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Free As A Bird [Free Kurt - Carole Style]

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None of it made sense. Only a few weeks ago, Kurt had skyped them from New York telling Carole and Burt all about Adam. They were sort of dating, he had said, with that shy smile that meant he was holding his cards close to his chest. Carole had understood why- Burt hadn’t exactly been over the moon at the prospect of his son dating an older man, and one he had never met at that. But Kurt’s smile had already told Carole all she needed to know; it was the kind of smile you wanted on your child when they spoke of someone they liked.

All the more surprised she was when Kurt decided to stay in Ohio longer than he had originally planned. Didn’t he have a boy to get back to? (and maybe even more importantly, a semester to finish?) But here he was, helping his old Glee club with Regionals and picking up old friendships. Carole knew Kurt was loyal to a fault, but did he really have to meet with Blaine again? That boy irked her. She remembered how Finn had felt about him after he had just transferred, and her son was a good judge of character. He was constantly coming around to their house too, chumming up with Finn and trying to get information about Kurt despite them being broken up. It creeped her out.

Burt, however, seemed pleased with their renewed interest in each other. Just now, as Carole was wondering what kind of lunch she could pack Kurt for his trip, he had clued her in on a secret: he was going to drive Kurt to Blaine’s surprise proposal.

Not on Carole’s watch. They weren’t even a couple. She was pretty sure Blaine thought this up to put pressure on Kurt. Then again, she also knew Kurt loved romantic gestures, so maybe it was what he wanted after all?

Determined to at least get Kurt’s side of this before she let that kind of public ambush happen, she made her way up to Kurt’s old room- and found it deserted. Then, she heard footsteps going to her and Burt’s bedroom- and the sliding door of their large walk-in closet. What was Kurt doing there?

She walked into the room and was about to ask when she heard him speak.

“Hey mom. It’s me again.” His voice was soft, a little hesitant.

Mom? With a cold intake of breath, Carole realised she was not being addressed.

Quickly, she went over the contents of their closet. Did it have pictures, personal items of Burt’s first wife? The photobooks were all downstairs, and she didn’t think Burt had kept any of her clothes. In a flash of clarity, she remembered the broken dresser in the back of the closet. Burt put it there when she moved in, saying it meant a lot to Kurt and he was going to repair it for him one day. It had been hers, Kurt’s mom.

The sound of wood chafing over wood made her suspect Kurt was opening the drawers. She knew it was empty. Was he storing something away? But then she heard the rustling of clothes, and realised he must have sat down.

“It’s been a while,” Kurt said quietly. He sounded sad. “I know it’s stupid,” he continued, his voice hitching a little, “but I didn’t know who else to talk to.”

This hurt a little to hear, because Carole had hoped that she had grown close enough with him to be trusted- and what about Finn or Burt?

“Blaine is going to propose to me,” Kurt continued, and sighed. “I know it was a mistake to sleep with him on Valentines weekend. Before we did it, he said it was just ‘friends with benefits’...and then afterwards, he insisted it meant we were back together now.”

He paused, and Carole bit her lip. It felt like a bad moment to barge in, so she stayed where she was, not wanting to disturb him.

“And then that lunch with these two old ladies, Jan and Liz, who proposed in front of us? Blaine lied about who they were. I wanted to send them flowers the next day so I looked them up - turned out they own a jewelry store. That sells wedding rings. Blaine said he just randomly met them at the mall…”

Kurt sighed deeply again. “I just wish he was honest to me for a change. All these lies, all these games… sometimes it feels like he is working off some kind of checklist, like if he ticks off all the boxes, he’ll automatically get what he wants. But I’m not a candy machine. He can’t just plug in serenades and meet-cute’s until an engagement falls out.”

Carole could hear him snorting, and finds herself smirking as well.

“Knowing Blaine,” Kurt continued, “he probably asked dad for my hand- because for all of his claims to be a modern man, his ideas about love are last century’s. And my dad must have said yes, otherwise he wouldn’t be driving me.”

Carole could hear his breath hitch. “Maybe he thinks it’ll be the only chance he’ll ever have to see me married.”

