Kurt Hummel was a stress baker. He knew it. He admitted it…heck, honestly…he glorified in it. His first excursion into stress baking that he could remember was near Valentine’s Day when he was nine. Some odd lady left a message on the phone at the house for his dad and Kurt had flipped out. His mom hadn’t even been gone for two years yet and the thought of his dad replacing her was something he could not handle. He took the cookbook his dad had bought him for Christmas, and the cookie cookbook he’d just bought at the book fair at school and did some math. He came up with how much he’d need of stuff to make several different types of cookies and hunted down a whole new bag of sugar and flour and even two bags of brown sugar at the house already. Then he took forty bucks from the house hold food jar and biked to the corner store where he bought milk, butter and eggs at a ridiculous price, as well as all the other things he hadn’t been able to find at the house. Then he went home and started to follow the recipes.
He ended up with four batches of cookies that turned out (out of 8). He also ended up grounded for three weeks because he apparently was not supposed to turn on the oven or stove without his father’s company (and really, someone ought to have told him that the moment that someone told him he could start cooking….seriously, Kurt was NOT a mind reader after all.)
(It turned out that Janie, who was free for Burt to come see her any time after five any day that week was Mr. Harrow’s niece who was selling her father-in-law’s old Studebaker, which his dad wanted to restore.)
Kurt and his dad managed to come to compromises before Easter time. The rules were rather easy to follow most of the time. Kurt can turn the oven on but not the stove and he can’t turn it on for things that bake above 400 degrees. He was to try and keep baking to a the time right before his dad was supposed to get home, although if his dad was late Kurt was allowed to take things out of the oven (after showing his dad he could successfully remove cookie sheets , cake pans, casserole dishes and bread pans). He could use the mixer, but not the blender or the kitchen aide….and he was to call before he did any of it and explain why he felt he needed to cook anything before Burt got home (since Kurt was only home from the end of the afterschool lessons to when his dad got home for a top total of an hour and a half three days a week…he was at the shop with his dad the other two days or any day when his lessons were canceled.) It worked that year, and by the next year he had a baby sitter (due to Mrs. Wellington-Scott’s complaint about the shop not being a safe place nor a proper place for a young boy…within a year she was complaining that Kurt didn’t spend time around good male role-models and that lack of male role-models was the reason for his still abhorrent behaviors (i.e. his high voice and non-manly body)). He and the baby sitter made cookies twice a week, and tons more when Kurt was stressed. The neighbors up and down the street came to appreciate the baked goods that the poor dear boy left as much as they appreciate the help the poor dear boy gave throughout the year.
By the time high school rolled around, Burt bought sugar and flour by amounts that left people thinking he was some sort of dooms day prepper, and Kurt had a local grocers set up to deliver Milk, Eggs, and Butter three times a week. The rules had eased and Kurt could cook anything he wanted at any time he wanted, as long as Burt got at least six treats from a batch, or one bigger item (cakes or breads or things like that) stayed home. With as much raw ingredients that came into the house over those years, Kurt often wondered if his dad noticed his baking as a stress indicator any longer or if his dad had just come to accept Kurt baking three to eight times a week, and sometimes at midnight, as normal. Or maybe even part of his household chores. Kurt stocked the shop’s waiting room and weekly took cookies to the shelter and the hospital, on top of his deliveries around the neighborhood.
It isn’t until Kurt has moved away that Burt stops and considers that he never realized Kurt never ever got less stressed out during his high school years, not even after joining glee club or when he sent the boy off to that fancy private school. In fact, looking back he realizes that at some points, when everyone around him was telling him how much Kurt was enjoying life…(in Glee, at that school, with plays, with a boyfriend)… Kurt was actually baking even more than usual, and baking more difficult things. He also finds it shocking that NONE of his high school friends knew Kurt baked at all, let alone stress-baked. Even Finn, Sam and Blaine asked Carole why she stopped making cookies. Mercedes asked why he stopped stocking the shop with baked goods while she had her mother’s car serviced that first Thanksgiving break.
He asks Kurt about it on the phone.
