure that the surrogates followed through with the agreement and left the emotional fallout of it to Miss Pillsbury. As far as Kurt could see, the arrangement worked well for the two women as while as for the surrogates.

 

Kurt followed silently behind as Miss Pillsbury led the way through the agency home. Kurt’s room, or rather the surrogate room was on the upper floor of the two story home, with the birthing room being a small room at the back of the house on the ground floor. Although it was a tad unusual with homebirths for the birthing to take place in a room other than the mother’s own bedroom; the agency felt that it was easier on the proxies if they were firmly removed from the experience of birth—out of sight, out of mind…if you will.

 

Navigating the stairs had become a tad bit difficult for Kurt as his midsection widened; with a hand on the banister and the other on the wall, he slowly inched his way down to the first floor. Once his feet were firmly on the wooden floor, Kurt breathed a sigh of relief before letting out a slight groan when he caught sight of the doctor waiting for him in the doorway of the birthing room. Just the sight of the man was enough to turn Kurt’s stomach; Kurt didn’t like to think about what having the other man’s hands on his body did to him.

 

Pushing those thoughts away, Kurt greeted the slightly older man with polite head nod as he walked into the room and behind the privacy screen. As he disrobed for the examination, Kurt could faintly hear Miss Pillsbury and the doctor make conversation as she seated herself to wait for the examination to be concluded, as she always did. After Kurt was appropriately attired for his examine, Kurt had a seat on the table which served as the doctor’s table and waited for the doctor to join him.

 

The young tutor leaned back against the table as the older man examined him; letting his mind wander as the man’s hands poked and prodded against his exposed skin. Kurt had learn that it was better to not focus on what was happening to him; instead, he let his mind take him back to the week that brought him here. This was the only time he ever allowed himself to remember that week spent with the child’s father; the last happy time before all of this heartache. As he laid there, Kurt’s mind recalled the memories of the child’s father at the island inn—the sound of his laughter, the touch of calloused hands dancing across Kurt’s body, a mischievous look in his brown firelight eyes.

 

After what seemed like an eternity to Kurt, the older man announced the examination to be over; but took his time in leaving Kurt’s presence, forcing Kurt to dress in front of the man. Kurt could feel the beady eyes of the man on him, the gaze tracing the curve of his shoulder down to the curve of his back, stopping right before he reached the swell of his buttocks. Kurt couldn’t help but notice the irony in the situation, the trail the man’s eyes took was the same path his lover’s mouth had took. Once dressed, Kurt escaped from behind the privacy screen without a backwards glance, pausing briefly to acknowledge Miss Pillsbury’s presence as he left the room; the young father needed to get as far from that odious doctor as possible, manners be damned.

 

Once back in the safety of his room, Kurt tried to return to the diary but his heart wasn’t in it as before. Closing the diary, he returned it to its hiding place between the slates of his bed and the bed’s mattress. There was no real need to hide the book, but Kurt did it more for peace of mind than anything else. While Misses Sylvester and Pillsbury respected a proxy’s privacy, Kurt could never be too sure about the other proxies sharing the room with him, so he decided to be better safe than sorry. As he finished tucking the blankets in from where they had pulled out, Emma entered the room, closing the door softly behind her. She crossed the room and took a seat at the only table in the large bedroom. Kurt watched her movements as she entered and sat, before sinking down into the mattress at the end of his bed; Kurt had known this conversation was coming—it always happened at the end of a doctor’s visit—the doctor never talked directly to surrogates; instead he delivered any pertinent information through Miss Sylvester or Miss Pillsbury.

 

“The doctor says that you are progressing nicely; based on your timeline, your due date is a little more than 6 weeks away.” Emma told the man. She hated this part of the whole arrangement; in the early months, it was easier to have these discussions because the pregnancy was young and the delivery date was so far removed in those days. But now, it was looming and it was getting harder and harder for her to look at Kurt; Emma knew the heartbreak which was coming and it weighed heavily on her heart.

 

Kurt nodded at the news, having expected as much. The pregnancy for the most part had been uneventful once the morning sickness had subsided and the impending conclusion to this whole arrangement was imminent. “So, I should start preparing for the end, then?”

 

The corners of Emma’s lips flatten at his question, forming a grim line across her face. Kurt wasn’t like most of the surrogates who came through this home; where most surrogates clung to this idea of an eleventh-hour reprieve and their child would be theirs to keep, Kurt had come into the home with a not quite detachment from the whole process. Emma suspected Kurt was feeling more than he was showing and she felt for the young man. Yet, it was he who had made this decision and Emma could do nothing for him but offer a kind ear and a soft word if and when they were called for.

 

Emma nodded at the question, unable to think or even voice a proper response to the young man. At her nod, Kurt’s eyes stared into hers for a brief moment before shifting towards the bedroom door then back at the bedspread, where his hand was hidden—clutching tightly at the blanket. Taking his gesture as her queue to leave, Miss Pillsbury rose from the chair, crossing the wooden floor on quick feet and disappeared out into the corridor.

 

Kurt breathed a sigh of relief once the door closed behind Miss Pillsbury; falling back on bed, he took the time to simply stare at the ceiling as thousands of thoughts rushed around in his head. He had six weeks to say good-bye to his child and then try and return to his old life; rationally Kurt knew that this moment was going to happen when he agreed to the arrangement, but it didn’t change how he felt about it all. If he was completely honest, he had never expected to grow so attached to his baby…this little creature he had yet to meet but loved so much already.

 

Pushing those thoughts aside for a moment, Kurt stretched his arm out and grabbed his pocket watch from the bed table to check the time; it had just gone half pass eleven meaning lunch would be on the table in little over half an hour. Kurt groaned to himself at the thought of having to navigate the stairs again; yet if he thought about, the meeting with the doctor had left him feeling nauseas and just the idea of food turned his stomach.

 

The young proxy wasn’t sure how long he laid there; lightly dozing in the warm, sun-filled room; but all too soon, Miss Sylvester’s voice roused him. “Hummel! Are you coming down for lunch or not?”

 

With some difficulty, Kurt managed to push himself up from the bed to look at the older woman in the face. Her face was twisted in annoyance; she hated having to come up stairs to deal with the proxies, which is why she usually left all of the interactions to Miss Pillsbury. But when she did, her voice was loud and her face was annoyed. Miss Sylvester returned Kurt’s gaze with one of hers, biding her time until the man flinched—they always did; but Kurt didn’t, not this time at least. “No, Miss Sylvester, I’m not all that hungry.”

 

The older woman rolled her eyes at his reply, even more annoyed that she had come all the way up here for nothing. With a glare at the young man before she left the room, Kurt could hear her grumbling under her breath as she closed the door. Once the door was shut again, Kurt heaved his pregnant-heavy body from the bed and crossed towards the desk; it had been some weeks since his last letter home and he knew his father, Burt, wished he would write home more. Yet, Kurt couldn’t help but feel guilt with every carefully formed lie he wrote; he had never openly deceived his father before this, but this arrangement meant for the next ten months, his life was nothing but a lie. With a heavy heart, Kurt began to write.

 ***

 

The hour was late or early depending on the person you were asking, yet regardless of the time, Kurt was in pain. What had begun as a dull ache in the small of his back before bedtime had quickly increased in pressured, migrating towards the front of his distended stomach as he had slept. As another spasm ripped through his body, Kurt emitted a sound somewhere between a yell and a groan. The young proxy lay there, unwilling to move out of fear of making the contractions worse than they already were. Turning his head in the dark, Kurt groped blindly for the bell which had been placed on his bed table for this moment, grasping it tightly in his hand rang it as hard as he could.

 

After what seemed like a small eternity to the young man, his door finally opened to the dim lighting of a single candle illuminating the face of Emma Pillsbury. The woman was by his side in an instant, quickly setting the candle down so she could help him up. As Emma assisted Kurt in maneuvering off the bed, a second candle entered the bedroom in the hands of Miss Sylvester. The petit redhead looked towards her colleague, who had simply nodded in reply to an unspoken question—the midwife had been sent for. Once he was standing, Kurt leaned heavily on Emma as she helped him out of his room and down to the labor room on the first floor. If Kurt hadn’t been in so much pain, he would have probably noticed how quiet Miss Sylvester had been during their journey to the first floor.

 

With a gentle nudge of her foot, Emma pushed the birthing room’s door open, not releasing Kurt’s arm until he was once again situated in a bed. Tucking the crisp white bed sheets around the man, Emma stepped back and left the room to wait for the midwife’s arrival in the front hall. While Emma had been seeing to Kurt, Sue had retreated into the kitchen to begin preparing water and rags for the birth. The pair worked silently yet efficiently; they both knew what was coming—the tears, the yelling, the pain, and finally the heartache—and felt that it was better to have as little interaction with the proxy during this time as possible.

 

At a little passed three, the door of the birthing room opened to admit a heavyset woman, whom Kurt presumed to be the midwife, Mrs. Patchet. He could only presume for he had never met the woman before; the doctor handled the examinations—ensuring the pregnancy was progressing as intended—and the midwife was in charge of the dirty work—namely the birth and seeing the child was delivered safely into the arms of its father and new mother.

The midwife busied herself with checking on Kurt’s progress all the while mumbling to herself; the only noises from Kurt were the faint sounds of pain as the spasms drew ever closer together and more intense in nature. “You’re almost there, young man.”

 

Kurt grunted when the midwife pressed on his stomach, checking to make sure the baby was positioning itself correctly. The woman murmured a soothing word to the man, but carried on with her examination. Once finished, Mrs. Patchet pushed the remaining sheets from Kurt’s body and helped the young man to his feet. Kurt looked at her in confusion, making the older woman click her tongue before replying. “Walking aids in the process. Makes it happen faster, some believe.”

 

The brunette nodded at the information and leaned against the midwife as she assisted him in pacing a short path across the wooden floor. As he walked, Kurt tried to breath through the pain and let his mind wander to anywhere but this moment; he wished he could sleep through it all and awake in the morning, having no memories of seeing or hearing his child cry. On their tenth turn around the room, Mrs. Patchet helped Kurt back into bed and rechecked his progress; she repeated this cycle for the next hour or so before deeming Kurt ready.

 

With sweat dripping down his face and his nightshirt sticking his back, Kurt collapsed onto the bed and laid there, letting the midwife arrange his body for the birth. Pushing himself up on his elbows, Kurt moaned as the next contraction hit, his stomach clenching tightly as he pushed with the spasm under the direction of the midwife’s words. Each spasm made Kurt feel as though his body was being ripped in two—the pain was blinding, breathtaking, and made Kurt wish he had never entered into this agreement. And finally, through the haze of his pain and the harshness of his breathing, Kurt heard the distinct cry of his baby; it was small and frail but unmistakable. The young man couldn’t stop himself from smiling at the sound. He ignored the incredible pain radiating from lower body and forced himself into a sitting position, following the movements of Mrs. Patchet as she cleaned and swaddled the babe.

 

As he watched the older woman’s moments, Kurt could feel his fingers clenching at the bed sheets, greedy with the need to hold his child, to press soft kisses across the babe’s angelic face and count all its fingers and toes. While he knew the right was not his to ask, the young man couldn’t stop himself from doing so. “A Boy or a girl?” Kurt’s voice was soft, seeming to match the atmosphere of the dimly lit room.

 

The sound of Kurt’s question startled the midwife, who had been so focused on tending to the newborn, she had forgotten about the young proxy. When she glanced towards him, Kurt could make out the lines of distress in her kind face—torn between her duty to her patient and her oath to the people she was employed by. Kurt gazed upon her anxiously, watching and waiting as her eyes drifted between him and his baby; after a few minutes, the older woman gave a small nod of approval then turned her eyes back towards Kurt as she spoke. “It’s a boy.”

 

Although Kurt smiled at the news, it did little to hide the pain on his face and in his heart; he had another question he wanted to ask, yet at the same time, Kurt didn’t want to press his luck. Swallowing against the lump in his throat, Kurt spoke once more. “May I hold him?”

 

Mrs. Patchet didn’t hesitate this time as she gave a quick jerk of her head in the negative and tucked the blanket tighter around the baby before laying him in the wooden cradle. Once she was certain the baby was quiet and settled, she crossed the room towards her carpet bag and pulled from its depths a small amber bottle. Upon recognizing the bottle, Kurt tried to escape the bed on weak legs, but she was faster. Before his feet had a chance to touch the floor, Mrs. Patchet was next to him, spoon in hand. While he was usually a strong person, this time, however, Kurt was not above pleading with the older woman. But his pleas fell on deaf ears as she shoved a spoonful of laudanum in his mouth; Kurt grimaced at the taste, yet unable to spit it out.

