Author's Note: I've had this part written for about as long as the first part, but had lost the document until I recently cleaned out my writing folders. Sorry about the wait, and hopefully the third (and so far, final) part won't take as long to be posted.
It turns out that when Kurt's upset, he bakes. And bakes.
Sam comes down one Saturday morning, a week or so before Christmas, and sees rows of gingerbread men lining every available surface in the kitchen. "What's up with the gingerbread army? Was there an invasion at Fort Gumdrop? Or some sort of crisis at the Bay of Icing?"
"Laugh all you want," Kurt says, stirring a bowl of dough by hand with a wooden spoon. "But I'll have you know that cookies are cathartic."
"Eating them, maybe," Sam says, picking up one and examining it closely, "but I'm not convinced that baking them helps."
Kurt sets down the bowl. "I take that as a challenge," he says, and tosses an apron over to Sam. "There's a spare bowl in the cupboard, and the ingredients are," he looks around, "well, just follow the recipe, and you'll get it. Eventually."
"You sure I can't use one of those little hand mixer things?" Sam asks a while later, shaking out his hand. "It would make it a lot easier to stir this dough."
"It's not about what's easy," Kurt says, rolling the dough out onto the counter and picking up the cookie cutter. "If it was easy, then it wouldn't be cathartic!" He stamps out perfectly aligned rows of gingerbread men, peels them from the counter, aligns them on the cookie sheet, and puts the sheet in the oven.
"I didn't know that hand cramps were considered catharsis," he mutters.
"Hey, I heard that!"
The aftermath of the gingerbread baking day looks like the pictures Sam saw in his world history textbook the year before of the terra cotta army in China. Hundreds of gingerbread cookies lined up in perfect rows around the house, cooling, and Sam and Kurt collapse on separate ends of the couch. "I don't think I've ever baked that many cookies before," Sam says, "well, I haven't baked any since I was a kid and my mom let me lick one of the beaters. I always wanted the one with more chocolate chips."
"My mother did the same thing. I was always her little helper. She called me her little chef," Kurt says, and his voice trails off, and he seems distant and far away. "I didn't go in the kitchen for months after -"
"You don't have to talk about this."
Kurt shrugs his shoulders. "I'd rather think about her than Blaine right now. At least she didn't choose to leave me." The silence is awkward after Kurt's declaration; Sam examines his thumbnails, while Kurt drums his fingers on the armrest of the couch. "I think the cookies are about ready for a taste test," Kurt finally says. "How about we try them out?"
"Well, I say Operation Hansel and Gretel was a tasty success," Sam says, closing the last of the cookies inside a snowman-shaped cookie jar and brushing loose crumbs from his hands.
"That's what you're calling it?" Kurt leans back against the counter and bites the head off one of the gingerbread men.
"Do you know of any other fairy tales involving gingerbread?"
"Not off the top of my head, no, but that doesn't mean that it needs to sound like a military operation took place in my kitchen today." He pauses for a moment, washes his hands, and turns back to Sam. "Thanks, though. Baking with someone else is -"
"Don't mention it," Sam says with a smile. "I had fun. Really."
"Good," Kurt returns his smile with a matching one. "Let's clean this up though before my dad and Carole get back."
"Yeah, I doubt she'd like gingerbread goop on her stovetop."
"No, not really."
Sam sends a large package of presents to Tennessee a few days later; on top is a carefully wrapped package of gingerbread men. He'd bought Stacey a Barbie and some clothes for said Barbie; Stevie was getting a really cool remote-controlled car that Finn had helped him pick out - "Dude, Stevie's a lucky kid. I would have loved one of these growing up. Still would," Finn had said as they browsed the shelves at Toys R Us. His endorsement was enough; the next day, he'd gone back and bought a second one for Finn.
His parents had been harder to shop for, but his mother was getting some of that bath lotion she really enjoyed but had been going without for a few years, and his father was getting a new watch - the last time he'd talked to his mother, she'd mentioned that his watch strap broke and was carrying the broken remnants of the watch in his pants pocket. As Kurt would say, that would not do, and the two of them had gone watch shopping together.
It's going to be awkward and unusual being away from them for the holidays, but Stevie and Stacey both have the chicken pox, and his parents had told him to stay home and not get sick. After all, he'd never had the chicken pox when he was a kid. Somehow lucked into that one. So when he got back to his - he'd begun to think of it as his, even though he still kept a few boxes packed in the corner of the closet, and logically he knows it's still Finn and Kurt's - house, he closes himself in his room and turns off the lights.
