Title: Tricks of the Trade
Word Count: ~ 4,300
Characters: Blaine/Kurt, Carole/Burt
Summary: Burt/Blaine POV. Kurt's a terrible patient and even though Blaine's eager and willing to take care of him, there are some things only a father knows.
I will never forget Burt's giddiness about telling Blaine about Kurt's NYADA news and the prospect of Blaine and Burt being secret buddies in a weird, unconventional way. I have a feeling that Burt Hummel sees straight through a lot of Blaine and that there's a fondness there.
I've been sick for the past two days and this happened. I really hope you like it :)
Kurt’s never been the reticent type, nor has he been one to expose his every insecurity but one thing Burt Hummel knows about his son is how to deal with him when he’s sick.
Kurt’s a nightmare. He’s crabby, snappier than usual and fussier than when he’s healthy which, knowing Kurt, is difficult to imagine.
He’d come home from school on Friday night with a fever and a face like someone had taken scissors to his scarf rack. Burt has seen that face before, countless times, and it’s the reason Blaine’s camped out in their house and spent his entire Saturday trailing up and down the stairs in varying states of frustration.
The one person who doesn’t know about the nuances of dealing with a poorly Kurt Hummel is Blaine. Burt smothers his laugh behind a copy of the daily newspaper and rolls his eyes at Carole when the echoing shouts of protest echo down the stairs and Blaine rounds the corner of the lounge with flushed cheeks and the face of a kicked puppy.
“You ok, kid?”
Blaine swallows, wide eyed as if he’s just escaped a battle. “Yes. Yes, I’m fine. It’s just – “
“Kurt. I know. I’ve been there during every fever, every knee scrape and hospital trip and let me tell ya, I don’t envy you right now.”
Carole laughs as she presents Burt with a glass of something green and clearly Kurt-inspired, resting on the arm of the chair. “He still sickly?”
Blaine just blinks but eventually slumps into one of the empty chairs in the lounge. “He has a raging temperature and he’s woozy with meds. He’s not letting me help. I tried to cover him with a blanket and he threw it off him minutes later and scowled at it lying on the floor like it had personally offended him. I mean, who does that? Aren’t you supposed to be grateful for someone taking care of you?”
Blaine looks lost, his expression twisted up in concern and exhaustion and Burt can’t take it for more than a second. “Look, Blaine. You know him just as well as I do and you know how independent he is. He’s fierce about it and that means he doesn’t cope well with someone fussing over him as much as he might need it. He likes to think he can do it all himself and he can’t. Not really. The kid’s so used to being the care giver that he doesn’t know how to accept a little well meant help every now and then. Plus, he’s cranky as hell when he’s forced to stay in his room or, god forbid, his bed. You shoulda seen me dealing with him when he had full on stomach flu a couple a years ago. It was like World War three in that basement.”
Blaine purses his lips into a thoughtful smile. “Do you think I should give him some space? I mean I have kind of being crowding him but it’s only because I want to help.”
The kid’s so sincere it’s painful and, if Burt’s honest, kind of embarrassing in how obvious he is sometimes but he can’t help his affection for Blaine. The kid’s stuck by Kurt and makes him smile like no other so it’s difficult to resist his lopsided grins and happy hellos, not to mention when he looks a few breaths away from curling into a ball. Something’s caused him pain in the past and Burt doesn’t need to know the details, just the knowledge that Blaine understands how welcome he is in their house and how ready they are to help out should he need anything.
With hands steepled on his knee, Burt leans in and ducks to catch Blaine’s attention. “I may have some insider tips if you’re interested. Call them top secret Intel, if you want. But Kurt can’t know I told you anything ‘cause he’s precious about his reputation.”
Blaine smiles to himself like he’s charmed by something. Burt simple shakes his head, knowing that look.
“I’d be grateful for the help,” Blaine says simply and it’s all Burt needs. Carole’s warm chuckle in his ear and the vibrations of it running through their connected shoulders are enough to tell him he’s done the right thing.
“Ok. The first thing you need to know is the secret of Peppermint Tea.”
Blaine raises the mug to his nose and twirls the spoon twice, smiling as the leaves dance in the liquid, infusing more of the minty aroma that apparently relaxes Kurt like no other. It’s worth a shot.
As he reaches Kurt’s room, the sneezes and grumbling are loud even before he enters. So as not to upset Kurt’s dignity, Blaine knocks and waits for the hum of agreement that he knows will come – eventually. It does after a moment of noisy rustling and when Blaine peeks around the door, Kurt’s sitting bolt upright, not a tissue in sight except for the one Blaine can see sticking out from the cuff of his pyjamas.
