Let me be perfectly clear: Even though I don't always get him, and even though I sometimes want to bolt and padlock his closet doors and force him to just wear a damn T-shirt with some jeans and sneakers, and even though it might have taken me years to accept that he was never going to grow out of being the only kid around who wanted to have tea parties and streamers on his bike- I love my kid. I want him to be himself. I want him to be happy.
But it would have, hell, it'll always be, easier to be Finn's father.
Finn is a lot like me when I was younger. I get Finn. I can imagine what Finn's life will be like. I can see the things that Finn and I are going to have in common.
Finn doesn't care about Prom. Finn wants to make his girlfriend happy and Prom is important to her. Finn wants to make his mom happy and she wants a couple pictures of her kid in a tuxedo.
Finn's gonna go to this thing and dance with his date, and maybe even get the cheesy crown. Maybe have a couple drinks at Puck's after party (which I still can't quite believe Carol and I agreed to let the boys go to and which I'm not totally sure Blaine's parent's know he's been invited to.)
Point is, he's going to get out of this with some fuzzy memories, some nice pictures, and a couple songs that make him feel nostalgic. And that's gonna be it. The most I have to worry about is that Finn'll over-do it at the after party. And I trust the kid not to do that. Finn will be fine and it won't be a big deal.
If Kurt is fine by the end of the night, it'll be a big deal. It'll be a goddamn victory. It'll be a moment when I can breathe easy, but still only for a little while.
I don't know what I should've done about this stupid dance. I want to beg him to just stay home, invite Mercedes over, and watch musicals all night. But I remember "slow dance at my prom" on the list of things he was demanding to know why he couldn't do, and I can't even suggest that he not go.
All I feel like I can do is protect him. And I've tried. When Quinn came over and mentioned her dress and Kurt lit up and the two of them started talking hemlines and sequins and rhinestones and Finn's cummerbund and bow tie, I went out in the yard, called up Figgins, and told him that after all the shit he had put my family through, my kid was going to his goddamn prom, with anyone he wanted for his goddamn date, and if I heard boo about it, Figgins was going to have a law suit so far down his throat he'd never be able to get the taste out. I'd called again, just as a gentle reminder when Kurt had said he was going with Blaine, apparently his boyfriend now. I'd even called Figgins at home when I found out about the skirt…kilt. Whatever. I've spent enough time in his office this year, I don't think he wants to see me back.
And I don't want to be tux shopping with Kurt, Blaine and Finn. But here we are at Endzo's shop. My step-son, my son, his boyfriend.
Finn and Blaine grab the tuxes that are already waiting for them since Carol took both their measurements and called in to reserve a couple sizes. Finn ducks into the changing room and Blaine looks around the store a little bit.
Quinn had entrusted Kurt with a fabric sample from her dress, and I pat myself on the back a little bit when Kurt hands the sample to Endzo, asking to see what he has for "accessories in robin's egg blue with a little bit of a Grace Kelly sheen". This time last year that would have made me cringe a little bit, but when Endzo takes the little scrap out of Kurt's hand and looks up at me, I just meet his eye, and ignore the hint of a smirk there, like I'm totally oblivious to the fact that this has never happened in this store before. I honestly can't tell if Kurt notices that type of look anymore. I remember when he started noticing it. When he was six and just wanted to try on these little pink tennis shoes and the store clerk had looked at me and he had asked her what was wrong.
Blaine notices. I can see his eyes flick from Kurt to Endzo and the way his shoulders sink just a little bit, and I can't help thinking that bothers him and he's with my kid?
I don't have Blaine figured out yet. When Kurt mentioned some kid named Blaine that he'd met when the Glee guys sent him on some sort of spy mission to scope out Dalton's Glee club I didn't really think much about it. I probably should have figured out that he was gay too when everything started being "Blaine and I are going to this play" and "I'm lending Blaine all these fashion magazines" and "Blaine's favorite Vogue cover is whatever too" but Kurt had to tell me. And I was relieved. Kurt had someone who knew what he was going through, and when he had to switch schools, he had a friendly face at the new one.
