Disclaimer: Glee belongs to Ryan Murphy and Fox, not me.
Burt tapped the door open and peered inside the darkened bedroom, trying his hardest not to make a sound. His little son made a shadowy lump in the middle of his bed, his blankets heaped around and pulled up to his chin. He crept a little closer and knelt down beside the bed, stroking Kurt's hair lightly off his forehead. Kurt's chest rose and fell gently, his breath warm against Burt's cheek, and he relaxed, relieved to find him still breathing.
He kissed Kurt's soft cheek and smoothed his blankets over him before creeping out of the room. Carole was in the hallway, smiling at him. "You're like a daddy with a newborn," she said, shaking her head.
"What?" Burt said, closing the door as quietly as he could. "I just wanted to make sure he was okay."
"You checked on him half a dozen times during the night," she laughed, kissing him on the cheek. "You're exactly the same way I was when Finn was first born."
"I just don't see why you're teasing me," Burt complained, following her down the stairs. "He's been so sick."
"Yes, but he's doing so much better," Carole reminded him gently. "He doesn't need the oxygen anymore, his appetite's back, he's even able to get up and play with Finn."
Burt leaned his elbows on the kitchen counter. "I can't help it," he said. "When he's sleeping or he's somewhere where I can't have my eye on him…I just need to go make sure he's all right."
Carole smiled as she started the coffeepot. "You're exactly the way Finn's father was when Finn was first born," she said. "He spent my whole pregnancy nervous that he wouldn't know what to do when the baby was born, and then Finn was put in his arms and…that was it. It was like a lightbulb turned on." She rubbed his arm. "You're a daddy now, Burt."
Burt drummed his fingers on the counter. "Yeah, just not legally yet," he said.
"There's still no word on his mother, is there?"
He shook his head, his lips thinning. Sometimes when Kurt woke up screaming and crying and throwing up in the middle of the night he dreamed about tracking that woman down and making her go through the hell she forced the child to endure. But no one had been able to find her yet.
Rapid footsteps thumped on the stairs and the basement door banged open as Finn flew into the room. "Merry Christmas Eve!" he boomed, flinging his arms wide.
"Sh, sh, sh, Kurt's still sleeping," Carole laughed. She kissed the top of his head. "Good morning, sunshine."
"Mom, can we have pancakes?" Finn begged. "Please? Pancakes?"
Burt checked his watch. "It's past eight, I guess I can go get Kurt up," he said. "You two start breakfast, I'll go get him."
He rolled his eyes at Carole's poorly hidden grin. As he headed up the stairs he heard a faint little voice calling for him. "Daddy…Daddy…."
He nudged the door open to find Kurt sitting up sleepily in bed, his big stuffed rabbit tucked under his arm. "Daddy?" he yawned.
Burt couldn't help but smile at him. "Morning, buddy," he said, sitting down on the edge of the bed. Kurt immediately scooted onto his lap, sticking his thumb in his mouth and burrowing into his chest. "You want some breakfast?"
Kurt nodded. Burt scooped him up and set him on his hip. "I can walk," Kurt objected, pulling his thumb out of his mouth.
"Fine, fine, you can walk," Burt said. "Go get cleaned up and come downstairs as soon as you're ready, okay?"
"Mmkay," Kurt said, wriggling down to the floor before padding off to the bathroom. Burt ruffled his hair affectionately.
"Better hurry, Carole's making pancakes," he warned.
Burt smiled to himself. Kurt really was getting a lot better. He was still thin- painfully so, his collarbone and ribs jutting out sharp- and he tired out quickly, often falling asleep with little warning. But he had color in his cheeks, and he was able to get up and play, and he stopped jumping every time someone spoke a little too loudly.
Carole had already started pancakes when he got back to the kitchen, and by the time Kurt came downstairs, dressed in a thick cardigan and dark wash jeans that were baggy on his slim little legs, Finn had already finished off a plateful.
"Morning, honey," Carole said. "Are you hungry?"
"Uh-huh," Kurt said. He sidled up to Burt, wrapping his arms around his forearm and leaning his cheek on his shoulder. "Did Finn eat everything?"
"Not quite yet," Carole said. "Hang on just a second and I'll have more ready."
Kurt sighed deeply. Burt kissed the top of his head. "What's wrong, buddy?" he asked.
