Chapter 1: The Boy Under the Porch
Burt pulled the recycling bins to the curb. It was two days before they were supposed to go out, which meant Charley next door would complain, but he and Carole would be leaving for their vacation tomorrow - a week in Myrtle Beach. It wouldn’t be as nice as their honeymoon in Waikiki, but all he needed was his wife, some champagne and strawberries, a splurge or two on room service, the beach, and no auto shop or hospital talk. And while he loved his step-son Finn, the kid could be forgetful. He'd be lucky if the bins got put back in their place on the side of the house by the time they returned.
A spot of red on one of the cans caught his eye. The can itself was mostly clean. Its contents licked by the look of it and the poor creature that did it had gotten cut in the process. He felt bad for the injury he'd inadvertently caused by forgetting to rinse out the remnants of soup and attracting an animal to it. Carole was always on him for it, yet for the life of him, he never could remember. Plus, he figured if all the cans and bottles were going to be washed at the recycling center anyway, what was the harm. Recycling was supposed to help save the planet. So was not wasting water. And with the exception of the cut, if his leftovers could give the opossums or stray cats or whatever liked beef stew as much as he did, a bit of a meal, then that was good too.
During really bad weather, he and Carole would leave out some food for the stray cat that had slept under their front porch last winter. Just because it was summer didn't mean critters didn't need a bit of help getting enough to eat. He'd be more careful from now on with the can opener. Maybe leave out something that was close to expiring on a paper plate.
Nothing else could be done for the cat now though. He had a million things on his list to do before he and Carole left. Making sure the shop would be okay without him and finally packing his suitcase was more important than a stray who had seemed to be doing just fine until the mishap with the can.
* * * * *
Burt knew he really needed to clean out the garage. It was a mess and he was tired of digging through it every time he needed something. Today, it was a spark plug for the lawn mower. They were supposed to be in the box with the oil on the shelf by the snow shovel rack. He wanted to blame Finn for moving it, given that he had used the oil last on a friend's bike, but that wouldn't have been fair. The mess was as much his as it was Carole's and Finn's.
After pulling out the wheeled cart full of gardening tools and fertilizer, he was able to move further inside. A patch of camouflage print cloth caught his eye. He didn't think Finn had owned any camo. None in their family hunted. Not that it made a difference given that such clothing remained in fashion in this area. As he got closer, he could tell that the item of curiosity was a pair of cargo pants, heavily worn with a few holes, and they were wet. He really hoped that the roof wasn't leaking. Fixing it was the last thing he needed on his plate right now. Nothing around the garment was wet, which was a relief. Finn was off at college now and they looked too small for the kid, so they probably weren't his. Carole was a fan of denim, not camo, so they weren't hers either. He looked at his watch. It was later than he'd thought. He'd needed to stop wasting time on the mystery pants and get the lawn mowed. Which he couldn't do until he found the damn box with the spark plugs.
* * * * *
Two weeks had gone by and he was finally going to clean out the garage for real this time. Just as he was pulling things out and sorting them into piles a storm hit. Grumbling at the weather report that had promised only mildly overcast skies the entire weekend, he started shoving things back in, making more of a mess than when he'd started. It was only when he was tossing some tomato support cones onto the pile in the back did he remember the pants. He looked for them in the growing darkness, but found nothing. He did notice that the loose board in back, another repair he'd never gotten around to, was ajar.
Picking up and turning on a flashlight he kept on a shelf, he gave the garage a once over. Nothing seemed to have been stolen. Nothing broken that wasn't broken before. Whatever or whomever had been in his garage wasn't there now and hadn't done any damage.
While he wasn't exactly thrilled by the idea of a stranger on his property, he decided to let it go for now. Maybe it was just a one time thing. It's not like there was any room in the garage for someone to actually live in it. And once he did get it all cleaned out, he'd fix that board and make sure it was nailed back in place.
With a long sigh, he adjusted his cap and got back to work. The rain was pouring down harder now and he needed to get the lawn mower and snow blower back inside before they rusted.
* * * * *
It was an early snow. Not even winter yet, but with climate change and this being Ohio, a bit of a dusting was to be expected from time to time. At least it would bring in the panicky customers wanting to get their tires swapped out for winter ones and other maintenance done before the real snows hit. It was good for business and his nerves. Less people waiting till the last minute and then complaining that it would take a few days to get to their cars.
"There's paw prints in the back yard and by the recycling bins. I think Mister Fluffy Pants has come back."
Burt tried to recall which of the two stray cats his wife had given that particular moniker to. "That yellow tabby?"
"No, the black one."
Burt walked to enclosed back porch and looked out one of the windows. There were indeed paw prints, but these looked off somehow. Too big to belong to a cat and the shape wasn't right. The stride was off too. Not that he knew much about such things, but he had been a Boy Scout for a few years when he was a kid, and as he still liked to go fishing and camping as an adult, it was good to know about dangerous animals. The prints didn't look like one of those either, and given this was a suburban neighborhood, not likely. Still, he'd check the news reports just to be sure if there had been any sightings or pets getting killed.
* * * * *
Burt would swear he’d about damn near had a heart attack this morning while walking out to his truck. Yet the flash of brown fur and ragged clothes that had bolted out from under the front porch had confirmed they didn't have a stray cat going through their garbage and hanging around the back yard. It was a young teenage boy. A hybrid one and homeless at that. He took off his cap and ran his hand over his face and head before replacing it. This changed everything. Made it more serious. A cat you could lay out some cat food or tuna when the weather got rough. A human child you would call child protective services so they could get some help and maybe taken into foster care. A hybrid kid? That he wasn't so sure about. Not in these times. Not from some of the things he'd heard on the news and around town. Things were bad again for that race. Not that they'd ever been good.
When their work schedules lined up enough to give them more than a few minutes together, he and Carole were going to have to have a talk about this. For now, he had to open up the shop. Business had remained steady after the first snow and tires wouldn't be ordered correctly without him.
* * * * *
Burt took the key out of the ignition of his truck, glad to finally be home. It had been a long day full of impatient customers and suppliers swearing that half of what he needed was on back-order. Thinking about the homeless hybrid boy had only added to his stress. The kid might not even come back, but they needed some sign if he did. And he clearly needed help if this is how he had been forced to live.
He went inside the house and grabbed an old blanket from the linen closet, opened up a can of tuna, and added a foil wrapped packet of Pop-Tarts that Finn liked to the collection. He wasn't sure if hybrids could handle the sugar, but maybe the kid could trade them for something he could eat. It was better than nothing. He tucked the items under the front porch out of sight of the neighbors and anyone driving down the street.
That done he headed back into the house and turned on the computer. While it was booting up, he put a frozen dinner to heat up in the microwave, opened up a bottle of beer, and turned on the news. Once the computer and his dinner were ready, he got to work.
Burt couldn't say he believed in the god the Baptist church his parents had taken him to as a child. Not the one full of hellfire and brimstone and damning of anyone who wasn't human, straight, and white. But he did hope there was a compassionate god of some sort. The one his late wife believed in and would have met when she died. Maybe that god could look out for the kid or give him some clue as to how he could help the boy himself. Until that happened, he’d have to rely on the god of the internet.
"Okay, Google, tell me all you can about hybrid rights in Ohio and what the hell I should do about this kid."
* * * * *
Burt shook his head as he heard the kid take off running from his hiding place behind the garage. He had tried talking to him. Tried reassuring him that he was safe here and all he was trying to do was build him a shelter, but it hadn't worked. The minute he'd turned on the jigsaw, the kid was gone. A flash of a brown-furred tail sticking out of the no-longer-a-mystery camouflage pants was all he'd seen.
If the kid was smart, he'd come back later and the day's work he was about to do wouldn't be for nothing. And if he'd been scared off for good, then the stray cats would have a shelter and the clothes they'd bought the kid could be donated to Goodwill.
* * * * *
The kid had come back and there were signs he was using the shelter at night. The sweatpants, jeans, sweatshirts, socks, and coat Carole had dug out of the box of Finn’s old clothes and bought new had been taken and the daily offerings of food eaten. His wife had reassured him that cutting a hole in the back of the pants meant for humans wasn’t ideal, but was better than buying hybrid clothes from Walmart least someone they know see her shopping. The kid didn’t seem to mind too much. Not that he ever talked to them to say if he did.
Burt felt bad for the days he’d forgotten to put out food, rushing out the door to get to work or to one of Finn’s games at Ohio State University. Not that Finn ever got to play what with being only a freshman and all, but it wasn’t nothing. He was proud of his son. Still, he now had another kid to take care of. There wasn’t much he could do, but he figured what he could do was helping a little or else the kid wouldn’t have stuck around.
All of his friends with kids had warned him and Carole about empty nest syndrome. How sad they’d be when Finn went off to college. He wasn’t ashamed to admit that he’d felt it. That he’d find himself in the grocery store with half a cart of Finn’s favorite foods and sadly realize that he had to put it all back because his son didn’t live at home anymore. He could admit that getting to help take care of another kid helped to fill that parental void a little. Burt knew he wasn’t the boy’s father, not by a mile. And he knew nothing about him except what he looked like, that he hated oatmeal, and that he must feel his place was safe enough. Still, he was man enough to accept that it made him less sad, less lonely going out to the patio every day and leaving a meal and sometimes some extra thing to help the kid get by in the world. It felt good. It felt right.
* * * * *
Burt was grateful that the boy had a shelter in his relatively safe backyard when Halloween rolled around. The Giardi triplets across the street were always a nightmare on this day. Some years, their destructive behavior would go for the entire week. When Carole got home from her shift at the hospital, he took a break from handing out candy duty and walked into the backyard, stopping just short of the patio.
“It’s just me, Kiddo, hoping you’re in the shelter or the garage and that you’re okay. Figured Halloween can’t exactly be safe. Don’t know where you’ve usually spent it, but I really do hope you’re here. I brought you some candy. I promise it’s safe to eat. If everyone else is getting a treat tonight, there’s no reason you shouldn't too. I’m just going to put it in the storage bench and then leave you alone, okay? If you get hurt, knock on the back door and we’ll take care of you as best we can.”
Burt did as he’d said he do, placing the small bag inside the bench as quietly as he could. As he was walking away, thinking that he’d probably been talking to empty air, he heard a shuffle and then the opening of the bench followed by a little squeal of happy surprise. He couldn’t help but smile himself. Giving the kid a bit of peace and something good in his life was all he’d ever hoped for.
* * * * *
They had been feeding the kid for about a month when he'd gotten sick and asked for help. He and Carole had tried talking to him, both in person and in notes left inside the storage bench. Tried to convince him to be checked out either at the clinic or by Carole herself.
After the written reply rejecting their suggestion of going to a clinic because it would cost money and all that was needed was some medicine, he and Carole had talked it over and agreed that they didn't feel comfortable about giving the kid cash. Clothes, food, and a shelter were one thing. Money was a step they weren't ready for. They knew nothing about this kid. Not really. While he may have seemed nice, if ragged from outward appearances, had never stolen anything from their garage or yard, never broken into their house, and the few things he'd requested were reasonable, that was all they knew. If they gave him money, he could use it for drugs, demand more, or worse, demand more with the threat that if they didn’t pay up, he'd tell the cops they were harboring a hybrid.
So instead of money, they decided to fill his storage bench with the things he'd asked for, adding a cooler to keep the containers of soup the warm, another set of clothes, and a box of cold medicine. Their pleas to let Carole check him out continued to be ignored even when they knew he was still inside the shelter and could hear them. That alone made them worried. If the kid had been faking it and wanted the medicine to get high, he would have bolted at the sound of either of them coming near.
They checked up on him frequently, peering through the windows of the back porch, walking to the backyard whenever they came home or needed to leave on an errand. Carole had witnessed the kid taking food from the cooler and bringing it into the shelter. Whereas he had only gotten the unpleasant joy of seeing the kid take a dump while leaning on the fence that separated his yard from Jackass Charlie's. Then he'd gotten the added thrill of having to go out to the spot so he could accurately describe the color, texture, and smell to his wife. He didn't want to know why the medical community was obsessed with patient poop and had only half listened when she'd told him. All he knew was that after he'd told Carole what she wanted to know over the phone, she'd gone out to the pharmacy and returned with a new kind of medicine. Something that she said was stronger and should work better.
* * * * *
It took a little over a week before they saw more activity from the kid, or Buddy, as he’d taken to calling him. In the middle of the night, he’d raked the leaves. Burt cursed at himself. He hadn't meant to leave the rake out. It was only there because he had been planning on doing it himself, but then put it off so he wouldn't spook the boy. In turn, the kid had gone and done the chore as a form of payment. He felt bad, yet at the same time relieved. It further proved the kid's integrity. He was willing to work for what he'd been given, repay them for what they'd done even though neither he nor Carole had ever expected it. The kid had even written them a thank you note and left it in the storage bench. His instincts had been right. Buddy was a good kid who had gotten the raw end of the deal in an unjust world.
When Burt found the boy two mornings later sleeping under the front porch, his heart broke. Something had obviously gone wrong with the shelter and he hadn’t noticed. With Finn on the injured list due to a strained hamstring, he wasn’t needed for the big game on Thanksgiving. As such, he would be coming back home from college to spend the holiday with them. And that meant adding the kid’s favorite dishes to the feast least, extra grocery shopping, stocking the kitchen with his cereal and Pop-Tarts, and making up the fold out couch in the living room so he wouldn’t have to climb the stairs to his room. With so much going on at the last minute, Burt hadn't had time to do more than buy Buddy a sandwich from Subway.
It didn't take long to figure out that the kid had cleaned out his shelter. All the blankets were missing and the inside was soaking wet. Burt waited for the boy to circle back to the yard after taking off from under the front porch. He could understand him being scared, but was glad that more and more often the kid would stay where he was either in his shelter or behind the garage, like in this case, and listen as he talked. Burt knew he wasn’t very good with words, but felt that talking to the boy and telling him what was going on was important. Today he told the kid that he was glad he was feeling better and how he and Carole had been worried. How he’d help him dry out his shelter and that it was okay if he had needed to trade the blankets they’d given him for something else.
Burt also apologized for leaving the rake out and making the kid assume it as a sign he should rake the leaves. He thanked him and said that they never expected payment for what they’d given him. That he was a good kid.
Burt also made sure to tell the boy that he knew hybrids were sentient and probably the more intelligent of the two races on the planet. Not for a minute did he want the kid to fear that he was one of the bigots who didn’t believe in dual evolution and would treat him like he was lesser. Homeless and on his own, hybrid and not human, and not knowing what his name was or where he came from didn’t make a difference. The kid mattered, same as Finn, his human son that he rarely used the “step” prefix for.
As Burt talked, he dried off the interior of the shelter and replaced the straw. They were down to a single old blanket though, but there was nothing to be done about that until he bought more. Mentally, he added that to the ever-growing shopping list. Satisfied that the kid would sleep better tonight, he urged him to stick around where it was safer than on the streets given the holiday traffic and to stop by on Thursday for food. And he let him know that Carole was making pancakes for breakfast, which he definitely should wait for.
Hell, he was looking forward to them as well. Pancakes with real maple syrup would be much better than the high fiber cereal he’d grudgingly agreed to eat “for his health.” Responsibilities for the kid over for now, Burt went inside to shower before heading off to work.
If he and Carole could get Finn to understand the importance of keeping Buddy a secret and if no one on their block started a fire, they might just get through the rest of the week unscathed. He was really looking forward to Carole's turkey and stuffing. She was an amazing cook.
Chapter 2: His Name is Kurt
Kurt. That was the kid's name. Not Bud or Buddy, but Kurt. Burt knew it would be hard not to think of him as Buddy though because of how long he'd been using the nickname. Still, it was nice to put a real name to the boy.
Thanksgiving had brought a swirl of emotions. First, there was happiness that his family could spend the day together eating great food and watching football. Carole had really outdone herself. He’d only been able to mix up dip, cut blocks of cheese into cubes, and put out the fruit and vegetable trays. All three of them took turns bringing out portions of the feast to Kurt. Burt watched each offering from one of the back porch’s windows, peering through a sliver of pulled back curtain. The boy’s eyes and smile were wide as he opened up the containers, thrilled at being included in the day’s festivities. Even Finn had insisted on going out once with some chips and dip. Swearing that everyone needed to celebrate the football game’s outcome that they’d been watching on TV.
The middle of the day brought some tense, fear-filled hours when the street was filled with cop cars and a fire truck because the Giardis were a daily, real life episode of The Jerry Springer Show. Their extended family’s Thanksgiving celebrations began when they decided to deep fry a frozen turkey. Which turned into a raging fire of burning oil and an equally raging fight with each other. The fight had quickly turned into a brawl which ended up with one of them punching a cop. That their front yard was now a scorched and charred turkey carcass covered mess was at least amusing.
Then there was the evening when Carole had come back into the house instead of leaving for work after giving the kid some slices of pie. Burt had thought she'd forgotten her phone, but it was still clutched in her hand. She said the words he'd never forget. "He said his name is Kurt. He came out of his shelter, thanked me for the food, and told me his name. Oh, Burt, he finally trusts us!"
Burt had hugged his wife while a confused Finn looked on; hIs son not understanding the importance of the moment. How big and real it all was now. Buddy wasn't some homeless teenager who ran away at the slightest sound and tried to work for his meals anymore. He had told them his name. A name he knew they could use against him.
Maybe he and Carole were being sentimental old fools. Reading too much into things. But screw what the rest of the world might think. They had a name and a voice and a new level of trust with the kid.
Kurt. His name was Kurt.
* * * * *
"Kurt got attacked by a swarm of bees today."
"What? How?" Burt finished hanging up his coat and followed Carole into the kitchen. It was the place they always talked when working opposite shifts so they could catch up on the day's happenings, what needed doing next, and what the plan was for dinner. Good, open communication was important for a solid marriage.
"I don't know. He wouldn't say. But he came to me. Knocked on the back door and asked for help." Carole selected a can of soup from a pantry cabinet and retrieved a bag of pepperoni rolls from the refrigerator. The rolls had been meant for her lunches this week, but Kurt needed them more. "The poor kid is a mess. He's not allergic, thank god, but I'm worried about the stings getting infected. Can you check up on him tonight?"
"Sure. Just tell me what to do."
"I gave him some Tylenol and Benadryl. He'll need another dose at 8 o'clock. Look over his face and hands. Let me know if the swelling has gone down and if he has a fever. There’s some ice packs in the freezer if he needs fresh ones."
"Is Kurt around or did he say when he was coming back?"
"You know how antihistamines are. He's been asleep in his shelter all day. He refused food, but maybe by now some of the shock has worn off and he'll be hungry. We know he wanted soup the last time he was sick and the rolls will last until he's up to eating more."
Burt looked at the distress on his wife's face. There was more to it than just the bee stings. "Anything else I need to know?"
Carole rung her hands as she nodded. "I think he might have been molested at some point. The way he flinched and panicked when I opened his coat and his shirt to check out his lungs? It wasn't just pain from the stings. He was shaking like a leaf."
Swearing under his breath, Burt took off his hat and rubbed his eyes. "Can't say we didn't know it was a possibility with the way some people abuse hybrids."
"I didn't see any major scarring on his wrists so I don't think he was sex trafficked. Not that all of the victims are restrained that way."
"There's that reformatory in Lima Heights. Maybe there?"
"He doesn't seem like a juvenile delinquent, does he?"
"No, he doesn't. He's a good kid." Burt said out loud what they were both thinking so his wife wouldn't have to. "And sometimes good kids have to do things they don't want to in order to survive." He rubbed at his eyes again. There were too many kids like Kurt out there. "Are you still okay with this, Carole?"
"Are you? We don't know for certain that he was molested. If he was..."
"It doesn't change anything for me. We discussed this before we decided to help him out. I know we've only been taking care of him for a few weeks, but..."
"Kurt already feels like a son to you, doesn't he?"
"Finn's my son, same as if he'd always been my own."
"No one said you can't have two sons, Burt Hummel. Your heart's too big for just one."
Burt took a couple of long sips of his coffee before replying. He needed the few minutes to think. "Only as long as you're okay with it too. This is a big commitment. He might not even need us after this winter is over."
"Is that honestly a deal breaker for you?"
"Not at all."
"Then it's decided." Carole looked at her watch. There wasn't enough time to run the errand she had planned before work. "I have to go. The medicines and treatment should be simple to give."
"Tylenol, Benadryl, and ice packs at eight. Look him over for anything that appears off. Make sure he's feeling okay and report back to you, Doctor."
"Oh, please, nurses know more than doctors."
"I never said they didn't." Burt pressed a gentle kiss to his wife's lips. "Have a good shift. Try not to make any of the interns cry."
"I make no guarantees." Carole laughed at their often repeated joke. She'd married a really good man. Two good men actually. Christopher would have liked Burt.
* * * * *
Burt felt bad for having to peer into Kurt’s shelter and shine a flashlight over him. He knew he’d be freaked out if he was woken up that way. The fact that the kid barely flinched proved how bad off he was and how much the medicine had knocked him out. His face and head were a mess of lumps, but from Carole’s description of what the bee stings had looked like immediately after the attack, they weren’t as bad as before. He could only see one of the boy’s hands, curled up tight against his coat.
When the kid started to stir awake more, Burt figured it was okay to start talking to him. "Sorry about the light, Kiddo, but Carole insisted I look you over, make sure you were breathing okay, and see if the swelling had gone down. Do you have a fever?”
Kurt shook his head.
“No? That's good. You up to eating something? I've got some soup and pepperoni rolls."
Burt waited patiently until Kurt crawled out of his shelter and began eating the offered food before shining the flashlight over his charge's face and hands again. "You’re a poor sight, but from what Carole described, it looks like the swelling’s gone down a bit. Are you still in pain?"
"But not a lot?"
"Yes. No. It's better."
"That's good. There's more Tylenol and that other stuff if you want it. I have so many questions about how you got this way, Bud, but I doubt you're up to answering them."
Kurt shook his head no again.
Burt moved to sit on the bench. Squatting as he was to be on the kid’s level was killing his knees and with the boy not running away, he figured now would be a good time to try and talk to him. "That's okay. That's our deal, right? I don't push and you go as slow as you need to. You got every right not to trust a single soul in this world. I could tell you that I'm not going to hurt you 'til I'm blue in the face, but that don't mean squat until you're ready. Just ‘cause you trusted us before, don't mean you have to again. We're never going to turn you away. You need us, we're here."
Burt adjusted his cap, trying to figure out how to say what was going through his mind. "Carole and I, we didn't go into this lightly. My first wife, Elizabeth, you would have liked her. She was always singing, planting this and that in the garden. She loved this yard. Had the same color of eyes as you too. We always wanted a whole passel of kids, but she died before that could happen. And Carole? Her husband died right after Finn was born. We didn't meet 'til he was a teenager; probably close to your age. You're what? Fourteen? Fifteen?"
"Real close then. We never got to have more kids, Kurt, and I'm not sayin' that you have to be that for us if you don't want it. It's just..." Burt took off his cap again. It was a nervous habit and he knew it. "You're not some temporary fix for us being empty nesters. We're not going to forget about you every time Finn comes home for a visit. We made a commitment to you and we're going to stick by it. What you need that to mean is up to you."
"Anytime, Kiddo. I'll leave you to whatever you got to do. Just one last thing. When you go to do your business pick a different spot in Charlie's yard. Vary it up a little. The grass is looking pretty dead by the fence and I don't want him getting suspicious and blaming us for it when he returns home from his vacation."
It was too dark to see the kid’s face, but he could hear his gasp of surprise at being caught. It wasn’t like the kid had much of a choice but to go the bathroom outside. He just didn’t want his jackass of a neighbor causing trouble for either of them. "You're a good kid, Kurt. I'll see you in the morning."
"Good night, Burt."
Burt stopped himself from patting the kid’s shoulder as he stood up to leave. That the kid was even talking to him face to face was a huge step. He had a feeling that touching him would set that all back. Words and meeting the kid’s physical needs would have to do for now. He could live with that.
Chapter 3: Anne, Blaine, & the Holidays
"So that was Kurt."
"That was Kurt." Burt sighed at his sister-in-law’s loaded words as they came inside through the back door. He was glad he’d warned the kid that Anne and her wife would be visiting for a few days, even if she’d almost scared him off by blurting out that his left ear was clipped. Not that he’d done any better by saying that Carole had seen the branding on his chest, both of which had been forced upon him by the Lima Heights Hybrid Reformatory. It wasn’t right, them talking about the kid in front of him like that, so he’d moved their conversation inside.
He retrieved the last two granola bars from the pantry and an apple from the fridge and took them out to Kurt. Thankfully, he was still there. Of course, Anne promising homemade cheesecake would have made anyone stick around.
That task done, he took the running grocery list off the fridge and brought it to the kitchen table. On top of granola bars, they needed more Pop-Tarts, pepperoni rolls, and foil packets of tuna. He and Carole had started becoming experts in food they could leave out for the kid to take with him wherever it was that he went during the day. Seeing Kurt pocket a dead mouse this morning proved that they weren’t feeding him enough, so he doubled the quantities. After writing down that they were also running low on milk, juice, and coffee, he gave the list to Anne so she could write down her own needs.
Taking a pull from the beer he’d been drinking earlier, he finally faced the silent, pointed stare being directed at him. "You think I'm crazy for taking him on, don't you?"
"You married my sister. That alone makes you crazy. I loved her, but Elizabeth was not the saint everyone made her out to be."
"You're never going to forgive her for throwing out your Playboys are you?"
"Miss September was hot and Beth had no right to do what she did. At least she didn't out me to our parents." Anne took a sip of her beer and grimaced. “You really do drink the crappiest stuff. Write down that we’re going to the liquor store and getting some craft beers. You need to expand your palate.”
“My palate is just fine.” Burt took another pull of his affordable and perfectly drinkable beer as he braced himself for the answer to his next question. “And Kurt? Lay it on me, Anne.”
"I've advocated for humans and hybrids who have been through the system. Not from the Lima Heights Hybrid Reformatory, but places like it. If the rumors are true, you can bet the reality is worse. He's going to be one messed up kid. Are you sure you want to deal with that?"
"Kurt seems like such a sweet kid. Scared to death though. The time Carole had to check him out when he was sick, she got the impression he'd been hurt before. Forced to do things. We talked it over and decided it didn't change anything. Someone needs to help that boy. Why shouldn't it be us? He’s the one that came to us first. Must have realized we were decent folks if he felt safe enough to sleep under our porch and start using the shelter I made him."
"You know he's a runaway."
"And that if he gets caught on your property they'll arrest him and likely you too?"
Burt let out a long sigh. "I know."
"You’re human, white, male, a native born U.S. citizen, and a local business owner. If you play it off as needing cheap help for the garage or your house, they might only slap you with a fine. You're not wealthy enough though to avoid at least some jail time. Prisons don't like it when their slave labor gets stolen. After Kurt ages out of the Reformatory, they’ll transfer him somewhere else. He’ll be lucky if he gets out before he's thirty. If he gets put in the Salazar Penitentiary, he’ll be lucky if he lives that long."
"I’ll admit that I didn’t know the last part. There's only so much you can find on the internet and it gets hard trying to figure out what's true or not."
"And that's why you should appreciate having a children’s rights lawyer as a sister-in-law."
"You know I do. Tell me what I need to do. How I can make us all safer. Carole and I have tried to convince the kid to move into the house, but he refuses."
"Can you blame him?"
"No. I told Kurt I wouldn't push him. That we'll give him whatever he needs on his own terms. All we can do is wait until he realizes he needs more help than he thinks he does and that we're not going to hurt him."
Anne pushed away her half finished beer and pulled the pad of paper Burt had been using closer. She turned to a clean sheet of paper and began writing. "You're a big ol' softy, Burt. He'll figure it out. Until then, there are a few things you can do."
"Thank you. While you make the list, want me to call in an order for pizza?"
"Make mine a veggie."
"And wake Dani up from her nap to tell her she needs to make a cheesecake."
"That's all on you, Anne. I have my own wife to deal with." Burt laughed at the woman's pout. He was glad they'd stayed a family after Elizabeth had died. She and Dani were some of the best people he knew. The kind the world needed more of.
* * * * *
It took more than one discussion, pizza, and six pack of beer to figure out The Kurt Situation. Burt didn’t know what else to call it. Having Anne and Dani here made it all the more real somehow. More than just him and Carole helping out a random homeless kid. Someone else aside from Finn knew. Someone else had met Kurt.
What was supposed to have been an early Christmas celebration and seeing the couple off before they became too busy with selling their house and packing to move to Canada had turned into an overwhelming mess of conflicting laws and legal precedents. Laws which were dependant upon the whims of the local government, police, and citizens with enough money and standing to wield power over those who had none.
The night Carole made a nice vegetarian Christmas dinner and learned Dani’s secret cheesecake recipe was supposed to be an exchange of presents and favorite memories. Yet like every other sit down meal between the four of them it had turned into open laptops, texts between Anne’s colleagues and contacts that Dani said were best left unnamed, and a whole lot of stress over a kid who could take off tomorrow and never come back.
But as Burt had told Anne and Dani repeatedly, there was just something about Kurt. Something special about him that he couldn’t turn away from. He wasn’t just some kid who slept in the backyard, ate their food, and wore their old clothes. There was a spark in him that the world hadn’t beaten out. And he felt familiar. Like this was a kid who was always meant to be his. Carole had understood what he’d meant. It just took some convincing to get Anne and Dani on board too.
Laws and repercussions for breaking the laws which applied to their situation were discussed in detail. The real laws, not the lies and misinformation spread on half the news and social media sites. The chances that none of the neighbors had seen Kurt around their house were next to zero. It was just that right now, none of them seemed to care enough to say anything to him or Carole or report it to the police. Burt’s biggest fear lived next door, though Charlie cared more about leaves being left on the ground and unmowed lawns than he did any of the people who lived in the houses on their block. Maybe he thought Kurt was hired help. For all that the xenophobic humans hated hybrids and called them rapists and murderers and sins against God, they sure loved using them as cheap labor. Jackass Charlie included.
Uncomfortable as it was, finances were gone over and an honest assessment of what could be afforded and what was a stretch were written out. If Kurt did one day agree to be taken in by them, he would need more medical care than Carole could provide and likely a lot of therapy. None of which would be cheap. Then there was schooling. They knew the kid could read and write was at least street smart. Beyond that was anyone’s guess.
Burt begged the conservation to stop when it turned to what to do with Kurt once he turned eighteen. “I’ll give him a job at the shop.” He’d only found out the kid was sixteen two days ago and now they were talking about what to do with him as an adult and what about when he and Carole retired or died, and on and on. It was too much. He just needed answers to the here and now. To know how to protect himself, Carole, and Finn, and if taking on Kurt really was as stupid and dangerous of an idea as Anne had first thought.
Needing to escape for a little while, he cut slices of cheesecake for himself and Kurt, grabbed a fresh bottle of beer, and headed to the patio. He put the kid’s portion on the storage bench and sat down at the table. The movement made Kurt crawl out of his shelter and retrieve the offering.
“Do you mind if I sit here for a while, Bud? We don’t have to talk. I just needed to get away for a bit.”
“Thanks. It’s been a long day.”
“I have those too.”
“I bet you do. I brought you cheesecake.”
“Nice try, Kiddo.”
“It made you laugh.”
“Yeah, it did. Thank you, Kurt.”
“You’re welcome. It’s good cheesecake.”
“That it is.”
They didn’t talk much after that, simply enjoyed the dessert and silence. It was a nice night. A nice moment. No pressure about laws and legal standings. Just him and the boy that was feeling like his own son more and more each day.
* * * * *
Kurt was gay. Burt couldn't say the thought hadn't crossed his mind if he was being honest with himself. The only thing it changed was that it added a new piece to the puzzle of figuring the kid out and how best to help him.
Burt pushed the boy’s orientation from his mind. It was actually Kurt's public displays of nudity that bothered him. Kurt changing into his new clothes in the middle of the pouring rain at Christmas was one thing, though he'd have preferred it had been done under the patio table and tarp. Rolling around in the snow, naked as the day he was born, and clearly enjoying himself was another thing altogether. He got it. Guys...people...had needs. But those needs should be taken care of in private. Not on his patio for all the world to see. When he saw Blaine come into the backyard, Burt closed the curtain and went back to folding laundry. There was no way he wanted to see what would happen next. What he’d witnessed during the brief, routine check on Kurt from his bedroom window had been too much already.
Before the Christmas and patio displays of nudity, there had been the incident with Finn over winter break. Burt knew hybrids could mark their territory. It was a normal biological drive to protect themselves within the spaces they felt were theirs. As far as he knew, many chose not to out of a fear of such being used to further the racists’ propaganda which equated such acts to animals. He had no problem with Kurt doing it. The kid was always discreet, and to his human nose it didn’t smell any worse than a regular household bathroom.
Finn though apparently wasn’t as enlightened and had thrown a fit when he’d come across Kurt urinating around his shelter and storage bench. It was the first time he’d ever heard Kurt yell and be angry, facing off against Finn, his private bit still being held in his hand, and only bothering to tuck it back in his pants when he and Carole had come running outside to deal with the situation.
Blaine had walked into the yard at some point during it all and quietly watched from the back corner of the garage. Blaine who had been coming over more and more often lately.
So no, it wasn’t the fact that Kurt was gay that bothered him. It was the Blaine of it all. It was the fact that now he had two teenage boys, one of whom was sometimes nude or otherwise exposed, and the very real possibility that Blaine would join him in being nude or exposed at some point. It was this on top of the fear-filled fact that two homeless hybrids were harder to hide from the neighbors than one that had led him to this particular errand. Burt pushed his shopping cart towards the Walmart's camping and sporting goods section. He was going to buy every last tarp they had.
* * * * *
Burt hadn’t known how badly he’d messed up by suggesting the Family Life Clinic as a possible place for Kurt to get free condoms at until he’d googled it. It wasn’t like Planned Parenthood at all. In fact, it was as far from it as you could get and as far right wing, conservative, xenophobic, homophobic, sexist, and racist as an organization could be. No wonder the kid had been terrified. The things they did to unwilling hybrids was beyond inhumane. They did many of those things to humans who identified as LGBTQIA+ as well. He’d buy Kurt and his boyfriend condoms himself, same as he’d done for Finn. And he’d apologize again for scaring him.
He was also going to buy the boys some toiletries. Kurt shouldn’t have to still be digging through their garbage. Not that he knew everything about what it was like to be homeless, but he figured basic needs were basic needs wherever you lived and he’d clearly been failing Kurt and Blaine on some of them. Neither of those kids should have to brush their teeth with a toothbrush he’d used to scrub the bathroom grout.
At least catching Kurt at the garbage can had sparked a conversation about Blaine. He’d learned that the kid had been burned in the fire at Dalton Academy, been homeless since the summer, which was a shorter time than Kurt had been, lived at the K-Mart that had closed down a couple of years ago, and that Kurt had seen said boyfriend naked. The last bit Kurt had tried to cover up when he’d accidentally let it slip and proved to him that condoms definitely needed to go on the shopping list along with toothpaste and toothbrushes.
He also knew now that Kurt and Blaine, and all hybrids for that matter, were allergic to kale and collard greens and couldn’t really handle cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, and chocolate. All of which he’d given the boys from time to time. They were foods he hadn’t considered a person could be allergic to. All he and Carole had been doing was making sure nothing contained peanuts or tree nuts. Peanut butter was a cheap source of protein, but also the perfect way to go into anaphylactic shock; an emergency Carole had seen far too often at the hospital. They were trying to help, not kill, the kids. And of course, Kurt had said nothing. Only taking the food with a grateful “thank you” and a smile.
Burt had also made sure that both boys would be safe for the night. It being New Years Eve with he and Carole going out to celebrate and Finn having friends over. He’d given Kurt a cell phone in case they ran into trouble. It wasn’t much. Just a cheap pay-as-you-go phone, but it made him feel better knowing the kid had it. He still didn’t know where Kurt went during the day, but between the phone and now knowing that he sometimes slept over at Blaine’s, it was something.
Reassured that Kurt would wait around for Carole to load him up with New Year’s food, he left for work. He was making progress with the kid. Showing him that he mattered. Letting him know that he was cared about. They were steps in the right direction.
* * * * *
How do you tell your hybrid teenager that you know he has fleas without coming off sounding like some xenophobic, racist ass? The conversation would have been hard enough with a human. The kid had been living rough for god knew how long and the conditions at the Reformatory probably hadn't been much better.
Burt had told Kurt before that he knew his kind was fully sentient. As much as the conservatives pushed their own version of history and many states had banned teaching evolution in school, he knew the truth. Two races had evolved on Earth. One just happened to have less hair, no tail, no useful claws, a shitty sense of smell, and an inability to eat raw meat without getting sick. Frankly, it was humans that should have been thought of as the inferior race. Hybrids were far more suited to the planet's harsh conditions.
Yet all the science in the world couldn't teach him how to tell the kid, "Hey, I know you're not a cat or dog, but my wife noticed that your boyfriend has fleas, so the chances are you do too. I thought I saw something on you when you were working at the shop with me the other day, but didn't want to say anything because you were nervous enough just being there. Here's some flea powder and medicated shampoo to help you out with that."
Maybe if he softened the blow with fast food. The kid always seemed to perk up with that. Burt turned into the Long John Silvers he'd spotted on his way to Findlay. Now that he was driving back home, he had an excuse to get some for himself too. Deep fried fish and hushpuppies was some of the best comfort food in the world.
* * * * *
Burt handed Kurt the socket wrench he'd asked for and watched him work. The kid definitely knew his way around cars. And trucks, jeeps, SUVs, and minivans. There wasn't a vehicle in his shop the kid didn't know at least something about. When he didn't know, he asked. The upholstery repairs he'd suggested they offer looked promising. During a break, he’d brought up one of his supplier’s websites and checked things out. The equipment they'd need wasn't extensive and the numbers worked.
He loved Finn dearly, but the kid was a klutz and not as quick on the uptake when it came to mechanics. Burt was ashamed to admit it even to himself, but Kurt was the kind of son he'd always wanted. A kid he could work beside and teach the business to. To one day change the sign to "Hummel & Sons." The last part of the dream would likely never happen, but the rest he got to have for now.
Kurt was an amazing kid. He hoped that one day, the boy would be able to trust him enough to stay and become a part of their family for real.
Chapter 4: Trust
Jackass Charlie is real and is a compilation of two of my neighbors. Jackass Charlie lives immediately to my left. Old Man Who Has the Code Enforcer on Speed Dial (and once yelled at his son because there was a late snow and he couldn't mow his lawn) lives two houses down to my right. I can't wait to move.
There was a blizzard outside, wind whipping around, small tree branches dropping everywhere, snow coming down heavier and thicker than he'd seen all winter, and yet Kurt still refused to enter the house.
