Chapter title: The One Where Burt Met Carole Earlier

Characters: Burt, Kurt, Carole, Finn

Pairings: Burt/Carole

Warnings: None

Timeline: Pre-Glee, Season1

The One Where Burt Met Carole Earlier

"Buddy, I need to talk to you about something." Kurt glanced up at his dad, who was standing, nervous, in the middle of the living room. Kurt, who was curled up on the couch, put a piece of purple ribbon he had been using as a bookmark into the pages of the novel he had been reading and closed the pages.

"Yes, Dad," Kurt said, attentive, blinking up at him with his big eyes.

Burt shuffled the weight between his feet. "I wanted to tell you that I've been seeing someone. Dating, I mean. I didn't bring it up before I knew it was gonna stick, because I didn't want to upset you over nothing. But it is getting kind of serious, so—"

"Dad," Kurt interrupted. "You're rambling."

"Sorry. Are— are you okay with this?"

Kurt chewed on his bottom lip. He knew why his dad was asking. It has only been five years since mom had died, and it had devastated both of them. Then again, it had been five years. Yes, it was still painful, but it wasn't excruciatingly so; rather, it was like a healed over wound that only hurt when you poked at it. Plus, next year Kurt would be going into high school, and after high school, college, hopefully in New York, because he needed to get out of Ohio. He was growing up, and he never wanted to condemn his father to living the rest of his life alone.

"How serious?"

A tension that had been about Burt's shoulders was released and he seemed to sag in relief. "We've been dating for three months." Kurt's eyebrows peaked in surprise. His dad was better at keeping a secret relationship than most teenagers, not that he would know how it was done personally. It would explain all the nights were Burt had worked late or came home for dinner, only to supposedly go back to the shop. "And I think I love her."

That really slammed into Kurt. He hadn't expected it. "Oh."

"That's why I wanted to tell you," Burt said quickly, sensing his son's unease. "So you had some time to think about it and adjust, in case our relationship progressed…further."

Further? Was all Kurt could think. He had already said he was in love. Further was what then? Moving in? Marriage? He hadn't thought of this while he thought of his dad dating. He thought of it distant, outside of their home, but if this woman became a big part of his dad's life, she would become a part of Kurt's by default.

"Okay," Kurt said, trying to sound reassured. His dad bought it, thankfully.

"Good, good," he said, "I better start on dinner." He paused as he was walking out of the room to say, "Oh, by the way, her name's Carole Hudson, and she has a kid in your class… Finn, I think."

Kurt took a sharp intake of breath. Finn Hudson. He knew who that was. The tall kid. He was the first boy in their class to shoot up like a weed and he hadn't stopped growing yet. Kurt had yet to hit his adolescent growth spurt and was tiny, but there were a handful of other boys that were in the same boat, and would go into their high school as short as most of the girls.

Finn Hudson. Kurt never really talked to him, although he was in a few of his classes. He was a bit, well, dumb, but he seemed nice enough, maybe, and Kurt always thought he was a little bit…cute. Not that he would admit that out loud. Not that he would ever admit out loud the things he thought about boys, period. Kurt glanced at the doorway between the living room and the kitchen as though fearful that Burt could hear his thoughts. He didn't know if he could ever work up the nerve to tell his dad.

Two weeks later, Kurt met Carole for the first time. From what he had gleaned from eavesdropped conversations, they decided that it was better to ease their kids into this new situation one step at a time. Finn had been shipped off to his friends for the night, and would meet Burt next weekend, at which time Kurt would probably be left home alone. He had a few girls he sometimes talked to at school, but he really didn't have a friend close enough to spend any significant time over their houses. Not that he would mind being home alone; it was better than having to be babysat by Mrs. Bitner, an old shrew of a woman from down the street. Kurt had been slowly convincing his dad that he was old enough to look after himself, and he was really, at thirteen.