And then Blaine was suddenly around a lot, and I'm a little ashamed of this, I should know better, but I was expecting him to be more…like Kurt. You know. Louder. But he was just this… little adult in a sixteen year old's body. Very collected, very conscious, very serious. Kind of… straight-like.
Then all of a sudden it was finding Blaine in Kurt's bed, and "do more research than just falling asleep during Brokeback Mountain" and Blaine showing up at my shop and telling me that I had to… educate Kurt.
That's not the kind of thing you expect some rich, little private school brat to do to a man with an existing heart condition. But it also wasn't the kind of thing that a kid who wanted…to educate someone… you know, intimately would do. I tried to imagine Finn doing something like that to Quinn or Rachel's parents and decided that maybe this Blaine kid was okay. And he was right. I remember Kurt telling me that Quinn Fabre's parents had kicked her out when they found out she was pregnant. The only other time I'd heard Kurt that scared was in the basement after that football game.
I have a relationship with my kid. I need to take advantage of it. Even when that relationship lands me in situations like this.
"How's this?" Endzo says, "It's just labeled light blue."
Kurt takes the bowtie from Endzo and sets it next to the little scrap of fabric on the counter, inspecting it carefully as Finn comes out of the dressing room, looking a little stiff and awkward and not nearly as grown up as I'd expected him to.
"Do you have something that's not a clip on?" Kurt asks. Endzo just shakes his head, Kurt shrugs and turns toward Finn, taking him in with a little bit of a smile before crossing the store, and somehow making Finn look less like a kid in a tux and more like a young man with a couple quick tugs on his jacket and a little adjustment at his collar before whipping the bowtie expertly around his neck.
Endzo's clearly holding back a laugh now, and I'm about to give him some kind of warning when I see Finn notice the look too. His shoulders square out and his eyes narrow and Endzo backs off.
On the other side of the store, Blaine is looking through the other tuxes. Kurt tells Finn that Quinn is gonna be pissed if he doesn't have a cummerbund and turns back to Endzo who goes into the back room to find the light blue cummerbund.
"Hey, Kurt?" Blaine asks.
Blaine holds out a suit. Black. Plain. Looks like a tux. I don't know. Kurt didn't get all this clothes stuff from me.
Kurt glances over it appraisingly and says, "That's a little big for you isn't it?"
Blaine clears his throat and flushes and finally looks sixteen, "This would look nice on you," he says quietly, flicking his eyes toward the door to the back room quickly.
"I've got an outfit," Kurt protests.
Here we go. Blaine may not have realized this, with the uniform and everything, but you just don't tell Kurt what to wear. And once he's gotten a compliment on something? It's over. The second the words "that's awesome" had come out of Finn's mouth, I'd resigned myself to the damn kilt.
"I know," Blaine says, "Just try it on."
Endzo comes back with the cummerbund and hands it to Finn. Kurt reaches out to take it from him and Finn answers, "Dude, we're in glee club. I got this," before ducking back into the dressing rooms.
Blaine holds up the suit again. Kurt looks at him. Blaine looks at me, just out of the corner of his eye, and to my total and complete surprise Kurt shrugs and holds out his hand.
"Fine. It won't kill me to try it on."
They go into the dressing rooms too, Kurt with this exasperated, resigned look on his face that is exactly the look his mother used to give me when she came home to a messy kitchen, or a guys poker night. I'll never understand how Kurt somehow seems to have just absorbed so much of his mother.
"Kurt's sure grown up," Endzo says, clearing his throat uncomfortably.
"Yeah. Junior Prom."
"And the tall one is the step son?"
"And the other one?"
I should say boyfriend. I say prom date. I tried. I got close. Endzo's a white trash little punk anyway who only runs this store because he had to turn down a basketball scholarship when he knocked up his girlfriend, it's not like the little look of shock he gives me means shit.
Finn comes back out of the dressing room, cummerbund in place. He looks around for Kurt, and then comes to stand by me.
Blaine comes out of the dressing room next, looking a little bit like a bandleader from one of those old big band shows. Kurt trudges out behind him.