 

As the laudanum began to take effect, Kurt drifted in drug-filled stupor as Mrs. Patchet cleaned the bed and Kurt—removing stained linens and replacing them with fresh ones. Once her chores were complete, the older woman gazed at Kurt, waiting for the man’s eyes to shut; she could tell Kurt was fighting the laudanum with all his might. Even though, she had only meet the young proxy tonight, she had a kind of sixth sense about people—this one wasn’t naïve about what would happen once he was asleep, this one knew that when he awoke later in the day, his baby would be gone.

 

This part was always the hardest for her, a time when new parents should be taking their fill of the new tiny miracle; instead, the mother was put to sleep and her child was taken away to be placed in the care of its father. After pressing a motherly kiss to Kurt’s forehead, Mrs. Patchet returned to the cradle and took the child, re-tucking the blankets around the newborn as she left. With one last sigh at the sight of Kurt, she closed the door quietly behind her, leaving the oncoming grief for Emma and Sue. She knew the waking hours would bring the tears, the heartache, and the emptiness and yet, there was nothing to be done.

 

***

 

Dance little baby, dance up high,
Never mind baby, mother is by;
Dance little baby, and mother shall sing,
With the merry coral, ding, ding, ding.

Seven Years Later

 

A nasty bump jarred Kurt from his light doze as the carriage continued to rattle along the twisting forest road. Blinking the sleep from his glasz colored eyes, Kurt gazed out of the carriage’s window as the scenery passed, well as much as he could given the soupy nature of the early morning Ohio fog. On turning away from the window, the tutor drew from the inside of his jacket a well-creased letter; the information it contained was short yet to the point—offering him the position as tutor which he had applied for.

 

The position was taking him far from his home in Baltimore and into the wilds of Ohio; but the pay was good and if Kurt was honest to himself, he needed to get away from Atlantic coast…too many memories for him. Frowning slightly, Kurt pushed those thoughts to the back of his mind; he tried not to think about the choices he had made almost eight years ago. What done was done and couldn’t be undone, so there was really no point in torturing himself over painful memories.

 

When the carriage took the next curve in the road too sharply, Kurt braced himself against the door frame of the coach, in an attempt to stop from sliding across the seats. Once the coach had righted itself, Kurt looked out the window before returning his attention to the letter he was turning over and over in his hand, rather then reading it. Yet, the view outside of his window caused him to pause as his eyes took in the dark shape looming in the distance. Despite the fact that the fog had made it almost impossible to see in the early dawn hours of the September morning, Kurt knew he was gazing at the silhouette of his new posting. With the fog surrounding it, the house looked ominous to Kurt’s eye, as though one would expect it to be haunted with ghosts and other supernatural creatures. Shivering at his eerie thoughts, Kurt rubbed at the goose-bumps on his arms, trying to dispel the wonderings from his head.

 

Tucking the letter back into his jacket, Kurt breathed a sigh of relief as the carriage drew closer to the house. He had been traveling since yesterday, having taken the train from Baltimore, Maryland to its termination point at Cumberland Maryland before switching to a stagecoach for the rest of his journey. While the food at the hotels and inns along the way had been good quality, the tutor couldn’t say the same for the lodgings—the beds had been lumpy and the blankets sparse in spite of the damp mountain air—or the people on the stagecoach. Kurt had been elated to find a carriage from Heyford House—his new posting—waiting for him this morning.

 

The carriage jarred Kurt in his seat as it came to an abrupt halt in front of the house—his home for the next nine months. As he waited for the coachman to open the carriage door, Kurt pulled his jacket tightly around his body, trying to ward off the chill he knew he would experience once he left the warm carriage.

 

“We’re here, sir.” The driver announced as he opened the carriage door for Kurt, allowing for the cool air to rush in.

 

As Kurt descended from the coach, his breath caught in his throat as his eyes took in sheer size of the home. The house did not match the one he had imagined nor the figure in the fog—the advertisement had described the household as small—and Kurt had naturally assumed the house to be the size of his father’s own house if not a little bigger. Yet, the house before him could only be called a mansion; it was as wide as it was deep, Kurt suspected, and the sheer size of the house with its creeping ivy seemed to only add to the air of mystery surrounding it.

 

The gentle cough at his shoulder drew Kurt from his thoughts, causing him to turn to look at the coachman. “Pretty impressive, huh, sir.”

 

The tutor smiled in response to the coachman’s remark. While he might have referred the other man as a coachman, the other man looked more a boy than a man, given his floppy sandy hair, gangly limbs, and looping walk due to too large of feet. With a last grin to the tutor, the boy disappeared to collect the luggage from the carriage’s rack.

 

As the boy handled the bulk of his luggage, Kurt walked to the mansion’s front door, all the while clenching the handle of his leather satchel in trepidation. Although he had been making his way in the world as a tutor for over a decade, it didn’t stop him from feeling a faint amount of anxiety with each new posting. Will the children like me? Will I like them? Will I become attached? It was the last question which always weighed heavily on his heart.

 

In the years since his child’s birth, each new posting seemed to bring more heartache than joy. Kurt had always loved children, and being allowed to shape their young minds had provided him with the means to form a bond, few would have the ability to lay claim to. Yet, Kurt couldn’t help but grow attached to each of his charges, especially when their little faces beamed with each piece of knowledge they gleamed from the pages of their readers.

 

The sound of the front door being opened startled the man, causing him to trip backwards down the small stoop in his haste to move away from the noise. Kurt looked down at his feet in embarrassment, choosing not to meet the eyes of the door opener as the heat of his blush moved up his neck to settle into the tips of his ears. Normally, he wasn’t this clumsy when meeting the new household; but it would appear that today wasn’t going to be his day. After a few soothing breaths, Kurt raised his head, meeting the severe gaze of a middle-aged woman; her clothes were as severe as her eyes, black from head to toe.

 

She raised her eyebrow questionably at warmth in Kurt’s cheeks as her eyes sized him up. After deeming him worthy, she finally spoke. “I’m Mrs. Murdoch, the housekeeper. I trust you are the new tutor.”

 

“Yes, ma’am.” Kurt’s voice cracked a little as he replied. Her stern tone and piercing gaze was rattling what little of his nerves he was managing to hang onto. Mrs. Murdoch gave a curt nod in reply before stepping back into the foray to allow Kurt to enter the house. Kurt smiled graciously at the gesture and stepped into the warm house. Pulling off his gloves, Kurt’s eyes roamed the large foray, taking in the dark panel of the walls and the twisting staircase a mere feet from him. It would appear the outside doom and gloom matched the inside, at least it was consistent.

 

“If you’ll follow me, I’ll show you the house while Gareth and Julia take your luggage to your room.” Mrs. Murdoch explained to Kurt as she led him through the entryway and into a larger open space just beyond. Pausing in the middle of the space, the housekeeper turned once more on her heel with almost military precision and faced him. “Through the archway behind me, you’ll find the sitting room and just off it is the solarium, where you will teach the young master. Tucked away in the corner at the base of the stairs is the library, you’re welcome to use it as you wish. And lastly the dining room is just through the pocket doors to the left of us.” Once she was satisfied she had adequately explained the layout of the ground floor, she began walking towards the stairs.

 

As she ascended the stairs, she paused momentarily to look back at Kurt, “We aren’t a very formal household, so the Master has requested you join him and the child for meals.”

 

Kurt nodded in acquiescence to the request, a little relieved that he had been told as opposed to having to figure it out for himself. In his last post, he had taken his meals in his room; the parents had cared little for him apart from ensuring he was teaching their children what was expected of their station. And it hadn’t felt right eating with the staff; although an employee of the master of the house, his station in life was one still above that of common domestic help. The post before that one, he had taken his meals with the children. The children’s parents had cared little for their offspring and tended to take the expression, “children should be seen and not heard” to the extreme; instead of simply seeing and not hearing their children, the parents had gone a step further and banished their two children—a boy and a girl—to the nursery, only taking the time to see them if it was truly necessary.

 

As the pair mounted the winder stairs, Kurt took the time to take in the landscapes which seemed to dot the wall on the walk up. Mrs. Murdoch glanced back over her shoulder at Kurt as though she had a sixth sense about certain things. “The master began collecting landscapes around the same time the mistress was with child…a strange fascination if you ask me.”

 

“They are very beautiful pieces. Does he only collect seascapes? Or does he go for hills and dales as well?” Kurt asked, pausing in front a striking backdrop of a violent storm laying waste to a beach.

 

“It’s only seascapes.” The housekeeper replied as they reached the second floor. “The left of the house is the master’s wing; you are not permitted there unless invited. Your room is the one next to the stairs and the child’s is across from yours.”

 

Kurt nodded again, yet was unable to keep his questioning nature silent. “You keep referring only to the master…does the child not have a mother?”

 

“Its mother died in childbirth and the master doesn’t wish for it to be brought up. Is that understood?” The older woman demanded, not caring if she was raising her voice slightly when asking the question.

 

“Of course, Mrs. Murdoch. I understand.” Kurt agreed, keeping his tone light out of fear of angering the woman again. “Now, may I meet the child?”

 

The housekeeper regarded the man with a stern regard before crossing from the stairs and to the child’s room. After tapping lightly on the door once, she entered with Kurt not far behind. “Mischa, come here.”

 

The little boy in question glared towards the housekeeper, clearly unhappy about being interrupted during his play. His light blue eyes narrowed as they landed on Kurt’s figure in the open doorway. “I don’t want him. Send him back.” The child ordered with fists clenched around a battered toy soldier.

 

Mrs. Murdoch scoffed at the child’s demands. “I’m sorry to say, Mischa, you don’t get the choice to refuse. You must be educated, your father’s orders.”

 

“Liar!” The dark haired child cried out. “My daddy would never hire anyone as ugly as you.” He said, sneering at Kurt.

 

Kurt flinched at the remark, but recovered quickly from the hastily thrown jab. “You may think I’m ugly, Mischa. But I know your unkind words make you the ugliest of us all.”

 

Upon hearing those words, Mischa flung the toy soldier at Kurt, hitting him in the chest with the toy. Kurt watched as the toy bounced off him and onto the floor. Mischa glared at the toy man, offended that it hadn’t managed to hit its target like intended; stomping his foot in anger, the boy reached across his play area and grabbed the next nearest toy, ready to try again. But Kurt was quicker and in three steps, he was upon the child, pulling the wooden yoyo from his hands before he could throw it across the room. And all the while, Mrs. Murdoch stood to the side of the door, watching, ready to step in if the man put a toe out of line with the child.

 

“I hate you. I don’t want you here. You’re mean and ugly and I wish you would just die.” Mischa yelled at Kurt, not caring if he did hurt the older man’s feelings. He didn’t want to learn to read or write; he wanted to spend his day playing with Julia and Gareth like before.

 

Kurt sighed again, rolling his head slightly in attempt to stop the headache which he could feel looming in at the back of his neck. ‘We don’t always get what we want, Mischa. I’ve been hired to teach you and teach you, I shall. Now, clean up this mess or no lunch for you.”

 

“No, I don’t have to!” Mischa shouted. “That is what Julia is for; she’s here to clean up all my messes.”

 

“Not this time. The first lesson you will learn today is: responsibility. Every action has a consequence and the consequence of not cleaning up your toys is no lunch. If you want your toys then you have to be responsible enough to pick them up so they don’t become lost or broken.”

 

“No.”

 

“Then no lunch for you.” Kurt told the little boy before addressing Mrs. Murdoch. “Could you please tell the cook that the young master won’t be eating lunch today?”

 

Mrs. Murdoch gave a slight bow of her head in reply; she was impressed by how quickly the man had taken control of the situation—it would appear that this one might be worth keeping after all. “I’ll have Julia send up some tea for you.” And with a last nod in Kurt’s direction, she left, leaving the tutor to handle her employer’s willful son.

 

Kurt briefly lifted his eyes when Mrs. Murdoch spoke, but once the housekeeper was gone, Kurt’s gaze returned to the floor, where Mischa was making a good show of pouting. With a silent prayer to whoever was listening, Kurt crossed to the table and sat, never taking his eyes from the small child. Now it all came down to a battle of wills, and Kurt had it on good authority—his father—he was a prizefighter in this arena.