"Tired," Kurt said.
"But you just woke up."
"But I'm tired."
Burt pushed his empty cereal bowl away and lifted him onto his knees. Kurt cuddled into his chest, rubbing his cheek in the soft flannel of his shirt. "I see what you're up to," Burt grinned. "You just want me to carry you everywhere today, don't you?"
Kurt giggled, the sound muffled in his shoulder. "You gotta wake up, though," Finn said impatiently. "We gotta do Christmas stuff."
"What kind of Christmas stuff?" Kurt inquired.
"Like cookies for Santa!" Finn said. "And Christmas letters!" He paused. "Oh, and Mom, I forgot. Can we go to church with Blaine and Lucy tonight? I told them we were coming."
"I don't know, that's awfully late," Carole said.
Finn glanced slyly over at Kurt. "We get to dress up," he said.
Kurt perked up instantly. "I want to go!" he said.
"Well, we'll wait and see how tired you are," Burt said.
Carole set down a plate with two small pancakes in front of Kurt. "Eat your breakfast, sweetie," she said. "Do you want some milk?"
Kurt nodded. "Daddy, can you help me?" he asked.
"Yeah, but you've got to sit in your chair on your own," Burt laughed. He set Kurt down in his own chair, then spread butter over his pancakes and cut them up in little bite-size pieces.
"Syrup, please?" Kurt asked eagerly.
"You're going to be hyper later," Burt sighed, but he drizzled maple syrup over the pancakes with a grin anyway. "When you're done eating we can do Christmas stuff, okay?" Kurt nodded, already picking up pancake pieces and popping them in his mouth.
Burt wasn't much help when it came to Christmas things, other than untangling lights, but it was fun to watch Carole and the boys get excited. They decorated the tree, they wrote out letters to Santa, and they completely trashed the kitchen baking cookies. Finn kept stealing gobs of cookie dough out of the bowl, but they still managed to make dozens of cookies, filling the house with the smell of warm sugar and gingerbread. He mostly just kept out of the way, working on projects in the garage while Sammy snoozed in the corner, but around midafternoon he peeked his head in to steal a cookie.
"How's it going?" he asked, brushing crumbs off his shirt.
"Pretty good, I think," Carole said. "We'll be eating Christmas cookies till Valentine's Day, though."
Burt grinned, but Kurt suddenly stamped his foot. "Stop it!" he said.
Finn paused. "I wasn't doing anything," he said meekly.
Kurt screwed up his face. "I wanted to do that," he said, pointing at the frosting tube in Finn's hand. "I wanted to help!"
"You were helping," Finn said gently. Kurt's chin began to wobble. "No, don't cry!"
Burt crouched down. "Kurt, are you tired?" he asked.
"No!" Kurt wailed, hiding his face in his hands.
Burt stood up and scooped him up. "I think you need to sleep a while," he said. "I think you're tired."
"Not tired!" Kurt sobbed into Burt's shoulder, his hands winding in the collar of his shirt and holding on tightly. Burt patted his back as he carried him upstairs. He'd gotten pretty good at putting Kurt down for a nap without too much trouble, but Kurt always insisted he didn't need to sleep until his head hit the pillow.
He kept rubbing Kurt's back as he carried him into his bedroom, nudging the door shut with his hip. "You'll feel better when you've had a nap," he said, keeping his voice quiet and slow.
"Don't need a nap," Kurt cried. "I'm not a baby."
"No, no, you're not a baby," Burt soothed. He set Kurt on the bed and unbuttoned his sweater. "You're still sick. You need to rest." He rubbed his thumb against Kurt's cheek. "Come on, don't cry."
"'m not crying," Kurt sniffled, sticking his thumb in his mouth.
He helped Kurt undress down to his boxer briefs and tee shirt before laying him down on the bed and draping his blue blanket over him. Kurt sniffed hard, rubbing at his eyes with his thumb still in his mouth. "You just lie down and take a little rest, and if you're still awake when I check up on you, you might be able to get up, okay?" Burt said.
Kurt nodded. His cheeks looked a little flushed, more than usual, and Burt brushed his hair back to check his forehead. "I'm going to take your temperature when you wake up, okay?" he said. "I don't want you running a fever again."
Kurt nodded. "Can I have a hug before I go to sleep?" he asked in a small voice.
