Disclaimer: Glee belongs to Ryan Murphy and Fox, not me.
Burt stared in dismay. "I'm supposed to what?" he said.
"You were on the list," the social worker half-apologized. "I'm so sorry, Mr. Hummel, but I really have no choice. I have to place the child with someone."
Burt turned back to the car he was working on, sorting through the damaged engine. "I can't do it," he said shortly. "I can't take a kid."
"But…your name was on the list, Mr. Hummel," the harried woman objected. "For emergency placement."
"My wife arranged for us to be put on that list, and she's dead," Burt said shortly. "If I'd remembered, I'd have taken our name off."
The social worker looked like she didn't know whether to scream or cry. "Mr. Hummel, I have four children packed into my car that need homes tonight," she said. "You were on the list, and it is your duty to fulfill your obligations."
Burt tossed his wrench down on his workbench with a noisy clang and swore to himself. "So what am I'm taking?" he snapped.
The social worker relaxed. "You can pick whichever one you want," she said. "They're in the car."
Burt gritted his teeth and followed her outside. Cold March air whipped at his shirt, and the sky was already growing dark with an approaching storm. The social worker's car, a plain navy sedan, was parked under a light. "Here you are," she said, opening the front door and turning on the inside lights. "Take your pick."
Burt scanned the children sitting in the car. The sensible thing, of course, would be to take an older child, someone he wouldn't need to babysit. Two of the children were in their early teens; they'd be a good pick.
One of the children caught his eye. He huddled in the backseat between two other children, staring blankly at the floor. He was the smallest and the youngest, perhaps five or six years old, and he would be entirely impractical to take in.
But he looked up, and Burt caught his breath. The child had Mollie's eyes- brilliant, fringed with thick lashes, caught somewhere between blue and green and gray. His small shoulders slumped, but there was something about the firm set of his chin that told Burt that this little one, whatever he had been through, had not yet given up.
"That one," he said before he could stop himself, pointing to the little boy. "Him. I guess I'll take him."
"That's Kurt, he's seven," the social worker said, leaning over to unbuckle the child's seatbelt. "Get your things and get out of the car." The boy obeyed, climbing over the other children and pausing to pick up a small blue backpack. "All right, Mr. Hummel, if we can just bring the paperwork inside…"
Burt walked back into the warmth of the garage, his hands in his pockets, the woman and the child at his heels. "Now, Mr. Hummel, we'll check up on him once a month, and there'll be a stipend for his upkeep," the social worker said briskly, setting the papers on the desk in his office and pointing out where to sign. "He shouldn't be with you terribly long. It's just that his mother's ill and can't care for him right now."
Burt signed the paperwork without really reading it. The child stood beside him, silent, his backpack on his narrow shoulders. "Well, there we are," the social worker said, pleased. "Thank you so much, Mr. Hummel." She turned to the little boy. "Kurt, I want you to behave for Mr. Hummel. I'll see you in a few weeks."
With that, she marched briskly out of the garage. Burt stared down at the child, who stared right back. "So," Burt said. "Your name's Kurt?"
Kurt nodded. "I'm Burt," he said, holding out his broad hand. Kurt stared at him for a minute, as if he wasn't exactly sure what that hand was supposed to do, and gingerly placed his tiny one in his. Burt shook it gravely, his big finger swallowing up Kurt's.
"Sit there," he said, nodding towards a bench nearby. "I got to finish this engine before we can go."
Kurt obeyed without a word, sitting down and placing his backpack at his feet. Burt sighed, leaving his new burden behind, and went back to work on the car.
It took another hour before he finished. He glanced up occasionally to see how the kid was doing, only to find him right how he left him, sitting quietly with his small sneakered feet dangling above the floor.
Burt wiped his hands off on a rag and set it aside. "Let me lock up and we can go," he said. He beckoned to Kurt. "Come on, let's go."
The little boy slid off the bench and trotted obediently behind him as he shut down the garage for the night and turned on the alarm system. It was beginning to worry him that the child didn't speak.
He led him across the parking lot to his truck and opened up the passenger door. "Up you get," he said.
Kurt crawled up to the seat, his backpack bouncing on his shoulders. He looked too small to sit in the front; Burt briefly considered the possible need for a booster seat. But no, the kid wasn't going to stay with him for very long.