"This suit smells like Doritos, rotten punch, and sweat" Kurt snips, "The outfit I already made is clean."
"It doesn't smell, you're imagining it," Blaine sighs. I look at Finn, who's watching his brother and Endzo, who looks mildly offended.
"That look works for you too, bro," Finn offers. Kurt shoots him that withering look he has sometimes. That one is not one of his mother's.
"It's polyester," Kurt sighs.
Blaine shakes his head, "Just because it's polyester doesn't mean you have to look like you're being kicked in the stomach," he sighs.
I've had a couple guys at my shop get most of the way through a divorce or a dying parent before I've figured out something was up with them. I'm not the kind of guy that picks up on every little thing. Nuances or whatever.
Unless it's my kid.
Kurt blanches. I can feel Finn tense up beside me. Blaine reaches out toward Kurt and seems to remember where we all are. He looks at Endzo again and I just barely hear him say something about not meaning it like that before clearing his throat, smiling, announcing that his fits and going back into the dressing room.
If we weren't in the middle of the store I'd be demanding to know just what in hell is going on, but we are, and Blaine's uncomfortable, and not just tux shopping with my boyfriend's father uncomfortable, just completely uncomfortable. And Finn knows why. And one of the many, many things that makes Finn an easier kid than Kurt is that Finn is easier to break.
I'm not proud that I know this, but when you wound up with a kid who is so used to getting taunted and thrown into lockers and called faggot and tossed into dumpsters that he doesn't think an actual death threat is something to bring to someone's attention, you take your opportunities where you can get them.
The boys all come back out of the dressing rooms, tuxes in plastic wrappers, just as I'm starting to put together "kicked in the stomach", "didn't mean it like that" and Kurt saying something about what Blaine had been through that made him uncomfortable with giving people a reason.
I pay for Finn's tux. Blaine pays for his own, and Kurt lays the tux he'd tried onto the counter.
"Could you hold this for me?" he asks quietly.
"It's only a 6 hour hold this close to prom."
Blaine shuffles his feet, lays his hand on the tux on the counter and pushes it toward Endzo.
"That's okay. He doesn't need it."
The boys spend the drive home talking about the songs the glee club is going to sing at prom. I don't know how Blaine wound up singing at prom too, but I guess it's not that strange. They needed a band and I went to Regionals and Sectionals. The kid can sing.
Kurt and Blaine go up to his room and I can tell by how loud the whirr of the sewing machine is that the door is open like it's supposed to be.
Finn goes right to the fridge and pulls out a can of pop. I grab it out of his hand.
"What happened to Blaine?" I ask him.
"I don't know," Finn tries.
"He got beat up at his school's Sadie Hawkins dance," Finn answers. This could easily have been a four hour discussion with Kurt. The kind where you feel like you need a Gatorade and a nap afterward. I hand him his can of pop back.
"You just… you watch out for them okay? You and Puck and the other guys."
Finn nods, takes a gulp from his can and leaves. I almost call Figgins again, but really? What else can I do?
Prom night itself goes back and forth between easy and hard. Finn almost spills something on Quinn's corsage, but Carol saves it. Easy.
Blaine's mom calls seven times. To make sure he got there. To make sure she knows the number to Puck's house. To make sure she has my cell number. To make sure I have her cell number. To make sure that Blaine has his cell phone. To make sure she knows where Blaine is sleeping (on the couch). To ask us to just call them when the boys get home. Hard.
Blaine and Finn get dressed in Finn's room and come downstairs a full 20 minutes sooner than Kurt. I have this weird burn of pride over Finn, who went from the jock that I kicked out for calling Kurt "faggy" to being the kid pulling the rental tag off his brother's boyfriend's tux. For being that new generation of dude that I keep waiting for when I see looks like the ones on Endzo's face, and hear the fear in Blaine's mother's voice. Easy.
Pictures of Finn. Easy. Pictures of Kurt. Easy. Pictures of Kurt and Finn. Easy. Pictures of Kurt and Blaine. Not totally easy, I sometimes wonder if part of me is always going to hold onto those fantasies I had when he was a baby. The girls and the baseball and whatever. Watching the two of them grin for those pictures though? Easy.
