Author's Notes: Written for the glee_angst_meme; the prompt: "Burt never liked Mr Shuester. The man seemed incapable of giving his son a fair chance to sing. He liked him even less after he noticed the man's habit of touching his stepson."
Burt doesn't like Will Schuester. He admits it. He never has. Man teaches a club that's meant to be all about acceptance and tolerance and celebrating your differences, but he can't even think of getting anyone other than the resident diva to belt out the solo of the year? And of course, it's the poor gay kid who suffers this. Schuester had to be threatened legally before he'd even let Kurt try, then went around acting like he was some kind of martyr for it. Why is Burt meant to like him again?
Well, okay. If it wasn't for being Kurt's dad, Burt might still have that lingering bit of heteronormativity or whatever that wouldn't let him imagine Kurt belting that one out either (Kurt sung it for him privately after, when they were changing that car). But that doesn't mean it's okay for Kurt's teacher.
Still, it's not like Kurt hates the guy or anything. He might complain about a lack of solos, and call Mr. Schue uptight, and go on about the guy's taste in sweatervests, but Kurt seems to think of his Glee club coach as a well-intentioned teacher doing his best. He seems cool with the solo thing. It was practically a year ago, after all – Burt should probably let it go.
So he definitely doesn't make a damn thing out of when he and Carole rock up with the other parents to see the club's pre-sectionals preview night, or whatever it is. Finn has said they won't sing what they do tonight at the actual Sectionals, and that kind of defeats the purpose of a preview, so Burt really doesn't have a clue what they're going to. It's a pity Kurt couldn't come along, but apparently it would have taken a lot of work to get him out of the boarding house for the night and everyone was worried about spying. So Burt let it slide.
Right now, Finn's taking the lead in the performance with that girlfriend of his – the tiny diva. Burt kind of thinks he hasn't seen another kid get the spotlight all night, but he's not sure if he's remembering that right. Plus, Carole looks so damn happy, it's not like he's going to whine about his kid getting too much attention here. Plus, he's pretty sure he's just misremembering things 'cause he already doesn't like Schuester – didn't Kurt friend, the black girl, get a pretty big part? Plus that kid in the wheelchair? Yeah, Burt remembers that.
The performance finishes, and Burt claps with everyone else. Schuester announces to the crowd that it's the end of the evening, and the whole crowd starts to dispurse. Carole threads her arms through Burt's as Finn approaches them, grin wide of his face.
"Hey guys! How did I do?" he asks.
"Oh honey!" Carole immediately drags him into a hug, "You did amazing. I'm proud of you."
"Cool," Finn says as he draws back. "So, you reckon we're ready for Sectionals?"
"Damn straight," says Burt, clapping Finn on the shoulder briefly. "Also, Kurt would have been proud of that Fabio-thing you were wearing during your first solo. Actually, he will be when I get to show him the photo I got."
Finn looks embarrassed. "Could you not? 'Cause, y'know, I was sort of planning to pretend that shirt never happened."
"Not so fast, bucko," says Burt.
Suddenly there's someone out of nowhere. There's a new hand on Finn's shoulder. It's Schuester.
"Hey," the man says, smiling briefly at Burt and Carole before turning back to Finn. "I just wanted to say, Finn... you did amazing tonight. You should be proud."
Finn beams. "Thanks, Mr. Schue."
"We were just telling him that, actually. Well, actually, Burt was more mortifying him with the thought of showing off your costuming choices to Kurt, but close enough."
Schuester laughs, and Finn gets that expression on his face Burt knows means he's making note of a word to look up in the dictionary later. Burt can't help but feel sorry for the kid. "Well, the performing arts are a risky business. Sacrifices have to be made. Including dignity."
"Thanks a lot, Mr. Schue," says Finn. It's about this point Burt realizes Schuester's hand hasn't left Finn's arm for this whole conversation. It puts a kind of bitter taste in his mouth.
"You're welcome," Schuester says cheerfully.
"It's a pity Kurt couldn't come to mock your romance hero shirt in person," says Carole. "I think he would have enjoyed it."
Finn nods along, and Schue smiles. "It's alright. We all understand how complicated Kurt's situation is right now."
His hand taps up and down on Finn's shoulder.
