This is finished! And this part follows immediately from the last. After this chapter, there is one more and then an epilogue.
You have no idea how happy I am to finally be finished with this chapter. The next one should be up so much faster because that one I've had planned for months and months. This just would not be written.
Okay, I hope you like it. Enjoy!
"What do you think those two are gossiping about?" Kurt asks his father as they walk several feet behind the conspiring figures of Carole and Blaine, watching in bitter amusement as Blaine nearly trips over another toddler wobbling across their path. Kurt's arms are crossed and the look on his face clearly shows his distaste for being out of the loop.
Burt grunts. "How should I know?"
"I don't like it. They're probably plotting something."
"You don't like a lot of things," Burt takes a sip of the lemonade he had bought. "It's probably harmless."
They catch up to where Blaine and Carole have stopped to watch the sea lions where they are lazing around the exhibit. When Kurt walks up to Blaine, bumping his shoulder against the shorter man's, Blaine's eyes turn to his and light up before turning his head again and pointing a finger out toward the water, directing Kurt's attention toward two snuggling sea lions on the other side of the exhibit. Blaine's face is delighted like that of a 5-year-old child's.
"Yes, they're very cute, Blaine," Kurt teases. He hears Carole laugh and looks past Blaine to find her wrapped in Burt's arms, watching them with a smirk before turning her attention to the zookeeper now coming out to feed the animals.
"She asked me how I've been and how our break is going, before you ask," Kurt hears Blaine say. Kurt turns back to Blaine to find him trailing his fingers over the cold railing of the enclosure, watching as he makes swirly patterns in the condensation on the metal.
"I wasn't going to," Kurt says loftily, walking his own fingers after Blaine's.
Blaine just chuckles and captures Kurt's hand, "Of course not." He throws Kurt a knowing look.
Kurt just tilts his chin up indignantly before clutching Blaine's hand and practically skipping off. "Come on, I want to go see the penguins," Kurt drags Blaine behind him, his voice sing-song as he continues, "You promised me penguins!"
"I did, I did," Blaine laughs, checking behind them briefly to see Carole and Burt strolling behind them slowly.
As the group wanders through the Polar Circle exhibit, Kurt has to admit that the outing is turning out to be quite nice. He cannot help but feel so adult—showing his parents around, telling them about his life on his own in the city; his and Blaine's life together.
Of course Blaine is quick to ruin this illusion by breaking away from Kurt's side to join the smaller kids by the partition, practically pressing his face against the cold glass. Kurt can't stop his laugh as he steps up behind Blaine and watches as his boyfriend's breath fogs up the window as he looks in child-like wonder at the penguins zipping from one place to another.
Blaine's excitement over the penguins is only rivaled by his enthusiasm the moment their group reaches the River Otter enclosure. It is Kurt's turn to be dragged through the crowd as Blaine tugs him along to perch himself along the railing, eyes searching the water.
"There!" Blaine points out ahead of them and Kurt follows his line of sight to find what Blaine is looking at. Sure enough, a pair of otters are floating on their back in the freezing water, paws wrapped around each other, as if holding hands, to keep from parting as they drift asleep. Otters are Blaine's favorite animal for this exact reason, but Kurt secretly suspects it's because they have so much in common—their playfulness, energy, and ease with which to draw crowds merely by being themselves.
Kurt grins at Blaine when he turns around to gauge Kurt's reaction, making sure he's properly enthused enough about the adorable otters. Kurt is more than willing to humor him because he knows Blaine is playing it up a little for Kurt's entertainment—and if Carole's snickering is any indication, her entertainment as well.
"Come on, Blainey," Kurt teases, "We still have half the zoo to see."
Blaine promptly flounces up to Kurt's side. "Having more fun than you thought you would?"
Kurt's lips curve up in a smile. "Yes," he admits.
"Good," Blaine reaches down to give Kurt's hand a brief squeeze before walking ahead to join Burt and Carole. Kurt skips to catch up and Burt is already addressing Blaine in conversation.
"How's that brother of yours doing?" Burt is asking as they walk down the path toward the Tropical Zone. "He still fighting the good fight?"
Blaine gets the same look on his face every time his brother is brought up—a small, proud, slightly nostalgic smile graces his features. When Burt had first learned of Cooper's choice to switch from business and companies law to human and LGBT rights after Blaine's struggles as a kid, he was instantly welcomed into the Hudson-Hummel family.
"Yeah, and you know it was his and Molly's second anniversary a couple of weeks ago. They just got back from a 'second honeymoon,'" Blaine uses finger-quotes while rolling his eyes and Kurt chuckles, "in Paris."
"So jealous," Kurt says at the same time Burt whistles, "Wow, fancy," in an amused tone. And then, "Good for them."