Burt had gone out to check on him a number of times, moving trash cans around the patio to act as a kind of wind break, tying down the tarps covering the kid’s area, and shoveling a path from the back door to his shelter -fruitless as it was given how much snow they were expecting and how long the storm was predicted to last.
Carole had just finished making a pot of stew before the power went out. The kid refused that too, swearing that he was fine bundled up in the sleeping bag and blankets, and how much warmer it was than last year under the front porch.
Burt felt stupid for not realizing they didn't have just a stray cat hanging around back then. He would have helped the kid sooner had he known. But he had to focus on the now. He gave the kid a key to the front door in case the back one couldn't be opened. It was the last thing he could do. The next step was Kurt's.
Eventually, he couldn't stay awake any longer. Carole had already gone to bed. The back porch windows were too fogged over to see through. They'd made a bed up for the kid from the inflatable mattress they used for camping and put clean clothes and some food out for him on the room’s storage bench. With everything in place, Burt closed the door between the back porch and kitchen and headed up to his own bed.
The sound of the back door opening jolted Carole awake who in turn woke him up with an urgent shaking. Burt walked as softly as he could to the window, thankful their room was at the back of the house. The snow had stopped falling.
He wiped the frost off the glass with the sleeve of his flannel shirt and peered outside. There were boot prints leading from the shelter to the back door. Kurt had trusted them at last.
Patiently he waited, listening carefully for other sounds. The kid's movements were careful and slow. A near-silent shuffling as he walked further into the enclosed porch. There was a long pause. Burt imagined him scared and unsure of what to do next, same as he'd been at the shop that first day. Eventually, the back door was closed. Burt peered out the window relieved to see that Kurt hadn't gone back outside. There was a bit more shuffling and then silence. Satisfied that the kid was safe for the night, Burt returned to his own bed and fell back asleep.
It felt like only minutes had passed before he was woken up again by the back door being opened. He returned to the window and watched as Kurt trekked across the backyard to the fence and relieved himself. Burt rubbed at his face and turned away to give the kid some privacy. He hadn't even considered the possibility that once Kurt was inside the house, he'd be too scared to use one of the bathrooms. When he heard the crunching of snow again, he returned to the window. Kurt pulled his belongings out of his storage bench and entered the back porch.
Burt returned to his bed, listening to the sounds of the kid settling in. He looked at the battery powered clock on his night stand. It was 3 am. The alarm would go off in only a few hours. Carole had the early shift at the hospital and he had his shop to open. Storms like this were a pain and dangerous to the public at large, but he couldn't deny that he was grateful for the extra money they helped bring in.
* * * * *
Burt debated what to write on the note for Kurt. In the end, he decided on the direct approach, letting the kid know that he was free to use the shower, wash his clothes, eat, and watch TV. With he and Carole out of the house, Kurt might feel safe enough to do them. His privacy was guaranteed.
And god, he hoped Kurt would. He liked the kid, but there were days when he smelled something fierce and days where whatever the kid had eaten clearly hadn’t sat well with his system. As much as Jackass Charlie deserved it, the cold weather preserved such excretions far longer than warmer temperatures did and he was tired of his neighbor’s and his own yard looking like it had been defiled by a pack of wild dogs with stomach issues. That and the kid wasn’t an animal. There was no reason for him not to feel welcome to use whatever he needed to within the house.
The note finished, he packed his lunch, filled his travel mug with coffee, and headed outside to begin shoveling the sidewalk and driveway. Before he'd gotten more than a fourth of it done, he cursed himself for forgetting to take the snow blower out of the garage. It was too late now. The drifts were too high to open the door without more shoveling than he was doing now.
Carole came out to help, focusing on the car, truck, and porch steps. Eventually the snow was cleared. They whispered their goodbyes and a half dozen, "I'm sure he'll be okay. We'll be okay. It's a big step for all of us. We have to trust him if we want him to trust us." Worries that they'd talked over a dozen or more times before, but needed to be said again.
Burt gratefully accepted his wife's hug and kiss. With a last look at their house, he started up his truck and left, following Carole out onto the street and towards the parts of their life they knew how to handle better.
* * * * *
As he and Carole got ready for bed, they finally let out the collective sighs they'd been holding all night. Burt turned on the clock radio hoping the music would cover the sound of their whispers. The house was small and the walls were thin.
"One day down."
"He was so scared of us, Burt!"
"He stayed inside, didn't he? Watched TV with us. I heard him laugh a few times during the commercials."
"He went for seconds with the pizza. That's another positive."
"He showered and washed his bedding. Probably his clothes too. Can't say I'm not glad. The kid was getting ripe." As Burt opened the dresser drawer that held his pajamas, he noticed that the stacks of clothing had been moved around. Checking his suspicions, he opened the other drawers and then searched carefully through the velvet jewelry box Carole kept on top of her own bureau. She didn't have much, but he knew the story behind the wedding ring Christopher had given her. He'd saved for months, scraping together every last cent he could spare to buy the heirloom he'd found in a little shop during leave. It meant the world to her. He'd been a really good man and good to her. Burt let out the breath he’d been holding, relieved. "It's still there."
"Where you looking for something, Burt?"
"Not me. Kurt. He went through our things. Don't worry, nothing was stolen. I'll do a more thorough check next time he leaves."
"He wanted to see if we were safe."
"Since he didn't take anything, I don’t think he was trying to rob us and I don't think it was just idle curiosity. I don't need to watch Law & Order or Criminal Minds to know what happens to some people. I've seen the injuries myself on the patients that come in, desperate for help and terrified. He wanted to make sure we didn't have anything we could hurt him with."
Burt scrubbed at his face. "I hadn't thought of that."
"It'll be okay. One step at a time, right? That's what you're always saying."
"Yeah. Do you want to shower first?"
"No, you go on ahead. I want to check a few things first. Is that wrong after what I just said? I feel horrible."
"Don't be. Trust goes both ways. We're all going to need time to get used to this." Burt kissed his wife on the cheek and gathered his things. It had been a long day and he had a feeling that each day was going to feel just as long for awhile.
* * * * *
The next day brought with it a terrified Kurt, back pressed against the downstairs bathroom door, protecting his boyfriend from being molested while taking a shower. Burt didn't know how he held it together. How he managed to get the words out, telling the kid that neither he nor Blaine would ever be touched inappropriately or hurt by him or Carole. That he was safe here in every way.
It was when he got inside his truck that he lost it. His eyes filled with tears as he beat the steering wheel in anger. How could anyone do such things to a kid? How could people continue to treat these kids like they were nothing and not just turn a blind eye, but completely ignore the horrors that were happening to them and support a system that allowed the abuses to continue?
Burt knew he couldn't help the kids still locked up at the Lima Heights Hybrid Reformatory, but he could try to make things better for the one who had escaped and his boyfriend who had been burned in a racist mob's fire. It didn’t matter if he had to walk to hell and back, no one was going to lay a hand on those kids again.
* * * * *
Kurt had friends aside from Blaine and the old lady he helped with yard work. Burt didn't know why this surprised him, but it did. The kid was so scared of the world that he'd just assumed he kept to himself. Yet there he was at the shop, chatting with one of his regular customers, Tina, like they were best friends, helping her out with her kid problem, and thanking her for sneaking him pizza when he’d been hungry. He’d always known that Tina and Mike were good people. Now he had another reason to like them.
* * * * *
The day had started out rough with Carole texting him about Kurt being upset about her tossing his leftover bits of cereal and storming out of the house. But he'd come back and they'd apologized to each other. Kurt had even let his wife hug him. That alone was a huge step.
Kurt was positively beaming at his new clothes. Anne and Dani had good taste. It wasn't his taste, but the kid was nothing but smiles and the way Blaine kept looking at him, the women had clearly known what they were doing. He was real glad those two were a part of his family and that he'd had a chance to see them before they left. One day, they'd have to make the drive up to Ontario so he could thank them in person.
Getting to spend the rest of the night as a family, eating dinner, watching TV, order the kid a bunch of things from the hybrid store website, and then tease him and his boyfriend about being careful as the air mattress wasn’t up to anything too rough, had given him, as Carole loved to say, "all the parent feels."
Burt called the day a win.
Chapter 5: The Week of Hell
Burt lost track of how many times he'd driven around town searching for his son, checking every place the boy had ever mentioned. Two weeks. They'd had two not perfect, but good and overall happy, weeks. Kurt was settling in and he and Carole were making adjustments for his needs. Giving him his space, privacy, and autonomy. When they discovered that Kurt was hoarding food in his room, they had made space for him in the fridge and pantry cabinets. He had his own containers and shelves that he and Carole never touched. It was a system not unlike the one they had already. Finn had his Pop-Tarts and Sugar Fruity Squares, Carole had her fudge cookies, and he had a secret stash of chips no one knew about. Giving Kurt the same courtesy was only natural.
What he hadn't counted on was Finn coming home early to see his girlfriend and getting into a fight with Kurt over a box of cereal and mice they’d had no idea the kid had been catching for Blaine. When Kurt took off and didn't come home that night, he and Carole told themselves that he was just at Blaine's and would be home tomorrow.
There had been a few minutes of hope when he and Carole were awoken in the early morning hours by the sound of the back door being unlocked and Kurt entering the house. He was gone by the time they could run down the stairs. Searching the backyard and calling his name as loud as they dared had led to nothing but dashed hopes and more tears. More worries. Kurt hadn't taken the food left out for him, nor anything from his room, and never attempted to return again.
Seven days, fourteen hours, and thirty-eight minutes. That's how long Kurt had been gone. Six days, twelve hours, and twenty-two minutes ago was when they'd begun searching for him with every spare and borrowed minute they could make. He and Carole were alone in their gripping fear and worry. There was no one to turn to for help in finding their son. No missing person posters they could staple to telephone poles. No way of knowing if the police had caught him and thrown him back into the hellhole he'd escaped from. Every minute they weren't out looking for him, they were scouring news reports, praying to any god that would listen that there wouldn't be one about a homeless hybrid teenager found dead in an alley with the story paraded around as proof as to why the reformatories and prisons and new laws were needed to keep his kind in line. No one would care that their son was missing, so it was up to them to find him.
The snow was coming down so hard that Burt couldn't see more than a few feet in front of him. It didn't matter. He refused to give up. Only after he'd driven through every damn inch of Lima and Lima Heights would he call it a night. He had just turned into the Breadstix parking lot when his phone rang.
"Help. Please. Blaine's."
No amount of pleading could get Kurt to say more. Burt clutched the phone in his hand, unable to let it go as he sped off for the abandoned K-Mart.
"Kurt!" Burt choked off a sob as he wrenched the truck to a stop and ran for his son. There was so much blood and he wasn't moving. He ripped off his glove and pressed his fingers to the kid's throat, thanking god he could feel a pulse. "I've got you, Kurt. You're safe now." He gathered the boy into his arms, struggling to get him upright and into the backseat of the truck.
"I'll get him, Kiddo. Don't worry." Kurt secured in the truck, Burt hurried back for Blaine. The way he was motionless on the ground, he feared the worst. The kid's gut wrenching scream when he tried to get him to his feet scared him further. The treacherous ice and whipping winds made it impossible not to jostle the boy. In minutes that felt way too long, Blaine too was secured in the backseat.
Burt fought back another sob as he dialed Carole's number. "I found them and they're hurt. Tell me what to do."
Chapter 6: The Clinic, Day 1
For the clinic chapters and many of those beyond the following TW apply: mentions of medical conditions/injuries, non-con/sexual assault, and child abuse. Any medical errors and liberties are my own and not of the awesome medical professionals who helped me with the fic. I know that some of the boys’ injuries are written in layman's terms rather than medical ones. That was a deliberate choice.
Why did the hybrid medical clinic have to be so far away? Why did the world hate his son’s kind so much that he wasn't even safe in a regular hospital? Each skid on the icy roads, each pothole he couldn't avoid had Kurt and Blaine crying out in pain. At least it was better than when they went silent.
"Stay with me, Buddy. Kurt? Blaine? I'm going to get you help. We're almost there, okay?" His pleas were met with eerie quiet and the sound of the wind howling around them on the dark and rural road.
This was taking too long. His boys were dying. God, he couldn't lose his son today.
Lights! A stone and brick building filled with windows emanating a yellow glow in the darkness. Relief flooded through him as he slid the truck into a sharp turn, almost missing the snow covered road that led the way to the emergency entrance.
Carole met him with a team of doctors and nurses. Burt stood back and let them do their work of removing the boys from the truck and strapping them to gurneys. Inside, he didn't know if it was himself or Carole who let out a gasp. There was too much blood. Too much bruising. Too many limbs out of place. Too much pain for any kid to bear.
"Burt, go with Blaine. I've got Kurt."
Burt turned to his wife. He wanted to be with his son. "Are you sure?"
"They're going to have to do extensive examinations. I think it would be best if I’m the one who’s with him."
It was the tone of her voice and the words "extensive examinations" that got through to him. The words she didn't say out loud. If Kurt woke up, he would feel safer with a woman there.
* * * * *
"Sir? Sir? I'm going to need you to wait outside the exam room."
Burt turned away from the boy who looked so small and fragile on the hospital bed. He was broken everywhere. "What? Oh. Okay." He placed a gentle hand on the kid's shoulder, trying not to hurt him further. "Blaine, I'm going to be right outside while the doctors fix you up. You're going to be okay."
"Carole is with him. You're both safe now."
"Sir? I really need to you leave so Doctor Jones can examine him."
"Yeah. Sorry." With a last look, Burt followed the nurse away from Blaine's bed and watched as a curtain was drawn around him. He realized the man was asking him questions and tried to answer as best he could. "His name is Blaine. I don't know his last name. He's eaten with us a couple of times, but never said if he had allergies. Kurt would know. They're...they're friends." Burt rubbed his face. There was no way he was going to out the boys. They needed help, not judgment and further pain for being who they were.
"Do you know the names of his parents? Is there any way for us to contact them?"
"No. The kid doesn't talk much, but from what I gather, his parents disowned him after that fire at Dalton Academy."
"He was in a fire? Was he injured?"
"Yeah. You should be able to see that. My wife checked him out. Said he'd gotten some care before." Burt couldn't stop staring at the curtain and trying to hear what the doctor inside was saying about Blaine. Shouldn't the nurse be in there helping?
"Burt. We need to know a couple more things for Blaine's sake so he can get the care he needs, okay?"
"You said his parents disowned him. Is he homeless? Are there any other relatives or guardians we could contact?"
Burt knew Carole would agree that there were no other options. They couldn't consider Kurt their son and leave his boyfriend to fend for himself after what had happened to them. "He was homeless up until tonight. My wife and I are going to take him in. Him and Kurt."
"Kurt's the other young man that was brought in tonight?"
"And who are you to him?"
"His parents." Burt stumbled over the words, trying to find the right ones. "His guardians."
"Okay. I can't release any information to you about Blaine's medical condition without his consent, and I'm going to have to verify that he's willing to go home with you when he's released. It's for his safety."
"I understand. Just take care of him."
Burt watched as the nurse pulled back the curtain and entered the exam area. Blaine was sitting up and being helped into a medical gown. The curtain's movement in its tracks caused the boy to turn his head towards the sound. For a brief moment the two of them locked eyes. The kid looked so lost and hopeless. Before Burt could try to reassure him that he wasn't going to be alone this time, the curtain was closed and the moment lost.
All he could do for his boys now was wait.
* * * * *
The news from the doctors and Carole hit Burt like a ton of bricks. The tears on Carole's face reflected his own. It was bad enough that the boys had been beaten to within an inch of their lives. But to have what he'd always suspected about Kurt confirmed; that he'd been raped at the Reformatory? Not once, but repeatedly given the amount of scar tissue and damage the doctor had seen and the answers Kurt had given during the exam? That he'd had to resort to selling himself once he'd escaped that place? It absolutely killed him. It explained the way Kurt acted around him at home and during his medical exams. No kid, no person, deserved that hell. He wanted to kill the bastards who had done it to him. Blaine's exam hadn't shown as much physical trauma as Kurt's had, but the kid had told the doctor he'd been forced to perform sexual acts as well. The men who had done that to Blaine? He wanted to kill them too.
Burt lost track of the injuries the kids had. He knew there were broken ribs and limbs and that surgeries would be required in their near future. That Blaine might lose the use of his tail and an eye. He'd heard Kurt's screams when they'd reset his shoulder. They wouldn't let him go to him until it was done. Until he'd been patched up and put into Observation, lying there on the bed in a swath of bandages and bruises, his face unrecognizable. The last strength the kid had being used to hold onto Blaine, each the other's lifeline.
Burt wiped at the tears that had formed in his eyes. He needed to be strong for his wife and their so badly broken boys. He turned to Doctor Jones. "How can we help them?"
It was Carole who answered, nodding to the doctor that it was fine to leave and answer her page. "Go home, Burt. There's nothing more the doctors can do for them tonight."
"I'm not leaving them."
"You got work."
"So do you. We'll take shifts. I'll call out tomorrow. You go home. Get some sleep. Kurt wanted some clothes - underwear, pajamas or sweatpants, and socks. The staff found some for Blaine, but I told them Kurt had his own and we'd bring them."
"Maybe some magazines? They're going to be here for a few days."
Burt returned Carole’s hug, grateful when she wiped at the tears on his face.
"You found them, Burt. They're alive. There's nothing more you can do."
"You need to sleep too."
"There's a chair right over there with my name on it where I can watch over Kurt and Blaine. They're not going to be alone anymore."
"You always were the strong one."
"So are you."
Burt rubbed at this face and adjusted his cap, trying to accept that the only way he could help his son was to be away from him. It would only be for a little while. Not forever. Not a week again. And he would be right back first thing in the morning. "You'll call me if there's any changes?"
"Of course. We're going to get through this, Burt. We're going to get them through this."
He pulled Carole to him, needing the connection again. "I love you."
"I love you too."
* * * * *
Burt knew he wouldn't be able to get to sleep unless he had a beer. He was exhausted, but the last few hours kept replaying through his mind. The sight of his boys bleeding on the ground. The fear that he'd lost them forever. The two of them huddled together in the back of his truck leaving smears of blood on the upholstery on the drive to the clinic that never seemed to end. Their broken bodies lying on examination tables. The diagnoses of the doctors that were too many for kids that young.
Crushed caudal vertebrae; amputation likely
Possible hip fracture
Lacerations on the head, face, arms, torso, legs, buttocks; sutures required
Oral surgery required
Multiple prior injuries
Scaring and abrasions of the rectum, anus, and genitals confirm patient's accounting of repeated sexual abuse
Burt drank his beer as he packed himself and his wife lunches for the next day. Unsure if Kurt would be be allowed outside food and not caring in the least, he added a couple of the kid’s favorites that had a softer texture. Kurt would feel safer if he had his foods.
He was on his second beer as he packed clothes for Kurt and Blaine from the tote in Kurt's back porch bedroom, hoping Blaine was close enough in size that they would fit him too. Blaine had been put in clothing that had been donated to the clinic, yet Kurt had remained in only a medical gown. Burt didn’t know it was on purpose or because they didn't have enough to spare. Underwear, pajamas, sweatpants, T-shirts, and socks. The T-shirts probably wouldn't be allowed. He'd been in the hospital before and medical gowns seemed to be the norm. He hated them as much as the next person, but knew they were more convenient for the doctors and nurses.
Entering his own bedroom, he packed a change of clothes and small toiletry bag for Carole. She had said she would come home and take a break, but he knew his wife. Carole wouldn't be going anywhere.
It was in the shower that he remembered he'd forgotten to pack some magazines. Those could wait for morning.
Clean and ready for bed, he looked at his phone before plugging it in to charge. There was a single text from Carole.
"The boys are asleep. Get some rest yourself. I'll see you in the morning. Love you."
Burt pulled the covers over himself. This time, as he drifted off to sleep, it was Carole's voice he heard giving a list of Kurt's injuries.
Possible hip fracture
Lacerations on the head, face, arms, and torso; sutures required
Oral surgery required
Multiple prior injuries
Prior, deliberate mutilation of left ear and upper torso
Scaring and abrasions of the rectum, anus, and genitals confirm patient's accounting of repeated sexual abuse
Chapter 7: The Clinic, Day 2
I apologize for Kurt jumping moods so quickly in the beginning of this. It was a really hard piece to write as I had to use the original dialogue in Rebuilding the Nest and add a beginning to the conversation that Burt would have had with him. Sorry for the roughness. I really did try and eventually just had to let it go as is.
Burt knew his cardiologist would hate the Egg McMuffin he'd gotten for breakfast from the drive thru, but what she didn't know wouldn't hurt her. He had a long day full of Kurt and Blaine's doctors to deal with. Evidence disposed of in the trash can outside of the building, Burt entered the hybrid medical clinic, and with the help of Carole's instructions and the maps taped to the walls, eventually found his way to the patient ward and the room she said the boys had been moved to.
"How are they doing?"
Carole led her husband back out of the room and closed the door, hoping it would be enough of a barrier to block her words from the boys' more acute hearing. "Blaine is trying to put on a brave face. He's hurting though and scared. Kurt keeps asking to go home and flinching any time someone comes near him. I just gave them both a dose of painkillers and muscle relaxants. They'll be having a happier morning in no time."
"That's good. After last night..."
Carole laid a comforting hand on her husband's arm. "I know."
"I brought you coffee."
"You are a great man, Burt Hummel."
Burt laughed at his wife's levity. He'd married a great woman. "Can I see them or is Kurt too scared to have me around?" He dreaded the answer to the question, but it had to be asked. He wasn't going to push the kid into anything he wasn't okay with.
"Let me get him changed into the clothes you brought and I'll ask. It's nothing personal."
Burt let out a sigh of relief when his wife opened the door a few minutes later and let him into the room. He did his best to mask the pain of seeing his son wrapped up in bandages, bald patches all over his face, head, and arms where his fur had to be shaved off so the bruised and swollen skin could be stitched back together. A sling was stabilizing his shoulder over his medical gown. He knew all too well that there were other injuries that couldn’t be seen. Blaine looked just as bad, a patch covered in gauze protected his injured eye, and he knew that under the blanket, his leg was in a cast and his tail was a bandage-covered mess.
He felt horrible for both kids, but it was Kurt he needed to talk to and comfort the most. "Hey, Kiddo, how are you feelin'?"
"Like I got the shit the beaten out of me."
"I'm real sorry I didn't get there sooner. We'd been looking for you all week."
"Of course. You're our kid."
Burt tried to break the silence that had fallen over the boy. "I brought you and Blaine those magazines you two are always reading."
"Thank you, Mr. Hummel."
"You're welcome, Blaine." Even hooked up to monitors and looking like death had run him over, the kid was polite and mannered beyond his years. Kurt didn't have that problem.
"Thank you. They won’t let me go home and this damn hospital gown smells like old people. I need the distraction."
Burt didn't know what to say to that. The last thing he wanted was to upset the kid more. After sharing a silent look with his wife, he put a couple of Carole's fashion magazines on each of their bedside tables. "If you boys want something different let me know. I can get you some puzzles or that sudoku thing."
Kurt wiggled his bandaged hand that was sticking out of the sling. "Broken fingers and a dislocated shoulder. Can't exactly write."
"I'm real sorry about that, Bud. I could help you if you wanted. Whatever you need, okay?"
"Okay. Thank you."
Burt watched Kurt shift on the bed, eyes looking all around the room, never staying on any one spot, not knowing what to say either. This was as awkward as his first days staying inside their house.
"Hey, Kurt, it's snowing! I don't know if I like snow anymore."
"That's the privacy curtain, Blaine."
"Oh. You're really smart, Kurt. I'm really numb. I can't feel my face any more. Can you feel yours?"
Kurt stared at his hand before touching it to his face, wincing at the contact. "I can. It fucking hurts."
"I’m sorry. You shouldn’t hurt, Kurt."
"It's not your fault."
"Maybe it's the snowman on the curtain’s fault. He looks shifty. Tell me something else."
Kurt stared intently at the curtain, an odd grimace forming on his face. “I don’t see a snowman on the curtain. Hey, Blaine, did you know that snow rhymes with so? Soooo...we might have chlamydia. I'm assuming I gave it to you."
"How do you know I didn't give it to you?"
"Blaine, come on."
"It doesn't matter who gave it to who. No judge...judge...judgments, right? You are so handsome, Kurt. Life isn't fair. We can't have sex for at least a week and that's after the tests come back to confirm it. Do handjobs count as sex?"
Kurt held up his bandaged hands. "I don't think I could even give myself a handjob."
Burt cleared his throat. He had known that the possibility of the boys having a sexually transmitted disease, or even more than one, was high. He didn't think they would be comfortable talking about it in the open though. The fact that they were and had moved on to giving details about their sex lives proved one thing for certain. "Enjoying the drugs, boys?"
"Mr. Hummel, you're here! That's so nice of you to visit."
"How long have you been here? Did you bring me underwear? Carole said you'd bring me underwear and pajama pants. I miss pants."
Burt didn't bother holding back his laughter, joining in with his wife, adding to the confused looks on Kurt and Blaine's faces. The kids deserved a break, even if it was a medically induced one. "Thank you, Blaine. I've been here for about twenty minutes, Kurt. And yes, I brought you your underwear and pants. Carole already helped you change into them."
"She did?" Kurt pulled back the blanket covering him. "Blaine, I have pants! Now my dick won't be flopping out all the time."
"But I love your dick, Kurt. It's a really nice dick."
There was having fun with your stoned out sixteen year old kid and his equally stoned boyfriend, and then there was information a parent really didn't need to know about. "You know what, boys? I think I'm going to go grab a cup of coffee. You two go finish your conversation."
"I'm wearing underwear. Thank you, Burt! You’re a really nice human."
Burt returned his son’s huge grin with a smile of his own. "You're welcome, Kiddo."
* * * * *
Burt debated for a minute about taking the bags he'd brought for himself and Carole or leaving them in the room. It was Blaine starting to describe exactly how Kurt had used his privates that decided for him. He grabbed their stuff and headed out of the room, Carole following.
"Why don't we go down to the cafeteria, Burt? It's the closest this place has to a staff and visitor lounge. I walked around last night after the boys fell asleep. Did you know this place was once a Boost manufacturing facility?" Carole talked as they walked, leading them towards the nearest set of elevators.
"That would explain the signs on the building and the fact that this doesn't exactly look like a hospital."
"They're still doing renovations."
"I'm assuming it's legit?"
"If it wasn't, I would have brought the boys home and figured something out. Really old equipment, but there’s real doctors, real nurses, and real people trying to make a difference."
"Then I'm really glad they're here." Burt returned his wife's smirk at his attempt at a joke. In times like these you had to find the good in order to be able to handle all the bad.
They paused their conversation when they reached the cafeteria. It wasn't a particularly large space, but it wasn't small either. The painted walls, brick support columns, and refurbished wood flooring gave evidence that it was once part of the factory's main floor. Mismatched tables, chairs, and food service cases furnished the space. There were only a couple of staff milling about and the breakfast selection seemed to consist only of coffee, tea, cartons of juice, individually wrapped pastries, and a basket of apples. He was glad he'd packed them some snacks to eat.
Burt felt out of place in his jeans and flannel shirt, but how he looked didn't matter right now. His kids did. He retrieved the bananas he'd brought with him and accepted the cup of coffee Carole brought over, He agreed with her that it was terrible but better than nothing and that they were both going to need more than the travel mugs they’d already finished off.
"So what now, Carole? I'm assuming the boys are going to be tripping for awhile."
"All we can do is wait. Hope the tests come back in their favor. Kurt's right though. All the signs of chlamydia are there. The lab just has to confirm it. Wear gloves and make sure you wash your hands afterwards should you need to help them with anything personal. They're trying to find a surgeon for Blaine. The clinic just opened and they weren't exactly prepared for trauma cases like theirs."
"Then maybe we need to take the boys somewhere else. Columbus maybe? Cleveland?"
"Their condition is stable for now. Moving them could change that. Doctor Howell used to work at the Reformatory. He understands what Kurt's been through." Carole didn't get a chance to continue. The look of anger on Burt's face stopped her.
"If that doctor was there, you really think he's safe around our kids?"
"He's one of the good ones, Burt. Kurt seemed to trust him and I watched the entire exam."
"It's when people aren't watching that things happen."
"The guards got off on watching the kids shower, Burt. It was only the Commandant that molested them in private."
"Kurt tell you this?"
Carole wiped at her face. If they were going to help their son, Burt needed to know everything she did. "He did, during the exam. Not all the details, but enough to give me nightmares. Doctor Howell and Doctor Jones filled me in on the things they'd heard from other inmates."
"Doctor Jones was the one that checked out Blaine."
"She did Kurt and Blaine's rectal and genital exams as well. That kind of trauma is her specialty. She knew what to look for and what kind of questions to ask. Kurt was more scared of her, of what she was doing to him, then Doctor Howell."
Burt scrubbed at the tears in his own eyes, trying to process what he’d been told last night and today and figure out how they should proceed. "As long as you're sure."
"No one can ever be one hundred percent sure, but for now, I say we trust him. One of us should stay with the kids. We can take turns. I'll keep reading their charts, keep you filled in on any scheduled exams and tests, and be there for as many as I can.” Carole put her hand on her husband’s arm. “We'll keep them safe, Burt. No one is going to hurt these boys ever again."
"Shoshandra has been asking for more responsibility. She did great whenever I went out looking for Kurt. I'll ask if she wouldn't mind working more hours. Let me know what your schedule is this week and we'll figure it out."
"I tried calling out today, but the best I could do was switch shifts. I'm due in at seven."
"The standard seven to seven shift?" At Carole's nod, he continued. "Then you should go home and get some real sleep. Tell me what I can do for the boys here and I'll do it."
Carole caught her husband eyeing the pastries across the room. "You don't want them. Trust me. I had one earlier. What you brought is better."
Burt laughed and took another sip of his crappy coffee. He was going to have to bring some from home in his thermos instead of just the travel mug if this how bad it always was. "Yes, Dear." The laughter was short lived as his wife turned serious again.
"Keep doing what you've been doing when Kurt and Blaine were home. Make them feel safe and wanted. Avoid topics that could trigger them. Limit touching. Be you, Burt. You've always been wonderful at making sure those you love know they matter and are cared for."
"So do you."
"We make a great team, Burt Hummel. There's no way we could let these boys down."
Burt took off his cap and rubbed his face and head. He didn't voice what he was thinking. He'd already let Kurt down. If the kid had felt like he mattered and belonged, he wouldn't have run away.
* * * * *
Burt cursed under his breath when he and Carole returned to the boys room only to discover they'd missed Doctor Howell's visit. He’d already failed to protect his kid again. Needing to see how badly meant he had to ask some hard questions. He tried his best to do it with a gentle voice and from a reassuring distance from the kid’s hospital bed. "Kurt, I need you to tell me the truth. Are you okay? Did Doctor Howell hurt you during the examination?"
"He hurt my shoulder and leg when he moved them."
"That's not what I'm asking, Bud." Burt could tell from Kurt’s sharp, drawn in breath when he realized what was being said and had read the worry on his and Carole’s faces.
"No. Not like that. He only moved the side of my underwear a little to look at my hip, but he didn’t uncover or touch anything down there. And he wouldn’t look at the base of Blaine's tail because he couldn't find a nurse or another doctor to be in the room. I remember him from the Reformatory. He was nice. All the kids liked and trusted him."
"If you're sure?"
"I hate being here, but yeah, I'm sure about that."
"You'll let us know if someone tries to do anything inappropriate?"
"Like Doctor Jones?"
Carole tried and failed not to sigh. "Kurt, we went over this last night. What she did was a routine exam. As a nurse practitioner, I've performed them myself. I know it was invasive and traumatic for you, and I am so very sorry. It was done so we could help you."
"Doctor Carl was appropriate with me and Blaine. I'll let you know if that changes."
Burt knew his wife wouldn’t take Kurt’s glare at her personally, but she still didn’t deserve it. The kid knew why the exam had been done and from Carole’s telling, the doctor had been completely professional and by the book.
Kurt turned his head so that he was facing his boyfriend, already blissfully asleep. "The painkillers are making me tired. I want to sleep. I need to be rested when Blaine wakes up."
Carole picked up the bag Burt had packed for her and kissed him on the cheek with a whispered, "Good luck. Text me if you need anything." With a last look at the boys, she left for home and her own much needed sleep.
Burt turned off the room's lights and settled in the room's singular, uncomfortable chair. He pulled up the shared iCloud list he and Carole had made together during their talk in the cafeteria to see what could be done from his phone. It was going to be a long week for all of them.
* * * * *
Burt stepped back into the boys' room after hanging up with Shoshandra and checking to see how things were running at the shop. The one thing the hybrid clinic had on the hospital Carole worked at - lenient cell phone use rules. Not that he'd seen many staff members during his call, but none had given him more than a passing glance.
Kurt had woken up and was staring at his hand, looking like he was trapped and all alone in the world. "Hey, Kiddo. How are you feeling?"
Kurt raised his hand and gave it a disgusted look. "I've been IV'ed."
Burt nodded with sympathy, glad the kid had been too doped up to remember when the IV had been inserted. "I can see that."
"Is Carole here?"
"She's at home sleeping before her shift at the hospital. Was so worried about you, she stayed up all night to make sure you were okay."
"That was nice of her. Tell her, 'thank you,' for me."
Burt respected Kurt’s silence after the polite request. Poor kid had to be in a world of pain and nerves given what had happened to him and where he was now. The way he was shifting around, it was probably hard for him to find a position that didn’t hurt.
"I really have to pee."
Apparently, he’d thought wrong. The kid was just high. He tried not to laugh, but failed. "Still enjoying those drugs, Kid?"
"No. I really, really have to pee! I can't move, I haven't been able to wave anyone down for help, and Blaine's asleep." Kurt closed his eyes, embarrassed, but desperate. "Could you help?"
“Oh!” Burt finally realized what was being asked of him. The kid wasn’t just in pain; he was embarrassed for needing help with a private matter. He felt bad for being so unobservant. "Let me get the bedpan for you."
"Um, I kind of need you to help me get things out. You'll have to wear gloves because of the, you know."
Burt searched the boy's body language. He was fighting to control the twitching of his tail and hands, but there was a stoic determination in his eyes dominating the desperation on his face. "Are you sure, Kurt? I don't want to do anything that will make you feel uncomfortable."
"I need to start trusting you. And I really, really, really have to pee!"
"It's your call."
"I think there's gloves in the drawer over there."
Burt could feel Kurt watching him as he retrieved a pair of disposable gloves from the storage cabinet and put them on. With careful movements he folded aside the blanket, keeping his eyes focused above the kid's waist.
"Could you tug my pants and underwear down a little?"
"Sure." Trying not to let his own nervousness show, Burt did as asked, careful not to touch Kurt's privates directly until he was asked to move the boy’s penis into position over the bedpan. Kurt was shaking and it broke his heart to hear him whispering to himself, "This is okay. This is okay. He's not going to hurt you." He looked away as Kurt relieved himself, grateful that the kid could hold himself in place.
When Kurt was done and had wiped himself off, Burt helped settle him back into his clothes and pulled the blanket over his lap. Heading Carole's warning about proper sanitary procedure due to the chlamydia, he cleaned his hands as best he could with sanitizer and helped Kurt rub it on his own hands. He wished the clinic had a sink or private bathroom in the patient rooms like most hospitals did. With both boys tethered to IVs and at least one arm each in a sling, he had a feeling this wouldn’t be the first time he’d be asked to help with such things.
Burt shrugged the matter off. "It's part of being a parent, Kurt. When your kid is sick, you'll do anything for them." He knew the kid wanted to say more and waited patiently until he did so.
Kurt looked down at his blanket, full of nerves. "I'm sorry for running away."
Burt pulled the room's chair closer to the bed and adjusted his cap as he sat down in order to buy some time to collect his thoughts. "I can't say that I'm not a bit disappointed, Kurt, but I also can't say that I didn't see this coming. One step forward, two steps back. That's how raising kids is sometimes, especially ones that have been through the kinds of trauma you have. Things were going too good there for awhile, so I figured something had to break eventually. That it was over a box cereal? That I wasn't expecting." He sighed when Kurt turned away. He was never good at words and needed to fix this. "Hey, I'm not mad, Kiddo. Finn doesn't think sometimes and you'd bought that with your own money after being without for a long time."
"My mom and I were always poor. I should be used to it."
"That doesn't make what Finn did right. It was a stupid mistake. I just wish you hadn't run away because of it. We could have worked something out." There was more he wanted to add. About how being poor shouldn't mean you deserved to keep getting the short end of the stick. How the kid shouldn't have to accept that his life would always be harsh and unfair. Instead he kept silent, letting Kurt take his time to find his own words.
"I did come back once."
"I know, Bud. I heard. Wish you had stayed."
"Me too. I'm sorry."
Burt was sure his heart was breaking as tears formed in his eyes, same as they were his son's. It was all his fault. No matter how much he wanted to, he couldn’t go back in time and change things to make sure none of this happened in the first place. "I'm sorry too, Kurt. I'm sorry for what happened to you. I'm sorry that you were too scared to come back. I'm sorry that I didn't do more to make you feel safe and wanted."
Kurt’s voice was soft as he replied. "You came for me."
"Always, Kiddo." Burt reached a tentative hand out and rested it upon the bed, close to the boy, but not quite touching him.
Kurt leaned forward enough so that he could place his own hand upon it and gave him a watery smile. "Thank you."
Burt blinked away his tears. He had his son back. And from this moment forward, he was going to do everything in his limited, fumbling power to keep it that way. To make sure that Kurt never doubted for a minute that he was wanted. That he had a home and people who loved him. That he mattered.
* * * * *
The rest of the day ran smoother than Burt could have hoped.
The boys grumbled about the food they were given to eat. Kurt choosing to describe the cans of Boost in crass, vulgar terms and thinking he could get away with giving Blaine his bowl of pureed meat. Burt tried to sympathize with them, telling them about his time in the hospital when he'd had a heart attack and been put on a low sodium, restricted calorie diet. But when your kids talked about how the scraps they'd eaten out of your own recycling and garbage cans had tasted better, there was no comparison. So he stayed quiet, only rebuking Kurt when he knocked the remainder of his supplement drink off the bedside table and creating a mess that had to be cleaned up.
Ice pack time was the worst for both boys, but the hardest on Kurt. Burt insisted on staying in the room as the attending nurse removed the boy's pants, gown, and ACE bandages so the packs could be applied. His face and head were iced too. The kid shook through it all, alternating between closing his eyes and following each movement so he could know exactly what was happening to him. Burt knew his words of comfort didn't mean much, but he said them anyway. Kurt needed to know he was watching out for him, making sure no one would hurt neither him nor Blaine again.
The swapping of IV bags was both a blessing and a curse. Burt would don fresh gloves and help Kurt with his bathroom needs, and Blaine's as well if the nurse left the room before he could ask for it. Cleaned up, re-clothed, and tucked back under their blankets, the boys would talk about the magazines they were looking at until the doses of pain medication and muscle relaxants kicked in.