Burt kind of sends Carole a look, like aren't you seeing this, but she's clearly not. She just nods along as Schuester keeps... touching her son.
Burt tries to send Finn a look too, but the kid doesn't even notice.
"Anyway," says Schuester, "I'll let you guys go now. Good job, Finn."
With a final clap on the shoulder, the man is gone. Burt blinks at what just happened, but Finn and Carole seem obviously unaffected.
"So," says Carole, drawing Burt's attention back into focus, "We should be heading home about now?"
Finn nods along. "Yeah, I just need to – go say bye to Rachel."
Carole's mouth quirks to the side, but she nods and gives her consent. Finn scampers off to cling to his girlfriend, like teenagers do. Burt smiles a bit at the happy couple.
He sees Schuester from across the room. The man's eyes are only on Finn and his girlfriend for a split-second, and he doesn't look mad or anything, but it makes Burt pretty damn uncomfortable anyway.
Burt thinks while driving home, as Carole sits across from him in the passenger seat and Finn whines about being the black sheep of the family, banished to the back. It's not like he's suspicious of Schuester, exactly. He might not like the guy, but he can't just say he thinks there's something wrong.
Still, thinking about all that... kind of makes him squirm. To see Schuester, his step-son's teacher, just stroking him like that. And not even trying to hide it – acting like touching him was totally normal and nothing to be ashamed of.
Is it? Burt knows there are meant to be rules about keeping hands off students at all times, but he thinks those get fudged a lot. He doesn't mind. He can get it – a friendly hand on the shoulder, a hug when a kid needs it, help when a student's learning to dance or something (and it's Finn, so he probably needs a lot of help).
And Burt guesses the touch he saw could have been just that, the first option – hand on the shoulder. Burt did just that himself. Except Schuester's touch didn't really seem to end – he just kept his hand there, talking to Carole while touching her son like it was totally normal.
Maybe it's not his place to worry – they're family now, but really it's only been a couple of weeks. Finn and Carole would probably be the ones to complain if there was something wrong. If Finn asks for help, Burt'll help him, but...
...Look, Finn's a good kid, but he's not that bright. He's trusting. Naive. Burt could see him not realizing a man having less than great intentions towards him until he's been manipulated into some kind of corner he can't get out of. Burt tightens his grip on the wheel slightly when he imagines something like that happening to Finn – Finn is his kid, dammit, and no-one touches him like that.
"Honey?" asks Carole, snapping him out of it. "You alright? I know you're driving, but you're not talking."
Burt shakes his head. "It's fine," he says. "Just thinking some, that's all."
"Okay," comes Finn's voice from the back, "Just like, don't die or anything, because that would suck."
Burt nods along with it. "'Don't die.' Good plan."
Eventually, Burt decides to put the whole thing out of his mind. It might not be the most responsible thing he's ever done, but Finn seems just fine for now and there ain't a whole lot Burt can do about anything. If Finn comes to him, he'll be there for a second, but for now he doesn't think kicking up a fuss would do much good. Plus, he doesn't even have a reason to see Schuester for awhile, so there's that.
Ohio goes weird that winter. It keeps doing this thing when it breaks in and out of being an actual sane weather pattern for winter – y'know, cold. The annoying thing is when it starts out warmish and then starts like, snowing half-way through the day. Okay, Burt's major problem with that is that Finn never ever thinks that it might get cold later, so he walks and when it does get cold Burt has to go pick him up. Dammit, it's been years since he's had to do that.
Anyway, that happens yet another time. Burt sighs, pulls on his coat and puts it in mind to have a talk about learning his lessons – and you know, not walking in winter. It's pretty dark out – December, later at night thanks to Glee. He feels a kind of ache when he thinks about Kurt not being there, but he puts it out of his head.
When he gets there, he feels another kind of ache.
"Okay now legs out, right, left–" Schuester is pressed up against Finn's back, indicating direction by tapping his waist. "Swing the left arm back, I'll dodge so you don't hit me in the face, now right hip out–"
He grabs said hip to get Finn to follow the instruction. Finn does so, awkwardly. "Okay now step, step, turn – back this way now..."
Finn's in Schuester's personal space. "Left, left, right, arm, leg, turn – forward, forward, back, done!"