"Sure, kiddo, sure," Burt said, sitting down beside him and leaning down to hug him. Kurt wrapped his small arms around his neck. "Have a good sleep, buddy."
"'Kay," Kurt said, squeezing one last time before lying back down and nestling into his pillow. Burt tucked him in and backed out of the room, watching Kurt's eyes close slowly. He wasn't surprised at all when he checked on him fifteen minutes later and found him fast asleep, his arms wrapped tightly around his big stuffed rabbit.
The rest of the house stayed quiet while Kurt took his nap- even Finn managed to keep his voice down and stop stomping around. Burt pitched in with cleaning the kitchen while Carole and Finn finished up the cookie baking.
An hour and a half passed before Burt went to check on Kurt again, the thermometer in his hand. He expected to find him still sleeping, but Kurt was curled up under his blanket and blinking drowsily at the ceiling.
"Hey, scooter," Burt said, sitting down beside him. He brushed Kurt's hair away from his forehead with the back of his hand. "How're you feeling?"
"Better," Kurt said sleepily.
Burt switched on the thermometer and placed it gently in Kurt's ear, waiting for it to beep. "No fever," he said. He tucked his hands under Kurt's arms and picked him up. "Oh, c'mere, sleepy boy."
Kurt rested his head on his broad shoulder and Burt felt his heart give a little skip. Carole was right. He was like a father with a newborn. Holding Kurt made him feel like his world had fallen into place. From the moment Kurt had called him his daddy, it was like a switch had flipped.
He kissed the side of Kurt's head, breathing in the sweet smell of baby shampoo clinging to his hair. "C'mon, kiddo," he said, setting him on his feet. "Up an at 'em. Go get dressed, okay?"
Kurt slid off his lap. "Can we go to church?" he asked. "I wanna get dressed up. I wanna see Blaine and Lucy."
Burt rubbed the back of his neck. "We'll see," he said.
Secretly he was a little reluctant to take Kurt out. They hadn't really taken Kurt out of the house much- they tried a trip to the park a week earlier that ended with Kurt falling asleep at the bottom of the slide after twenty minutes. And he hadn't allowed Kurt's friends to visit him. He wasn't exactly sure why. But it made him nervous to let them around Kurt.
What if they did something, or said something? Even the most unintentional misstep could hurt his little boy.
The therapist had been pretty helpful so far during the twice-weekly visits. The medication had been good for him too. But Kurt was fragile- physically, emotionally, mentally. The last thing he wanted to do was push him too hard.
"I'm dressed, Daddy, can I go downstairs now?" Kurt asked, sounding a little impatient.
"Sure, buddy," Burt said. He stood up, pushing on his knees. "Carole and Finn finished making cookies. Want some?"
Kurt brightened. "Uh-huh!" he said.
The rest of the afternoon passed easily after Kurt's nap. He was back to his sweet self again, munching on cookies with Finn and watching Christmas movies with Carole. Finn kept asking every so often if they could go to the Christmas Eve service and see their friends; Burt kept putting it off, but he almost wanted to give in. Finn hadn't seen his playmates since school let out for Christmas break. It wasn't fair to keep him apart from them too.
Finally Finn asked again and Carole sighed heavily. "Go get dressed," she said. Finn let out an excited whoop and ran for his room. "Kurt, go pick out something nice to wear, okay?"
"Okay!" Kurt asked, beaming from ear to ear.
Carole glanced over at Burt. "They really want to see their friends," she said, half apologetic. "And it's not a long service. Kurt should be fine."
"Yeah, probably," Burt said, but he sounded unconvinced in his own ears.
He got ready for the church service, feeling nervous despite himself. What if Kurt got sick while they were out? What if he had a meltdown? What if someone said something to him that set him off?
"Daddy, do I look nice?"
He looked towards the bedroom door to see Kurt smiling up at him, pink cheeked and starry eyed, all dressed up. "Yeah, kiddo," he said. "You look really nice."
He turned back to the mirror, trying to fix his tie, only to have Kurt's reflection pop up beside his in the mirror. "I'm excited," he confided.
"What're you excited about?" Burt asked.
Kurt leaned his thin cheek on his hand. "I never got to get Christmas before," he said.
Burt paused. "Well, hopefully this'll be a good Christmas," he said at last.