It was after the last of these times that Burt pulled the privacy curtain around their beds and took his break. Surely the boys had done more together than have intimate relations, yet that's where the conversation would inevitably turn.
* * * * *
As Burt made his way to the cafeteria for a late lunch, he was stopped by a young hybrid man wearing the same khaki pants and blue polo shirt with the clinic's logo embroidered on the front that he’d seen on a few of the other staff.
"Excuse me, Sir? I've seen you around quite a bit today. Are you one of our volunteers? The office manager brought in more ID badges today. We should get you one."
Burt stared at the young man and tried not to be angry at how lax security was if he was only being asked about what he was doing here now. "My kids are patients here. They were admitted last night."
"I didn't know we had any human patients."
"They're not human."
"Oh, of course! My apologies. Well, you should get a visitor badge then. I'm sure Miss Jackson could set you up with one. If you'll follow me, it shouldn't take more than a few minutes. It's for the patients' safety, you understand." Gesturing to his own badge clipped to his lapel, the man added, "My name's David. I'm one of the volunteer administrative assistants."
Again, Burt bit back the words he wanted to say. His boys were in bad shape and they were getting decent care here as far as he could tell. Carole hadn't had any complaints at least. He couldn't risk pissing off the wrong people and getting them kicked out. With a simple, "Lead the way," he followed the man to a small office that was cluttered with file cabinets, boxes of supplies, two paper-strewn desks, and the complete absence of people including the aforementioned office manager.
Burt couldn't blame the kid for his tail swishing in annoyance at finding the office empty and inadvertently hitting his legs in the process. In the end, the guy was just trying to do the right thing.
After rooting around in a desk, David finally found the package of clear plastic badge holders and a blank Visitor card. He handed the man the clipboard with the log-in sheet and a pen.
Burt wrote down his name on the appropriate blank line, adding "Guardian" under the spot requesting the relationship status to the patients he was seeing. He provided only the boys' first names and room number. Even if he had known their last names, he wouldn't have written them down on a piece of paper that likely would get lost or filed with something that could get Kurt discovered and arrested. He watched too much Law & Order not to take precautions. If the clinic wanted more information, they could look at the forms he'd signed last night. The doctors had promised him that Kurt would be safe. This volunteer clerk hadn’t.
The way the young man was looking at the clipboard and then up his “Hummel Tires & Lube” cap, and then back at the clipboard, Burt was pretty sure he was debating over whether or not to ask him for his ID. In the end, the kid must have figured that the surname on the visitor log matching the one on his hat was enough. The boys’ room number was written down on the Visitor card before being put into a badge holder and handed to him.
"Thank you for your time, Mr. Hummel. I hope your sons get better soon."
“Thank you. Thank you for volunteering.” Visitor badge clipped to his shirt and required pleasantries over, Burt continued on his mission to get a crappy cup of coffee and danish.
* * * * *
When Burt arrived at his intended destination he was thankful that this time the cafeteria had more than some old pastries and apples to offer. Having to decide between wilted salad and a tray of freshly made burgers and fries, he settled on the latter. What Carole didn't know wouldn't hurt her, nor him given how much walking and worrying he was doing.
As he fumbled with the coffee dispenser, trying to get it to spurt out its last remnants, words he was grateful to hear stopped him.
"Wait just a second. I made a fresh pot."
Burt smiled at the woman when she returned. Her fur was a dark brown and he couldn't shake the feeling he'd met her before. Maybe she had kids that had gone to McKinley with Finn or he'd worked on her vehicle before. "Thank you."
"Long day. Long last night. And it's looking to be a long week."
"I'm very sorry to hear that. I'm Millie."
Burt shook the woman's hand and returned the sympathetic smile that he was offered. "Burt."
"It's nice to meet you, Burt. If you need anything, anything at all, don't hesitate to ask. I know we don't have much yet, but I am more than willing to see what I can do. The funding came through. It's just a matter of getting the supplies in. We’re understaffed and the patients' meals come first, of course."
"I understand. The storm delayed everything. I've got at least four cars waiting on tires and parts."
"At least the snow let up and the weatherman says more's not expected the rest of the week. But again, they also said we were supposed to get flurries yesterday and we all know how that turned out."
"That we do." Burt pulled out his wallet, making sure he had enough cash on hand for both lunch and picking up gas on his way home. "How much?"
"Considering that we'll likely be seeing a lot of each other and I saw you and your wife in here this morning? It's on the house."
"That’s real nice of you. Thank you, Millie."
"You're very welcome, Burt."
Chapter 8: The Clinic, Day 3 - Forever
Burt was bent over the engine of a truck, replacing the battery and corroded leads, when Carole called. Blaine's surgery on his tail had been moved up and Kurt had been left to lie in his own waste for over an hour. His cries for help unheard. Carole had handled everything and the staff on shift now had more to fear than their own charge nurse and attending physician. They were lucky to get off so easy.
Assured that Kurt was fine now and that he wasn't needed back earlier than planned, Burt went back to work, fuming about the incompetent idiots who had hurt his kid, and his own inability to be at the clinic 24/7 in order to have prevented it from happening in the first place. Mechanical things he knew how to fix, not bodies. The sooner he got done, the sooner he could leave to run errands and get back to the clinic to watch over the boys. Carole needed some time to herself and some sleep before her next shift at work. Burt didn’t know how to fix broken minds either, but he could at least be there for Kurt and Blaine and offer them some comfort. Finn had always appreciated such during his bad times.
* * * * *
Burt left Kurt and Blaine's room with a sigh as his wife laughed at his joke begging for the same cocktail of drugs the boys were on. The theme of the afternoon seemed to be naked pirates. He was thrilled that Kurt and Blaine had found each other and were comfortable expressing their love and being intimate after all they'd been through. He just wished he didn't have to hear about the details nor be flashed so often. Helping take care of the boys with their bathroom and other care needs was one thing. This was another. He was never going to be able to think about pirates normally again. Until they were off those meds, a daily beer was going to be in his foreseeable future.
The evening wasn't as funny. Kurt's constant use of his arm, his determination to try and take care of his own private needs so that he wouldn't be touched by strangers, as well as always trying to reach out and touch Blaine had dislocated his shoulder again. This time it required surgery.
Burt was there when the orderly and nurse wheeled Kurt back into the room. He looked so frail on the bed, wrapped up in more bandages than before, asleep from the medications the doctors had pumped into his body. This was his kid and he was going to watch over him. Make sure when Kurt woke up, he would know that he was safe and loved.
* * * * *
Tuesday was a rough day. In Kurt's vernacular, it fucking sucked. If he was in the kid's shoes, he would have agreed.
Burt was old enough to have had more than one root canal, a couple of wisdom teeth pulled, a colonoscopy, and annual prostate exams. It was simply a part of life that sucked for a little while and then was soon forgotten about.
But for Kurt, it was different. It was being strapped to a chair after trying to run away from it, scared and in pain as people did things to his mouth that was already sore and damaged from the beating he'd received.
It was Kurt lying on an exam table half naked, being entered and touched in the places those with evil intentions had entered and touched before. It wasn't a medical examination for him. It was a violation.
It was being told to lift up his gown and pee into a cup. Or sit up to have it removed and then told to lie back for another exam, another test, another treatment.
It came as no surprise to Burt when Kurt entered a fugue state, his mind trying to hide from those touching and violating his body. It wasn't a surprise, but it did break his heart.
He wrote down the number of the therapist Doctor Jones had recommended. Hopefully this Miss Pillsbury could teach him and Carole how to help their son and then help both boys when they got out of the clinic.
* * * * *
As much as he and Carole had been successful at tag teaming the household chores and watching over the boys at the clinic, some things could only be done together - like moving furniture. That's how they spent Friday night. A Hits of the 80's compilation playing on the computer and hot pizza and cold beer sitting out on the kitchen table as they transformed the living room into a bedroom so the boys could have a place to recover at home.
Together they pushed the couch across the floor. This was the third time, and hopefully the last one, trying to get it back far enough to be folded out and still have enough room to walk around the foot of it.
Carole grabbed Finn's old pair of crutches and moved about the space. It still wasn’t right. "I hate to say it, but the entertainment center has to be shifted to the left. The boys will just have to watch TV at an angle. At least it’ll be closer to your favorite chair. You won't have to strain your eyes watching a game."
"My eyes are just fine, Dear."
Carole laughed at her husband's reply. She fully agreed with him that they needed this break away from the clinic. The boys were fine; as fine as they could be, asleep for the rest of the night with no tests planned and a nurse she had developed a rapport with promising to call her if anything changed. "I'll get some boxes from the basement. You start unplugging everything."
Burt took off his cap and wiped his face with the hem of his shirt. It was going to be a longer night than he'd expected.
They didn't finish until 1 a.m. and knew adjustments would have to be made once the boys started using the space. What worked in theory didn't always work in reality. The fold out couch had been made up with sheets, blankets, and what seemed like half the pillows from Walmart’s bedding department. Instead of lugging a bureau down from the spare bedroom, a cheap plastic shelving unit had been bought and lined up against the back of the couch. It would make getting changes of clothes, towels, and other essential items easier.
All of Kurt's clothes had been washed and extra ones bought for Blaine since the kid didn't have more than what he’d been wearing when he’d been rescued. It would be awhile before he was well enough to go back to the K-Mart where he'd been living to see if his stuff was still there. Neither he nor Kurt had hopes that it would be.
The boys wouldn't like that there were bedpans and plastic urinals waiting for them beside the bed, but as the foldable bedside toilets were still on backorder, there wasn't another option. Not that either of them thought they'd be able to keep Kurt from walking on his injured leg. Carole had caught him at the clinic one morning, halfway down the hall wearing only a hospital gown with his butt exposed to the world, limping as fast as he could with the IV stand in tow trying to find a public bathroom. The IV stand was made less portable after that.
Burt didn't think the folding privacy screen Carole had bought would actually offer that much privacy. She had tried her best to find at least something though and it was nice to look at.
The back porch now sported a large mini-fridge stocked with some of Kurt's favorite foods. It had been a pain to attach the lock, but owning your own mechanic shop with all the right tools made the job easier. If the kid didn't feel like his food would be taken, it might make him feel more secure the next time Finn was home.
Burt looked around the transformed room. "Did we forget anything?"
"Probably, but we'll figure it out tomorrow." Carole sympathized with the weariness and doubt plain on her husband's face. "It'll work out, Burt."
"Kurt left us before."
"All we can do is make him feel safe. You know this. And in their condition, I don't think they'll be up to going anywhere. He's too protective of Blaine and smart enough to know he's better off here. It'll be okay."
Burt let out a sigh and hugged his wife. "You always know what to say."
"We got through Finn's high school years. I think we can get through Kurt's. Come on, let's get some sleep so we can bring our boys home tomorrow."
Chapter 9: The Boys Come Home
"Morning, Kurt. How are you feeling?"
"I don't want to know what they're going to do next. Just take off my clothes so they can get it over with. I don't even know why they bother with the gown anymore."
Burt exchanged a look of grief with his wife as their son buried his face into his pillow, kicked off the blanket, and bunched up his medical gown, exposing himself. He flinched as Carole touched his hand, clearly expecting worse.
"I'm just taking out your IV, Honey."
Kurt didn't respond. He just laid there and let Carole do her work. When she raised his bed so he could sit up, his shifted enough so that he could pee into the urinal, only half heartedly covering himself back up when he was done, waiting for someone to pull it away and touch him.
Burt understood why Kurt dragged a magazine over his lap when he was told it was time to eat. Boost had been his breakfast all week and more than once he'd thrown it up. He didn't know why the clinic kept giving it to the kid if it made him sick. Same as the last few days, Kurt accepted the straw without complaint and drank the can Carole held to his lips. As if he didn't need more proof the kid had given up.
With his breakfast finished, Kurt watched in silence as the same routine was done to Blaine.
Burt didn't need to talk to Carole before she left the room. They'd already discussed the plan. He would get the boys dressed and ready to go and ask the Big Question. She would talk to the doctors and handle any last minute medical paperwork and instructions.
He moved closer to Kurt’s bed, trying to get his attention. "Hey, Kiddo, you ready to go home?"
"Am I dreaming again?"
Burt let out a sigh, hoping that what he was about to say would be welcoming news. "No, Bud. We've got everything set up for you and Blaine. Carole thought the living room would be best for now. I know it doesn't offer a lot of privacy, but the couch folds out into a bed and it's close to the bathroom and kitchen. Plus, there's the TV and computer. I cleaned out the spare bedroom for when you two are more mobile. You can paint it and fix it up however you like."
"No more back porch?"
"Not unless you want it." Burt adjusted his cap, wishing Carole was with him. She was better at these things. "We can't adopt you legally, Kurt, but we're working on something close to it. It's just going to take a little time. That is, if you'll have us." God, please say you'll have us. It was as close to a prayer as he could manage.
Relief flooded through him. Kurt had been so quiet, only his eyes and tail moving as he thought things over, that he wasn't sure which answer the kid was going to give. "I'm real glad to hear it."
Kurt looked down and to the side, clearly working up the courage to ask what was on his mind. "Am I supposed to call you 'Dad' now?"
"You can call me whatever you'd like. Can I call you 'Son'?"
"I'd like that."
Burt stepped closer to his son before pulling back, unsure if his actions were wanted.
"You can hug me if you want to."
"I'd really like that, Kiddo." Burt wrapped his arms around his boy, minding his shoulder. He was a lucky man to have such great kids.
Their hug was made better when Carole came into the room, discharge papers in hand. She didn't need to ask the question, but did anyway. "He said yes?"
Burt looked to his wife, unable to tone down the smile on his face if he'd wanted to. "Yes."
Carole joined her boys in their hug. "Welcome to the family, my sweet Kurt."
"Thanks, Carole Mom."
It took a minute, but then Carole understood Kurt's shrug of a reply. He didn't know what else to call her. He had never had a dad, but did have a mom, and didn’t want to dishonor her memory. Honestly, she didn’t care what Kurt called her because he had agreed to be her son. "I can live with that."
* * * * *
At Kurt's request, Burt pulled around to the back of the old K-Mart. It looked different than when he'd been there last, finding the boys lying in the snow beaten close to death. There was no snow falling now and the sun was out, shining too bright on the scattered remains of Kurt and Blaine's previous life. He could hear them talking in the backseat, mourning what they'd lost to vandals and the bastards who had attacked them. He hadn't known what they'd done there, only that Kurt would sleep over sometimes and called it Blaine's Place. Clearly, it meant a lot more to them than simply a place to shelter from the cold. It had been a home.
When the boys asked to leave, Burt drove on. He couldn’t replace all that Kurt and Blaine had lost; only hope that they could one day come to see his and Carole’s house as a home too.
* * * * *
Burt knew he was rambling as he led the boys into the house, pointing out all the things he and Carole had set up for them, scared that Kurt would think he was too exposed and want to leave. Hoping that he'd at least give the back porch another shot. He was grateful when his wife stopped his incessant talking and suggested he go get take out. That he could do. Making the kids feel better with food was easy.
Kurt saying he was nervous too and smiling every time he called him 'son,' trying to join in the trivial things they talked about while eating fried rice and noodles, and letting himself be tucked into bed and be given hugs - that gave him hope that things would work out. That Kurt really did want him as his dad.
* * * * *
Burt woke up when he heard a thud followed by the sound of Kurt cursing at the piece of furniture he'd run into. When the toilet flushed, he understood why the kid was up at such a late hour.
Then there were more sounds - the door to the back porch being opened, movement within the room, the mini-fridge being unlocked and opened. He held his breath, waiting to see if Kurt was going to merely sleep back there or leave the house altogether.
When Kurt reentered the kitchen, opened up the fridge, and got back into bed after cursing out the coffee table again, the worry left him. His son was still with him and willing to try and make this place his home.
Chapter 10: Burt Needs a Beer
While this is my favorite chapter title and there are some nice moments, there’s also some sloggy sections too. Sorry about that. You know how it is, some chapters are harder to write than others. I was also trying to not give a complete line by line retelling of Empty Nest and Rebuilding the Nest. I wanted to let Burt and Carole have their own moments together and apart, processing or discussing Kurt after and in-between the moments with him. All I can say is, I tried my best.
Burt kissed his wife goodbye and reassured her for the fourth time that he would be fine alone with the boys. He had her instructions which they'd gone over last night and again this morning, medical supplies and medicines laid out on the kitchen table, and a pot of coffee brewing.
Kurt may have been beaten down at the clinic, but he knew his kid and his kid was sure to put up a fight now that he was in a more familiar place and had a bit of independence. Burt had a secret weapon and he wasn't ashamed to use it. When the coffee was done, he poured two cups and headed into the living room.
Grumbling at being woken up early and told to do breathing exercises Burt was prepared for. Kurt arguing with Blaine and the number of F-bombs he dropped, he wasn't. It turned out Carole hadn't been exaggerating about him doing that at the clinic. The sweet, polite kid full of “thank yous” and “pleases” that he’d always known had turned to using the language he’d learned in juvie. The kind he had needed to use as a means of survival and defense. Burt understood that and he understood that Kurt was upset, frustrated, and in pain. He just didn’t think that there was a need for those kinds of graphic and inappropriate words about everything the kid disliked. Especially now that he was in a safer place.
Returning to the kitchen to finish making the eggs, he heard Kurt slamming the bathroom door. That was another thing he was going to have to bring up. Both boys were walking on their injured legs too much. Embarrassing as they were, the bedpans and urinals would have to start being used. Maybe reminding them that there was a bedroom upstairs waiting for them to move into once they were healed up would do the trick. All he had to work with now was the promise of eggs, toast, coffee, and as Kurt called them, "the good drugs."
Breakfast over, dishes in the sink, and Kurt refusing to listen to him about using the bedpan, Burt picked up the list Carole had made for him and started asking the kids questions. Honestly, he didn't want to know about the boys' poop any more than they wanted to answer questions about it. And he didn’t blame Kurt for being upset about not being told he was given stool softeners and the effect they’d had on his body.
He was taken aback when Blaine assumed the question, "Are you bleeding or experiencing any unusual discharge" pertained to his rectum, rather than his external physical wounds. Given that the kid had also been sexually assaulted and had to be treated for chlamydia, he should have expected it. Relieved that Blaine had answered 'no' in regards to both his wounds and private areas, Burt moved on to the diagrams Carole had made. Scrubbing at his face, he thought about how he was going to handle examining the cuts on Blaine's bottom without traumatizing him more. Helping the kid with his bathroom needs and washing up in the clinic was one thing, but this was in a home and less public situation.
Blaine being blissed out on painkillers and muscle relaxants and Kurt offering to help check out his boyfriend’s stitches solved that problem for him. He gave the boys their privacy while Blaine had fun tripping about seeing butterflies flying around him and tickling his butt. At Kurt's all clear, he returned. The rest of the kid’s exam went easier. Burt was a little worried about the sutures at the tip of his tail. They were a bit red, but nothing was oozing, so he applied some antibiotic ointment and made a note of it on the list Carole had given him.
Fortunately, Kurt's wounds, for the many that there were, were also doing well and the two on the back of his head that needed treatment were quickly taken care of. The kid still shook a bit when being touched, but his quiet, "It'll be okay. This is different. He's safe," litany only happened now when his privates were exposed. And thank the medical gods that the diagrams said they didn't need to be. Kurt had cuts on his legs, but none reached as high as his underwear-covered areas.
With both of the boys now high as a kite, Burt took a frozen dinner out of the freezer along with the boys' ice packs. A cold bottle of beer would help him deal with the bland taste of the so-called healthy meal and give him a break before the next scheduled round of treatments. The cocktail of drugs would help the kids deal with having ice packs placed all over their bodies.
When it was time for ice packs and breathing exercises, Burt pulled out another go to weapon - leftover cheesecake and Chinese food. He gave the boys the option of watching one of the musicals Elizabeth had loved or a reality show on TV. Pretending to also enjoy The Real Housewives of...some place or another, Burt sat in his recliner, laughing along with Kurt and Blaine’s comments and trying not to be obvious that he was only there to make sure the required deep breaths were being taken. He knew first-hand that broken ribs were more serious than TV shows and movies made them out to be.
Even with Kurt and Blaine protesting the humiliation of being forced to use the bedside accommodations instead of walking to the bathroom like they had that morning, Burt felt the whole of the day had gone easier than he'd expected. Still, he couldn't say he wasn't glad when Carole came home to take over for him.
As Burt changed into his work overalls and Carole changed out of her scrubs, he had a good laugh with her over Kurt and Blaine mutually hallucinating a reality fashion competition show. He fervently hoped the days of the boys talking about their sex lives in explicit detail were over now that they were dressed in something other than thin medical gowns that left next-to-nothing to the imagination and were too easily pulled away so that there was nothing to imagine.
Carole filled him in on her day, how it was nice to be back on her regular shift, and the gossip that rivaled any hospital drama. Burt in turn filled her in on his day, the boys' attitudes and conditions, and how there just hadn't been enough time to get them bathed, despite Kurt wanting to get clean. They went over shopping and errand lists and were grateful that even in Lima, the Walmart was open 24/7.
With a parting kiss and hug to Carole and a silent laugh at Kurt’s snarky comment to Blaine about the commercials airing on their invisible TV show, he left for the shop. He loved his boys, but engines and tires he understood far better than teenagers, and his mechanics didn’t curse half as much as his son did.
* * * * *
As Burt and Carole had expected, Kurt put up a fight when it was time to leave for a follow-up visit at the clinic. They'd tried to prepare him for it. Mentioned it more than once that week. Even Blaine had chimed in that getting stitches out by a doctor in a medical setting was far more sanitary than anything that could be done at home. His brother had tried it one time and ended up getting an infection and a nasty scar to go with it. They had hoped that Blaine had gotten through to Kurt and that he was onboard. Yet when the day came, it was cursing that at least was tempered by an apology and them not having to physically drag him out of the house and into the truck.
As for Kurt's retort that once he was at the clinic he would refuse to wear a medical gown, Burt was glad that Carole had taken his non-verbal hint and dropped the subject. The kid was bluffing, putting on a show of anger to try and get a win in a winless situation.
An hour later, Burt discovered how very wrong his assumption had been. His kid wasn't just nude, but flagrantly naked and daring anyone to make a comment or try to cover him up. He felt bad that Carole got the worst of it, but they agreed that Kurt being naked with his female parent would be less intrinsically traumatic than his male one. His need for body autonomy, for having control of when his clothes were removed, didn't erase his past experiences.
And so Burt found himself comforting Blaine through his exams and medical procedures. The kid tried to hide it, but he was scared that he was going to lose his eye and more of his tail. While most of his sutures could be removed, there were new ones to be had where the partial amputation hadn't healed as quickly as the doctor would have liked. Upping the kid's nutrition with supplements was encouraged and would surely apply to Kurt as well. Burt agreed with Blaine that Kurt wasn't going to be happy about it, but that it was a necessary evil. He decided that sneaking the case of Boost the orderly brought him into the back of the truck would give Kurt less to rant about at the clinic and on the way home. As for Blaine's eye, that was thankfully healed enough that the patch could be removed. He really hoped it would also remove the word ”pirate” from the boys’ vocabulary.
Throughout it all, Blaine tried to keep up a stream of friendly chatter with him and the staff. At times though, he fell silent and refused his lunch when it was brought to him. Burt had seen the burns on the kid’s body and the fresh cuts and bruises that had been layered upon them. As his guardian, he knew about the scars and abuses that couldn't be seen so easily too. How the kid could smile at all was beyond him.
* * * * *
The drive home felt just as long as the drive there. Only instead of Kurt complaining about how he wasn't going to let anyone touch him, he was bragging about how he'd made sure Doctor Jones hadn't stuck anything up his ass even though she thought she was being sneaky when she’d glanced at his dick.
Burt gripped the steering wheel and kept his mouth shut, glad that Carole was there to talk to Kurt in a calmer tone than he was capable of at the moment. She repeated that they both understood that the exams were traumatic for him, but that he’d had it explained to him more than once that they were necessary. How the doctor, who specialized in these matters, was looking out for his well being. How horrible STIs were, and that routine monitoring and testing would be needed.
Burt knew what Carole left out of her explanation. That for the sake of his mental health, Kurt hadn’t been told that the damage done to his body by the people who had brutalized him was more extensive than they and the doctors had let on. How they couldn’t trust him not to lie about the details of his sexual relationship with Blaine. Nor could they dismiss that Kurt was likely leaving out some of the activities he’d been forced into. His years of malnutrition, unsanitary living conditions, and lack of medical care had only served to hurt him further. So as much as Kurt hated them. As much as Burt and Carole hated seeing their son re-traumatized and shaking, Doctor Jones’s exams would continue to be necessary until she was satisfied that he was out of the woods for good.
When Kurt ignored Carole and started guessing which doctors, nurses, and orderlies might have gotten a hard on at seeing his exposed dick and balls, same as the guards had at the Reformatory, Burt put a stop to his vulgar language and insults. There was understanding what your kid had been through and then there was the need to instill in him that being part of a family came with rules and those rules included not being inappropriate about people who were just trying to help him. Burt also reminded Kurt that his boyfriend had undergone the same exams and had needed to have more stitches put in, so sympathy and less yelling were in order. Thankfully, the rebuke seemed to calm him down and came with an apology.
When they arrived at the house, Kurt unceremoniously dumped his outerwear by the front door and then like a royal, collected his bathing things, and announced that he was going to take a shower. The additional statements about how he would follow proper wound care and leave the door open in case he fell or needed help, made Burt smile. Even though the drive back had been rough, he agreed with Carole. Kurt was going to be okay. Or at least better now that he felt safer and was home.
* * * * *
While getting ready for bed, Carole filled Burt in about how Kurt had asked her about why they'd made the decision to trust him enough to let him inside the house instead of only in the shelter. It had been the Cliff Notes version of course, full of reassurances to Kurt that they’d learned what the real laws were and that he was wanted.
Carole didn’t speak of the reality of multiple talks between themselves, confusing and far too often conflicting online research, followed by emails, texts, and calls with Anne and Dani. The talks that had occurred when they were over before Christmas, when Kurt had run away, and then again when found. Their visit had put the wheels into motion. There had been a few snags along the way, their week-long stay at the clinic included, but finally there was a solid plan. It wasn't going to be cheap, sacrifices would have to be made, and future vacations cancelled, including Finn's desire to go to Virginia Beach for spring break among them.
Anne and Dani had been kept updated on Kurt and Blaine’s medical conditions. Discussions on what should be done with Blaine were had. Blaine was easier than Kurt. While he didn't have much of a legal standing as a hybrid, he wasn't an escaped juvenile offender. It was actually perfectly legal for the boy to be in their house and they could claim him as either a minor dependent or property. That the last was even an option made Burt furious.
The first night at the clinic, Blaine had signed the forms that granted Burt and Carole temporary guardianship and the right to view his medical forms and have a say in his care should he be incapacitated or otherwise unable to give consent. He knew that he needed help and there was no one else he could turn to and nowhere else he felt safe to live.
Kurt had granted the same rights, though it was understood the forms could never be filed with any agency. His privacy and identity needing to be protected the most of all. He hadn't been the clinic's first patient who had spent time at the Lima Heights Hybrid Reformatory and as such, they were prepared. At least that’s what the doctors and charge nurse that night had reassured them. Burt was still iffy about the office that handled the non-medically trained volunteers.
By the time Carole had finished telling him about her talk with Kurt, they were changed into their pajamas and tucked under the covers. "We've done everything we can for the boys, Burt. Tomorrow we'll see if we can set up an appointment with the therapist. If Kurt's not ready to go on his own, maybe Blaine will be. At the least, we can see her together and she can help us help them until they are. We've got this, Honey. The boys are safe and home now."
Burt loved that Carole could read his moods, ease his unspoken worries and fears. That she knew he didn't always have the ability to express himself the way he wished he could. Raising kids was never easy and he wouldn't trade his for the world. Even ones he could hear moving around the kitchen, trying to see if there was any cheesecake left when they were supposed to be in bed, asleep.
* * * * *
Burt couldn't wait for Kurt and Blaine to get off their medications. The story Carole had told him about walking in on the boys trying to have sex and Kurt's mortification when Blaine asked why Kurt couldn't get an erection had been amusing.
Then came dinner and the boys talking in detail about the intimate acts they had been having together and how it compared to the food on their plates. Burt knew his cardiologist would be thrilled to learn that he was never, ever going to eat another hot dog again.
The following week was even more drink inducing. 5 a.m. and the boys were going at it on a kitchen chair, in the living room, loud enough to wake the dead, and making him and Carole late for work. At least he'd gotten some payback by telling his son that his new parents had also had sex on those same chairs. In reality, it had been the table, but if it had managed to cool the boys off, the white lie was worth it.
As he made coffee and crumbled about not having time to make lunch, let alone check on the boys’ injuries and help them with their morning routine, he pleaded with Kurt to be nice to the home health aid. Kurt had said he trusted Sam, but the guy helping out a friend was different than him helping Kurt out directly. He and Carole didn't have a choice though. They'd missed enough work already.
* * * * *
When the weather report warned of a bad storm headed their way and with the backup generator busted, Burt closed the shop up early. He came home to discover that Kurt had locked himself away in his room on the back porch and been there for most of the day. Blaine had apologized for not calling, feeling that if left alone and given space, Kurt would be fine as he always was when he got into “that kind of a mood.”
As he made his way around the outside of the house in order to enter the porch through the back door, Burt saw what Kurt had done to the yard. The kid hadn't marked his territory since he lived outside. Given the only partially obscured lines of pale yellow and the cat footprints running away from his old shelter, he clearly was again. Something had set him off and he wasn't feeling safe. That he was still at home was a relief. Steps back, but not as far as they had been before. That was something.
Burt made his way to his son’s bed, careful in his movements, not wanting to trigger the kid into another panic attack. Kurt was awake, bundled in layers of blankets, and asking why it was so dark and cold. He was afraid to hug his son and so settled for a gentle pat on his back, reassuring him that he wasn't mad, only concerned, and proud that he hadn't run away. He offered him the choice of staying on the porch or coming inside where it wasn't much warmer, but at least there was food.
Glad at his choice to come inside, calling it his home. Burt tried to make the evening as normal as possible, asking the boys about their days, accepting Kurt's quietness and lie that he'd only walked around the back yard a bit before falling asleep.
Burt had thought it was the end of Kurt's bad day until he had tried taking a shower, insisting that he would be fine even with the power out and lack of hot water. The act had brought on a panic attack worse than Burt had ever seen and Kurt had fallen. The entire time he was bundling his son up in a robe, lifting him out of the tub, and carrying him to the living room, the boy had begged him not to touch him, not to hurt him anymore, to spare him just one day of being watched and touched, that he would make out with Quinn or another one of the girls for him instead. And as Burt laid him down on the bed and tucked him under the covers, Kurt's sobs had to turned to screams, pleading not to be entered.
Standing away from the couch, Burt wiped at the tears flowing down his face as he and Blaine tried to calm Kurt down. Tried to reassure him that he was safe and no one was going to hurt him. He didn't know how long it took for their words to sink in and for Kurt to come out of the fog.
"I think. I think maybe I should see that therapist. If that's okay."
"Anything for you, Son."
* * * * *
The next couple of days went smoother. Sam was warned about both Kurt and Blaine's triggers and given ways to help them should a panic attack occur. Kurt had liked the suggestion of sticking to sponge baths for a few days with Blaine helping him out. It made for a tight fit in the bathroom and more sounds that neither he nor Carole wanted to hear, but Kurt hadn't had another flashback. Burt made sure to touch his son less too and bought a few extra blankets for the back porch. The cold snap had refused to let up.
Burt braced himself for the talk he was about to have with Kurt and Blaine. The talk he'd been putting off because he feared it would only set things back. They had to know though that Finn would be coming home for a week, spending Spring Break in Lima instead of at the beach. Luckily, most of Finn's friends would be too, so there was a chance he'd go to their houses to hang out.
The initial talk had gone far better than Burt expected. Kurt didn't get angry or curse. Had only seemed unsure as to what he wanted to do, where he would sleep. He'd tried to reassure the kid, but wasn't surprised when asked if he could think about it.
An hour later, Kurt came to him with the same worried and pensive expression and body language as plain as day...
* * * * *
Afterwards, sitting in his truck, still in the driveway, Burt rubbed at his face with the hand not holding his cellphone, recounting the talk he and Kurt had had to Carole. He didn’t want the boys to overhear their conversation. "The kid thought we'd be mad at him for asking to move his food to the fridge on the porch because Finn was our real son."
"Oh, Burt! Kurt is our real son too."
"That's what I told him. And I helped him move it all and told him I'd buy extra. The kid barely eats though."
"Which worries me too. All we can do is make sure he has food that he likes and takes his vitamins and supplements. If he gets any worse though, we'll have to Boost him."
"I do not look forward to that day."
"He said he'd try to get along better with Finn and decided to stay in the living room for now."
"It is the best option even though I'm sure Finn would disagree."
Burt took a sip of coffee from his travel mug. The rest of what he had to say broke his heart. "He told me about his mom. Her name was Elizabeth Elizabeth. Or that's what he thinks her name was and how she'd joke about it being easy to remember. I don't know if it would be safe to do a search for her online, but maybe we could try. See if there was anything about her arrest in the papers or maybe a notice that says where she was buried. Don't know if Kurt would want to know."
"He should have closure."
"I agree. We'll bring it up if we find out more. Kurt was so sad, thinkin' he'd made up the story about his mom, that I told him she was probably having tea with my Elizabeth and smiling down on him knowin' he was safe now."
"You're a good dad, Burt."
"I'm tryin' to be."
"Anything else? My break is almost over."
"Nothin' that can't wait. I'm off to go pick up Finn now. I'll let you know how the talk with him goes."
"Thanks. Love you, Dear."
"Love you too, Honey."
Chapter 11: The Spring Break from Hell
On the drive home from picking Finn up from OSU, Burt asked the kid how his midterms went, if he was still getting along with his roommate, how football was going, and if he'd signed up for next term's classes yet. The usual questions. When those were exhausted, he brought up the subject he'd waited to mention until after the stress of the kid's midterms were over.
"Kurt and Blaine are living inside the house now."
"I know. Kurt was there when I was visiting Rachel for Valentine's Day."
"You remember him running away?"
"Yeah, just because I ate his weird cereal."
"He and Blaine got beaten up real bad. They spent a week in a special hospital and are sleeping in the living room while they recover."
"Okay. What's the big deal? I mean, I'm sorry that they got hurt and all."
Burt looked over at his son, trying to catch his eye, but he was fiddling with a game on his phone. He returned his gaze to the road and tried to explain things further. "It means you can't hog the TV and you can't have friends over unless we know about it first. And there's another thing."
"We've asked Kurt to be our son and he agreed. He's your brother now."
"You adopted him?"
"Not legally. It's complicated, Finn, because of where he came from."
"Like, he's an illegal alien or something?"
"Kurt spent time in juvie and could be arrested again if he’s caught. He's not dangerous, Son. His mom died when he was little and he just needs someone to care for him. To have a family and know that he matters."
"Like you're always telling me. That I matter."
"Yeah, Kid. Like that. Because you do."
"Okay, that's cool. Can we get burgers for dinner? The ones at the dining hall suck."
"Sure. Which place did you have in mind?" As Finn rattled off options, Burt held in his sigh. He hoped that he'd gotten through to Finn, but given what had happened the last time he was home, he couldn't be certain. The boy had a good heart and always meant well. He just didn't think things through before he did them. Maybe if Carole talked to Finn, the importance of keeping Kurt safe and trying to get along with him better would sink in more.
* * * * *
Dinner that night went better than Burt and Carole had expected. Finn greeted Kurt with a "Hey, heard you're my little bro now. That's cool. Sorry about eating your cereal and you getting hurt. Dad got us burgers. That's like protein or something, right? Good for healing." He'd greeted Blaine equally nicely, complimenting him on the artwork that decorated his cast.
Kurt had lived up to his promise, being nice to Finn in return, though quiet and wary, watching his every move and only speaking in short sentences when spoken to.
Burt agreed with Carole that leaving Kurt and Blaine in the living room to eat their dinner in solitude was best. In the kitchen, they reemphasized the new house rules to Finn, which annoyed the kid, but had to be done. To ease the kid’s disgruntled mood, Carole moved on to other topics after that, asking about school, football, and all the other things Burt had covered during the drive back home, but with a maternal flare.
While Carole caught up with Finn, Burt went to check in on Kurt and Blaine, stopping at the threshold between the two rooms to watch as Kurt gave Blaine the rest of his burger, telling his boyfriend that he needed it more, and then as he put half of his fries into a baggie which he then hid under his pillow. The kid was clearly scared that what had happened before was going to happen again. Apparently moving his food to the back porch hadn't been enough to reassure his son that this time things would be different.
Hiding his sadness and pretending to not know what had just transpired, Burt entered the room and began the boys' nightly routine. If he was extra generous with his parental hugs and praise and making sure the kids knew they were cared for and loved, it was just a coincidence.
* * * * *
Burt was going over paperwork in his office when Carole called him to tell him about Kurt's morning. How he had yelled at Finn for staring at his scars and given him a graphic play by play of just how he’d gotten the worst of them.
He wasn't naive. He'd read about slavery in history class, seen prison and cop shows and movies. Burt knew some of the basics Kurt hadn't mentioned, but assumed he’d gone through, like how inmates were routinely given cavity searches. But to know firsthand how the kid had been branded. How his son, a little six year old who should have been coloring pictures, was stripped naked and held down while some guard branded his chest and snipped off part of his ear, and gods only knew what else?
He wanted to hug his son, turn back time, and make it never happen. Help out his mom so the two could have stayed together. He wanted to hurt the racist bastard who had reported them to the cops and then kill every one of the monsters who had abused Kurt and created a system that turned a blind eye and made such institutions both legal and profitable.
And he felt guilty for being too afraid to fight for his son and his son's boyfriend's rights. For all their comings and goings, the neighbor's hadn't reported them. Maybe they were still clueless. But if he and Carole were seen at rallies or ran for office or spoke out in any way that drew a lot of attention? Then it might be discovered that Kurt was living with them and he'd be sent back to that hellhole.
Despite all that he was doing for the kid, it never felt like it was enough. The more he learned, the more his heart broke. He could never make it right. Never make it better. Never make Kurt’s past go away.
Burt readjusted his cap and wiped at tears flowing down his face. It was too much. His son. They had done those unspeakable, brutal things to his son.
* * * * *
Burt just wanted to come home, hug his son, and then figure out what take out would cheer the kid up and ask him if he wanted to see his friend from the Reformatory who had her baby. Apparently, parental kindness, food, and seeing old friends wasn't what Kurt had needed to make him happy.
