"There he is, buddy. That's your little brother." Kurt peered over the edge of the bed to the tiny thing bundled in his mother's arms. It cooed and opened eyes so dark, you could hardly tell the brown of them apart from the pupil. They were unlike Kurt's almost-amber colored eyes, which blinked and squished up as he smiled.
"What's his name?" He asks, looking up to the towering figure of his father behind him.
"His name is Mark. You gotta help us keep an eye on him, alright?"
"Yeah," Kurt said, nodding. He knew babies, of course! He knew that they were like tiny people, and needed to be fed and cared for just like anyone else. "Hey Dad," he began, sliding off the edge of the bed he'd climbed onto.
"Do you think he'll like cars too?" Kurt offered a toy one up to the big man, a slick red one with a big engine poking out.
"Maybe. You could tell him all about them, I bet." His father let out a low, rumbling laugh, and he grinned too, climbing up onto his lap.
"Are you ready for school?"
"I dunno," Kurt mumbled, fiddling with a bit of paper in his coloring book. Mark was sitting beside him, playing with little toy people and garbling out Markie-speak to himself.
"I think you'll do wonderfully. You're very smart."
"I know... but what if they make fun of me because I trip lots?"
"Honey, it'll be okay. If anyone is mean, you can ask the teacher for help." His mom, brown hair and hazel eyes, bent down, kissing his forehead before straightening to walk away. Kurt sighed, looking over to his baby brother.
"Do you think I'll do okay, Markie?" The younger boy looked up, seeming to sense his brother's nerves. To placate him, he offered up a chunky toy car, round face squishing up in a smile. Kurt giggled and took it. "Thanks."
"Yeah," Markie just said, nodding. He seemed satisfied with his actions, and turned to resume playing.
Kurt adjusted himself in his father's lap, looking to the mirrors just like he saw his parents do.
"Ready?" Came his dad's rough voice from behind him.
"I think so."
"Alright. Put your hands here..." one giant hand gently adjusted his small one, "and here." The other was settled just opposite. "Now, I'll help you, okay?"
"Yeah!" He nodded and grinned toothily, showing the dark little holes where he'd recently lost a couple of teeth. He knew his dad did most of the work, but it was satisfying helping him with this. They pulled back, and Kurt got the honor of turning the truck off. He hopped out, walking over to Mark and his mom, standing together in the garage and holding hands.
"Did I do good?"
"Of course, you always do." She smiled to him, and even Markie gave him a thumbs up.
"That was pretty cool!"
"Thanks." Mark moved from his mother and held a hand up to Kurt, which he took, leading him back inside.
"Do you wanna color with me?"
"In the car book, sure." Kurt nodded a bit to himself--he liked that book. He could tell Mark about all the famous drivers and how fast they went. He used to ask Dad, but he seemed to be home less and less. It was okay, though. Mom sometimes took him to get car books to read from the library. Mark liked them too.
"Hmm. Hey, bro, want me to read to you instead? Maybe if I find an easy spot you can try too!" Mark lit up and nodded.
"Yeah!" Kurt grinned and went to grab one about one of his personal favorite racers--Shirley Muldowney. She'd fought the odds and become one of the earliest female drag racers.
"You really like that book," Mark commented, crawling up onto the bed to join his older brother.
"Yeah, I think he's pretty cool. She drove a big pink car!" Mark grinned and wormed up against his side, helping to hold the book with his chubby little hands.
"How was school, sweetie?" Kurt looked up, startled.
"Uh, it was okay. The teacher seemed bothered because I wasn't looking at her... but I can still hear her talk." Mom just sighed, and gave a small, tired smile.
"Hon, you know I can't fight all your battles for you. You're going to have to ask her. Maybe tomorrow when you get to class." A small nod, and he went back to picking at his food, looking some mixture between bored and upset. He looked over to his brother, doing math problems on his homework. He was making a scrunchy face as he focused, but looked up to eat.
"I told my teacher about some cars today," he says, offhandedly. "I mentioned Kurt's favorites. She seemed surprised."
"Surprised?" Kurt said, puzzled.
"Yeah. She asked me how you knew so much about racing."