 

Although the silence in the room was practically deafening, Kurt refused to speak again to the boy. He needed the child to learn that simply pouting did not mean he would get his way; if Mischa wasn’t taught proper behavior now then Kurt could almost guarantee the boy would grow into an ill-tempered man, who no one would associate with. As the minutes passed, Kurt continued his watch upon the small boy, until he noticed the tell-tale signs of a little boy becoming tired of holding his anger-rigid body.

 

Finally, there came a small tap at the door, signaling the entrance of a petite redhead carrying a tray of tea. Kurt gave a small smile as she set the tray on the table. The maid returned the smile with one of her own; however, it quickly fell at the sight of Mischa on the floor. Turning from the table, she walked the few feet towards the boy, her arm reaching out towards him with every intention of offering comfort. Yet, Kurt’s voice stopped her. “He’s being punished. So, I will please ask you not to interfere with him.”

 

Julia twisted on her heel, giving Kurt her full attention. The young maid, however, did not bother to hide the look of annoyance upon her face, especially as she took in the smartness of Kurt’s dress. To her, it screamed his gender as though the words had been stitched into the very fabric itself. Now Julia had nothing against carriers, but this one rubbed her the wrong way on sheer principle of how he was treating the little boy. “If you that is what you wish, sir.”

 

“It is what I wish. Thank you for the tea,—”

 

“Julia, sir.”

 

“Well then, thank you for the tea, Julia.” Kurt repeated. He wasn’t bothered by her open hostility towards him; he had encountered her type in his previous postings—a maid, who fancied herself the mother…the protector of the child in her charge and viewed anyone, who dared harm the child—mentally or physically—as the enemy. Kurt didn’t begrudge the young maid her feelings; he understood them because he could admit to having done it a time or two, when it came to well-being of the child verses the wants of the parents. Yet, in this case, he wasn’t causing the boy harm by teaching him one lesson he so desperately needed to learn.

 

The redhead knew a non-vocal dismissal when she heard one, but she was hard-pressed to go against the impulse to provide aide to the young boy. However, her domestic training won out and she flounced out of the room, but not before giving Kurt a glare, which the tutor chose to ignore.

 

Once the room was empty again save for them, Kurt perused the tray, taking in everything it had to offer—a warm pot of tea, milk and sugar, and a couple of delicate cakes. It was as his eyes landed upon the cakes that Kurt’s stomach took the opportunity to voice its hunger by giving a muted grumble. The tutor flushed slightly at having his stomach call him out; it had been some hours since he had last eaten and apparently his stomach wanted him to realize it. Turning his attention from the tea tray to the small child, he met the gaze of Mischa, who was fidgeting upon the floor, itching to have his share of the sweets.

 

Kurt softened at the look of longing on the boy’s face, yet he wasn’t going to back down. Mischa needed to learn that he couldn’t always have his way, and Kurt felt it was his duty to teach it. Breaking the staring contest, Kurt went about making his tea, ignoring the child on the floor. Although he had threatened no lunch for unpicked up toys, Kurt extended it to the tea tray as well…food was food as far as he was concerned.

 

Kurt sipped his tea as he sat there, waiting for the child to crack under the pressure, which the tutor knew would happen. He was on his third sip of tea when he heard the faint creak of the toy chest being open and then, one by one, Kurt heard the sounds of toy soldiers, wooden blocks, and even a dummy gun join the few toys already in the box. Mission accomplished.

 

Once his toys were put away, Mischa walked towards Kurt, clutching the same toy soldier he had thrown at Kurt tightly in his fist. With his head bowed, Mischa mumbled a question, which Kurt wasn’t able to discern. Kurt brought his forefinger towards the boy’s face, hooking it under the child’s chin, lifting it so he could look Mischa in the eye. “Would you please repeat the question, Mischa?”

 

The dark haired child bit his lower lip, worrying it between his teeth as he seemed to ponder his options. After a few moments of silence, Mischa repeated the question again, only stumbling slightly over the words. “I cleaned up my toys. Can I have a piece of cake?”

 

Kurt smiled softly at the little boy, happy in the knowledge that Mischa appeared to have learnt lesson one. “May you, Mischa. And yes you may.”

 

Mischa beamed at the response and scrambled into the vacant chair across from his tutor. His little legs knocked against the chair’s seat as he watched and waited as Kurt poured another cup of tea—which was more milk than tea—and cut a thin slice off one of the cakes. As he passed the cup and cake slice to the boy, Kurt noticed Mischa’s eyes narrow at the size of the piece. Not one to wait for a question he knew was coming, Kurt answered. “Lunch will be ready in an hour and I don’t want you to spoil it, Mischa.”

 

Although he communicated his displeasure at the statement by pushing his lower lip out in a pout, Mischa accepted it without complaint; he didn’t want the man to take his sweet away for being naughty. Plucking the slice off the plate, Mischa took a bite out of the sweet spongy cake, vocalizing his delight with a gentle hum in the back of his throat. Kurt grinned, hiding his amusement at the look of bliss on the little boy’s face behind the lip of his cup. He was making progress with the child and didn’t want to alienate him again so soon.

 

“Mischa?” Kurt asked, signaling to the child that he needed to look at Kurt, which he did. “My name is Mr. Hummel and as you know, I’ve been hired as your tutor. My job is to teach you.” Mischa rolled his eyes at the statement as he sipped his milky tea. The man’s eyebrow rose at the gesture, but he chose to ignore it this time. He knew when to pick his battles and now was not the time to address it.

 

“Don’t you want to learn to read and write?” Kurt questioned, watching as Mischa shrugged his thin shoulders in response. Titling his head slightly, Kurt’s eyes landed on the toy soldier Mischa had set beside his plate while he ate. It gave him an idea of how to connect with the child. “What is your favorite story?”

 

The Little Soldiers. My daddy reads it to me every night.” Mischa replied, his voice full of excitement. “I want to be a soldier when I grow up.”

 

Kurt smiled at the boy. “You do? Well, did you know that the all soldiers know how to read and write?”

 

Mischa shook his head in reply, frowning slightly. “But I don’t want to learn to read and write it looks boring. All daddy seems to do is puff out his cheeks—like this—when he has to do it.”

 

The brunette chuckled at the boy when he imitated his father’s face, puffing his cheeks out like a chipmunk before releasing the air with a faint popping sound. “But he enjoys reading your stories to you, doesn’t he?”

 

“He does. He makes all the voices and the sounds when he reads.” Mischa explained as he leaned forward across the table with his little hands supporting him. Kurt tsked at the boy’s behavior and gave him a look of reproach. Upon realizing his folly, the little boy righted himself in his chair and grabbed for his tea cup, taking another sip of the pale brown liquid.

 

“See reading isn’t all bad. There is some fun that comes with it.”

 

Mischa shrugged at the remark, clearly unimpressed with Kurt’s reasoning towards reading and writing. Draining the last of the drink, Mischa looked to the clean floor and back at Kurt, unsure of what to do now that he had finished with his tea and cake.

 

“You may play until lunch. But there are rules, Mischa, you must follow.” Mischa nodded at the command, eyes darting back and forth as he anxiously waited to hear them. “When you have finished with a toy, return it to your toy chest. It will save you time on clean up later and ensure that none of your toys becomes lost. Understood?” Mischa bobbed his head before scuttling off the chair and to his toy chest.

 

With a sigh of relief, Kurt settled back into his chair, sipping his now lukewarm tea and watched as the child played—conjuring adventures only he understood.

 

***

 

It was a few minutes pass noon when the bedroom door opened to Julia, who had come with a message. “Mr. Hummel? Mrs. Murdoch sent me to inform you, lunch would be served at twelve-thirty in the dining room. But the master has requested your presence in his study now.” She told him, not bothering to hide her resentment.

 

Mentally, Kurt rolled his eyes at the young maid, choosing to keep his feelings towards her in check, before giving her a bright smile and nodding his thanks. “Mischa, I need to go see your father. I trust you to remember what I told you while I’m gone.” Kurt waited for the young boy to nod his head in reply then continued. “Good. Do you want me to come back up to take you down to lunch when I’m finished?”

 

However, before the child could answer for himself, Julia’s voice cut in. “No, that won’t be necessary, Mr. Hummel. I’ll be happy to stay with Mischa until lunch and then take him down to the dining room.”

 

The young woman’s reply set Kurt’s teeth on edge. While he couldn’t openly argue with the maid, he did have the ability to take his concerns over her interactions with Mischa to a higher power…Mrs. Murdoch. In the hours since meeting the child, Kurt could see he had gained some ground and didn’t want the maid to derail it by undermining his authority in the boy’s life. His role in the household was precarious and Kurt knew this; it was all dependent upon his ability to educate and the control the child while he did it.

 

“Thank you for the offer, Julia.” Kurt replied curtly. And as he stood from his chair to leave, the tutor couldn’t miss the smug look on the maid’s face.

 

Once he was in the corridor, Kurt clenched his jaw tightly, trying to hold his emotions in. Rationally, Kurt knew he needed to keep a cool head and not let this little slip of a girl get to him, yet for some reason, he felt an overwhelming need to protect this boy from the maid’s good intentions. The care he had felt towards his previous chargers was like nothing he had felt within moments of meeting the boy. He had developed a dull ache in his heart when Mischa had thrown his toys and had spoken those unkind words to him and it wasn’t due to his pride or vanity. It was something else…something more which he couldn’t begin to understand, let alone name.

 

Following the same path Mrs. Murdoch had shown him when he arrived Kurt retraced his steps down the corridor and to the winding stairs. He took the stairs a tad slowly then he had before, pausing briefly when he wanted to examine one of the landscapes hung within the stairwell. Each of the landscapes was as beautiful as the one before, yet an air of sorrow seemed to surround them if their muted colors were a clue. Kurt took the last few stairs at a slightly jog, not wanting to be late for his meeting with his new employer.

 

His new employer, Mr. Puckerman, was a complete mystery to Kurt. When he had applied for the job posting, all communication had been direct to Mrs. Murdoch, the housekeeper, thus leaving Kurt in the absolute dark about the man, whose son he was to teach. Mrs. Murdoch had been scarce on the details concerning the man, only telling Kurt that Mr. Puckerman was a wealthy man devoted to his son. Kurt hadn’t pressed for information, choosing to push the unspoken questions to the back of his head. If Mrs. Murdoch hadn’t felt the information was pertinent to the posting in her letters then where was Kurt’s right to pry.

 

As he shook his head to clear it, Kurt raised his hand, knocking on the impressive oak door before him. The muffled response of enter was quick, leading Kurt to believe his new employer had been waiting for him to arrive. Squaring his shoulders, Kurt twisted the knob and pushed, fixing his stare directly in front of him. Good eye contact was key when meeting a new employer; one had to show the parents they were forceful enough not to allow the child to run rough shot over him.

 

The man’s head was bent when Kurt entered, clasping a nibbed pen in his hand as it flowed across the page of the book before him. As Kurt waited to be acknowledged, he allowed his eyes to roam across the short dark hair of his employer and down to the broad shoulders encased in a white linen shirt. At some point in his work, he must have discarded his jacket for he wore only his waistcoat atop his white shirt. From what he could see, the tutor thought him very attractive, with his dark hair, broad shoulders, and the darkness of his skin. It appeared his new employer was Kurt’s ideal man, well at least, physically. Pinching his thigh in reproach, Kurt turned his focus away from the man directly and towards the window, letting his eyes settle on the trees visible through the gloomy fog.

 

When the man’s dark head finally straightened, Kurt shifted his gaze away from the window and fell on the man’s face. Kurt’s eyes widened slightly as his breathing became labored; he knew those eyes. His memories of them were as clear as if that week in that quaint seaside inn had happened only just yesterday. While these eyes might be older than they had once been, there was no way to change their color, their shape, or the amount of sorrow Kurt had seen reflected in them time and again during the hours spent together in glow of the firelight.

 

Kurt’s face wasn’t the only one shocked at the turn of events; Noah’s mouth had dropped open as he peered into the face of the man, who had gifted him with his son. His little boy who shared the same pale skin and glasz colored eyes as Kurt. It had been hard for Noah when Mischa had first arrived, for with every cry, and with every laugh, and with each milestone the little boy had taken, Noah’s heart had ached with the unbearable need to find Kurt, to find the man he had fallen in love with, and give him the chance to revel in the little boy he had given birth to.