“The boys have missed your cookies. They’ve been asking Carole why she stopped baking. How did they not know you made them?”
Kurt snorted. Burt could just see the eye roll in his mind. “The one thing you can say with certainty about everyone there is that they are all oblivious to everything except their own selves.”
“All of them?” Burt asked.
“Everyone there, Dad. And even the ones who aren’t there right now. Rachel is convinced I spend over 100 bucks a week buying her organic vegan cookies from the bakery down the street…and yells about the waste of money while shoving cookies down her throat in humongous amounts. I’d send those off to a shelter or food kitchen like I do the others, but none want them.”
“You don’t spend that much a week baking do you?” Burt asked.
“No. I found someplace that lets me buy baking ingredients wholesale and one of the shelters will give the raw ingredients to me in turn for the completed baked goods because they don’t have the space or time to bake and fix meals. It is a great trade, since I only keep a max of a dozen for myself.”
“How much are you baking?” Burt asked.
The line was silent for a while. “It’s not easy here, Dad. I mean, I do have work now, but it doesn’t pay much at all…just enough to cover my half of rent and some groceries…more groceries than I should really, but…I live with Rachel. And Rachel? She is not easy to live with. She just….doesn’t understand much about living, really. I’m trying to pick up a second job, but it seems like most of New York is too.”
Burt sighed. “Why don’t you see what you can do with baking, then….for a second job.”
Kurt snorted. “Baking for work doesn’t work as a stress reliever, Dad.”
Burt sighed again. “Just keep hanging in there, son. Maybe call some of your friends and talk to them. That would make you feel better.”
Kurt snorted again and Burt distinctly heard the soft “yeah right” that he suspected he wasn’t supposed to have heard.
“Who, Dad? Who should I call?” Kurt asked.
“Have you tried your friend Mercedes?”
“Like the rest of us peons, she works. But she is also recording an album, recording back-up for a few other albums, has found a lovely church where she lives, is dating…but not seriously, has gone to Disneyland twice and several concerts, and is involved in the bible study group, a book club and a singles club that are part of the church she goes to. They have read four books since she has been there. I can tell you all about Jane Eyre from the book clubs point of view. Which was way overly religiously focused and all in a how holy and wonderful all the very religious folks were…even when they weren’t. You don’t disagree with the book club about anything…forty minutes later I was finally able to say I must have read the book wrong the six times I’ve read it. I can also tell you how evil Harry Potter and all sorts of other books are for allowing youth to become hooked on the evils of witch craft and thus opening them up to acceptance of alternative life styles. She then assured me that she was pretty certain they only mean like being a hippie and not… you know…being like me. I know her hair dresser there finally is someone who knows what they are doing, that the cashier at the closest WalMart has eyebrow piercings, and that five neighbors have poodles and five others have Chihuahuas, even though supposedly the apartments are no pets. I’ve only managed to catch her four times; although she is good at texting that she noticed she missed a call. She hasn’t ever called me. The longest call was the one with the forty minute lecture…yellfest…about how the book club was right because they all read things by prayer and under the power of God. He would always show them the true and holy way to read a passage. The rest average about twenty minutes before Mercedes has to be somewhere.”
“What does she know about you?”
“I am living with Rachel and I have a job and that we gave Rachel a make-over. I don’t think we’ve even got to the part where my Job is with Vogue, in any way shape or form.”
“Oh. Well, what about the boys? I’m sure they’d love to hear from you.”
“Finn called last week to spend the whole of the time yelling at me because Blaine is moping and not cooperating when Finn needs him to do glee stuff. I asked if he was always moping, and apparently he is only moping when they need him to have his act together to actually accomplish anything. Finn insists though that that is because the rest of the time isn’t involved with things that remind Blaine of me. Therefore, to ease Finn’s job, I should call Blaine and beg forgiveness for wherever it is I have done which caused him to break-up with me. I reminded Finn he was there, he knows damn well I broke up with Blaine and he knows who was at fault in the whole thing…which Finn responded to with, well Blaine says otherwise, so I must be wrong. And all I’ve heard from Sam since the break-up is how horrid I am for hurting Blaine so badly and how I need to get over myself and apologize to Blaine for breaking his heart, because the poor boy didn’t deserve to be dumped just because I am a New York boy now and he’s just from Ohio or because he’s just a high schooler and I have a job and thus think I’m better than him, or because I’ve seen cuter guys here, or because his parent’s aren’t rich enough for me compared to the New York boys I’m supposedly screwing over by flinging myself at them so they’ll buy me clothes and shoes and whatever else. Whichever reason Blaine’s apparently given to Sam most recently for why we split.”