“I made you some tea,” Blaine says, treading softly and perching precariously at the end of the bed awaiting whatever protest Kurt may throw at him. Nothing comes. Instead, Kurt’s red tinged nose wrinkles and his eyes zero in on the mug in Blaine’s hand.
“Peppermint?” he croaks out, eyes filled with a sudden depth. Longing.
It’s the first sign of surrender that Blaine’s seen and the tiny quirk at the corner of Kurt’s mouth is enough to send delight coursing through his body.
Burt Hummel is a genius and, as instructed, Blaine places the mug gently into Kurt’s willing grasp and affectionately pats his duvet covered knee before leaving him the space to enjoy the drink in peace.
There is a brief moment when he rounds the corner and can’t quite leave, his back meeting the wall outside of Kurt’s room. They take care of each other – it’s just what they do – and there’s a difficulty in leaving Kurt alone when he needs someone.
As the sound of a sniffled but contented sigh drifts out of the open door, it’s all Blaine can do not to dance down the hall in celebration.
Carole laughs loud when Blaine slinks into the lounge, eyes bright and smile as wide as his face. “So I take it the tea worked?” she asks in amusement, winking at Burt. Burt’s smug if he’s honest but what is surprising is the surge of fondness he feels for the Blaine and all his contained sense of duty and unending politeness. The kid’s every dad’s dream even if he does screw up now and then. He’s gracious to a fault and even when he knows he’s done something he shouldn’t have, Burt’s seen the flicker of something dark behind his eyes.
He’s a boy who’s trying and Burt knows exactly what that’s like. He’s still working on getting it right and he’s a hell of a lot older and stupider.
“So you want more information, huh?”
Blaine’s smiling now, laughing with his eyes and flopping down on the couch. It’s dusk and fast approaching Blaine’s curfew but Burt’s well accustomed to quick phone calls to the Anderson household to let them know their son’s safe and has a bed for the night.
This is going to be one of those nights, he can tell.
“Why do I feel like I’m going to have to give you something in return, Mr Hummel?”
He’s got spirit, that’s for sure. Carole almost chokes on her glass of something fizzy and pink. “Oh, Blaine. If he starts bargaining with shifts in the garage, just come see me. It’ll talk him down.”
Burt rolls his eyes, tossing the paper to one side, and scratches at his ear in consideration. “Ok. Well he’s had this thing about pineapple being a wonder food for years. He makes me drink the juice all the time and let me tell you, kid, he’s serious about this stuff and its weird magic properties.”
There’s a low purr of voices from the TV adjacent to Kurt’s bed when Blaine sneaks into Kurt’s room half an hour later, itching to see him and make sure he’s ok. There’s pride in his ability to resist, though, and if Kurt’s tentative smile is anything to go by, Blaine knows he’s doing ok.
“I brought you something else.”
Kurt cocks his head to the side and surveys Blaine from head to toe with a brief lingering stare at the dish in Blaine’s hand. “I wondered where you’d gotten to.” Careful not to wince at the rawness of Kurt’s voice, Blaine smiles carefully.
“I’ve been downstairs with your Dad and Carole. I figured you could use some space.”
Blaine resumes his spot at the edge of the bed, Kurt shuffling to allow him a little more space. He doesn’t protest when Blaine lets his hand rest against Kurt’s knees, rubbing in a way that he hopes is soothing. The room is stuffy but infused with a warm minty scent too, which Blaine figures can only be good for Kurt’s sinuses.
“Thank you for the tea,” Kurt says quietly, voice hoarse and uncharacteristic but one look into Kurt’s eyes and Blaine can see the sweet flickers of gratitude.
“It’s quite alright. I brought pineapple if you’d like some. I found one in the refrigerator already cut up. I hear its rich in Bromelain so it’s good for loosening sinuses and soothing coughs. It’s full of vitamins.”
The shock that registers on Kurt’s face is a thrill. His eyes dance with surprise before he presses his slightly chapped lips together (Blaine makes a mental note to locate his chap stick for added boyfriend points) and takes a slow and assessing breath.
“That’s thoughtful.” Again with the surprise in his tone, Kurt seems to relax into his pillow, curling his hands around the glass dish and daintily stabbing a chunk. He eyes Blaine with an exasperated yet fond smile before popping it in his mouth.
When he swallows and raises his eyebrows in playful accusation, Blaine can’t help but giggle. It’s as if Kurt’s putting on an elaborate show of complying and regardless of his transparency, he’s giving in and allowing it.