 

Pushing those unhappy thoughts to the back of his mind for the moment, Noah shoved his chair back and climbed to his feet, needing to get to the other man as quickly as possible. With his feet feeling as though they were made of lead, Kurt stumbled back slowly as Noah advanced, slightly taken aback by it. Once the Jewish man was within arms reach of Kurt, he raised his arms, hands stretching out to brush his fingers against the softness of the tutor’s cheek; Kurt shuddered as the rough hand cupped his cheek, drawing him into a kiss.

 

Wasting no time, Kurt opened his mouth to the invading tongue, letting the foreign appendage map its contours before responding to it with his own. As the pair kiss, it was as though no time had passed since they had last touched, talked, made love before a burning hearth. It was a wonder to experience, like coming home after a long absence. Noah was the first to break the kiss, pushing the tutor away roughly. Kurt blinked in perplexity at Noah’s reaction, not understanding why he had been shoved away mid-kiss. When he lifted his head, gone was the appearance of joy and awe in the dark haired man’s face; instead, it had been replaced by uncertainty and mistrust.

 

“How did you find me?” Noah demanded harshly. The provisions of their agreement had been cleared; the proxy wouldn’t be allowed contact with the child unless the parents had consented to it. And Noah was as sure as hell, he hadn’t consented to it.

 

Kurt’s eyes narrowed slightly at the accusation not liking his employer’s tone of voice. “I wasn’t looking.” He snapped. “A deal’s a deal.”

 

Noah’s eyebrow rose at the tone; it would seem Kurt had grown a backbone in the years since their last meeting. Gone was the young man, who he could make blush so beautifully with a simple word or a heated stare. “My, my.” Noah chuckled. “Aren’t you in a bit of mood?”

 

“Well, I don’t like being accused of breaking my end of an arrangement.” Kurt stated. “I replied to the tutor vacancy without any knowledge of that you were the employer or the boy w-w—” Kurt’s voice faltered as his brain finally managed to catch up with his mouth. Mischa was his. The little boy upstairs was his...the same beautiful little baby boy he had only glimpsed a second before he was taken.

 

Noah watched, unsure, as a wealth of emotion flooded across the other man’s face. As tears began to stream down the man’s cheeks, Noah knew what he had to do. On soft feet, he neared and drew the tutor into his arms, holding the slimmer man close as tears soaked his linen shirt. He could care less about his clothes right now; all that matter was providing comfort to Kurt. With soft words murmured into the pale ears, Noah tried to sooth the brunette’s troubled mind, for he could only image the thoughts racing through Kurt’s head. He had never had to go a day without the ability to see and to touch his child, and here was a man who had to live each day in the knowledge his baby was in the world and could never see it.

 

When Kurt’s sobs lessened, Noah drew away, distancing himself from the tearful man. “You can’t stay, Kurt. You’ll have to go.” How he hated saying those words to the brunette, but he had to. There was no place for Kurt in his life, and if he were to stay, Noah couldn’t trust himself to steer clear of him.

 

“No,” Kurt replied sharply, not allowing his tone to leave any room for doubt as to his true sentiments on the matter. “I let you take him once. And I’m not going to let that happen again. Before I might have kept my side of the arrangement, but not this time; what I’ve seen cannot be unseen, Noah.”

 

“He isn’t your son, Kurt. He’s mine, he’s my wife’s.” Noah responded, earning an eye roll from the other man.

 

“What wife?” Kurt challenged. “Mrs. Murdoch informed me your wife is dead. Where is the issue?”

 

The brunette watched as Noah’s face twisted in anger—his lips tightening together as his face slowly heated. “You have no right to speak of her! Do you understand me? She’s a better person than you’ll ever be…after all you’re nothing but a whore, who was willing to spread his legs for a few dollars.” The resulting slap rang though the near silent study as Kurt’s palm connected with Noah’s cheek and sent his head twisting violently to the side. Bringing his hand up, Noah lightly brushed it along as his lip as he checked for damaged from the abuse. When his hand brought back no blood, the dark haired man refocused his attention on Kurt, who was panting slightly in the wake of his act of violence. 

 

 As Noah opened his mouth, there was a soft knock on the study’s door followed by Mrs. Murdoch poking her head through the small gap she created with the door’s opening. “Sorry, to interrupt sir, but lunch is on the table and the child is waiting for you.”

 

Noah dismissed her with a curt nod, watching as she closed the door firmly behind her once more. “Not a word to Mischa or anyone else in this household. Do you understand? I’ll give you until the end of the month while I find a new tutor for him. But not one word, Kurt. Or so help me, I won’t be responsible for my actions.”

 

The brunette bobbed his head in reply, choosing to not speak out of fear of saying something he might later regret. Twisting on his heel, Kurt straightened his shoulders and calmly marched out of the room. Noah’s stare followed as he waited for the other man to leave and once the tutor was gone, Noah breathed a pained sigh before following him out into the wall and across the open foray towards the dining room. He knew he had made a deal with the devil all those years ago; he just never anticipated the devil to be so gorgeous or that he would fall in love him.

 

***

 

Lunch was an awkward affair if not for the constant chatting of Mischa as he told his dad and his tutor of the grand battle he and his toy soldiers had fought. Noah smiled and asked questions in all the right places, but his heart wasn’t in it. His mind was too focused on Kurt, who sat a mere foot from him on his left side. Even though he had consented for Kurt to stay through the remainder of the month, Noah knew he was in trouble…he wasn’t a monk.

 

As he groaned softly to himself at the realization, Mischa paused in his chattering, titling his head slightly in puzzlement. “Daddy, are you okay?”

 

Noah nodded his head as he gave his son a tight smile. “I’m fine, Mischa. The roast was just a bit too hot. I burnt my mouth is all.”

 

“Julia tells me I should blow on my food before I put it in my mouth so that don’t happen.” Mischa replied, before turning his attention back to his own plate.

 

“Doesn’t happen, Mischa.” Kurt said, never taking his eyes from his own plate as he pushed his food around it, not really eating it. The few bites he had managed were dry in his mouth and felt like lead bricks when they hit his stomach.

 

The dark haired boy scowled at hearing his tutor’s voice. He had been doing so well in ignoring the other man’s presence but he had to go and ruin it by talking. Once Mr. Kurt had left his room, Julia had come in and played with him, letting him do as he wished with his toys. And as he had started to clean them up for lunch, the maid had stopped him and told him that he didn’t need to do that, it was her job and she was happy to do. Mischa had taken it to mean that he didn’t need to listen to his tutor, and that every word out of his mouth was stupid and wrong.

 

Noah watched, taking in the frown his child’s face and the look of grief on Kurt’s own. With them side by side, the Jewish man could see so much of Kurt’s own personality clearly in his little boy; he used to wonder what traits were his and which belong to the proxy, now he had his answer.

 

A fork clattering against china caused Kurt to look up from his own plate. His line of sight focused on Mischa, watching as the child set his napkin on the table next to his place before looking towards his dad. “I’m done. Can I go?” The father dipped his head in agreement and the child wasted no time in clambering out of his chair, practically running to the dining room door in his haste. Taking this as a signal that his meal was finished as well, Kurt stood and bowed slightly to his employer before turning on his heel to follow the boy from the room. Noah’s voice caused him to pause briefly as he listened. “Remember my warning, Mr. Hummel. Not one word.” Kurt straightened his shoulders at the thinly veiled threat and left, closing the sliding door with a muted bang.

 

***

 

When Kurt had finally made it back to Mischa’s room, he found the boy happily playing with his toys. Shaking his shoulders to rid himself of the tension, he picked his forgotten satchel from the floor and walked towards the table. Although lessons didn’t officially begin until tomorrow, Kurt had decided he would introduce the little boy to an earlier reader. The book was short, with more pictures than words, but it was a start. Clearing his throat gently, Kurt spoke. “Mischa, I need you to put your toys away and come to the table.”

 

“No.” The dark haired boy replied, not bothering to glance up from his imaginary world and look Kurt in the face. The brunette narrowed his eyes at the boy, unhappy with the turn of events. Before lunch Mischa might not have been the most well behaved charge Kurt had the pleasure of teaching, but he felt as though he made some progress. Now it would seem it had all been in vain…the maid Julia had ruined it. Grumbling softly under his breath, he crossed the floor and stood in front of Mischa, waiting for the child to acknowledge him.

 

It was only when his battered toy soldier hit Kurt’s boot for the third time that Mischa decided he was ready to interact with his tutor. “Move your foot. It’s in Henry’s way.”

 

“Well, I’m sorry for Henry. But I want you at the table.” Kurt replied, curtly. “It’s time for your lesson.” Mischa turned his head away at the command and to his toys. Kurt waited a few more minutes then concluded that enough was enough. If he wanted the attitude gone then he was the only one who could do it, after all it was for Mischa’s own good.

 

“Mischa Puckerman, do as you are told.” Kurt demanded reaching out to grab the toy soldier from the boy’s hand. The child fought for this toy but Kurt was stronger and ripped it from his fingers.

 

“Give it back!” Mischa yelled at his tutor. “That’s mine.”

 

As he placed the toy on the mantle, Kurt replied. “That maybe so, but at the moment, it is mine until you can show you can obey me.”

 

Mischa narrowed his eyes at the brunette, doing his best to give him a menacing glare. However, Kurt was having none of it and pointedly ignored the child as he begin to pick up the other toys in the floor before placing them all back into their chest. Once the floor was clear, Kurt closed the toy chest and sat on to, blocking Mischa from getting back into it. As Mischa looked around his now toy-less room, big fat tears began to make their way down his cheeks.

 

His sobs became louder, echoing throughout the room, but Kurt’s regard never wavered. He been hired to teach and teach he planned to do, regardless of whether Mischa wanted to learn or not. After a few minutes of loud shrieking, the door of the room flung open, revealing a concerned yet furious Noah Puckerman. Standing from his spot to greet the other man, Kurt stared as Noah quickly cross the short span of the room to comfort his crying child. On quick feet, Kurt stepped in front of Mischa, stopping Noah in his tracks.

 

Growling under his breath at the interference, Noah peered into the face of the tutor. “Move, so I may comfort MY son.” Noah demanded, his voice laying stress on the word my.

 

“No.” Kurt replied, “Mischa is being taught a lesson. I gave him a task and he refused to obey. I will not be ignored.”

 

“May I see you outside, Mr. Hummel?” Noah requested with a tight smile as he stepped back allowing Kurt to pass him.

 

Once they were in the corridor, Noah gripped Kurt’s arm in a bruising hold and pressed him against the wall. “I won’t have you take your anger at me out on my child. Have you no shame?”

 

Kurt snorted loudly at the remark. “Shame? I have plenty of shame, Mr. Puckerman; my first shame was being bedded by you.” Kurt smirked when Noah noticeably flinched at his sharp-tongued barb. Shoving the broad-shoulder man back, Kurt brushed the imaginary dust from his clothes before opening his mouth again. “If I’m not allowed to lay claim to him, Mr. Puckerman, then do not expect me to treat him as though he is mine.”

 

“Do you hate him…me…that much to make him cry?” Noah whispered. The sound of misery in the other man’s voice would have broken Kurt’s heart if it wasn’t already.

 

“I don’t hate him. And how, I wish I could hate you.” Kurt responded fiercely, blinking his tears back. “This isn’t about hate, Noah, this about ensuring that he becomes a productive member of society. Do you want him to be hated and ridiculed? A child spoiled grows into an ill-tempered man. And I don’t wish that for him, do you?”

 

“Of course not, but there must be a better way then by making him cry?” Noah questioned, running his hand through his hair in frustration.

 

“He wasn’t crying because of a physical ailment, only his pride was damaged. For seven years, you and your staff have indulged his every whim. And now he sees me as the enemy because I want him to learn, to become better than who he is now.” Kurt snapped.

 

Sighing deeply, Noah rolled the tutor’s words around his head. Rationally, he knew that Kurt spoke the truth, yet it didn’t make it easier to hear. Of course, he had indulged Mischa; he had done it out of misplaced guilt at the whole situation. He should have never entered into such an arrangement and the moment Mischa had been placed in his arms, the guilt had set in. There he was with the right to hold this amazing little miracle…his amazing little boy, while less than a mile away, Kurt had probably been crying for his child. “Fine. Do as you must, but not a hair will be harmed on my son’s head.” Noah stated gruffly.

 

Kurt faintly bowed his head in acquiescent. He had won the first battle for control of Mischa, now it was time for him to make a request of his employer. “In that case, I ask that you inform Julia to limit her interactions with him. She is a maid, not his mother or even his nurse maid. And I won’t have her undermining my authority.”

