Once upon a time, not too long ago, a man and a woman held a baby boy in their arms for the first time. And the baby smiled a toothless smile up at them, and the nurse in the hospital told them it was a reflex, because newborns didn’t smile, but they didn’t care; they were in love, and nothing would ever change it.
The nurse asked what the baby’s name was, and the new mother, on a natural high from giving birth and seeing her baby, said, “Kurt. I drove my parents crazy watching ‘The Sound of Music’ growing up over and over -- I think my parents regretted ever getting a VCR. Part of the reason I married Burt, here, was because his name sounded like Kurt. I’m sure he’ll do the same to us with his favorite movie.”
The nurse let out a little laugh and looked down at the wrinkly little baby. “We all seem to find their favorite movies. I doubt his’ll be ‘The Sound of Music.’ Mine was ‘Mary Poppins.’ We both seem to have stuck with Julie Andrews!”
Burt let the women talk about movies. He cradled the his son, Kurt, in his arms. The boy opened his eyes, unfocused and yet somehow locking on his father’s face. Burt fell into the newborn-baby blue eyes. He didn’t know how or why, but he knew then and there that nothing could ever compare to the love he felt for this helpless little creature. He would do anything for this boy. He was in love with his wife, of course, but nothing could compare to this feeling he had for Kurt.
The nurse was wrong. “The Sound of Music” was by far Kurt’s favorite movie. Burt, who really had no ear for music at all, knew every song by heart by the time Kurt was three. Once Kurt learned that he was named after a character in a movie he had to learn everything about it. And at least Kurt had some natural singing ability. Burt wasn’t sure if he could put up with a kid who couldn’t sing constantly belting out all of those songs.
Kurt’s mom stayed at home with him. She had a playgroup that met a few times a month, and she took him out with her, but mostly it was just the two of them during the day and Burt joined them at night. Kurt was incredibly close to his mom. They understood each other in ways that Burt never could quite figure out. And Burt would be lying to say he wasn’t jealous at times.
Kurt could chatter endlessly about movies and princesses, and even when Burt could understand the words (which wasn’t always, he had to admit; Kurt spoke quickly, and not always clearly) he didn’t always understand the meaning.
Then Kurt’s mom started to teach him French, too. Kurt’s babbling at Burt was difficult to understand in one language. It was nearly impossible in two. Kurt’s mom had to step in and tell Kurt to only speak in English to Daddy.
The two of them spent half the day cooking elaborate meals together. Well, Kurt would ‘help’ while standing some sort of bizarre stepladder/stool/highchair contraption that Burt still didn’t know where his wife found. But Kurt was happy while he helped; Burt wanted Kurt happy, he did.
Every day when Burt would come home from the garage Kurt would run from whatever room he was hiding in, chanting, “Daddy’s home! Daddy’s home! Daddy’s home!” before Burt would pick him up, swinging him around in a circle and squeezing him tightly. Burt could never quite pinpoint exactly when this tradition started, but he wouldn’t have given it up for anything in the world.
One day shortly after Kurt turned three, the tapity-tap of his running through the house changed to a clompy-clomp. He had a pair of his mother’s dress shoes on, along with a sparkly shirt of hers that he was wearing as a dress. He had somehow or another managed to put a clip in his baby-fine hair, and his normal running was hampered by trying not to trip on the shoes. “Daddy’s home!” Clomp-don’t-trip. “Daddy’s home! Daddy’s home!”
“Hey there, sport. Whatcha got on there?”
“Mama said we’re gonna see ‘Sound of Music’ for reals!”
His wife came into the room. “There’s a sing-along ‘Sound of Music.’ I think he’ll sit through it, and it’ll be fun. It’s an annual event. You’re welcome to come.”
“That’s okay. I mean... maybe this is something he’ll like better with you. I don’t really get all this theater stuff.”
“Maybe you can do something with him, too? He loves you, you know.”
“Yeah. I just don’t know. Maybe. Think he’ll like a ball game?”
“He’ll like going with you.”
“I always wanted to take my kid to a ball game.”