Between the door being dead-bolted, a delay tactic Finn had been using for years that Kurt seemed to have figured out on his own, Finn's shouting of "Dudes, pants!, Dad's home!," and the sight of said pants and underwear lying on the floor and other intimate things the decorative screen didn't hide, it was clear what his son and his boyfriend had been up to. He couldn't wait until they moved up to their bedroom.
He wondered if he could buy condoms in bulk at Sam's Club. With three sexually active boys now at home, it wasn't such a bad idea to look into. If brain bleach had been a thing, he would have gladly put that on the shopping list as well.
* * * * *
Therapy day couldn't come soon enough for Burt. He and Carole had already met Miss Pillsbury in private, both to check her out and to get some advice on how they could help the boys. She wouldn't let them tell her all of the details of what had happened to Kurt and Blaine, preferring to hear it from them firsthand, when and if they were ready to do so. It was a privacy issue as well, which they understood and accepted. She had let them give her some broad strokes and recommended family therapy if the boys were willing.
Burt loved Kurt, even times like now when his kid was disparaging the flannel shirts he'd been given. It meant that he was more comfortable around him and felt free to express his interests and preferences. Blaine's advice on what to wear seemed like a good one. That the kid was wearing clothes at all during the appointment was a great sign in his book.
He sat with Kurt in the waiting room, understanding his desire not to be touched. Sharing your past traumas and exposing yourself like that with a stranger, it was hard. The kid was braver and stronger than he'd ever been at that age or any other. He really hoped Miss Pillsbury could help the boys. The pamphlets in her office and the ones he and Carole had been given had some good advice, even if some of the titles and subject matters were a bit odd.
Blaine seemed hopeful when he'd come out so Kurt could take his place. He got the kid some water, just as he had his son, and kept his distance. Blaine was tactile around Kurt and Carole, but like Kurt, kept his touches to a minimum around him. And god, his heart broke knowing why that was.
Kurt came out of his therapy session with the same quiet sadness that Blaine had. The mention of take out and fried fish and chicken had cheered him up. Then Miss Pillsbury had mentioned setting up their next appointment and what little joy the kid had drummed up was drained away. Burt knew that look. It was the same resigned acceptance of defeat he'd had during his week long stay at the clinic.
While Kurt helped Blaine to the truck, Burt made the appointments with the therapist, paid for Blaine's session, and was reassured that a donor had prepaid for Kurt's. He promised to contact the clinic to find out what was needed to get the boys on the anti-anxiety medication they'd agreed to. Another appointment there was not something any of them looked forward to, but if the medication couldn't be prescribed without seeing a doctor in person, it would have to be done.
He said his goodbyes and thanks and then braced himself for the silent drive home. Rough days were always hard, take out or not.
* * * * *
Burt wanted to kick himself for thinking things were going well enough between Kurt, Blaine, and Finn to leave the boys home together for a few hours after work. He and Carole hadn't had a date night since they'd taken Kurt in. Like all brothers, the boys had pushed each other's buttons. Kurt pushing by hogging the milk and walking around in the mornings in nothing but a pair of briefs and sometimes nothing at all but a robe. Blaine had started to sleep without pants on and never refused intimate acts with Kurt. And the two were always being intimate according to Finn. Finn had pushed back by watching as much sports and cartoons on TV and playing video games on the living room system as often and as late into the night as he could get away with. They hadn’t thought much of it, chalking it up to the typical sibling rivalry that happened when families blended together. They had handled the louder squabbles with lectures about respecting each other’s privacy and spaces and left the rest to sort itself out. The boys weren’t little kids. Finn was legally an adult and Kurt and Blaine nearly so.
So he and Carole had gone to Breadstix, hoping that if everything went well, they could go back to having not just date nights, but regular bowling evenings with their friends as well. Outside of work, they hadn’t seen the Abrams, Sheldon, or Lauren in months. Lauren was supposed to be back from her book tour soon and it would be nice to catch up with her and the rest of them, to have some adult conversations. For now getting to relax with his wife and have a nice dinner was more than enough. Breadstix wasn't fancy, but they couldn't afford fancy and the atmosphere and food suited them just fine. They'd had a number of romantic dates there. Full of fettuccine alfredo, linguine with marinara and meatballs, breadsticks that were awful but free, and rich desserts of chocolate cake smothered in chocolate sauce and whipped cream they drove home. He and Carole were still laughing and telling each other stories as they pulled up to the house.
Their happiness turned into heart clutching panic upon seeing the driveway and street filled with unfamiliar vehicles, teenagers they did and didn't know milling about outside their house, and music pouring out the open front door.
Burt was through the door first, angrier than he'd ever been in his life. "Finn, we told you not to have anyone over without our permission and knowing who they were first. I want all of these people out. Now!"
"I didn't do anything wrong. It's just a party."
"Where's Kurt? Where's Blaine? Did they leave? Finn, where did they go?!"
At Finn's answer, Carole stopped her frantic searching of the kitchen and ran up the stairs.
Burt heard her calling out to Kurt as he told Rachel and the rest to go home. Why weren't these kids leaving? He pulled at the wires connecting the game system to the TV, relishing the groans that followed because it got the players moving. Looking around, he spotted one of the kids he knew.
"Artie, do you need a ride home?"
"I can take him, Mr. Hummel."
"Thanks, Matt." Burt was glad he didn't have to drive Artie or wait for his parents to pick him up. Not that the kid lived that far away, but he needed to be here with his son. His son whose life had been put in danger. Who might have run away. Who could be hurt. Whose boyfriend could be hurt too.
Why weren't these kids moving faster? He started shoving random coats at people until they started getting the hint. Finn was trying to get Rachel and some guy she was with into her car. Not knowing how many people Finn had invited over, or invited themselves over, he went through the house checking the back porch, the downstairs bathroom, and the basement.
He returned from his search to find Carole shutting the front door on the last of the party-goers. "Kurt and Blaine are hurt. They want to go to the clinic."
"What the hell did you do to them, Finn?!"
"I didn't do anything! They've been upstairs the whole time. Kurt has friends over. Why can't I?"
"Friends? You mean Sam? That's his home health aid."
"They were playing video games."
"As part of their therapy. We've told you this, Finn."
Burt had to give his wife credit for handling the situation better than he was. She was calm and urgent to his frantic yelling. They shouldn't have to keep explaining that Kurt needed to be kept safe. That he wasn't a danger to the family just because he'd spent time in juvie. That he shouldn't have even been arrested in the first place for eating a damn donut at the grocery store. And he wasn't going to kick the kid out or send him to a shelter when he had a home here. This was his home. He was his father and Carole was his mother. Period.
He thought he had been angry before and then Carole said the boys had been too afraid to use the upstairs bathroom and so had resorted to peeing into water bottles. They had been treated like the animals the racists said they were and Finn still wasn't understanding the extent of what he'd done. "Get on your coat and start cleaning up your mess. Your mom and I are going to go get Kurt and Blaine. Then we're all going to the hospital so you can see exactly what you did. And when we get back, you're cleaning up their room too."
It was the site of Kurt broken and in pain, limping down the stairs with Blaine, eyes moving frantically around, that made him stop yelling.
"It's fine. We're fine. We'll go now. I just need to find Blaine's crutches."
Burt and Carole started forward when Kurt gasped in agony as he retrieved Blaine's crutches from under the couch and pocketed a handful of change as he did so, muttering that he was never good at stealing things.
"Kurt!" Blaine was down the stairs now too. Trying to hold himself up on the banister. Pain wracking his body.
"It's okay, Blaine. I'm going to get you to safety. Just let me get the other one."
"Kurt! Burt, Carole, I can't get him to stop."
When Kurt stood back up, crutches in hand, and eyes still unfocused, Burt pulled him into a hug. He didn’t know if the touch would be wanted but he was desperate to form a connection, to try and get his son back to reality. He repeated over and over to Kurt that he was safe now and they were going to get him help.
Kurt leaned into the embrace. "I'm going to miss getting your hugs. You were a really good dad."
"I still am your dad, Kiddo. Come on, let's get you into the truck." Burt guided his son to the front door and helped him into his coat as Carole did the same with Blaine.
"Where are we going?"
"To the clinic, Kurt. We're going to get you and Blaine checked out."
Burt ran a hand over his face and let out a long sigh. "You're not fine, Son. You're not fine at all, but we're going to fix that. Give us a chance to make things right."
With Carole’s help, he loaded the boys into the back of the truck. He went back inside the house to make sure the back door was locked and the stove hadn't been turned on. Fruitlessly, he searched for Kurt and Blaine's things so they could have some familiar clothes with them at the clinic, but gave up after only a few minutes. What the boys needed most was medical care. He could come back for their pajamas and magazines later.
Seeing that Carole was already in her car with Finn, he locked the front door and got into his truck. After starting the engine, he looked back at his boys. Kurt was reassuring Blaine that once he got him some medical help, he'd get them away and keep him safe. He knew a place where they could stay for the night - some abandoned house out by the truck stop. Kurt promised him that he'd make sure he wouldn't hurt anymore because if he let the clerk at the 7-11 give him a blowjob, he could score them some Advil. After hearing that, Burt would swear he had never driven faster in his life.
Chapter 12: Back at the Clinic
I should have put it in the author’s notes earlier, but to all the medical professionals out there, Burt’s Nest is far more sympathetic and understanding of your jobs than Rebuilding the Nest was. Different characters, different experiences. Burt understands why things need to be done, whereas Kurt is a ball of traumatized anger and fear. It was never anything personal to those I know IRL. Just how I saw the characters reacting differently to the circumstances I’d set up. I’m sorry if I upset anyone.
TW for this chapter: A brief discussion about suicide, but no actual suicidal thoughts or attempts.
Burt met Carole outside the clinic's emergency entrance, who had wheelchairs ready and waiting. Burt flashed back to the last time he'd had to rush the boys here. The time when there was too much blood and gurneys and doctors saying things he didn't understand. He brought himself back to the present and helped his son and Blaine into the chairs. Both had gone silent, but it was only Blaine who showed any signs that he knew where he was.
"Finn, I need you to park the truck and then wait over there in the waiting area. Don't leave. Don't make any phone calls. If Rachel or a friend texts you, just say everything is fine and you'll talk to them later. Do you understand me?"
He exchanged a look with his wife. They both knew the drill by now. She would go with Kurt and he with Blaine.
Burt was glad that Kurt and Blaine got exam areas next to each other. If he listened hard enough he could hear what was happening to his son.
"Sir? We need to get Blaine into his gown. If you could step outside of the curtain to give him some privacy, please?"
"Of course. Blaine, I'm going to be right here. You're safe now, okay?" At the kid's nod, he followed the nurse's instruction. In the other exam area, it was Doctor Jones who had stepped outside, so Kurt could be changed by Carole.
"Kurt is unresponsive. Could you tell me what happened?"
Burt still didn't know the exact details of the day and told her such. Kurt and Blaine had been fine when he and Carole had left for work. Kurt hadn't been picking up his phone when they’d called to check in, so they had dialed Finn who had reassured them everything was fine. That should have been their clue. His son was too cheerful, too brief, too not complaining about his new brother and his brother's boyfriend. He didn't know how long the boys had been locked in the bedroom, but it was likely hours from what Carole had surmised. She was the one who had gotten Kurt to open up the door and had seen the state of the kids and the room firsthand.
Carole pulled aside the curtain to let the doctor back in and Burt caught a glimpse of his son lying on the examination table, eyes glazed over, looking so small and helpless in his singular medical gown. Then the curtain on Kurt was closed and Blaine's opened. Blaine needed him too and he wasn't going to let the kid down anymore than he had already.
"Hey, Buddy. I'll be right on the other side of the curtain, so you can have some privacy during your exam. Okay?"
"Could you come and stay with me? I'm not thinking too well and I need..."
"You need someone with you? It's okay to be scared. I’ve got you." Burt entered the area and the curtain was closed around them.
Blaine submitted to the exam and in between gasps and cries of pain when the touching hurt, told the doctor and nurse what had happened. How Kurt had had to drag him up the stairs and help him onto the bed. The long hours spent terrified in the locked and barricaded room with no hope for escape, no food except for a few protein bars and bottles of water, no way of hunting for their medications without making noise that would give them away. Burt had thought he couldn't be angrier than he already was at Finn, but Blaine's recounting had proved him wrong.
Burt looked away whenever any intimate areas were exposed and when the doctor and nurse turned Blaine over to examine his tail in order to try to assess why he had lost feeling in it. It was one thing to help him with his personal needs. It was another to not grant him any privacy at all. The kid may trust him, but he was still traumatized in the ways Kurt had been and even routine exams took their toll. His attention was brought back when Blaine was covered back up and told he was going to be moved to the X-ray room.
Carole must have overheard the declaration because she spoke a soft, "It's okay, Burt. Go with Blaine. I'll stay with Kurt."
It was as he was following Blaine's gurney out of the Emergency Department that he heard Kurt wake up and loudly demand to know why he'd been stripped naked without his consent. Burt understood why, but silently agreed with his son that it would be another thing for him to have nightmares about.
* * * * *
The next time Burt saw Kurt it was at the same time the Blaine was being wheeled out of the X-ray room. The minute his son saw that it was his turn, he pulled the blanket away from his body leaving him fully nude. He tried to give his kid a comforting smile, but Kurt only had glares for the technicians.
"I give my consent for the X-rays, the lead blanket of nad smashing, and for you to stare at my dick all you want. It's not like you haven't seen it before. Touch it, my balls, or my ass without telling me first and you'll be the one on the table."
Burt turned his gaze to Carole. It was going to be a long night for them and the staff. At least Kurt wasn't comatose anymore. If he was yelling, he was still fighting, and they hadn't lost him just yet.
Burt stayed outside the curtain for the rest of Blaine's exam as there was no need for him to be there for the sample collection nor the brief chat with Doctor Jones regarding his sexual activities.
He felt pity for the doctor, not just because of his son's surliness, but because of all she'd seen. It was her job to fix the damage caused by the worst of humanity. Such cases always took a toll on Carole.
* * * * *
It was another hour before Kurt and Blaine were moved up to the patient ward. It was a different room than before, this one further away from the elevators and public bathroom, but the view from the window was better. The walls had been painted a soft blue that matched the tiny floral print of the privacy curtains, and there were two chairs instead of just the one like last time. Burt felt like he was living most of his life in rooms like these.
Given that they were going to be there for a while longer and that the clinic was a maze even to the initiated, Carole insisted that Finn follow them, but stay outside the room until the boys were settled. The kid grumbled, but did as told, returning to the game he'd been playing on his phone.
Blaine requested the bed by the window which suited Kurt, who preferred being closer to the exit. But just as the kid was getting transferred from the gurney and onto the bed and the special pillow that would protect the base of his tail, Doctor Jones came in to take him back out. She'd reviewed his X-rays and determined his leg needed to be reset and a fresh cast applied to his wrist as well. This time Carole went with Blaine. She was familiar with the procedures and could help prepare Blaine for what was to come.
Alone with Kurt and the nurse attending to him, Burt asked the question he knew the answer to already. "How you holding up, Kiddo?"
Kurt glared down at his nude body being covered in ice packs. "How do you think? They've turned me into an icicle. I never realized how creepy Frosty the Snowman was until now. A children's song about a dancing naked man? Did Commandant Ryerson write it? Bet he did, the fucking perv."
"I'm real sorry, Kurt. We're going to get you through this."
Kurt winced as the IV was inserted into the back of his hand. "I'd take a bet about how long it'll take before I piss myself, but I need all the money I have. At least they promised me pain killers. Kick your son in the nads for me. Let him share in this pain."
"It doesn't matter. Forget I said anything."
"You're our son too." Burt watched as Kurt closed his eyes and turned his head away, ignoring the response. His kid may still be fighting, but it was clear there were things he'd given up on.
* * * * *
Burt was in the room when the floor’s charge nurse, a hybrid gentleman about his own age named Joe that he'd met before, came back with Blaine. Carole was by his side and together they lifted the boy onto his bed, got him settled on the special pillow, elevated his broken leg with the new cast applied to it, adjusted the sling supporting his shoulder and cast on his wrist, covered him in a blanket, and inserted an IV into his hand.
Burt had questioned once, and Kurt more than once, why the hand was always used, and had gotten the layman's answer of how it was preferred as it had a prominent, easily accessible vein. During one of those times Kurt had released a string of vulgarities about other prominent veins, hybrid anatomy, and what stupid humans could do with their needles of evil. Both he and Carole had taken him to task for it and ever since, the kid had stopped asking.
Kurt didn't respond to Carole when she removed the ice packs and told him it was his turn to get a new cast that would cover both his wrist and broken fourth finger. He didn't respond except to curse at the pain moving him to the gurney caused. And he didn't respond when he was wheeled back in with not only a new cast, but new splints on his other broken fingers, both arms fitted snugly with slings, a wrapped hamstring, and an equally bandaged ankle. Only when he was transferred back to his bed and Joe had tried to cover him with a blanket did he move enough to kick it off, snarl that he hadn't consented to such, and then made a show of peeing into his urinal.
When the nurse had gone and her son was done urinating, Carole tried to talk to her son again. "Kurt? The doctors are all done with you for tonight. Can I put the blanket on you?"
"Is Blaine okay?"
"He's going to be just fine. I think he's already asleep. Why don't you try and get some too."
"Is that a 'yes' to the blanket?"
When Carole was done tucking in Kurt, she and Burt bid their son a goodnight, sad that Kurt remained facing away from them and didn't return it. Burt laid a hand on his wife's shoulder as she started to leave, shaking his head to stop her from turning off the lights.
He retrieved Finn from the hallway and had him peer through the door's window. "This is what your actions did to them, Finn. You hurt your brother and Blaine. You disobeying our rules and not thinking about the consequences hurt them. We're going to go home and you're going to clean up the mess you made. And in the morning, we're going to come back so you can apologize. Not just for how you hurt them, but for the slur you used. I never want to hear that word in my house again. You got that? Kurt is your brother now and Blaine might as well be too."
"I didn't mean it."
"If you said it, you meant it."
"I said I was sorry."
"Then prove it."
* * * * *
Carole reentered the room, checked on the boys one last time, turned off the lights, and left. She looked at her watch as they headed towards the elevators. It was far later than she had realized. "I have to be at work at 7 a.m., Burt. Can you take the first shift with them?"
"Sure. I'll drop by the shop before I head out and make sure Shoshandra knows what's on the schedule. I never thought I'd be this relieved to be in a slow period."
"I'm certain things will pick up."
"I'll see if I can get off early."
Burt put his hand on his wife's shoulder. She worked too hard. Took on too much. "If you can't, I've got them. "
"You should call Miss Pillsbury. Let her know the boys might not be able to make it to their appointment."
"Who's Miss Pillsbury?"
Carole answered when she saw her husband wasn't going to. "She's Kurt and Blaine's therapist, Finn."
"Like a physical therapist?"
"Why would they need that?"
Burt didn't have the energy to hold back his sigh. "We told you. Bad things happened to Kurt at the Reformatory and the same kind of bad things happened to Blaine at his school."
Burt was glad they'd reached the exit and the subject was dropped. He was too exhausted to explain it again and it wasn't his place to spell out the details. "I'll see you back at home, Carole. Drive safe."
"We're going to get through this, Burt."
"We might. I'm not so sure about Kurt." He didn't wait for a reply, preferring instead to be alone as he walked to his truck so he could drive away. His son and Blaine had deserved none of this and he didn't know how he was going to fix it.
* * * * *
Burt turned away from the boys as they began their admiration of each other's exposed privates. He caught Finn staring in bewilderment and horror as Kurt wiggled his body.
"Why do they always have to do that? Is that a hybrid thing or a gay thing?"
Seeing that the boys had finally stopped staring at each other and fallen asleep, he lowered his voice. "You did crazy things too when you were doped up on painkillers and muscle relaxers, Finn. Better for them to have some fun than be in pain."
"They're naked most of the time at home too. It's weird and what's the word you always use? In a potpourri?"
"Yeah, that one."
Burt closed the magazine he wasn't really reading. "With their injuries, it's hard to get in and out of clothes. They both need a lot of care."
"Then why weren't they here in the hospital?"
"Because it's expensive and with the help of Sam, your mom and I can take care of them at home." Burt adjusted his cap to give him time to think of a way to relate the situation to his son's experiences. "Think of the living room as a locker room. At every game or practice, you see guys taking off their clothes to go take a shower or put on their gear. But no one minds because everyone is on the same team. As teammates, they help each other out, and don’t mind a bit of nudity because it’s all part of the deal."
"Oh, yeah. I forgot I see guy junk all the time. I never thought about it that way. That's cool. Thanks!"
"It won't be forever, Finn."
"No, that's fine."
Burt missed what Finn said next when he heard Kurt say his name.
"Burt is Finn's dad. Not yours anymore. You need to remember that. Stupid meds."
Burt was real tired of his heart breaking. He pulled the bed's blanket over his son, tucked him in, and gave him a gentle hug. "Go back to sleep, Son. The only thing you need to remember is that I'm always going to be your dad." He barely heard Kurt's next words.
"I'm going to miss hugs. He was a good dad."
He had tried and failed again. Not knowing what else he could do for now, he turned off the lights and led Finn out of the room. At least he could get his other son some lunch.
* * * * *
"Afternoon, Burt. Your boys here for a check-up?"
"Afternoon, Millie." Burt took a cup from a stack next to the coffee dispenser and began to fill it up. "Sad to say, but no. They got hurt again."
"I'm real sorry to hear that."
"Hey, Dad, can I get two burgers?"
Burt looked at Finn's tray already loaded with a burger, fries, a bag of chips, and a banana. How the kid could eat so much, he had never been able to figure out. "Go for it, Kiddo."
"This one of your kids?"
Burt smiled at woman. During the week Kurt and Blaine had been patients, he'd gotten to know her. She was good people, always ready with a smile and a special way to make the rough days a little less so. "He is. Millie, meet Finn. Finn, this is Miss Millie."
"Hi. Do you have any tater tots?"
"You must be a McKinley boy."
"I go to Ohio State now."
"Congratulations. That's quite an accomplishment. Give me five minutes and I'll fry you up some."
"Thank you, Millie."
"No problem, Burt. Want me to ring you up now or when they're done?"
"Now's fine." Burt found a banana for himself and a wrapped pastry for later and paid the bill.
Finn had just finished his meal when Carole came in and sat down at their table. "Sweetie, why don't you go up to Kurt and Blaine's room and see if they need help eating their lunches."
"You mean like feeding them? Can't you do it?"
"I just got off work and I’m tired, Finn. It would be a big help so I can get some coffee."
Burt was surprised that Finn had agreed so easily. Maybe some of what he'd said and watching over the boys all morning with him had sunk in. "I'm assuming you already looked in on them?"
"I checked in with the charge nurse. Nothing new. She said the boys had been delivered their lunches, but hadn't eaten. Do you remember Anthony, the human orderly fellow about Finn's age? After I heard him grumbling about Naked Guy being back, I looked in on Kurt and there he was staring at his food. Anthony hadn't fed him at all. So I thought this would be a good bonding experience for the boys."
"You trust him?"
"Finn will be fine, Burt. He has a kind soul. You know that. He didn't mean to hurt them."
"I meant Kurt. The kid can barely move and already has half the staff terrified."
Carole laughed along with her husband. "Maybe we should go watch. Make sure we don't end up with all three boys in the hospital."
Burt bought his wife a cup of coffee and headed up with her. Together, they watched through the room's window, just out of view. Poor Kurt was going to need a sponge bath and another meal given Finn's clumsiness, but they were talking. They hated hearing Kurt graphically recount what the Commandant had done to him and what his plans were if he couldn't be their son anymore. At least it got Finn to finally understand Kurt's situation and make amends with him.
Carole winced at Kurt's broad gestures when the topic turned to the evils of hospital gowns and Boost. The kid was going to be hurting like hell once the endorphins wore off. She accepted the cup of coffee she'd forgotten about from her husband. "I think they're going to be okay now, Burt."
"I think so too."
* * * * *
Burt rubbed his tired eyes and tried not to sigh loud enough to be heard as he pretended to read the month's old magazine he'd brought into Kurt and Blaine's hospital room. Blaine was asleep, tucked under a blanket, and medicated out of his mind. Then there was Kurt, awake and glaring at everything inside his room and what he could see through the windows. Kurt, naked as the day he was born, refusing so much as a sock, and kicking off the blankets the nurses and doctors had tried to cover him with.
He didn’t know why, but he found himself reflecting on his late wife. Elizabeth had never had a chance to have kids before she died. They had both always wanted them. Dreamed of them, talked about how the baby's room would be painted, and the clothes and toys they'd get. She'd tease him about not knowing how to change a diaper and he'd remind her that he'd learn because that's what good dads did and a bit of poop and pee was nothing when it came to your kid.
He bet she was looking down on him now and laughing. This wasn't what he'd signed up for. A baby was one thing. A nearly fully grown teenage boy with his nether regions on display for the world to see and getting erections and complimenting his boyfriend's erections was something else altogether. He didn't mind helping the kid with his toiletry needs and basic sanitation such as wiping down areas he couldn’t reach with a washcloth and changing bandages. That was normal parenting stuff. The rest, the nudity, he hadn't planned on.
Elizabeth was definitely laughing at the rest. Well, the mutual admiration stuff she was. Not the why of Kurt's stubbornness. He agreed with Carole's assessment on that one. The kid was traumatized, scared, and helpless. The only power he held was in not feeling like he was about to be molested any time he had his gown moved aside for an exam or treatment. He was still fearful of being touched, but at least that part of the act had been eliminated. Or so Carole had theorized based on what she and Kurt had talked about during his last check up. The rest was all guesses at this point, but they made sense.
The big difference between Elizabeth and Carole is that Elizabeth would have insisted their son wear the hospital gown or cover himself up with a blanket and keep the privacy curtain pulled around his bed. Her humor at his embarrassment over the mutual penis admiration between the boys would have lasted only so long. Carole was different. She was a nurse who had raised a son into teenagehood all on her own. She'd seen it all for too long to be bothered by nudity and Kurt's pain broke her heart too much to force him into anything except for that which was medically necessary.
As for himself, he was all new to this. Sure, there was Finn living with him during most of his high school years, but he had never really seen much, nor that often, and Carole was always around. Kurt wasn’t a kid he'd taken in from infanthood and raised, but a sixteen year old who’d been a stranger less than a year ago. It felt inappropriate for him to constantly be in the same room with the boy when he was naked, especially given his history. There was only so much he could take of it at a time. He rubbed at his eyes again and closed the magazine. "I'm going down to the cafeteria for some coffee. You want anything, Bud?"
"I know not Boost, Kurt. You've made that very clear. How about I try to sneak you up a cheeseburger?"
Burt was glad the offer had made the kid smile. He just wished the other thing hadn't gotten cheered up too. Human and hybrid teenage boys were alike in that respect. Everything set them off. He couldn't wait until Kurt decided to wear clothes again.
* * * * *
Burt was so exhausted that he wasn't sure if he was coming or going. When Kurt and Blaine had been at the clinic the first time, juggling his responsibilities between his shop, the clinic, and house had been hard enough. Now he had a third son in the mix who had just let it slip that he hadn't started yet on a major paper due when spring break ended.
He'd first tried taking Finn and the laptop with him to work and the clinic, to make sure the paper got done. But then a book or power cord would be forgotten, the internet connection would be bad, or the clinic's cafeteria would close forcing Finn to work in the boys' room. The last had upset Kurt because he felt like he was being stared at. Eventually, he had to drive Finn back home and trust him to do the right thing, reminding himself that at college, his son was on his own there too.
Hummel Tires and Lube had a large shipment of tires coming in and while he trusted his guys, that trust only extended so far. It was his business, his livelihood, and his responsibility to be there. Sick kids or not.
Bills needed paying. The mortgage company wasn't going to wait. The water and gas companies weren't going to wait. Whoever ran the credit card side of the hardware store, they could wait but would charge him late fees and more interest than he felt comfortable with.
Finn and his friends had cleaned the house out of half their food, including his secret stash of chips. At the time he needed it most, there wasn't even a drop of milk left for his coffee.
Burt's confusion about the day and time and what would happen next apparently extended to his wife, Kurt, and Blaine too. Between the hospital she worked at, volunteering at the hybrid medical clinic, and watching over the boys’ care, Carole was performing nursing duties close to twenty hours a day with hardly a minute to herself to breathe or eat a meal. She too was exhausted, saying it felt like she was on an endless loop she couldn't get out of.
When Blaine wasn't enjoying seeing Kurt naked, he was upset about being asleep all the time from the drugs and terrified about losing the use of his tail. The knowledge that by having his broken leg reset would mean an even longer recuperation time in the living room and dependence on bed pans and sponge baths hadn't helped his mood.
Kurt was upset about not remembering everything that had happened to him the night of the party, about losing time, and not knowing what day it was. That was on top of feeling helpless laying on his hospital bed, tethered to an IV with his arms wrapped up tight, naked and cold with strangers going in and out of his room poking this or that and forcing their exams, treatments, and dietary supplements upon him.
And that was just Saturday. At least Burt thought it was Saturday.
Fortunately, it wasn’t all stressful and there had been some good things to come out of the day. Carole had finally been able to convince Kurt that they were still his parents who loved him and he'd agreed to keep being their son. Then there was the boys playing BINGO on cards only their medicated minds could read. It made for a great story he and Carole hoped to one day tease them with, as was their parental right.
* * * * *
Sunday was just as busy. There was rescheduling Kurt and Blaine's therapy appointments, asking the boys if it was alright if Miss Pillsbury held them at the clinic, and then getting the pair cleaned up and dressed for said mutually agreed upon appointments. Burt could admit that he was relieved Kurt had wanted to wear pants, stating that Miss Pillsbury had done nothing to him and therefore it wasn't fair for her to see him in his nude state. He knew of a clinic full of orderlies, nurses, and doctors, along with himself, Carole, and Finn that didn't deserve it either, but said nothing. Kurt was accepting that he needed therapy and was willing to go even though it was uncomfortable and emotionally draining. He gave his son all the credit for that.
Kurt had said he wasn't hungry, preferring to stick to the hallway outside of his clinic room's door while Blaine had his therapy session. Burt had a feeling there were other reasons too, but didn't push and respected his silence as they waited.
When Blaine's session was over, Burt transferred Kurt to his bed and helped Blaine get into the wheelchair. The boys exchanged sad smiles with Kurt encouraging his boyfriend to go get his “Rough Day food.”
With a, "Take care, Kiddo. We'll see you in an hour," Burt set a timer on his phone and wheeled Blaine down to the cafeteria.
* * * * *
"Do you want to see what they have or just get the usual?"
"The usual is fine."
"Yes, please. Thank you. Maybe I'll get to stay awake longer."
"I hear you, Kid. Those meds are rough. Where would you like to sit?"
"Somewhere in the middle, if that's okay?"
"It's your outing. Anywhere is fine with me."
"I'll be right back." Burt parked Blaine at the spot the kid had chosen and bought his food and a cup of coffee for himself as well.
As with the last therapy appointment, Burt stayed quiet, waiting for the Blaine to speak. Like his son, the kid had his own traumas to battle.
"Miss Pillsbury said that I should find something to do that was positive and that I enjoy. I was wondering if I found them at a discount site, I could buy a used book or two? I know the library doesn't have the series and I lost the ones when my home, um, the K-Mart, got taken over. I know I don't have any money, but when I'm feeling better I could work it off. I built a car once with my dad or I could do house or yard work."
Burt put down his coffee. "Kid, I keep telling you, we don't expect anything in return. We took you in without conditions same as Kurt. You want a couple of books, we'll get you a couple of books. You need anything else, all you have to do is ask. And the offer still stands of adopting you legally. Unless you have some kind of criminal or social services record we don't know about, then it shouldn't be a problem. If you do, we’ll ignore the legal part of it same as we are with Kurt."
"Thank you. I appreciate that. Is it okay if I'm not quite ready to stop being an Anderson and become a Hummel?"
"Of course. That door will always be open to you. I know we call Kurt our son, but the feelings apply to you too."
"When we get home, you go find those books and we'll order them. Sound good?"
"Sounds great. Thank you. It'll give me hope that there's a life outside of this place."
"You mean you aint lovin' the daily cans of Boost and hospital fashions?"
"Oh, god, no!"
Burt laughed at the reaction his joke evoked and Blaine joining in with a smile. He was glad he could give the kid a break from the medical misery he'd seen too much of.
* * * * *
Kurt glared at the medical staff he could hear whispering about him in the cafeteria. "They all think I'm going to kill myself or that I tried. Doctor Jones wouldn't believe me when I said I wasn't. I'm not going to, Dad."
"I know, Kiddo. Your mom and I never thought that."
"That's why they're keeping me wrapped up so damn tight. I know it."
Burt brought the cheeseburger to Kurt's mouth, hoping it would distract him from struggling against his bindings. "Kid, you keep moving and straining your shoulder. You already ended up with surgery on it once. Doc's afraid it'll happen again, and your elbow, wrist, and hand aren't lookin' too good. Moving like that isn't good for your ribs either."
"I hate being fed like a baby."
"If I was feeding you like a baby, I'd make train and airplane noises."
"You would, wouldn't you?"
"Try me." Burt smiled at the smirk Kurt gave him. He missed his son being happy.
"Afternoon, Burt. You bringing all your boys by today?"
Trying to not be too obvious in watching how his son was reacting to the stranger, Burt returned the greeting. "Good to see you again, Millie. It's been too long."
"You saw me only an hour ago, Burt. People might talk."
Burt laughed along with the head chef and cafeteria supervisor and the normalcy of regular life she brought with her. "Kurt, I'd like you to meet Miss Millie. She makes those cheeseburgers you love and keeps your mom and I sane in this place." He was proud of his son for his quiet, polite reply.
"It's nice to meet you. Thank you for not making them taste like Boost."
"The docs have you on supplements, huh? No wonder your dad comes here so often. I got some tots leftover from making them for your taller brother. You want some?"
"Um, no thank you. I'm already full."
Burt could tell Millie was fighting not to comment on how little the kid had eaten; offering only gentle, unobtrusive support. He also appreciated that she didn't distinguish between the races of his sons as one of the doctors had done.
"How about I wrap up the rest for you so you can have it later?"
Kurt offered the woman a small smile and looked back down at the table. "That would be nice. Thank you."
"I'll be right back. It was nice to finally meet you, Kurt."
Burt noticed his son's discomfort. "Don't worry, Kurt. She's good people."
"It's not that. Just..."
"The tater tots. I had some once. From the high school’s, McKinley not North Lima, from their dumpster. Thought it was the best find in the world because there were so many. I wasn't paying attention to my surroundings and a gang of jocks found me. That's how my elbow got busted. I told Finn it happened at a grocery store, but it was really his high school."
"I'm real sorry, Kurt."
Kurt tried to shrug the apology off, but the pain quickly reminded him of why he shouldn't. "I was stupid back then. 'New to the streets' as they say. I know better now."
"You never have to worry about that again, Son." Burt rubbed at his face when Kurt looked away and didn't reply. It was going to take a long time for the kid to feel safe again. After what happened on Friday, he couldn't say he blamed him.
"She does seem nice. I like that she's a hybrid. Explains why there aren't any unsafe foods."
"You make an excellent point there, Bud." The comment made Burt pause. He hadn't considered that. Humancentric thinking was a phrase his youngest boys used a lot. He was beginning to realize there was more to it than him having to check food labels, menu ingredients, and order the two of them special things from that online store. It meant that in a place like this, his kids shouldn't have to worry about their food at all. Dietary needs he could understand personally. Kurt had a whole other bunch of rants about human designed hybrid clothing which he'd never been able to follow along very well even if he understood the feelings behind them. He was going to try harder though. Asking Kurt if there was anything he’d change about vehicle interiors would be a piece of common ground they could have a conversation about.
"Can I have another sip of my coffee?"
"Sure thing." Burt held up the lidded cup, wishing Kurt would let him put a straw in it. "Remind me to get another cup before I leave. It's going to be a long drive to Ohio State and I bet Finn hasn't even packed yet."
"You'll make sure he doesn't take my stuff?"
"I promise, Kiddo."
"Okay. Can I have another cup of coffee when I'm done with this one?"
"And have your mom wonder why your heart rate's gone up?"
"Would it really matter?"
"Up to you."
"Coffee doesn't taste like Boost. I say it's worth the risk."
"Coffee it is. Then we should get back to your room. It’s almost heating pad time. You like that, right?"
Burt sighed at the sullen reply. He had tried. It wasn't like the world was going to stop just because his kid needed a break from it. Kurt was here for a reason and his treatments couldn't be missed. After making certain that Kurt was done with his food, he wrapped up the leftovers in the container Millie had quietly dropped off and went to get the both of them more coffee. How he was going to juggle it all and the wheelchair, he wasn't sure, but he'd manage. All of his sons needed him and managing was the best he could do right now.
* * * * *
The drive back from OSU was only supposed to take about two hours, yet because of construction and an accident on Route 33, he'd only gotten as far as Marysville and it was already 8 o'clock. He pulled into the Bob Evans and was grateful to be seated quickly. From the chatter of the other customers, he wasn't the only one to have pulled off the highway to wait out the traffic.
After asking for a cup of coffee, he started scrolling through his texts from Carole and Finn. He was going to need comfort food to handle them. Pot roast and a slice of apple pie with a scoop of vanilla ice cream sounded perfect.
He answered Finn first, telling the kid that he was not going to make a separate trip just to bring him his favorite jersey that'd he'd left on the bathroom floor.
Carole's were harder to reply to, but he knew he needed to start with an apology.
Sorry. I didn't know the extra cup of coffee would raise Kurt's blood pressure that much or cause him to have an accident. He was fine when I left him and swore he'd call for someone if he needed help going to the bathroom. Sorry that it ruined his visit with his friend.
Wait, Blaine too? Again, sorry. No more coffee for them then.
Finn got dropped off fine. He forgot a few things. No surprise there. Nothing he can't live without.
I'm in Marysville at the Bob Evans. Got stuck in traffic. Some kind of accident or construction. Looked like both. Having dinner.
Yes, something grilled and healthy.
Burt paused his texting to thank the waitress who delivered his meal and spread the two rolls with real butter. God, he missed butter. After the boys were out of the clinic, he'd go back to eating healthier. For now, he was going to enjoy his pot roast, mashed potatoes and gravy, bread, and butter. It came with green beans and the apples in the pie he was going to have for dessert counted as fruit. That was healthy enough.
As they were going over the grocery list together, Carole sent him more bad news. The charge nurse had called her at work because Kurt had thrown up after drinking his nightly can of Boost.
Do you want me to go check on him? This isn't the first time he's thrown up from the stuff. It's going to be at least another two hours before I can get there though and it doesn't sound like enough of an emergency for you to take off work.
