Author's Notes: Written for this prompt on the glee_angst_meme:
"Burt does a lot for his son, but he's still a guys guy. If Finn or Puck took someone they loved and cared for to see Riverdance or bought them a Sound of Music bonnet or sensible heels or had a tea party, I reckon they'd try to do something over-compentatingly manly afterwards, and I reckon Burt would, too.
So Burt does everything he can to make his son happy, and if he overcompensates by eating a little too much and a little too badly then, hey, he's a typical mid-western man, who's gonna call him on it? Except then he has a heart attack, and his son is forcing all this really girly vegan shit on him, and Burt suddenly can't control the one thing that still makes him feel like a manly man anymore. Do whatever you want with the ending. If Burt begins to unconsciously overcompensate by taking it out on Kurt then I wouldn't mind, because angst.
And yes, this is an eating disorder prompt, except this time it's Burt and it's closer to compulsive overeating than anything else. Because it gives him a feeling of control where most other things completely aren't in his control. I just thought it was interesting that even after the heart attack (Duets) when he must have realised how hurt Kurt was, he was still fighting to keep his eating routine."
Salt Over Your Shoulder
It's not a big deal.
He feels kind of like a dick when he does this; needing to get a whole bunch of junk in his system after one of his attempts to be a good dad. Kurt wrinkles his nose at the greasy, fattening foods spread out over the table, but he doesn't seem to be playing connect-the-dots yet.
"I think I've gained two stone just from being in this room," Kurt whines. Burt rolls his eyes.
"You can afford it, kid. Do you even notice how skinny you are?"
"I must have good genetics," says Kurt. "If you want to get the credit you deserve for that, I'd slow down."
"Don't pressure me," Burt grumbles. He bites into a burger. "I mean, we only went out because of your... whatever it was."
"And you fell asleep," Kurt teases him, yet he looks a little uncomfortable.
"Yeah. Anyway, now I'm hungry," says Burt. "Give me some peace, kid."
"Fine," grumbles Kurt. "I place responsibility for your health solely in your hands."
Burt just reaches for the fries.
"Dude? You alive?"
Burt groggily looks up. "Finn? Why are you here?"
Finn seems confused. "Um, I've been here for hours. We all went to the thing for Kurt's birthday? The thing with like, the flowers and New York and the guy who painted himself red? That thing? Then we all went back to your house... none of this sound familiar?"
Oh, yeah. Burt suddenly starts remembering – Kurt's birthday; they all got dragged out to see some amateur unofficial musical. Burt can't remember the name of it now; it bored him shitless, but everyone else seemed to enjoy themselves – including Finn – so he didn't make big deal out of it. It was Kurt's birthday, for heaven's sakes.
"Oh. Yeah. Sorry," he says, shaking his head. He struggles to sit up properly. "I'm just..."
He collapses against the couch again.
Finn looks confused, under he pays a little more attention and notices the spread of food over the table. He smirks. "Food coma, huh?"
Finn sits down next to him. "It's cool. I have totally been there. Just a warning though – Kurt'll kill you."
"I've left it up to your mother to distract him."
"I... really don't think she'd do that."
"Well, I didn't actually tell her. So I've also kind of left it up to blind luck."
"She's awesome enough to be that," Finn says, shrugging. "Do you really need this much food?"
Burt shrugs back. "I dunno. This is kind of what I do. I mean, I love Kurt and I'll do whatever he wants, but his stuff makes me hungry for some reason – hey, this food stuff is something I'm into. Being fair to myself and all that. It's not a big deal."
Okay, yeah, he sounds a bit to defensive and Finn gets a weird look on his face. But the kid ignores it after a second. "Okay. Cool."
There's an awkward pause for a moment.
"So, can I steal your food?"
Kurt brings him some sort of breakfast – it doesn't sound appealing, and really Burt doesn't understand what it us. But Kurt's trying, so Burt accepts it without whining too much – he just says something about salt.
Then Kurt says he won't go to Friday dinner. They fight. Something about the damn Sound of Music.
Burt loves his kid. Really. And he's never going to tell Kurt he shouldn't do what he likes, be interested in what he likes – even if Burt doesn't get it, he's a good dad, and he wants Kurt to be happy. It's just that... he's choosing it over them. He thinks a goddamn singalong is more important than his family. What the hell? Burt tries so much to make his son happy, and it seems like Kurt ought to at least try to return the favor.