"I read lots, and I watch the tv when racing comes on. They tell you all about it. Plus, Dad showed me a bunch of car stuff." Mom seemed to wince the tiniest bit when he was brought up, and Kurt noticed, but chose not to address it. Mark just nodded, stuffing some mashed potatoes in his face.
"Well, you two need to get cleaned up here soon, so hurry with your dinner." They both nodded, and Mark scooted closer to his brother, watching their mom leave the room.
"Could you uh.... help me with this math? This one doesn't make sense to me."
"Yeah sure, turn the paper a bit."
"Ready, mom?" He said, voice cracking the tiniest bit. He cleared his throat and thought about trying again. She gently interrupted him, though.
"Yes, hon. Go ahead." He smiled wistfully to her, and she watched him with that perpetual look of exhaustion. Markie was in the back, looking terribly uneasy. Kurt looked down--he was still new to this, and needed to check. Start the car, take it out of park, carefully pull out... Mom seemed proud, in some muted way. He drove them out to the small hospital just down the street, Mark not looking out the window as he usually did.
Everyone climbed out, Kurt swinging around after stuffing the keys in his shorts pocket. He offered his arms out, helping his mother down and supporting her as they walked in. Mark trailed close behind, still saying nothing. There was a brief period of silence as Kurt passed the woman off to the doctors, then went to sit in the waiting room with his brother. Mark leaned against him, and he put his arm around the younger boy without thinking.
"Is Mom gunna be alright?" Mark whispers, eyes misty. Kurt pauses, choosing his words carefully.
"I'm not sure, buddy. She's... really sick. It's okay, though. You've still got me, right?" Mark sniffled but nodded, hugging his arm a little.
Kurt tried not to show his discomfort with his dad looming over him. He scribbled the last of the test out, then signed it.
"Should I go turn it in?" A nod. Kurt timidly goes up to the lady running the desk, and offers the paper. She looks up to him, seeming confused or disgusted as she takes it. He can feel the embarrassment crawl up his spine and he quickly goes to sit again, nearly tripping and falling over his own feet. He manages to sit, avoiding meeting his dad's stare.
Quietly, he slips the little phone out of his pocket, pushing the speed dial button and holding it up.
"Hey buddy, it's me. How's it going?"
"Doing good. I'm still working on homework."
"How much've you got?"
"I finished math--this is uh. English? No, no, this is science." Kurt chooses to ignore the way his father's eyes continue to bore into the side of his head.
"Science huh? What kind?"
"It says biology on it, has to do with animals and stuff."
"That should be easy enough, you know animals."
"Yeah, it's not hard. I'll probably be done by the time you get back.
"Alright. There's still snacks if you need 'em."
"I know, Kurt," a small laugh. "I’ll see you soon alright?"
"Yeah, you too." He hangs up and stuffs it back into his pocket, feeling the anxiety come back full force.
"Was that your brother?"
"Yeah. Mom's not... she's not doing well right now. I keep an eye on Mark." The old man grunts and leans back, turning his focus away. Kurt feels a little queasy when he's called, stepping up again to the desk.
"You did well," is all the man says, offering the plastic card. He takes it, looking down at it. He still thought his picture looked terribly like a mug shot, despite all the information written on it. He tucked it down with his phone and returned to his dad, who stood, looking down at him.
"I passed," he says simply, and they walk out.
"You're driving," the old man says, and Kurt simply gets in. No point in arguing.
Kurt takes the bags and passes them to Mark beside him.
"Check 'em." Mark nods and automatically opens the bag, peeking in.
"Hmm. Looks good bro." A nod, and Kurt pulls out of the fast food joint, heading home. Mark pulls a couple fries, chewing them crookedly.
"They good?" He asks, pausing to shift.
"Good as usual. Oh, I was meanin' to ask, you signed on for somethin' recently, right?"
"Yeah, it'll bring some cash in. M'hoping if I do well enough, I can move up. Depends on what happens, though."
"Can I watch you on tv?" A nod, and a small smile.
"Yep. Channel 6."
"Gotcha." Mark offers some fries at a red light, touching them to Kurt's lips. He takes them and chuckles, taking off. "Yanno, I think mom would be real proud of you."
"Ya thimk tho?" Kurt asks, muffled by the fries. Mark laughs and nods.