 

“Fine. Is that all?” Noah questioned, letting his eyes drift down Kurt’s flushed face. It was a sight to behold and one that he couldn’t resist.

 

“For now, yes.” Kurt replied as he tried to sidestep pass his employer, but a hand on his hip halted his movements. Focusing his eyes on Noah’s face, Kurt swallowed against the lump forming in his throat the display of hunger in the other man’s dark eyes. Bending his head slightly, Noah pressed an open mouthed kiss to the tutor’s lips, his tongue lapping at the man’s lips as it sought entrance into the delicious, hidden cavern.

 

Kurt met the kiss head on, taking as much as he gave to Noah’s wondering tongue. While he knew that it was wrong, he couldn’t seem to help himself. In the intervening years, Noah had become the ideal he had measured all his would be suitors against. And here he was the chance to find joy in this man again. It was more seconds before Kurt’s sense of decorum won out in the face of his desires. Ripping his mouth from the Jewish man’s, Kurt panted softly as he laid his forehead against Noah’s. “We can’t keep doing this, Noah. I won’t be your toy to play or discard as you wish. Make a choice and pray you can live with it.” And with that, Kurt shoved pass him to return to the child’s bedroom, content in the knowledge he making the right decision with regards to Noah Puckerman.

 

***

 

It was two weeks before Kurt and Noah spoke again, well more than the few stilted words which had passed between them concerning Mischa. The lack of conversation made for awkward meals and even more awkward encounters in corridors and empty rooms. Kurt had left the decision of where they went from here in Noah’s capable hands and Kurt could only hope that Noah made the right choice for both of them.

 

“Mr. Hummel, might we talk?” Noah asked, interrupting the tutor who was trying to teach Mischa about all the different types of plants and leaves on the property. Yet, he wasn’t making much progress for it seemed Mischa preferred playing in the leaves rather than learning about their characteristics. Rolling his eyes and sighing dramatically, Kurt turned away from the child, choosing to call the supposed botany lesson a lost cause. He wasn’t going to fight Mischa on this point, besides the boy was looked adorable and happy as he ran through the fallen leaves.

 

“About?” Kurt replied curtly.

 

Noah nodded his head at the question as though he had been expecting the faint trace of disdain in the other man’s voice. He deserved to hear it, after all it was his fault that all of this was had been allowed to happen. And yet, he felt no shame or regret at it, if it hadn’t been him to make the deal with Kurt for Mischa then it would have been someone else and Noah couldn’t bear to think about what would have become of him then. “Us.”

 

The tutor’s eyebrow rose at the answer. “I don’t think now is the most appropriate time to be having this conversation, especially when your son is standing not three feet from us.” Kurt told the man; his usual soft pitch rose faintly in volume as he put emphasis on the word son.

 

“Then tonight after Mischa is in bed.”

 

“Alright.” Kurt agreed then turned his attention back the dark haired child, giving Noah a silent yet effective dismissal. The tutor grinned at his charge, who had managed to get bits of twig and leaf stuck in his hair as he played. Walking to the boy, Kurt bent down and made quick work of removing the worst of the offending plant life. Once his teacher was finished, Mischa grinned up at the man before taking off again into a new pile of leaves. Kurt clicked his tongue at the boy’s behavior then collapsed back on the blanket he had laid out earlier for them.

 

Noah left the pair after that, content in the knowledge that Kurt was willing to see him and have what he hoped to be an honest conversation about the subject of them. The brunette glanced up briefly, watching as Noah disappeared back into the house. The Jewish man’s behavior was as strange as it was intriguing, just as it had been at that beach house all those years ago. Shoving those thoughts to the back of his mind, he refocused on his young charge, after all it why he was here, to teach the young boy.  

 

***

 

Hours later when Mischa was tucked into bed, Noah went in search of his son’s tutor. He found him sitting prim and proper in a high back chair reading. Noah chuckled softly at the sight, how bizarre it was to witness the brunette being so detached when Noah knew the fire which burned so bright was the other man’s very nature. “Is that a good book?”

 

Kurt glanced up at the question then closed the book, setting it on a nearby table. He had only picked up the tome to give his mind something to concentrate on rather than his employer. However, he had found himself shaking his head at the irony of it all when he discovered the main character of the three volume novel, Jane Eyre, was a governess, who had taken a post at a mysterious and isolated manor with a brooding employer. But that is where the similarities between the two ended; Jane Eyre had grown up unloved and unwanted by her relations following the deaths of her parents, but Kurt had been very loved by his parents, and had been gifted with a wonderful and loving step-family—mother and brother—a few years after his own mother’s death.

 

“Not really. The story is too close to my own liking.”  Kurt replied honestly. “So what about us is it that you wanted to discuss?”

 

“I can’t get you out of my head, Kurt.” Noah told the man as he settled into the mate of Kurt’s own chair. “I’ve been trying for years. But every time, Mischa would say or do something that was so…you and I began to ache for you. I wanted you then, Kurt and I still do, especially now when you are so close.”

 

Kurt smiled at the honesty but continued to stay seated. He didn’t want to appear too eager when it came to Noah Puckerman. The dark haired man had just placed all the power in his hands and Kurt planned to play his cards very close to the vest. “And so, Noah. What do you plan to do? Are you offering marriage or only the chance to be your lover?”

 

“It’s complicated, Kurt.” Noah said, running his hand through his hair in frustration.

 

Kurt’s gaze narrowed. “Then uncomplicate it for me. You say you want me, you say you ache for me, Noah. But where’s your love, where’s your loyalty.” Kurt demanded of the man. “I want more, Noah. I want to wake up knowing that I’m going to be loved and taken care of.”

 

The pain on the tutor’s face almost broke Noah’s heart, yet it made Noah realized that he was being selfish when it came to Kurt. For the last couple weeks, all he had thought about how Kurt’s arrival had affect his life and that of his son’s. But now, Noah could see how their presence was having just as much affect on Kurt. The brunette made his living as a tutor, it was his livelihood. And if anything happened to damage his reputation then Kurt was ruined as tutor. No one would want to hire him, let alone marry him. However, Noah thought the other man was already profoundly changed by the last few weeks; he had been allowed to see and to openly care for his child—an ability he had never encountered before.

 

“I can’t offer you what you want, right now. But I promise one day, I’ll give it all to you.” Noah’s voice was gruff with emotion and from the sizeable lump in his throat. How he wanted to give Kurt everything he desired and more, but he couldn’t. Not now.

 

“When, Noah, when?” Kurt challenged softly. “I have no wish for a life where I’m nothing more than your…our child’s…our son’s tutor by day and a bed-warmer for you by night. I’m worth more than that and I know it.”

 

“And I know it too, Kurt.” Noah murmured. “But I don’t know when Kurt. And I wish I could offer you a better explanation than it’s complicated. And yet, I can’t. Not right now. All I can ask is that you trust me and let me take care you and love you. For I do love you, Kurt.”

 

“Oh Noah.” Kurt whispered. “I’ll give you time, I promise. I’ll wait for you. Just don’t make me wait forever.”

 

Noah smiled softly at the brunette before leaning across the short space, entwining his hand with Kurt’s. “It will never be forever.”

 

The tutor beamed then lifted their joined hands and kissed Noah’s knuckle. It wasn’t perfect by any means, but Kurt could live with it, if only it meant him being allowed to stay in his son’s life for however long it took for Noah to fulfill his promise or break it.

 

***

 

As the next few weeks flew by and the colors of fall gave way to the whiteness of winter, Noah and Kurt began to grow closer, finding the strength to stay away from the other, an increasing difficulty. It was further complicated when the staff, in particular Julia, began to grow suspicious of all the time in the evenings Kurt and Noah would spend together. And had even caught the pair, on one occasion, in an empty corridor, standing close, heads bent towards the other as they spoke. When the pair had spotted her, they had quickly broke away and left, each going in the opposite direction. Of course, Julia had informed Mrs. Murdoch of what she had witnessed, but the housekeeper had told to mind her own business and to not spread rumors about Mr. Hummel or their employer.

 

However, Julia wasn’t the only one to have caught the strange exchanges between the pair; Mischa had seen them on many occasions from his hiding places behind doors. The little boy was angry at his tutor for their actions—the brush of Noah’s hand against Kurt’s cheek as he tucked a stray piece of hair behind the tutor’s cheek; Kurt grasping his daddy’s hand, fingers entwining briefly before continuing pass; and the looks, the love Mischa recognized shining in his father’s deep brown eyes. His father was his and he wasn’t going to share the man, with anyone else, especially his tutor. 

 

As of late keeping their stolen moments stolen wasn’t the only issue Kurt seemed to be experiencing. Before they had begun this strange little dance, how and where Noah had spent his time hadn’t been a question for the tutor; his sole interest had been his charge and doing the job he had been hired for. Now Kurt noticed when his employer would disappear at random times and sometimes for hours on end, and the whole business made Kurt wonder even more about the other man. He had even gone as far to voice his questions one night following dinner—Noah had disappeared only to reappear at Mischa’s bedtime, a few hours later—but Noah had been vague, replying in one word answers. Kurt’s gaze narrowed as he raised an eyebrow at the conversation, but choose to keep his mouth shut; he just hoped Noah would uncomplicate it, before this went too far as there was no way for Kurt to turn back the clock.

 

***

 

One particular frosty day in late November, Kurt found himself wondering through the first floor of the house; he was looking for Mrs. Murdoch or Julia in hopes one of them had something to help relieve his headache. Mischa had spent most of the morning throwing tantrums up and down the hallway in protest to Kurt’s lesson. However, the boy had quickly calmed down following lunch when Kurt had begun the lesson on sums. Unfortunately, the damage had been done and Kurt needed some kind of relief to the pounding in his head.

 

After checking all of the open rooms on the first floor, the tutor had made his way towards the servants’ door; it was a nondescript door just pass the dining room and to the right of the ballroom. Kurt had known the door was there, but for the most part had chosen to avoid it. While he was a member of staff, he didn’t feel comfortable intruding on their area of the house, because at the end of the day, Kurt was still marginally higher in rank on the employee hierarchy than most.

 

Crossing to the door, Kurt reached out and gripped the doorknob, twisting it with a flick of his wrist. And as the door swung open, Kurt found himself jerking back when the presence of an older man, carrying a black doctor’s bag, came into view.

 

“Oh!” Kurt exclaimed stepping quickly out of the older man’s way. “I didn’t know that a doctor had been called. Is everything alright?”

 

The man returned the question with a wary smile. “Mrs. Finley, the cook, has been feeling a tad under the weather lately, although she’s on the mend now so there is nothing to worry about.”

 

“Of course, Doctor.” Kurt responded as the other man passed by. The brunette watched as he left, unable to shake the feeling that older man wasn’t being all that truthful. The mistrust wasn’t due to the anything the doctor had said, but how he said it. Both the tone of his voice and the expression on his face reminded Kurt of how his step-brother, Finn, looked when he was trying to lie to their parents. It was quite funny to witness on Finn, but on the doctor it just made Kurt wonder even more about the secrets of this house. But the wonderment didn’t last long for the appearance of Mrs. Murdoch.

 

The older woman looked suspiciously upon him as he stood in front of the door leading to the lower level of the house. “How may I help you, Mr. Hummel?” She curtly demanded of the brunette.

 

Kurt’s face flushed faintly in embarrassment, her tone made him feel as though he was a young boy again, being reprimanded by his step-mother. “I’m sorry, Mrs. Murdoch, I came looking for some headache medication. I’ve seemed to have run out and was wondering if any of the rest of staff might have some to spare.”

 

The housekeeper nodded her head at the explanation, taking it for what it was, the truth. “Of course, Mr. Hummel. I’ll have Julia bring you some and a glass of water in a few minutes. The doctor’s just been to see her…just a small cold, nothing to worry about.”

 

The brunette blinked slowly at the statement as he mind raced at what he had just been told. The doctor had told him he had been visiting the cook, however, Mrs. Murdoch claimed it was the maid, Julia, who was ill. Could it be that he had seen both and had only made to mention one of the staff instead of both? Or were his suspicions founded in truth? Both of these questions only served to make Kurt wonder more and more about his employer and this house.

 

“If that is all, Mr. Hummel?” Mrs. Murdoch asked her voice cutting through Kurt’s silent contemplation. The brunette’s head jerked slightly at the question the quickly nodded in reply, once Kurt had found his ability to understand. As he watched Mrs. Murdoch turn on her heel and disappear again through the servants’ passage, Kurt made the decision that enough was enough. He would find out the truth, these lies and secrets had to stop.