Something resembling bursting pride swells in Blaine’s chest and it’s difficult to retreat this time. Kurt looks adorable all nestled in a throne of his pillows, back still as straight as an arrow but all out of some misguided sense of pride. It’s so Kurt that it’s too tempting to just crawl up beside him and snuggle down too.
Still, Blaine remembers Burt’s advice – ‘He doesn’t like to be crowded unless he makes it obvious he wants someone close’ – and strokes gently at Kurt’s arm for a moment before making a graceful exit, just as Kurt mumbles ‘thank you, Blaine’.
Blaine does a little victory dance in the hallway this time, sending a tiny prayer to the God Steve Jobs for his inventions that allowed rapid research and assisted in impressing his boyfriend.
Blaine makes a mental note to research exactly what the hell Bromelain is when he has a few seconds to spare. Kurt’s nothing if not thorough and follow up questions are a distinct possibility where he’s concerned.
Carole’s curled up on the couch by herself when Blaine makes his way down the stairs.
“Burt’s on the phone in the kitchen with one of the guys from work,” she explains, winking as she dangles the remote between two fingers, “and I’m taking advantage. They have to be showing re-runs of Grey’s Anatomy on some channel. Kurt and I watch them together sometimes.”
Blaine takes the seat beside her, glad for the way she seems to be able to make anyone feel entirely at home. She’s funny, sharp and oozes the kind of warmth that only a mother is capable of.
“Same. I don’t know if it’s my kind of thing but I think he tries to get me to appreciate it even if I don’t love it. I guess it’s the same with my love for horror movies. I know he hates them but even though he complains, he’ll sit through it for me.”
“That’s love for you,” Carole coos and nudges at his shoulder with a playful wink. “You know, Burt will complain till he’s blue in the face about shows he calls ‘trash’ but I’ve caught him laughing more than once. I made him watch that birthing show one night and I am about a hundred percent certain I caught him wipe away a tear when this couple who’d been trying to have a baby for years and years gave birth to healthy twins.”
It’s nice. Sitting and talking without having any agenda or without worrying about what someone will think. Back home it’s different and Blaine smiles at her, hoping she understands exactly how much it means.
“I suppose it’s good having different interests. It’d be boring otherwise.”
“Exactly,” she laughs, turning comfortably in her seat, “and look at my Finn and Rachel. Lord knows you can’t get a pair of opposites more obvious than them and they seem to get on just great even if Rachel’s probably the one calling all the shots.”
“Something tells me that Finn’s not too upset about that though,” Blaine offers and her giggle in response fills him with delight.
“True. Anyway, how’s Kurt up there? Is he softening up yet? I did consider going all matronly on him last night but I figured he’d just resent me for it knowing how precious his privacy is. Nothing better than having his doting boyfriend take care of him after all, is there?”
She talks like it’s all normal, like there’s no awkwardness about the fact that Blaine’s there because he loves Kurt and wants to care for him. It’s all so obvious and right but something inside Blaine sings at the ease of it all.
“I think I’m getting there but he’s still not happy being cooped up.”
Carole’s brow creases as she presses her hand to her lips in thought. “You know,” she muses, “Finn used to have awful chesty coughs when he was small. His throat would be dry, eyes itchy and red so I’d crack his window a little to air off the room but I’d take up a humidifier to ease the dry air. It always worked so well and something tells me that for all that moisturising and preening Kurt does, he’d be glad of a little moisture right now. How about I dig it out and you can give that a go?”
It’s all Blaine can do to resist throwing himself at her slipper-clad feet in gratitude.
Kurt’s eyes are closed when Blaine tip toes in and finds an empty socket by Kurt’s vanity for the machine. It’s a warm room at the best of times and usually when they spend a long time in there, Kurt’s manic about fresh air and the value of it.
Taking Carole’s advice, he cracks the window an inch and peels back the curtains, careful not to rustle them too loudly. Kurt stirs, groaning softly against the fur of his throw pillows.
It’s a rough sound and Blaine winces at the look of pure exhaustion on Kurt’s face, the sag of his eyebrows and downward turn of his lips. He’s not himself and the realisation hits Blaine like a freight train, winding him with how much it sucks to see Kurt so... well, un-Kurt.
“Hey,” he whispers, crossing to kneel by the bed, unfurling Kurt’s fisted fingers and threading his own through the gaps. Kurt lets him and simply watches the gesture with love-deep eyes. “I brought up your humidifier to ease your throat and just a little bit of fresh air coming in to keep it circulating. I hope that’s ok.”
Kurt nods, flinching as he shuffles to sit up. His eyes are rimmed dark and on their way to being sunken. “Thank you. My throat – “ He struggles to croak out the rest so Blaine spares him, pressing their hands together in understanding.