Yeah, Burt knows he's a teenager, but still – it's so damn selfish.
"Dad, eat that."
"I thought the eating was what got me into this situation in the first place?"
It takes a moment before Kurt can affect his usual eye-roll; Burt can see the worry in his face. Fuck. "No-one benefits if you die of malnutrition, Dad. Eat already."
Burt grumbles and reluctantly takes a spoonful of the... whatever it is. Some sort of chicken product, he thinks.
"It's... really bland," he says. "You didn't manage to smuggle some salt in here, did you kid?"
"Don'youeventhinkaboutit," says Kurt faster than can be physically possible. "This is specifically the hospital's low cholesterol diet. I have nagged you for years about this; if you return to your usual eating habits, you will not survive. Both due to the forces of nature and myself."
"So basically, 'die and I'll kill you'?" Burt smiles, but inside some part of him is... angry. It's just food. Is it really such a big deal. He sighs and takes another mouthful.
"Be grateful you scare me, kid," says Burt, "because I would not eat this stuff otherwise. It's disgusting."
Kurt sets out plans for the meals of the day in the morning. He goes into explicit detail about lunch particularly, 'cause the kid does have school in the like.
Burt accidentally-on-purpose burns what Kurt's set out for him, thinks to hell with it and heads out for a burger. Even if Lima's small, the kid at the counter doesn't recognize him.
He doesn't tell Kurt when he gets home. Because it's Kurt; he'd overreact, and he really doesn't want to cause his son much more stress.
"Dude, what are you eating?"
Shit! Burt looks over his shoulder and sees Finn gaping.
"Uh, hey. What are you doing here?"
Finn shrugs. "Mom wanted to surprise you. She's upstairs. She dragged me along to distract Kurt, and I'm so not thinking about that."
Despite himself, Burt smiles.
"Anyway, you didn't answer the question."
Burt hesitates. "It's just food, Finn," he says uncomfortably. "Hardly a crime. Why are you interrogating me about it?"
Finn looks at the food spread around, and looks anxious. "Um. Fries, burgers, candy, ice-cream... No offense dude; I don't want to like, imply you're fat and make you go all self-esteem issues on me, but – weren't you told not to eat this sort of stuff? You had a heart attack."
Burt avoids his eyes. "It's not a big deal," he says. "I mean, it's just food. Doctors say I shouldn't, but what do they know, right?"
He chuckles slightly, but Finn still looks freaked out. "I dunno man," he says. "Even just in case, I mean, this can't be a good idea. We kind of like our Burts, uh, alive."
Burt rolls his eyes. "It's fine. I'm not a dumb kid; I'll make the decisions about what I eat, thanks."
Finn flinches and Burt wonders if he meant to imply what he just did. Shit. Hopefully Finn won't notice, even though from the look on his face, he probably just did – still, he wasn't Mr. Happy Fun Time just before.
"Just... don't want you to make things worse again, you know? You're kind of scaring me."
That annoys Burt. Can't the kid just back off? "Okay, call me when this is magically any of your business. You're not me, and you're not my son – how does this even affect you?"
Finn's flinch is very obviously from what he just said that time. Burt didn't mean all that – no, Finn's not his son, but he still cares about the kid. He still knows the kid cares about him. It's just...
"Look, Finn, I didn't–"
"I was just trying to help," Finn says. "Plus, your actual son – Kurt? – he's gonna be major league pissed about this, no lie."
"Oh to hell with Kurt!"
"This isn't about him, okay?" Burt says. "Fuck. Do you have any idea how much I do for that kid? I mean, I know I have next to nothing in common with him. And it's hard. I do my best to encourage everything he likes, even if I don't get it – and yeah, sometimes it makes me feel like a girl. Sometimes that annoys me. So what? And maybe, just maybe, I wanna hold onto one routine I haven't always had to change to support him. Is that so bad?"
Finn still looks at him uncomfortably, and starts to inch his way forward. "Burt, dude," he gently lays a hand on Burt's shoulder, "Are you okay? 'Cause that sort of stuff... eating to deal with some other part of your life... y'know, that sounds kind of unhealthy even minus the heart attack stuff."