 

Twisting on his heel and straightening his back, he made his way back towards the solarium where he had left Mischa, who had been working hard on his sums. While their relationship was rocky at times, Kurt could see it getting better. The little boy was starting to obey more but there were times when Kurt would do or say something which just set the child off, leaving the tutor baffled. However, he chose not to question these times, he just hoped that Mischa would learn to trust him and love him, the same way Kurt loved the little boy. For if nothing came from his relationship with Noah, Kurt prayed that something…a friendship, a bond, anything…would form between him and his son, connecting them for the rest of their lives. 

 

***

 

Following his encounter with the doctor and the conflicting stories, Kurt began to watch the members of the household. And what he noticed startled him, greatly, for there seemed to be another maid in the house, whom Kurt had never met. She was a woman not much older than him and she carried this air of kindness and importance about her. Although she wore normal dresses under her apron, Kurt could sense that the woman was a nurse or a caregiver of some kind and that belief only served to heighten the man’s overall uncertainties.

 

Pushing his doubts to the side, Kurt knocked softly on Noah’s bedroom door, hoping the man was hiding in there. Kurt had tried almost all the other rooms in the house and Noah’s sanctuary was the last plausible hiding place for the man, Kurt thought. Waiting a few minutes, the tutor heard a faint gruff voice telling him to enter. He twisted the knob and pushed, stopping in the open doorway to allow his eyes a moment to adjust to the dim lighting. The richly decorated room was lit by only the flames in the hearth, where Kurt spied Noah sitting with his head in his hands.

 

“Noah?” Kurt whispered softly, not wanting to startle the Jewish man with is presence. In the last few days, Noah’s demeanor had become harsher, more broody and nothing Kurt said or done had mad the other man’s mood any better. Breathing deeply, Kurt crossed the floor and stopped in front of the man, crouching down he was eye level with his employer. “Oh, Noah. Tell me how I can help.” Kurt requested as he brushed his hand against the fallen curls on the man’s forehead.

 

Noah chuckled darkly. “You help by just being here with me, Kurt.” The tutor smiled weakly; he should be happy hearing that, but Kurt couldn’t help feeling that his presence wasn’t providing as much comfort to Noah as he wished. Reaching out, the brunette caressed Noah’s cheek, trailing his fingertips along the dark stubble on the man’s face before pressing kisses to all the places he touched. With hooded eyes, Noah watched Kurt’s movements, enjoying the feel of the soft finger tips on his rough skin. “Don’t start anything you aren’t willing to finish.”

 

“What makes you think I won’t?” Kurt challenged with lust in his voice. He was willing to do anything Noah wanted if it meant ridding the man of the distress written across his face. Noah grinned at the question, leaning forward to close the distance between their lips. As the dark haired man’s lips fell upon his, Kurt’s breath hitched in his throat. He had been longing for this moment, but had been determined to make Noah wait as well as himself. Kurt wanted every step they took to mean something and not be carried out in the wake of their lust.

 

When Noah finally broke their kiss, Kurt’s face was a light with pleasure and hunger. And it was one sight that the Jewish man had found himself searching for in his dreams over the years. Yet, his memories and dreams couldn’t hold a candle to physically seeing the emotions on the tutor’s face. “Where do we go from here?” Noah murmured pressing a chaste kiss to the side of Kurt’s upturned mouth.

 

“You take me to bed and show me how much you love me.” The brunette responded, not bothering to hide the sass and teasing tone in his voice. Noah released a breath, huffing in mock exasperation, before sweeping his hands under Kurt’s arms to pull the tutor to his feet as he stood. Once standing, Noah wrapped his hands around Kurt’s slim waist and kissed him again. The tutor met the passion in his employer’s kiss before pushing back and taking one of Noah’s hands in his own, tugging Noah in the direction of the open bedroom. Following behind the slim man, the Jewish man allowed his eyes to roam, taking in all the parts of Kurt he had sorely missed during their eight years of separation. And he wasn’t going to let this opportunity go to waste.

 

Once Kurt had passed through the opening, he released Noah’s hand and walked slowly to the bed. The Jewish man stopped, pausing in his bedroom’s doorway and gazed upon the other man as he slowly removed his clothes. With a smirk on his face, the employer took his fill of Kurt’s glowing pale skin. It was as milky and looked as soft as Noah remembered. In two quick strides, Noah was upon the other man, his hand stroking along a sharp pale hipbone. The tutor shivered at the touch, enjoying the calloused fingers on his skin as they stroked his hipbone before moving down to his rapidly hardening erection. “Don’t tease, Noah.”

 

“I never tease, Kurt. I always follow through, you should realize that.” Noah replied then gently shoved against Kurt’s shoulders, sending the other man sprawling across the bed. Kurt released a small puff of air when his back connected with the soft bedding and another when Noah’s body fell across his. Laughing loudly, Kurt gripped Noah’s clothes, gently fighting with him as he tried to assist his employer in removing his clothes. Once Noah’s chest was exposed to his hungry gaze, Kurt leaned up and licked, his tongue tracing a path from the dark-haired man’s neck to his left nipple before circling the little nub and biting gently. Noah moaned at the sensation, letting Kurt repeat it again to his right nipple before bending forward and pressing Kurt to the bed. It was time for Kurt to let him take control; the tutor could have his fun later.

 

***

 

Later as they lay in their shared post-coitus bliss, Kurt found himself tracing patterns across Noah’s chest, feeling as the other man fidgeted every time his wandering fingers hit a ticklish spot. “Do you remember that night on the beach?”

 

“How could I forget?” Noah’s sex-hoarse voice replied. “You were all pale and glowing in the twilight as you sketched away on your seascape. And when I saw you, I knew I wanted to make love to you on that beach. I like to believe it was the night Mischa was conceived.”

 

“Why is that?” Kurt asked, lifting his head to look Noah in the eye.

 

“It’s when I realized I was willing to give up everything if it meant I could spend the rest of my life with you and our baby.”

 

Kurt smiled softly at his lover as he leaned down to kiss the man. “What made you change your mind?” His face was open, showing no signs of hostility when confronted with his employer’s honesty.

 

“Duty.” Noah responded, earning a scoff from Kurt. How the tutor despised that word. After all, it had been the reason why all of this had happened in the first place, because of Kurt’s duty to his family; a duty which his family would never know that had taken place.

 

Upon seeing the dark look on Noah’s face, Kurt brought his hand up, brushing it against the other man’s cheek in what he hoped was a soothing manner. “That wasn’t directed at you, Noah, but at that word. I understand, I truly do.”

 

Noah smiled up at Kurt before pushing up on his elbows to kiss the tutor again. Kurt smiled into the kiss, happy to give the Jewish man anything he wished. When the pair finally broke for air, Noah wrapped his right arm around Kurt’s slender waist and twisted, pushing the smaller man down on his back. The tutor released a soft grunt on impact with the bed, yet his smile never left his face. Bringing his arms up, he twisted his fingers into the hairs at the back of Noah’s neck, enjoying the feel of the curls as they tickled the pads of his fingertips.

 

With a smirk on his face, Noah bent his head and pressed a hard closed-mouthed kiss to Kurt’s mouth, not stopping long enough for the man to respond to it, before trailing kisses along his jaw, down his neck, and across his collarbone. Noah alternated between licking and nibbling on the pale shoulder, loving each sound as they fell from Kurt’s parted lips. As Kurt’s moans turned into an almost incoherent gribble, Noah decided it was time to up the ante. Pulling back, the dark haired man locked eyes with Kurt, “Ready for round two?” he asked and kissed the ensuing grin from Kurt’s glowing face before showing the tutor just how ready he was.

 

***

 

“27, 28, 29, 30…” Kurt counted out before letting his voice trail off. He was supposed to be counting to a hundred, but the man had never been good at playing fair when it came to hide and seek. Opening his eyes, the tutor looked around the room, searching for any sign of his young charge. After seeing none, he left the solarium and crossed to the foot of the staircase; however, the brief flash of Mischa’s red shirt caused him to pause and twist in the opposite direction—back towards the dining room. His eyes swept briefly into the dining room before moving pass, just as the sound of a door opening and closing echoed in the almost silence.

 

Murmuring to himself, Kurt followed the sound, knowing the door which Mischa had gone through was the servants’ passage. He didn’t like the idea of chasing the little boy through the staff’s part of the house, but he had too. It was the whole purpose of the game and he wasn’t going to allow a seven year to beat him at a game he had been winning since he had been that age. With only that thought in his head, Kurt twisted the knob and pulled. The passageway was dim, with only a few gaslights lighting the short corridor, but Kurt could see two staircases, one that went to the second floor and one that went to the basement. The corridor looked normal enough, providing access for servants to travel to all floors of the house without being seen by their employers. However, Kurt noticed a door to the left of where he stood. It was nondescript and probably would have escaped his notice if it hadn’t been for the faint voice on the other side.

 

Not bothering to knock, Kurt opened the door, peering around the wood and into a brightly lit and warm room. The room’s furniture was sparse, a table, a few chairs, and a large bed placed close to the fireplace. The room wasn’t empty as Kurt had expected it to be, instead sat there by the fire was the same mysterious woman he had been noticing for weeks. The woman looked up from her book, eyes wide as she gazed upon Kurt. “M-May I help you?” She stammered.

 

With confusion etched upon his face, Kurt slowly walked towards the bed, gawking at the body of a woman, who lay beneath a mountain of blankets. “Who is she?” The tutor asked, trying his best to talk around the lump forming in his throat.

 

“Rachel, Kurt. Her name is Rachel and she is my wife.” Kurt spun on his heel at the sound of Noah’s voice. His employer stood silently in the doorway, his face hidden in the shadows. While Kurt might not have been able to see Noah’s face, he knew Noah was angry and maybe a little disappointed in Kurt.

 

“I don’t understand.” Kurt whispered as Noah stepped into the sick room, for that was what it was…a sickroom for Rachel.

 

“Florence, if you will please take your tea now.” Noah commanded of the nurse. The woman nodded her head before rising from her chair and leaving the room. Gesturing to the vacant seat, Noah settled on the bed opposite the chair, waiting for Kurt to sit. “She’s my wife. We had been childhood friends and married young. About a year into our marriage, Rachel had an accident, she fell from her horse and hit her head. At first, she appeared alright if not a little fuzzy on things; however, as the day progressed, her condition grew worse and by nightfall, she was in a coma. The doctor told me that she could wake in a few hours, a few days, or even years. The brain was a funny thing; one never knew if or when it would heal itself. I prayed a lot in the earlier days, but after the first year, I lost hope. Rachel was gone and she wasn’t coming back.”

 

As Noah spoke, Kurt took in the woman’s appearance—translucent skin, fading brown hair and an almost skeletal appearance. “It was on the anniversary of the second year that I decided I didn’t want to live my life alone anymore. I wanted a family, even if it meant raising a child on my own. I knew it would be worth it, just to have someone to love me.” Kurt frowned at Noah’s confession, yet kept silent as his employer continued. “And then I met you and I realized that I never loved Rachel as she loved me. I saw her as a companion, a friend, but never as a lover…never how she was supposed to be loved by a man. You, though, you were everything I dreamed of and more, and yet, I couldn’t have you, not the way I wanted. I wanted to marry you, Kurt, I wanted our child to born to both of us, but my duty was to her. And it will continue to be to her until she dies.”

 

“She’s not well, is she?” Kurt asked, reading between the lines of Noah’s last statement. “That’s why the doctor was here a few weeks ago.”

 

“Yes, she has a cold in her chest. It’s weakening her lungs, making breathing difficult. The doctor isn’t hopeful that she’ll pull through. So Florence, her nurse is trying to keep her as comfortable as possible.”

 

“Oh Noah.” Kurt murmured, blinking back the tears in his eyes. His heart went out to his lover, hating that this wonderful man had been forced to endure all of this pain. After brushing his hand across Noah’s clasped ones, Kurt stood and pressed a faint kiss to Noah’s hair before leaving the man to his grief. Kurt had no right to be in that room as Noah mourned the eventual passing of his wife. While he might have wanted to offer comfort to his lover, he knew that it wasn’t his place; after all, he wasn’t related to the dying woman.

 

The tutor had no doubt that Noah would find him when he was ready, so instead, Kurt settled for continuing his game with Mischa. And maybe it would help take is mind off all that he had seen and especially what Noah had just told him.