“Mama, can I wear this to see Kurt in the show?”
“I think we’ll probably get you a suit. And nice shoes that fit you, you silly goose!”
Burt thought he’d never get “Do-Re-Mi” out of his head. It was a shame that he’d missed taking Kurt to one of the Indians’ games. It’d have been a bit of a drive, but they’d done great that year. He decided football wasn’t out of the question. So he bundled Kurt up, and the two of them set out for a father-son day.
Kurt tried. Even at age three, Kurt tried. He loved his daddy; he loved being with his daddy. But Burt could tell game itself was boring his son. He complained the food was “icky”, everything was too loud, there was something sticky on the ground every time he stood up, and it was cold where he was sitting. He curled into Burt’s arms and watched some of the other boys there with their fathers, swinging pendants and screaming. Burt watched too, wondering what was going on in his kids’ head.
For Christmas that year, Santa brought Kurt an entire set of Power Ranger toys that transformed into different robots along with their different action figures. Kurt got dress-up costumes for various superheros like Superman, some trucks, and all sorts of puzzles and crayons and construction paper. Being over the “For 3 and up” restriction was really, really great.
Kurt spent hours after that doing puzzles on the floor in the living room. The “Sound of Music” was constantly playing in the background. He’d often take out the action figures and play with them too. Losing himself for hours in worlds he’d create in his head.
Burt was surprised that Kurt liked the Power Rangers toys.
“Why’d you get them, then?” his wife asked, quietly.
“I... don’t know. I just... he doesn’t seem like the other boys I’ve seen.”
“He’s just like Kurt, though.”
“Yeah. He is just like Kurt.”
“I’m having a bunch of the guys from the garage come over for the Rose Bowl on New Years. That okay?”
“Of course. I haven’t seen them in awhile. I’ll have to stop in. I’ll bring Kurt by some time.”
“Will you make some party stuff for us?”
“You know I will. Burt, I love you. Kurt is just a sweet little boy. Sports don’t interest him. They don’t interest everyone. He likes musicals and puzzles and coloring and action figures...”
“And your high heels...”
“All little kids love their mom’s high heels!”
Burt raised an eyebrow.
“They do! It’s the sound they make when they stomp around the house in them. He likes your boots too. The important part is that he’s a good kid. I’m glad he is the way he is. He’s also part monkey. The other day at the park, he didn’t seem to care that the play equipment was far too large for him -- and wet and slippery, he wanted to climb!” She smiled at the memory.
“Burt, our son is special. I know all parents say that about their kids. But there’s something else with him. I know you see it, too.”
“Yeah. He’s something else.”
By March, Burt had had more than enough of “Sound of Music.” He looked at the family’s budget, and discovered enough extra cash to get a DVD player. As he was checking out of the store, he noticed a display with a DVD for sale. Why not, he thought, at least it isn’t “Sound of Music”. So he came home that day with a huge box in his hand and a smaller bag containing what he hoped would soon replace his son’s favorite movie.
“Don’t you think the flying monkey’s will scare him?”
Kurt was clutching one of the Power Rangers and ‘helping’ his father set up the new DVD player.
“Can you give me the red cord, sport? I don’t know, I don’t think they’re any scarier than Nazis. We grew up on this stuff. Besides, if I hear ‘My Favorite Things’ again I’m gonna cry. What the hell’s a strudel anyhow?”
Kurt giggled. “You’re not allowed to say bad words, Daddy.”
“You’re right. There, it’s all done. I think. Let’s see if we can get this thing to work.”
They turned the TV on and pushed a few buttons, and up came the black and white opening for “The Wizard of Oz”. Kurt sat on the couch between his parents and snuggled into them, his eyes never leaving the TV.
They didn’t unhook the VCR altogether; Kurt wasn’t completely willing to give up “Sound of Music”. He was willing to expand and watch other movies, though. Burt wasn’t sure where, maybe some thrift store, but his wife found an entire set of Disney Sing Along videos. Burt would come home every day to a bouncing Mickey head on a different set of words and Kurt and his mom singing along, matching in perfectly with whatever song it was.
