"Daddy!" the shrill voice of young Rachel Berry called as she opened the door. 12:15 on the dot. Rachel was an "early bird" kindergartener, meaning she went the first half of the day, nine to noon, as opposed to the "late bears" who went from noon to three.
Leroy put down his magazine and walked out of the living room to greet his kindergarten-aged daughter at the door, where she was standing with
another person. This surprised Leroy Rachel didn't usually bring home friends. Mostly because Rachel didn't really have any friends.
"Hello, sweetie," he greeted, taking her bright pink Strawberry Shortcake backpack from her. "Who is this?"
She gestured grandly to the boy, whom Leroy noticed was wearing pristine white pants, a short-sleeve lavender button-down shirt with flowery dark purple embroidery on the bottom right side, and a spotted bowtie. He had his white coat it sort of looked like it had come from the girls' section of the clothing store, but then, so did his shirt folded neatly and hanging over his Power Rangers backpack. The boy's mom was clearly a classy dresser, and made sure her son was too. He had pale skin, big, innocent blue-green-gray eyes, and not a light brown hair was out of place.
"This is my new friend," Leroy's daughter announced with obvious pride. "His name is Kurt and he was in my walking group," the kindergarteners had walking groups to and from school, each group supervised by a middle-schooler who was basically looking to get out of classes, "and I asked him if he wanted to come over and he said he had to ask his mommy first, so I told him he could call her from here! Is that okay?"
Leroy smiled anything to get Rachel some companions. As much as she claimed she wasn't lonely, he knew she was as excited as he was about the possibility of her making a new friend. "Of course." He led them inside and took Kurt's backpack for him as well, noting that the tag had his first name and a phone number written neatly on it in bright pink Sharpie. "Is this your mommy's number, Kurt?"
The boy nodded. "But I know my number in my heart," he said in a voice that was quite possibly higher than Rachel's, pointing at his chest like that was where the number was stored. Leroy showed him to the phone and listened as apparently someone on the other end picked up.
"Hi, Mama!" Kurt trilled happily. "No, I'm okay. I'm at a friend's house, Mama
. Rachel Berry." The boy had an adorable lisp, Leroy noted. "Uh-huh. I know! Yeah, okay!" He held the phone up to Leroy. "Mama wants to talk to you, Mr. Rachel's daddy!"
"Hello?" Leroy said as soon as he got the phone. "Is this Kurt's mother?"
"Please, call me Liz no need to be so formal. I remember you, Leo."
Leroy's eyebrows rose of their own accord. Elizabeth Marcotte. They had been rather close in high school, or as close as the head Cheerio and the school's bullied gay kid (well, he was never officially out, but most people assumed) could be. She was very kind, and always did her best to put a stop to any bullying she saw. Plus she had a beautiful singing voice and had been the lead female soloist in their school's show choir. He had been the 2nd lead male soloist, so sometimes they had little duets together.
"Is it okay if Kurt plays with Rachel over at your house?" she asked. "I hope he didn't just invite himself over. I'm trying to raise him with manners."
Leroy laughed. "No, I'm pretty sure Rachel almost dragged him here. And he's no trouble. Truthfully I'm just glad Rachel is making friends now."
Liz sighed. "You, too, huh? I'm glad Kurtie's branching out for once. He prefers sitting alone with a book or our piano to interacting with kids his age. He says the boys are too messy and don't understand even basic tea party etiquette."
Leroy snorted. "Rachel says the girls are too uncultured to appropriately recognize and value her talent, and aren't worth her time."
This drew a laugh from Liz. "Well, call me if he's any trouble, though he's not really the sort to act out, I assure you. Dinner at our house is at six. Do you have a specific time before that you need him to leave?"
"It's a Tuesday, right?" Liz hummed in affirmation. "Then no, around six is fine. On Mondays and Wednesdays Rachel has dance and then vocal lessons at three."