"I'm fine," says Burt. He shakes his head – he really is. He doesn't know what Finn's talking about. "It's not a problem. And you need to back off."
Finn stares. "Fine," he says. "Can I at least steal some of the food, so you don't use it all to kill yourself?"
Burt glares at him. "No."
The next afternoon, Kurt bursts through the door when he gets back from school, and charges to the kitchen. He starts grabbing the salt, sugar, otherwise unhealthy foodstuffs he didn't actually get rid of when Burt was forbidden from eating them anymore – and chucking them vaguely in the direction of the trash, which isn't even open so Kurt's kind of making a mess.
"Whoa, whoa, whoa!" Burt drags himself up and to the direction of the kitchen as quick as he can, and he stops Kurt with a hand on his shoulder. "Kurt, what the hell are you doing?"
Kurt pulls away. "Saving your life, since you're obviously too stupid to do it yourself." He goes back to grabbing the least healthy products he can find, and desperately trying to discard them.
"I talked to Finn today, Dad!" yells Kurt. "He's actually really worried about you. What with your purposely eating everything the doctors told you that you shouldn't if you wish to continue, uh, living."
Shit. Burt should have known Finn wouldn't keep his mouth shut. "Kurt, it's not like–"
"What, isn't it true?" Kurt asks. He folds his arms in front of his chest, and Burt hesitates.
"It's just food, Kurt," Burt says. "Try to stay calm, okay? It's not like–"
"It's not like what, Dad?" asks Kurt. "That you're stupidly and stubbornly risking your own life for absolutely no reason at all? Oh wait, that's exactly what it's like."
"Way not to overreact, kid," says Burt. "Okay, this isn't about you. It's my choice, my life, all that jazz – don't you tell me–"
"How in the world isn't this about me?" shrieks Kurt. "Do you have any idea how scared I was when you were lying unconscious in that hospital? You're my dad. All I had left. What would I do without you? And now, you want to put me through all that again because... why? You can't be bothered changing your eating habits? How could you be so selfish?"
"I'm selfish?" Burt can't believe this. "Do you have any idea what I do for you, kid? How hard I try? I do my best to make sure you never feel like a freak, and a lot of people in this world would call you that. I don't try to change you. I sit through your musical showbiz crap, and yeah, that's a bit not so on the fun side for me – I do my best to make you feel good about who you are, but maybe it freaks me out when I feel like I have to be that person too. And so what if I overcompensate a bit with the food? Don't you dare tell me I'm not thinking about you."
When Burt's finished his rant, he finally looks back at Kurt. The kid looks devastated. Shit, he thinks. "Fine," says Kurt. "Since obviously my entire identity is so offensive to your red-blooded straight man sensibilities that you have to risk your physical health to even cope, I'll just leave. Don't want to do any more damage, after all."
Kurt turns on his heel and Burt grabs him by the shoulder. "Kurt!" he makes the kid turn back around. "Come on. You know that wasn't what I meant. I just..."
Any sort of explanation gets lost in the void between them, and Kurt just stares. "...what, dad?" he asks. He sounds like he might cry. "Are you going to take all that back? Say if I was normal, you'd still be doing this?"
Burt hesitates. Kurt scoffs.
"My point exactly."
He breaks away and makes for the door. "I'll be staying with Mercedes," he says. "I'll drive; you don't have to worry about me. Unless you've taken the car away for punishment of those tiaras again."
"Kurt–" but then Kurt's out the door, and Burt's lost.
Fuck. Burt slowly shrinks out of the kitchen, and back to the lounge room. He didn't mean to scare Kurt off. He didn't mean to say all that. Of course not – Kurt's his son; Burt loves him more than anything in this world. Okay, maybe he's not perfect with some aspects of Kurt's life all the time, but he wouldn't...
Burt collapses onto the couch, and buries his head in his hands. Was he being selfish? Really? Was just not eating right so big of a deal Kurt'd treat it like a goddamned suicide attempt.
Burt groans. Well, duh, he tells himself. You're a fucking idiot. Kurt needed you, and you let him down.
Now he just really, really doesn't know what to do.
He sighs and reaches for the phone near the coffee table. To order a pizza.