Then Kurt would finish the song, he would notice Burt, and his old routine of chanting, “Daddy’s home! Daddy’s home!” would start up again.
As it neared Kurt’s fourth birthday, Burt asked him what he wanted. “Do you want more Power Rangers?”
“What is it?”
“Can I have a pair of sensible heels?”
“Try that again?”
“Well, like Mama keeps saying ‘cause hers hurt her feet. I want ruby slippers like Dorothy with a sensible heel. They’ll make me pretty.”
“You sure? That’s all you want for your birthday?”
“Yeah. But you have to keep the Wicked Witch from wanting them, okay?”
“I think I can do that. I won’t let anything get you.”
Kurt looked up at his dad solemnly. “I know.”
Burt didn’t think he could get through the first day of kindergarten. As much as his wife reassured him that Kurt was ready for kindergarten, he wasn’t convinced. He heard horror story after horror story of kids picking on other kids in school.
“It’s kindergarten. It’s half-day kindergarten. He’ll be fine. He has friends in the class already. We’ve been at playgroup with some of these kids for years.”
“Isn’t he smaller than the rest of the class?”
“Maybe a little bit. But the other kids don’t notice these things. And there are some kids smaller than him.”
“I just don’t think he’s ready. Maybe in a year.”
“He’s already ahead academically. He’s going to be one of the older kids in the class. He’s fine. It’s kindergarten, Burt.”
So Burt and his wife decided they would take him to school together on the first day, and Burt took off early from the garage that day so he could be at the bus stop when Kurt came bouncing down the steps with his backpack with a big grin plastered on his face.
“Daddy! Daddy! You’re home! Mama didn’t say you’d be home! I got to sing at circle time. And we did centers and I learned everybody’s name, but I don’t remember anyone’s except Jacob, and that’s ‘cause I already knew him, and he kind of whines and he’s not really friends with me, but we did story time and I have to bring in a picture tomorrow and a snack and we have a puppet theater and...”
“Whoa! Slow down there, sport. Why don’t you and me and your mom go out for lunch and you tell us all about it?”
Burt lifted him into his arms, idly thinking that soon he’d be too big for it.
“Kindergarten is going to be the best year ever. I love you.”
Kindergarten was not the best year ever.
Shortly after New Years, Kurt’s mom ended up in the hospital. Burt was never as smart as she was when it came to all of the treatments and everything. He did know the word ‘Cancer.’ And he knew that her chances were good, she was young and strong, and healthy before all of this started. But the hospital had a strict “No visitors under 13” policy they adhered to. This was torture for both mother and son.
Kurt came by the shop after school. He got to choose a video to play on the little TV-VCR combo they had in the waiting room for customers. Then one of the guys would watch him while Burt would visit his wife in the hospital. And Kurt and his mom would try and talk on the phone, but the six-year-old couldn’t handle a phone conversation very well.
After the first week, Burt started coming home with a cassette tape each night of Kurt’s favorite songs sung by his wife. If they couldn’t have each other in person, at least Kurt could have her voice. Kurt drew her pictures and sent home every class and homework assignment. And if Kurt took to sleeping with his parents’ bed after having been in a big boy bed for years, Burt certainly wasn’t going to say anything.
After what felt like years, but was in actuality only a few weeks, his wife was sent home. Kurt came home from school that day gripping his dad’s hand.
“Now, kiddo, you have to be gentle with your mom, okay?”
They walked into the door, and Kurt spied his mom lying on the couch. He hid his face in his dad’s sleeve.
“Hey, baby, it’s me.”
“Your hair is gone.”
“Yeah. The doctors at the hospital did surgery on me and then they gave me some really gross medicine and it made my hair fall out. And as soon as it starts to grow back, this is the really crazy part, they’re going to make me go back in, and I’m going to have to take it all over again!”
“So you’re still sick?”
“Nope, not really. This is just to make sure that the sick stuff doesn’t come back. Like the medicine that made your tummy feel funny when you had the sore throat.”
Kurt wrinkled his nose.