Sending them off for prom at a school where there was nothing protecting them from getting harassed, realizing how important it was to Kurt to have this night, knowing, that he thought all this progress had been made for him, just because one stupid jock's stupid girlfriend was on his case and knowing, just flat out knowing, that nothing had changed?
So, so hard.
I swear to god I damn near had another heart attack when the phone rang. And it wasn't just me, Carol jumped too, grabbed the post-it with Blaine's mother's phone number on it and was up to get the phone right behind me.
The fact that it's about Finn isn't that much of a relief. Apparently that crazy cheerleading coach had broken up a fight and we had to come and pick Finn up. No further details. Not who he was fighting with, not what the fight was about. Nothing.
Carol goes to get him, and I feel a little weird about that. It's one of those weird blended family things that sometimes stick out. This seems like a father/son sort of issue, but sometimes it just gets thrown at you that sometimes, one kid is yours and one kid isn't. And I've been focused on my kid a lot lately.
When Finn gets home, still just red in the face mad, I realize that I don't even know who in hell Jesse St. James is. All I catch is that he got in a fight with some college guy over a girl he didn't even take to prom.
Carol grounds him, tells him there's no way he's going to Puck's after party, and that tomorrow he's also handing over his car keys, he can keep them tonight in case Kurt and Blaine need a ride home. Then she sends him up to his room, drops down on the couch angrily, and hisses, "You know, they're young and you try to be supportive and remember the mistakes that you made…but I just hate that Quinn girl."
We stay up until the phone rings at about 10:15, listening to Finn stomp above us the entire time. It's Blaine. He says they had a great time and they're going to Puck's. I remind them that they're supposed to be home at 12:30, and that I'm not stupid and I know what happens at an after prom party. If they're drinking they damn well better call for a ride and if they're… anything else… you know be careful and respectful and… you know- just don't.
Blaine's voice is only a little higher pitched as he promises that they'll be fine, and he hangs up. Blaine is really nowhere near as afraid of me as I want him to be. Maybe cause kids like Blaine and Kurt have more pressing things to be afraid of.
But not tonight I guess. I feel the muscles in my shoulders loosen up, not realizing how tightly I've been holding them all night. Carol calls Blaine's mom, but Blaine already called her. We tell Finn to keep his cell phone on, and we go to bed, able to relax at having gotten three kids through a rite of passage, safe and whole.
It's late, and dark and it takes me a minute to remember that's me.
"Mr. Hummel? It's Blaine."
Right. The kids were supposed to check in when they got home from Puck's party.
"Yeah?" I manage, easing up out of bed enough to see an outline of a kid too short and too compact to be Kurt or Finn. He's holding his phone out in his hand.
I take the phone out of his hand by the wrong end, try to talk into the ear part, silently wish for the days when phones had discernible ends and assure Dianna that everyone is fine, home, and that Finn made up the couch for Blaine.
"Finn made up the couch right? He didn't just throw a pillow on it?" I ask.
"Yes," Blaine answers immediately, high and tense. Maybe he is afraid of me after all. Carol says I'm a terror in the morning.
I tell Dianna we'll make the kids breakfast in the morning and wish her a good night, handing the phone back to Blaine to hang up, because I know I'll never figure it out.
Carol moans a little bit at the light from the hallway coming in from the door, which has drifted all the way open and suddenly I hear the sound of someone puking and Kurt- his voice high and stretched and somehow with that little bit of a lisp that I had been stupid enough to think was magically going away by itself – yelling "No it's not, Finn!" from down the hall in the bathroom.
Kurt's crying. I'm awake now.
Awake enough to realize that Blaine smells like vodka.
Carol's awake at her kid's name too and we're both out of bed.
"What the hell happened?" I demand, flicking on the bed side lamp. Blaine looks pale and small and young in his sweater and jeans all of a sudden, nothing like the young man in the tux from earlier, going off to do something that he knew was dangerous just to prove he could. Because my kid was convincing him that he could.