Kurt surveyed his expression solemnly in the mirror, poking experimentally at the dimple in his cheek. "Do you think Blaine will still like me?" he asked.
"Why wouldn't he like you?" Burt asked.
"Because he hasn't come to see me in a long time."
Kurt sounded so forlorn, his small mouth tilting down. Burt straightened his tie and bent to kiss the top of his head. "You'll get to see him tonight," he said. "Okay? And he'll be happy to see you. Real happy."
Carole peeked into the room, adjusting her earrings. "Ready to go?" she asked.
"Ready!" Kurt said. He took Burt's hand. "Let's go, okay?"
Burt squeezed his hand. "Okay," he said. "C'mon, bud."
He and Carole loaded the two boys into the car with minimal hassle, even with getting Kurt in his booster seat. The boys were excited, talking eagerly about seeing their friends, and Finn wasn't even complaining about the tie his mother had forced him to wear. Kurt, on the other hand, kept preening, petting at his neatly combed hair and his bow tie.
The church parking lot was crowded, the ground heavily iced over, and Burt picked Kurt out of his booster seat nervously. "I'm going to carry you, okay?" Burt said. "I don't want you to slip."
"I'm not a baby, I can walk," Kurt protested.
"Let Daddy carry you, sweetheart," Carole said, patting his thigh. "Finn, hold my hand, okay?"
Finn hopped up and down beside her. "Do you see Lucy?" he asked. "I want to see Lucy."
"I don't see her yet, honey, now walk carefully before you fall," Carole said.
The church lobby was warm and crowded, and Burt didn't dare put Kurt down yet, not with all of the people pressing in around them. "Let's go find a place to sit, and then we can find your friends, okay?" he said.
They found an empty few near the back and got the boys settled, setting their coats aside in a pile and tucking mittens into Carole's purse. "Can I go find Lucy now?" Finn begged, but the church choir was already filing in.
"We'll find them afterwards, okay?" Carole promised. "Sit down, baby."
Kurt slid off Burt's lap to sit beside Finn, both of them obediently quiet between the two grownups. Burt started to relax a little. Carole was right. Kurt was going to be fine. The sanctuary was alight with candles and beautifully decorated, and the music was wonderful, even to his unrefined ears. He watched Kurt drink in everything, his blue eyes wide and glowing.
"Now we'd like all of the children to come up to hear the Christmas story," the pastor said from the pulpit. "Kids, come on up and take a seat."
"Can we go?" Finn whispered loudly.
"Only if you take good care of your brother," Carole whispered back. "Go on."
Finn took Kurt's hand. "C'mon," he said.
Kurt followed behind him, fingers laced through Finn's. Burt watched them follow the other kids up the aisle.
"Kurt!" a voice called, a little too loud, and Burt watched as Blaine darted towards them, his dark curls ruffled and eyes bright.
Kurt paused, turning to look over his shoulder, and broke into a bright smile. "Hi!" he said, sweet and sunshiny, and before he could say another word Blaine flung his arms around Kurt, hugging him tightly.
Burt leaned forward without meaning to, but Blaine was holding on too tight. What if he hurt him?
But Kurt shifted in Blaine's grip, letting go of Finn's hand, and hugged him back. "I missed you," he said, leaning his head against Blaine's shoulder.
A lump rose in Burt's throat at the pure happiness on the dark-haired boy's face. "C'mon, you and Finn can sit with me," Blaine said, taking Kurt's hand in his and holding on gently. Kurt followed him to the front, gazing up at Blaine with adoration in his big blue eyes.
Burt didn't hear a word of the nativity storybook the pastor read to the children assembled at the front of the sanctuary. He could see his boys sitting on the lowest step, Finn and Blaine on either side of Kurt with Lucy sitting close beside them. Every so often Blaine would look over at Kurt, beaming, as if he was just so pleased to see him that he couldn't contain it.
A lump rose in Burt's throat. He shouldn't have kept the boys apart.
When the story was over the children dispersed back to their seats. Blaine walked Kurt back to his place, still holding his hand. "Hi, Mister Burt," he whispered loudly.
"Hi, Blaine," he said, letting Finn and Kurt crawl over his legs to take their seats again. "The boys can see you when the service is over, okay?"
