The beard itched. The costume was a little too short in the arms and legs, although that wasn’t terribly surprising, and the extra padding was so warm Finn felt like he was in a sauna. But the pay was excellent, and because he was in Dayton instead of Lima, he didn’t worry too much about the other kids from school finding out. He’d even managed to keep it from Kurt, and that was saying something.
But that all changed a couple of days before Christmas when Finn looked up at his next customer and saw the unmistakable mohawk sported by his best friend. Puck was standing in line with his little sister, Naomi.
Crap, crap, crap,what are they even doing here? Finn kept a smile plastered to his fake-bearded face as they got closer and closer to the front of the line. He might be able to fool Naomi, but if Puck got too close, he would see right through the costume.
Naomi launched herself up into his lap.
“Ho, ho, ho. Merry Christmas!” Finn tried to make his voice sound as deep and different as possible. “What’s your name?”
“Naomi,” she said, very matter-of-factly. “We’re Jewish, so we don’t really do the Christmas and Santa thing, but I begged my big brother to bring me to see you.”
“That’s a nice thing your brother did,” said Finn.
“Don’t let anyone know though, he’s got a reputation at school to protect,” Naomi whispered conspiratorially. “He thinks he’s some sort of punk.”
Finn couldn’t help but laugh. “What can I bring you for Christmas?”
“Hanukkah is already over, and I got lots of great gifts,” Naomi said. “My brother though, he spends Christmas with his best friend’s family. So what I’m going to ask for is really for him.”
Santa nodded at Naomi to continue.
“They’re seniors in high school this year and Noah’s afraid this is the last Christmas they’ll ever spend together,” Naomi said. “Cause Finn, that’s his best friend, is talking about going to school in New York or joining the Army or something. And the thing is, Noah’s in love with him. And I don’t know where you come down on the whole guys loving guys or girls loving girls debate, Santa, but all I want for my brother is for him to be happy. So can you do that? Can you make him happy? Can you do something to make sure he has a great Christmas this year?”
Finn managed to close his mouth.
“That’s not really how this works, but I can try,” he said. He knew his voice was thick with emotion, but he couldn’t really do much about that. He blinked away the tears pricking at his eyes. “Can I bring you anything at all, Naomi?”
“I don’t know how you could, possibly, but if you can, I wouldn’t say no to new music.” She thought about it. “Maybe the new Daughtry CD?”
“I’ll see what I can do,” Santa said. “Merry Christmas, Naomi.”
“Merry Christmas, Santa,” Naomi said as she slid off his lap and went off to where Puck was waiting for her.
Finn paced back and forth in front of the Christmas tree in the family room. It was Christmas Eve and he was waiting for Puck to arrive, like he always did, to spend Christmas with him and his mom and, in the most recent years, Burt and Kurt.
Finn tried not to think about what he was planning on doing. He tried not to think about what Naomi had said to him a couple of days before. He tried not to think about Rachel’s tears last night.
“What is your problem, Finn?” Kurt huffed as Finn paced in front of him for the hundredth time that afternoon. “It’s just Puck.”
Finn flopped down on the sofa next to Kurt. “What do you think Christmas will be like next year?”
“What?” Kurt asked.
“Do you think we’ll come home for Christmas?”
“Our first year at school? Yeah. I think Dad and Carole would be upset if we didn’t. Of course if we end up in the same city, then it might be just as easy for them to come to us.”
Finn nodded. Kurt frowned at him.
“Why are you worried about Christmas next year?”
“It’s just, it’ll be the first Christmas in like forever that I won’t have spent with Puck,” Finn said. “What’s Puck going to do for Christmas?”
Kurt laughed. “I’m sure Puck will be here like always. Or wherever you end up for the holidays.”
“You think so?” Finn asked. “He plans on going to Los Angeles. That’s a long way away from Lima, or New York, or wherever else I may end up next year.”
“I don’t see that stopping Puck from spending Christmas with you. Admittedly, it would be easier if you were still in Lima and if Hanukkah is close to Christmas, but still, I don’t think you’re going to get rid of Puck that easily.”
Finn grinned at Kurt. “Thanks, dude.” He hugged Kurt tightly, letting go only when Kurt began to protest. Then he stood up just as the front door opened.
Puck walked in with his duffle bag and a Christmas gift bag with presents inside. “Merry Christmas, Hudson-Hummel’s,” he sang, removing his boots and hanging up his coat in the front hall closet.
“Merry Christmas, Noah,” Carole replied from the kitchen, where she was making pie for the next day.
Finn took Puck’s bag of gifts and placed them next to the tree. “Let’s take your duffle upstairs.”
“Okay,” Puck shrugged as he followed Finn upstairs to his room.
Finn put Puck’s duffle by the closet door and gestured for Puck to sit on the bed. He went over to the door and peeked out into the hall, before closing it. He turned and leaned back against the door looking at Puck.
Puck eyed Finn suspiciously. “What’s up with you, Finn? You’re acting crazier than when you first found out Quinn was pregnant.” Puck’s eyes went wide. “Rachel’s not pregnant, is she?”
Finn laughed nervously. “No, man. Rachel’s not pregnant.” He paused and looked at Puck. “You didn’t sleep with Rachel did you?”
Puck collapsed back onto the bed, howling with laughter. “No, man. I promise. I didn’t sleep with your girlfriend. Not this time.”
Finn moved to the bed, sitting down next to Puck. He stretched out, propping his head up on his hand. “I just want you to know, no matter where I am next year, and every year after that, you’re always welcome.”
“O-kay,” Puck drew out the word like he was unsure what Finn was saying.
“It won’t be Christmas without you,” Finn said. “So wherever I am, wherever you are, there’s a place for you.”
“Finn,” Puck said softly, his eyes flitting all over Finn’s face.
The only thing Finn could think of to say was, “Don’t slug me,” as he leaned in pressed his lips to Puck’s.
Puck broke the kiss first, pushing Finn away from him. He looked completely stunned. “What was that?”
“I don’t know, really,” Finn said, shaking his head. “But this year… racing towards graduation, racing towards the future. It’s not the end of us. It’s just the beginning.”
“Just the beginning,” Puck echoed, his face happier and more full of joy that Finn had ever seen. He brushed his lips against Finn’s.
Finn broke the kiss the second time. Then he reached over to the bedside table and grabbed a small wrapped present. He handed it to Puck. “It’s for Naomi.”
“From Santa?” Puck asked as he read the tag.
Finn nodded. “She doesn’t need to know it’s really from me.”