His first impression of Carole was that she really needed a makeover, but under all the denim and the bad haircut, she was pretty. She had brought over a surprisingly good chicken and broccoli casserole she had made at home. Dad supplied all the sides and dessert. By the end of the dinner, Kurt got why dad liked her. She was sweet and pleasant and rough around the edges in that good small town way. There were some bad small town ways Kurt was privy to, so that was saying something. He learned that she was a nurse at Lima General, which was a career he had to respect, caring for people. He learned how she and his dad met at the garage when Carole was having car trouble, but considering his father's lack of social life, he should have figured that. Carole, apparently, had taken to him right away, but Dad had been oblivious to her flirting, both when she dropped off her car and picked it up a day later. So she came back again a week later for an oil change and the week after that to get her tires rotated. He finally figured it out when she came back the next day to get her tires rotated again.

At the end of the evening, Dad walked Carole out to her car and he was taking longer than strictly necessary, so Kurt guessed they were probably kissing. He was kind of glad Dad waited to go outside to do that, because Kurt wasn't sure he was ready to see that, or maybe it was just because it was his dad and he didn't want to think of either of his parents as even vaguely…sexual beings.

When Dad came back in, he came to the kitchen, were Kurt had started to load the dishes into the dishwasher and asked, "So?"

"I like her," Kurt said, not even pausing in his task. He probably would have said he liked her even if he hadn't, because he knew his approval or disapproval could make or break the relationship, because that was the kind of dad he had, even if they were distant sometimes, he put his son first. Yet, Kurt really had liked her. He was probably more relieved than Burt, although better at hiding it.

Three weeks later, they had the ultimate Hummel-Hudson dinner at Breadstix. Finn has awkwardly nodded at Kurt in greeting. Kurt nodded back. For a while the four could sit quietly as the perused the menu, making comments on what looked good. However, it was a short-lived topic of discussion.

Burt and Finn had ordered burgers, because they lacked finesse and fine taste, or that was Kurt's assessment. He and Carole had ordered pasta dishes because they were at a restaurant that was slightly themed around Italian food. Of course, after their menus were taken away and before they had the convenience of being able to stuff food in their mouth as an excuse not to talk, things became silent and awkward.

"So," Carole said, folding her arms on the table top. "Do you two have any classes together?"

"Uhh." That was Finn, as he glanced Kurt like he wasn't sure where to place him. It was embarrassing for Kurt, who knew that Finn was in English, history, and study hall with him without even having to think about it.

"A couple," Kurt said. "This and that."

"It's weird that you guys weren't friends before this," Carole commented.

Finn said nothing. Neither did Kurt. It wasn't weird, not really. They were in different social circles…different social standings. The less said, the better

"And you'll both be going to McKinley next year," said Burt. "Are you excited to go to high school?"

Kurt knew most people dreamed of things changing when they got to high school, but Kurt was pretty sure most things stayed the same. The nerds were the nerds, the jocks the jocks, and the nobodies the nobodies. There were few variations, like girls blossoming into attractiveness shooting up the popularity pole, but unless Kurt suddenly became muscle-bound and was actually interested in playing a sport, he was pretty sure he was settled into the not so cozy spot he would be partitioned in until he left this town for college.

"I can't wait," Finn said. Kurt's eyebrows peaked. It was the first real thing Finn had said all night without it being in a mutter. "I want to try out for the football team."

"You like football?" Burt asked, and he sounded really pleased. And the two launched into discussions of teams, and players, and what position might be best for Finn. Carole was looking on rather pleased, and Kurt guessed she should be to see her serious boyfriend and her son bonding. Kurt had never talked so passionately with this father about anything, Kurt thought. If he had, it had been a one-sided conversation. They just didn't have much in common. He felt like melting away in his seat and disappearing right now.

Two hours later, Burt was unlocking the front door of their house and Kurt was slipping inside, aiming to go down to his basement bedroom as soon as possible.

"Well, that went well, don't you think?" Burt said, pausing Kurt halfway across the living room.

"Yeah," Kurt said, but his voice was hollow-sounding. Dad didn't notice, he was too star-struck and in love and nothing went explicitly bad tonight. Dad certainly had a good time.