"Good to know. And it seems we're both starting our children young on Mondays and Fridays Kurt has piano and voice lessons at three, and on Wednesdays he has dance at four."
"Hopefully we'll have to remember that information for later play dates."
"Fingers crossed," Leroy agreed. "By the way, you certainly have Kurt dressed to the nines. Were you always that fashionable? I rarely saw you out of your Cheerios uniform."
Elizabeth laughed. "Oh, no. Kurt would never even think about trusting me with the honor of picking out his outfits. He puts his own together. He's going through a bit of a button-down-and-bowtie-combo obsession at the moment. Last fall it was pea coats. When he was three he was obsessed with tiaras and anything sparkly for the whole year. All he wanted for Christmas was a bedazzler he still loves that thing. Though for his birthday that year he insisted that he just needed a pair of sensible heels. I've seen him eying the suspenders and penny loafers recently whenever we go shopping, so that may be next."
"Oh." Leroy blinked, before recovering. "Well he is certainly a fashionable little boy."
"Don't I know it," Liz chuckled. "I'll be there to pick him up at about 5:45. Sound good?"
The two said their goodbyes and Leroy wandered into the kitchen, where Kurt and Rachel were sitting at the table playing with Barbies. After a second, Leroy noticed that most of the Barbie clothes set out in from of them did not belong to Rachel, and realized they must've come from Kurt.
Leroy wondered if Liz had any
suspicions about her boy. Well, it was possible. He could just be a
bit on the feminine side, but he could also very well end up being gay. At least if he did, he would have the support of his mother. Liz was a kind woman, who was accepting of all types of people and passionately fought against their town's, and the world's, prejudices.
Leroy couldn't guess about Kurt's father. Last thing he'd known Liz had been dating Burt Hummel, the homophobic jerk who, along with his all his other idiotic jock friends, had bullied Leroy constantly throughout high school. How someone as sweet as Liz could date a brute like Hummel, he'd never know. But really, that kid didn't look anything like Burt, from what he remembered of the jock. He looked all Elizabeth. The only thing they had similar was their names. Burt and Kurt. But that could, of course, be a coincidence.
He hoped for this kid's sake that he didn't have Burt Hummel as a father. Burt wouldn't handle having a boy as feminine as Kurt very well. And if he was gay
. Leroy would really hate to see a young teenage boy living in fear of being thrown out of his own home because his homophobic father couldn't accept who he was.
"Hey, Kurt?" he spoke up from where he was preparing peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and apple slices for the kids.
"Yes, Mr. Rachel's daddy?" Kurt responded, setting down his Barbie from their fashion show game and turning to face Leroy to show the man had his full attention (the boy did have impeccable manners).
"You have a pretty unique name you don't hear it often. Is it short for anything?"
Kurt looked excited to answer the question. "Nope! It's just Kurt! Mama named me after Kurt von Trapp in the Sound of Music," he informed the man proudly. "I love that movie, and Julie Andrews has such a pretty voice even better than my mama's! But I think Rolf is cuter than Kurt. 'Sixteen Going on Seventeen' is my favorite song in the whole wide world! My mama sings it with me all the time! But then Rolf gets mean and I don't think I'd like it if my name was Rolf. I like my name being Kurt."
"I like it, too," Leroy agreed. Hmm, so the rhyming names were a coincidence. Lucky for him. A kid like that didn't need a guy like Burt Hummel as his dad.
Leroy smiled as the two talented kindergarteners in his kitchen launched into a rather adorable and cavity-inducing rendition of "Sixteen Going on Seventeen".
Kurt made a wonderful Liesl.
Leroy had called Hiram at work to let him know that their daughter had a friend over a little boy named Kurt who acted much more like a little girl so he wasn't surprised when he returned home to find an impeccably dressed boy dancing and singing with his daughter in the living room, both ignoring that the song in the Disney movie displayed on the screen was over and the video was back to dialogue.
The boy turned around when he heard the door shut. "Who are you, mister?" he asked in a high voice, running over, not very shy at all.