“It’ll feel better if you keep taking your medicine and get some sleep. Your dad says its ok if I stay tonight and it’s Sunday tomorrow so it’s not like you need to be up early.”
Kurt’s eyes flicker rabbit-quick. “You’re staying?”
“If you want me to.”
Kurt nods but the sudden movement triggers a cough which soon turns into a breathless fit of them, unending and clearly rough on his chest. The sound is pitiful and Blaine doesn’t even think before he’s pouring a glass of iced water from the jug on Kurt’s nightstand, pressing it to Kurt’s lips and urging him to drink. On any other occasion, a hand would have batted him away, keen to preserve some dignity and independence but with a reluctant sigh, Kurt accepts the gesture and keeps his eyes on Blaine as he sips and swallows slowly.
It’s strangely intimate and Blaine can’t help but smile with satisfaction. Kurt spots it instantly as he lies back against the pillows and watches Blaine carefully place the glass on the empty coaster. “Don’t think you’re telling anyone about this,” he croaks, grimacing at the crack in his voice.
“It’ll be our little secret,” Blaine mumbles softly, pillowing his head on the arms folded in front of him. “And plus, what makes you think I’d broadcast stories about you being sick when you took care of me so diligently when I hurt my eye?”
Kurt’s eyes alight with glee as he hums out a laugh. “It was a defining moment giving you that bath, hmm?”
“Not my finest hour,” Blaine chuckles, looking up at Kurt under his eyelashes and knowing that he’d do the same and so much more if Kurt needed him to.
When Blaine appears at the bottom of the stairs, his shoulders are hunched up somewhere around his ears and he looks as tired as Burt feels after a long shift changing tires and lugging heavy metal parts. There’s the remainder of a smile pulling at his lips so Burt presumes it’s going ok and Kurt’s not being too much of a handful.
“You know that movie with the guy from The A-Team where he chases after Audrey Hepburn?”
Blaine looks up, eyes penny-wide and clearly returning from whichever world he had been lost in. He chuckles with only a touch of condescension. The kid’s a hundred times more cultured than Burt knows he’ll ever be and regardless of his sometimes over confidence, it’s great that Kurt has someone who speaks his language. “I know the one.”
“Well, there’s a tune from that. Moon River. You know it?”
“I know it well. It’s one of my favourites.”
Burt huffs out a laugh because, of course it is. “Kurt’s mom taught me it when he was tiny. It was her favourite movie. I’ve been humming it to him since then whenever he’s sick or restless. It makes him sleep too which, you know, is a bonus when he’s ratty and scowling atcha for covering him with a blanket that’s ‘too synthetic’ or whatever.”
Blaine’s cogs are whirring and he’s making a mental note, much to Burt’s amusement. He’s keen as mustard and that’s nice to see from someone who Kurt relies on. “Is there anything else that soothes him that I might not know about? I know he likes the window open when he sleeps for fresh air so I cracked it a little and I know all about the materials he likes against his skin –“
Burt coughs because, no, he doesn’t need to know anything more than that. What they get up to in private is their business and they’re smart, not stupid – they know the deal and understand the boundaries. Speaking of which, talking about potentially intimate stuff with Mr Teenage Hair gel is pushing the limits of his own set of them and Blaine looks startled.
“Look, I’m telling you this stuff because you’re close and he trusts you, ok?”
The overzealous nod is satisfying. Blaine holds just a little fear when it comes to him being Kurt’s dad and there’s nothing wrong with that at all. “You can trust me.”
“That, I know, kid. There’s something else you can try but it’s on your own head be it. One last thing.” Burt watches Blaine’s eyes light up, willing and eager. “He likes people to stroke his hair. Consider it a rite of passage or some divine gift if he grants you it ‘cause you know as well as I do that nobody goes near his hair, not even upon pain of death. He used to fall asleep when his mom used to play with it. He fights sleep like a trouper when he’s ill. It’s like he’s going to miss something or whatever but I know my son and when he’s comfortable enough, he’ll fall like a log and it’ll take a nuclear bomb to wake him.”
“Thank you, Mr Hummel,” Blaine says with emphasis and the corners of a shy smile. “Thank you for calling my Dad too. I didn’t expect – “
“Jesus, call me Burt already. What is it? Like, a year and you’re still calling me Mr Hummel? Anyway, you know the guest bed’s always yours when you want it, or you should by now.”