Kurt ducked away into the basement before his dad could ask anymore.

A month later Burt and Carole were engaged.

"Really, I think yellow would be the most appropriate color for a summer wedding," Kurt said. Carole and he were sitting at the island in Kurt and Burt's kitchen, flipping through wedding magazines. Both Carole and Finn had been hanging out at their house a lot lately, probably because it was bigger and in a better neighborhood, and this is where they decided the Hummel-Hudson clan would live after Burt and Carole officially tied the knot.

Right now Finn and Burt were upstairs, clearing boxes out of the spare bedroom which had once been Kurt's nursery, but had been storage for a while now. It would become Finn's bedroom, and Kurt was silently glad that he didn't have to share his basement bedroom. It was plenty big sure, and even had its own bathroom attached, but Kurt was still figuring himself out. Also, Finn didn't seem that comfortable around him.

"You have a better eye for this than I do, Kurt," Carole complimented. "You should've seen the bridesmaid dresses I picked out for my wedding to Finn's father. Orange. Big sleeves. Atrocious. But my emotions were running high. I was the bride and I would not be persuaded otherwise."

"Carole," Kurt said, placing a hand over his to-be-step-mom's, "If you try to get even the smallest of orange thing into this wedding, I will persuade you otherwise."

They both started giggling. There was a thundering of footsteps coming down the stairs. Finn and Burt emerged in the kitchen a moment later.

"All done?" Carole asked.

"For today. It needs some paint and a new carpet, but it's all cleared out into the attic now," said Burt. He then patted Finn on the shoulder and said, "Hey, why don't I order some pizza for lunch, and we can watch the game?"

"Yes!" Finn said with a little fist pump.

"Pizza sound good to you guys?" Burt said, addressing his fiancé and biological son.

"Sure," Carole replied. Kurt nodded, barely.

Finn disappeared into the living room, and Kurt could hear the television turning on. Kurt didn't have a clue what game his father and Finn were talking about, but it seemed that there was always some sort of game, every weekend… every time Finn visited.

"So, did you decide anything?" Burt asked as he shifted through take-out and delivery menus in a kitchen drawer.

"We decided on yellow."

"With white accents," Kurt added.

"With white accents," Carole repeated dutifully.

"Sounds good," Burt said, and he kissed Carole on the cheek as he passed. He was then also in the living room, picking up a phone out of the cradle, and making the call, while watching the TV over Finn's head. Kurt could just make this all out from his seat.

Carole turned a few pages in the magazine in front of her. "What do you think about favors?"

He stood up sharply, and his stool squeaked against the floor.


He pursed his lips and looked at Carole, who had an expression of worry on her face. "I'm getting a headache. I'm going to go lie down until the food gets here."

He retreated quickly to his bedroom and threw himself onto his bed. He buried his face in his pillow. He really didn't want to cry. He really didn't.

The springtime progressed and it was nearing the end of the school year. Finn and Carole were over nearly every weekend. This weekend it was dinner on Saturday evening, so it left Friday free for a rare Friday night dinner that Kurt and Burt had to themselves.

Kurt was glancing through the ingredients in their refrigerator, considering making dinner in order to avoid take-out and the five dishes his father could make competently. The man tried, but he didn't quite have that domestic touch.

He found a bag of frozen fish fillets buried in a shelf in the freezer. He tossed them on the counter and went to scrounging in the crisper drawer for the makings of a salad when his dad walked through the kitchen, buttoning the cuff on his flannel shirt.

"Hey, Dad. What do you think about flounder for dinner?"

The man froze, a look of horror on his face. "I forgot to tell you."

Kurt stood up straight. "Tell me what."

"I'm going out tonight."

"Out?" Kurt asked, confused, "With Carole?"

"No, with Finn."

Kurt cocked his head to the side, confused, intrigued…hurt.

"He said he had never been to a baseball game before. I got tickets."