“But it made your sore throat stop hurting, didn’t it?”
“But I like your hair!”
“It’s going to come back. But I have to do this a few more times before they can be really sure the bad sick -- they call it cancer -- is all gone.”
“You promise it’ll come back?”
“I missed you.” A tear rolled down his cheek.
“I missed you, too, sweetie. Did you get my songs?”
“Yeah. They were great. I went to bed with them every night. Did you get my pictures?”
“Of course. They made the really icky room I was in prettier. I think they need to hire you to decorate the rooms at the hospital. You’d be much better at it.”
Kurt giggled. “Can I... Can I hug you?”
“Of course you can, silly. I’m just a little tired right now, but I am never, ever too tired for Kurt hugs.”
He still looked uncertain, like if he touched her she would disappear. Burt gave him a little push, and Kurt stumbled over to the couch and cuddled against his mom’s too-thin frame.
Burt discovered that he didn’t have to worry about kindergartners and first graders. If they noticed that Kurt wasn’t necessarily like the other boys, they didn’t care. Boys and girls weren’t separated by cooties yet. They all played on the playground together. If Kurt wanted to play Ariel and Sleeping Beauty with Karen and Danielle rather than play football and red rover with Joseph and Matthew, no one noticed or cared. They all played on the monkey bars. They all raced in P.E. Everyone got a ribbon on Field Day.
Second grade things started to change. Burt couldn’t figure out exactly when. Everything all started to fall apart towards the end of summer when ‘in remission’ became ‘out of remission’. Kurt, who tended to make sure he was a good boy for his parents, made sure everything was right at the house. He understood more at age seven than he did at age six. He knew the routine this time.
Kurt cleaned the house. He cooked, having long since learned his favorite recipes, even if he still had a hard time reading some of the ingredients. He seemed to think if he was just better behaved then his mommy could come home and be with them. And some part of Kurt’s brain knew that clean meant no germs which meant his mommy couldn’t get sick.
Burt still made him go to school the first day.
The boy who got off the bus was not his little chatterbox. He ran into Burt’s arms and cried. “Don’t make me go back tomorrow, Daddy.”
“Come on, you love school. What’s going on?”
“They hate me! They said I’m a girl. They made fun of my clothes and my hair and the games I play and I don’t want to go back.”
“Now, what’s wrong with any of those things? I think you look handsome!”
“None of the other boys were wearing a suit. We’ve all always dressed up for the first day, and I thought we were supposed to. Mommy would have known better. But the other boys were just wearing ugly t-shirts and shorts and some of them were even stained. They said it looked like I was dressed for picture day. But I like this outfit. It makes me look like I care about what I look like. And they don’t. They’re just boys.” He stomped his foot.
“Well, what about some of your other friends. You were friends with Karen last year, right?”
“Yeah, but she’s in Mrs. Soothie’s class this year. And Jessica won’t talk to me because I’m a boy and she said boys have cooties. I think the other boys might But I don’t. I swear I don’t!”
“Well, but, it’s only the first day. Remember last year? You and the others would have fights and they’d be forgotten the next day. Give it another shot tomorrow.”
Kurt wiped his nose with a tissue he pulled from his backpack. “Okay. How’s Mommy?”
“She’s doing good. She misses you. We’re going to the shop, now.”
“Okay. I have homework.”
“You’ll have it done in no time.”
“I know, Dad.”
The cancer had spread. Burt’s wife had two options: treat aggressively, be in pain, and die, or not treat, be in less pain, and die. Treating aggressively might give her an extra month or two, the doctors thought. She didn’t think it was worth it. The doctors gave her the contact information for a hospice service that would let her stay at home.
Burt drove her home, thankful that the shop would take care of itself. Kurt let himself in the front door, tentatively calling out, “Mommy, Daddy?” before walking in.
“We’re in here.”
Sitting at the kitchen table, Burt and his wife ushered Kurt over. Kurt gently hugged his mom, breathing in deeply and closing his eyes before slipping into the seat next to her.
“Kurt, baby, this is a very important discussion for you. Okay?”