He paused. “Sometimes I think that too,” he whispered.

“No, Kurt,” Carole spoke up, having heard enough. “That’s not true at all.” She stepped into the room and headed towards the closet. She saw Kurt quickly scramble up to his feet. Apparently, he had been lying down on the floor next to the dresser. He wiped at his face furiously.

“Carole! I was just- I was…” he started.

“Talking to your mom, I know,” she offered gently. “I guess that is why Burt wanted to keep the dresser.”

“I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to go into your room,” Kurt continued, looking awkward and red-faced. Carole shook her head.

“I understand, Kurt. I get it. You think I don’t talk to my first husband sometimes? It’s okay to do those things, you know. When you miss someone, you just want to feel close to them in whatever way you can.”

Kurt shrugged awkwardly. “So, how much did you…?”

“All of it. I’m sorry, I wasn’t trying to eavesdrop. I was looking for you. Your dad told me about the proposal and I wasn’t sure you knew.”

Kurt nodded. “I knew,” he confirmed, “but thank you.”

“I didn’t want you to go in unprepared,” Carole added. “But it kind of sounds like you don’t want to go in at all…”

Kurt swallowed.“That’s because I don’t. It’s going to be a spectacle.” He pulled up the corner of his mouth. “I prefer it when I am in the centre of those, not on the sideline.”

“But he’ll be proposing to you,” Carole argued. “Doesn’t that put you right in the centre?”

Kurt shook his head. “This proposal is not about me. It’s all Blaine. He needs to make a statement. To the world; that he is the advocate of marriage equality, and to his friends and family; that he didn’t lose his first boyfriend because of his own mistakes.”

“His mistakes?” Carole frowned. “Your dad said you broke up because the long distance thing was too hard.”

“It was,” Kurt agreed. “For him. He slept with someone else, and when he told me, I broke it off.” He shrugged. “We had problems before that, though.”

Carole did a double take. “I- I’m sorry, I didn’t know that.” She was quite certain that Burt didn’t know either.

“And he thinks proposing to you will make it all okay?” she suggested.

Kurt nodded. “The bigger the gesture, the bigger the feelings, right?” He scoffed a little. “He needs me to say yes to restore his image and retcon our past; so we can be the big gay powercouple of Lima, Ohio.”

“What about Adam?” Carole asked carefully.

Kurt shook his head and shrugged. “I treated him awfully, Carole. He was so kind and so patient, and yet I always had one foot out the door. It wasn’t fair to him. He wasn’t even angry when I broke up with him.” His lips twisted bitterly. “But Blaine is going to be. If I say no, he will never forgive me, and then I’ll have no one.”

“Oh honey, no,” Carole said resolutely. “As far as I can tell, he should be asking your forgiveness, not the other way around. Do you really want to go back to the boy who cheated on you?”

Kurt shrugged half-heartedly.

“What if it was Mercedes or Rachel asking your advice about what to do? Would you tell them to stick with their guy no matter what he did?”

The fire in Kurt’s eyes was kindled. “No, of course not! But it’s not the same, they-” He let out a huff of frustration. “They have options. They always have. Hell, after her make-over, half of NYADA wanted to date Rachel. Well, the straight half, anyway. But me...I think this is just as good as it’s gonna get.” He paused. “It’s already more than I expected before I met Blaine. Definitely more than people said I deserved.”

Carole swallowed, nodding to herself. He was wrong, but she could see where he was coming from. It never ceased to break her heart whenever she was confronted with Kurt’s history of bullying; with the incredible loneliness and alienation Kurt had felt in school before he transferred to Dalton. She still held that against herself and Burt for not noticing sooner. It was one of her biggest regrets, and she knew it was Burt’s too.

“Can we sit down for a bit?” she asked, nodding towards the bed. “I would like to tell you something.”

Kurt nodded and sat down, trapping his hands between his knees.

“Did Finn ever tell you about the man I dated after his father died? Before I met Burt, I mean.”