"And you didn't think to ask me?" Kurt said, tone sharp.

"I took you to a game two years ago, remember?" Burt said. "We left before the fourth inning was finished."

Kurt wanted to say 'So? You still should have asked. You should have remembered to tell me you had plans. You should like me more than Finn.' Instead, he said, "What about Friday night dinner. It's a tradition."

"I'm sorry, buddy. But I can't pull out on this after Finn is all excited about it. Plus, we're having dinner tomorrow night."

"With Carole and Finn," Kurt shot back.

Burt's eyes narrowed. "I thought you liked Carole and Finn?"

"I do. I do," Kurt quickly retracted, because it getting much too close to the things he wasn't saying, but the things he meant. "It's just— never mind. Go, go."

Burt looked at hid oddly. "Are you sure?"

"Yes!" It wasn't a shout, but it wasn't a shout by just the slightly pitch.

"Alright," Burt said slowly. "See you later tonight."

Kurt waited until he heard the door close and the car pull out of the driveway before he pulled the small frying pan out of the cabinet. He cooked himself a single fillet of flounder to perfection and dished it onto a plate. He started at it for a moment. He walked directly to the trashcan and dumped the food into it. On his way back to the refrigerator, he tossed his plate carelessly into the sink. It didn't break, but he would have been more satisfied if it had shattered.

He dug out a pint of chocolate marshmallow ice cream out of the freezer that had only remained untouched by Burt, and Finn, because it was low fat. He put the Sound of Music on and curled up against the arm rest of the couch, feeling miserable.

Burt found his son asleep there on the couch when he got back from the game. The empty pint container and spoon where on the floor. Burt took them to the kitchen, then came back to lay an afghan over the boy, before he went up to bed.

"Kurt, honey, can I talk to you for a moment," Carole asked. She touched him lightly on the shoulder where he was curled up. The four of them had been watching some horrible action movie that only Finn and Burt seemed to enjoy. But the star was running around all shirtless and sweaty, which Kurt was enjoying a little too much while he was pretending to reread Harry Potter in the arm chair.

Carole had been getting up to make some more popcorn when she had whispered this to Kurt. He nodded, put a bookmark in the pages, and followed the woman into the kitchen.

"Kurt," she said, sitting down at the counter and motioning for him to sit down as well. He took a seat across from her. "I've noticed you've been distant lately."

It was true. Kurt had been hiding in his room more and more whenever Carole and Finn were over. It was just getting too heartbreaking to see Finn and Dad so happily get along while he on the sidelines— unnoticed, silent, out-of-place.

"Finn had the same problem," Carole continued.

Kurt blinked. He had no idea what she was talking about now.

"I can imagine it's very stressful to gain a step-parent, but I want you to know that I want to be a part of your life, I'm not trying to replace your mom."

Kurt's mouth dropped open. She was being so sincere, but that wasn't the issue at all. Carole had been great, the one person in this whole thing he felt he connected to at all. He was secretly glad to have a female family member again. He loved his mom, as much as he could remember of her, and that would never go away, not for Carole, not for anyone.

"No, no, it's not you. I've just been…" Kurt glanced through the doorway to the living room. Carole followed the motion. "I've been stressed with school and wedding plans and everything."

"Right, okay. Well, as long as we're good."

Carole, from the point, seemed to interpret the problem as not her, but that Kurt and Finn had yet to bond. This resulted in a thinly-valued excuse of a date for Burt and Carole as they left Kurt and Finn in the Hummel's house. Finn, sweet, simple Finn, was a little confused as to why he had to spend the evening their rather than being allowed to go to a friend's house, but didn't complain too much, because Kurt and Burt had a bigger TV and he was allowed to bring his video game set up. Apparently video games were the prefect guy bonding thing.

Except Kurt didn't play video games much. He didn't inherently dislike them, it was just there weren't many games that seemed that interesting to him (and it was time away from things that Kurt enjoyed more— reading Vogue, watching classic musicals, following fashion trends, singing, piano lessons, etc.)