Hiram smiled. "I'm Rachel's daddy."
The boy cocked his head. "Rachel has two daddies?"
Rachel came over then, placing her hands on her hips. "Yeah, and I love them and they love each other just like a mommy and a daddy, okay?" She was immediately defensive, and the behavior twisted Hiram's heart as he thought about the teasing she had already had to face and what she was going to have to face in the future. He only hoped she wouldn't lose a new friend so soon because of her parental situation.
"I love my mama," Kurt said after some consideration. "But I love my daddy a lot, too. It'd be so cool if I had two daddies!" Rachel blinked, clearly not expecting a positive reaction, and Hiram chuckled, feeling strange mix of relief because Kurt was fine with Rachel having two dads and sadness because Rachel was so surprised that someone was fine with it. Kurt scrunched his eyebrows together. "But then
who had Rachel? My mama had me I growed in her tummy! And Mama said babies always grow in their mama's tummies. But Rachel has two daddies. Who growed Rachel in their belly if she doesn't have a mama?"
"Maybe when you're older we'll explain it to you," Hiram offered, and Kurt seemed to take that answer for the time being.
"C'mon, Kurtie!" Rachel demanded. "Let's go play dress-up! We can put on a musical!"
"I don't know if Kurt will want to play dress-up," Hiram said slowly for Kurt because he knew it was hard for other children to talk back to Rachel.
"No, I do!" Kurt protested immediately, only slightly surprising Hiram. "I like dressing up! My daddy bought me Sleeping Beauty princess shoes. They're pink and sparkly and they have little heels! They're my favorite shoes ever and I play dress up with them and my costumes all the time! But Daddy says I can't wear them to school." Here he pouted, then brightened and turned to Rachel. "Do you have pretty princess shoes?"
Rachel nodded eagerly. "And princess dresses!"
Clearly excited by the prospect, Kurt squealed, jumping up and down and clapping his hands, and the two raced upstairs, but Kurt stopped, went back downstairs to face Hiram, and said, "Bye Mr. Rachel's other daddy! It was a pleasure meeting you sir," before dashing back up the steps to join Rachel.
"Nice manners," Hiram murmured to himself.
Leroy stuck his head out from the den, clearly having heard the whole exchange, including Kurt's excitement over princess clothes, and simply said, "And that is what I meant when I said I had my suspicions about him."
(2 Years Later)
Hiram Berry cursed loudly as his car let off strange clunk and chunk noises and came to a stop. Why did things like this always happen to him? He sighed and called Triple A, who connected him to the nearest body shop, Hummel's Tire and Lube. Luckily, they had a towing service. It didn't take long for a man wearing blue coveralls stating that his name was Jack to arrive.
When they got to the shop Jack asked him questions about what was wrong, turned the car on, then nodded thoughtfully to himself and grabbed some forms for Hiram to fill out. After he finished, he sat on one of the benches lining the walls and tried to figure out why the name Hummel sounded so familiar.
It wasn't until a mostly-bald man in a baseball cap came over to explain what was wrong with his car and how much the repair should cost, and introduced himself as Burt Hummel, that Hiram finally made the connection. This was one of the jocks that had bullied Leroy in high school.
Burt looked down at the forms. "Hiram
Berry?" His eyebrows rose in surprise. Clearly he'd made a connection, too. When they'd married (or, technically, entered their civil partnership), Hiram had chosen to take Leroy's last name instead of hyphenating or Leroy adopting his name, mostly on the basis that Hiram's parents had disowned him a while ago, so he didn't really mind cutting any remaining ties to them. "Any relation to, uh, Leroy Berry?"
Hiram wavered on whether he should tell the truth or not, not wanting the man to suddenly turn his business away because he was gay. He decided to go with the truth, because no homophobe was sending him back in the closet he was proud, damn it. "Yes, actually. I'm his life partner. We have a daughter, Rachel."
