Title: Iced Tea
Implied pairings: Finn/Rachel Kurt/Blaine
Set during their senior year of high school
Summary: Rachel arrives at the Hudmel household to spend some time with her boys, and ends up forming a bond with the person she least expected to connect with: Burt.
Disclaimer: I don't own anything. I give full credit to Ryan, Ian, Brad, and everyone at FOX- although I did have a really cool dream last night about Glee Live. But alas, I am still just an obsessive fan.
It's 12:56 when Rachel Berry rings the doorbell to the Hummel/Hudson residence. Lima has been in the middle of what seems like a never ending storm for the past week and a half, so it's nice to see the sun out for a change. A moment later she hears a muffled 'Just a sec!" through the door and then one Burt Hummel is standing before her.
"Oh, hi…. Rachel, right?" he says slowly.
She nods primly. "Yes sir. It's nice to see you again Mr. Hummel."
There's a brief pause before he figures he ought to speak again. "You too. Um.. wh-what exactly are you doing here?"
"I'm here to see Finn." She tells him. "He's offered to take me to a carnival in the next town over. I, personally, do not think one should trust any sort of ride that can fold up and be driven away at convenience, but he seems firm on getting a funnel cake and cotton candy."
That last part doesn't surprise Burt at all, the kid was always hungry. It took some getting used to at first, especially since Kurt ate like a bird on a diet most of the time, and even when he did eat it was always something unpronounceable or healthy. But he quickly leaves the thought behind to respond to the girl still standing on the porch.
"Um, Finn isn't here." He tells her, almost nervously.
Rachel's jaw drops. "He's not? But he said to meet him here at one. It's-" she glances at her watch. "-twelve fifty-eight!"
Burt has no idea how he's supposed to respond to this, so he just says, "He went with Kurt and his mom to the store."
"Oh." Her face falls. "Well, I guess I'll just head home then. I'm sorry to bother you Mr. Hummel."
He isn't sure what possesses him to do it, but right before she's able to step off the porch he calls after her. "They left over an hour ago, so it probably won't be much longer. You could come in and call Finn or I can call Kurt or Carole."
Rachel looks over at him, a bit surprised at his offer. "Oh, that's very kind. But I couldn't possibly impose on you-"
"I'm just watching an old basketball game." He points in the direction of the living room. "The Lakers win. Not surprising." He's warmed up to the idea a bit now, so he steps back and gestures for her to come inside. "Come on, I think there's some iced tea in the fridge."
Rachel hesitates for a moment before nodding and following him inside. "Alright. Iced tea sounds lovely." They walk into the kitchen and Burt gestures for her to sit on a bar stool while he grabs two glasses and fills them with ice.
"You'll have to add your own sugar." He tells her as he pours liquid from the pitcher. "I think the stuff tastes better without it."
"No thank you, I prefer it without sugar as well." She says politely. "Too much can cause hyperactivity and ruin one's vocal chords."
"You don't say. Kurt always fills it with artificial sweetener and it tastes like syrup or candy." He rolls his eyes. "If I wanted either of those I would get them. When I drink a glass of tea I expect it to taste like tea."
"The original taste from the leaves is wonderful. My father's are big on the flavored varieties." Rachel tells him. "We're constantly trying something new."
"I love the peach or raspberry kind." Burt says with a nod.
Rachel smiles. "Those are some of our favorites. Recently we also experimented with blackberry, which is also quite satisfying."
"Blackberry huh? I'll have to try that." Burt reaches into his pocket and pulls out his phone. "Do you mind if…"
"Oh! Of course not. Go right ahead."
He nods and dials the number for Carole's phone. Kurt's programmed her on speed dial for him but the whole thing is so damn complicated anyway; he can't even count the number of times he's had to tell him that he is not now nor will he ever be someone who texts.
"Hey honey, it's me. Just wanted to check in and see how close you guys were." He says once his wife has picked up on the other end. "Kind of. Rachel stopped by to see Finn and-" Burt pauses and smiles as he hears her talk to her son. "Yeah, it's not a problem. We're just fine here, sitting and drinking iced tea. Okay, drive safe. Love you too." He hangs up the phone and turns back to Rachel.
"They'll be about ten minutes." He reports, watching as the brunette nods and glances somewhat awkwardly around the room.
"Okay. Thank you very much Mr. Hummel. I really appreciate your hospitality."
"Anytime." He smiles slightly. "So… I hear from the boys that you like all that New York stuff like Kurt."
"Oh yes sir. Very much." Rachel nods vigorously. "Broadway is a dream of mine. Performing has always been my top interest, and I feel that it's a very large part of my life. I used to think it was my whole life." She adds the last part rather quietly, a far off look appearing in her eyes. However through the haze Burt can still see the remains of a smile on her face, almost as if she's in the middle of a good dream.
"And that's changed." It's not a question; he's stating it as a fact. The look on her face gives it away.
"Yes." She confirms. "Because of Finn." Rachel sighs, still seemingly lost in thought. "I just wonder sometimes if that's enough."
