Disclaimer: Glee belongs to Ryan Murphy and Fox, not me.
Burt tapped his little son's bedroom door open and crept close. Kurt slept soundly, burrowed deep under his layers of blankets and comforters, curled up on his tummy with his arms pulled tight under his narrow chest.
"Kurt," he whispered, smoothing his little boy's soft brown hair. "Kurt, it's Dad." Kurt half-roused, shifting around and cracking one eye open. "Listen, bud, I've got to run down to the garage for a little bit. You'll be fine by yourself for a few hours."
Kurt nodded and yawned, nuzzling into his pillow like a sleepy kitten. Burt pulled the blankets up to his chin and tucked him in tightly, pausing to drop a brief kiss to his forehead before slipping out of the room.
He just needed a little time to himself today, that was all. Some time messing around in the depths of an engine would give him the space to clear his head so he didn't spend the entire day in a lost fog.
He shuffled down the stairs and pulled his coat off the hook by the front door, trying not to look at the framed photograph on the living room mantel before disappearing outside.
Kurt opened his eyes and blinked sleepily at the ceiling, his little bedroom barely illuminated by the pale November sunshine filtering through his curtains. He scooted on his tummy until he could stretch his legs over the side of his bed and touch his toes to the floor, then wrapped one of his blankets around his shoulders like a cape and wandered over to the window.
He pushed the curtains aside and frowned glumly. Outside everything was pale and gray and gloomy, the trees dark and naked and the grass faded and brittle. Frost lingered everywhere, crisp and cold. He pulled the blanket tighter around his shoulders and sighed. He didn't like November very much. It was always boring and cold, with nothing to look forward to but Thanksgiving and-
He sucked in his breath and ran over to his desk, dropping his makeshift blanket-cape, and crawled onto his chair. His calendar hung on his bulletin board; he trailed his little finger along the days until…
"It's Mommy's birthday," he whispered aloud, his voice strangely loud in the stillness of his empty house.
He sat back on his chair, his lips wobbling. I forgot Mommy's birthday, he thought forlornly.
His mother always made a big deal about birthdays. She always decorated the house and picked out the nicest presents and made delicious dinners, whatever the birthday person wanted (even the year that Kurt was three and picked teddy bear macaroni and cheese and lima beans), and she always baked the best birthday cakes, soft and pillowy and fragrant, piled thick with satiny frosting and decked with cheerfully lit candles.
He picked at his fingers. It couldn't be a birthday without a cake.
Kurt slid off his chair and ran down the stairs, his little bare feet making no sound on the carpet. His mother's cookbooks still stood in a row on the kitchen shelf, untouched since she had passed away. Carefully he clambered onto the kitchen counter, pushing himself up with the help of a chair, and pulled down the yellow cookbook where all of her cakes had come from.
He sat down crosslegged on the counter and flipped through the pages, trying feverishly to remember what his mother's favorite cake had been. His father's favorite was a heavy spice cake weighted by caramel frosting; his favorite was strawberry cake with real strawberries in the middle and shiny chocolate on the outside. But what was his mother's favorite?
He turned pages frantically, scanning past the photos and titles and his mother's round cursive in the margins, and sighed in relief when he came to a picture of a pretty yellow cake covered in soft chocolate frosting.
"This is a real birthday cake, KK," he remembered her saying as she smoothed frosting over the perfect layers. "It's a classic. You can never go wrong with this one."
Kurt smoothed the pages open and propped the book open before climbing up on the counter and digging through the cabinets for the big blue mixing bowl where his mother mixed all of her cakes. He shimmied down and paused.
Technically, he wasn't allowed to use the oven alone, but surely his dad would understand, since it was a special occasion. And he didn't trust his dad to bake a cake.
Kurt checked the cookbook and turned the dial to the proper temperature. He beamed in satisfaction, then checked the cookbook again. His mother had taught him all the different measures- cups, tablespoons, teaspoons- so this part would be easy.
He worked carefully and methodically down the list, pouring in each ingredient precisely. Flour and sugar still trailed across the countertops, eggshells got trampled underfoot, and there was a smear of vanilla extract in his hair, but he was pretty sure he could clean it up before his dad could get home.
Mixing was a little harder. He sat on the counter with the bowl between his narrow knees, digging furiously with a wooden spoon. The cake batter splattered everywhere under his enthusiasm, dotting his pajamas like polka dots, but he kept working. He knew he should really get out the mixer, but he wasn't allowed to use that unsupervised either.