Kurt’s eyes widened and he nodded.
“You know mommy’s sick again, right?”
“Yeah, the cancer came back.”
“The doctors can’t fix it, sweetie. I’m feeling okay right now. I promise you. And I’m going to fight real hard to stay with you as long as I can. But you remember how sick the medicine keeps making me?”
“It makes your hair fall out?”
“Yeah. And a lot of other things too. And this time, it won’t even make me better. It would just make me feel sick. So I’m not going to take it this time. I want to be here with you, okay? But this means that I’m going to die, baby. Do you understand?”
“You’re such a brave little boy.”
A tear rolled down Kurt’s cheek. “You’re going to die. And then Daddy’s going to send me to school in all the wrong clothes and the other kids will make even more fun of me and I’ll miss you. And Daddy can’t sing.”
“Well you still have the tapes I made you, right?”
“And I’m not going to die tomorrow. We have some time. Why don’t we plan on having a good time now, rather than worry about my dying?”
“Will you make more tapes for me?”
“Sure. But first, let’s plan your birthday party. What should an eight-year-old do for his birthday?”
“Um... I want a tea party with Karen. But she’s in another class this year. She’s my only friend anymore. We only play at recess. No one else will play with me.” He sniffled.
“Hmmm. Well, I think I know the first song I’ll tape for you.”
“Tell me! Tell me!”
“Remember when you were obsessed with the Disney Sing-Alongs.”
“Yeah. But I like ‘Wizard of Oz’ again now. It’s more fun on the big screen.”
“Well, there was one with Ariel singing about everyone being different... and how that’s okay.”
“In HARMONY! Can I sing it with you? Can I sing with you on the tapes. I miss singing with you, Mommy.” The tears started up again.
“Of course, sweetheart. We’ll make as many tapes as you want. Of me singing, you singing. Special requests. We’ll even get Daddy to sing.”
“That’s okay. He doesn’t like to. Maybe he’ll come to the tea party for my birthday, though.”
“Of course he’ll come to your tea party.” She gave Burt a look. “I bet we can also get him to come to the sing along ‘Sound of Music’ this year with us.”
Burt grumbled something, but nodded.
Kurt missed a lot of school in second grade. His mom couldn’t bear to send him if he begged not to go, wanting to spend more time with her, away from his tormentors at school.
When she passed away, Kurt missed two weeks straight.
He didn’t care about the teasing at school when he went back. He didn’t speak. He turned in the schoolwork he probably could have done in his sleep -- which was practically how he was doing it -- ate lunch in the cafeteria, spent recess quietly swinging by himself, then went back to the classroom for more schoolwork.
After school was spent much as it had been when his mother had been in the hospital. Instead of watching movies and drawing, though, he carefully made his way onto the shop floor to be with his father. Kurt said quietly, “Movies are for Mommy.”
Burt didn’t know what to say to that. Instead he asked if Kurt could hand him a wrench. So Kurt started to help out in the shop for a small allowance.
Neither Kurt nor Burt went near her stuff. It was an unspoken rule in the house. Her dresser had been hers when she was alive, and they weren’t allowed near it then, so it was hers now. Burt never did understand what it was that Kurt needed so badly in that dresser that day. All he knew was that he heard a shriek and a sob coming from upstairs. He raced up there, thinking the worst had happened.
A strong smell of his wife’s perfume hit his nose. The dresser was broken. Kurt was next to it, his eyes wide open, surrounded by glass, crying. He clutched a cassette in his hands.
“It’s okay, buddy. Come on.”
Burt carefully lifted his son up and over the glass before coming back up to clear it away.
“What’s that there?” He gestured to the cassette Kurt had.
“Mommy said she’d leave it for me. I forgot about it.”
A note was wrapped around the cassette. For when you’re lost and you miss me. I’ll always be with you. Follow your heart and your dreams, baby. I love you. Mommy.
Burt lost track of how many times he found Kurt under that dresser just lost in the memory of his mother.
Kurt fell asleep every night listening to her tapes. Elementary school didn’t seem to get easier for him. Birthdays were met with, “Maybe just something with you and me, Dad, okay?”