 

***

 

Rachel (Berry) Puckerman passed away in the early hours of the morning, two days later, with Noah by her side. He had wept openly when the nurse had informed him she had passed away in her sleep. In the hours leading, Noah had listened as she breathed, each breath becoming more and more difficult until eventually, she was exhaling more than she was inhaling. Her labored breathing had been hard for Noah to listen to, but he knew that at the end of her suffering was something so much better. And he could make peace with that, knowing his once vibrant and beautiful wife was going to be with God.

 

Noah watched silently as Florence pulled the bed sheet over Rachel’s face, obscuring her lifeless face from the world. There was much that Noah would need to do—send Gareth for the undertaker, contact Rachel’s family, and make the necessary arrangements to have her body taken back to her loved ones. The Jewish man had no wish to bury her on the property or even in the local cemetery. She deserved better than to be alone or among strangers in her eternity, for Noah had no intention of keeping the house.

 

The house had been Rachel’s; built in the image of the stately manors and great halls, they had seen on their honeymoon trip to Europe. And Noah knew he couldn’t stay in this house, not if he wanted to make a life with Kurt and their child. It wasn’t fair to Kurt, forcing him to live in the shadow of his predecessor, or to Rachel’s memory, replacing her in a home she had once dreamed of raising their own children in.

 

Once Florence had finished with her duties, Noah dismissed her, sending her to bed for a few hours before the doctor arrived to make it all official. The Jewish man had made his goodbyes years ago, but it still didn’t lessen the ache in his heart. With only one thought in his head, Noah doused the fire in the hearth, leaving the room in almost near darkness. Rachel had no need for the warmth anymore and Noah knew he couldn’t make himself stay with her for the remainder of the night. Closing the door softly behind him, Noah mounted the back stairs, taking them two at a time until he reached the second floor. As he walked down the second floor corridor, he passed by his door and made for Kurt’s at the end of the hall. Noah wasn’t looking for anything more than comfort—the chance to hide from the world for a few short hours and mourn his wife’s passing in the way he wished without judgment—which he knew Kurt, would give.

 

***

 

Mischa wondered through his home, watching as Julia and Mrs. Murdoch with the help of Gareth and Rachel’s nurse hung black sashes on the windows. His father had come to him a few short hours ago to tell him that his wife had passed in the night. The news had left the boy slightly confused for he had always been told that his mother—his father’s wife—had died long ago bringing him into this world. As his mind wondered, his feet carried him into Mr. Kurt’s room. Mischa had only been in there once with his tutor and the visit had been short. Pushing the door, the child took in the sparsely decorated room. There weren’t many pictures on the side table, but the few there were, all looked well loved and taken cared of. Grasping one in his short pudgy fingers, the tip of his finger traced along the faces of the people shown. They all looked so happy, a mother and father and their two sons—one of whom Mischa could see was a much younger Kurt. After he returned the picture to its rightful place, he continued through the room, picking up things here and there before putting them back. Crossing to the desk, his trailed his finger along its wood, his finger stopping when it encountered a thick tome. He tilted his head at the book then pushed the loose papers off its cover.

 

The diary was a deep red with the words Kurt Hummel scripted in gold across its cover. Mischa traced the letters with his finger tip before opening the tome. The opening page was blank but the next weren’t, the joined pages were painted with golds, reds, browns, blues, and greens, depicting the serene image of the seaside and in an elegant hand, Kurt had inscribed the words: To my Jewish son. As his hand turned the pages, his eyes were filled with the images and words of a man, who had given away the baby he had loved so much. When he turned to the last page and read the words written, Mischa’s breath caught in his throat,  and it caused him to turn on his heel and run from the room, and thus leaving Kurt’s words open for the world:

 

You are everything I dreamed of my beautiful son…my Mischa

 

***

 

Kurt stood in front the crackling fire, staring into its depths as the wood crackled happily in the hearth. He felt so lost now, with Rachel gone…his lover’s wife gone. It all made sense now; the lies, the half-truths Noah had told and the conflicting emotions Kurt had witnessed reflected in Noah’s brown eyes. The Jewish man had wanted him, Kurt realized, but he couldn’t walk away from his sick wife; Noah’s duty to her superseded all else. As long as she lived, even in that state, Noah wouldn’t leave her. And Kurt had to respect that; it showed a great loyalty, something few wives and husbands could claim about their spouse. 

 

The sound of footsteps drew Kurt from his thoughts, causing him to turn to look at the person, who had entered the living room. A frown formed on his lips as he peered into the troubled face of Mischa. While he yearned to comfort the little boy, he didn’t dare; their relationship might have grown in the last few weeks, but Mischa still saw him as the enemy, especially when it came to how much time Kurt was spending with his father.

 

“You’re my papa, aren’t you?” Mischa asked with a trembling voice. To Kurt, the small child looked as lost as Kurt felt. They were both pawns in one man’s life, who had meant well, yet his actions seemed to cause nothing but pain. The tutor nodded as tears streaked down his face; the truth was out, there was no point in denying it now. “Why did you give me away?”

 

Kurt’s throat choked at the question; even though he had known Mischa would ask it, it still didn’t make answering any less difficult. “I didn’t give you away. I sold you.”

 

“For how much?” Mischa asked, voice trembling across the expanse of the room. He clutched his hands tightly in front of his stomach as he waited for the tutor’s reply. The child hadn’t a clue as to how he would feel with the truth, yet he knew he needed to hear it.

 

“Seven hundred dollars.” Kurt said with a weak voice.

 

“Is that a lot?” Mischa inquired unsure of what he really wanted to hear.

 

Kurt nodded his head at the question as his tears intensified. “Yes, it’s a fortune.” Kurt said with a faint chuckle.

 

“Good. Because I would hate if it wasn’t a lot.” The dark haired boy stated and ran towards Kurt.

 

Kurt met his child, sweeping him into his arms as the little boy chanted papa over and over again into the tutor’s ears. With every papa, Kurt responded with a kiss, with a my baby whispered into the child’s ear.

 

Picking the little boy up, Kurt peered into his tear stained face. “I never stopped thinking, dreaming of you. I used to wonder what you might look like. Or if you were being loved.”

 

Mischa gave Kurt a small smile as he asked. “Did you love me?”

 

“From the moment, I knew about you. I used to talk to you when you lived under my heart.” The tutor replied, crying softly as told his little boy the truth. “I wanted to keep you so much, but I knew that I couldn’t. I did dream that maybe I would have the chance to see you, to know you.”

 

Mischa kissed his papa’s cheek then whispered. “Daddy said that we are leaving this house and we aren’t coming back.”

 

“I know.” Kurt replied. “He has asked me to come with you both.”

 

“Are you?” Mischa question, his eyes serious as he gazed into his papa’s. “Are you and daddy going to be married?”

 

“Daddy and I, Mischa.” Kurt replied, unable to stop his mouth from correcting the child. “And I believe so, in time.”

 

“You mean after Daddy and me mourn, the lady?” Mischa pondered. “Mrs. Murdoch says I have to dress in black and be sad that my mommy has gone to be with God.” Mischa explained to Kurt as though the man didn’t know the proper etiquette of when it was time to mourn the passing of a loved one. “But why should I? She wasn’t even my real mommy.”

 

“I know.” Kurt agreed, running his hand up and down the boy’s back, soothing him through his slightly agitated state. “However, she was your daddy’s wife and he loved her. So we’ll mourn for his loss rather than our own.”

 

The small child bobbed his head in understanding as he rubbed his hand across his face, trying to dry the wetness from his skin. “Okay.” Kurt grinned, unable to control his own happiness. With Mischa still in his arms, he carried the boy out of the room and up the stairs to the boy’s own room. He had a lot of lost time to make up for and he didn’t want to waste a single second of it.

 

***

 

Later when the house was silent and Mischa was tucked away into his father’s bed—the little boy had insisted upon it and had even gone as far as demand Kurt sleep with them as well, causing Noah give a deep throated chuckle as he threw his head back and Kurt to simply roll his eyes at his son’s pertness.

 

“What happens now, Noah?” Kurt asked as he entered Noah’s setting room on socked feet. He had lost his boots at some point between listening to Noah read Mischa his bed time story and helping his lover place their child in Noah’s bed. Their tired little boy had instantly curled around his father’s pillow with a thumb in his mouth. When Kurt had made a move to remove it, Noah had stopped him a shake of his head and a whispered, Leave him, one night won’t hurt. Kurt complied and together the pair had left their son to his slumber, while they retreated back into Noah’s sitting room.

 

“I’ll follow Halakha to best of my ability.” Noah replied, glancing up, briefly, from the letter he had been writing to look Kurt in the face as he spoke. “And I will have her body taken to her family for burial.”

 

“And then?” Kurt prompted for Noah had spoken very little of what was to become of him… them in the wake of Rachel’s death.

 

“And then our life starts, Kurt.” Noah responded as he rose from his chair, making his way over to where his lover stood. Wrapping his arms around Kurt’s waist, he held the man as he spoke. “I mourned Rachel years ago, when the accident happened and I knew there was no chance of her waking up. Now, I’m finally laying her body to rest.”

 

With a faint kiss on the tutor’s forehead, Noah released him and returned his seat before his writing desk. There was Rachel’s family to write to and funeral arrangements to be made and he didn’t want to waste a second. He had loved her, but never as he should. She was a childhood friend, who grew into someone he could settle for marrying. Yet, the passion he craved just didn’t exist. And when her accident had happened, he found himself falling into a world of self-loathing—if only he had loved her more, loved her like she needed to be loved then maybe the fall would have never happened. But what’s done is done, can’t be undone, and at times, Noah wondered if he really wanted to be undone. His choices had led him to Kurt and to their son and Noah knew he wouldn’t trade them for the chance at his life with Rachel again.

 

“I plan to sell this house when we leave. There are too many memories tied to this house.” Noah told his lover. “How do you feel about a house on that little beach in Maryland?”

 

“The place where we began?” Kurt asked, perplexed by Noah’s question. He truly hadn’t expected Noah to be already planning their future. Mourning hadn’t even begun yet, and here was this man asking him to spend the rest of his days with him.

 

Noah smiled at Kurt’s confession. “It’s only fitting to end where we started. And we would be closer to your family in Baltimore.”

 

Kurt returned his lover’s smile with one of his own and blinked back the tears that were threatening to fall upon his cheeks. “I’d like that. Who knew Noah Puckerman to be a closet romantic?” The brunette teased then quickly sobered as he bit his lip in reproach of his own behavior. He had so much joy in his heart but he couldn’t seem to shake the idea that he was wrong. It wasn’t the time to be happy; death shouldn’t bring happiness, but it would seem this woman’s death did. And Kurt felt guilt for it. He had won so much from her death when she had lost what little life she had left.

 

“Hidden talents, Kurt,” the Jewish man smirked. He was doing his best to ignore his own guilt for he had finally allowed Rachel to rest after so many years. And he wasn’t going to allow the emotion to destroy his new found happiness. “Trust me. I have many more where that comes from.”

 

Kurt shook his head at the man and laughed. Noah’s humor was contagious and it would appear that even Kurt wasn’t immune to it. “Of that I have no doubt. I seem to recall a few of those hidden talents were responsible for Mischa’s creation.”

 

“And I’m going to enjoy educating you for the rest of our lives.” Noah said, beaming brightly at his lover.

 

Kurt’s eyebrow rose at Noah’s remark. “Is that so?” He challenged as he walked to where the other man sat and slid into his lover’s empty lap.

 

“Have no doubt, Mr. Hummel.” Noah replied before crashing his mouth over Kurt’s in a heart-stopping kiss. As the minutes ticked by on the clock upon the mantle and the fire continued to crackle and pop happily in the hearth, Noah decided to take the time and demonstrate just how enjoyable some of his hidden talents could be.

 

***

 

Epilogue ~ Six Years Later

 

“Papa! Papa!” The shrill voice of a small girl echoed through the halls of a fashionably decorated home. The sound of his daughter’s scream jarred Kurt out of a light doze, leaving the man momentarily dazed by his surroundings. Shaking his head to clear the haziness, Kurt pushed himself up to maneuvered off the chaise lounge. The padding of the piece was plush and Kurt hated to leave it, but it would seem his daughter was in dire need of him.

 

Once on his feet, the heavily pregnant man walked—waddled—the best of his ability towards the door, out into the short corridor and to the stairs. For Kurt in this condition, navigating the stairs was almost like a scaling a mountain, yet backwards. Taking a deep breath, the pregnant man grasped the banister tightly and ever so slowly stepped down onto the top step. By the time he had it to the fifth step, his luck had run out.