"You hungry?" he asked. Kurt shrugged. "You ever talk?"
"Sometimes," Kurt said. His voice was soft and high, and it startled Burt to hear him finally speak.
"Well, we'll get you to the house and get you something to eat," Burt said. "How's that sound?" Kurt just shrugged again.
They both fell silent. Burt drove the well-traveled path from his garage to his house at the outskirts of Lima without thinking about it, and pulled into the driveway. The small neat house was dark and probably looked foreboding to the quiet child sitting next to him. Burt cleared his throat. "You need help getting out?" he asked.
Kurt shook his head stubbornly and slid out of the passenger seat, following at Burt's heels as he walked up to unlock the front door. "Come on in," Burt said, ushering him inside. He flicked on the lights and turned around to get a good look at the child.
Kurt was small and skinny, his eyes too large in his pinched pale face and his hair hanging limply over his forehead. He looked like he hadn't been well for a while. His pilled gray sweater was nowhere near thick enough for the temperature outside, and his oversized shorts hung his hips. He wore knee socks pulled up as high as they could go, and his black sneakers were gray around the edges.
Burt cleared his throat. "Bathroom's that way," he said. "Go wash up and I'll get dinner on the table."
Kurt obeyed, setting his backpack down on the floor. Burt headed towards the kitchen, wondering if he had anything that a kid would want to eat. He wasn't much of a cook either. But he eventually settled on breakfast for dinner and pulled out the skillet.
Kurt edged into the kitchen as Burt was setting the plates out. "Nice of you to join me," he said. He frowned. One of Kurt's socks had slid down his leg, revealing an ugly purple splotch. "That looks like it hurts."
Kurt blanched and pulled the sock back up quickly, sitting down at the kitchen table with his hands folded in his lap. Burt set the plate down. "It's not fancy," he said. "But kids like scrambled eggs and bacon, right? What do you want to drink?" Kurt just shrugged, so Burt settled for pouring him a tumbler full of orange juice. He sat down on the opposite end of the table and started eating his own dinner. It wasn't until he was nearly done that he thought to glance at Kurt.
The child's plate looked like it had been barely touched. He chewed slowly, methodically, on a little bit of bacon, and he pushed the eggs around with his fork. "I thought you were hungry," Burt said. Kurt shrugged. Burt sighed. "If you're done eating, just stick your plate in the fridge. You can…go watch TV or something."
Kurt slid off his chair and took his plate to the refrigerator, then walked to the living room. Burt sighed and kept eating his dinner.
Mollie had been so excited about signing up for the emergency placement program. It was a new thing in Ohio, where children who needed a place to stay could be kept in homes for a few days. They weren't in the foster care system, they just needed a safe place. Mollie had been thrilled. And she would have been thrilled to take in this little boy.
Too bad she was dead.
Burt got up, rinsed off his dishes, and stuck them in the dishwasher. The house was still quiet. "The remote for the TV's on the coffee table," he called.
He walked around to the back door and whistled. His dog bounded up through the yard and up the back porch steps. "Hey, Sammy," he said, rubbing the golden retriever's floppy ears. "C'mon, bud, dinner time."
He ushered the dog inside and closed the door. It hadn't been exactly his idea to get a dog either, but Mollie had fallen in love with the puppy and he couldn't tell her no. Turns out the dog became more company than he expected after she died.
Suddenly he heard high-pitched, terrified shrieking from the living room. He ran back inside to find the child pressed back in the corner of the couch, striking blindly at Sammy. "Go away!" Kurt screamed, picking up a pillow and throwing it at the excited dog. "Don't bite me! Go away!"
Burt grabbed Sammy by the collar and tugged him back. "Stop it," he scolded the child. "He's not going to bite you, he just wanted to say hello."
He took the pillow out of Kurt's hand. His intention was just to get both the dog and the kid calmed down, but he didn't miss it when Kurt flung up a protective arm over his head, his eyes squinched shut.
"It's okay," Burt said. "Sammy just got excited. He's never had a kid to play with."