They've wandered into the Tropical Zone enclosure now and stopped to peer in at the snakes—Kurt shuddering as they pass a particularly large one pressed right against the glass. Nobody bothers to ask the question Blaine had already deflected earlier in the day. His parents aren't a taboo subject, they are just a non-subject. After Cooper had officially moved to D.C. to work on his new projects, the Andersons had come to accept that things were not going to change; their attitude toward their sons is now of obligatory politeness.
Coop says their loss. Kurt agrees. Burt says maybe they'll come around. Blaine just looks at the family he has now and considers himself lucky to have so much love in his life.
They have lunch in the zoo eatery, The Dancing Crane Café, in typical tourist fashion—despite Kurt's best efforts to make Sarabeth's sound as appetizing as possible.
"Maybe next time, love," Blaine squeezes his arm as they take their seats at a booth—Burt eyeing the turkey club sandwich with bacon Blaine has gotten then dutifully taking a bite out of his veggie wrap.
Conversation dwindles as they eat. Occasionally one of them speak up, trying to catch up on things they haven't updated each other on over the phone for the past several months.
As Kurt is picking at his salad, he misses the surreptitious look Carole shoots Blaine, though Burt does catch it, his eyebrows raising in question. Blaine waves them off, attempting to say that it's nothing but it's obvious that Burt interprets it as "Later" instead.
Blaine sighs in resignation, lightly amused at everyone's preoccupation with his weekend plans with Kurt, and this does catch Kurt's attention.
Blaine looks up at him, a warm smile gracing his features and well aware Kurt's parents are watching him from across the table. "Yeah." Beneath the table, Blaine presses his thigh against Kurt's and hooks their ankles together. "Everything's great."
When they finally get home, it's just before dinner time. After much debate over who should pick up Mercedes and Rachel, it is finally decided that Kurt and Carole will stay back to make dinner while Burt and Blaine make the trip.
"They could get a cab," Blaine answers, looking between everyone. "I could help with dinner or I'm sure we could find a basketball game on." He turns toward Burt, trying to appeal to him but the man's face is unreadable.
"No," Carole drags out the vowel as she waves her hands at him, "why should they pay for a cab when you rented that nice car? Go. We've got this covered. Besides, the bonding will be nice for you two."
Blaine doesn't miss that, and looks back at Kurt to send him a knowing glare as Carole practically pushes him and Burt out of the door.
As they climb into the car, Burt having let Blaine drive this time only with mild reluctance, he huffs and readjusts the baseball cap atop his head.
"This is just a formality, kid, you know that," he leans over the fiddle with the dial of the radio, turning it down while Blaine heads into traffic.
Blaine laughs lightly. "I know. It's just funny how everyone is obsessed."
"Don't worry about them," he leans back in his seat to get comfortable. "I gave you my blessing a long time ago. But you know Carole…" he trails off, not having to explain any more as Blaine nods, smiling.
"I do," he adds, as they wait at a stoplight.
They settle into a comfortable silence for a few minutes until Burt speaks up again. "Whenever you're both ready, we'll be there for ya. I trust you."
Blaine glances at him and flexes his hands against the steering wheel. "Thanks. That… means a lot."
"No problem," Burt looks out the passenger window and they drive in comfortable silence until they pick up Rachel and Mercedes. Then they listen as the girls recount their day.
That night—after everyone is exhausted from their long days, Burt and Carole had gone back to their hotel, and Mercedes finally stopped giving Kurt and Blaine warning glares as they got ready for bed—Blaine is wrapped around Kurt, listening to his boyfriend's steady breathing.
He nuzzles his face into Kurt's hair, breathing in deep his scent as his mind works over everything from the day.
It has not even been a week, and this short vacation is already turning into one of his favorites. After today, he doesn't think he has ever felt more grateful in his life—and that is saying something. Reflexively, his grip on Kurt tightens and Kurt squirms a little in his grasp. Blaine can't help but think about what Burt said about being ready; about Carole's enthusiasm. He's glad to have so much support in his life. It isn't something he ever assumed for himself.
He thinks everyone is making a bigger deal than is merited—but that's partly his fault, what with keeping mum about it all. Everyone has always been a little over-invested in his and Kurt's relationship. Sometimes it can cause tension but sometimes it just feels like everyone cares, and today was one of those days.
Kurt breaks out of Blaine's hold to turn in his sleep, eyelashes fluttering a little as he settles on his other side. Blaine stares unabashedly, because Kurt can't comment on how creepy it is when he doesn't know. Blaine knows Kurt better than he knows himself, sometimes. With their third anniversary coming up on Saturday and after spending time with the most supportive and loving people he knows, nearly all of his anxiety about the weekend has ebbed away and has been replaced with the reassurance that he's doing something right.