Blaine nodded eagerly and ran back to his parents. Burt wrapped an arm around Kurt's shoulders. "How're you doing?" he whispered.
Kurt nestled into his side, pulling his legs up and tucking his thumb in his mouth. Burt let him snuggle beside him, rubbing his hip gently. The ushers started to pass out candles but he handed his off to Finn, knowing that before long he'd have a sleeping child on his lap, and he didn't want to balance a candle over him. Sure enough, he felt Kurt go limp beside him, falling over his knees as he dozed off. Burt stroked his hair while the church choir sang about a silent night, watching the candlelight play across Kurt's peaceful little face. Finn balanced his candle gingerly in his hands, watching the wax drip down in fascination. Carole wrapped an arm around his shoulders, singing along, and Burt exhaled slowly. They almost looked like a family.
Kurt woke up as the last song started to play, rubbing his eyes with both hands. He seemed confused and disoriented, his mouth wobbling a little, and Burt pulled him onto his lap, shushing him gently. Kurt settled down, patting his hands over Burt's fingers and leaning back against his chest.
He was wide awake and alert when the service ended, drumming his fingers on Burt's knuckles. "Can I go see Blaine now?" he asked, but before Burt could give him permission, Blaine ran over to them.
"Hi!" he said. "Let's go see Lucy!"
Kurt was off Burt's lap and clutching Blaine's hand before he could stop them. "Finn, stay with Kurt," he said. Finn darted off behind the boys, and Burt leaned back against the pew.
Carole reached over and squeezed Burt's hand. "This was a good idea," she said. "The boys seem so happy."
"You think Kurt's wearing himself out?" he asked.
"He seems fine to me," Carole said. "Besides, you can't keep him inside the house forever."
"Yeah, but it's safer in there," Burt grumbled.
Carole rubbed his hand. "You can't let him live in a bubble, Burt," she said.
He watched the kids play at the front of the church. Blaine was talking animatedly, waving his hands in excitement, and Lucy kept laughing, the candlelight gleaming on her red hair. Kurt sat on the steps, his face lit up, and Finn sat behind him with his long legs splayed out.
After a while Blaine's older sister came to get him and so did Lucy's parents. Finn helped Kurt to his feet, but when he noticed the smaller boy seemed overwhelmed by the crowd, he hefted Kurt onto his back and carried him piggyback over to them.
"We got to see Blaine and Lucy!" Finn reported, clearly ecstatic.
"Lucy says she thinks she's getting a puppy for Christmas," Kurt said, clinging to Finn's neck like a little monkey. "Daddy, is Santa going to bring us a puppy for Christmas?"
"I don't think Sammy would like having a puppy around very much," Burt laughed. He picked Kurt up and set him on his hip. "C'mon, boys, let's head on home. We've got cookies to put out for Santa."
He and Carole bundled the boys into their coats and hats and mittens. It was snowing again, and Kurt buried his cold little nose in Burt's neck to stay warm. They loaded the kids into the car and Burt drove home, Carole pointing out all the Christmas lights they passed, but by the time they got home both boys were asleep.
Carole laughed softly at the sight of the two sleeping boys. "You take Finn, I'll take Kurt," she said. "He's gotten too big for me to carry."
"I'm on it," Burt said, scooping the lanky eight-year-old out of the backseat. Finn slept like the dead, limp and heavy, and he didn't wake up as Burt carried him into the house and set him down on the couch.
He wrestled Finn out of his coat and set it aside. Finn bolted awake. "Santa come?" he asked.
"Nope, not yet," Burt said. "Wanna set out milk and cookies before you go to bed?"
"Yeah, or Santa won't want to give Kurt and me any presents," Finn said. Burt watched, amused, as Finn zipped around the kitchen, making a crumbly mess of the Christmas cookies and spilling milk all over the counter.
"Thank you've got enough cookies?" Burt asked, amused.
"I think Santa'll like 'em," Finn said. He carried the plate in gingerly and set it down with a glass of milk. "Now I'd better go to bed before Santa gets here." He paused. "Can I sleep in Kurt's room? Like a sleepover? 'Cause it's Christmas?"
"You go get your pajamas on and I'll ask him," Burt said.
Finn ran to obey and Burt headed upstairs. Carole was helping Kurt into his pajamas while he was still mostly asleep, his blue eyes nearly closed. "Come on, sweetie, help me out a little," she smiled, pulling his shirt off his thin arms.