Kurt cocked his head thoughtfully. “I think so. He said something about...he liked the guy, but one day-” He paused and offered her an apologetic look. “He...left with another woman?”

Carole nodded. “He did. But what Finn probably didn’t tell you, because I am pretty sure he doesn’t know, is that it wasn’t the first time Darren had cheated on me.”

Kurt frowned.

“The first time was just after I had introduced him to Finn. He said he’d freaked out seeing me with a four year old, and it had all been a stupid mistake. He made a lot of promises; that it was one time thing, that he’d do better and try to get to know Finn so we could be a family.”

Carole paused. “He told me everything I wanted to hear, Kurt. All I wanted was to be a whole family again.” She shook her head. “I believed him. We moved on. And then it happened again.”

“Oh no,” Kurt whispered.

“At that point, Finn was six, and he adored Darren. I didn’t want to take his new father figure away from him. It felt like I had invested in him, that if I gave up now, the years before that had all been for nothing, and Finn and I would be alone again.”

Kurt sucked in a breath and briefly touched his lips with his fingers. “What did you do?”

Carole shrugged. “I forgave him. Again. And again. But what I didn’t realise was that every time I did, I was giving him permission to do it again. I was showing him it didn’t matter if he hurt me, because I would always take him back. He held our precious family in the palm of his hand, and he knew it.”

“I’m so sorry,” Kurt offered. “That’s…terrible.”

“In retrospect, it was. And eventually, not even the easy life he had made for himself with us was enough to keep him, and he left.”

Carole studied Kurt’s beautiful features, the soft crease between his eyebrows, the way he was biting his lip.

“I am not telling you this to make you feel bad,” she added softly. “I just don’t want you make the same mistake I did, and take him back for the wrong reasons.”

She took his hand and squeezed it softly. “If you still love him, and you are willing to forgive him...if you trust him enough-”

Kurt winced, and it was almost enough of an answer. Still, Carole continued. “Only you can make that decision. But please don’t make it based on what you may lose if you don’t.”

Kurt was quiet for a moment, and although he was blinking furiously to keep his face under control, a lonely tear escaped and rolled down his cheek. He let go of Carole’s hand and quickly brushed it off. “I’m sorry,” he whispered.

“It’s okay.”

Carole nudged him a little. “Your dad and I are living proof that people get more than one chance at love, you know? You don’t need to settle for scraps. You deserve to be loved, Kurt- fully, unconditionally and exclusively so.”

Kurt nodded, offering her a teary-eyed smile.

Carole hesitated, then decided she owed it to Burt to ask. “Your dad...he doesn’t know about what happened between you two, does he?”

Kurt shook his head. “I didn’t know how to tell him,” he confessed. “It felt like...I didn’t want him to think I chose the wrong person. I didn’t want to worry him.

“I know what he is expecting of me. He wants this life for me; not the uncertainty of a future in the performing arts, far off in New York, where everything is different and hard for him to understand; all he knows about that world is you either make it and fame gets to your head, or you don’t make it and starve in the streets. He wants to see me married to a boy he knows, for better or worse, so I’ll be taken care of when he’s gone. Because after everything we’ve been through together, he still feels I am not masculine enough to take care of myself.”

Carole felt her heart break again. “Oh baby...no,” she said. “No, that’s not true.”

“Isn’t it?” Kurt sounded hollow.

“No,” Carole said resolutely. “He thinks this is what you want, and that is why he wants to help. He’s so proud of you, Kurt, of what you have achieved in New York. Your job, NYADA...He knows you are out there by yourself and doing so well. Of course it’s scary for a parent to see their child go off into adulthood- I feel the same about Finn. But ultimately, he wants what’s best for you.” She pauses. “And somehow I think...that’s not Blaine anymore.”

Kurt sniffed and pulled up his shoulders. “Maybe not,” he admitted.

Carole offered him a soft smile. “Do you want me to send your dad up?”

Kurt took a deep breath and nodded. Carole got up, then reconsidered and wrapped her arms around him. Hopefully, if they all learned to communicate better, Kurt would know he had more than a broken dresser and a memory to turn to for advice.