The neighbors' outdoor lights twinkle merrily in the distance, and it almost feels like some cosmic force taunting him.
The five of them are sitting around the living room on Christmas Eve, chatting and sipping eggnog and eating the last of the gingerbread, while Christmas carols play softly in the background. "This is really different than Christmases with my family," Sam says, wincing slightly, "normally Stevie and Stacey would be running around and pestering us to open all of our gifts now and save none for tomorrow."
"That sounds like Finn when he was younger," Carole says, laughing. "He had absolutely no patience when it came to waiting for Santa."
"I'd let him open one present, and then we'd save the rest for after Christmas dinner."
Burt nodded. "That's how we did it too, when Cathy was around." He swallows a lump in his throat and Kurt sniffles slightly.
He's not the only one who's missing someone this holiday season, he realizes; Burt and Kurt have Kurt's mother - Cathy, he guesses - and Finn and Carole have Finn's father, and he's the lucky one of the bunch, because he can at least call his parents in the morning and wish them a Merry Christmas. He raises his glass of eggnog in a silent toast, and the others follow his lead. "So, who's ready for Christmas duck tomorrow?" Burt asks, and the topic is changed away, and Sam settles back into his seat, enjoying the atmosphere.
The others gradually filter out one by one, until it's only him and Carole left. "I have to admit," she says, "I wasn't sure about you moving in at first, Sam."
"What changed your mind?" This is the last thing he really wants to hear tonight, a thing about how he should be back with his family, instead of hundreds of miles away.
"Well, Kurt came and talked to me, and he seemed so...so...the word's on the tip of my tongue. Earnest! That's it. Like you really meant something to him and he was worried about you and wanted the best for you, and wasn't going to take no for an answer."
"I would have been perfectly fine sleeping in my car, though. Or Finn offered to put me up in a motel."
"Where would that boy have gotten the money, though?" She wrinkles her nose, and Sam laughs. "He does mean well, most of the time, but that's beyond his reach. Besides, you need a mother, and if you can't be with your own, well, I do have a little experience in that area."
"Thanks, Carole," Sam says, standing up and hugging her.
"You know, he cares about you, Sam. A lot."
"No, Kurt. I can see it in his eyes. It's stepmother's intuition, you know - it's been more than obvious since the day you moved in."
The other members of New Directions - and a couple members of the TroubleTones - are milling around Rachel's living room on New Year's Eve, and Sam notes the prominent placement of the karaoke machine. The lessons learned at her party the year before still ring true; he's not sipping on stale beer, but instead on some sort of punch - okay, in fairness, someone could have spiked it. He nods at Quinn as he passes her by; she looks preoccupied and distant all at the same time, and she barely acknowledges his gesture.
It's approaching midnight, and Rachel threads her way between everyone, handing out plastic wine glasses - "look at how cute these are!" - and Finn follows dutifully behind, pouring champagne, or something like it. Times Square is on the television, so they'll watch the ball drop along with most of the country. He feels a tap on his arm; turning around, he sees Kurt standing behind him.
"Mind if I -?" Kurt starts to ask, before Sam cuts him off.
"I don't mind at all," he says with a smile. They stand there watching the countdown begin, and Kurt slowly moves his hand over toward Sam's, gradually linking the tips of their fingers together. Rachel and Finn are standing by the karaoke machine, and as the ball begins to drop, they raise their glasses in the air as a toast.
"Happy 2012!" they shout in unison as the ball finishes its drop, and Artie throws confetti in the air, and Sam looks over at Kurt. The look on Kurt's face is so hopeful as he tilts his head up toward Sam's, and Sam feels his stomach fluttering nervously as he tilts his head ever-so-slightly down to match it.
And then they kiss, their glasses tapping against each other.
It's kind of funny, to Sam anyway, what goes through his mind as he's kissing Kurt - besides the normal feelings of "yay, kissing is fun," he remembers something one of his parents said once. "The person you're with at midnight is going to be very important to the rest of your year."
In the background, he can hear Rachel leading a small chorus of people in a rendition of Auld Lang Syne - "for auld lang syne, my dear, for auld lang syne, we'll take a cup of kindness yet, for auld lang syne" - and he sees Quinn leaning on Puck's shoulder, a content smile on her face for once, and Brittany and Santana were oblivious to the rest of the group, despite being in the middle of the room, and maybe his parents were right.
Maybe, just maybe, there was something important and magical about this night.
And if they were, he couldn't be more thrilled about the prospects 2012 would bring.
-to be continued-