 

“You’re not supposed to come down the stairs by yourself, papa.” Mischa told the man, looking up at him, having caught his pregnant father on the staircase without the aid of someone… anyone to help him down them. Kurt smiled at the child’s tone of voice—a voice which was once full of such anger—now one of laughter and playfulness, like a child’s tone should be.

 

“Well, in that case, who shall know besides us?” Kurt questioned, unable to hold back a grin. The thirteen year old rolled his eyes at his papa’s smile, completely exasperated by the man’s actions. But nevertheless, the boy mounted the stairs, grabbing Kurt’s free arm in his own and proceeded to help his pregnant father the rest of the way down.

 

“If dad finds out, then we’re both done for.” Mischa replied once they were both at the bottom of the staircase. Kurt pressed a kiss to his son’s hair, before releasing his grasp on the boy’s arm. The teenager blushed at the affectionate gesture, but allowed it to happen without fuss.

 

Although, Mischa was only a few years away from adulthood, he gladly took any and all of Kurt’s affection; in some way, he understood that his papa was trying to make up for all the years of his childhood which had been missed. It was one of the reasons why Mischa had not been sent away to school; but instead, attended a local boy’s school, where he boarded during the week and was allowed to come home on the weekends. The situation wasn’t ideal to Kurt, if he had his way, he would continue to teach Mischa until he was ready for university. Yet, he knew he couldn’t do that to Mischa; his son needed a proper education and the opportunity to socialize with other boys his own age.

 

“Then we must make sure that your dad doesn’t find out.” The former tutor said, winking at his son. “Now where is your sister, Rachel?”

 

For many, it would be a strange desire to name your child after your husband’s deceased wife, a woman whom you had never met and had held the heart of your husband before you. Yet, Kurt had felt an overwhelming need to name their daughter after the woman; because without her…without the accident, Noah and Kurt would have never have meet and Mischa would have never existed. And Kurt didn’t need to imagine his life without Noah or their son, for he already had…for seven long years.

 

“She’s in the study with dad.” Mischa replied, before disappearing up the stairs and into his room to work on his schoolwork.

 

Kurt watched as his son left, before turning around on his heel only to run smack dab into his husband’s chest. Pushing back slightly, Kurt peered into Noah’s face, observing the faint frown on the man’s lightly tanned face. “How did you get down the stairs?”

 

“Mischa helped me.” Kurt stated, with a look of innocent upon his face; it was a half truth at best, yet Kurt knew Noah would see right through it.

 

Noah raised an eyebrow at his husband in disbelief, but chose not to voice it. This pregnancy had been a bit harder on Kurt than the last one and the midwife was a tad worried about him, wanting him to stay as stationary as possible for as long as possible. However, Kurt was proving to be a difficult patient, if Noah and the rest of the household had a say in the matter. On more than one occasion, Noah had threatened to tie Kurt to a chair if he so much as moved an inch in either direction. Kurt, of course, had laughed in Noah’s face at the absurdity of the whole suggestion, until two days later when Kurt had begun to bleed for no reason and the doctor had to be sent for. After that, Kurt had taken the midwife’s orders to heart, worried for himself, for his unborn child, and the future of his family if something happened to him. He moved about the home less, walking only when it was necessary and at this moment, he thought it was necessary with his daughter screaming bloody murder.

 

“Kurt, you know what the midwife AND the doctor told you about unnecessary movement; now what has brought you down those stairs?” Noah questioned as he gave his husband a once over, checking to make sure the other man was not visibly harmed in anyway.

 

Kurt narrowed his eyes at Noah, scrutinizing the Jewish man. “Tell me, you heard Rachel screaming the house down?”

 

“Yes, I heard Rachel screaming.” Noah snapped at the smaller man. “And I’ve already dealt with it.”

 

Kurt blinked slowly at Noah’s response, slightly taken back by his husband’s response and the tone in his voice. “May I be the judge of that?” Kurt ground out through clenched teeth. “Or is that not allowed?”

 

Noah’s face softened; he knew that he shouldn’t have snapped yet couldn’t help it. He was worried about Kurt and when there was worry, there was a short-temper. “I shouldn’t have snapped; I’m sorry. And of course you are allowed to see Rachel; hell, she would rather see you than me.” Noah admitted, running his hand through his hair.

 

Kurt followed the gesture with his eyes, noting that his husband’s hair was getting a little too long and it was probably time for a cut; Noah hated his curls while Kurt loved them. Both Mischa and Rachel had inherited Noah’s curls and Kurt hoped that their next child did as well. “You know that’s not true. Rachel loves you. Now, why was she trying to scream the walls down?”

 

“She spilled cocoa down the front of her doll’s dress. And then she screamed for you.” Noah explained. Kurt couldn’t help the sigh that passed his lips at the information. The porcelain-faced doll had been a gift to Rachel on her fifth birthday and she was absolutely mad over it. It traveled everywhere with her and did almost everything the little girl did, except take a bath. Rachel had tried that once when the doll was still new, and the whole experience had ended in tears and hurt feelings.

 

“There’s a stain which is probably not going to come out.” Kurt remarked, turning on his heel and walking in the direction Noah had come. Noah didn’t comment as he silently followed his waddling husband towards the study, where Rachel and Mischa had been taking their dinner—apparently cocoa and probably cold ham and cheese to go with it.

 

Kurt smiled at the image of his children having their afternoon meal while their father managed the books. The former tutor handled the household differently than his husband had; instead of having a staff of four, they only had a maid, who generally helped Kurt when the need was called for. Their home was modest compared to the stately home Noah had once owned; but it was comfortable to them. The children each had a bedroom and the baby would have its own nursery when born. However, Kurt considered the best feature of the home was its location—the gorgeous view it offered of the Chicoteague Bay on Maryland’s southern coast.

 

The pocket doors of Noah’s study were slightly ajar, allowing Kurt to see his little girl, where she lay curled in a plush leather chair clutching her doll to her chest. The pregnant man’s heart went out to his daughter; she loved that doll like a parent would love their child. And if anything bad had happened to the ceramic and cloth figure, Rachel would end up in hysterics over it.

 

Sliding the doors the rest of the way open, Kurt entered the room, crossing the polished floors as quietly as possible. He didn’t want to startle the little girl, but he also didn’t want to alert her to his presence just yet. For the moment Rachel knew he was in the room, she would fly off that chair as fast as her legs could take her and expect to be picked up. Yet, in his current condition, picking Rachel up was out of the question, so he was hoping to settle for curling up in the chair with her.

 

Once he was in front of the little girl, whose eyes were fixated on the stain on the doll’s dress, Kurt bent down as far as his stomach would allow and brushed his hand along the girl’s badly done braid—Noah tried, but he had no idea how to properly braid their daughter’s hair, which meant when he did it, the braid usually ended up lopsided. With the pressure of the warm hand on her head, Rachel’s tear streaked face peered up at her papa’s softly smiling one. As her lip began to tremble at the sight of her papa, Kurt quickly shushed the little girl and laid a faint kiss upon her forehead. Moving away a little, Kurt straightened his back before lifting the girl slightly and maneuvering her the short distance across the leather chair so he could slide into the empty area. Once settled into the soft supple leather, Kurt tucked his youngest into his side and watched as Noah sunk onto the ottoman before them.

 

The room fell into silence save for the occasional sniffle from Rachel. After wiping her nose with the sleeve of her dress, Rachel pressed her small hand against Kurt’s bump, hoping to feel her sibling kick—it was her favorite thing because it tickled. “Papa, Lily’s dress got dirty? Is she ruined? Please say she’s not ruined.”

 

“No, sweetie, Lily isn’t ruined. She’s just a little dirty, like you are when you go out to play with Mischa.” Kurt told the young girl, covering her hand with his own.

 

Rachel nodded at the information, beaming at her papa. “So she needs a bath. Can she take a bath with me?”

 

Kurt and Noah chuckled at the question, not bothering to hide their amusement at their daughter’s earnest question. “No, we’re going to wash her dress and if the cocoa doesn’t come out, we’ll get her a new dress. How does that sound?”

 

“Good.” The small child agreed. “Can I help pick out the dress?”

 

“You can help pick out the fabric for the dress.” Kurt corrected, after all, the doll’s clothes had to be made just as Rachel’s own.

 

The ash haired girl grinned at her papa and then her daddy. Leaning over Kurt’s stomach, she smacked a huge kiss on the rounded belly before scooting to the edge of the chair, her little legs dangling a few feet above the floor. Understanding what his daughter wanted Noah reached out with two hands, grasping the child under both arms and placed her down onto the floor. Rachel smiled her thanks, following it with a kiss on Noah’s cheek before darting out of the study, leaving her doll next to Kurt on the chair.

 

Noah laughed as he watched the girl disappear around the corner, listening as her feet bounded up the stairs as fast as possible. Without even being told, Noah knew exactly were Rachel was headed and he could guarantee that Mischa would voice his displeasure at being interrupted by her when the family sat down for supper. “That girl is something else.”

 

Kurt laughed at the remark. “But she is our something else.”

 

“She is; they both are.” Noah agreed, taking the opportunity to shift into Rachel’s vacant spot. “I wouldn’t trade them for anything in the world.”

 

Turning into Noah so the pair would fit as comfortable and humanly possible in the leather chair, Kurt smirked at his husband. “Good. Because we’ve got another on the way, and if your answer had been anything else, I would have to hurt you.”

 

The Jewish man rolled his eyes at Kurt, knowing his husband was joking, before leaning over to kiss him, his teeth nipping at the plump lower lip of Kurt’s mouth. “I can outrun you.”

 

Kurt gave an undignified snort in response to the statement. Noah grinned before leaning in again to kiss his pregnant lover. Kurt accepted the kiss with every fiber of his being and returned it ten-fold.

 

It was only when air became necessary did Noah pull away, bringing his hands up to frame Kurt’s round cheeks. “God, I want you.” He breathed, his words passing through the small space between their lips. Kurt swallowed at the remark, feeling the warmth the words brought spread through his body—Noah still found him sexy even when he was as big as he was.

 

As Noah leaned forward once more to lay a kiss upon him, Kurt pushed him back with a hand to his chest, earning a frown from his husband. “Noah, we can’t start anything we can’t finish. And this is definitely one thing I can’t, midwife’s orders.”

 

Noah’s frown morphed into a pout; he knew Kurt was right. With a quick glance at the clock on the fireplace’s mantel, Noah pushed himself off the leather chair, taking care to not jar Kurt too much as he did so; once standing, he proceeded to haul Kurt to his feet. Kurt went willingly, letting his partner manhandle him before he laced his fingers with Noah’s and pulled him out of the study and towards the stairs. Once at the bottom of the stairs, Noah took over, placing his hand low on Kurt’s spine as he helped support and guide the pregnant man up the staircase. The journey was slow going, but the payoff was worth it—a lush, warm bed for Kurt to lie down on.

 

When the pair finally reached their bedroom, Noah led Kurt to their bed, watching as his spouse lay down on his side and emitted a small sigh as his head hit the pillow. With his knowledge of this pregnancy and the last, Noah knew what the small sound meant—Kurt was uncomfortable due to all of the walking he had done. Frowning more to himself than at Kurt, Noah walked around to the other side of the bed and slipped in behind the man. Pressing his hand against the small of Kurt’s back, he began to massaging the area, hoping to loosen up the sore muscles. Kurt’s next sigh turned into a low moan as Noah’s broad hands passed over a particularly tight area. Noah smirked at the sound, not bothering to pretend to be anything other than smug at being able to pull that sound from his gorgeous husband with just his hands.

 

As if he could see his husband’s face, Kurt mumbled an incoherent reply—a warm bed coupled with his husband’s warm hands releasing the tension in his back, Kurt couldn’t be bothered to try and keep his eyes open, so instead he let sleep pull him under. Once he was sure Kurt was asleep, Noah slipped out of bed and left the room, closing the door softly behind him. His pregnant lover needed as much rest as he could get, yet Noah also knew that Kurt hated missing so much time with their children. With this thought, Noah decided that supper would have a change of venue tonight—supper in their bedroom so Kurt could spend time with their children before bedtime. Smiling to himself for his moment of brilliance, Noah wandered down the hall to check that said children weren’t causing too much mischief before supper, and if they weren’t he would definitely have to help them rectify that.

 

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