Finn finishes the dance with some kind of hand gesture, and Schuester grins at him. "Alright Finn!" He does some kind of slapping down on Finn's shoulders with both hands, which looks like it might turn into a hug. It doesn't, but the hands stay there, shifting. "Think you got it?"
"Yeah," Finn shrugs. "Thanks for helping me out, Mr. Schue."
"No problem. I understand your concentration has been... off, thanks to the Rachel thing. It's okay if you need some help. Plus, you're sort of stuck here while waiting for your stepfather to show up, so we might as well instead of just stand here awkwardly."
The silence that follows is... awkwardly not awkward. Well, it seems just fine for Finn and his teacher, which makes it awkward for Burt. It's then he remembers that whole stepfather guy is him, and he should really walk in if he's meant to get Finn home and guilt-trip the guy about getting him out here in the first place.
"Hey," he says as he walks through the door, and then Schuester snatches his arms off Finn, like he's been caught out doing something shifty. Burt's not sure if that makes him more or less uncomfortable than his attitude at the sort-of preview. "You've really gotta stop doing this walking to school when it's warm and having me pick you up when it's like, snowing."
"Hey, it's not my fault god is a bitch!" Finn defends himself. "Unless, like, he thinks that whole grilled cheesus thing was me making fun of him and is pissed. In which case – no, dude, I'm just really that dumb. Anyway, don't you care about the environment? There are like, pandas and stuff."
"I'm a mechanic; I try caring about the environment and my head explodes," Burt says. Schuester just looks at their conversation with a smarmy smile.
"Well, alright then; Finn, I'll see you tomorrow." He puts a hand on Finn's shoulder again, smiling up at him. "Think you've got the routine?"
"Yeah. Well, uh, I just kind of... said that."
"Of course." Schuester squeezes, holding Finn's shoulder for a second that cannot be anywhere near as long as it feels to Burt. "See you tomorrow."
He walks off to his office as Finn comes to Burt's side. "Hey," he says. "Thanks for picking me up."
Burt just nods. He looks out the window; he realizes the snow is actually pretty damn tiny. Easily the kind of thing little kids love going out in. He's not sure if Finn really needed Burt to pick him up after all.
He looks briefly over his shoulder back at Schuester's office. That door looks pretty thick. Like it'd be hard to hear anything that happened in there.
He catches Finn standing around in Kurt's room, for some reason. He looks like he's forgotten what he's doing. Burt blinks at him.
"Ah!" Finn jumps, before turning around. "Oh, uh, hi Burt," he gives a calming grin. "I was just, uh – I've got this weird dry skin patch thing on my arm, and I thought if I stole a bit of one of the fancy creams Kurt left here it'd help, and he has like a million and those are just the ones he didn't take to Dalton; he's hardly going to notice, right?"
Burt shrugs. Okay, honestly, he kind of does that all the time when he gets calluses and such from the garage – crazy defensive as Kurt can be about his products, he can't remember the exact amount he has of all of them. "Sorry I scared you. Yeah, it'll be fine."
Finn nods and twists open a jar of whatever Kurt had on his desk-thing with a mirror (what did he call it again?). Burt just sort of stays there, watching him.
"So," he asks, "how are things going for your, ah, Regionals thing?"
"Glee?" Finn asks. "Pretty cool. We just finished Sectionals, so everything 'bout that's pretty hazy. Honestly, we usually kind of pull things together at the last moment, so..."
Burt nods along. "And, uh... that dance thing I saw?"
"You saw that?" Finn asks. "Oh, uh, just a thing we were working on in rehearsal. We're not sure if it's gonna be anything or not. Mr. Schue ran me through it a few more times while we were waiting, since it wasn't like we had anything better to do. Plus, I always need the most help anyway."
Burt frowns. "He said that?"
"No, he wouldn't, but I kind of do."
That doesn't make Burt feel much better, and he takes a step towards Finn. "He seemed pretty direct 'bout teaching you."
Finn shrugs. "Uh. Yeah, I guess. I mean... it's dancing; I guess you gotta be? Still, Schue's always been a pretty touchy guy. It's kinda nice, actually. Like... like we matter to him."
Burt does his best not to gulp too loudly. Say something, he tells himself. All that comes out is "Uh-huh."