Burt shifted his eyes a bit, his expression conflicted but surprisingly
soft. When he finally spoke, it was not at all what Hiram had expected. "Well, good for him for finding somebody
. I'm glad you were able to get a daughter. Ohio's not the most pro-gay state I know of. Must've, ah, been tough."
Hiram blinked. "We chose to go the surrogacy route expensive, but ultimately easier than adoption."
"Ah, well, I'm sure she's a beaut'." Burt didn't quite seem to know what to say after that, so he went back to explaining what was wrong with the car.
As Hiram was about to leave, Burt stopped him. He had one last thing he was getting up the nerve to ask. "Hey, could you
ask Leroy if could stop by here sometime next week?"
Hiram cocked an eyebrow. "Why?" he asked suspiciously.
Burt rubbed the back of his neck. "I just
I was sort of horrible to him in high school, and I wanna apologize. I had no right to bully him for somethin' as small as being gay it wasn't fair and I feel
really bad about it. An' I figure a face-to-face chat means more than a phone call
. I'll give you a discount on your repair?"
Hiram pursed his lips before deciding, "I'll talk to him. I can't make any promises though."
"Thanks. I appreciate it."
"What made you change you views?" he asked, because he was genuinely curious.
Burt cast his eyes downward. "Just
some things've happened, some people've come into my life and given me a wake up call, I guess. They've showed me that being gay ain't a choice, and it ain't a bad thing, either." A pause. "Just
tell him he can stop by anytime between six and five-thirty, if he wants to. I'll be here."
"Well, I'll be sure to deliver your message, Mr. Hummel."
"Call me Burt."
"Burt, then." Hiram was smiling as he left. He'd heard what Leroy had said about Burt he'd been a real jerk. Not the worst of them, and he was never one of the violent ones, but he did yell slurs at him and throw him in the dumpster nearly every morning with his other football friends, and sometimes partook in the cruel pranks they pulled on Leroy outside of school. A typical homophobic "manly-man" and he still was a "manly-man," it seemed, considering he owned a car shop, but he didn't seem to be quite so homophobic anymore.
There was hope for the world yet.
Burt left work early that day. He came home to find his seven-year-old son helping Elizabeth with dinner. They were both on barstools Kurt because he couldn't reach the kitchen counter without it, and Liz because her illness had progressed to the point where she was too weak to stand for long periods of time. Kurt was doing all the required mixing since it was too strenuous for Liz. He was wearing his little pink apron that matched his mother's (he had pitched a fit about clashing colors that were "only appropriate on Valentine's Day" when they'd gotten him a red one, and they had ended up going back and picking an apron in the exact same shade of pink as Elizabeth's, much to Kurt's excitement yes, they definitely spoiled him). The two were talking, and hadn't seemed to notice him yet, so Burt leaned against the doorway of the kitchen to listen to his two favorite people in the world talk for a few moments, a soft, fond smile on his face.
"So who's your favorite, then?" Liz asked, poking Kurt in the side. Kurt giggled and almost fell off the barstool he was kneeling on.
"Prince Eric, definitely!" he answered excitedly. "I wanna meet him in real life! He has a funny shirt but I like it. And I think he's got the prettiest princess! I think she was dumb for not wanting to stay a mermaid, though. I wish I could be a mermaid! But her song was the best! Wait, what was the question again?"
Liz laughed, the sound easier than it ever was when Kurt wasn't around. "Who is your favorite Disney prince?"
"Oh yeah, Eric is my favorite prince."
"Really?" Burt spoke up. "Because the last time we had a Disney marathon, you told me your favorite was Aladdin."
Kurt whirled around in surprise and excitement, a huge grin quickly taking over his face. "Daddy!" he squealed happily. And then he was jumping off the stool, running across the room, and throwing himself into Burt's arms. "You came home early!"
"Couldn't wait to see you, kiddo," Burt chuckled, ruffling his son's hair and laughing even more when Kurt squawked indignantly and scrambled to fix it.
