Finn feels like he’s turning into the stalker-ex that Doug thought Puck might be. Not that Finn’s actually Puck’s ex or anything—well, ex-dead best friend, or maybe ex-dead ex-best friend, but technically not ex-boyfriend—but there’s definitely some stalking happening, despite Finn’s best judgment. He knows he shouldn’t, that he should contact Agent Harris right away and let him know that Finn’s placement has been compromised or whatever they call it, but instead Finn goes to the library and Googles ‘Noah Puckerman’.
Since the incident behind the old movie theater, Finn has been very careful not to visit the Facebook pages of any of his family members or friends, since apparently that kind of stuff can leave a record behind, and somebody could find out there’s a guy in Boise who keeps checking on all the friends and relatives of a supposedly-dead federal witness. Mostly Finn keeps an eye on Kurt by following the Vogue.com updates, looks at Burt’s congressional website for pictures of Burt and Carole, takes the occasional peek at a Funny Girl castmember’s blog, and every once in a while allows himself to watch a YouTube video of New Directions’ performances. He’s never let himself look for Puck, not even once.
Now that he is trying to find information on Puck, though, Finn keeps hitting dead end after dead end. Puck doesn’t have a Facebook, Google+, Twitter, or any other kind of social media. Puck isn’t in the White Pages. He doesn’t pop up on any kind of search of local colleges or businesses or even, once Finn could remember the word for Jewish church, synagogues.
Finn stays on the library computer until the librarian comes over and tells him he needs to get off, because they’re closing, and at that point he has to accept that maybe the guy in the bar wasn’t Puck at all. Maybe Finn’s eyes really were playing tricks on him, letting him see what he wanted to see, even if it wasn’t what he was supposed to want to see. If Puck were really in Boise, surely Finn would be able to find some kind of record of him, but since there’s nothing, that’s probably an indicator of Finn’s mind just messing with him.
When Finn goes back to the job site on Monday, he tells Doug that he was definitely just a few too many sheets to the wind. Doug doesn’t push, though he and Cliff both tease Finn about being such a lightweight, and things go back to normal for the rest of the week. Early the following week, though, Finn’s at Capital Lumber when he’s sure he hears Puck’s voice a few aisles over. Finn peeks between the shelves, but he can’t see anything, so he goes to the far end of the aisle and sneaks down like some kind of creeper-stalker to look around that aisle.
Since Finn hasn’t been drinking, and because he hasn’t really had any signs of a full blown mental break coming up, the guy at the front of the aisle is definitely Puck. A slightly thinner, slightly older, sadder-looking Puck, wearing a name tag that clearly indicates he works at Capital Lumber and talking to a customer. Finn bumps into the endcap of the aisle, knocking over a bottle of grout cleaner. Puck glances in Finn’s direction.
“Shit,” Finn says to himself, taking a backwards step to hide behind the endcap, and then quickly turning and sprinting to the original aisle he’d been on, grabbing his purchases and waiting until he’s sure Puck is somewhere else in the store before checking out.
Not only is Puck really in Boise, but he’s working at the hardware store Finn visits at least once a week, and may have been working there for some time now. As Finn leaves the hardware store, he realizes that Puck’s truck is parked in a spot on the far side. Finn drives back to the construction site and sits in the work truck for a few minutes, trying to gather his thoughts.
Puck seemed shocked to see Finn in 13th Street, and Puck has a job, presumably a place to live, probably has friends, since he was at the pub. Puck’s made some kind of life here, which means he didn’t come here looking for Finn. He didn’t even know Finn was here, and maybe, like Finn, Puck also thought his eyes were playing tricks on him.
Finn knows he can play it one of two ways. One is to call Agent Harris right away, like he should have that night at the pub, and tell him that someone from his old life found him. The other is to try to figure out on his own if it’s safe for him to talk to Puck and admit the truth of what happened, and if Puck can forgive him for the lying, maybe Finn could actually have Puck back in his life again. Option number two definitely sounds like the better one to Finn.