They had gotten an hour round of Halo, which apparently had the object to run around and shoot aliens, and Finn was much better than Kurt. This amused Finn. ("It's fun to play against someone I can actually beat…") Apparently, Kurt had gleaned in between moments o Finn yelling at the screen, Finn's usual competition, Puck, was something like a Halo prodigy.

Putting the control on the couch cushion next to him after he died, again, Kurt stood and announced, "I'm going to make some pop corn."

"Awesome, dude."

Kurt lingered as long as he could in the kitchen, but ten minutes was stretching it, so with a bowl of fresh popcorn, he reentered the living room. Upon smelling the food, Finn ditched his game controller. He went at the bowl as soon as Kurt sat back down on the couch.

After stuffing two handfuls into his mouth and barely swallowing, Finn paused and asked. "Dude, what's on this?"

"Oh, I made it with some olive oil and parmesan cheese," Kurt said. He tended to stray away from the traditional popcorn toppings, and he had been on such autopilot, he forgot that Finn probably wouldn't be used to that. "Is that okay?"

"It's awesome!"

It turned out the way to Finn's heart was through his stomach, and Kurt's interesting twist of things in the kitchen (although not always), was a break bridge for them to become slowly brother-like.

The wedding was in June and it was wonderful. There hadn't been a splash of orange anywhere except in the dress of some of the more tacky guests. Both Kurt and Finn stood up with their parents at the altar.

The reception was well underway. The meal had been served, the first dance danced, the couple toasted, the cake cut, the bouquet thrown. Right now they were in those spare hours after all that, when some of the less dedication guests began to leave, and the rest were drunk, or chatting with some cousin they hadn't seen since last reunion, or swaying lazily on the dance floor in the arms of loved one.

Except for a single dance he had shared earlier with Carole, Kurt hadn't danced at all. He imagined it would be nice, to have someone to dance with someday. He was only just out of middle school. He knew he had time, but he doubted it would happen anytime soon…that is, dancing with someone in a romantic capacity.

Could he never build the confidence to do it in Lima? Ever build the confidence to do it ever?

As he sat there, watching all the couples— Burt and Carole, a newlywed couple that were Carole's adult nephew and new wife, Aunt Lisa and Uncle Jim, the Brownsteins from down the street, a white-haired man and woman who must have been well in their seventies if not eighties— he knew, more than he had ever know, that he wanted to share a dance with a boy. He had known this, of course, for a while, just never completely. It had been a whisper, a growing touch, something he would admit one hour and then reject another. He knew now, or accepted now, if only to himself, in his innermost parts, who he was and what he wanted because of it. To dance with a boy, kiss a boy, marry a boy.

Kurt gulped.

The rest of the summer was awkward. Carole and Finn moved in and suddenly the routine that Kurt and his dad had down for years had changed. Carole had taken over cooking, for one, which was nice as it opened up the meal options. The laundry piled up faster. The hot water ran out quicker. These were just the superficial things.

There were bigger things, like how dinner time, which used to be a time Kurt and his father had to sit down together, without television or other distractions, and talk to each other. Talk even when they had little to share or little to interest the other. It had been nice. A time to connect. But now it was, everyday, a four person deal. It had Carole and Burt catching up on their days. It had Finn, who was practically a puppy dog, bounding with stories, asking advice, and otherwise making motions for Burt's approval, which Burt gave him. It felt hard now, awkward, inappropriate, for Kurt to bring up the things that were on his mind, like Grey's Anatomy DVDs and orange making a comeback.

Kurt first day of high school was a day of many firsts. It was the first time he had a slushie thrown in with his face, granted, it was happening to a lot of freshman today. Not Finn, he was too tall and everyone who didn't remember him from middle school probably thought he was a transferred junior or something. It was the first day he had been called that particular f-word—one that made him go pale and glance around the hallway to see who heard and who cared. Finn hadn't been there for that one. They had different classes.