"Finn says I gotta go to sleep or Santa won't come," Kurt whined. "Santa's never come for me before, Carole. I hafta go to sleep or he won't come again."
Carole kissed him on the cheek. "Santa will be here," she reassured him. She pulled his pajama top over his head. "There. Now get into bed."
Kurt crawled obediently onto his bed and laid down, waiting to be tucked in. "Finn wants to know if he can have a sleepover in your room," Burt said. "That sound like fun?"
"Uh-huh, but tell him he can't kick," Kurt said. He blinked up at Burt. "Tuck me in, Daddy?"
"Wait for Finn," Burt said. A second later Finn came racing into the room, dressed in his Christmas reindeer pajamas, and jumped onto the bed. "Gentle, kid, gentle!"
"Sorry," Finn said, crawling beside Kurt and lying down beside him. "We can sleep now so Santa will come."
"All right, boys, lie down and go to sleep," Burt said, drawing the blankets up around them. "And don't get up till Carole and I come and get you, okay? No peeking at the tree."
"Yes, Daddy," Kurt murmured, his thumb hovering around his mouth.
"Night, Mister Burt," Finn said as he cuddled beside Kurt.
"Night, boys," Burt said. He bent to kiss Kurt's soft cheek. "Sleep tight. Merry Christmas."
He and Carole slipped out of the room, turning off the overhead light and leaving the door open just a crack. "Time for Christmas," Carole whispered. "I'll go get the presents."
"I'll get the bikes," Burt whispered back.
They had probably spent way too much on gifts for the boys, but it was Kurt's first real Christmas. He'd never had a tree, or presents, or a stocking, or even a Christmas dinner. Everything was a new experience for him. And Burt had every intention of making his first Christmas a good one.
He went into the garage, pulling back the tarp that covered the two new bicycles, and wheeled them into the house. Sammy followed at his heels, sniffing at the training wheels- a Batman bike for Finn and a bright aqua Schwinn for Kurt. He parked them beside the Christmas tree, angled so they would be the first things the boys saw when they came down the stairs in the morning.
"Burt. Burt, come here."
He adjusted the handlebars of Kurt's bicycle and walked over to the kitchen. "What is it?" he asked.
Carole held out two pieces of paper. "I read their letters to Santa," she said. "This is Kurt's."
He looked down at the page and smiled. "Dear Santa," he read. "I would like a bike for Christmas, but one with the extra wheels so I don't fall over." He grinned wider. "Well, he'll be a happy kid tomorrow morning. And hey, his spelling's getting better."
"Now look at Finn's," Carole said quietly.
He took it, still grinning, but as he read the letter he covered his mouth with his hand.
I was going to ask you for a Nerf gun, since you forgot to bring one last year, but I changed my mind. Remember how I used to ask you for a little brother every year, until my mom said I should stop cause there wasn't going to ever be a little brother? Well I want Kurt to be my little brother, so for Christmas could Kurt stay with Mister Burt forever and be my little brother? He's happy here and he's getting a lot better and I really want us to all stay together and be a family and stuff.
Also I've been mostly good this year except when I put gum in Rachel Berry's hair, but that was Noah's idea so really it wasn't my fault.
Finn Christopher Hudson
Burt stared down at the sloppily written letter. "He's a smart kid," he said, his throat unusually tight. He folded the crumpled paper. "He's a real smart kid."
Thank you all so much for your (mostly) patient waiting! I know it's been a long time- nearly a year!- since I updated this one, but I've always had every intention of coming back to it. I got really burned out on this story and knew I would need a break after chapter 18, but I had no clue it would be this long! It's also been a really hard year for me personally, and to be honest I haven't really enjoyed writing in a long time. But I feel like it's coming back!
I hope you liked this update! It's nice and sweet and fluffy after the past few chapters of angst, but we'll be getting some more angst soon, especially as they continue looking for Kurt's biological mother and Kurt continues to recover. (If you're confused on the timeline, this chapter takes place about a month after the previous one.)
There's five more chapters left of this bad boy, and then I plan on writing a sort of coda, so to speak, that shows what happens after the conclusion of the story. And once this is done...I'm probably going to work on Knife Going In! Fingers crossed. :)