"Yeah!" He winces a bit at his own voice crack but shrugs it off.
"I like to think she's real proud of me, wherever she is. I mean, I keep you out of trouble and that alone is pretty good." Mark puts a hand to his chest, mock-offended.
"Kurt, bro, how could you? I'm not that much of a troublemaker."
"Never heard more baloney in all my life," Kurt retorts, grinning.
"So, your birthday was a week ago. You're allowed to get your license now. I got enough money still that we can go somewhere cool after." Mark grins at the thought as Kurt locks the door, but it vanishes at the sight of someone he dreaded seeing.
"Hey, Dad," he says, with something approaching sarcasm. Kurt frowns beside him, and he's not sure whether it's directed at their father, or at him.
"Hello, Mark. I heard something about a driver's license?"
"We're going to head out to get it for him. He's already read everything, and he knows what he's doing. I made sure of it." Dad just grumbles something that sounds vaguely like approval, and Mark can't stop himself from scoffing.
"Real nice of you to show up again, old man," he mutters, "come back for our driver's licenses but not for Mom. Dick."
"Markie!" Kurt hisses.
"Don't Markie me!" He snaps, gesturing to their father. "He's a shit parent!" Kurt looks... hurt, almost. Moreso than Dad.
"You could at least be polite, brat. I raised you," the old man barks, over Kurt's meek response.
"Yeah right, Kurt did more for me than you ever did! Because of you, he was driving at fourteen!" The old man growls and goes after him, but Kurt steps between them, tall and gangly. Something horrible comes out of him, and it gives both Mark and their father pause.
"Touch him. I'll call the fuckin' cops on you." The words were harsh, sure, but raw hate behind them almost scared Mark. He'd never heard Kurt talk like that. Ever.
"Bro?" Mark says, timidly. Kurt doesn't look back, eyes locked on their dad.
"Can we leave?"
"I'm not budging until he's out of our apartment." Dad huffs, glowers; "I see how it is," leaves him as he storms out. Kurt still doesn't relax though, and turns, checking his brother over.
"He didn't hurt you did he?"
"Good." Kurt just wraps him close, holding him almost like mom used to--head to her chest, her arms cradling them around the shoulders. He settles into the hug, and tries not to cry.
"Alright, he's coming. Shh. Shh! Banjee, hide better!" Mark ducks into his own spot, watching the large Puerto Rican wedge himself down a bit better. Kurt unlocked the door, opening it. He gives a "huh?" before the lights jump on, everyone popping out.
"Surprise!" Kurt staggers, nearly falls. Kadeem chuckles and rights him, and he looks around, totally lost.
"Wh... surprise? Huh?" Mark grinned, gently poking his arm.
"Yeah! Happy birthday bro!" Kurt blinks, looks around at everyone there, a sea of smiling people waiting there.
"You... you all did this for me?" He sounds--so confused.
"Yes, this is all for you. It was your brother's idea," Taro answers, a slight smile quirking up the corner of his mouth. Kurt looks to Mark, and he sees it before anyone else. He grabs Kurt, wrapping him up in a hug as he breaks down, a few sobs cracking out. A good few people--namely Lani and Banjee--look worried all of a sudden.
"I can't believe-" Kurt hiccuped, "-you all did this for me." Mark smiled a little awkwardly and rubbed his brother's back. At a questioning look from the others, he decides to explain on Kurt's behalf.
"We weren't exactly a part of the best home growing up. Mom couldn't do much, and Dad was never there. He's not used to all this for his birthday." Kurt pulls away, wiping his eyes with the heels of both palms.
"This is so nice, I can't thank you enough. Even after all I've done you still care. Thank you." He offers them a watery smile, and Mark pats his shoulder before tugging him off for cake.
"Everyone got you something too."
"Everyone?" Dresden laughs; "Everyone! Even me." Kurt rolls his eyes with a half-grin--their rivalry wouldn't get in the way of helping each other, it seemed. Esmerelda opened all the food with Skeet and Rekkas's help, Chuvo popping the cake box open.
"Hey look, there's a little Slingshot," Vert comments, and Kurt steps over to see for himself. He pulled it off the top, chuckling a little at the model car.
"Nice." There's a smile on his face, and Mark silently relishes his small victory.