Burt was glad when his wife agreed that neither of them should go in. They knew Kurt didn't like them being away from him, but they still had responsibilities outside of the clinic.
As Carole had to get back to work, he sent her a last text promising that he'd stop by Meijers the minute he got back to Lima. That done, he asked for a refill of coffee and ordered the pie. As he ate, he added apples to the list. Kurt’s mouth wasn't hurting anymore from the oral surgery he'd had and could do with some fruit. And maybe some Pedialyte. That might taste better than Boost even if it was for little kids. He considered protein powder, but with so many kinds and it being expensive, he dismissed it as something that could wait to be look into later.
Drive home, do the grocery shopping, drive back home to put the groceries away, drop off Carole her lunch because Finn had eaten all of her frozen dinners and the hospital had next to nothing for the night staff, head back home, and gather together the paperwork he'd need to take to the bank tomorrow. He knew there was something he was forgetting. Maybe he'd remember it later.
Realizing how late it had gotten and noticing that the restaurant was about to close, Burt paid his bill, leaving the waitress a generous tip for the trouble he might have caused her, and headed back onto the highway. He hit the button on his dash to start up the CD already in the player. Mellencamp was good for making drives like these better.
Chapter 13: The Shindig
My favorite parts about Burt’s Nest are the scenes where it’s just Burt or Burt and Carole. Getting to write not just from their perspective about the things going on, but the stuff Kurt and Blaine never knew about. Their private moments and thoughts are the best. Burt and Carole as a couple are a delight. Burt as a dad is the best thing ever and Carole is a great mom. I just love these characters so much. <3 I’m finally getting to tell more of the story I’d always wanted to when I first came up with the short story idea for Empty Nest. You know, the thing that grew into an over 214,000 (and still growing) verse. Have some Burt and Carole moments during the clinic's fancy shindig.
It was a time for celebrating. The numbers the bank had crunched made it look like he'd be able to refinance the mortgage on the house which would give them the extra money they needed, Blaine wasn't going to lose the use of his tail, and the kids were getting discharged tomorrow. Of course, at the clinic, that meant only buying the boys burgers and fries, but it was still a celebration. He and Carole could spoil them more when they got home.
Together they headed to the staff locker room to collect Carole's things. The room was just as much of a mismatch of used fixtures and furniture as the cafeteria was. Burt saw lockers and benches from half of the stores and schools in Lima covered in a fresh coat of yellow paint that had failed to hide the graffiti and logos from their previous life.
It was about ten minutes of walking down hallways and passing uninhabited rooms that hadn't been remodeled yet, that Burt started to think they might be lost and another ten before they all agreed that they were. It wasn't Carole's fault, no matter how much she insisted it was. It was whomever was in charge that hadn't put up enough maps and signs.
"Isn't that the elevator down there?"
"Oh, bless your beautiful eyes, Kurt! Yes, it is!"
"Good job, Bud."
Burt was relieved that Kurt had spotted a way out of the maze. It wasn't the elevator they’d been looking for, but it was an elevator. As long as it worked and didn't trap them inside, they might finally make it out of this construction hell. Kurt may have been talking more and calling him "dad," but the shadows were still there; the ever-watchful eyes waiting for the world to come crashing down again. If they did end up trapped for hours? He wasn't so sure the kid would be able to come back this time.
The elevator deposited them in an area they'd also never been in before. This one looked straight out of a bad funeral home with its disturbingly red-striped and vine-print wallpaper and dirt brown & flower patterned flooring. The large rainbow & sunshine themed "Brighter Life Health Clinic: Making your life brighter each day" sign hanging on the wall seemed oddly out-of-place. Honestly, he'd never given much thought as to what the hybrid clinic's official name was. He was too worried about his boys' conditions and assuming the forms he signed in haste meant he'd be responsible for any non-donor covered fees and the ones that gave him and Carole access to their records as their guardians. Secretly, Burt agreed with what Kurt had muttered under his breath. The combination of wallpaper, floor, sign, and the weird standee of Doctor Howell made the foyer look like a gateway to hell.
When they were mistaken for "honored patient guests" by some ditsy brunette human girl, Burt couldn't help but think it was true. He'd grown up watching the old black and white TV show The Twilight Zone, and getting into some odd, unknown elevator was exactly the kind of way those episodes started.
Carole hadn't heard anything about the meet and greet shindig, nor they were they given the time to look at the welcome packets that were handed to find out before they were being escorted to the cafeteria and turned over to another young woman. This one was dressed in the same khaki slacks and blue polo shirt the administrative staff wore and introduced to them as Miss Becky Jackson. Her being a hybrid may have had something to do with her not referring to his kids as “downtrodden, differently raced souls” like the human girl had, and she seemed far more competent too. He liked her no-nonsense manner.
Burt wasn't so sure about Kurt and Blaine being paraded around as the local charity cases. Kurt hated being stared at, but, as he'd overheard one of the doctors say, thank god he was wearing pants. Blaine on the other hand? He was used to these sorts of functions, but only as the child of a donor trained in etiquette at a private school. At this one, the poor kid was in nothing but a medical gown and blanket and very much not in underwear or pajama pants. It was a fact that reminded Burt of what he'd forgotten in his sleep deprived haste to get everything done before heading over.
Miss Jackson was thrilled when the kids agreed to fill in for the two patent attendees that hadn’t shown up. So together, they told her what she wanted to know. Burt was proud to be a mechanic and own his own business. He'd grown the shop from damn near scratch. Still, he was glad he was wearing the dress shirt and tie he'd put on for his meeting with the bank, and had the sense to take off his Hummel Tires & Lube cap and stuck it into his back pocket.
He looked around the decorated cafeteria and the people in it and felt completely out of place despite knowing better. Generally, folks tended to think all people from small towns were stereotypical hicks, even those from similar places themselves. These may have been fancy people with lots of money, but he would bet most were from Ohio too. It's not like they were from New York City or London or LA. He thought one of the men in the crowd was an actor from Hollywood, but wasn't sure. Those types all looked alike. Carole might know.
Burt reassured his wife that she looked just fine, grateful when Kurt did the same. She really did have great taste and a sweet bedside manner, always knowing just what to say. She should be proud of what she did for a living and who she was.
Their guide didn't mind that Kurt wouldn't say where he was from or what he was doing at the clinic. Blaine having gone to Dalton Academy and being in show choir made her happy as many of the donors were alumni.
Declaring himself and Carole the perfect example of human locals helping out the poor homeless and helpless hybrid youths to suck money out of the donors, Miss Jackson snapped her fingers and led them into the fray. Burt sighed at the declaration. He already needed a drink.
* * * * *
Burt didn't like the Bryan Ryan character. The man was arrogant, self absorbed, treated the boys like they were nothing but cost expenditures, and the things he said about Blaine's mom and other women? Completely inappropriate. He hadn't known the guy was Blaine's biological father until after the guy left. In his opinion, the kid got the short end of the stick all around on the parent side of things. He couldn’t agree more with Kurt in hoping Bryan’s bad, full body dye job had hurt.
* * * * *
He liked Liz and Jan and the time they took with Kurt and Blaine, sympathetic to their situation, understanding personally what it was to be a same gender, hybrid couple, and offering them the opportunity to talk with them further. Burt took their business card and put it in his wallet. He liked that they were Styx fans and it turning out that it was their shop he’d bought Carole’s engagement and wedding rings from.
* * * * *
The coach from Vocal Adrenaline he sort of recognized from Finn's show choir competition days. McKinley had consistently lost to them with the exception of his son’s senior year. The woman seemed nice and genuinely interested in and concerned for Blaine and the restrictions the current political administration had made into law concerning hybrid kids. He was proud of Blaine for handling the stares at the scars on his neck and arm and having to talk about being injured in the fire. Kurt wasn't the only one who had panic attacks and anxiety around certain topics and things.
* * * * *
After the couple they'd been talking to left, Burt shared a look with Carole. The last few donors had really gotten on his nerves. None of them had given his kids more than a passing glance, as if they didn't deserve to be here except as a distasteful curiosity. In the first breath they would compliment him and Carole for volunteering to help the misfortunate, as they were far too busy to do the same. In the second, they'd mention other impoverished hybrids they'd seen on their vacations or who worked as servants in their homes. It was clear that their charity was only for show and a tax write-off.
He hated those kinds of people, even if they were helping to pay for his sons' care. Sure, their money could be going somewhere else. It just would have been nice if they'd actually shown an ounce of real compassion. His kids could have been cactuses for all these people cared.
Of those upper-class people, it was the hybrid ones that pissed him off the most. In different circumstances, they could be in Kurt and Blaine's place. His kids were proof of two of those ways.
* * * * *
Finally there was a person he knew! Burt had always liked Sheldon Beiste and not just as a regular customer, bowling buddy, and football coach. His opinion of him increased during their talk. The man was not only the best Coach Finn had ever had, but he was genuinely upset when the hybrid kids were forced off the team by the school administrators and racist parents. Miss Jackson, not knowing her charges knew the donor, had introduced them as she had to the rest of the donors.
"Mr. Sheldon Beiste, these are two of our volunteers, Mr. Burt Hummel and Mrs. Hudson-Hummel, and the patients they are helping to care for, Blaine Anderson formerly of Dalton Academy and Kurt."
"Me and Burt go way back. Best mechanic I've ever had. I was wondering what you'd been up to. The last time I took my truck in, Shoshandra said you had a kid that was sick. Is Finn not doin' okay? He seemed fine to me when I saw him at the movie theatre last week."
"I may have let Shoshandra assume it was Finn.” Burt was embarrassed that he’d had to lie to his employee. He liked and trusted her and she’d never uttered a racist word, but it was better to err on the side of caution. ”Carole and I took in Kurt about six months ago. Then he and Blaine got hurt so Blaine lives with us now too. You know how Lima is."
"Sadly, I do. It's real nice what you're doing. Just because the ponies are nearly horses, don't mean they don't need a plate of chicken ‘n grits waitin' for them come dinner time."
"Couldn't have said it better myself." Burt sometimes had trouble understanding the man's phrases, but this one he got easy.
"You have a really nice truck. Before this," Kurt moved his bandaged arms as much as the slings would allow, "I helped Dad work on it."
Burt beamed at his son’s remark. "Kurt’s a real good mechanic. Knows engines better than some of the guys I've hired in the past."
"Your dad's a good man, Kurt. Glad you all found each other. Families are important."
"That they are."
The conversation soon turned to football of which Blaine happily joined in. Burt would have preferred to keep talking, but their guide said it was time to move on. Before they left, Sheldon promised to send more work his way now that he knew there were more mouths to feed and that he was helping out the hybrid community. After thanking his friend, Burt promised that they would go bowling once the boys were feeling better and a bit more mobile.
* * * * *
At long last they reached the food tables. Burt tried to feed Kurt things he knew he'd like, but he had to agree with his son that the deviled egg hadn't been the best idea given the mess it had made.
Honestly, he was relieved when the boys insisted they would be fine on their own for a little while. He and Carole needed a drink or two. Maybe three depending on how long this thing was supposed to last. The locally brewed craft beer he'd been handed by the bartender wasn't bad. The label art was a little odd, but the art wasn't what he wanted to drink. Carole loved her signature cocktail. It was sweet, yellow, and fruity. Not the thing either of them really drank, but he agreed with his wife that it tasted good.
Burt thought he recognized a few people in the room. Not just Coach Beiste, the doctors, and the specialist that had come to evaluate Blaine, but some of his shop’s customers. Of course the majority didn't recognize him. He was just their mechanic after-all. And in this setting, his family was merely the oddity being paraded around. Carole wasn't fairing much better, but did whisper in his ear that she had some excellent gossip about a few of them. Some she knew firsthand from work. Some from things she'd overheard a few minutes ago.
He and Carole were glad that Kurt and Blaine seemed to have found friends to talk to. Or at least one friend in the young woman who helped them get to the dessert table. For someone who could barely move his arms and a boyfriend similarly tethered to an IV drip and sling, Kurt sure was packing in the food. The kid was going to make himself sick. At least he was enjoying himself. As for the cocksure kid in the suit though? Him he didn't like and Blaine seemed to feel the same way. At least the server was treating them nicely from the way Kurt was smiling at her.
Burt took a couple of appetizers off the tray a different server offered to him. He and Carole had a New Years Eve tradition of getting a small jar of cheap caviar from the grocery store and putting it on top of deviled eggs. They called it their fancy food to symbolize wealth in the coming year. The real rich people fancy version though? The cream on top of the cracker was weird and off-putting, ruining the taste of what he assumed was expensive, caviar. The soggy and bland finger sandwiches weren't any better. Kurt clearly had the right idea of sticking to the shrimp and desserts.
* * * * *
Burt was about to suggest that he and Carole move to join the boys when Miss Jackson returned and urged them to do just that. She had brought with her more of Ohio's elite. Given that they were all hybrids, he assumed they were well connected and powerful enough to have made it through the political upheaval, the same as the ones they’d met previously. The eldest of them, dripping in jewelry and an overpowering floral perfume was clearly "old money." Before he and Carole could be hurried on, he got the boys their drinks. Wealthy donors who needed sucking up to or not, his kids came first.
Burt was glad he'd had that beer. For a kid with that many injuries, it took all his strength to keep Kurt from pushing his wheelchair over the old lady's foot. Kurt could hate the woman and her family for making Boost all he wanted, but without her donating the building and supplements, he and Blaine might have died.
Though he'd tried to school his features and tone of voice, Blaine seemed pleased to see his friends, but not their parents and grandparents. Especially not the one who said that Dalton takes care of their own. Burt may not have known exactly what had happened the school aside from the fire the mob set, but he'd heard rumors and of course seen firsthand the boy's medical file.
* * * * *
He felt bad when Miss Jackson was dragged away by someone insisting that some inconvenience was clearly the young woman's fault. However, it did give him and Carole a chance to escape the Dalton donors and check out the hot hors d'oeuvres table. It also allowed Blaine a chance to catch up with his old school's friends in private.
Figuring out what to do about schooling Kurt and Blaine was yet another thing on his and Carole's long list of things to do. Miss Pillsbury had suggested they bring books home or see if there were some internet classes the boys could sign up for. Tina had told him about the homeschool co-op that had formed at Millie & Marley's. Burt hated to admit it, but checking out those options was a later thing. God knew he could only handle so much at once. Getting the boys home and settled had to come first. Or rather, getting through this shindig had to come first. And to be honest, he was going to take advantage of the free food and booze. He and Carole deserved it as much as their kids did. Plus, his son had been right - the crab puffs were pretty amazing.
* * * * *
Burt and Carole returned to Kurt and Blaine when they noticed Blaine's friends had left them alone and wondering what they were going to do next. He sighed. No one but that one girl seemed to realize the boys couldn't get around without help. With a polite thank you to the server, he procured another cocktail for his wife and one for himself on their way to their kids.
"How are you boys holding up?"
Before Kurt and Blaine could answer, Carole let out a squeal. "Oh my god, it's Mercedes Jones!” She held her hand to heart, aware of nothing else in the room. “Burt, can you see? Everyone around her is smiling and laughing because of course they would. Anyone would in her presence!” Carole paused in her rambling, taking a few moments to catch her breath before another reality dawned on her. “I’m breathing almost the same air as Mercedes Jones!”
Burt looked to the small group of people his wife was fixated on. He couldn't believe it either. There she was, a real life legend looking as lovely and lively as she did at her concerts and on TV. He thought she'd retired long ago. What she was doing here of all places, he had no idea. Kurt seemed to though.
"Yeah, Old Lady Mercedes. I help her garden and do yard work for her. She's the woman with the bee shed."
Without realizing he'd done it until after the act, Burt took away the drink he'd been holding for his son and took a sip of it himself. "Wait, that's the Mercedes you been helping, Kiddo?"
Kurt looked back and forth between his parents. "Yes, why?"
Burt could tell his son was just as confused as he was, but he had to ask to be sure. The coincidence was too great. "You really don't know who she is, Bud?"
"A nice lady that pays me in cookies and likes it when I sing with her?"
Carole's gasp was loud; understandable given the circumstances. "You've gotten to sing with her? Oh, Kurt, you're living my dream. You have no idea!"
Burt tried not to laugh at Kurt's continued confusion and clued him in. "Miss Jones was huge in her day. Sold out world tours till the day she went into retirement. Real sweet lady. Always really great with her fans. Knew her roots and every tour included a stop in Ohio. Your mom has all of her albums and a box filled with ticket stubs, show booklets, and magazines."
"Wow." The shock on Kurt's face was clear as was his quiet, hesitant reply. "I guess I could introduce you? She sometimes forgets who I am and confuses me for her late husband though."
"You mean Roderick? They were inseparable. Met in their high school glee club. He became her manager. Sometimes she'd bring him up on the stage so they could sing together. He doted on her. They were a mixed race couple in a time when such was frowned upon. That didn't stop them. If a venue wouldn't take her, Roderick would find one that would." Carole held a hand to her heart. "They were an inspiration to so many people. It was such a tragedy when he died."
Burt liked hearing Kurt laugh at Carole's celebrity worship. His mischievous grin said there was more to it than that and he didn't disappoint. "Doctor Jones is her daughter."
"Doctor Jones, as in your Doctor Jones, who works here at the clinic?"
"The very one." Kurt shared a sly grin with Blaine, but it seemed as if the kid was less on finding Carole funny and more on being star struck as well. "Am I the only one who didn't know Mercedes as anything but a nice old lady who made me embarrassing hats and gave me thermoses of hot chocolate?"
"Oh, Kurt, she's amazing! I always wanted to go back in time and give her and Bryan Ferry a high five."
"Seems that way, Kiddo." Now, Burt was liking this party. One the one hand, he felt bad for the kid given where he'd grown up and not being exposed to much great music. On the other, he had a wife and another son who were completely star struck.
Carole beamed at her boys with maternal hope. "I bet she went to the best schools. Oh, Kurt, Blaine, you two are so lucky! Mercedes Jones' doctor daughter!" Kurt's quiet laughter made her pause. "Wait, I've assisted Mercedes Jones' doctor daughter! I've handed her things and taken her orders and prepared patients for her. She calls me Nurse Carole. Oh my god, I'm two degrees of separation from Mercedes' Jones! Hold me, Burt, I'm going to faint."
Burt caught his wife's pretend faint trying not to spill the drink in his hand. Her fangirling was adorable. And to be honest, he was a bit star struck himself. He had always enjoyed Mercedes Jones' music. She was a legend. He took another sip of his drink, sure that things were about to get even more interesting. "Let's go meet her first, Dear." Burt turned to his son. "You sure it'll be okay?"
Kurt shrugged. "I can't see why it wouldn't be. I've known her for almost two years. Aren't we supposed to schmooze with the donors so they can see who they're helping?"
"You make an excellent point." Burt took his, his wife's, and two sons' now empty drink glasses and set them down on the tray of a passing server. "Ready, Sweetheart?"
With a look of horror, Carole suddenly remembered what she was wearing. "Do I look okay? Do I smell okay? I keep smelling bacon and seafood. It's not me, is it?"
Burt noticed the guilty look Kurt gave Blaine. He really didn't want to know the reason behind it right now. Like any parent, he'd probably find out later one way or another.
Blaine turned a charming smile upon Carole, "You look and smell fine, Mrs. Hudson-Hummel."
"Thank you, Blaine." Carole took a deep breath. "Okay, let's go do this! I can't believe I'm going to meet Mercedes Jones!"
It only took a minute to cross the room and reach the famous singer with Carole whispering a series of, "Oh my god, oh my god, oh my god, Mercedes Jones. I'm going to meet her. I'm actually going to meet her. It's a real thing that's going to happen!" the entire time. The people the renowned singer had been chatting with had moved on and she stood alone, holding the arm of her daughter.
Burt saw Kurt try to return Doctor Jones' smile, but it was clearly forced. With Miss Jones, it was natural and wide.
Miss Jones greeted his son with enthusiasm, giving him a gentle hug and kiss on his cheek. "Kurt! How are you feeling, Sweetie? Whitney said you were back here, you poor thing."
"I'm fine. Sorry I haven't been over lately. As soon as my shoulder is better, I promise I'll come by and help you out."
"Help me? Kurt, you've got more bandages than a mummy. So does your Blaine. This young gentleman is Blaine, right?"
"Yes, Ma'am, I am." Blaine held out his right hand, but was it was gently rejected in favor of a kiss to his cheek.
"It's a pleasure to meet you, Blaine." Mercedes turned back to Kurt. "Kurt, you focus on healing. Whitney and I are making sure you're provided with only the best care. Whatever you need, we're here for you. I always wanted to do more for you, but never knew how before."
Burt saw Kurt shift nervously at the implication that Miss Jones and Doctor Jones were paying for his medical care and therapy. He and Carole had their suspicions that it might be Doctor Jones herself footing the bills when she had told them that it was a "generous donor" taking care of Kurt's expenses. They had decided it was best for Kurt not to know. No matter how much he glared at the doctor, cursing that he hated the clinic and her, she'd shown him nothing but kindness and professionalism. Whenever they would try to apologize on his behalf, she would reassure them that it wasn't necessary. That Kurt was more broken than he realized and together, they could help him heal and have a better life.
And now to have it all but spelled out that the Miss Mercedes Jones was Kurt’s benefactor? The same person who was the elderly woman he had been helping out? There must have been something in those signature cocktails or that weird lobby they’d passed through because this couldn't be their actual life.
After taking a deep breath, Kurt was able to calm his nerves and express his gratitude. "Thank you, for everything. I have a home now." He smiled at his parents. "This is Carole Hudson-Hummel and Burt Hummel. They took me in. Blaine too."
"I'm so happy for you, Kurt! It is a pleasure to meet you, Burt, Carole."
Burt loved seeing his wife so enraptured at the exchange between their son and her idol. Kurt really did know Mercedes Jones and she knew him and the woman was as kind and gentle as she appeared to be in public. Meeting her was Carole's dream come true. When Miss Jones shook their hands, Carole became even more flabbergasted and star struck.
"I swear I've died and gone straight to heaven. I have all of your albums on vinyl and iTunes and I love you!" Realizing what she'd just said, Carole put a hand over her mouth, mortified. "I am so sorry."
"Don't be. It's sweet. I love your scrubs. They're adorable! I bet they make all of your patients smile."
"I...I...Thank you. I'd like to hope so."
Burt didn't know why his wife was so shocked at the complement. He may not know about fashion, but he liked her sense of style. It was her love of denim and her smile that had drawn him to her the first time they’d met.
"They do, Mom. You have good taste."
"See, even Kurt agrees. How about a picture? Give Whitney your phone." Mercedes turned towards her daughter. "You don't mind, do you, Honey?"
"Of course not, Mom." Doctor Jones took the phone from Carole and did as her mother asked.
"Everyone gather around. You too, Burt, Kurt, Blaine."
Burt did as he was asked, standing behind Kurt, Carole next to him and behind Blaine, being aware of nothing else but Mercedes Jones' arm around her back.
When a couple of pictures were taken, Mercedes drew Carole to her side. "Now a few with just you and me. Strong women who raise the beautiful children God gave us."
Burt laughed as Carole tried and failed to make coherent sentences. He could tell there was a couple of thank you's and a "you're even more beautiful and amazing in person" and a bunch of, "I can't believe this is happening."
There weren't just pictures, but a few autographs on procured cocktail napkins as well. Another thing his wife wasn't aware of until Miss Jones stated the fact.
Carole looked down at her hands and there they were. She hadn't remembered that part. Meeting Mercedes Jones was everything and more than she could have dreamed of in a hundred lifetimes. The photo of them together immediately became her phone's wallpaper.
Burt thought he saw Miss Jones discreetly wipe away a few tears as she looked down at Kurt. Her smile was back in place so quickly that he figured he might have only imagined it. She gave the boy another hug which he tried to return.
"Kurt, try to take care, okay? Don't push yourself. When you get better, and I mean completely better, then you can come over and bring Blaine. I miss your sweet voice."
"I miss yours too." Kurt sighed, clearly embarrassed. "I'm sorry for not knowing you were famous."
"I thought it was adorable. Proved to me you had a good soul."
As Mercedes hugged him one last time, Burt noticed her slip some money into one of Kurt's slings and Kurt try to protest and return it as she walked away with a little wave.
Carole said what they were all thinking. "She really is everything they say she is and more."
Before leaving to join her mother, Doctor Jones kneeled down to Kurt's level, clearly not wanting to be overheard by the donors. "Kurt, with her progressing Alzheimer's, Mom doesn't have many good days. You make those bad days better. Most people would have turned away if they were mistaken for a dead spouse. You didn't and I can't tell you enough how admirable that is. Thank you."
Burt kept silent as Kurt shrugged the matter off.
"She was always nice to me. Didn't chase me off or call the cops when she caught me stealing her old tomatoes. She just offered me a job and brownies."
He let out a small chuckle at Kurt's repeated. "A whole lot of cookies and brownies." Poor kid had told him stories about those chocolate baked goods and he'd seen more than one batch thrown up by his shelter in the yard.
"I wouldn't have eaten some days without her. I was just repaying the favor."
"You make her happy, Kurt. I'm going to extend the offer she made to you. When you're better and if you feel up to it, come over anytime. Maybe have your mom or dad drive you so it's safer."
"Are the bees in the garage gone?"
"I'll make certain they are."
"Okay." Kurt shifted in his chair again, still embarrassed. "I really didn't know she was famous."
With a wink at Carole, the doctor dismissed Kurt's worry that she thought he might be lying. "Well, since your mom has all of her albums on vinyl and iTunes, I'm sure she can catch you up on her music. Personally, I'd start with Hell to the No. It's my favorite."
Burt would have to remember the day Kurt actually laughed and smiled at the doctor. "Okay."
"Take care, Kurt."
* * * * *
After Doctor Jones was out of earshot, Carole let out the thoughts she'd clearly been holding in. "Oh my god, I just met Mercedes Jones! I think I'm going to pee my pants!"
Burt was grateful for the distraction as it kept Kurt from thinking about how the next time he saw Doctor Jones it would be in a completely different setting. It also gave him an idea. "Carole, not to quash your good mood, but how about we give these boys a little break? I'm sure we could all use one. Help me wheel them over to the bathroom and then you can save that picture of you and Mercedes Jones to your phone's background?"
"Blaine can help you. He used to have a fancy one."
"Already done. I'm not so old I don't know how to use technology, Kurt."
"Sorry, Mom. The bathroom sounds like a great idea, Dad."
Burt laughed at his son's attempt to cover his faux pas.
It took a bit of work to make it outside of the cafeteria. Becky Jackson had spotted them and insisted on introducing them to a few more people. One of them had donated the MRI and X-ray machines, so it wasn't exactly like they could say "no." At least Carole mentioning that the boys' IV bags needed to be swapped out got them away quicker than some of the other conversations they'd had to endure.
Eventually, Burt got Kurt settled into a bathroom stall promising Blaine that he'd be next. He let out a sigh of disappointment upon seeing a bottle of champagne. "The food I can understand, Kurt and I know Miss Jones gave you some money, but this?"
"I didn't steal it."
"I didn't say you did."
"It was a trade from a friend. Can I explain later? I really gotta go."
"Okay, Kiddo. I know I can trust you to do the right thing. Do you want to sit or stand?"
"Definitely sit! I think I ate too many mini cheesecakes."
Burt laughed, but held back the comment running through his head that he was pretty sure most of those cheesecakes were still hidden in his slings and the wheelchair.
Blaine's wheelchair also contained hors d'oeuvres which helped explained the smell around the kids. Maybe the boy's food insecurities were as bad as Kurt's and he hadn't realized. Or maybe both of them were just typical patients tired of hospital food.
For a medical center, the place was lacking in accessibility. Only one stall and no urinals at wheelchair level. Blaine was desperate enough that he asked to stand and lean on him, which Burt readily agreed to. With the kid's medical gown pulled to the side, he was exposed to anyone walking in. But as they'd all said when they'd first come down to the lobby, it wasn't like any of them were expecting a big party. If the fancy guests couldn't handle the sight of a patient doing the same thing they'd come in here to do, then that was on them.
Everything was quiet and going well until it wasn't. He didn't know who the human guy was that came in and started talking about acting out nude scenes and other inappropriate things, but Blaine clearly did.
Chapter 14: After the Shindig
After the shindig, Burt and Carole get some stress relief. ;)
Burt didn't know who this Cooper guy was, but he did know that he didn't like him. The guy was bothering Blaine and peering around and into his son's stall. None of which set well with him. He put a comforting hand on Blaine's back and moved behind him, trying to shield the kid from the stranger's view. "You okay? You want me to get this guy to leave?"
"No, he's my brother."
After he'd helped Blaine wash up, he went to his son, thankful that he'd taken to carrying a pair of disposable gloves with him whenever he took the boys out for a walk. Being cleaned off was never easy on Kurt and having an audience in a strange place was clearly making it worse. The kid was trying to fight it, but he was shaking.
Burt couldn't understand half of what Cooper was talking about, only that it was clearly upsetting Blaine as well as Kurt. As he was about to force the guy to leave, Blaine convinced him to do it himself.
As he was helping Kurt wash his hands and then doing the same to himself and wiping off the wheelchairs, he asked the boys what they wanted to do.
"Do you mind taking me back to my room? I'm not really in the mood to return to the party."
"Not a problem, Kid. I'll wheel you boys out and go find Carole. Kurt, what do you want to do? Stay or go?"
"Go back with Blaine. I'm tired of being on display, but if you and Mom wanted to stay, I can too. I don't want to pull you away from the food and Mercedes."
"You boys come first."
It was nice that Kurt was trying to be brave and not selfish. What he really wanted though was plain as day on his face. "Kurt, that's real nice of you to offer, but we can always come back down after we settle you two."
"Okay, but let Mom know I offered. I don't want to take her away if she doesn't want to go."
Burt shook his head and let out a chuckle. He knew his wife too. "And how do you know she didn't get in more fangirling while you were in here?"
"Fine, but if she didn't..."
"I'll let you know, Kiddo."
* * * * *
The decision made, he moved the boys one by one out of the bathroom and within view of the cafeteria. He found Carole waiting just outside of the open doors, a napkin full of appetizers in her hand.
"I swear I was keeping an eye out for you boys. I just wanted to try the little cheesecakes, but they seem to be all gone."
Burt shared a knowing look with his wife. "I'll give you one guess as to where they went."
"Did he throw up?"
Burt rubbed at his eyes debating if he should have another beer. He was not looking forward to that eventuality. "Not yet. The rest he hid in his bandages along with an ocean of shrimp."
"So that explains the smell."
"That's what I said. Miss Jackson need us to meet anyone else? The boys want to be taken back to their room."
"She doesn't and I never thought I'd hear them say that."
"You and me both." Burt picked up the promised swag bags that their guide had given them and offered his wife his arm. "Shall we, my Dear?"
With a flourish and amused grin, Carole took it. "We shall. Let's blow this fancy shindig."
* * * * *
It took longer than usual to get the boys settled into their beds. Burt was glad Carole had thought to keep a box of baggies stored in the room. They went through half of them due to all the appetizers the boys had snuck out. Between the smushed cream fillings, pate leaking out of cocktail napkins’, and even more napkins filled with seafood dipped in butter sauce and covered with bacon, all of their clothing, bandages, and slings had to be changed and casts, wheelchairs, and damn near their entire bodies wiped down. He couldn't help but compare it to seeing toddlers and babies being fed in high chairs although he knew the truth of it. Or at least, the parts Kurt and Blaine were willing to share and the rest he could safely assume. At least this was the good stuff and not baggies of cooked mice and leftover soggy cereal..
When Carole saw the bottle of alcohol, Kurt tried explaining, clearly annoyed at having to do so again. "Blaine got it in trade for helping out a friend and we moved it to my wheelchair because it was easier to hide that way. Even if I was going to drink it, which I know I can't because of the medications I'm on, it wouldn't be the worst thing I've done. Am I in trouble? Are you going to ground me?"
Burt rubbed his face before replying. Parenting was hard. Kurt didn’t seem to be lying or exaggerating. And it's not as if he hadn't drank at parties when he was in high school. "I told you before, Buddy. I trust you to do the right thing. We both do. Do you want me to take this food home or bring back a cooler and some ice packs?"
"Thank you. Home is fine for the food. I think I overdid it on the mini cheesecakes. Mom, are you staying?"
Burt could understand his son's fidgeting. It had been a long day full of strangers staring at him and it would be a long rest of the day of more strangers looking at him, only this time he’d have less clothes on and they would have more contact with his body. Blaine had the right of it, choosing to check out of it and try and get some sleep. He wished Kurt would do the same.
"For a few hours, Sweetie. Then I'll need to go home myself for a shower, some sleep, and bronze the hand that Mercedes Jones shook." Carole enjoyed the resulting laughter her joke had brought forth from her family.
"I'm glad you got to meet her."
"Me too. Thank you for letting me." Carole returned Kurt's smile.
Burt knew his wife was holding back. He looked forward to being home and listening to her gush for hours and days about meeting the singer. Not that he blamed her and wouldn't join in himself. He shrugged into his coat and picked up the bags. "Does anyone need anything while I'm out?"
"Nice try, Bud. Honey?"
"Do you mind stopping by the Lima Bean and getting me a large vanilla latte? The coffee at the nurse's station is terrible today."
"Just the coffee."
"Not a problem."
"Kurt, you and Blaine need anything reasonable?"
Kurt let out a dramatic sigh, clearly hoping to win his parents' sympathy. "Just clothes for both of us if I can't have coffee."
"When you get home you can have some, Sweetie. I'm sure the last thing you want is for the caffeine to raise your heart rate again and give the doctors an excuse to keep you longer." She laughed at Kurt's horrified look.
Burt knew the half-truth for what it was. The kid needed sleep and to be calm, not wired in a situation that was already stressful. "I'll see you all tonight then." Burt kissed his wife goodbye and gave his son a gentle pat to his uninjured shoulder. He left with an internal sigh. The day wasn't even half over yet and it was already too long. He was going to need his own vat of coffee to make it through.
"If you change your mind, Carole can text me."
"No, problem, Kiddo. I'm going to go put a couple of hours in at the shop and this time I swear I’ll remember to bring Blaine his pants. You too in case you need a change for tomorrow."
* * * * *
It wasn't a few hours at the shop. Not by a long shot. It was a day and a night full of tows and tire changes and replaced dead batteries and customers begging to have their cars fixed now so they could get to work the next morning. It was charging extra for the rush, paying some of his crew overtime, and being thankful for the extra business because he needed the money, refinanced mortgage or not.
It was calling Carole and apologizing for not being able to come back to the clinic and her bringing him coffee from the Lima Bean instead, along with take out from the Chinese place with extra broccoli instead of none like they had to do with the kids.
It was he and Carole sitting in his office catching each other up and venting their worries about all three of their children. It was them reassuring each other that they would get through this latest setback one step at a time. That they could and would get through the next challenges because they were stronger together. They were a family that had found each other. They were Hummels and Hudsons and Hudson-Hummels and Elizabeths and Andersons, but all together the same family.
It was laughing at his wife confirming Kurt's opinion that the latest can of Boost did indeed taste like chicken and ejaculate. "I'm a woman who enjoys eating chicken and who loves men, Burt. It was white and oddly salty. There really is no other way to describe it."
And replying to her remark, "I'll take your word for it, Dear."
It was getting to come home to that same amazing and beautiful woman and get frisky in the kitchen before remembering what their sons had done on one of the chairs and moving things up to the bedroom. It was opening up the swag bags and pulling out the sensual skin care products from the online store covering for the hybrid one and getting frisky again in the shower. It had been too long since they'd had time alone for such things and would be too long again come morning.
It was getting intimate again in the morning because the sunlight made Carole even more beautiful and he was so damn lucky to have another chance to love and be loved in return. And because they weren't so old that they couldn't.
It was tender and sweet kisses as they made a simple breakfast of cereal and coffee. It was triple checking the bag to make sure there was underwear and pants for Blaine as well as Kurt.
And it was driving back to the clinic as early as they could so they could bring their boys back home.
Chapter 15: Cooper
His kids were finally being discharged from the clinic, Blaine was tripping on pain meds, and there was not enough beer in the world to erase the memory of the kid raving about Kurt having a “big hybrid dick” as they were being given sponge baths, as they were being dressed, as they were being driven home on slippery, unplowed roads, as they were being changed into pajamas, and then when they were in those pajamas because of course Blaine imagined that he could still see Kurt's big hybrid dick and he was very glad that he was a hybrid who got to enjoy it.
There also wasn't enough beer to handle Cooper dropping by unexpectedly, waking up Blaine, and having a sing off with him. Blaine was drugged up and angry. It took forever for Cooper to get the hint and stop bothering the kid since he refused to leave. After singing with his brother, Blaine began to serenade Kurt with a song about being in skintight jeans and making love to him on a beach.
He so needed to get more beer.
* * * * *
Burt was glad when Blaine's medications wore off and the kid was more aware of what was going on around him. As much as he wanted to kick Cooper out of the house, and had honestly tried to, it was up to Blaine to decide. Carole had filled him in on what had happened at the hospital. The two had things to work out and not just in song.
While Blaine was frustrated at how long it took his brother to stop trying to help him with his bathroom needs, Kurt was angry at being told to be careful while helping him. Blaine had just wanted to come home and heal in a more relaxing environment, not deal with family problems. Kurt was scared that his new home and family were going to be taken away from him again. Neither kid felt safe at the moment and it was going to take a lot of time and patience on his and Carole's parts during the adjustment. He made a note to himself to call Miss Pillsbury to see if she could make a home visit. They were all going to need some therapy.
While Burt understood Kurt's defensive surliness, he didn't appreciate the increasingly vulgar ways the boy was describing his nutritional supplements. Apparently this morning's can had tasted like a cow humping a pig and coming in a horse's ass. The Boost was medically required and the cases he'd been for home had been free and the kid was just going to have to deal with them for awhile longer. With all that had been going on, Burt hadn't found the time to try and find a substitute.
Even if Blaine hadn't agreed to pizza, Burt would have gotten whatever take out the kid wanted just to escape the house for a for a little while. He hadn't even made it to his truck before he was dialing the therapist and debating to pick up beer before or after the pizza place. As for Cooper? The guy could eat what he was given or find something in the fridge, same as his brother. Avocado belonged in dip, not on a pizza with the other weird things the guy had wanted. He wondered if all Hollywood actors were that way.
* * * * *
Finally home and the boys given their food, Burt relaxed into his favorite chair, a plate of pizza on his lap and a beer sitting on the end table beside him. "So, Cooper, you been in anything I would know?"
Cooper started singing and ended it with a huge smile. "Know your score. Free Credit Rating Today Dot Com slash savings!"
"Yeah, I've seen it. Never used the service, but the jingle is catchy. Anything else?"
"Kurt's a big fan of one of my movies."