I'm on my way out the door, and Blaine throws his arm out, like he's big enough to stop me. "Wait. Don't! Just… stop. Please."
But I'm not stopping for some drunk teenager who doesn't want me to help my own son. Blaine and Carol follow me into the hallway, up to the staircase across from Kurt's bedroom. The toilet flushes and I stop. Kurt's bedroom door is open, with the lights on, his prom clothes are crumpled up on the bed. You notice things like crumpled prom clothes with a kid like Kurt.
There's some sort of gold stick thing lying in his door way. There's a cheap plastic crown hanging on the banister.
"Kurt… you're… you're so much better than all those people."
I can hear Finn's voice echoing out of the bathroom and Kurt sob. Like an actual, actual sob. Not like the cut off little ones he can't quite hide sometimes that he thinks I don't notice, just because he's not facing me.
"Clearly," Kurt responds, the poor kid's voice just raw, "After all I'm… the-the-their Queen."
Another sob. And it all falls together. I'm too mad to even swear, I start toward the bathroom and Blaine steps in front of me again, waving his arms at me, like, "calm down, be quiet. We're all drunk and handling this without you."
"Please… please just… don't," he says. I'm about to push right past him when Carol grabs my shoulder.
"Kurt… it was just," Finn's trying again, "They're just neanderthals right? Isn't that what you call them? In a couple years they'll be cleaning your septic tank."
"F-f-finn can you please g-g-g-o get Blaine please?" Kurt's slurring, sobbing drunk because his big night got ruined, by some prank, but some fucking kids at a school I never should have let him go back to. If I find out Karofsky had anything to do with this, that's it. I'll drive over and pound the kid tonight. Forget it.
Kurt throws up again as Finn walks out the door, turning on the classic deer in headlights look when he sees us all in the hallway.
"Dude," he says to Blaine.
"Just… just give me a second, I'll be right there."
Finn shrugs and goes back into the bathroom.
"Let's…let's go downstairs," Carol says.
"No, I'm going to-"
"Mr. Hummel, please…not… not right now," Blaine begs and I give in. Finn and Blaine are the ones who must have gotten him home, they're the ones who know what's going on. Fine. There's nothing I can fix for him or protect him from right now. I let Blaine lead me downstairs, Carole steering me all the way to the kitchen table.
Blaine fills us in. Fucking idiot Figgins reading the name out. Kurt running out, Blaine going after him. Kurt realizing that nothing had changed. That the only thing that damn principle's anti bully squad had managed was to send everything underground. Kurt sucking it up, like he'd been forced to suck up everything since he was five. Playing it off like it was nothing but just not being able to keep that up all night.
Shit, you just can't blame a kid for only being able to be so brave.
I know Puck's the kind of kid who would try to spike the punch at Prom, I knew too many guys like him when I was that age. I'm not sure where I want to put him in my little mental list of "New Generation Dudes" for handing off the bottle to Kurt with, as Blaine puts it, a "you need this more than all those dumb shits, bro."
It turns out Blaine only had one drink, the smell is from getting spilled on.
"I just… please, he's been humiliated enough for the night. Just… Finn and I can take care of this. Please don't make us tell him in the morning that you saw him like this."
Carol nods, I feel like I have to nod along. Blaine heads back up the stairs.
I don't even know what to say. Carole and I sit in silence at the kitchen table until we can hear Finn coming down the stairs.
He shoots us this terrible commiserating look and opens the fridge, digging out left overs immediately, something, it occurs to me, that I have never once seen Kurt do. Not even in the last year when he shot up a foot. It's a very… normal, teenage boy response. I'm awake in the middle of the night and I don't know what to do with myself.
"I feel like there's nothing I can do," Finn sighs, like he needs and excuse for finishing the Chinese that I meant to throw out today.
"I never should have let him go back to that school," I sigh. Carole leans into me. We had this discussion a million times. We just couldn't afford to keep him at Dalton, and he wanted to go back so badly…and… between years of Kurt taking care of the house and helping out at the shop and taking care of me when I was sick this year and just always being the other person in the family, I'd let myself think my sixteen year old son was mature enough to be trusted with his safety.