“There must be some truth to something there, though. The poor boy is crushed by the break-up.”
Kurt’s voice turned very cold. “Dad, I have not even dated anyone here in New York. Not once. I have not gone to any clubs, the only bar I’ve been to is the Karaoke one that Rachel hangs out at and only with Rachel and I never even try to drink. I have been to two office parties so far and two late evening work sessions which almost get party like when we finally manage to finish. I broke-up with him over his behavior, and I did break-up with him…not the other way around. It had nothing to do with him being from Ohio, or in high school still, or how he looks, or even his parent’s money. Needless to say, talking to the guys isn’t stress reducing. Oddly enough, I get even more stressed when I’m being screamed at over the phone.”
“Well, what about…”
“What about what? New friends here? I have very very few. I am on acquaintance terms with two co-workers. I could have maybe been friends with one of those, but I declined going out, even after he assured me it didn’t have to lead to anything more than friends…because I knew Blaine would not be able to accept it as nothing more than friends. I know three neighbors enough to say hello and apologize for Rachel. I can go out with Rachel and her friends but I am NOT allowed to talk to them about myself or do anything with them without her…they are her friends, not to be mine. I cannot go out without Rachel, because who knows who I might meet and then what will she tell people if I meet and befriend the wrong sort. I can somewhat talk to my boss, that is about it.”
Burt was silent for a few moments before changing the subject and talking about Kurt’s job and what he did at it.
Kurt sighed and let him. Kurt was also unsurprised it was never brought up again and that his dad seemed to have forgotten it all together as he brought Blaine to New York with him for Christmas. Kurt had picked up a part time job at the Bakery Rachel kept accusing him of purchasing cookies from not long after the phone call from his dad and he was quite grateful for it. He got the thrill of mixing together cookie dough and cup cake batter and bread dough and all the product stayed in one place, plus he worked from 5am till 9am six days a week, leaving the rest of the day open and filling up those ridiculous morning hours when Rachel Berry tended to squawk as she ‘warmed-up’ for the day, like some freaking goose. It was a sanity saver over Christmas and as he started at NYADA. And Rachel was driving him so batty from like Thanksgiving onward that he still ended up baking every day as well and she never even noticed a difference, he just didn’t feel the need to bake at midnight as much anymore.
The first day Adam came by the loft he entered, sniffed, sighed and smiled.
“Someone has been baking.” He said.
Kurt smiled. “I put together a couple of batches before school today I dropped most the cookies off at the shelter by the subway stop, but there are still about a dozen cookies here, if you’d like some.”
Adam looked over towards the kitchen and noticed the bag of flower and sugar and other bits of evidence of large scale baking.
“Are you a stress baker, too?” Adam asks with a smile to his voice. “I find it the best way to just relax.”
Kurt swirled around, looking to see if he was being teased, but he saw nothing in Adam’s face to signal he was making fun of Kurt. Kurt smiled and relaxed. “Milk? I like the concentration when I’m focused on something difficult, and the repetition of mixing when I’m making cookies or cupcakes.”
“Would you ever care for some company one of these times?” Adam asked and Kurt could feel his insides warming at the thought.
“I think I might not mind if it is the right sort.” Kurt replied. “Are you offering?”
Adam laughed and joy filled Kurt’s soul. “I am. From one stress baker to another, I’ve found baking with a friend to be even more beneficial. You know, someone for a sounding board…even if it is just recipe options.”
Kurt smiled. “That does sound nice.” He had no doubt that he’d be taking Adam up on his offer as soon as he could.