It was true, though. After his conversation with Leroy's
husband? Boyfriend? Partner? In any case after their talk, he'd been anxious to get home and see his son. Just to hug him and make sure no jerks (like Burt had been) had hurt him today. Not that any had hurt him at all so far, in his young age, but Burt had gotten that panicky feeling and he knew it wouldn't go away until he'd seen his son in one piece. Ignoring Kurt's protests, he hugged the boy tighter to him, as if that could protect Kurt from all the idiots like himself in the world.
He wondered if having a son like Kurt was some sort of test from God, or maybe something to teach him to be a better person and let him see the error of his ways. If it was, it was working. Burt just felt horrible for who he'd been, because he knew how other guys were gonna treat Kurt, and now he knew what it was like to know your precious child, your pride and joy, was going to get hurt, and, as a parent, not be able to do anything about it. It wouldn't even matter if Kurt never officially came out; Leroy hadn't. Everyone had just assumed (didn't matter that they were right), because it was so obvious. And he knew they'd do the same with Kurt.
And he'd realized that being gay wasn't something you chose or could change. It was as involuntary as skin color or gender. He just wished he'd seen that earlier and hadn't tortured some poor kid who was just trying to live his life and get out of high school in one piece, just like everybody else.
He would always do anything he could to protect Kurt from people who would hate him simply for who he was. It may not always work, but he could try. And while he still wasn't, if he was being honest with himself, 100% comfortable with the whole gay thing, he would defend his kid to the death, and support him all the way. And make sure Kurt knew he loved him, especially after he was all Kurt would have left, when Elizabeth finally passed (and as much as it killed Burt to admit, her days were numbered and they all knew it, even if Kurt would refuse to acknowledge it, even to himself). He was going to be there for his son, no matter what.
Because he loved Kurt, unconditionally.
"What do you mean 'Burt Hummel wants to apologize'?" Leroy Berry demanded, setting down his glass of red wine (a treat they indulged in sparingly one bottle of wine for 'couple time' once a week). "Tell me the whole story."
Hiram shrugged, taking a sip of his own wine casually. "I had car problems, and I went to the garage he owns. He recognized our last name just a bit after I realized he was one of your bullies from high school. He asked if I had any relation to you, and I said we were life partners and had a daughter, and he congratulated us and said he was sure Rachel was beautiful."
"Which she is."
Hiram allowed himself to nod. "Yes, she is. Anyway, later, when I was going to leave he stopped me and asked if I could get you to come down to the garage anytime between six and five-thirty, any day, I guess. He said he felt like a jerk and that he had no right to bully you for something as insignificant as your sexuality."
"Damn right he had no right," Leroy muttered.
Hiram fixed his husband (the law may not see it as a marriage but they did) with a glare before continuing. "And he said he wanted to apologize to you, and he figured face-to-face was more meaningful and sincere than a phone call. And I said I'd give you the message, and then I asked him what changed his views. And he said that certain people have come into his life and changed how he saw things. He seemed genuine."
"Anything else?" Leroy pried.
"He said he'd give me a discount if you came." Hiram grinned cheekily and Leroy playfully batted his husband on the shoulder.
"Of course it has to do with a discount, Mr. Frugal," he teased lightheartedly, and Hiram stuck his tongue out before schooling his features into a serious expression.
"And he really did seem sincerely guilty. He didn't even look disgusted at all when I told him about our marriage." Seeing his husband's unconvinced look, he added, "Come on, this could be a healing process for you. Plus, how often do homophobes change their views so drastically? If you act like a jerk about this, it might sully his newer, nicer opinion of gays, and that's a step in the wrong direction! Aren't we supposed to support people who revise their negative opinions of the LGBT community?"
Leroy bit his lip in contemplation, then sighed. "Fine, I'll go to pick up your car for you and I'll talk to him then." He then took a big swig of his beverage, muttering, "As far as liquid courage goes, this will have to do."