Kurt slowly unfolded himself from his protective little corner. His face was stark white and his eyes were gray and pale. Burt sighed. Maybe he could take Sammy for a walk, get some of his energy out. He walked over to the hook where Sammy's leash hung and pulled it down, snapping the large latch. "Listen, kid, I know the dog's sort of big, but he's not-"
His voice trailed off. Kurt was staring blankly at the leash in his hand, the big square buckle gleaming. The child's chest heaved. "Hey, hey, what's wrong?" Burt asked. He dropped the leash and knelt beside the little boy. "Are you-"
Kurt's eyes rolled back in his head and fell forward hard, his head smacking against Burt's shoulder. Inadvertently Burt closed his arms around him. "Oh, god, he blacked out," he mumbled, patting a hand against Kurt's narrow, bony back. He lifted the child easily and laid him down on the couch, then covered him with a blanket.
There was something wrong with the kid, that much was obvious. Children shouldn't be as silent and anxious as this little boy was. Sammy whined and nudged at Kurt's cold elbow. "No, no, not now," Burt muttered, pushing the dog down. "I'll take you on a walk in just a second, okay?"
He glanced back at the leash, abandoned on the floor, and its shining buckle. No, he thought. No, there's no way he could've thought I would actually…no…
He might not've known much about taking care of children, but he at least knew that a child should not be afraid of getting struck.
Burt herded Sammy out of the living room and into the kitchen. "Stay here and eat," he said, filling up his bowl. "Don't bother the kid, okay?"
Once the dog was taken care of, Burt checked on Kurt again. He had fallen into fitful sleep, his white lips softly parted. Burt sat down in the armchair, turned on the television with the volume turned down low, and waited for him to wake up.
Eventually Kurt roused, his blue eyes fluttering open. "You're okay," Burt said, keeping his voice low and gentle. "You want to go to bed?"
Kurt nodded, looking slightly dazed. At the sound of voices, Sammy padded in the living room, tongue lolling out of his mouth. Kurt whimpered and pulled back. "Come on, it's okay," Burt said. "He's just a little too friendly, but he won't hurt you. Here, give him a pat on the head."
Kurt tentatively petted the dog. Sammy closed his eyes happily, panting as he stroked his floppy ears. He licked at the child's fingers and Kurt yelped. "No, see, that means he likes you," Burt reassured him.
"He likes me?" Kurt said.
"Oh, yeah," Burt grinned. "Sammy likes everybody." He cleared his throat. "Get your stuff. I'll take you to your room."
Kurt slid off the couch, pushing the blanket aside, and followed him upstairs with his backpack in hand. His footsteps were featherlight on the stairs. Burt flicked on the hallway light. He should have probably brought the kid downstairs to the finished basement, where there was a lot more space, but he had a vague unsettled feeling in the pit of his stomach about leaving him alone. So he led the kid upstairs to the tiny spare room instead.
"I know it's not much, but you can sleep here," Burt offered. "The bed should be okay. Bathroom's down the hall. Call me if you need me. 'Night."
He left the little boy alone in the room and closed the door. The child didn't offer any protest. In fact, he didn't say anything.
Burt didn't need to know that Kurt couldn't bring himself to sleep in the bed. He curled up on the floor like a kitten, still dressed in his clothes. His backpack stayed propped up by the closed door, and Kurt spent the night staring into the oppressive darkness, unable to fall asleep.
SO YEAH THIS STORY IS SUPER ANGSTY.
The idea for this story struck me yesterday and I wrote three chapters and 10,000+ words in one sitting. INSANE, RIGHT? And I'm trying to do better and finish stories before I post them (which is why there haven't been any KGI/SYWBL/etc. updates recently) but that frustrates me so. I don't know whether to make people happy and wait till I've finished a story to post it, or make me happy and post as I go, even if it takes a long time to finish a story.
So...this one's already going up. So sue me.
Anyways, this story is heavily drawn from the saddest book ever written, Goodnight Mister Tom by Michelle Magorian. For those of you have read it...get your tissues out now, because yes, I am doing the closet scene. If you haven't read it...you're probably going to cry. But yeah, I discovered the movie version and watched it and remembered how much I loved the book, and realized that it would be absolutely perfect with Burt and Kurt as an AU story.
I've written up to chapter three, so you're going to meet Carole, Finn, and Blaine soon, and I have chapter four in my head. I'm debating about whether or not I should stick to canon only characters, or write in Lucy, but I guess we'll see.