Over the next few weeks, Finn looks for every opportunity to go to Capital Lumber, to the point that Doug and Cliff start asking him about the girl he has a crush on who works there. Finn can tell them in all honesty that there’s no girl. Doug glances at Finn’s arm, where the tattoo is covered by a shirt and a jacket, and he looks like he’s thinking something over. Whatever it is, though, he doesn’t say anything about it that day.
Finn returns to 13th Street Pub to look for Puck, but either he’s always just missing him, or Finn freaked him out so badly that he’s not coming to the pub at all now. He takes to just driving around Boise, looking for Puck’s truck, finally ending up at Java Hyde Park, not far from 13th Street. When he gives a rough description of Puck to the barista, she smiles and nods.
“Oh yeah, he comes in every morning,” she says. “Orders a peppermint mocha with extra whip.”
“Yes! That’s him!” Finn says. “Do you know where he goes? Like, goes-goes, bars, clubs, anything?”
The other barista leans over to look at Finn. “If you’re looking for a guy, you should try the Boiler Club. That’s where I would go to find a guy. They do some open mic thing on Saturdays.”
Finn takes his coffee and tells the baristas thanks, then drives back to his small house, which still has more sawdust and sheetrock dust than it does furniture. Finn hangs sheetrock in the basement for the next couple of hours to clear his head, formulating a plan.
On Saturday, Finn’s planted himself in a dark corner of the Boiler Club, watching people recite spoken-word poetry with varying degrees of success and listening to a lot of folksy covers of indie songs. He doesn’t see Puck until Puck is heading up to the mic, guitar in hand. Finn listens to Puck’s slow, sorrowful rendition of ‘Only the Good Die Young’ while his stomach flips and his heart pounds. Finn leaves before Puck’s finished the song, because he’s in danger of puking again, and he’s not quite ready for any kind of reunion.
Finn doesn’t go the hardware store that week, sending Cliff instead, but on Saturday he’s back in the dark corner of the Boiler Club, watching Puck sing and strum his way through a song that makes Finn’s heart hurt. As Puck puts the guitar away, Finn can see that Puck has Finn’s old hat, the one Puck always swiped, tucked inside the guitar case. Tonight isn’t the night for a reunion, either, Finn decides, because he feels too guilty and too sad for it. He stays in the dark corner until he’s sure Puck is gone.
The following week, there’s no getting around making the run to Capital Lumber, because Cliff and Doug are framing, and they’re the only other ones allowed to drive the truck. He keeps his head down and intentionally grabs a different employee to get help with the wood, occasionally glancing around to see if Puck is there. Finn doesn’t see him, though before he leaves the hardware store, he does hear the sound of someone in a pair of work boots running through the store in the opposite direction of where Finn is.
He really doesn’t know what to do. By this point, it’s been almost a year since he disappeared, and maybe that means he’s lost the right to talk to Puck at all. There’s no way that seeing Finn again could be good for Puck, and seeing Puck isn’t really that great for Finn, either. That all sounds really smart and logical, but it doesn’t stop Finn from going back to the Boiler Club next Saturday and sitting where he knows he won’t be seen.
Puck’s cover of ‘These Days’ by Foo Fighters isn’t as painfully sad to watch as the songs from the previous two Saturdays, and Finn thinks maybe tonight should be the night he could try to talk to Puck. Just as Puck’s song ends, though, the girl who had performed two ahead of Puck comes back up to the microphone, and after a brief discussion between the girl and Puck, she pulls up a second stool. As Finn watches from his dark corner, Puck and the girl begin a rendition of U2’s ‘With or Without You’, with such good harmonies that Finn is sure Puck and this girl might know each other. Maybe they’re friends. Maybe they’re even dating, something Finn never stopped to consider, because he’s still hung up on the idea of Puck as Finn last saw him. Maybe Puck really has moved on with his life, and it would be unfair of Finn to try to reinsert himself into it.
Puck and the girl finish their song, and the girl hugs Puck, the two of them talking to each other briefly. Finn takes the opportunity to slip out of his dark corner, snagging a server and asking her for a piece of paper. He quickly scribbles his number and ‘Isaac’ on the paper.