Finally the batter looked right, thick and smooth and glossy, and with a sigh he tipped the bowl over and dribbled it into his cake pans. His arms ached as he hopped down from the counter and carried the pans cautiously to the hot oven, but he finally wiggled them inside without burning himself and closed the door in satisfaction.
He sidestepped his cake carnage spread across the floor and peeked at the recipe for the frosting. It looked easy enough, with just one problem.
"I think I have to use the mixer," he mumbled to himself. "I'll just clean it up before Daddy gets home and he won't know."
Kurt pushed his sleeves up past his elbows and assembled his ingredients on the counter. He squared his shoulders and reached into the bottom cabinet to wrestle the mixer out, grunting a little at the effort. It took much huffing and puffing, but he finally hoisted it up and popped the beaters in. Carefully he dropped in the sticks of butter and flipped the switch, hopping back as it whirred to life.
The beaters whipped the butter easily. He beamed, quite pleased with himself, and dropped in a little vanilla. "It's perfect," he said as he peered into the bowl.
He dragged the bag of powdered sugar and the container of cocoa to his side and spooned several heaping cups into the bowl. However, he had never done this part before, and he wasn't prepared for the sudden cloud of sugar and chocolate that flew into his face.
Kurt shrieked, scrubbing furiously at his stinging eyes. The beater continued to whirr noisily- so noisily he almost didn't hear the kitchen timer go off. He pushed himself off the counter, sliding in a puddle of liquid egg yolk as he hit the floor, and tripped over to the oven. The cake layers seemed perfect as he opened the door, tall and golden and sweet-smelling, but in his enthusiastic haste he forgot to pick up the big oven mitts hanging by the cabinet.
The second his fingertips brushed the hot metal pans he let out a piercing howl, falling back and hitting the floor hard. The mixer was still whirring and the timer was still chiming and the oven door was still open, blasting him with blazing heat.
And of course, that was when the front door opened.
Burt dropped his coat on the back of a chair and stared at the culinary battlefield. "Kurt?" he said in disbelief. "What the hell is going on?"
Kurt burst into tears.
Burt hastily grabbed the slowly-browning cakes out of the inferno, shut off the oven, and flipped off the mixer before reaching down and picking Kurt up. "Okay, kiddo, what's going on?" Burt asked, setting him on the counter so they could be eye-level. "What the hell did you think you were doing?"
Kurt continued to howl, big tears running down his cheeks. "I h-had to b-bake a ca-a-ake," he sobbed. "I'm s-sorry I used the oven, and the m-mixer, but, and it spilled e-everywhere, and it g-got on m-me, and then, and then I b-burned my fingers, and…and…I just wanted to m-make a cake for Mom!" He choked on a messy sob. "I kn-know you're mad at me, but if you could h-hug me right now, th-that would be really n-nice!"
Burt scooped him up his arms and held him close, one big hand smoothing his hair. Kurt latched on tightly. "I'm not mad," he said. "I'm not mad, scooter. You were trying to do a real good thing."
Kurt clung to him until his sobs began to quiet. He finally leaned back, rubbing his reddened eyes and wet cheeks. "I'm sorry, Dad," he said in a small voice.
"I know," Burt said. "Let me see your hands." Kurt obeyed, holding out his fingers for Burt to scrutinize. "It doesn't look too bad. We'll just run them under cold water, okay?"
Kurt's shoulders shuddered as he continued to calm down. "What are we gonna do about Mommy's birthday, though?" he asked.
Burt glanced around the kitchen. "Let me tell you what," he said. "You go get cleaned up and changed into something nice, and we'll go somewhere, okay?"
He brightened. "Where, Dad?" he asked.
"It's a surprise," Burt said. He set Kurt on his feet and gave him a light little pat on his bottom. "Go on, kiddo, get ready."
Kurt ran to obey. It took a little while to scrub himself clean of the layered-on cake ingredients, and even longer to pick out an outfit, but finally he was dressed and ready to go. He hopped down the stairs two at a time. "Dad, I'm ready," he called.
He peeked in the kitchen. Everything was spotless. The only sign of his cake mishap was the pretty glass dome on the counter, now filled with a tall, messily frosted cake. "Got your shoes on?" Burt said, wiping his hands off on a towel. Kurt held up one leg and pointed to his neatly-tied teal low top Converses. "Okay, get your coat."
"Where are we going?" Kurt begged.