"Rachel and Puck and Lauren and Quinn said they were epic," Finn says, through a mouthful of lo mein. "Apparently Kurt walked back in, got crowned and then he was all "eat your heart out Kate Middleton" and Blaine came out to dance the king and queen dance with him."
Carole almost laughs, just a little huff of breath with her mouth still closed.
I stand up, and go back upstairs, Carole behind me.
Kurt's not sobbing anymore, but I can here Blaine's voice, low and quiet so I can't make out any of the words. I pick up the crown and the stick thing and go throw them away in our bathroom where Kurt won't see them in the morning. I pour a glass of water and grab the aspirin out of mine and Carol's medicine cabinet. She's hanging up his clothes when I walk by his room this time.
"You were amazing," Blaine's telling him. "I wish I was half as brave as you."
I want to just walk in, hug him, but everyone keeps telling me not to. They were there. And Blaine… Blaine understands Kurt like Finn and Carol and I never can. So I crack the door open and hold the aspirin and the water glass out.
"Make sure he takes a couple of these before he goes to sleep."
And I go to bed and lie there, thinking about what I could've done differently.
When I go check on Kurt in the morning Blaine is in his bed again. But they had a rough night, and they're fully clothed (Blaine's still in his jeans for crissakes) and Kurt's just got his head resting on Blaine's shoulder, and he looks okay enough, so I just can't manage getting worried or mad.
I clear my throat a couple times, until Blaine shifts awake, then Kurt.
"You up for breakfast? Or should we hold off?"
"Yeah. I can do breakfast," Blaine says.
Then I go wake up Finn, who comes down with me. We get out most of the stuff for the post prom breakfast we'd talked about, pancakes and bacon and then kind of exchange this look where we both realize we better not cook anything.
Finn pulls a box of Rice Crispies out of the cupboard as Blaine comes down the stairs.
"Kurt coming down?"
"He said he wants to get dressed," Blaine answers with an awkward shrug.
"That's what he said."
Finn pulls out the milk and the orange juice, and he and Blaine set everything out. Finn pours himself a glass of orange juice and pushes the jug toward Blaine, who looks over at the bottom of the stairs, pours himself a glass, looks back.
It's another fifteen minutes before Kurt comes downstairs with his hair combed, wearing what looks like a white silk button up shirt under some sort of black vest with too many buttons, pants and boots that I'm not sure I could even figure out how to get on.
"Morning," he says, sounding casual and together. He sits down next to Blaine, grabs the box of Rice Crispies and pours himself a bowl. Finn pushes the milk jug toward him.
The three boys eat in total silence for a few moments before Kurt settles back in his chair, and smiles.
"So," he says, "As perfect as my royal wedding Alexander McQueen ensemble was last night, I think for my next dance I'm going to need something with a little more color."
Finn looks at him like he's absolutely nuts. And I know I've got the same look on my face and so does Blaine. But I see it fall from Blaine's face just as the smile is threatening to crumble off Kurt's and he replies, "I don't know. Theres's something to be said for formal black."
"You and Quinn made me go in bright blue," Finn shrugs.
"Yes. She insisted. Next time you should really coordinate instead of match."
"Yeah. Well. We'll see about next time," Finn sighs, "Quinn is pretty pissed at me."
"I really wish you hadn't missed Jesse's face," Kurt laughs.
"What is so terrible about this Jesse guy anyway?" Blaine asks, "He was totally polite to me."
"Vocal Adrenaline" Finn and Kurt answer at the same time.
The boys all keep talking like nothing happened last night. Blaine smiles when Kurt smiles, and eventually stops watching him out of the corner of his eye. Finn grabs onto any topic Kurt presents and Kurt is sitting there, in his crazy clothes, talking about glee club and fashion.
And I can almost believe that whether they're yelling at him or whispering behind his back, that they can't touch my kid.
But I can't believe it quite as much as he's gonna need to.