Finn looks thoughtful. "I mean, I guess I've been kind of overfocused on learning everything we do recently, and Mr. Schue is just like, going with it. Though that's mostly as an excuse to avoid Rachel. Which is more me being cowardly than anything, so I really should be happy people like, enable me to do that."
Burt bites his lip. Everything about that makes him uncomfortable – he just can't help but see it as Schuester grooming his stepson, like a freaking poodle or something. "You're a good kid, Finn," he blurts out.
Finn looks confused. "Um, thanks?" he says. "Where did that come from?"
Burt shrugs. "I dunno. I just sometimes think... you get a bit caught up in the small ways you screw up, and forget that altogether you're a pretty decent guy. Well, you are. And, y'know... You have the right to be helped."
Finn seems a little uncomfortable, but eventually smiles. "Thanks," he says. "I guess I can keep ignoring my ex and getting my teacher to help me do that, then?"
Say something. He hasn't noticed anything could be up. But Burt still can't put it into words, and some part of him says what he thinks doesn't matter; it's meant to be up to Finn. "Alright," he says. "Anyway, your mom'll be back with dinner soon, so... make sure you wash your hands and don't get that moisturizer crap into the food, 'cause that can't taste good."
Finn smiles and nods, and Burt walks back upstairs with a small sigh.
He has to pick Finn up on the last day before winter break. There's a whole bunch of stuff – for football, for instance – Finn needs to get home, and won't actually fit in his car (Finn's car is pretty damn tiny, actually). He and Finn actually manage to arrange this beforehand, so he just has to drop Finn off in the morning and they won't have to bother with getting Finn's car home.
Anyway, when he shows up that afternoon he knows to find Finn in the locker room. As he approaches the door, he hears voices.
"It's stuck in there. It's like, some kind of conspiracy man!" Finn whines, leading to a chuckle from the other voice.
"You're just getting impatient. Here, I'll do it."
As Burt swings the door open, Finn is pressed against his own locker door, hands up while Schuester leans forward, pulling something out. There's just about no personal space there. Schuester tugs out a box with long bits of something attached (streamers, maybe?) and turns to Finn, looking up at him (still no damn personal space). "There." Finn holds the box, and Schuester holds his gaze.
Finn's eyes meet Burt's over Schuester shoulder. "Hey, Burt!"
Schuester turns around quickly, sending Burt a plastic grin. "Hey," he says. "I was just helping Finn clear out all his football stuff."
Finn nods, slowly stepping out from behind Schuester.
"Alright," says Burt. "Since he had to call me to fit all this stuff home, apparently, it's not so surprising he'd need some help."
"Yeah. Anyway, this goes with the rest of the pointless box things." Finn walks his box over to a pile of junk in the corner. Burt's eyes go wide when he sees it.
Schuester and Finn share a look, and smile. "Yeah," says Finn. "Don't say I didn't warn you."
"Why do you have all this crap?"
Finn shrugs. "No idea."
"So you have an excuse to be dependent and annoy him?" offers Schuester.
"Nice one, Mr. Schue."
Burt sighs and steps forward. "Yeah, yeah. Just be grateful I'm here. Now c'mon, let's get all this to the car."
Finn nods, and Burt's about to do just that when Schuester grabs Finn by the shoulder. Again. It makes Burt freeze.
"You want me to help you with all this?" he asks. "Or are you two fine on your own?"
Finn shrugs and smiles, obviously not wondering why Schuester feels the need to grab him for this conversation at all. "Thanks, Mr. Schue," he says. "I mean, you don't have to, because you have like work and stuff, but... there's a lot; it's help."
Schuester nods, and finally lets go before grabbing something out of the pile. "Okay, let's go. Just tell me which one's your car."
After the stuff everything into the backseat and the boot of the car (Burt would swear Finn does/has half this crap just to drag him out here), they drive home. Burt doesn't want to get all caught up in his own thoughts, but they don't talk so he kind of can't avoid it.
Then Finn's voice comes right out of nowhere. "Are you mad at me?"
Burt jumps a little in his seat, but manages to keep control. "Huh? No. Why would you ask that?"