Kurt figured out the internet, which was something Burt doubted he would ever do. Kurt understood computers the way all kids his age seemed to. He just jumped on there, typed at what seemed like inhuman speeds, and two days later a package would appear on their front door containing something Kurt said he had to have. Burt just shrugged. He and Kurt spoke different languages at times.
Kurt continued to work in the garage. It wasn’t something he loved. He wasn’t passionate about it the way he was about music or clothes or planning things. But he was good at it. Burt figured Kurt just looked at cars like he looked at those jigsaw puzzles he was always doing as a kid, or those silly fashion design things. Something was broken, twiddle with things until it looked right. Kurt would never admit how much he liked puzzles.
Three days into middle school, Kurt came home with a permission slip. “I want to join marching band. This is the permission slip. The band director already said he wants me.”
“Uh, kid, hate to break it to you, but you can’t play any marching band instruments. Piano doesn’t march well.”
“Well, I could play bells. But he wants me to be the drum major. I’d play piano for their regular concerts.”
“Do you have friends in band?”
“No. But maybe I could make some. Middle school is different, dad. It’s mixed up from three different schools, so I hardly know anyone.”
“Drum major? What’s that do?”
“Well, for middle school band, I’d just be at the front twirling a baton. I found one in the band room today at lunch when I was running from some kids... oops. Anyhow I was twirling it for fun because I used to have one before Mom died. And I wanted to see if I still could. The director said I was really good at it, Dad!”
“Hold up, why were you running?”
“Just some guys, dad. They don’t like me. They’ll never like me. So I’ve been trying to find a place to hide from them at lunch.”
“Okay. If it gets to be too much, you let me know. You really want to do this band thing?”
“Yeah. The band is pretty good. The choir kind of sucks though. I think they only have three people in it. It might not even qualify as a class.”
“Well, then you can join the band, as long as you promise to come to me if these guys mess with you too much. Deal?”
Kurt was great at twirling the baton. Kurt hated marching in the band. He agreed to do it for a year, and he stuck it out, but there wasn’t a day that he came home and didn’t complain about it. At least standing at the front and twirling the baton, he didn’t have to march in lock-step with the rest of the group. Kurt Hummel was not designed to march in lock-step with anyone. Wearing the uniform was bad enough.
The boys didn’t let up, but Kurt never said anything. If a red mark that was forming into a bruise on his cheek after school had somehow miraculously disappeared by dinnertime, Burt never said anything. He would just frown, nod, and comment on the mashed cauliflower that his son had somehow managed to make taste almost like mashed potatoes.
Middle school was only two years. Nobody liked middle school. Burt knew his son. He knew Lima. Everyone found a group in high school. It was the way things worked. So even if his son was a bit -- unconventional -- he would find someone in high school to be friends with.
“I didn’t think anything could be worse than middle school, Dad.”
“What is that smell?”
“They threw pee balloons at me as I was walking here. Can I use the shower in the back before changing into my coveralls? Please? This is the most disgusting, gross, humiliating thing ever and I am either going to die or throw up if I don’t get it off right now.”
Burt turned to look at his son, whose hands were splayed next to his sides. The hair that had been perfectly groomed that morning was plastered to his face and soaked. His shirt, which had probably cost more than Burt wanted to think about, was no doubt ruined. “Come on, let’s get you cleaned up.”
“I’m better than they are. They are going to lick my boots one day.”
“That’s right, kiddo.”
Kurt convinced his dad to get him a cell phone. Burt didn’t know why Kurt needed a cell phone. He chalked it up to, “All the other kids are doing it.” He didn’t think it would hurt, though. In the end it probably added to Kurt’s safety. Kurt would go into his room and listen to music for hours. Show tunes, the Beatles, Judy Garland, his mom, anything. Sometimes the music would turn off and he’d talk on the phone. Burt gave him his privacy. He didn’t check the number. He hoped Kurt had at least one friend.