Hiram smiled triumphantly. "I think it's great that you're doing this. You deserve a reward." He leaned forward just slightly.
Leroy raised an eyebrow, catching on quickly. "Oh, do I now? And do you have any ideas as to what I may have earned?"
"Maybe just a few," he whispered lowly. And then he closed the distance between them in a kiss, wondering, just for a moment, how anyone could ever think that something that felt so right was wrong, before he was lost in the feel of his husband's lips and ditched all coherent thought.
Leroy sighed as he walked the mile-and-a-half distance to Hummel Tire and Lube. He could see the building ahead, and checked his watch. 3 o'clock. Rachel would be getting out of school and headed with one of the carpool moms to ballet right about now.
And here he was going to have a civilized conversation with, and possibly get an apology from, a former bully. Burt was not the worst, and never violent (unless you counted dumpster tosses which, if he caught on the metal edges, often broke the skin), but words hurt, too, and he had said plenty of those.
He was definitely homophobic at the time of his graduation, but it had been a bit over a decade now, he could have changed. If he had the right motivation.
But even Liz's sweet influence and constant naggings about his bullying and closed-mindedness during high school not changed him, and he had seemed to genuinely love her at least as much as any high schooler could. What could be important enough or a big enough influence that he would change now? So much so that he wanted to reach out and apologize for years of bullying and homophobia?
Of course, this was all if he was being sincere. Leroy would like to believe he was, as he didn't see anything Burt would gain from faking an apology, but seeing is believing, and Leroy Hummel had grown rather skeptical and hesitant to trust after the overwhelming homophobia he'd faced since childhood from almost everyone in this town. He'd have to see with his own eyes before he let himself truly believe that Burt Hummel had changed.
Leroy told the man at the front desk (if you could call the rickety table that) that he was here to pick up a car and also was supposed to speak with Burt Hummel. After some information with names and insurance cards, he was led to two legs sticking out from under a Suburban.
He cleared his throat and spoke up. "Uh, Burt Hummel?"
The man rolled out and squinted up. Apparently recognizing Leroy, he jumped up. "Leroy Berry?" he confirmed, grabbing a baseball hat (his go-to accessory in high school, too; some things never change, apparently) from the roof of the car. He smiled, a bit self-consciously and apologetically. "I'm glad you came. I sorta figured you'd blow me off. And I wouldn't blame you."
"Well, how can I say no to a chance at meeting someone who might give me faith in mankind's ability to grow and become more accepting and getting a discount on car services?"
Burt chuckled nervously as he wiped his oily hands on a stained grease rag. "Well, thanks anyway. I just
I wanna say that I was such a douche in high school, not that you don't already know that, I guess. And I really regret it. I had no right to treat you that way, and I hope that the others who bullied you with me get that at some point. And I just
I just think it really sucks that people like you are treated like crap just for who you like. And
and I'm sorry. Crap, I'm not good with words. Sorry."
After a moment, Leroy nodded slowly. "You seem sincere, if not extensively elegant. And while I'm still angry with you those wounds take a long time to heal, you know you were never the worst, and the only one who has ever actually sought me out to apologize. I have to know, though. What changed your mind?"
Burt seemed to grow angry, but not at Leroy. "I just
I think it's just such bullshit, all the crap you guys have to go through! It's not like it's a choice, or some disease you can catch. Love is love and it's not anybody's goddamn business anyway. So all those idiots out there shouldn't make it their problem. And I guess I just
took a while to realize that. And I'm just so sorry that you had to suffer 'cause of my stupidity. Someone finally got me to wizen up."
"Any particular person?" he pressed. "Because, if I remember correctly, your girlfriend Liz was the sweetest person to ever walk the planet, and you still didn't change your ways when she tried to tell you how wrong it was."
Burt ducked his head shamefully. "I "
He was cut off as a shrill voice yelled out, "Daddy! Daddy!"