Kurt lost all color in his face and started to blush profusely. "It wasn't very good, Dad, and not really the kind of thing you'd watch. Would you like a cup of coffee? I made you some while you were gone."
Burt hid his laugh behind a sip of beer at Kurt's look of mortification and haste to change the subject by admitting to something that he thought could get him into trouble like walking around on his injuries. He wasn't the kind of naive parent that didn't know how to check a computer's browser history or Netflix queue. He was pretty sure he knew which movie Cooper was talking about. Carole had enjoyed parts of it, mostly for the visuals, but the plot was thin and odd. Kurt had assumed right, long before the end of the movie, both of them had decided it wasn't really their thing. Their son, on the other hand, seemed to feel the opposite. Carole was going to get a kick out of this.
He let the matter drop and listened as Blaine and Kurt launched into a discussion about racism and homophobia in Hollywood. It was a subject they'd discussed as a family before given how much TV the boys had been watching during their recuperation. Burt felt ashamed to admit he hadn't been aware of the problem before Kurt and Blaine came to live with them. Sure, he had a basic understanding about the inequality between the races and living in Ohio, racism and homophobia were ever-present. But he wasn't above admitting that he was glad the boys had educated him and that he'd sought out more on his own. Anne and Dani had helped further his and Carole's knowledge since keeping updated on politics and the latest laws were vital to keeping Kurt safe.
For all that Cooper was Blaine's brother, the guy clearly didn't get it and their attempt at educating him flew over his head. At least the two of them seemed to have worked some things through while he was out getting pizza.
Burt was glad when Blaine asked to start getting ready for bed and his next round of medications. Both of his kids needed their treatments. It was a long day and taking up Kurt on the offer of coffee was looking good right about now.
He would never know what possessed him to offer the boy's upstairs bedroom to Cooper. Maybe it was exhaustion. Maybe it was his Midwest upbringing. Maybe it was the shock of Cooper saying that he'd slept with Blaine's doctor, Blaine muttering that Doctor Jones had now seen them both naked, and Kurt whispering to Blaine at how at least it wasn't as bad as having to cross number 55 and 56 off his bucket list because it was too incestuous. He would forever be thankful that his kid hadn't elaborated on that one.
* * * * *
Burt and Carole quickly came to realize it would have been better if Cooper had chosen to go back to the hotel instead of taking up the offer to stay at their place. The man had decided to use them as acting research. To see how "the quaint, everyday people lived." When he wasn't commenting on how common and not like LA the food was, he was telling Blaine and Kurt that they didn't know how to dress like proper gay boys and badgering Blaine with acting tips.
At first Kurt put up with it because for all that Cooper was annoying, Blaine was glad to be reconnecting with his brother, who was at least trying to make things right. Then there was the day when it got to be too much. When Cooper saw his scars and all too enthusiastically asked if he'd been in a gang. Kurt let out a string of curses about idiot, coddled humans and stormed out of the room. After grabbing his food from the kitchen, he’d barricaded himself on the back porch.
When the cursing died down, Burt knocked lightly on the door. "Bud, is it okay if I come in?"
"Am I in trouble?"
"I just came to check on you. See if you needed anything."
There was a long pause before the reply came. "Okay."
Burt could hear a tote being shoved away from the door. He hoped the kid hadn't hurt himself again. Of course, the tote wasn't as heavy as the bureau had been, but still. When the door was opened a crack, he entered, joining Kurt on the inflatable camping mattress, glad he'd kept it made up as a bed. "Tell me how I can make this right for you, Kurt. Do you want me to tell Cooper to leave?"
With his left arm removed from its sling, Kurt was able to pull a pillow to his chest in an attempt to try and hide his branding more than the thin undershirt could. "No. Blaine needs him. Cooper's trying to find a way to become his guardian or get him emancipated."
"Cooper can do that just fine while staying at a hotel. You have needs too, Kurt." When the kid stayed silent, he continued. "You're not in trouble. Nothing you say is going to make us kick you out. You're our son. We want you to feel safe."
"Could I stay in here? If I promise not to go outside and to use the horrible urinal and bedpan?"
"Not a problem. Anything else?"
"You're going to be mad."
"No, I won't."
"Can Mom check out my elbow and wrist? I was trying not to use my bad shoulder so I lifted the tote one handed."
Burt hated that he couldn't hold back a sigh.
"See, I told you you'd be mad."
"I'm not sighing because I'm mad at you, Kurt. I'm sighing because I'm mad at myself for letting Cooper stay here and treat us like we were animals in a zoo. I'm mad because this is your home and you shouldn't have had to feel that way after the clinic."
"I thought it was kind of funny until today. Then it got to be too much. You're really not mad at me?"
"No. Let me go get your mom."
"And some coffee?"
"And some ice packs and Advil. Nice try though." Burt was glad he could elicit a smile in his kid. "I really am sorry, Bud."
* * * * *
Twenty minutes later, Carole was in their own bedroom giving him an update on their son's condition. "Kurt's going to be fine. His elbow and wrist are just a little swollen. I've got his arm elevated and wrapped in ice packs. I'm icing his hip, hamstring, and ankle too. He's been using that leg too much."
"But no heading back to the clinic?"
"You and me both. I do have to head to work though. Will you be okay by yourself?"
"As long as you don't call the cops if I accidentally murder Cooper."
"I think Blaine's already attempted that himself and destroyed one of the lamps in process. For such a quiet and polite kid? He's been taking lessons from Kurt."
"Did Kurt play the sympathy card and try to get you to make him coffee?"
"Yes, but it was cheesecake not coffee. I told him he had stolen plenty from the meet and greet and he could finish eating those. He tried countering that fresh was better until he realized that his ribs were hurting too and started cursing about people intruding on his privacy."
Burt laughed along with his wife about the cheesecake and then let out a long sigh. "We never had it this hard with Finn."
"Sure we did. Some days at least. I'm certain we've blocked out most of it."
"Do you regret taking them in?" Burt adjusted his cap, instantly regretting what he had asked.
"Not for a minute. Do you?"
"Never. Kurt needed us. Blaine needed us too."
"You're a good man, Burt Hummel."
"You're the best woman. I love you." Burt hugged his wife. She always knew what to say to make things better.
"I love you too."
* * * * *
Cooper's early departure was welcomed by all. He'd left parting gifs of signed autographs. Kurt so thoroughly embarrassed by what his said that he refused to show it to anyone and risked getting yelled at for limping upstairs and hiding it in his bedroom. Blaine had a new cell phone, a bank account containing $2,000 with promises of more money, and bags of ill-fitting clothes that Carole would have to exchange for those that were more in the kid’s style and size.
It was nice to be able to sit down to dinner with only the four of them, watching TV and adding commentary that wasn't interrupted by acting lessons about pointing and not looking at your scene partner. These were the family moments Burt loved; the kind he’d always wanted for his life. Things were definitely looking up.
Chapter 16: Ways to Fuck Up as a Parent
TW for graphic depictions of Kurt’s past sexual assault and abuse.
It was only two days later when Burt learned another way he could fuck up as a parent. He hadn't known that Carole had told Kurt and Blaine to go easy on the sex that morning. Or maybe she had, but he'd been asleep, damn it. He was beyond exhausted as he stumbled down the stairs and towards the kitchen wanting nothing more than a cup of coffee. He hadn't expected, nor wanted to see, his son's boyfriend scoot up on the bed, stick his penis in said son's mouth, and then start to be sucked off and fingered while stroking his son’s penis and breathlessly begging to ride it. Walking in on the two of them making out, being passed out and still naked after the deed was done, or waxing poetic about each other while high on meds were things he was unfortunately used to. This was something else altogether and he'd snapped.
"Kurt, Blaine, you two know the rules. Stay off your injured areas. No..." God, he couldn’t believe what he had to say next, "No anal sex. Hand jobs and oral sex only like it says in those pamphlets. And can you at least wait until I've had my coffee and left for work?"
Furious and raging and still naked, but at least no longer in the middle of intimate acts with Blaine, his son made his anger graphically clear and that he was having none of it. "Can you and Mom stop trying to teach me about sex? I've known what sex was firsthand since I was thirteen and I'd seen it done for years before that. At least with Blaine it's consensual. At least with Blaine it's not some female guard who really loved giving all of us extra long and gropey body cavity searches. Or the male the ones like Schuester who would force you to make out with females unless you wanted to starve for a week in solitary or watch your pregnant friend get raped by one of them. The guards loved doing shower time duty too! Although is it really sex if they're the ones jerking off while they watch you put on a show and masturbate in front of them? Or if one of your bunkmates is giving you a mutual, sloppy hand job with his tongue in your mouth because it stopped the guard from beating the two of you for not working fast enough? Those were your choices: starve, get beaten, or whip out your scrawny, barely-pubescent dick. And when you weren't being forced to do that, the Commandant would call you into his office and shove his slimy, white human dick into your ass and mouth. And if you didn't come for Daddy, he'd stick his fingers up your asshole and rub your prostate and stroke your dick until you did. The straight guys loved attacking us gays after their Commandant rapings. Said it was our fault for not putting out more. So they'd pay us back in the most painful and humiliating ways possible. Is that what you mean by sex, Dad? Because at least when I'm sucking off Blaine it's because we both want it. And when I've got my dick up his ass he consented and I prepped him. And when he's touching me it's something that makes both of us happy. Aren't we supposed to be replacing bad memories with good ones? Isn't it good that we can even have sex with each other at all? I don't need another lecture about sex! I just need some damn privacy! It's not our fault we're stuck in this room!"
Burt didn't know what to say to that or what to do. He would be wrong no matter what. Silently, he gathered up the boys' medicines, medical supplies, and ice packs. He added the kitchen timer too, though he knew unless forced, Kurt wouldn't do the breathing exercises on his own. He placed it all at the foot of the fold out couch, put on his jacket and Hummel Tires & Lube hat, and left the house. He'd get a cup of crappy coffee from the donut shop and call Carole when he got to work.
Burt knew. He knew Kurt had been through hell. He knew he was supposed to give him time and space and the freedom to explore his sexuality with someone safe. But this was still his house and his life too. And what he'd walked in on this morning? He didn't want the kid to associate him with those bastard guards. Yet that's the situation he'd been put in. No amount of looking quickly away and heading into the kitchen had changed that. He was pissed at Kurt and Blaine. He was pissed at the Reformatory and the system that willingly funneled kids there to be worked to death and abused. He was pissed at Dalton Academy and those uppity parents who chose to ignore the fact that their kids were being molested. Mostly, he was pissed at himself for saying the wrong thing and not knowing what to do to make it right. Some days were fine and Kurt would be joking around and no one got triggered. Other days, it was like walking on eggshells in a minefield. Today had been a nuclear disaster. And god only knew how long it would take to clean up the fallout.
He was glad the cashier at the donut shop was too busy to engage in polite chit chat. He paid for his crappy coffee and not-so-bad cruller, put a dollar in the tip jar, and headed to work. Tire and engine problems, he knew how to deal with.
* * * * *
Burt stayed at the shop as long as he could justify it. Carole had to work at both the hospital and clinic and Sam had only been scheduled for a few hours in the afternoon, so he didn't have the option to keep away from the house until closing time. His kids needed him no matter how much he'd fucked up. He handed Shoshandra the keys and bid her a good night.
After restocking all of the "everyman food" that Cooper had no problem eating, only complaining about, at the grocery store, he dropped by the new Captain D's. Even after talking to Carole and texting her all day, Burt still didn't know how to make it right. At least he could feed the kids. Take out was the one thing he knew how to do. He paid for two supreme samplers with double fries for Kurt and fries and macaroni and cheese for Blaine and an order of cheesecake and funnel cake sticks for each of them, and drove home.
Parking the truck further up the driveway than he normally would, Burt kept the headlights on long enough to see if the backdoor had been left open and if there were any signs of footprints in the backyard. All he saw was the stray cat heading towards Kurt's old shelter. As quietly as he could, he walked up the steps to the front porch and listened. There was only the sound of the TV being muted. For that he was grateful. It meant at least one of the boys was home. Taking a deep breath to steady himself, Burt unlocked the door and entered the fate that awaited him.
Kurt and Blaine were on the fold-out couch studying him as silently as he was studying them, waiting to see if a proverbial shoe was going to drop. He saw that they were dressed and had packed a knapsack and hidden it under the bed. Blaine's crutches were also within easy reach. He set their food down on the side closest to Blaine. Just as quietly, he went to the kitchen and put away the groceries. After retrieving some bottles of water from the fridge and their nightly dose of medications, he set them on their nightstands. Still trying not to look directly at either boy, he finished his responsibilities by pulling on a pair of disposable gloves, then emptied their bedpans and urinals and wiped them down. When he returned from the bathroom, Kurt and Blaine still hadn't touched their food.
With a simple, "I'm sorry, Kurt. I really am," Burt headed upstairs. He was too stressed to eat. Too much a swirl of emotions and feelings of helplessness. And too smart to drink so much as a single beer on an empty stomach. He tried to hear what was going on downstairs, but the boys' whispers didn't carry well enough to be coherent. After texting Carole that he was home and the kids were still there and safe, he went to take a shower. Maybe there he could think and clear his head.
The problem was that under the stream of hot water all he could think about were the things Kurt had yelled at him. He'd been replaying those words all day. Here, he shuddered, imagining himself at that age in that situation being watched and forced to do the things Kurt had done. And he cried. He cried for his son and he cried for himself and he cried for Blaine.
Burt thought he had done everything he could. He had listened to Miss Pillsbury. Had given Kurt space and time and patience. All he'd asked was to not see those acts performed in front him because he never wanted to be that guy, and there was a time and place for intimacy and this morning hadn’t been it. But he'd handled it all wrong and now his son was so scared, again, that he was prepared to go back to living on the streets. Burt turned the faucet handle and made the water hotter. It still didn't give him any answers.
* * * * *
Burt didn't realize that he'd fallen asleep until Carole woke him. "What's wrong? Are the kids okay? Did Kurt leave? I didn't mean to fall asleep."
"They're fine. Are you hungry? I brought soup. Kurt saved you his chicken and hushpuppies."
"He didn't need to do that. The kid needs it more than I do. He doesn't eat enough."
"That's what I told him."
Burt scooted over so his wife could join him on the bed. "I'm guessing he doesn't completely hate me if he offered me some of his food?"
"He's more scared than anything."
"I didn't mean to walk in on him. You think I wanted to see that? To be the kind of guy he has nightmares about?" Burt caught himself getting louder and louder and tried to drop his voice to a whisper.
"I think Kurt's more scared that you're going to force him to leave. He packed a bag."
Burt rubbed at his face. "I saw."
"I explained to him that parents weren't perfect. That we were going to mess things up and all we could do was to keep trying to do what we thought was best for him and Blaine. And for him to try and remember that even when things go wrong, you and I will always be on their side."
"You were always better at words than I was. Should I go apologize?"
"In the morning. They're tired and were planning on going to sleep soon."
"Are they okay? Medically? I didn't exactly hold up my end and take care of them today."
"You did enough. I think the bit of independence gave them some awareness of how much help they actually need. At least it did for Kurt. Blaine already knew."
"I really am sorry."
"I know. You up to eating?"
"Okay. I'll put it away for your lunch tomorrow. You going in to the shop?"
"I have to. How was work?"
"Heartbreaking cases at both places."
"I don't know how you do it."
"I don't have a choice. They need all the help they can get."
Burt rubbed at his face again and let out a long sigh. "Don't I know it."
* * * * *
The next morning was as quiet of an affair as the evening had been. Burt looked only at the walls facing away from the main living room as he headed towards the kitchen. He made the kids a breakfast of scrambled eggs and liver, bananas, and glasses of milk. When they were done eating, he brought out their medications.
The clean bandages, he simply laid on the bed. "Your mom said your ACE bandages from last night should be fine. The fresh ones are here if you need them later. Sam can help you. He can do the ice packs for you too."
Kurt stopped him before he could leave. "I don't think you're like the guards at the Reformatory. I really do trust you."
"And I really am sorry, Kurt. That applies to you too, Blaine."
"Thank you, Mr. Hummel."
"Unless you two need anything else, I'm going to head to work."
"Will you come back?" Kurt's question was as quiet and nervous as his previous statement.
"Always, Bud. Are you going to be here when I do?"
"Is this still my home?"
"Then okay. Thank you, Dad."
* * * * *
Dinner that night was nearly as quiet as the one before. Burt didn't have it in him to cook, so he merely reheated the Captain D's leftovers and a bag of steamed carrots. He brought out the ice packs too, leaving them within the boys' reach.
Blaine stopped him as he turned to eat his own dinner in the kitchen. "Burt, could you help me with my tail? The sling got twisted up and I couldn't get the ice packs right last night either. Kurt tried to help, but it's just easier when you or Carole do it."
"No problem, Kid. Want that now or after you're done eating?"
"Is now okay? It's really uncomfortable."
"Sure." Burt was more careful than usual with Blaine, making sure to say exactly what he was going to do, wait for consent with each step, and kept his touches as brief as possible. He made sure not to look at or touch Kurt by accident, a task made difficult due to the fact that the couch wasn't that wide and the boys' preference to stay close together.
"Could I have my ice packs applied too when I'm done with dinner?"
"All of them and one for my left wrist. It got squished when I tried to help Blaine."
"Sure. Just hollar for me when you're ready." Burt retreated to the safety of the kitchen and let out a breath he didn't realize he'd been holding. If Kurt wanted ice packs and trusted him enough to put them on him, then maybe their relationship wasn't as damaged as he'd feared.
* * * * *
Carole's order of bedside toilets and adaptive clothing arrived the next day. He knew the boys weren't exactly going to be happy with them, but if it kept them off their injured legs, it would mean less time recuperating in the living room. His wife was either a miracle worker or had slipped their son the good pain killers because Kurt not only agreed to the nightshirt, but the pants with rear and front panels that were secured with Velcro as well. And he knew just how much the kid hated Velcro.
The evening went smoother than before. As with the new care supplies, Kurt kept his sarcastic comments to a minimum and went along with what he was given to eat and Carole's urging for both arms to be in slings.
Burt was glad that the kid was trying. He was also glad that Carole hadn't put as much of the ground up anchovies and sardines on his portion of baked fish. Even without a hybrid's heightened sense of smell, it was pungent. Healthy for the boys, but he agreed with his son, it had a distinct aroma and they'd been having some version of the dish a lot this past week.
He was thankful when bedtime came and he could snuggle up with Carole, whispering in the darkness that today had been a much better day and could only improve from there. It was 4 a.m. when he would come to realize how wrong they both had been.
* * * * *
Burt was the first to make it down the stairs when the sound of a crash and cursing woke up the entire household. He fumbled for the light switch and tripped over Blaine's crutches before he reached the source of the sounds. Kurt was lying on the floor in a tangle of plastic sheeting, bedding, torn clothing, and his own waste. The bedside commode had collapsed under him, trapping his limbs further.
Blaine was laying across the bed, trapped in the blankets and his medical supports, full of worry, wanting to help, and ignoring Kurt's repeated answers of, "I'm fine."
It took both himself and Carole to extricate Kurt from the mess. Once freed, he carried his son to the bathroom and laid him in the tub. Then he left to take care of the soiled bedding and carpet. It was an unspoken agreement that Carole would be the one to wash Kurt.
As he was getting fresh sheets from the hall closet, his heart broke further. Kurt was pleading not to be touched. It wasn't Carole in the bathroom with him washing his broken body clean. It was the guards at the Reformatory and the nurses and doctors at the clinic, touching him without his consent when he was the most vulnerable and weak, robbing him of control over his own body. Eventually his pleas stopped and he became still and listless, his mind trying to hide from the people who were hurting him.
Burt hated what had to come next as he carried Kurt's towel-wrapped form back into the living room and laid him gently on the bed. The bathroom was too small for Carole to examine Kurt properly, and until he had been cleaned, she couldn't judge how serious the wounds on his leg and hand were. They kept him covered as much as possible, but peeling back the towel around his waist was necessary to check his hip and put an ice pack on the fresh bruising. Kurt's shaking increased and no amount of soothing words and Blaine telling him that he was safe could calm him down.
Relieved that the gash on his leg didn't look deep enough to require stitches, Carole applied ointment and secured butterfly closures and a gauze pad over it. Then she treated the area on his hand where the Velcro strap had ripped off a patch of fur. ACE bandages and the spare slings came next.
When Kurt wouldn't respond to the question of what he wanted to wear, Carole dressed him in a set of the adaptive pants and a sleeveless undershirt. The Velcro still posed a potential problem, but should the diarrhea return, it would be the easiest way to help him to a bedpan. Ideally, they would have preferred to dress him in nothing but the nightshirt, but felt that for his mental health, covering his genitals with at least some form of pants would be best.
It was 6 a.m. before they got Kurt settled completely. With Carole needing to get ready for work, Burt brewed a pot of coffee and made them breakfast. Then he took his food and a blanket into the living room and settled himself on the recliner. Even with the lights off, there was enough rising sun to see the outline of his sleeping boys. Come hell or high water, he wasn't going to let anything else hurt his son that night.
* * * * *
Burt had thought the days of being subjected to Kurt being nude twenty four seven were over until his had his next check up at the clinic. He had thought wrong. Not that he could blame the kid. Not really after what had happened the night before.
Kurt had slept in until noon and when he awoke he was silent except for a few gasps of pain and a muttered curse when he leaned over to use the urinal and the Velcro strap became entangled on his stomach. Burt went to get Kurt some Advil and water, leaving it to Blaine to help him sort it out. If they needed his help, they would ask.
It was an hour later when he was folding laundry, sorting the boys’ clothes at the foot of the bed, when Kurt reached for a pair of his hybrid designed pants. Rejecting an offer of help, Burt turned away, only looking back when he heard his son crying. The boy was shaking, nude from the waist down and pants a crumpled ball on his lap, as he repeated over and over that he couldn't do this anymore.
Burt had a feeling he knew what was going on, but had to be sure. "Do you want help putting those on, Bud?"
"No. I can't. I can't do clothes anymore. I can't be touched like that anymore."
"Kurt, no one is going to touch you without your consent. Last night was an exception because you were hurt."
"I need help taking off my shirt."
"You sure that's the right thing to do? You're shaking like a leaf, Kid."
"Please. One last time and then it'll be over."
Burt caved to his son’s plea. This wasn't Defiant Kurt at the clinic. This was like the first time where even taking care of basic biological needs would send him into a panic attack. He hated that he sent him into another one while removing his slings and shirt and then putting his arms back into their cradles. He was as gentle as he could be, making sure Kurt knew each step. The shaking didn't stop until he was done and only after Blaine had helped bring him back from the panic attack, counting to ten with him and then ten again, getting him to focus on tangible objects within view. Even then, Kurt was shivering, curled on his side, refusing even so much as a blanket.
Burt put away the folded laundry and gathered the rest to finish up on the kitchen table. Space and privacy and time to sort out his feelings is what his son needed. And he gave it to him, only going back in for their treatments and meals.
He texted Carole and let her know that it was another bad day.
It wasn't too much later that Kurt was talkative again. Blaine could have had something to do with it as he was making it clear that was very happy to be able to see his boyfriend naked all the time. Burt didn't know if the kids hadn’t realized that he'd come home while they were taking an afternoon nap, if they had forgotten, or if they simply didn't care. All he did know was that he didn't want to listen to another round of Swab the Deck. He'd had enough of that while they were high at the clinic. He didn't remember being that horny as a teenager, but maybe when two guys got together the hormones doubled. As quietly as he could, he took his earbuds out of his flannel shirt pocket and plugged them into his phone. His favorite playlist would hopefully last as long as his boys' not-as-private-as-they-thought time. The mail he was sorting on the kitchen table had never seemed as interesting as it did before now.
* * * * *
Burt was a guy. A cisgender guy in the current, proper vernacular. He knew what happened to most cis guys while they slept. It was a normal biological response. But it being normal didn't mean that he didn't want just one morning where he didn't have to see not just his son naked and erect, but his son's bare-assed boyfriend whose nightshirt would inevitably ride up and expose everything that was erect as well. Maybe if he made the house colder at night they wouldn’t feel the need to kick off their blankets.
"Hey, boys, Miss Pillsbury will be coming over in a couple of hours, so how about we just get ice pack time over with now?"
"Can't we have breakfast first?"
"You can eat and get iced at the same time. I brought that big flexible pack for your hip."
Burt accepted the glare Kurt gave him as he tucked it over the area, careful not to touch or bump into anything else. He put packs on Kurt's ribs, hamstring, and ankle too, agreeing that the elbow one could wait as it would be easier to eat without it.
Blaine thankfully had wilted by the time it was his turn and only needed the one ice pack for the base of his tail. And unlike Kurt, he was embarrassed at discovering his privates were exposed and tugged the front of his shirt down. Burt knew that no matter how many times the kid had had this done since being injured, it didn't make it any less stressful having someone around your intimate areas. He couldn't believe he was missing the days when the boys were high. At least then they weren't so aware of what was being done to them.
"Could I have sausages for breakfast, please? I'm getting a little tired of liver."
Burt's sad thoughts were interrupted by his son's question. He knew that too-pleasant tone and held in his sigh. "We're out of sausages, but there's blueberry waffles. Is that okay?"
"That's fine. Are there any bananas?"
"Sure. I'll be right back. What about you, Blaine?"
"That sounds nice. Thank you."
Burt looked at the clock on the wall. The therapist couldn't get here soon enough.
* * * * *
Burt met Miss Pillsbury at the front door and accepted the pamphlets she discreetly handed to him. When he'd called to set up the appointment, he'd explained what had happened since she'd seen the boys last. He readily agreed that he and Carole should come and see her in person again and promised they would once their schedules allowed.
For now, it would be just Kurt and Blaine and he was more than grateful that the therapist had agreed to a house call. Getting the kids in and out of the truck was complicated and painful. He and Carole also had their worries that one day, it was going to attract the wrong kind of attention from their neighbors. Separating the boys into the living room and kitchen was the best that he could do under the circumstances. Kurt was still going sans clothes, but thankfully had asked for a blanket and chosen the bed. Blaine was fully dressed in one of the new outfits Carole had exchanged Cooper's clothing choices for, happy to be feeling more like himself on such a stressful day. Burt felt lucky that he'd been able to take another day off from the shop and simply thrown on the first clean thing he could find.
Wanting to give the boys their rightful privacy, he headed out to the patio. It needed the last of the snow swept off of it and there was no time like the present to clean the barbecue grill. They could all use a nice lean steak or two. Maybe some baked potatoes and roasted corn on the cob.
* * * * *
Burt sat in his recliner, the pamphlet So Your Child Is a Nudist: How You Can Help When They Let It All Hang Out hidden behind a sport's magazine. He wondered if he shouldn't have been reading the one called When You Want to Kill Your Teenager instead.
* Do not call attention to normal biological responses such as flushed skin, hardened nipples, and erections
* Do support your child and try to understand that there are many reasons they have decided to go au natural.
God knew he was trying to do those things, but for the past thirty minutes Kurt had been laying on the fold out couch reading a copy of Vogue with Blaine and clearly, visibly enjoying it. He didn't know what was so exciting in fashion that could keep his son hard for so long. Maybe there were a few attractive male models or the latest hybrid styles really were that thrilling. Whatever the reason was didn't matter. And it wasn't the complete nudity he minded so much as the fact that unlike other times, Kurt wasn't pretending that his erection didn't exist, nor was he embarrassed at having it seen. Instead, Kurt had been giving him pointed stares from over the top of the magazine, waiting for a reaction, and practically daring him to say something or bring out the ice packs like he had that morning.
Burt tried to pretend that he didn't notice. That it didn't bother him. That he wasn't wishing for a blanket or pair of boxer shorts to fall from the sky and cover his son up. And he didn't want to go hide in the kitchen or the garage because that would mean Kurt had won. He was his parent, damn it, and he could get through this particular act of teenage rebellion same as he had Finn's. Even so, he took the opportunity to meet Carole at the door the minute he heard her car pull up.
With a kiss to her cheek and an exasperated look, he silently pleaded with his wife to join him upstairs and the relative privacy of their bedroom.
Burt knew he wasn't making much sense, but let the words tumble out anyway, hoping his wife would get the gist of it. "Half an hour, Carole. Half an hour and he's been daring me to get out the ice packs again. Couldn't he, I don't know, put a sock over it or something?"
Carole tried and failed not to laugh at her husband's discomfort. "Erections are normal for boys his age. Anything will set them off. You know that."
"But do we have to see it all the time? It was one thing at the clinic, but in our home?"
"You helped me raise Finn during his teen years."
"Yeah, but he at least kept it to his bedroom and bathroom."
Carole laughed at the memory, "All those long showers and crusty socks and sheets. He thought we didn't have a clue."
"At least Kurt isn't touching himself except to go the bathroom. Seeing him and Blaine touching each others'..."
Burt rubbed at his face. His wife was taking too much joy in his discomfort. "Don't make me say it. Seeing them do that the first time was one time too many."
Burt handed his wife a small stack of pamphlets. "I called Miss Pillsbury before the boys' appointment and she gave me some literature for us to read."
Carole took the items offered to her and began to read the tiles one by one. The A-B-C's of PTSD, When You Want to Kill Your Teenager: Do It with Kindness Instead, Hybrids for Humans: We're Not Cats, You Idiot!, and So Your Child Is a Nudist: How You Can Help When They Let It All Hang Out.
When Carole got to the last pamphlet, Burt nodded his head. "That's the one I was reading before you came home. I didn't finish it. Was too embarrassed given Kurt's..." He sucked in his sigh. "Obvious erection. I don't know. Maybe it'll help."
Carole folded back the cover depicting the famous nude sculptures, David and the Venus de Milo, and read the opening page out loud.
* Keep the blinds or curtains drawn to avoid attention from unsavory neighbors and passersby
* Set up a privacy screen to block the view of the main living areas from delivery persons
* If you family enjoys foods such as fried eggs, bananas, hot dogs, and novelty cakes, try not to point out how they resemble breasts and genitalia.
* Do not point out perceived flaws or otherwise comment on your child's appearance
* Do not call attention to normal biological responses such as flushed skin, hardened nipples, and erections
* Do support your child and try to understand that there are many reasons they have decided to go au natural."
Carole paused her reading, "Do you want me to continue?"
Burt took off his Browns cap, rubbed his head, and put it back on. "Is later tonight fine with you? It's a lot to take in and I'm going to need a beer or two."
Carole patted his arm. "Kurt's probably just acting out. It's a phase. We'll get through this, Burt. He needs us to."
"I know. I know. But he was such a quiet, polite, and scared kid when we took him in. He'd barricade the bathroom door whenever he or Blaine was in there. Would watch every move I made even when he wasn't. Now's he's down there, on the couch, stiff as a flag pole, flopping around for all the world to see, and daring me to say somethin' about it. And just so you know, we're getting a new couch and burning the sheets when all this is over."
Carole shared an exasperated laugh with him. "I can't disagree with you there."
"I think I'm going to start cleaning out the garage, maybe the basement too. Get the yard ready for Spring."
"Sounds like a perfect plan. I'll join you. We'll dig out those old walkie talkies Finn had so the boys can call us if they need help. Much better than overhearing things none of us want to on a baby monitor." As she often did, Carole pulled a change of clothes from her bureau, preferring to change out of her scrubs before starting dinner. "So what would you like me to make tonight? Hot dogs? Spaghetti and meatballs? Kielbasa?"
"You are a cruel, cruel woman."
Carole kissed her husband on the cheek, laughing as she darted away to take a shower. "I think we're going to need a lot of levity, not just patience, to get through this. And definitely more beer and bleach wipes."
"I'll pick some up next time I go out. A couple dozen more ice packs couldn't hurt either." Burt watched his wife laugh as she headed to the bathroom. He picked up the pamphlet and continued where he'd left off.
* You may come upon your nudist teenager touching their body, exploring it and how that touch makes them feel. Please understand that this is also normal. Should you come upon such, it is best to leave the room and allow them their privacy.
Burt closed it and rubbed his eyes. He really did a beer for this. As for privacy, that was something that would only happen in full once the boys were healed enough to move upstairs. Sucking up his courage, he headed downstairs. Surely by now Kurt had deflated. And if not, he would just have to deal with it. Erections or not, it was time for the boys’ medicine and heating pad treatment.
* * * * *
Burt was really glad that Sam didn't have a problem with Kurt being nude. He took it in stride, telling him that people were people and everyone was born into this world naked and that it didn't change when they got older. Sam was a good kid and had taken great care of Kurt and Blaine. That his son trusted and liked him and Sam hadn't quit on any of the bad days further proved his character. Without his help, he and Carole wouldn't have been able to make it all work.
He thanked him again and left for the shop. He loved his son, but couldn’t help the same thought he’d had a hundred times before - engines, tires, exhaust systems, fluids, and tools he understood. Teenagers who were scared of the world yet insisted on walking around the house without a stitch on them? Not so much.
* * * * *
Burt was tired of asking. Tired of the delays. It was nearing midnight and he just wanted to go to bed. Carole was back on the overnight shift and there was no one else to open up the shop in the morning. This was the last thing on the care list and he just wanted it done. "Kurt, breathing exercises. Now!"
Burt watched as Kurt pulled a pillow to his chest, glaring at with all the force he had. He took the last sip of decaf coffee from his World’s Best Mechanic mug, wishing it was a beer. Parenting teenagers was hard.
First there was Finn with his rotating girlfriends and a pregnancy scare. Then came Kurt sleeping under his porch and eating his garbage, alone in the world, and he couldn't just ignore that. So he had taken him in. He was a sweet kid under all the fear and bravado. He knew before Miss Pillsbury's pamphlets that it was the fear and anger that drove Kurt's stubbornness. It was what had kept him alive during everything he'd been through. Then Blaine had entered the picture, a kid who was sweet and polite, but came with his own baggage and fears.
Then came Kurt trying to protect Blaine, and Finn not understanding how precarious the boys' situation was. So Kurt and Blaine had gotten hurt again and the sibling animosity had risen to new heights. He was dreading summer break.
Burt pushed that thought from his mind. For now, he could only focus on this problem, this teenager. "Breathe in. Breathe out."
"And I know how much it sucks, but if you don't put in the work, you won't heal right, Kurt. When I was your age, I was on the high school football team and broke a couple of ribs during a practice. Was out of commission for weeks and nearly missed the homecoming game. Back then, they just wrapped your ribs and told you to man up."
"When I was my age, I got the shit beaten out of me and had to wrap my ribs up in a pair of jizzed on pantyhose I found behind the 7-11. Then I got the shit beaten out of me again and broke more ribs. Then pulling Blaine up the stairs broke them again. I'm lucky I didn't puncture a lung."
Burt ignored the retort and fought down a sigh. "Which is my point. You know we're just tryin' to help you and have them heal right this time. Now breathe in and breathe out."
"I hate this."
"I know, Bud."
"How come the pain meds work faster on Blaine than me?"
"He's just lucky, I guess." Burt looked to where Kurt's focus had gone. Blaine's flannel shirt had become unbuttoned in his sleep and the blanket pushed down, leaving the scars on his body on full display. Carole had told him in private the burns would likely never fully heal. The scarring was permanent.
This time, Burt let himself sigh. "I couldn't agree with you more there, Kid."
Not my smoothest chapter. Sorry about that.
Chapter 18: Easter
TW: Mild non-consensual medicating. Nothing bad happens, but I thought I'd give a heads up anyway. This is over-all a fun, lighthearted chapter.
Going all out for Easter was something he and his wife hadn't done in years. Actually, Burt hadn't participated in the half the stuff Carole proposed since he was a kid. When he'd married her, Finn was a young teenager and already "too cool" for anything but the money-filled eggs, chocolate, and a nice dinner. He figured that Kurt and Blaine would be as well. But when Carole had pointed out how young Kurt had been when he'd been locked up and therefore had missed out on all the holidays and how happy he'd been at Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years? There was no way he wasn't going to cave.
So now here he was shopping at Walmart with his wife like they had a couple of five year olds at home. Though given how both of the boys acted some days, it wasn't that far from the truth. He peered intently through the cellophane of a pre-made basket, turning it around to check out the contents inside only to reject it moments later for having too much chocolate-based candy inside. One item it contained gave him an idea and he hunted around the seasonal section for something similar. When he found the perfect thing, all white, soft, and floppy ears with a sewn on smile, he brought it over to his wife.
"A stuffed bunny?"
"For Kurt. He was so little when he had everything taken away. I thought maybe this would help bring back a happy memory. Maybe it's stupid. He's probably too old now to want one."
"I think it's sweet, Burt. And if he doesn't want it, we'll donate it. This bunny will bring someone some joy. Did you find one for Blaine?"
Burt shrugged, embarrassed. "I was kind of focused on Kurt. There was a dog that was cute, but, maybe a rabbit would be better given, you know." He was glad he didn't have to spell it out for Carole. That he hated how it wasn't safe to talk openly about the fact that their hybrid sons might consider a dog to be racist given that they weren't exactly shopping in a store known for its equality. Walmart was all they had in Lima and Easter was just a couple of days away, so they were doing their best. Luckily, the store had a brown bunny similar to the he'd found for Kurt and they added both to the shopping cart.
The rest of the trip was full of more fun decisions. What candy to buy. How much. Do you think they'd like this? Did we ever get around to asking them if they were allergic to peanuts or get them tested? Do they need new clothes too? Something festive to wear? The last idea got rejected quickly. However, it made them realize that novelty bunny ears for themselves were an absolute must. You couldn't have a childhood Easter party without embarrassing parent wear. A full bunny costume was too much. Cheap bunny ear headbands? Perfect.
After a quick debate over how many and which style of plastic Easter eggs to get, they were ready to check out and start preparations for the Kurt and Blaine Easter Eggstravaganza.
It wasn't too hard to sneak the bags upstairs and into their bedroom. Kurt and Blaine were engrossed with the laptop and a conversation about books and only glanced their way to be polite before returning to the screen. Reading was good. Reading kept hands and minds occupied on things above the waist.
After piling their wares on top of the bed, Burt glanced at his watch. It was later than he had realized and he needed to get to work soon. "You sure you got this, Honey?"
"Are you kidding? This is the most excitement I've had all week! They're going to love this, Burt. Now give me all of your money so I can get started."
Burt laughed and did as asked, emptying his pockets of loose change and his wallet of small bills. "You're an amazing woman."
"Thank you. Now go. I'll be fine on my own. See you before I leave for the hospital?"
"I'll be here." He kissed his wife before heading out, glad he was already in his work shirt and pants. Running errands with the name of your business on your clothes was free, subtle marketing and had gotten him more than one new customer. It was a small town, but not so small that a bit of advertising didn't hurt and with a major bill due, they needed all the money they could get right now. Even Carole was volunteering less at the clinic and picking up extra shifts at the hospital.
