Is it weird I spent more time researching colleges for the boys than I did when I was deciding for myself?
"Right. Shoes, clothes, scarves, three coat options… do you think I should bring more than two hats?"
"Kurt, you're going to college," Burt's voice echoed out of the kitchen. "Most of the other kids'll be in sweatpants and hoodies by the second week of class. If I were you I'd be more concerned about having that fancy new laptop I bought you so you can do your homework, or maybe your phone so you can call home every once and a while."
Blaine grinned as Kurt predictably rolled his eyes.
"Okay, first of all, can you ever imagine seeing me in sweatpants and a hoodie?" he called. "Secondly, my laptop was the first thing I packed after my new Chanel sweater and trouser combination. Thirdly, dad, this isn't just college, this is college in New York. I have to look even more fabulous than I already do on a daily basis."
"Just make sure you get your fabulous ass to class every day and we'll be good," Burt called. Blaine choked back a laugh as Kurt pouted.
"I think it's adorable you're so intent on what to bring with you when we both know you'll go out shopping the first second you get a chance," Blaine said, curling an arm around Kurt's waist and pulling him closer as Kurt twined his arms around Blaine's neck.
Finn dropped a duffel bag on top of Kurt's perfectly arranged stack of five suitcases. "Dude, don't encourage him. Credit card companies prey on college kids who want lots of cool stuff. I saw it in this movie Rachel made me watch."
"Finn, I've had a credit card since I was sixteen. I think I can handle myself," Kurt bit out acerbically and pointedly tilted his hips into Blaine's. Finn predictably paled and hastily retreated to the kitchen where Burt and Carole were making some last minute snacks for them to take on the trip.
"You're horrible," Blaine muttered into Kurt's neck.
"Are you complaining? He's out of the room."
Blaine bit him lightly instead of responding. He loved the quiet gasps Kurt made when he did that.
"Hey, stop making out in the living room. You're only here for another hour, and I'd prefer to spend it on a little father-son bonding time, not watching the two of you suck face."
Kurt pulled away blushing and Blaine shot Burt an embarrassed grin. The older man pointedly looked toward the couch as he sat down and Kurt obediently perched himself as close to his dad's armchair as he could get. Blaine smiled at them sadly. He knew he'd never have that with his own father, but it didn't mean part of him didn't still long for it.
The baby began crying loud enough to make the monitors placed in every room kind of redundant and Blaine jumped at the chance to sooth her.
"I've got her," he called, almost tripping over the luggage as he moved.
"Why don't you bring her down here," Burt said. "That father-son comment was aimed at you too, you know."
Blaine stared at him for a bit and nodded. He couldn't speak if he wanted to. Finn came out of the kitchen and patted his shoulder as he turned toward the stairs. He wasn't going to cry. He wasn't.
Carole winked at him as he passed her. "I know you wanted to say a proper goodbye to Susie anyway," she said. He smiled at her and climbed the stairs.
They each had their own names for the baby. Sue had been vetoed by all three boys before she even came home from the hospital, but Susie and Susan were interchangeably used by both Burt and Carole. Finn, much to Blaine's amusement and Carole's disgust, had settled on calling her Leeloo, like the character from Fifth Element. Kurt made fun of him for it every time.
Blaine smiled when he thought about Kurt's reaction to the baby. He both loved her and hated her in about equal measure. He adored dressing her up and trying to focus her attention on one of her brightly colored toys, but he refused to trust her ever since the first time he had held her and wound up with baby vomit all over the back of his new Marc Jacobs sweater. Half the time Kurt mentioned her he called her the Brat.
Blaine himself liked to call her SuLee. She was as white as her family members, but Blaine secretly liked how Asian the name sounded rolling off his tongue. He also liked that it was vaguely similar to a Turkish name, Şule, he had uncovered back in his obsessive research days. It meant flame. Blaine found that rather appropriate considering the number of times he'd overheard Burt call her a firecracker.
The baby's cries were louder now that he was in the nursery, but the moment Blaine picked her up she stopped and snuggled into his shoulder. She was such a little actress.
"Are you gonna miss us, SuLee?" he asked quietly, nuzzling his nose into her dark blonde hair. She smelled like soap and lavender-scented sheets and that pure baby smell Kurt claimed to hate right before his face softened and he called her Petal. Kurt always called her Petal when he was feeling particularly affectionate.
SuLee babbled something and began gnawing on the material of his shirt. Blaine smiled and kissed her head before heading back downstairs.
"… us if anything happens," Carole was saying as he reentered the living room. "I don't care what time of the night it is, even if you just want to talk we'll be here. And we won't use what you say as an excuse to get you to come back here," she said with a pointed look at Burt.