Leroy watched as Burt's face went from guilty to soft and caring and just slightly sad the second he spotted the brown and blue blur racing across the shop towards them. The burly man suddenly had an armful of little kid, and he hefted the small boy up to sit on his hip. "Hey, kiddo," he greeted, and kissed the boy on his pale, dimpled cheek.
The boy giggled and squirmed. "Daddy, that tickles! Your face is all prickly!"
Leroy recognized the boy now, and it all made sense Burt's sudden attitude change, his guilt, his anger over the unfairness the LGBT community faced.
This little boy, with his pale skin, light brown hair, high voice, and unique outfit (this time no bowtie, but he was wearing a baby blue pageboy cap that was clearly bought in the girl's section, considering the bow with a crystal in the center the hat had sewn on it), was the boy that came over to their house as Rachel's playmate for a while. The boy who'd loved playing dress-up and hosting tea parties (he'd taught the Berry's quite a lot about proper tea time etiquette) and singing and dancing and playing the piano, but definitely not doing anything that might get his clothes dirty or mess up his hair.
The boy who had bragged that his dad bought him pretty, sparkly pink princess shoes, played tea party with him, and took him to see musicals at the theater in Columbus once every other month. The boy who had spoken of his dad with such reverence you would've thought the man made personally made the sun rise and set in this boy's world. His and Rachel's friendship hadn't continued over the summer, but Leroy still recognized him.
This boy was Kurt, Rachel's feminine, most-likely-gay-even-if-he-wasn't-old-enough-to-know-it-himself-yet friend.
This boy was also Burt Hummel's son.
Leroy remembered thinking that Kurt was fortunate to not have Burt as a father, because a guy like Burt could never accept a boy like Kurt, but obviously, he was wrong on both accounts.
Burt spun Kurt around and the boy giggled happily, before he set him back down on his feet, and then kneeled down to the child's level. Leroy noticed that Kurt was tiny like, tinier than Rachel, who was the shortest girl in her second-grade class. He didn't seem to have grown at all from his kindergarten days. Fashionable, tiny, a delicate, feminine look oh God, he would be easy picking; he might as well have a target painted on his back. And Burt knew it all too well, it seemed. Burt felt guilty because, in his eyes, it was him hurting his child. People like him.
"Hey kiddo," he cooed. "How was school?"
Kurt pouted. "We were coloring after lunch and the teacher wouldn't let me color the picture with all the Disney princesses."
Burt frowned deeply. "Why not?"
"She said that princesses were for girls and kept trying to give me an ugly robot picture. And Daddy, I can't color a robot pink! They're all gray and ugly and boring and they don't have pretty hair or fancy dresses!" Kurt stomped his foot once. "Princesses aren't only for girls, right Daddy?"
"That's right son," Burt assured the boy. "You can like whatever and whoever you want to like." Kurt nodded once in perturbed agreement. "I'll call your teacher and talk to her after we get back from the hospital, okay?"
Kurt's eyes went wide. "Mama's back in the hos'ital? But she was home when I left for school!"
"I know, bud. But mama had another complication and so she has to stay at the hospital for a few nights."
Kurt looked upset, and also confused and slightly hopeful. "So will you tuck me in tonight?"
"I'll even sing the beddy-bye song," Burt promised, nodding solemnly.
Kurt giggled. "Okay, but you're voice isn't as pretty as mama's. Or mine."
Burt laughed, though it sounded a bit pained. "I know, kiddo. Say, why don't you go play with Danny right now?" he suggested. "Go slip on your coveralls and help him out for a while he said he'd let you be his special little helper today. You get to handle the tool box." Kurt's face lit up in excitement at this prospect. "I just need to do a quick T and O and check the break pads on this Suburban here, and then we'll go visit mommy, okay?"
"Okay, Daddy! Bye Mister Quiet Man!" He kissed his dad quickly on the cheek and waved goodbye to Leroy before skipping merrily off in another direction. Burt watched him go with sad eyes, and stood up slowly.