* * * * *
Burt hated to admit to himself that he and Carole sometimes drugged their kids. If slipping melatonin into their nightly mix of medications and vitamins and distracting them so that they didn't realize they were taking it counted as drugging. Which of course it did, but at least it wasn't to do horrible, inappropriate things to them. Giving them the supplement didn't happen often, but there were times when the boys desperately needed to sleep and couldn't get there themselves. Blaine sometimes asked for it, but Kurt would almost always refuse, so he couldn't be asked this time. That's what made him feel like a shitty person and tonight it was worse because he and Carole weren’t doing it for a medical or mental health reason. They were doing it so that they could surprise their bedridden kids with an Easter egg hunt without the struggle and pain of moving them to another room or the chance they could be triggered if blindfolded. If there was a hell, he was probably going to it.
* * * * *
Coffee and cinnamon rolls turned into the shape of bunny heads made, it was time to start visibly hiding the eggs. Burt donned his bunny ears as did his wife lest their kids wake up in the middle of it all. Miraculously, they didn’t. Not even when they were running out of places and had to start putting them in truly obvious spots such as on the bed and Blaine’s bedside commode.
When they were done, they brought out the food and woke their kids up with a cheerful, “Happy Easter!”
The Easter egg hunt turned out to be a huge hit just as Carole had predicted. Blaine was bouncing in place like a little kid. Kurt tried to as well until he realized that it wasn’t such a good idea with broken ribs and chose instead to use his sarcastic wit on jokes about the Easter Bunny smoking too much of his own grass. Both were thrilled that the eggs held money.
Both were equally excited to get their homemade baskets, Blaine teaching Kurt about all of the candy he’d never eaten before and being happy when Kurt gave him the things he ended up not liking.
Kurt’s eyes lit up as he admired the stuffed bunny and declared that his name was Mister Bun Bun. His face fell when he realized that it being Easter didn’t mean that medical stuff could be skipped, but he powered through it without too much complaint, the bunny held against his ribs to ease the discomfort of breathing exercises.
It was nice seeing Blaine come out of his shell, hyped up on sugar and fun instead of loopy on medication. The kid was always so quiet, so polite, turning his feelings inwards, and only expressing himself in song or when he and Kurt got into a rare fight or a heated discussion about a television show. Burt had a feeling that Blaine had been more expressive before his traumas.
Burt wished he didn’t have ears when he was helping Carole prepare dinner and Blaine started making Easter Bunny themed puns about Kurt’s penis. It would be the first downside of Kurt being nude that day. Honestly, if it was anyone but his teenage sons talking that way, he would have found it funny too.
Dinner went well except for Carole noticing that Kurt had hidden his serving of ham under his plate. Burt had made a promise to Kurt that he would never say anything about their mutual dislike of the meat. It was an early bonding experience he never wanted to ruin. He had a feeling Carole would mention it to the therapist, same as she was planning to do regarding Blaine throwing up all of the breakfasts he hadn’t managed to avoid last week.
Dyeing eggs was as much fun for all of them as the Easter egg hunt was. Carole told them stories about Finn as a toddler drinking “Yummy green paint water, Mommy!” which prompted a call to Poison Control. There had been multiple Easters where he had made some truly hideous looking eggs that she had naturally pretended to rave about. Kurt and Blaine loved being able to sit at the kitchen table and discuss color combinations and various ways they could hold the eggs to create different prints. It was such a hit that Carole boiled the rest of their eggs. Burt declared that nothing but egg salad would be on the menu for the rest of the week which no one had an objection to. The activity was made better when Kurt got up to go back to the couch and laughed along with them all about the telltale signs on his butt that Blaine had gotten a bit too friendly under the table.
Bellies full of cheesecake and sugar, the nighttime routine over and done with, Burt and Carole tucked their boys into bed and kissed them goodnight. As he was leaving the room, he saw Kurt, already falling asleep with Mister Bun Bun held tight against him, tell Blaine that it had been a really good day. That right there made everything worth it. All the work. All the stress. All the worry. He had given his new son what he desperately needed - a chance to be at peace and a sense of home.
Chapter 19: Parenting is Hard & So Are Other Things
The only therapy I’ve had experience with directly regarded homophobia and physical assault, and that was as Burt is doing - a parent needing to help their kid. I may have been able to write about Kurt’s traumas and research some of the medical procedures regarding them, but I just could not get to a place where I could mentally handle researching the type of therapy needed in this situation. In other words, I made a lot of Miss Pillsbury’s stuff up and have no idea how accurate or inaccurate it is. Sorry. TW: There's also mention of eating disorders. That I do have personal experience with as well. As with it all, I tried my best.
After the Ice Pack Erection and the I Dare You to Say Something About It Erection, there had been a string of I’ll Masturbate Away This Erection and My Very Happy Boyfriend Is Taking Care of My Erection. Burt was getting really uncomfortable with all of the erections. He was willing to move hell and high water to get an appointment with Miss Pillsbury before she saw the boys and was thankful when she had a slot on the same day as theirs.
He sat in her office behind her cleaning business, elbows on his knees, wringing his hat in his hands as he tried to get his jumble of feelings and worries out. It was difficult enough knowing he’d have to use words he rarely even said in front of his wife. “Carole and I, we read your pamphlets and we’re doin’ everything they said. We’re giving Kurt his space, not callin’ attention to his nudity or his body’s natural reactions. And we know that him and Blaine having consensual relations with each other is a good thing for them. It’s just, I know that blood and biology don’t make a parent. Kurt’s my son and I’m his dad. But I’m also just a guy who was a stranger to him not more than six months ago and he’s a sixteen year old boy. I can’t help but feel it’s not right for me to be seeing his privates all the time. It’s not appropriate for me to accidentally walk in on him masturbating off his morning erection or Blaine touching him there. Our house aint big and the boys can’t walk upstairs to their room, and the back porch where Kurt used to sleep isn’t warm enough nor a good place for them to recover in. I feel like one of those pervy guards who hurt Kurt every time I go to get a cup of coffee or want to watch a bit of the morning news on TV. And I know I’m not like those monsters. I don’t get off on seeing my son naked or his boyfriend naked or him and his boyfriend naked together. I would never hurt either of them and want to kill the bastards that did. I don’t know how else to put it.” Burt rubbed at his face, trying to come up with some better words. “I never want Kurt to associate me with those people. I never want him to think I might be one of them like he did when he first moved in and was makin’ sure I was safe to be around. And I’m real tired of not being able to avoid seeing his stuff.”
“When he’s at the clinic, isn’t he also nude in your presence?”
“Yeah, but that’s different. At the clinic, he’s scared all the time and re-traumatized whenever someone touches him. He’s naked because it’s the only control he has and even then it’s not much. Most the time he lies there lookin’ so sad and helpless that it breaks my heart.”
“And at home?”
“At home he’s moody when it comes to his treatments and being confined to the bed. I know he hates it when we tell him to get off his leg so he doesn’t hurt his hip and hamstring any more than they already are. Carole and I have both told him to cut out having sex so much as it’s not good for Blaine’s injuries either. He was real pissed about that. When he’s not acting like a typical teenager, he’s lively, I guess, reading magazines and watching TV with Blaine, Carole, and I. I bought him and Blaine some books that they’d lost when Blaine’s home at the K-Mart got taken over.”
“You can call me Burt.”
“Alright. Burt, you’re forgetting that Kurt isn’t a typical teenager. Nothing he’s been through has been typical for a boy his age. He was very young when he was first brutalized and sexualized. If not always directly, then by witnessing it. It was a time when his brain was still developing at a fast rate, taking in everything around him. Some who have been through similar things as Kurt shy away from all contact, all touch. Others become hyper-sexualized. With Kurt, you said it yourself, it’s about control. Choosing not to wear clothing is the only complete control he has over his body right now. The difference between your home and the clinic is that at your home, he feels safer to express this.”
“And when he was staring me down, daring me to say somethin’ about his erection and bring out an ice pack?” Burt watched as the therapist’s eyes grew wide.
“Oh! Oh, that I would classify as typical rebellion and the kind of behavior that can happen with foster kids in a new home. He’s testing you. Seeing if you’ll react. Seeing which buttons he can push and get away with. He’s seeing if this is the thing that will make you turn on him.”
“Pushing buttons? Finn did that too when he and Carole first moved in. It took him awhile to accept me, but we got through it.”
“You will again. I don't know much about Finn, but I’m guessing he hasn’t been through the kind of traumas Kurt has?”
“No, thank god.”
“Then my best advice to you is to give Kurt time. Keep showing him that you’re safe to be around and that he can trust you. I have some pamphlets that may help all of you. I’ll bring over the ones for Kurt and Blaine when I see them later today.”
Burt put on his hat and let out a despondent sigh. He wished there were more answers than that. “Anything else?”
“I think that you being worried about being inappropriate and traumatizing Kurt again is a good sign. I’m fairly certain that if Kurt felt threatened by you, he would leave.”
“Yeah, he would. Thank you for everything you’ve been doing for us.”
“Thank you for coming to me. If you want to meet again, my door is always open. Well, not literally open, but I often have appointments available.”
“I’ll let you know.” Burt stood up from the chair he was sitting in and took care of the payment. He didn’t want to assume that his personal visit would be covered by Miss Jones and Kurt’s doctor. The session wasn’t cheap, but it had helped and he was glad for it.
I Didn’t Want to See That! Parenting During the Happy Hormone Years, Sometimes Privates Aren’t So Private: A Guide to Accidental Nudity in the Home, The Bare Facts About the Nudist in Your Home, Teenagers, Their Hormones, & The Stressed Out Parent, Parenting & PTSD: Helping Your Traumatized Child. Burt looked through the stack of pamphlets before heading back to his truck. He didn’t know how Miss Pillsbury had the time to write them all, but he was grateful she had. He needed all the help he could get.
* * * * *
Kurt and Blaine were in the kitchen eating a late night snack, giving him a chance to clean up the living room and change their bedding. Burt made a mental note that he was going to need to buy a few more sets of sheets. Laundry was getting harder to keep up with, more-so now than when Kurt was wearing clothes. It was Finn at that age all over again, only doubled and with less socks.
While tidying up their nightstands, Burt looked over the pamphlets Miss Pillsbury had given the boys. She had followed through on what she’d offered during his therapy session. Some of them definitely looked like they could help. Others? Maybe not, but he wasn’t Kurt or Blaine, nor a trained professional. I Can't Stop Touching Myself, I Can't Stop Touching My Boyfriend, and Pushing Buttons: Your Parents Are Not an Elevator - he really hoped the boys took those to heart.
* * * * *
Burt hated that he had to divide his time between Kurt and Blaine at the clinic. Carole hadn't been able to take the time off, so it was up to him to play the sole role comforting parent. Doctor Jones had been generously accommodating, doing the follow-up exams on both boys which allowed him to be there for each of them in turn.
Blaine's exam had been first. After the one to check to see how his injuries were healing, the doctor had insisted on a basic rectal and genital exam given his history and present sexual activity. The kid had fought hard to hold in his shaking. He wasn't as vocally expressive as Kurt, but Burt knew such touching of those places affected him too. When Blaine's gown was put back into place and it was declared that a more extensive exam of his private areas wasn't needed, Burt headed over to Kurt's exam area with the doctor. He promised Blaine that he would return and be there for his X-rays.
As Burt had expected, Kurt's didn't go as quietly. After having his obvious injuries checked over, Doctor Jones brought up her concerns regarding the color aberrations on his lower body.
"This is humiliating and unnecessary! I told you, we were dying Easter eggs and Blaine got handsy."
"And as I told you, Kurt..."
"I know." Kurt changed his tone to a higher, sing-song pitch. "'Given your history of being raped and whoring yourself out for pain killers and fucking your boyfriend against doctor's orders, I need to examine your privates and stick my finger up your ass even though you keep telling me that with Blaine you're strictly a top.' Just get the violating touching over with so I can go home."
"You'll need X-rays after this."
"I always need X-rays. Tell that human tech to get his sexist head out of his ass and listen to the hybrid one. He always moves me to the point of pain. The jackass clearly never took an anatomy lesson. No wonder he can't get a paying job."
"I'll let him know. But first, Kurt, I'm going to..."
"Don't say it. Just do it."
Burt felt helpless to comfort his son in any way that mattered. Kurt kept his eyes focused on his, full of accusatory anger for allowing a stranger to touch him in the most intimate of places, violating him as others had repeatedly done against his will. Though he tried not to look, Burt could see what was happening. The fur around Kurt's genitals and buttocks was brushed back and forth to expose the skin; the doctor making certain that it was indeed dye and not an infection or dermatological condition that had caused the blotches of red, blue, and green. And Burt knew what was coming before Kurt did - the squeeze of lube on a gloved finger and then the doctor pressed in. He didn't know why this particular thing had to be done today if the abrasions had healed and the chlamydia cured with antibiotics. Doctor Jones was a specialist in these kind of cases, only looking out for his son's best interests, and so he trusted her. The exam lasted longer than Blaine's had and by the time it was over, Kurt was a shaking mess.
Doctor Jones didn't speak again until she stepped away from the exam table and pulled off her gloves. "Kurt, I'm all done. Someone will come by shortly to take you to get your X-rays and CAT scan."
"Bud, you want me to stay with you?"
Kurt struggled to reposition himself so that he was lying on his back again, resigned to knowing that he was vulnerable no matter which way he faced. He flinched when he and the doctor made a move to help. "Go away, both of you."
"I'm real sorry, Son."
The anguish on his kid's face was as clear as the words he said next. "If you were sorry, you wouldn't have let it happen."
Burt rubbed at his face and left the curtained off exam area with the doctor. He had failed again as a parent and didn't know how to fix it. Clinic days were always the hardest. "I'm sorry, Doc. We're trying our best. He's seeing the therapist once a week and we're reading the pamphlets she gave us."
"I know you are, Burt. I'm sorry that these exams are necessary, but I'm sure Carole has told you stories of the foreign objects that have become lodged in places they shouldn't."
"Due to Kurt being nude at home and given his fall and being confined to bed rest, I wanted to be certain that his rectum and surrounding areas were clear. The last thing Kurt needs right now is another infection. If you see any signs on his body, any unusual discharge or strange colors in his urine or fecal matter, bring him in."
"He needs more supplementation. I'll have an orderly bring in a can of Boost after his scans."
"Oh, he's going to love that." Burt liked that the doctor laughed with him. He knew it wasn't an easy profession and Kurt was far from an easy patient.
"Then he's also going to love that I'd like him to keep his elbow wrapped and supported by the sling for another week. I don't need to see the scans to know that fall didn't do him any favors."
"It's his hip I'm most worried about. That I do have to wait to see what the scans show. Blaine too. The cut on his leg is healing fine as are the abrasions on his hand and pelvic region. Velcro truly is evil stuff. The sheer number of permanent scars I've seen on infants and children? Let's just say that if hybrids were the race in power, it would have been outlawed decades ago."
"Now that is one thing Kurt would agree with you on."
"You're a good dad, Burt. Just keep trying your best and doing what you're doing. We'll get Kurt through this. I've got other rounds to make, but I'll see you, Kurt, and Blaine later for a final diagnosis and treatment plan."
"Thanks, Doc. I appreciate everything you're doing for them."
"Take care, Burt."
Burt headed back to Blaine's exam room just in time to see Coach Beiste pushing his wheelchair. Blaine at least had agreed to a medical gown. He was going to have to warn Sheldon about Kurt, assuming the other volunteers hadn't already.
* * * * *
The scans and final words from Doctor Jones over, Burt helped Kurt get dressed and wheeled him down to the cafeteria to where Blaine was waiting. It was good to see the kid practically bouncing in his chair, happily chatting with Millie.
“Kurt, you’re back! I want you to meet Miss Millie Rose. She’s one of the cafeteria ladies from Dalton that I told you about. The ones that would make sure we always had food and help the runaways.”
“We’ve met, but it’s nice to see you again.” Kurt’s smile was small, but genuine. His discomfort at being around more people after a day of tests and exams was clear.
“I wish I could have helped you too, Blaine.”
“It’s not your fault. You helped out a lot of people. Kurt, did you know that Miss Millie runs that shop we love? Millie & Marley’s?”
“Why did I never make the connection?” Kurt’s smile was wider this time as he processed the information. “Thank you for the cookies and gift basket. It was really nice of you.”
“You’re welcome, Sweetie. How about before we talk some more, I round you all up some food? The usual burgers and fries or did you all get stuck with restrictions?”
“No restrictions. No Boost. Any cheesecake?”
“No, I’m sorry, Hon. I’ve got vanilla pudding and Jello in all the colors of the rainbow though.”
“Just the burger and fries then. I deserve it after today.”
Burt accepted the glare from his son. The kid hating him right now was fine. That he was being respectful to Millie was what mattered.
“Blaine? What can I get you?”
“Same as Kurt, but with extra pickles if you have them, please.”
“Burt, how about you?”
“I think I’ll come with you, Millie. See if there’s anything I can truthfully tell my wife that I ate.”
“I’ve got a nice vegetable stir fry if that’s your thing. There’s broccoli on the side so it’s safe for everyone to eat.”
Burt welcomed the few minutes of escape and chance to talk to someone who wasn’t a doctor, nurse, or technician. He was sure Kurt and Blaine welcomed the chance to be alone and compare notes about their day as well. “That sounds great. I can’t believe I’m sayin’ this, but I actually miss broccoli. It’s just been easier to stick to things the boys can eat.”
“And teenagers at that. I hear you. The coffee is where it always is, but if you want to wait a few minutes, I’ve got another pot brewing.”
“I’m sure what’s there will be fine.”
“Another rough day?”
“For Kurt, they’re all rough. He’d tell you different, but this day was better than some he’s had here. Blaine seems to be holding up better than I expected. So that’s good.”
“It’s nice to see Blaine smiling again. He was always one of my favorites.” Millie wrung her hands in her apron as her tail swished nervously behind her. “I tried, Burt. I really did try to stop what they were doing to those boys at Dalton Academy. No one would take me seriously. They told me I was just the lunch lady, so what would I know. I’m certain that if it wasn’t for the fire, they were going to let me go.”
“It’s not your fault, Millie. You did what you could. You’re making a difference now too.”
“I appreciate that, Burt. You should bring the boys by the warehouse sometime. Like I told you before, we’ve got a kind of hybrid homeschooling co-op going. Kids of all ages. More than one teenager aside from my Marley. And we’re wheelchair accessible if that’s your concern.”
Burt adjusted the cap on his head as he gained some time to form a reply. “It was, but I’m more worried about Kurt. He doesn’t exactly take to strangers all that well. He had a real rough childhood.”
“He wouldn’t be the only one, Burt. If he doesn’t want to meet new folks, there’s Tina and Marley. He can chat with them. Might be good to get the boys out. Not that I’m saying your home is bad. I’m sure it’s fine. But we’re out near an old farm. No neighbors for miles so the kids can be themselves outside. Get some sun. Run or roll around in the fields. Plenty of room inside too if they’d prefer that.”
“I’m up for it if they are. I think it’d be best if you talk it up to Blaine first. Let Kurt listen in, give him time to process it. Lord knows I can’t bring it up. He’d hate the idea in an instant.”
“I know those days. One day they love you. The next they’re screaming that they wish you weren’t their parent.”
“It’s okay, Burt. You don’t need to explain. Parenting is hard. Let me help you bring the food over to the boys and I can have a chat with them while you drink your coffee and have your nurse approved meal.”
“Thank you, Millie. I owe you one.”
Burt was surprised when Kurt showed some interest in Millie’s proposal. His “I’ll think about it” didn’t hold an ounce of sarcasm. Maybe it was what he needed after-all or maybe he was just being polite and showing an interest in it for Blaine who was eager to go as soon as possible. This week would be out of the question. There were schedules to work out with Carole. Injuries to worry about. And Kurt’s refusal to wear clothes except to come and go from the clinic. That, he didn’t think the folks at Millie & Marley’s would be all too welcoming to see.
* * * * *
Burt opened the front door when heard a knock and saw that it was Sam through the peephole. It was clear from his outfit, the balloons in his hand, and the wrapped present that he hadn’t gotten his work days mixed up.
“Hi, Mr. Hummel. I’m here to deliver a birthday present for Blaine from his brother.”
“He’s in the living room. Have fun, Kid.”
Burt headed for the kitchen and grabbed a beer. He knew a singing telegram when he saw one and from the tightness of Sam’s superhero outfit, that it wasn’t just singing he would be doing. He had no problem with that. Had no problem that Sam also stripped at the clubs around town. He just didn’t want to see it nor the reactions of his kids. They could have their fun in private.
He took out his phone and started a flurry of texts with Carole, planning for something a lot more PG. All the medical forms and consent paperwork he’d had to sign at the clinic and Blaine’s date of birth never stuck. All he knew was that Blaine and Kurt were around the same age.
He and Carole couldn’t do much for the kid since they’d already made plans to meet up with friends at the bowling alley that night. But they could do something. It was only right.
When he heard Sam leave, he went back into the living room. Blaine was opening up his present and discovering that not only had some of favorite items from childhood been rescued, but that Cooper was now his legal guardian. Burt kept his opinions on that one to himself. He was glad that Blaine had part of his family back, but Cooper didn’t exactly seem the responsible type. What it meant medically, he didn’t know. He and Carole had been the ones taking care of him, were on all the forms so they could be informed as to his condition and needs, and the ones who gave permission for procedures when the kid was too out of it to give consent.
Burt pushed that out of his mind and focused on happier things that he could take care of right now. He wished Blaine a happy birthday and told the boys he needed to go buy some more milk. It was an excuse as transparent as glass and he knew the kids knew what he was doing.
Burt had the kitchen all decked out and the cake and pizza ready by the time Carole got home with the present she’d bought for Blaine. It was a rushed celebration, but a good one. And he knew exactly the kind of present Kurt was going to give Blaine. The kid wasn’t as stealthy as he thought pulling out a box of condoms and a bottle of lube from under the bed and hiding them behind his pillow. Burt had never looked forward to going bowling and wearing shoes a thousand other people had worn before him more. He just hoped that the boys would clean up the mess better than last time.
* * * * *
Carole had just finished getting ready for bed when he came into their bedroom bearing gifts.
"What's all this?"
"Noise canceling earbuds, a white noise machine, earplugs, and if those don't work, a couple of movies on DVD for us to watch on the laptop."
"You walked in on Kurt and Blaine having sex again?"
"Not walked in on, just heard, and that was bad enough." Burt held up a hand to stop his wife's anticipated reply. "I know what you're going to say. That while it’s physically not so great for them given their injuries, mentally it's healthy for them. That it's good they're able to work through their traumas and feel safe and comfortable with each other. Just because it's good for them, doesn't mean I have to hear or see it. And since I can't stop them from doing what they're doing, trying to drown out the sounds of it is all I have left. When all of this is over and they're moved into the spare bedroom, I'm buying us a new couch."
"I love that couch. Remember all the fun times we had on it?"
"I remember. I also remember the kitchen dining set we had fun on until the boys defiled that too. That's another thing we're replacing. At least they didn’t ruin the recliner. I hope that they didn’t ruin the recliner. I love that chair." He joined in with his wife's laughter.
When the sounds coming from the living room got louder Carole reached for a DVD. They were in for a long night. One that wasn’t going to be as fun as their kids seemed to be having.
* * * * *
Burt knew it was going to be another bad day the minute he woke up and heard the sounds of grunting and “harder, faster, Kurt” coming from the downstairs bathroom. At least he didn’t have to see it this time. After making a pot of coffee, he pulled out the ice packs from the freezer and upped the dose of painkillers to the boys’ medicine cups. What clearly felt good in the moment was going to end up hurting them in the end. He cursed god and his brain for the accidental pun and took another sip from his mug wishing it was filled with something stronger.
The problems at the shop started with a jackass, sexist customer who wouldn’t believe his female mechanic that his truck’s brake pads needed to be replaced, moved to the water company saying the bill wasn’t paid even though he’d sent it in the week before, and ended with yet another delivery of tires being late. He was going to have to find a new supplier at this rate because the delays were becoming ridiculous and affecting his business.
Carole texted him on her break. There was a new hire at work. An older doctor who thought nurses were little more than brainless candy stripers. She’d had to put up with this kind of shit her whole career, but today it had gotten to be too much and there was no chance of escaping it as she was working a double shift.
Dinner was already cooking when he’d discovered too late that he’d forgotten to buy laundry detergent. Without detergent, he couldn’t do laundry. Without laundry, no one was going to have clean clothes in the morning. Putting it off wasn’t an option, so he was going to have to go to Walmart after dinner and the boys’ nightly routine were done. Walmart on a Friday night was no one’s idea of a fun time.
By the time dinner was cooked and the boys were seated at the kitchen table, seeing that Kurt wasn’t eating was one frustration too many. He scooped up a spoonful of his beans and gestured with it towards his son's still full bowl. "Kurt, come on, you've got to eat."
Kurt took a sip of his water. "I'm not hungry."
Burt wasn’t falling for the kid’s breezy, lighthearted tone and smile. "I know you are. Breakfast was hours ago and you and Blaine slept through lunch." Sam had called out sick, so he’d come home for lunch and discovered that the boys were passed out on the bed and near dead to the world. Blaine’s pants and a condom wrapper on the floor showed exactly what kind of rehabilitative therapy they’d chosen to do instead of Sam’s video game routine.
"Take a bite and I'm sure your stomach will feel different once it's had something in it."
"I can't eat this." Kurt nudged at his bowl and plate, trying to move them away from himself without anyone noticing.
Burt pushed Kurt’s dinner back into place and added another slice of cornbread to the plate. He wasn't going to let good food go to waste and Blaine was eating it just fine so he knew there was nothing wrong with it. "Miss Pillsbury said it was important to start establishing some normal routines that don't involve medical stuff. So we're having Friday night dinner together in the kitchen away from all of that. I know soup beans 'n cornbread isn't fancy and I burned the cornbread a bit, but your mom is at work and this is one of the few meals I know how to cook. I made sure everything in it was hybrid safe."
Kurt glared at the food and then closed his eyes. "I don't like it."
Now his sixteen year old kid was acting like a bratty toddler. Of all the things Kurt had rebelled against, mealtime was never it unless Finn was around. And he knew this was one of Kurt’s favorite meals because he always ate all of it and never saved any for later. "It's the same recipe I've been givin' you ever since you were livin' in the back yard in that shelter I made for you."
"I gave my portions to Blaine."
Burt didn’t like that Kurt was looking at Blaine trying to get him involved. This whole thing was getting ridiculous. The kid had lived off of mice and garbage scraps for almost two years. He was nearly as skinny now as he was when he first became a part of the family and it was affecting his health. "It's this and then a can of Boost. You've got to keep your strength up if you want to get better."
Kurt shook his head. "Please don't make me."
It had been a long day that kept getting longer by the minute. He didn’t have the time nor patience to deal with a stubborn kid, who despite his background, was wasting perfectly good food. "Kurt. Eat!"
Kurt jumped at the words and sound of his hand slamming onto the table. Burt regretted the last part, but apparently it had been what was needed to get the kid to eat. In next to no time, the bowl and plate were empty. Immediately afterwards, he regretted not listening to his son as he witnessed the meal violently force itself out.
Burt offered his help, but Kurt ignored him as he limped to the bathroom and slammed the door shut. He heard frustrated rummaging and knew what the kid was looking for. There hadn’t been the chance to put the fresh roll of plastic wrap in the under-sink cabinet. He stood near the door, listening and waiting in case Kurt needed help. It didn’t take long before the door opened and for Kurt to walk out.
"You looking for the wrap? Go sit down and I'll bring it to you."
It only took minutes before he was back, knocking on the bathroom door before entering. The kid was a shaking wreck and he couldn't figure out why. "I can't help you, Son, unless you talk to me. I'm sorry for forcing you to eat. Are you sick or something? You want me to call your mom?"
Kurt shook his head, failing to force back the tears that had started to flow. "Eight years. I can't eat it anymore."
"This is what they fed you at the Reformatory?"
Kurt nodded, clearly trying not to puke again. "It was eat it or starve, and they'd serve it for days, a week, more. So you didn't have a choice, not really. Half the time it was spoiled and moldy."
"Aww, Kiddo, you have said somethin' earlier."
Burt’s heart broke at the sob that escaped from his son’s throat. "I meant months ago. I thought you were just bein' stubborn tonight and I'm real sorry." Burt sighed, wanting to reach out and comfort his son, but knowing that any touching right now could send him into another panic attack. "How do you want me to help? Want me to wrap up your hand and get the shower or bath runnin' for you?"
Kurt stared at the tub, considering his options, and then back up to where Burt was patiently waiting. "Shower. I'll use the special chair Mom put in there so I won't have to stand. Can you stay to help? I don't know how to get my left arm clean without using my right hand and there's puke everywhere. I just want to get clean and go to bed."
"Sure thing, Kurt. Let me tell Blaine what happened so he doesn't try crawling in here. He's sick with worry."
"I told you, Bud. I'm the one who's sorry. I'll be right back." Burt closed the door behind himself and rubbed his eyes. How many more ways was he going to discover how that place had screwed the kid over? How many more times was he going to mess up as a parent? He was trying. He'd taken the therapist's advice, reading the ever-growing stack of pamphlets, letting the kid be naked all the time, and getting him the books he wanted from the public library and online stores, but some days he just couldn't get it right. Months ago he'd told Kurt that there were times where it was going to be two steps forward and one step back. That bit of wisdom apparently applied to himself too.
Blaine reassured that Kurt was going to be okay and letting him know that he would be fine on his own in the kitchen for awhile, Burt headed back to the bathroom. As before, he knocked and waited for permission before entering. Taking a spare washcloth, he wiped off his son’s cast and fingers and then covered it in plastic wrap. Knowing the next part would be difficult for Kurt in his current state, he took the hand towel hanging from the rack and placed it over his lap. It was only then that he unwrapped the ACE bandage from his thigh and deposited it onto the floor with the one from his elbow and the slings that had been supporting both arms.
After helping his son settle onto the tub chair, Burt helped clean him off with as minimal touching as possible. He was thankful for the new extendable shower head he’d installed that could be pulled out and held where needed. Kurt was covered in puke. Clumps of white beans and cornbread bits clung to his body while the liquids had run down his legs and onto to the floor of the bathroom and tub. Thankfully, Kurt was able to clean his privates on his own. There had been too many bad showers and baths for him here, a place where he was supposed to feel safe, and the last thing he needed tonight was another trauma on top of the ones he was already reliving.
Under the spray of water, Kurt’s fur was matted down and Burt could see how truly thin his son had gotten. It didn’t make sense. He and Carole were trying so hard to feed him right. To make him feel secure and free to have as much as he wanted. Yet tonight had proven that he’d clearly failed again as a parent. Maybe he’d missed something in one of the pamphlets about eating disorders and food insecurities that Miss Pillsbury had given them.
The water had also revealed Kurt’s scars. The one on his shoulder from the surgery needed to repair it he was used to from the daily bandage checks. There were scars on his hands, back, and front, even his tail and feet had a few. The malicious, inhumane branding on his chest and clipped ear, the month-old scars on his face and head - those broke his heart. He knew where the others were too. The ones hidden by the padded seat of the tub chair and by the hand Kurt was using to cover his lap.
Burt didn’t know how he could keep going if all he was doing was making things worse. He loved his son and had made a commitment to always be there for him. He just needed to figure out a way to fix this.
“Dad? I think I’m clean now.”
“Oh.” Burt startled and pulled himself out of his thoughts. He hadn’t realized he was still spraying Kurt’s back. All traces of puke were gone from the kid’s body and the thicker chunks had collected in the screened drain cover. “I promise you, Kurt. I’m going to try and do better for you.”
“Okay. Can I get dried off first and helped to the bed? It smells in here.”
“Sure. I really am sorry.”
Kurt was quiet after that, submitting to the towels being moved across his body and then wrapped around his waist. The shaking that had subsided a bit in the shower had returned. All Burt could do was get it all over with as quickly as possible. To help him into bed, rewrap his injuries, tuck him under the covers, and then help Blaine into the bed too. Blaine was always better than him at calming Kurt down. They were good for each other. At least with Blaine, he didn’t think he was fucking up as badly.
Once the boys were settled and had assured him it was okay to run a quick errand, Burt left for Walmart. Maybe he could pick up another box of protein bars and Pop-Tarts. If Kurt and Blaine decided they didn’t want them, he and Carole could use them in their lunches. After a quick text to see if Carole needed anything, he drove off. The rest of his night was just beginning.
* * * * *
Burt pulled a chair closer to the fold out couch and got Kurt and Blaine’s attention. He’d been working on the list for days at the shop and home, sparing any minute he had. Carole would probably have made it color-coded and brought out a stack of bookmarked cookbooks. But she was working more than he was and this was his problem to deal with because he was the one who had messed up, not her.
“What’s that?” Kurt stared at the yellow legal pad in his dad’s hands, trying to read it upside down.
“It’s me trying to right a wrong I did to you, Kurt. You too, Blaine. I didn’t know you were having a problem with milk until I overheard you boys talking this morning. I’m real sorry about that. I’m sorry about all of it.” Burt took a deep breath. He’d been rehearsing what to say all day. “First, I want to let you know some of this may be triggering, so we’re going to go at your pace. If you want me to stop, I’ll stop. If you just want to look at this on your own, let me know.”
“Is something wrong? Do we have to go to the clinic again? We already saw Miss Pillsbury on Monday. Did she give you homework too or say something to you?”
Burt tried not to sigh as he adjusted his cap. “Just give me a minute, Kurt. I’m tryin’ my best here to say it all right.” He pointed to the pad of paper. “This here is a list of things I know how to cook and things I’m pretty sure I could learn how to cook. I could probably make more from your mom’s cookbooks and that one for mixed race families you got from the hybrid store. I heard that YouTube has some instructional videos. I want you to cross off anything you don’t want to eat. Doesn’t matter the reason. You don’t like it, cross it off. It brings up bad memories, cross it off. Anything you like, put a star by it or circle it. If you sort of like it or don’t like somethin’ but it would be better if there was a change, then write that down under it or on another piece of paper. If you have other ideas, other foods you’d rather have, anything I’m not buying or making you enough of, write those down too. Or we can talk about it together if writing is too hard since you’ve got the broken wrist, Blaine, and Kurt, you’re having to use your non-dominant hand.”
Burt paused to take a breath and watch to see how the boys were reacting. Blaine was all hopeful smiles. Kurt looked worried, but hopeful as well.
“We won’t get in trouble?”
“You plan on using a lot of inappropriate curse words?”
“If I don’t, will we get in trouble?”
“No, Kurt. This is me trying to stop hurting you both by accident. I’m trying to do that open communication thing Miss Pillsbury is always advising. I know it’s hard to talk about, but maybe if I know some of the things that bother you, it’ll keep me from messing up so much.”
“It’s not a long list.”
“I’m a typical guy raised in a home where men weren’t expected to learn how to cook. That aint right, but it is what it is. At least I’m willing to learn.”
“I know how to cook a little. Blaine does too. Maybe once we’re better we could learn together?”
“Nothing wrong with starting before you are if you’re up to it. Lots of folks cook and bake sitting down or without the use of limbs. We can adapt as we go along.”
“I always wanted to learn how to make pate’ and souffle’.”
“We can do that.”
“Could I make white chocolate chip cookies?”
“I heard there’s this new thing New York City bakeries are making called cronuts. They’re a cross between a donut and croissant.”
“If you don’t tell my doctors I had one or two, Blaine, we can definitely do those.”
Burt loved seeing Blaine’s eyes light up and Kurt’s become relaxed. He had never considered the possibility of them wanting to cook, but it would be a great activity they could all do together. Blaine was doing better on his anti-anxiety medication and with therapy, but he’d still need reassurances that he could leave the room if the fire on the gas stove burners got to be too triggering for him. For now, he could see his willingness to try as a step in the right direction.
“Could you bring the list closer, Dad? And the pen?”
“Sure, Son.” Burt watched as Kurt and Blaine read it over. Their faces were a mix of emotions as they crossed off items, circled others, and muttered, “Oh, thank god! I never want to eat that again.”
“Can we have extra meatballs when you make spaghetti or is that too expensive?”
“You can have all the meatballs, Kurt. And before you ask, you know that applies to you too, Blaine.”
“It’s only polite to ask.”
Burt laughed at Kurt’s eye-rolling sigh. He was thankful that this was going far better than he had dared to hope.
Chapter 20: Welcome to the Family, Kurt
A very happy chapter. Contains completely transparent name changes to RL universities. All the other places are real.
(See the end of the chapter for notes.)
Burt had never had a better excuse to ditch out of work early. He’d never had one that made him more nervous either. The package had finally arrived. Everything he and Carole had been working their asses off to afford. Everything Dani and Anne had risked their Canadian permanent resident status to accomplish. Everything all of them had risked being arrested and serving jail time simply for the first step of making contact with those who could get them what they needed.
The week had been a mixed bag since he’d gone over the list of meals with Kurt and Blaine. While Kurt had been receptive to the list, he’d also crumpled up Miss Pillsbury’s pamphlet about putting the fun back in food and continued to put up a fight whenever a can of Boost was brought out. Honestly, he couldn’t blame the kid on that one. It did taste weird.
Burt knew there was more to Kurt’s sullen mood. He’d caught him once, staring at his stuffed rabbit with a deep sadness. “Mom” softly escaping his lips. Maybe celebrating Easter had been a bad idea after-all.
It was the last that had him worried the most. Kurt may be calling him “dad” and Carole “mom” instead of “Carole Mom” more often than not, but after what had happened with Finn and him clearly missing his own mother, maybe he wouldn’t want to be their son in the way they were hoping. Maybe it was just a temporary thing until he and Blaine got better. If Kurt didn’t want to be their son anymore, it would crush him, but he’d respect that. Carole had talked it over with him on more than one occasion, and more than once they had both cried over the possibility that it could happen and the very real dangers that could befall their hybrid sons.
For now, he was going to try and stay positive. It was a happy day.
He and Carole split up the errands. Since she was the expert on all things cheesecake, it was decided that it would be her task. The party store was his. While they didn’t have quite what he needed, they had stuff that was close enough. He was probably the only expectant parent in the world that had ever pieced together a “Welcome to the Family” banner while sitting in their truck. At least he’d had the sense to get the balloons inflated at the store and text Carole that if they didn’t have any Scotch tape in the kitchen junk drawer, one of them would have to pick some up.
Getting into the house through the back door and into the kitchen without causing too much attention was no small feat. There was no way not to make noise. That Kurt and Blaine had clearly been in the kitchen raiding the pantry cabinets including his apparently not-so-secret stash of chips and cookies, was a godsend. Their scramble into the living room and trying to be quiet like nothing was wrong gave him and Carole the time they needed to hang up the decorations, put candles on the cheesecake, and make front and center the box Anne and Dani had sent. Both of them had forgotten to buy wrapping paper and getting some from the basement would have raised too much suspicion from the boys.