It was also the first time that he got to sit at the cool kids table. Well, relatively cool. They all were freshman after, and thus none of them had a reputation or a status yet that was worth a damn. Not until the sports tryouts were over with and teams were picked did freshman have a chance of meaning something.

Still, Kurt was used to eating by himself or with AV club or with whoever had been the ever-dwindling choir club in middle school. Not particularly close to anyone, just on the edge of being an outcast. This table, which included Finn, also included Noah Puckerman, with whom Kurt had been forced to interact with since they Hummels and Hudsons had moved into the same house. Neither particularly liked the other, but Puck, as he stupidly preferred to be called, had stopped being outright mean to him, like he had before Finn and Kurt became step-brothers. There were a few girls who had been on top of the popularity pyramid in eighth grade, including Brittany and Santana, as well as some other guys sitting on the other end of the table that didn't talk to Kurt.

Overall, it was a mixed bag of a day. He didn't really make any new friends. He had just been tolerated by Finn's. However, it could have been worse and Finn liked him enough to openly acknowledge them as new brothers to the school.

Apparently Finn had told Puck about Kurt's suggestion to compliment girls' eyes. Kurt had told Finn when he walked in on Finn googling for flirting advice. By the end of the second week of school, both Finn and Puck were coming to Kurt— separately— asking advice like Kurt was some sort of girl wooing guru on how to impress the pretty new blonde girl who had just made the Cheerios. Quinn, Kurt thought her name was.

Kurt was having a hard time begrudging Finn. Finn had turned out to be an okay guy. Not the sharpest crayon in the box, but he tended not to be intentionally cruel, which was something Kurt valued.

It helped very little when the school day was over and he was confronted once again with how well everyone else got along with each other in their new blended family but him. He didn't say much anymore when they were in a big group. He spent his hours before and after dinner in his room, rather than hanging out in the living room, (where, inevitably, even if Finn was supposed to be doing homework and Dad was supposed to be going over the books for the auto shop, they ended up chatting about something Kurt was not a part of).

It was easy to be in his room, by choice, and be away from them, then to be right next to his dad, and involuntarily be a million miles away.

"Are you getting sick?" Carole asked, laying a hand on Kurt's forehead without a hesitation. It was such a motherly gesture, performed so naturally, that it made Kurt want to close his eyes and lean into the touch.

But instead, he withdrew, sitting back in his chair in the dining room where his homework had been spread out before him on the table. "No. I'm fine."

"Oh," Carole said. She pulled out a chair adjacent to his and sat down. She crossed her arms on the table in front of her. "You've just been spending so much time in your room lately that I thought you might be catching something.

Kurt would have preferred to leave it at that, but Carole was looking at him like she was trying to decode him, so he thought it best to come up with a viable excuse than be silent and give her reason pry. "It's just high school… there's a lot more homework…"

"Finn isn't studying this much," Carole said. It wasn't supposed to be a point of comparison, rather, a comment of interest.

"Well," Kurt said, kind of under his breath, "That's why I get better grades…" He looked up at Carole. "Sorry, that was rude."

She waved a nonchalant hand in the air as I excusing the statement. "Finn's never been much of an academic." Carole shifted in her seat, leaned forward and placed a hand on top of his arm. "Kurt, I'm not blind. You're the same distant you were when I lasted talked to you. I thought you and Finn getting closer would help, but you seem just as before… and I want to know what I can do—"

"It's not you, Carole!" Kurt snapped. Carole looked shocked.

Kurt began stuttering out an apology, when Burt, followed by Finn, came into the room.

"I just got a call on my cell phone. They need me down at the shop. I'm taking Finn with me to help. We'll be back before dinner."

"Dad," Kurt said. "I could come help too…"

"It's fine, Kurt. I've wanted to show Finn around the shop for a while, and I don't want to interrupt your studying."

A moment later they were gone and the front door was slamming shut. Kurt gulped rather obviously. Carole was staring right at him. He could feel her gaze boring into him, but he wouldn't look. He couldn't.

"Kurt…" she said and it was softer, with a touch of pity and a sudden new understanding.