They came home one summer evening to find their lawn furniture nailed to the roof. Kurt got out of the car and cocked his head to the side while staring at it. “Do you think any of them broke their necks while doing that?”
“Now, Kurt, you don’t mean that.”
Burt silently agreed with him.
When that crazy glee club happened Burt couldn’t have been more overjoyed. It seemed Kurt finally found his niche. Yeah, some of those kids that had been pushing Kurt around the last few years were there, too, but so were some kids that Kurt had never mentioned before. He was coming into his own.
One day the phone rang in the shop. “Hey, Hummel, your kids a fucking faggot! He’ll get what’s coming to him!”
Kurt walked in shortly after in what could only have been described as a dress. “Hey, bud, I know I’m not all up-to-date on all your clothes and things, but you can’t wear dresses to school, okay?”
“It’s a sweater, Dad. It’s a shirt.”
“Yeah, well, it’s not appropriate for school here.”
Kurt rolled his eyes. “I can’t wear sweaters? A lot of the teenagers wear sweaters...”
“You can’t wear dresses.”
“I just told you. It’s not a dress. It’s a form-fitting sweater that stops at the knee.”
“Well, you can’t wear... what you just said.”
“Fine.” He let out a sigh.
“Look, you promise to stop wearing those, I’ll get you something special for your sweet sixteen. Okay?”
“Nuh-uh. You’ll have to wait and see.”
The Navigator was a good, dependable car, and Kurt was a safe driver. Burt trusted Kurt behind the wheel, and he trusted the Navigator to keep his boy safe with the other jerks on the road. Kurt loved the Navigator for being something that could give him his independence now that he finally had a group of his own.
Burt couldn’t wrap his head around the clothing choices his son was going with. The sweater-dress-thing was the start. Then there was a corset. Then he found a chest full of tiaras of all things. He was okay with Kurt being Kurt, that was never an issue. But there were so many other ways for Kurt to be Kurt without making the idiots in Lima want to hurt him more than they already did.
Burt didn’t know how to help his son. Communicating with Kurt seemed to get harder, and not easier. Ever since middle school, Kurt almost seemed jumpy around him. High school made Kurt act like a frightened rabbit half the time. Burt didn’t know what he’d do if he ever got his hands on any of the boys that actually hurt his kid.
If there was one thing Burt did know, it was punishment. He tried to tell his kid to tone it down. When that didn’t work, he started to take things away. When the Navigator came back with a huge hole in the windshield, (“It was just an accident, Dad. Really, it isn’t what you think this time, I promise!”) and he found the tiaras, Burt took the Navigator away for a month.
Burt came home one day to watch TV to too-loud music coming from Kurt’s bedroom. In and of itself, this was not an unusual occurrence. Kurt being in his bedroom with two girls, dancing in a sequined something-or-other, on the other hand, was.
Burt snapped the sequined thing questioningly. Kurt decided to lie, for some reason. Well, Burt wasn’t sure Kurt was lying so much as trying to impress Burt, or just going along with the ditzy blonde’s ideas, but somehow or another Kurt seemed to think Burt was going to believe that after sixteen years of not giving a hoot about football, he was on the football team.
Burt couldn’t have been more surprised when Kurt actually invited him to the game that Friday.
And while Burt didn’t for one minute believe that the dancing that the team did was a part of their training before whatever day that week Kurt had managed to charm his way onto the team, and Burt never for one moment doubted that if Kurt said he could kick the damn ball, he was able to kick the damn ball.
He was proud of his son. Not because he could play football, though for that, too, but because his kid had somehow managed to make an entire group of boys three times his size in football gear dance like that. His little boy was coming into his own.
When Burt came downstairs to congratulate Kurt, Kurt still seemed to be lying to him. Kurt, kid, just stop. You don’t need to impress me. You impress me every day just by being you.
“Dad, I have something that I want to say.”
Burt turned around.
“I’m glad that you’re proud of me, but I don’t want to lie anymore. Being a part of the glee club and football has really shown me that I can be anything. And what I am is... I’m gay.”