"That, right there," he said to Leroy, still looking after Kurt, "is the reason I changed."
"Don't beat yourself up too bad," Leroy advised softly, amazed that he was actually feeling pity for his former tormentor mostly for his son, but still. "A lot of guys wouldn't accept their sons like you do."
"That's what makes me so upset."
"But you're not one of them. You're making an obvious effort to change for your son; it couldn't have been easy for you."
"It wasn't, at first," Burt admitted. "Sometimes it still isn't, but now it's less about my reservations and more about wishing he wasn't gay so he wouldn't have to face jerks like me."
"That's just how the world works. Plus, you can't be sure he's gay," he tried.
"How many boys do you know that ask for a sensible pair of heels on his third birthday? Or host tea parties with their Barbie dolls? Or play dress-up as the female Disney characters and pretend that his prince charming is saving him? Or would rather wear a tiara than a baseball cap? Or have all the boys in the Sound of Music, and all the Disney princes, listed from cutest to least cute?" Leroy was quiet. "I know he's gay, that he's gonna end up with a guy someday. I've known since he was three, and I don't mind anymore. And maybe it's a good thing that he's rather
what's a nicer way of saying flaming?"
"Flamboyant," Leroy supplied, knowing Burt wasn't trying to be offensive.
"Yeah, maybe it's a good thing he's flamboyant and I've had a lot of time to get used to the idea before even he knows, but it's also really, really bad because then everyone else is going to pick up on it, too. And Kurt's not exactly built for fighting." Burt sighed. "Look, I wouldn't ask him to
tone it down, or whatever, because that's just who Kurt is, and I don't want him to change for anyone. But do I sometimes with he was one of the less-obvious gays? Yeah, I do."
"It's okay, I understand." Leroy hesitated, before asking, "So what's wrong with Liz?"
Burt looked surprised and sad at the same time. "How did you know his mom was Liz?"
"Well, for one he looks just like her, and two, he used to come over and play with my daughter, Rachel, so I saw her then. So why is she in the hospital?"
Burt sighed deeply, and took off his hat to rub at his head. "She has ovarian cancer," he said.
"And is she
?" Leroy was afraid to finish the question.
"She's probably not going to make it," Burt said in a choked-up voice.
"I'm so sorry
"It's okay it's not like there's anything we can do 'bout it. Liz an' I have been talking, recently, and it just sort of hit me that I'm gonna be all Kurt has left soon. It might be easier if Kurt were a typical boy, but Kurt's
like a daughter, in a lot of ways. And he needs someone like his mom in his life. But I'm going to try my best to be there for him, to be what he needs. And Liz said that to do that, I needed to get educated. That's where I was hoping you and your husband could come in. If you want to. I understand that I owe you, not the other way around."
Leroy took a while to ponder this. "It's true," he finally agreed. "I owe you nothing. But I'm not going to be doing this just for you. I'll educate you, for Kurt's sake. He's going to have a harder life than you did, I know it, and he needs everyone he can get in his corner. He especially needs a lot of support at home, and I wouldn't be able to live with myself if I let a little boy as sweet as him down."
Burt looked even more relieved than Leroy had even thought he would, like a huge weight had been taken off his shoulders. "I wouldn't be able to live with myself if I let him down, either. Kurt
Kurt is my world now."
And looking into the mechanic's eyes, Leroy could see it; that overpowering love for his son, that determination that told Leroy that Burt would go to the ends of the earth for his son, kill for his son and even more importantly, change himself for his son. It was almost overwhelming, and incredibly inspiring, that such a small boy could make such a huge change in this man's life and in this man's heart.
And sure, Burt had admitted that he wasn't completely comfortable, or even competent in dealing with a son he never imagine he'd have he didn't have all the answers, he was unprepared and in over his head. But that didn't change the fact that he'd do anything for Kurt. Because that's what you did, as a parent you loved your kid no matter what, and prayed to whatever god might be listening that you didn't screw up and everything would turn out all right.