When at last everything was ready, he called the boys in. "Kurt, Blaine, can we see you in the kitchen for a minute?"
"Blaine ate your secret stash of cookies, not me!"
"Tattletale! It's not like you didn't help."
"I am not going to get in trouble for that one, Blaine. Those cookies taste weird. If you're going to get in trouble for eating someone else's food, then at least go for the snack cakes Mom keeps in the bottom cabinet behind the stew pot."
"If you're telling on me for those, then I'm going to tell on you for eating up all the pepperoni rolls. You didn't even share!"
Burt shared a guilty shrug and laugh with Carole. It’s not like they didn’t know each other had secret stashes of snacks. The problem now was that they had to find new places to hide them. If the boys ever told Finn, they would never get to have a single snack again. As for the pepperoni rolls, they could have a thousand more if it got them to eat.
Carole called the kids in again before he could. "No one's in trouble and no one's going to be unless you two keep talking. Just come to the kitchen, Kurt. You too, Blaine."
"Is this a trick? I'm not supposed to be walking, remember?"
"And yet clearly you have been."
Burt let out a sigh of exasperation. Of all the times for Kurt to be cautious, this wasn’t it. "For the love of god, Kurt, get your butt in here! Blaine, would you like some help?"
"No, thank you. I can manage."
Wary, but curious, Kurt limped along with Blaine into the kitchen, sticking close to his boyfriend’s side lest he become unbalanced with the crutches. It was only when they crossed the threshold did Kurt take in the decorations.
Burt and Carole were prepared for the moment to capture Kurt’s look of surprise, phones at the ready to record the moment. Burt really hoped they were getting above the waist footage. When he remembered this moment later, he was going to pretend Kurt had been wearing pants.
"What's all this?" Stunned and blinking from the flashes, Kurt helped Blaine into a chair, sharing an equally confused look with him.
"Open the box! Open the box!" Burt wasn’t sure who said it first, him or Carole.
Burt watched as a clearly confused Kurt open the mailing box and pull out the black, yellow, and white University of Waterford booklet and then the one from Yorkshire University. "You want me to go to college in Canada?"
Carole shrugged. They both knew the viewbooks might confuse Kurt, but they had been an ingenious way to smuggle the documents into the country. "Only if you want to. It's how your aunts hid your true present. Look in the box again."
Kurt did as asked, this time removing the stack of papers. He stared dumbfounded at the birth certificate. "This says I was born in Toronto. Was I? I always thought I'd been born in Ohio."
"We don't actually know, Son. Keep going.” Burt knew Kurt was confused, but there was no way but forward.
Kurt did as asked and looked at the next document. "Adoption papers where you became my parents when I was fourteen years old. It says I was orphaned at four."
Burt rubbed his face. He regretted that part. "We're sorry for erasing two years of your life with your mom, Bud, but it was easier this way."
"One more, Kurt. Look at what's left in your hand." This had been the hardest document to get. The one that came with the most risks and had cost a near fortune.
Kurt looked at the navy blue item emblazoned with a coat of arms and the words "CANADA" at the top and "PASSPORT PASSEPORT" below. He opened the booklet and stared at a picture of himself and the name printed beside it. "Kurt Hummel. It says my name is Kurt Hummel."
"We kept your original last name as your middle one. Hope that was okay." Burt adjusted his cap again, not knowing what else to do with his hands. He didn't know who was more nervous, himself or his wife. The decisions and sacrifices they'd had to make to get to this point had been hard. He hoped they'd been worth it.
Burt wanted to hold his wife close, but he wanted to be ready with his phone. Ready for the moment when Kurt would finally realize exactly what he was holding in his hands. He watched with anticipation as Kurt stared at the documents and then back at the two of them. His breathing was quicker and hope was starting to show on his face.
"What does all of this mean?"
Carole rung her hands, just as excited and worried and hopeful as he was. Her answer to Kurt’s question came out in a rush. "It means that through some very expensive forgeries, you are now illegally-legally our adopted son and a citizen of Canada. I wouldn't try voting with it and Dani isn't quite sure about getting you on the national health care if you move up there, but it should get you through customs and pass a simple ID check both here in the U.S. and Canada."
Carole continued her explanation. She and he knew there'd be a lot more explanations to give later. "Because hybrids don't have legal status here, not much of one anyway. And if things keep getting worse, we wanted you protected. Anne and Dani said it was better this way. No one would immediately think to look up Kurt Hummel from Toronto and compare him with a Kurt Elizabeth from Ohio. As far as anyone is concerned, your mom was a Canadian citizen who died when you were young. You were bounced around from relative to relative for years which is why most of your school and medical records are lost. We adopted you at fourteen."
"I'm almost seventeen."
Burt picked up where his wife left off. Kurt looked confused while Blaine, who'd been sitting at the table quietly, was trying unsuccessfully to keep back a hopeful grin. "Yeah, but you look younger. On the paperwork, you're your real age, but if the neighbors get nosy about the kid that's been living here for awhile, we'll play you off as younger and say the adoption was recent. I know it's confusing and probably overly complicated, but your mom and aunts assured me that this was all for the best. Better to have back-up plans and stories in place so no one associates you with that place."
Kurt blanched at the mention of the Reformatory. "What about my ear?"
Carole beamed at her son and waved the matter off. "You know how kids are. They get a hold of scissors, think they can play hair dresser, and the next thing you know, they're in the emergency room with freaked out parents asking if the bit of ear, finger, or tail can be reattached. It happens more often than you think to both humans and hybrids. I'd wear a hat when outside though just to be safe."
Burt couldn’t take it anymore. He needed the comfort of his wife to keep himself centered. It was a good thing she was a nurse because he was damn near close to having another heart attack. He put the arm not holding his phone around her and asked the question they had once before and prayed for the same answer again. "So what do you say, Kiddo, want to be a Hummel?"
Kurt wiped away the tears forming in his eyes. "I'd love to."
Burt snapped a picture, not sure if it came out or not. His own eyes were tearing up. He followed Carole’s move and embraced their son in a hug. He was finally theirs. Finally had a chance at being protected and having a life outside of the hell he’d grown up in.
Burt knew the hug had to end and that there would be many more in their future. “You need cheesecake, Son! Can’t have a proper celebration for you without your favorite dessert, can we?” He dug around the junk drawer for the matches, knowing he’d forgotten to set out something. An adoption day wasn’t a birthday, but in his opinion, it was close enough.
He laughed with everyone else at his fumbling. Then at Kurt questioning if he’d put the entire box onto the poor thing. Lucky for them all, Carole was ready with her phone to record the moment when Kurt blew them out.
The cheesecake was cut and served. Kurt getting the largest slice and beaming and chatting more than he ever had before with each bite. “Blaine, I’m adopted!”
“I can see that.”
“We both have parents again!”
“I don’t think my brother trying to force me to call him ‘dad’ just because he’s my guardian counts as a parent.”
“It’s close enough. And now we won’t have that kind of weird pseudo brother thing if Mom and Dad had adopted you too.”
Burt knew that, despite what Kurt may think, cheesecake couldn’t be their sole dinner. “What do you want to eat for your special day?”
“I am eating it!”
“I meant pizza, Chinese food, burgers, or fried fish?”
“More cheesecake.” Kurt accentuated the statement with another bite. Before the next one, he added a new topic with a loud gasp. “I need to learn more French! If I’m Canadian now, I should be fluent. Bonjour, Papa! Bonjour, Mamma!”
“Bonjour, Kurt. What do you want to eat for dinner?”
“La pizza est bonne.”
“I’m going to take that as you want pizza.”
“Oui! Merci beaucoup! Do we use real maple syrup when we eat pancakes?”
“No, we just have whatever American brand is on sale.” Burt was glad Carole answered that question. He honestly had no clue.
“I think I’m not allowed to be Canadian unless I love maple syrup. Or hockey. Oh god, Blaine, I’m going to have to start liking hockey.”
“I played a little at Dalton. I can teach you.”
“So did I, Son. Only do it if you want to. I don’t think the Mounties are going to revoke your forged passport just because you don’t like hockey.”
“That’s a relief. I still think I need maple syrup though.”
“Next time I’m at the store, I’ll get you some. But first, let me call in the pizza order.”
“Can we get it with extra sausage and cheese?”
“No problem. Anything else?”
“Poutine! Oh, I need to learn how to make poutine. It seems easy. It’s just cheese curds, fries, and gravy.”
“What’s a cheese curd?”
“I’m not really sure. I’ll get back to you on that one, Dad.”
Burt laughed with Carole. Their son was happy and so full of life. Their son was also going to be making himself sick if he followed through on all of his food plans. But that was okay because Kurt wanted them as his parents. He wanted to stay. He wanted to be a Hummel. It was the best day ever and he was the happiest dad in the world.
* * * * *
“Hey, Blaine, did you know that I was born on May 27, 2001 to Elizabeth Connor? It says so right here on my birth certificate. Baby Kurt Elizabeth Connor, weighing in at a healthy 3.9 kilograms. It was a home birth assisted by a midwife as Mom thought children should be brought into this world in the calmest way possible. She wanted to give me a piece of her, so she gave me her name just as her mother had given her her’s and her grandmother did the same to her mother before that. She actually knew who my father was, but as he was a complete le bâtard, she refused to have him entered on my birth certificate. We lived in a tiny apartment near Kensington Market or ‘The Market’ as we native locals call it.”
“I thought you had lived in Cabbagetown.”
“I’ve changed my mind, Blaine. The homes in Cabbagetown are gorgeous, but I liked the idea of living in a National Historic Site more.”
“Okay. Go on.”
“Sadly, Mom died when I was young. The first home I went to was in Moss Park, as was the third. Both were government housing and with people who were disappointed that taking me in didn’t garner them as big of a subsidy check as they had hoped. Not that there’s anything wrong with public housing. Those people were just assholes.”
“I understand. What about your second placement?”
“I wasn’t there for more than a week. Something about my aunt being upset that I wasn’t potty trained yet and having no patience for it. At least, that’s what my cousin, the third family, said.”
Kurt let out a dramatic sigh before he continued. “After that, it was a couple of years in East Danforth. The L’Italiens were nice, but distant. I remember liking my primary school teacher. Monsieur Jean Luc and Madame Francine were old and when their grown kids had kids of their own, they decided that they didn’t need me to fill that childless void any longer, so I was shipped off and it was goodbye Toronto, hello farm in Halton. Then Niagara. Which you think would be gorgeous and amazing living right near the Falls, but the part we lived in was full of crime and drugs and I lost everything in one of the areas’ seasonal floods.”
“I am so sorry, Kurt. That must have been devastating for you.”
“Thank you. It was. But after that happened came the best part.”
“What was that?”
“My Niagara relatives discovered that I had second cousins twice removed living in The States. The Hummels had always wanted more children, but not the mess and non-stop exhaustion of the infant and toddler years. When they heard that Poor Little Kurt was going to be tossed out of yet another home, they snatched me up, thrilled to have a fourteen year old who could take care of himself, but still need someone to love him. So they signed the adoption papers immediately and changed my name. The rest is a very happy story.”
“They sound nice.”
“Oh, they are! They feed me cheesecake and pizza and burgers and fries every single day and never make me drink Boost or do breathing exercises. They love their child too much to torture him like that.”
“Nice try, Kid.” Burt couldn’t help the laugh he let out, breaking the spell of Kurt’s story time. Almost every day it was a new version of the same tale. The relatives, the where, and the details of the homes and neighborhoods he’d lived in depended upon what he’d googled that day about Canada. Kurt would pull out his documents, stare at them with the biggest grin, and tell Blaine, himself, or Carole the story of how he came to be adopted. He’d even heard him telling it to his stuffed rabbit.
The kid had even taken to wearing clothes again, the ones Anne and Dani had given him being his favorites, though he could only wear the pants due to the cast on his hand. Still, pants were better than no pants in his book and they looked just fine with a T-shirt.
It was a really great couple of weeks feeling like their family was as complete as their son’s story said they were. Burt never wanted the time to end. “Tell me more about The Market, Son. Is that where that city market is that’s like the one they have in Philadelphia?”
“Well, according to Toronto’s official website...”
Yes, I know they have cheese curds in Ohio. At least the online ad for a Lima grocery store showed them as available. For the sake of the laugh, I decided to pretend that in this universe, they aren't. I'm around Burt's age and grew up right near Ohio. I had never heard of cheese curds until I was in my 30's and living far away from the area. Those are my excuses for a 2 second joke and I'm going to stick with them. :)
Chapter 21: Sibling Rivalry
Burt wasn’t able to go to Kurt and Blaine’s next clinic appointment, so Carole had been giving him a running account of the day. He was really glad he’d signed up for the unlimited texting and data plan. While he was elbows deep trying to fix the hydraulic lift in Bay 2, his wife was scrub’s deep running between Exam Rooms 2 and 3, trying to handle doctors, a prejudicial orthopedic surgeon, and two teenagers who didn’t want to be there in the first place.
The first teenager had been fine during his cast removal despite the fur under it having grown back a different color and the hybrid surgeon droning on about how races shouldn’t mix because it made injuries like the ones on another patient harder to repair. It was when he was told to expose his bottom in order to get a Vitamin B12 shot that all hell broke loose and there was screaming about how no one was going to shove a needle up his rectum and what was everyone’s fascination with it anyway. Burt didn’t have to guess that the kid hadn’t used the word “rectum” either.
Then there was his other teenager who now had fresh abrasions inside and around his rectum because he hadn’t listened to the doctors the first dozen times and continued to have far too enthusiastic and numerous internally intimate encounters and had refused to wait until the first teenager’s cast came off nor use enough lubricant. Hence, the rectal abrasions.
Burt sighed as he wiped the grime off his hands with a rag. He knew far too much about his kids’ rectums. He owed his wife a dozen more date nights and some flowers for having to deal with it all on her own.
* * * * *
Burt didn’t know how Finn could have this much stuff to take home after his first year of college when all he’d taken with him was a mini fridge, a couple of suitcases, some bedding, and his football gear. At least his buddies had helped the kid load it all into the back of the truck making for less stress on his back given that he and Carole would have to help unload it.
As when Finn had come home on spring break, Burt had a talk with him about Kurt and Blaine’s need for safety, privacy, and patience. How the boys were still recovering in the living room. And equally important, that Kurt was now his brother, more-so than he had been before. As the details were hard enough to explain to Kurt because the stories they had in place depended upon who was asking regarding Kurt’s adoption, he’d simply said, “He’s your official brother now and there’s no turning back.” Finn had taken it in stride, simply replying, “Cool.”
After that Finn had started talking about how he’d talked to his friend Puck, who was also a hybrid and knew Kurt from his Reformatory days, and how he’d been trying to learn more about hybrid rights. Burt wished he could have asked more about this mutual friend while they weren’t around for Kurt to overhear, but they were close to home and the pizza place that had to make a stop at first was just a block away.
When they finally arrived home, Burt couldn’t help but let out a sigh and rub his face. Kurt and Blaine were dressed and sitting on the fold out couch, packed knapsacks and crutches at the ready. He knew the wary look on Kurt’s face and the tension in his body language all too well. He also knew better than to call attention to it, so he greeted his boys as he normally would and shared a secret knowing look with his wife.
Kurt talked little and ate less, saving his food and tucking it into one of the knapsacks when he thought no one was looking. But of course he was looking and his kid being afraid that he was going to be kicked out now that Finn was home killed him. Burt tried to reassure his son through smiles and pats on the shoulder when he passed by the couch and handed him his medications. He didn’t think it was working, but he had to try.
He tried to pay attention to Finn too. The kid was also his son and he’d missed him and felt bad for missing a lot of his games. It didn’t matter that Finn was so junior on the team that he mostly warmed a bench. A good dad would have been there, but a good dad was also protecting his other kids. It was a no win situation all around.
Eventually the evening wore down and everyone went to bed. He could hear Kurt whispering with Blaine late into the night. Neither he nor Carole could make anything out and so he’d given up and gone to sleep. If either door opened, he would hear it, and beg them not to leave. In the meantime, there was nothing else that could be done. He was thoroughly exhausted and had a shop to open in the morning.
* * * * *
“Happy Erection Day.” Burt got the text from Carole when he was at the donut shop getting a dozen for his crew and not just because he needed the stress relief that only a good powdered jelly donut could provide.
Miss Pillsbury, Carole, experience, and logic had warned him that Kurt might start acting out when Finn came home for summer break. He just hadn’t thought it would be in this way. Not again. Not with Blaine joining him in inappropriate ways that made it all worse. And not for so long.
That first day, he had laughed at Carole’s texts and then her in-person retelling of the story of Kurt’s casual strut into the kitchen, nude and stiff as could be, making himself a cup of coffee, leaning against the counter, and eating a banana as slow as possible. With the whole time Finn’s eyes bugging themselves out of his head, unable to turn away from the sight until Kurt had stretched and asked if he could have sausages for breakfast.
That first day was funny. Neither he nor Carole could have anticipated what would come next. For the next three weeks, Kurt refused to wear a single stitch of clothing. He ate naked. He slept naked. He watched TV with the family completely and utterly naked. And when Sam was over in his capacity as a home health aid or to visit Finn as a friend, Kurt played video games naked. Finn calling Carole and him up on the phone horrified because “Kurt’s junk is touching the controller!” had Kurt playing video games even when Sam wasn’t over.
Then there was Blaine. His son who was embarrassed at needing to use the bathroom in the living room and help being bathed, had no problem with joining Kurt in his plot to make Finn’s life a nightmare of impropriety. At night, he was as pantless as Kurt and during the day, it was the full set of adaptive wear. Both choices allowed Kurt easy access to his privates as Blaine took equal advantage of Kurt’s full nudity. They took advantage every morning, every night, and every afternoon they were left alone in the house with Finn. As they only rarely covered up, Finn got a number of “accidental” firsthand shows and he and Carole were having to do a lot more laundry and buying a lot more condoms and lube. It turned out, Sam’s Club did have packs of condoms in bulk.
Kurt and Blaine’s activities got to the point where he’d had to go to the therapist and get more of her pamphlets; the first two in the stack being entitled,Public or Private: Is Exhibitionism Right for You? and Help, I Can't Stop Having Sex in Public Places.
To help deal with it all, Burt gave Finn the pamphlets about living with a nudist in the home and ones Miss Pillsbury had made up just for him. The New Sibling: Mom & Dad Don’t Love You Any Less and Who Is This Stranger in the House? were his personal favorites.
* * * * *
Burt waited until Finn had gone to the movies with friends and Carole was helping Blaine take a shower. They’d planned it this way so he could talk to Kurt in private. With five people in the house it hadn’t been an easy thing to set up.
“Hey, Bud, can I talk to you for a minute?”
Kurt put down his book and immediately tensed. “We’re in trouble aren’t we? Are you abandoning us? I knew this was going to happen! Can Blaine and I at least get a ride to Miss Pillsbury’s? She said there are other families that would take us in if we couldn’t stay here anymore.”
Burt took off his cap and rubbed his face as he sighed. The kid was always jumping to the worst conclusions. “Kurt, you’re not in trouble and we are absolutely not going to abandon you. You’re our son and that’s never going to change.”
“Kids get kicked out all the time. Half the ones I knew at the Reformatory and on the streets had been kicked out. Same thing happened at Dalton and not just to Blaine.”
“Kurt, you’re not going to be one of them. I’m glad that you got a place to go though if you stop feeling safe here. Honestly, I wish you’d talk to us first before it comes to that. And that’s what I’m trying to get to.”
“That it’s clear we’re doing something wrong or there’s a problem you’re not telling us about. If you’d feel better talking about this in a family session with Miss Pillsbury, I can arrange it.”
“Everything is fine.”
Burt pursed his lips and looked his son in the eyes. “I think we both know that’s not true or you wouldn’t have started walking around in the nude again.”
“You said you didn’t have a problem with that. That you understood my need for control. And you can stop with the pamphlets about Blaine and I having sex in public. It wasn’t that fun anyway. Too many flashbacks about being watched.”
“I’m sorry that you were having flashbacks. Can’t say that I’m not glad to hear that you and Blaine are going to cool things off a bit.”
“Is that it? Are we done?”
“No. I’m just tryin’ to understand why you were wearing clothes after your adoption day and then suddenly stopped.”
“I don’t see why I have to when Finn doesn’t wear underwear. Do you know how many times I’ve seen his dick flopping around in his gym shorts? It’s like an albino eel poking its head out of its cave every time he gets excited. What the hell is so thrilling about basketball anyway? I played it a couple of times and it sucked.”
Burt had a feeling it was about Finn. Not that he could blame the kid for being scared after what his oldest son had done to him and Blaine. “I’m sorry you had to see that. Finn has a tendency to go commando instead of doing laundry. And a lot of guys, they’re not aware when things are showing.”
“In my experience, they are.”
“I meant the ones not like those at the Reformatory.” Burt held his tongue and didn’t say that Blaine was one of those clueless guys. For a kid that tried to be modest when he wasn’t taking care of personal stuff, he was blissfully unaware when his nightshirt would ride up or when he’d start poking out of the fly of his adaptive pants.
“Finn uses our bathroom all the time too. He has no aim. It’s gross.”
“I’ll talk to him about it.” Burt needed to get this conversation back on track. Blaine’s shower wasn’t going to last forever. “Would it help you feel safer if I put more food either out here or on the back porch? Your special cereal should be arriving from Millie & Marley’s soon and I made sure Finn knows not to touch it.”
“He eats your secret snacks.”
“Then clearly they’re not so secret and I’ll have to change my hiding place. That’s a problem between me and him, Kurt. You’re my son too and I’m trying to help you with yours.”
“Everything is fine.”
Burt had no choice but to press. The kid was too stubborn for his own good some days. “Kurt.”
“I guess some more food couldn’t hurt. Could we have those tuna salad packets? They last a long time.”
“Sure, Kiddo. Anything else?”
“Is the back porch still set up with the bed?”
“You know it is.” He’d lost count of the times he’d seen Kurt walking in or out of there, going through his things and rearranging them, or sometimes hiding out after a bad day.
“Can Blaine and I really move upstairs when we’re all better?”
“That’s the plan. It’s your room, Kurt. Nothing has changed. Want me to get some of those paint color chips from the hardware store? Maybe you and Blaine can start arguing about colors instead of just those TV shows you watch.”
“We don’t argue. We discuss.”
“Well then would you like to discuss paint colors for your room?”
“You wouldn’t mind?”
“I wouldn’t offer if I did.” Burt watched as Kurt thought it over. His arms were still crossed, but his tail wasn’t tapping as fast as it had been before and his ears weren’t pressed flat against his head.
“Okay. Can we have a lock too?”
“Sure. You want me to pick that up now or after the room is painted?”
“After we choose colors would be best. I wouldn’t want it to clash with the theme.”
“Okay then. Anything else you need me to help you with?”
“No. Blaine’s done. It’s my turn to shower.”
“Do you need help?”
“No more cast, remember? I’ll be fine.”
Kurt held up his blonde-furred hand. Burt was still having trouble getting used to that. It was like one of those science fiction movies or the punk bands one of his ex-girlfriends had been into. “If you’re sure. I’m always going to be here for you, Son. You’re my kid and I’m never going to stop loving you. Finn being home doesn’t change that.”
“Okay. Are we done? Can I go now?’
“Sure, Kiddo.” Burt left Kurt to gather his things and help settle Blaine back onto the bed. He had tried. For now, getting him extra food and distracting him with paint colors seemed to be all he could do. As for himself, there was a beer in the fridge calling his name. He pulled one out for Carole too and then the notepad from a kitchen drawer. With ears like their kids had, he’d have to catch her up the hard way and then throw away the evidence.
Chapter 22: Hope
There will be a new fic to follow this eventually. When I realized I'd already written 3 chapters of the epilogue to Burt's Nest, with the encouragement of a friend, I decided to make it it's own thing. There's the one scene in particular that I've had in my head for over a year and it needs to shared.
Thanks so much for reading and thanks for all your lovely hits, kudos, and comments. They truly make me smile. :)
When Kurt wasn’t pushing his brother’s buttons to the limit, he was the near ideal kid. He accepted his medical treatments and care without much complaint now that the worst was over, most notably the breathing exercises.
Physical therapy appointments were rough, but Kurt powered through them, dressing in as many layers as he could. Though given that his hamstring and ITB needed to be massaged and stretched, multiple pairs of underwear and shorts meant little when there was touching near his private areas. Burt made sure that either he or Carole were always there for those appointments, trying to make their son feel safer. The physical therapist was a hybrid who worked for the clinic and had taken Sam on as his apprentice. Kurt was more at ease when Sam was allowed to do the procedures, but they still affected him. There was less pain and more mobility in the leg, which was progress they all welcomed.
There was progress on Kurt’s other injuries too. His sprained ankle had healed and his elbow and shoulder only needed support on days when the weather was bad or he had strained them too much. The ripped off fur on his leg and hand had grown back as had the shaved patches on his head and face. There was a new bald spot on his forehead which Burt couldn’t figure out how it had come about until Carole had uttered the words, “adaptive pants, Velcro, blowjob.” He went out and got more paint chips and beer after that explanation.
Burt was thrilled that his idea of letting the boys have more of a say in what they ate and all three of them learning to cook more dishes made for better mealtimes and fewer complaints and bad memories. Boost of course was still a problem, but at least Kurt’s colorful comments on the questionnaires gave him and Carole something to laugh at and admire. The kid had turned away from the usual “fucks” and “shits” and started using unique words and phrases in both English and French. Their Google Translate search history was never going to be the same.
Kurt and Blaine had started reading more books on top of their regular fashion magazines. He and Carole had both made trips to the library and ordered books for them online. Kurt was obsessed with learning French, French cuisine, Canadian cuisine, Canadian history, Canadian politics, Canadian LGBTQ history, Canadian hybrid rights, and the history of Canadian hybrid fashion.
It was only by chance that Burt discovered that the non-Canadian books the boys had been obsessed with ever since he’d known them were written by his and Carole’s friend Lauren Zizes. He didn’t know why he’d never made the connection before, but it wasn’t like Lauren had ever told him her nom de plume was Miss Perky. And it wasn’t as if hybrid romance novels were his or his wife’s preferred reading material. It was only after ordering Blaine Come Sail Away in Me and Hard Life on a Heated Plain and hearing Lauren mention the first title as having become her new bestseller during one of their bowling nights, had the truth dawned on him. He let Carole handle Blaine’s literary purchases after that, but did have some parental fun by asking Lauren to autograph the two books when they came in before giving them to his sons.
* * * * *
Burt got another parental laugh when Kurt had eagerly opened up a package he had thought was an order from Millie & Marley’s only to discover that it contained an assortment of massage oils, flavored lubricant, a vibrator, and a vibrating dildo from Santana and Brittany's Sensual Skin Care.
“I swear I didn’t order this, Dad! It’s not mine or Blaine’s! We only bought Rooster O’s and carob chip cookies.”
Burt chuckled as Kurt backed away from the box’s contents spread out on the kitchen table. “I know, Bud. It’s a birthday present for your mom.”
“She said she wanted a new dishwasher.”
“No, she said she wanted something to help her wash her dishes.”
“Wash her dishes...? Oh, gross!”
The look on his son’s face when it sunk in what he meant was priceless. “No more gross than what you and Blaine and Finn and Rachel do. Parents have sex too, Kurt.”
“I did not need to know what my mom is using to have it.”
“Who said this stuff was just for your mom?” Burt knew for sure he was going to hell for that statement and for not remembering in the moment that it could trigger the kid. The increase in his son’s incredulity and embarrassment and his fingers pressed into his ears begging not to hear anymore was worth it though. “Don’t tell her it came in. It’s supposed to be a surprise for our date night this Thursday. You and Blaine going to be okay with us going out?”
“As long as you never speak to me about this again? Yes.”
“Deal. How about I make you some toast?”
“I can make it. You go make that go away.”
“Sure thing, Bud. Why don’t you make some toast for your brother and Blaine too. They’re going to need it as well.”
Burt chuckled as he put the contents back in the box and then walked past his other two sons and their equal looks of mortification. Who knew that his present to Carole would end up serving two purposes. He had never been more grateful for the fancy swag bags they’d gotten at the shindig. The sample body wash, lotions, and oils he and Carole had tried out had been real nice and led them to making a wishlist on the store’s website. He wasn’t too old and set in his ways to not have some fun by exploring new ways to pleasure himself and his wife. It was going to be a very happy birthday for them both.
From the repeated, “Oh, my god,” still coming from his son downstairs, it was probably a good thing the kid had a therapy appointment scheduled for later in the day. Surely Miss Pillsbury had a pamphlet for such situations as finding out that your parents were people too.
* * * * *
A week after his talk with Kurt about how to make things better for him regarding Finn and the kid was still naked except for his mental health and physical therapy sessions. Today, he had a reason to be though. It was a clinic day, and given how the last one went, Burt had made sure to be off of work so he and Carole could both be there. With a lot of luck, this would be the last one for Kurt for awhile, though Blaine would continue to need follow-up appointments.
“How do you want us to handle this, Kurt? Blaine?”
“I’ll take Mom. You let Doctor Jones shove her finger up my ass and touch my dick all because of some stupid egg dye.”
Burt held in that Carole had been with their son for similar and more extensive exams. Before he could reply with something that wouldn’t make Kurt more upset, Blaine piped up.
“Kurt, I’m the one who has to see Doctor Jones today and you know why.”
“”You’re right. I’m sorry.” Kurt cast a despondent look upon his boyfriend and reached out from his wheelchair to hold his hand.
“Blaine, you get a say too. If you don’t want either of us, that’s fine.”
“Kurt can have Carole. I’m fine with you. It’s comforting knowing I’m being looked out for.”
“Anytime, Kid.” Burt patted Blaine’s shoulder and together with Carole wheeled their boys further into the clinic and got them situated in their exam rooms. This time they were side by side, which made things much easier for all of them.
As all the other times, Burt looked away while Blaine was being undressed and helped into his gown by the nurse. Then again while his urine sample was taken. It didn’t matter that he’d seen it all before, he was going to the give the kid at least one less person looking at his private areas.
When Doctor Jones entered the room, pleasantries were exchanged along with Blaine’s personal assessment of how he was feeling, his level of pain, and level of mobility. To keep the amount of time he spent on his back to a minimum, she examined his genitals first, stressing the need for "lubrication before hand stimulation". Burt didn’t know who blushed harder at that new line. When she was done and had swapped out her gloves for a fresh pair, he helped the doctor and nurse ease Blaine onto his front.
The examination of the base and length of Blaine’s tail was one Burt was also familiar with. He knew how much the kid finding out that he wasn’t going to lose the use of it meant to him, and how with each appointment, he feared that some new problem would be found.
“Blaine, I’m going to press around the base and then down the length of your tail. Tell me if it hurts, any sharpness, any tingling, and any time you think I’m pressing, but can’t feel it.”
“It’s going to be alright. Don’t be scared.”
Burt sat quietly as the exchange during the exam took place. The doctor asking about certain presses of her fingers and the stylus she used and Blaine’s replies.
“You’re going to continue feeling a bit of phantom pain at the end for a little while longer. It’ll go away in time as the nerves heal and your brain adjusts. Now I need you to move your whole tail to the left. Now the right. Now up. Now down. Give me just the end. End up. End down. End right. End left. Everything is looking really good, Blaine. I doubt we’re going to find anything problematic on your X-ray and CAT scan, but we’ll do them just to be sure. What would a visit here be without them, right?”
Burt liked the doctor’s bedside manner as did Blaine. She had tried using it with Kurt, but Kurt preferred as little talking as possible. It helped him escape what was happening to him easier.
There was only one area left to examine and the nurse eased Blaine onto his side for it, then pulled his gown away from his buttocks, and moved his tail so that the doctor would have easier access. As the nurse was doing this, Doctor Jones put a second pair of gloves over the first and prepared the metallic device on the small tray, coating it with a generous amount of lubricant.
“Okay, Blaine, it’s time for the anoscope. I’m going to need you to take a deep breath for me and then slowly let it out.”
Burt watched as Blaine squeezed his eyes shut and clenched his fists around the front of his gown as the device was inserted. Being his age and having had a prostate cancer scare the year before, he knew firsthand what the exam felt like and it was the furthest thing from fun that it could be. But Blaine was only seventeen and shouldn’t have had this many. He was too young. And as much as it sucked. As much as he felt bad for the kid, the parent part of him wanted to give both Kurt and Blaine a lecture about how if they’d only listened to Carole and the doctors and eased up the sex, Blaine wouldn’t be in this position now. What the kid needed though was for him to be there as the nice parent and tell him it was going to be okay. So that’s what he did.
It was Doctor Jones that gave Blaine the lecture for him after pulling the scope out and wiping him clean. “Everything is looking good, Blaine. The tearing has healed and I’m not seeing any permanent damage internally or externally. I’d prefer it if I didn’t have to keep needing to do these exams. You should have this memorized by now. Go slow. Stretch well. Use lots of lubricant. Use condoms. Don’t insert anything sharp or abrasive. If it hurts, stop. If there’s any unusual discharge or continued pain stop all sexual activity and come back and see me or Doctor Howell. That goes for Kurt too so he can be checked for infections and a latent STI. And no anal activities until all of your bones and joints have healed. That also goes for both of you.”
“Thank you. We’re going to send you for your scans now. Then Doctor Wyner will do the final evaluation. If everything looks good, you can get your casts off today.”
“That would be nice.”
“I’ll see you when he’s done. Take care, Blaine.”
The doctor left before Blaine could give a well mannered reply. When Burt saw that the nurse had left without pulling the blanket over the kid, he did it himself. Unless he was high as a kite, the boy preferred being covered. It was during this lull they both heard what was going on in the next exam room.
“You must be new here. Unless there are kids around, I don’t do medical gowns and I don’t do blankets. You can take me and my floppy dick and balls down to X-ray and the CAT room just as they are. Or my mom can do it. She’s a nurse practitioner. Nudity doesn’t scare her. I see that you have chosen Nurse Mom. Good call. Blaine’s done with his exam and ready to go. You can take him. He wears clothes. Not that threadbare medical gowns that smell like old dead people really count as clothes.”
“I see Kurt’s his usual self. I’ll bet you those cookies you like that the staff will throw a party if he checks out okay and won’t be coming back for awhile.” Burt liked that his try at levity worked to help Blaine come down from the trauma of the invasive personal exam.
“I heard that!”
“I know you did, Son.”
* * * * *
By the time the scans and Kurt’s exam with the orthopedic specialist were done, Burt was just as tired as his kids and wife, and all he’d done was stand, sit, and walk with them. Presently, he was with Kurt, waiting for Blaine’s time with Doctor Wyner to be over. Carole was with Blaine as she had been with Kurt, assisting as a nurse and making sure that Blaine was properly cared for.
Burt could tell his son was worried. He’d been told all about the hybrid doctor’s prejudicial remarks about how races shouldn’t mix. It was the same crap humans had been saying for centuries. This guy tried to justify his opinions with medical talk that was half truth, half made up pseudo science. “Blaine’s going to be okay, Bud.”
“You don’t know that.”
“No, I don’t, but I was with him when Doctor Jones was checking him out and she didn’t have any concerns.” Kurt remained silent and continued to lay on the exam table looking as dejected as he always did during the times where he would wait for someone to touch his nude body. Burt tried to get his mind off of what medical things might come next for him and Blaine. “Business is picking up at the shop. All those late snows got a lot of people buying all-weather tires. If you want, you can order some new clothes from Millie & Marley’s.”
“Is that your way of saying you want me to start wearing clothes again?”
“No. It’s my way of saying that we have the money now that your documents are all paid for and the shop doing better. With you being all healed up, I thought you might want something nice for yourself. It’s not like I don’t hear you talking to Blaine about how tired you are of flannel. Blaine got some new clothes. It’s about time you did too.”
“I’d like that. Thank you.”
Burt was glad he could do something right for his son. Before he could offer another suggestion, Kurt came up with his own.
“Would it be okay if I started working at the shop again? Doctor Carl said my hip and shoulder were better and I can do light work. I can’t lift tires, but I could still do oil changes and maybe go back to doing upholstery repairs? I feel bad for leaving you with all of that after you bought it for me.”
“I’d really like that, Kurt. And don’t you feel bad. You were going through some rough stuff. I never faulted you for that. You did a real nice job on Tina’s car. I noticed another hybrid family that’s having the same problem with their SUV. Maybe you could take a look at it?”
“Sure, Dad. Speaking of Tina and Millie & Marley’s, could Blaine and I go over there sometime? I looked into their co-op and one of the parents is giving French lessons. There’s only so much I can do on my own and I’d like to be fluent now that I’m Canadian. And Mike said he has inclusive dance classes. Blaine could use his wheelchair and wouldn’t have to worry about his leg at all. He really misses being in show choir.”
“Sure, Kid. Whatever you want.”
“Coffee? Cheesecake? Burgers?”
“When have I ever not given you those?”
Their conversation was interrupted by the entrance of a smiling Doctor Carl holding up Kurt’s Before and After scans. “As I suspected when I examined you, Kurt, you are officially, mostly healed. Like I told you before, I want you to take it easy for the next few months. Remember - slowly, slowly, and you stop when it hurts. Listen to your physical therapist and your mom so you don't have to come back here as often, okay?"
“And no more Boost?”
“That, I’m afraid to tell you, you’re going to have to stick with for a bit longer. I know you hate it, but it is helping you, Kurt.”
Burt was glad that the retort he knew his son was working up was interrupted by the exam room curtain being pulled back again. This time it was to reveal Blaine leaning on his crutches, completely cast and sling free. His hand as oddly colored as Kurt’s and matching his leg. Kurt’s beaming smile matched Blaine’s grin as he rushed to him. The happy reunion was filled with hugs and kisses and then more kisses. When things started to get too happy, Burt pulled Kurt’s pants out of his patient bag, noting that Carole was doing the same for Blaine. They laughed as they startled their boys, handing them their clothes and suggesting that they could do more celebrating at home, in private, in the upstairs bedroom they were now free to use.
* * * * *
Two hours later, Burt witnessed something he’d come to feel he’d never see again. Kurt emerged from the bathroom, freshly showered and groomed, smiling at him, Carole, Blaine, and even Finn in turn, and wearing a complete set of clothes. The gray and red Canada T-shirt Anne and Dani had sent him as an early birthday & adoption day present was his favorite part about the ensemble. What he loved the most though was the words Kurt spoke. It was then he truly knew everything was going to be okay.
“I’m finally home.”
Chapter 23: fan art
Links to fanart for Burt's Nest and Empty Nest by me on my tumblr.
I still don't have an offline hosting site for pictures. I do however, have my fanart posted on my tumblr and figured out how to insert links :D All fanart is by me.
Fan art for Burt's Nest
Fan art for Empty Nest