"You'll see when we get there," Burt said. He slid on his jacket, then handed Kurt his Little Mermaid lunch box. "Let's go."
The car ride seemed to take forever. Kurt perched in the passenger seat of the truck, his lunch box on his lap and his pert little nose pressed against the window as the gray Ohio landscape rolled past. "Are you sure you can't tell me?" he asked for the umpteenth time.
"I'm sure," Burt said.
By the time Burt parked the truck in a small neat parking lot, Kurt was itching with anticipation. He clambered out of his seat and wiggled to the ground, still carefully balancing his lunchbox. "Where are we, Dad?" he asked eagerly.
"Hold my hand when we cross the street," Burt said. Kurt obeyed, trotting beside him with his lunchbox swinging at his side. "See what it says above the building."
"Westerville Art Museum," Kurt read aloud.
"This was one of your mom's favorite places," Burt said. "We used to go on dates here, before you were born."
Kurt fell silent as they walked up the wide concrete steps and through the tall glass doors. He gazed around the bright atrium as his father bought their tickets, distracted by the beauty of the sculptures on display.
Burt knelt down to put the children's visitor sticker on the front of Kurt's coat. "Now let's see how much of this art stuff I remember," he said.
They spent the gray gloomy Saturday wandering up and down the halls of the art museum, Kurt clinging close to his father's hand. Burt read the artist's names and stories to him in a hushed voice as Kurt listened attentively and picked him up when he wanted a better look at a painting or a sculpture. Sometimes Kurt paused to study the art in front of him, his head tilted quizzically to the side as he puzzled over it, and Burt waited patiently for him to take his hand again and walk to the next display.
They had been walking for quite a while when Kurt yawned. "Daddy, I'm tired," he said.
"We've got something important to do, though," Burt said.
He led him down an airy hallway and guided him to the painting at the end. "This was your mom's favorite picture," he said.
Kurt stood on tiptoe to see the artist's plaque. "Abbott Handerson Thayer, Angel," he read, his voice soft and hushed.
"It was my favorite because I thought it looked like her," Burt said.
Kurt gazed up at the painting. "Is that what Mommy looks like now?" he asked.
Burt said nothing, just squeezed his hand tightly. "I think it's time for that birthday cake," he said.
The two of them sat down on the floor beneath the painting and Burt opened the lunchbox, pulling out a plastic container filled with a hunk of cake and the matching Little Mermaid thermos. "We'd better eat fast," Burt said. "I don't think we're allowed to eat in here."
They ate Mollie's birthday cake in silence, forking into it carefully in an attempt not to spill crumbs across the polished floor, and took turns sipping cold milk out of the thermos. The angel gazed above them, never quite looking, never quite smiling.
Burt snapped the lid on the empty container and brushed a smear of chocolate frosting off Kurt's little mouth with his thumb. "C'mon, bud," he said. "Let's go home."
Kurt rubbed his eyes sleepily as Burt closed the lunchbox and handed it back. He slipped his hand back into his father's firm warm grip, but as he walked away he glanced back over his shoulder one last time at the pretty angel in the painting.
He had just pulled the truck out of the parking lot when Kurt curled up in the front seat, his arms folded on the center console and his cheek pillowed on his hands, his whole body limp and pliant in sleep. Burt smiled to himself and brushed Kurt's hair away from his forehead.
He and Mollie had always meant to take him to that old art museum on a family trip, but they never found the time. Just like how he had always meant to tell Mollie that she reminded him of that painting, angelic and pure and beautiful, and he had never found the right words.
Burt glanced down at his sleeping son. "You remind me of your mom, every time I look at you," he said in the silence of the car, and that was the closest he could manage.
This was sort of a hastily put together thank you for the wonderfully talented and kind Muchacha10, who drew two (two!) pictures inspired by my stories yesterday. I about peed myself.
I really wanted to write something to thank her, and so...here we are!
This is sort of a companion to "Say That Something"; it takes place about a month later, so Burt is still getting used to being Kurt's only parent and still doesn't really know quite what to do with him.
The painting, Angel by Abbott Thayer Handerson, is real. It's one of my favorite paintings, angelic but still realistic, and not only does she remind me of Mollie, but she looks a lot like how Muchacha drew her! I have died from joy.
So yes. I hope you enjoyed this! And in the meantime, I have to go bake a cake.
Thank you so much for your hard work, Jackie! I appreciate you so hard. :D