There’s still an odd kind of astonishment that floods the kid’s face when he’s reassured about spending time in their house and reminded just how welcome he is. It’s unsettling because Blaine doesn’t just accept it, he feels he has to earn it and that in itself is a little worrying. Still, he’s a complex guy despite how well he conceals it.
“Sorry. Burt. Thank you. And I think I will stay if that’s ok?”
“Fine by me, kid. Maybe you want to try that song out on Kurt, make sure he gets some sleep or something. He’ll be hard to handle tomorrow if he doesn’t. Hell, I’m his dad and even I can’t cope with him when he’s tired.”
Blaine nods and stretches up to leave but not without adding another ‘thank you’ as he exits the room. Too polite for his own good.
Kurt’s awake when Blaine sneaks in again. He’s flipping absentmindedly through the pages of last month’s Vogue and muttering under his breath.
“How are you feeling now?”
He jumps a little at Blaine’s presence but offers a tiny smile regardless. “Like death. But I suppose a little outfit planning can’t hurt, right? I mean I do have that NYADA mixer next week and there’s no way I’m going without looking my very best.”
Blaine flops down on the bed, grateful for Kurt’s apparent perk in mood. His fingers are fatigued, shoulders drooping as he talks but he’s not snapping and frowning like before except for the roll of his eyes at Blaine’s lack of decorum. He does it often so Blaine grins wildly back and tucks himself into Kurt’s side, peering over his shoulder.
“Did your mother never tell you it’s rude to read over someone’s shoulder?”
“You don’t mind. In fact, I’d go as far as to say you like it.”
He purses his lips haughtily in response and it’s adorable; everything Kurt does playfully and with such an air of forced petulance is adorable because it’s what they do. It’s their own little language.
“You don’t know me at all, do you?” Kurt manages, his voice still scratchy.
“No. Not at all. I’m only your best friend and boyfriend. We’re practically strangers to each other.”
They read in silence, Kurt tutting at the outfits he doesn’t approve of and batting Blaine’s hand away when he becomes a little over excited at the tailoring. After a while, it’s obvious that Kurt’s exhausted because they reach a page covered with items smothered in buckles and straps and... nothing. Kurt doesn’t gasp or coo or sigh wistfully whilst stroking the page. A quick glance at his heavy eyelids and Blaine’s sliding the magazine from Kurt’s grip and placing it by the side of the bed.
It doesn’t take long before Kurt’s lead lolls and he’s a dead weight against Blaine’s shoulder, skin flushed against the cool silk of his pyjamas. Blaine eyes the elegantly stitched ‘KH’ on the pocket and fondness flutters inside of him until it’s physically impossible to resist tugging Kurt to him; he does, and revels in the way Kurt responds, curling like a cat into the embrace.
“Tired,” Kurt murmurs, snuggling down when Blaine tugs the blanket higher, draping it over Kurt’s exposed arm.
It’s then that Blaine begins to sing. He doesn’t reach full voice, careful to keep it delicate and allow the lullaby to work its magic. Kurt exhales contentedly and presses his cheek to Blaine’s chest. It’s then, in a moment of effortlessness that Blaine chances letting his fingers thread through Kurt’s hair in gentle but persistent lines.
After a quiet moment, Kurt whispers against Blaine’s arm, his voice laced with a lazy kind of sarcasm with almost no bite. “I’m onto you both, Blaine Anderson. Conspiracy. Collusion. All of it. I know.”
Blaine swallows down a laugh, nuzzling closer and feeling the warm points of contact between them: Kurt’s hands balled up between them and clinging haphazardly to the folds of Blaine’s sweater, Kurt’s forehead hot against his shoulder and their legs tangled tight in a knot. “I have no idea what you’re talking about.”
There’s a silence and Kurt hums something incoherent between them with a gust of breath against Blaine’s collar bone. He’s pliant and softer than Blaine’s ever seen him, which makes it all so precious and worthy of being treasured as one of those moments. Kurt licks at his lips and curls closer, pressing his nose into the slither of exposed skin at Blaine’s throat so tight that the words are muffled but Blaine makes them out and grins stupidly into the bed-mess of Kurt’s hair.
“I love you.”
With that, the room descends into a comfortable silence only momentarily interrupted with sporadic snuffling noises and the thrum of Blaine’s happy, accomplished heart.
Thank you for reading! I hope you liked it even though it was shamelessly indulgent and written in a haze of cold meds and a temperature!
My mum SWEARS by pineapple and makes me eat it whenever I'm home and ill. I HATE peppermint tea but that's another of her magic remedies that I stole for this... ;)
I wish I had a Blaine to come take care of me but alas I don't and I must soothe my own crankiness. Hence, this happened...!