Kurt stood from his chair, and paced to the other end of the dining room, away from her. He reached the wall and then turned back. He just couldn't hold it back.

"Dad and Finn get along better than me and my dad ever, ever, have. And— and it hurts to see that, because they already have relationship that we don't, because I'm not popular, because I don't like football, because I like Broadway and clothes and cooking. Because I'm gay."

Kurt slapped a hand over his mouth after the words had slipped out. His tears had stopped on a dime, but his eyes were wider than ever.

Carole was a little shocked, by the outburst, mostly, but she would be lying if she said she hadn't considered the option that Kurt was gay. He definitely gave off that vibe. It hadn't bothered her. There weren't a lot of openly gay people in Lima, Ohio, so Carole didn't know many. Only the Berry's, who she had met at multiple PTA meetings over the years, came to mind.

Kurt pulled his hand from his mouth, but it still hovered in front of it, as if ready to cut off any other offending words before they got the chance to escape. "I— I didn't say," he stuttered. "I didn't."

"Kurt," Carole said, imploringly. She took a step towards him. She was a mother after all; her innate instinct was to step in, hug, and comfort. Kurt, however, took a step back to match hers. She stilled. "It's okay."

"No, it's not."

Carole saw his Adam's apple bob up and down as he swallowed nervously. He glanced sideways to the front door, even though it remained closed and his father had long since gone.

"Please. Please, don't tell anyone. Anyone. And don't tell my dad. Especially my dad. Please…"

It had never been a question in Carole's mind, but it was reaffirmed all the more by how desperate and distraught this poor boy was. "No, of course not. I won't tell a soul, Kurt. Not even your father. This is…this is your secret to tell."

He nodded in acceptance, and it was both frantic and jerky. He backed up a few paces and ended up retreating down the steps to his bedroom.

Kurt paced the length of his floor. He had never paced before, but he was now. Too much horrible, nervous energy built up under his skin and no other way to get out. He felt so stupid. How could he have just blurted that out? It was one of the most important things in his life, an integral part of who he was. It was still a delicate issue, something he knew, but was still processing it. Something he wasn't ready to share with another soul (he wasn't sure he had another soul he trusted enough, no matter how sad that sounded).

He wanted to believe Carole. He wanted to believe that she wouldn't tell. But he also didn't believe in his luck. Surely, even if she did have the best of intentions, it would slip out accidently, right? Or she had only told him that she wouldn't tell, but she would tell his dad in private… and that would be the end of everything.

Kurt wound two fists in his hair, something he never did, screwed up his eyes tight, and a desperate type of sound escaped his throat.

Carole placed the novel she had been reading into her lap. Burt was next to her in the bed, sitting up against the backboard, perusing a car magazine.

"Burt," she said, garnering his attention. "You need to talk to your son."

He looked at her quizzically. "What?"

"Look, I'm so glad that you and Finn get along so well. He has never had a real father-figure in his life. But I think in all that enthusiasm between you two, that little boys club the two of you have, Kurt is left out."

Burt stayed quiet for a moment, thinking, "I guess I figured he was alright with it all. Kurt never liked sports, and now I didn't have to bother him with them anymore now that Finn and I could talk about it."

"Just because he doesn't care about sports doesn't mean he doesn't care about you. I think he feels left out…replaced even. Haven't you noticed how quiet he's been lately?"

"I thought he was just stressed with school…or becoming a moody teenage. Hell knows when I started high school I practically stopped talking to my parents."

"But Kurt isn't you. Neither is Finn. They both lost one of their parents when they were young. They understand the importance of having a parent at all. Sure, teenagers are more distant because they are growing up, growing independent. But as distant as Kurt has been…"

Burt rubbed a hand on his forehead. "You're right. I know you're right. I've just been so caught up with bonding with Finn, spending time with you, and just merging this family as whole, that I've been neglecting him. I'm a terrible father."