Burt couldn’t believe it. He didn’t realize that this was actually a secret. “I know. I’ve known since you were three. All you wanted for your birthday was a pair of sensible heels.”
Whatever Kurt’s reasons for introducing Burt to Carole, it was one of the best things to happen to all of them.
Carole wasn’t like Kurt’s mother. She wasn’t into theater and musicals and Disney songs. She wasn’t not into them either. She wouldn’t teach Kurt French. She didn’t care about clothes or hairstyles or tea parties. (Well, she might have as a little girl, it never came up.) She was a solid midwestern girl with solid miswestern thoughts.
She did get along with Kurt. She didn’t try and be his mother, which they both knew wouldn’t go over well at all. She let him give her a makeover. She cooked with him. She embraced his eccentricities and quirks in a way that his mother would have, no judgements. Finn needed a father figure. Kurt had a mother. He didn’t need a new one. He needed to know his father would be okay when he was gone. She could do that.
After a rough start, and a heart attack, Burt and Carole got married. Kurt got to plan the wedding, and at first Burt chalked Kurt’s overall nervousness to having to plan the wedding in such a short period of time, plus still dealing with the heart attack. (Burt knew it had affected Kurt more than he ever would admit.) But then Kurt decided to give Burt dance lessons at the school.
Burt never knew how bad it was for his son. The pee balloons were a one-time thing. He was pretty sure the dumpster-tosses had stopped when Mohawk had joined the glee club. Finn was supposed to be watching out for Kurt. Kurt may have had a growth spurt, but he still was just so damn fragile looking. Burt turned a blind eye to most of it. He knew his son didn’t want Daddy to step in for everything. He wouldn’t have wanted his dad stepping in either.
This had to stop, though. Kurt was wincing when he moved his shoulder wrong or put his bag on the wrong side. If that damn Karofsky kid hadn’t shown up when he did, Burt wouldn’t have been able to figure out who it was. Since he did, however, Burt was headed straight to the principal’s office. This had to stop.
Kurt had a boyfriend. He didn’t start out as a boyfriend. He started out as the nice young man who happened to be gay who was “just a friend, Dad, really”. He was a grade behind Kurt, but got Kurt in ways that none of the guys Kurt had ever had around before seemed to.
While Kurt shouted who he was at the top of his lungs, Blaine didn’t. Blaine just sort of was. Burt loved everything about Kurt. There was never any question about that. He wondered, sometimes, though what it was that Kurt was trying to say that he shouted so loud to be heard. He looked at Blaine and wondered what it was that happened to him that he never shouted at all.
When the boys came back from Kurt’s Junior Prom, holding each other and both looking on the verge of either tears or laughter, Burt decided to not question it anymore. They fit each other. Blaine quieted Kurt down, calmed him. Kurt brought Blaine out. The two balanced each other in ways that Burt hadn’t seen in a long time.
Burt looked at the pair. He knew true love when he saw it.
Once upon a time, not too long ago, a man and his husband held a baby boy in their arms for the first time. And the baby smiled a toothless smile up at them, and a woman on staff from the adoption agency told them it was a reflex, because newborns didn’t smile, but they didn’t care; they were in love, and nothing would ever change it.
Burt looked at his son and son-in-law. “Nothing like it, is there?”
“Is this real, Dad?”
Blaine spoke up, “My turn, Kurt, you’ve been holding him since we got here.”
“But we haven’t even decided a name. I can’t believe this is happening. I have to get him clothes and we have to pick up some DVDs... and can we throw a baby shower for an adoption? Who drops off a baby like this? He’s so perfect!”
“Kurt, babe, calm down. We’ve been approved for adoption for a long time. And someone insisted on a closed adoption, and we were next on the list. It happens. Breathe, okay, baby?”
The baby turned his head and started sucking on Blaine’s arm. “Sorry, sweetie. I’m going to have to get you a bottle. I don’t have any milk there.”
“I’m glad you happened to be in New York for this.”
“Me too. Any chance I get to hold my grandson?”
“In a little bit. He’s perfect, Kurt.”
The new fathers looked into their little boy’s eyes and fell in love with their son.