Out of the corner of his eye, he sees Finn shrugs. "Well, you're not talking, which usually means your mad about something. And since I'm the one here, I'm the one you're not talking to, so I just kind of thought that might mean I was the one you were mad at... are you?"
"No. I just said that, Finn."
"Then... who are you mad at?"
Will Schuester. "No-one. Sorry, I was just thinking."
"Finn, I'm trying to concentrate on the road."
Finn decides to let that one slide, probably because he doesn't want to die. "Uh... Just so you know, I didn't actually collect too much stuff for my car just to force you out here. That would be douchey."
"I know, Finn," says Burt, but something about that makes him pause – he doesn't understand why Finn has or needs all this junk. He's not even sure it couldn't have been forced into Finn's car.
When he got in there, Schuester had Finn more or less cornered in the guys' locker room. If Finn knew about that ahead of time, somehow, Burt can't help but wonder if Finn was trying to get someone who'd fish him out of a situation he didn't feel comfortable in.
Which, okay, wouldn't so much mesh with Finn's complete inability to notice anything's up so far, but Burt guesses everyone has limits of how much they can ignore.
Finn nods. "Okay, seriously, you're not telling me something. What's up? We're like, family now. You have to tell me this shit."
Burt sighs, and decides he really ought to tell the truth. He's been trying to convince himself to talk to Finn about this for weeks. "I'm worried about that teacher of yours. Schuester."
Finn frowns. "You've met him like, five times max. What about him?"
Burt sighs. "Finn, I don't like the way he touches you."
There's a pause. "...What do you mean?"
Burt wants to look Finn in the eye, but he doesn't want to veer off-road and kill them both. "Finn. You're not that naive. You know the sort of thing I mean. Look, every time I see that guy, he's all over you – grabbing you by the arms, holding your shoulders, getting in your personal space, pressing himself up behind you–"
"We were dancing!" Finn says, flailing. "Dude, Mr. Schue is like, the best teacher I have. He's not some kind pedo!"
"He had you pinned against your locker when I walked in today, Finn," Burt says. Finn looks like he's about to argue, but Burt keeps talking. "Look, I know from your point of view, you're not going to see anything wrong. You trust him. But you're just a kid, Finn, and from what I see there is no way him touching you like that ain't creepy. I'm scared, Finn. Aren't teachers not meant to touch you kids at all now?"
"He was just helping me get that thing out of my locker," Finn says. "And yeah, I think that's a technical rule or something like that, but no-one really follows it. Teachers are people; 'course it happens. But he's not, like, perving on me in the shower or some shit. It's just... stuff."
Burt sighs. Clearly, Finn's not gonna be easily convinced. "Why do you trust him?"
"What makes you so sure he'd never want to... do anything to you?"
Finn very obviously hesitates. "He's just... not that kind of guy. Okay, it sounds stupid, but Mr. Schue is sort of the first teacher that honestly liked me. Not just not caring at all, but actually liking me. I mean, he helped me through Quinn's pregnancy and gave me hug when I found out and everything. He's the good guy here. He wouldn't."
Burt feels sick at Finn's blind, baseless faith. "You seriously think there's never been a kid out there who got treated good by some sicko, 'cause that makes 'em easy to manipulate into bed?"
"It's not like that!" Finn insists. "Mr. Schue – he did so much for me last year. He's like... sort of like a dad."
"I'm your dad now, Finn," Burt says. Finn looks surprised. "And I'm scared for you. I don't want that guy treating you like that."
Finn goes silent and looks away. Burt sighs and starts worrying if he's ruined any chance at protecting Finn forever.
"So what are you going to do now?" Finn asks flatly. "Tell Mom? Tell the principal? Get him fired?"
Burt hesitates, and shakes his head. "No. I won't. I'm not that sure about any of this, and until I am I can't make myself do any of this 'til you tell me to. So for now, I guess Schuester's safe."
Finn doesn't answer. Burt bites his lip.
"Look, Finn – you can be mad at me for making the accusation all you want, but the second something happens that makes you uncomfortable? You come to me. You were right before. We're family now, and we need to tell each other when we're in trouble. We need to notice these things even when we don't talk. And I would go to the ends of the Earth to protect you, okay?"
Finn still doesn't answer; he just keeps staring out the window. Burt prays like hell Finn is right about all this, and he is wrong.