"No, you're not," Carole instantly protested, placing both hands on Burt's forearm, as if to make her words more genuine. "Both Finn and Kurt love you, and you earned that. You may have overlooked some things, but you are hardly terrible."

"Still, doesn't make it any easier on the kid," Burt said with a sigh. "Kurt's just… different than guys like Finn and me. We don't have a lot in common in way of interest. He's good with cars, but they're hardly his passion, and sports, God, he hates those…watching, playing, talking. He likes music, and not exactly Melloncamp. He likes show tunes. He likes clothing… Did you know that we he was little, he put streamers on his bike handlebars? Or when he finally learned to ride by himself he organized a tea party in the backyard for the two of us as celebration?"

Carole shook her head no as she but back a little grin for the compassion that laid behind Burt's words as he reminisced about his son's childhood.

"I've been pushing him out just when he is probably needing him most. I remember what it was like in high school. I was a jock, and I know how kids like me treat kids like Kurt."

"Like Kurt?" Carole questioned, although she already knew. She needed to hear what Burt would say about it, that he could prove to be the man she believed him to be.

"Y'know…small. A bit girly. Possibly…" He cleared his throat and turned to Carole, "We haven't really talked about this. I didn't used to be good about it, but Lizzy set me straight. Ever since he was little I suspected— well, we both did— that Kurt might be…" He trailed off again.

"Gay," Carole supplied.

"Yeah," Burt agreed. "Of course, I love him, no matter what. It's not something I'm used to, growing up here, but it doesn't matter. Not really. Not when you stop and think about it and how all those reasons for those prejudices don't really make sense."

Carole threw her arms around Burt's shoulders.

He patted her on the back and asked, "What?"

"You're a wonderful man, Burt Hummel," she whispered into his ear, "And I am proud to call you my husband, but these are the things you need to be telling your son."

An evening the next week, Carole hustled herself and Finn out of the house to go visit their great aunt who lived in a nursing home. She had also kept a conversation going, about the weather, what they were having for dinner, meshing Thanksgiving traditions even though it was over a month away, so he hadn't a moment to retreat downstairs to his bedroom. Burt would have to compliment Carole on how wonderfully manipulative it all was.

He plopped down onto the couch next to his son and put an arm over his shoulders. "I've been ignoring you lately, buddy."

Kurt was a little startled from all of this, so it took him a moment to respond. "No… I mean, we've both been busy…and our family just doubled, can't expect the same amount of attention as before. I know that." Even confronted with the problem and the major perpetrator admitting it, Kurt could not confess the weakness. It would possibly lead to confessing more than he wanted to confess. Like it had with Carole.

"Kurt," Burt said, "It's not okay, and I'm sorry. Finn is a son to me now, just like you're a son to Carole. Were lucky, really, that we all fit together so well. But having Finn has my kid shouldn't replace having you as my kid as well, and I have been letting it."

Kurt wanted to say 'no' again and pretend that everything was alright, but he couldn't. All he did, then, was stare at his lap and blink back his tears, so that he could maintain his composer and then say, "Yes. I have felt a bit… left out."

"Kurt… I want you to know that no matter what, no what who I become friends with, no matter who else comes into my life, you're never going to be replaced."

Kurt sniffled then, and felt a bit embarrassed at being so obviously vulnerable.

"And Kurt," Burt implored, making the boy look up at him and share eye contact. "Here's another little thing, a secret about being a parent. We're not perfect. We make mistakes, but we also know things. We tend to know things about our kids, things they think we don't know. We're intuitive like that. So… I just want you to know, that it's okay. I love you and I accept you."

Kurt felt like he couldn't breathe, because there was something in that. His dad knew. Kurt didn't know if Carole had spilled or not, but it was okay, because it was okay. Neither of them had to say it, and Kurt wasn't sure if he was ready to say it again, all premeditated. But it was a weight off his chest. Everything was going to be okay.

Aki- Okay, so most of this was written in December, but I was stuck on a few scenes... and now I am done. This story is not abandoned, just do not expect regular or timely updates.