"I promise," he said. "You're all adults now, you can make adult decisions. But you damn well better be coming back for at least Christmas. I'll pay for the tickets myself."
Blaine grinned and detached SuLee's somehow sticky hands from his face. They'd all been having some variation of this conversation since summer started.
"Hey, the Leeloo monster's awake!" Finn cried, making gimmie motions with his hands. Blaine reluctantly handed her over and sat on the floor next to Kurt.
Part of him hated that he wouldn't have this anymore. He finally felt a little like he actually belonged to a family for once. Burt and Carole treated him like he was just another one of their sons, and although he knew it wasn't true, he'd rather come to rely on the sense of security that gave him.
Kurt began playing with the hair on the back of his head in that special way he had, and Blaine suddenly remembered one of the reasons why he was excited to go to New York.
The extra privacy he and Kurt would have was priceless.
Carole caught his eye and grinned. Blaine did his best to hide his blush. Sometimes he swore that woman could read his mind.
He knew he'd miss that too.
Carole was doing her best not to cry.
Finn clung to her, his tall frame bent awkwardly as he buried his face in her neck. This move would be hard for him. He was ostensibly following Rachel to New York, studying music performance at CUNY instead of going to NYADA with her, but Carole knew his move had just as much to do with keeping an eye on Kurt and Blaine as it did staying close to his girlfriend. He was protective of them to a degree that made her heart swell. Her little boy had become a man; Carole didn't think she could be prouder of him if she tried.
He sniffled and pulled back, giving her an opportunity to wipe her eyes again. A few feet away, Kurt still clung to Burt, but Carole could see him already vibrating with excitement for the future. He had been accepted to the musical theater program at Pace University, and all summer had been debating the benefits of minoring in English to better perfect his script-writing abilities. Burt was already bragging to anyone who would listen about the possibility of his bringing home a Tony in the future.
Blaine stood off to the side, half his face hidden behind Susie's head as he watched them. True to his word, he'd gotten a full-ride music scholarship to NYU, giving up a spot at Columbia so she and Burt wouldn't have to help him pay for his education. He didn't know it, but Burt had slipped an extra $500 into one of his suitcases so he'd have a little extra money to live on in a city as notoriously expensive as New York. Burt had done the same for all the boys.
Kurt and Finn traded places in Carole and Burt's arms, and although these hugs were shorter, they were no less intense. Finally there was just Blaine, still standing to the side as though trying to keep out of the way. Burt clapped him on the back and took the baby from him.
"You look after yourself, all right?"
"Of course," Blaine said, his polite charm almost hiding the anxiety behind his eyes. Carole knew he was nervous about what the next year would bring. She stepped up and wrapped her arms around him.
"Don't be a stranger, honey," she said into his hair. "I expect you to call me just as much as the other boys."
"I know, Carole, I will."
They squeezed each other a little tighter and let go. Blaine moved over to join Finn and Kurt by his car, all of them anxious to pick up Rachel and start their ten hour drive to New York. Carole fought back more tears.
"I call first shift," Finn said, moving to open the driver's side door.
"I don't know, I think Kurt should get the first shift," Blaine said, turning to the boy in question. "Don't you think so, Meg Ryan?"
Kurt blushed and looked incredibly pleased about something.
"Why thank you, Billy Crystal," he said, casually displacing Finn and sitting down. Poor Finn just looked confused.
"You guys aren't gonna be like this the whole time, right?"
"Oh, like you and Rachel won't be worse," Kurt retorted.
"Boys," Burt called. They all smiled cheekily back and piled into the car, Blaine waving out the window as Finn and Kurt threw back one more round of I love yous. Then they were pulling out into the street. And then they were gone.
"They'll be fine," he said tightly.
Susan started to fuss grumpily. Carole knew she'd miss the boys too.
As they headed back inside, Carole looked around the living room. She couldn't help thinking it looked emptier than before, like an empty nest. It was a stupid cliché, but it felt achingly true at that moment.
Susan's whines became full-fledged cries and Carole went to heat up some milk for her next meal.
At least the nest wasn't completely empty yet.
Thank you to everyone who read this, especially all of you who subscribed or favorited it. Extra special thanks go to the brave few who actually did review it. Your comments never failed to brighten my day and kick my muse in the ass when she was being petulant.
If there is something you'd like to see expanded in a separate one-shot, don't hesitate to send me a PM. I won't guarantee I'll have anything more to say about it, but chances are good I will. I'm kind of reluctant to let this universe go.