Burt frowns. He's never been good with emotions or feelings, or thinking much in general, but he still pushes forward.
"Now why would you worry about something like that?"
Rachel glances up at him with her innocent, big brown eyes. He thinks of how Finn's mentioned her beautiful eyes before and can't say he's wrong. He's pretty sure those eyes could manage to get whatever they wanted from just about anyone.
"I fear that after graduation… it won't be enough." She says quietly. "I'm going to New York, that's a fact. No matter what, after I graduate from high school I'm moving away and following my dreams. But Finn…. Finn is a small town guy. And New York is a daunting place. It's not easy, but I know this. I've been preparing for it my whole life, similar to Kurt. We're ready. Finn may not be. I'm very frightened that if he chooses to follow me it won't be what he deserves. On the other hand if he doesn't come along and we're separated for four years who knows what could happen to us? I want us to be happy together, but I don't want the strain of our relationship to be our main focus. We should both be happy individually as well."
Burt listens to her carefully, processing everything as best as he can. "Why wouldn't New York be what he deserves?" he asks finally.
"Following me around to my shows, working pointless and demeaning jobs just to support me in a city he isn't passionate about- how is that what he deserves? He deserves the world." She says. "Finn is not perfect. I know this. He doesn't make the sun come up or the stars twinkle, and he's made plenty of mistakes in his lifetime. But he is everything to me." Rachel sighs. "I know people think I'm self centered, and I am, to a degree. However at the end of the day I just want him to be the happiest he can be, whatever path that requires traveling. Even if it doesn't include me, despite how heartbreaking it may feel." She glances down at her lap and shakes her head. "And now I'm rambling and making you extremely uncomfortable. I sincerely apologize- this is not your cross to bear. Forgive me."
"Don't be sorry." Burt rests a hand on her shoulder carefully and sighs. "Look, I don't know much. I'm a simple guy and a lot of things confuse me, and to be honest I can't even tell you what I had for breakfast yesterday morning. But I know love. I've been lucky enough to find it in my lifetime- twice. I see the way that boy looks at you and I can promise he isn't going anywhere. He's never happier than he is when you're around, and when you're not you're all he talks about." He chuckles. "The way he lights up when someone mentions your name, or when you walk in a room… this is the real deal. He's in it for the long haul and he's in it because he wants to be. I don't see that changing. When Kurt's mom was alive I can tell you with nothing but honesty that I would have followed that woman to the moon if need be and been perfectly content in doing so. Same goes for Carole."
"But what about you and your passion?" Rachel asks quietly. "Wouldn't you have been upset for not following your dreams?"
"Honey I already had everything I wanted- I had the person I loved. That was my dream. The rest was interchangeable. As long as I had that person by my side everything else was just a bonus."
She looks up at him vulnerably, her next words barely heard. "Do you think that's possible for Finn and I?"
Burt smiles kindly at her, squeezing her shoulder. "With all my heart. You already did the hard part- you found your person."
"The rest is just a bonus." She repeats, returning his grin.
He nods. "Exactly."
"Hello? Burt? Rachel?" Carole appears in the doorway a moment later, a warm smile etched on her face.
"Hello Mrs. Hum- I mean, Carole. It's very nice to see you." Rachel is still not used to calling the woman by her first name, no matter how many times she's insisted upon it.
Finn's mom hugs her tightly after quickly kissing Burt hello and then moves around to the counter to unpack groceries.
"It's lovely to see you too Rachel." She says with a wink.
"Can I help you with anything?" Rachel asks, and immediately the older woman waves her offer away.
"Oh goodness no. That's very kind of you honey but the boys are bringing everything in and Burt will help me put it all away. You've waited for Finn long enough."
Kurt walks in at that moment, setting his two shopping bags on the counter while Finn follows behind with at least three times as much. After a quick hug from Kurt Rachel finds herself being swept into her boyfriend's arms while her face is covered in kisses.
"I'm so sorry baby. Mom asked Kurt and me to go help her at the store and I completely forgot. I promise I'll make it up to you." He says earnestly, causing her to giggle and rest a hand on his cheek.
"It's perfectly fine, don't worry about it. I had a very nice conversation with your step-father while you were gone."
Finn frowns slightly and lowers his voice. "Seriously? You didn't have to do that Rach. I mean, it was really nice and stuff but you could have just waited in my room or something."
"Um, hi. Old but not deaf." Burt says dryly from the counter.
Rachel laughs as her boyfriend's face goes red. "Finn, it's alright. I promise. He was very kind and extremely helpful."
"Helpful with what?" She can see the confusion written all over his face and considers telling him about their conversation. But as she looks up into his eyes Rachel notices something- a spark in his eye as he waits for her answer. He really does love her, she thinks, and perhaps Burt had been right. Yes, she's sure of it. They were going to make it. Maybe they'd end up in New York, maybe not. But they'd be together and that was what mattered- the rest was just a bonus.
Rachel finally replies to him with a smile. "Nothing I haven't known all along."