“Can you take this over to the guy at the mic?” Finn asks her. When she agrees, he smiles and slips out of the bar. He probably shouldn’t have done that, but now it’s done. If Puck doesn’t call, Finn will take it as a sign that he shouldn’t try to talk to Puck again. If he does call, though, Finn has no idea what he’s going to say.
Puck barely sits down after singing and playing before one of the servers shows up beside his table, smiling at him and then offering him a piece of paper. “The guy over there asked me to give this to you.”
“Okay?” Puck takes the paper without looking at it, following the server’s gesture as she points to an empty corner and then shakes her head.
“Well, he was right there.”
“What’d he look like?” Puck can’t help asking.
“Really tall, shoulder-length hair, and a fantastic smile. I’d definitely call him,” she says, winking at Puck.
It sounds enough like the Finn sound-and-look-alike that Puck drops his eyes to the paper immediately, expecting some kind of message to stop acting like a creep. Instead it’s just a name and a phone number. ‘Isaac’ and a local, Boise phone number, and none of that should really make any difference to Puck, except for one thing.
Puck knows the handwriting on the paper. He knows what it looked like when it was still mostly capital letters, he remembers what it looked like when they were required to write in cursive for a year or two, and he knows what it looked like on the notebooks left scattered on the desk in the dorm room.
Puck doesn’t know what’s going on. Puck’s probably imagining that the handwriting looks like Finn’s, but no matter how many times he blinks, it still does. It doesn’t make any sense that the Finn sound-and-look-alike would have somehow found Finn’s handwriting and learned to duplicate it.
He gets himself a pop, determined to wait out the beer and a half he’d had that night before the note arrived. An hour later, he feels very sober and very freaked out, because it still looks just like Finn’s handwriting on the paper. He types the number into his phone, saving it as ‘Isaac’.
He doesn’t think he can call. Not when there’s even a chance that the voice that answers will sound anything like Finn, and not when Puck’s going to be picturing Finn on the other end of the phone. No, Puck knows if he were to decide to call, he’d never do it. He’ll have to text, and he’ll probably have to do it before he even leaves the bar, so he doesn’t have time to talk himself out of it.
Puck opens up a new text window and stares at it, not sure what to say. Finally, he types in You have my attention and sends it before he can reconsider.
Is this the guy from the bar?
Puck frowns at the phone for a couple of minutes before he responds. Yeah. That’s me. I don’t do bar mitzvahs or weddings.
Do you do coffee?
Puck makes another face at his phone, trying to figure what the guy—Isaac, apparently—wants. Maybe he’s jumping to conclusions, and it’s just some tall guy with handwriting a lot like Finn’s, who happens to want to date. Sure. You know Java Hyde Park?
11? Puck sends back, because if it’s just a date, he might as well weed out the Mormons right away.
Puck shrugs and enters it into his phone, then goes back to the text window. How will I know which person you are? he sends, because he could be wrong. He could just be crazy, seeing Finn everywhere, and then he’d end up sitting in the coffee shop staring at every random dude that walks in.
You’ll know. Just don’t run when you see me plz
“Great, he’s ugly,” Puck mutters under his breath, glancing at the server. That’d be one reason to say ‘fantastic smile’, he guesses. Puck decides to leave after that, thinking the whole damn thing over. It could be some kind of weird elaborate prank, it could just be a dude who wants a date, and it could be something really odd with the Finn sound-and-look-alike. It’s not until Puck gets home and into bed that he picks up the piece of paper and studies it again. ‘Isaac’ is a pretty common name, so it’s not that weird that a random person would have Puck’s middle name as his first name, but nothing about Boise has been all that not weird, not since the first couple of weeks.
The next morning, Puck goes for a run, stops at the gym and lifts, and then drives over to the coffee shop, getting there a good fifteen minutes early. He orders his coffee and finds a seat in the corner, facing the door, and sets his phone out on the table in front of him. About five minutes before eleven, the door opens, and Puck watches the Finn sound-and-look-alike walk into the coffee shop. The guy goes up to order coffee, and for whatever reason, the baristas are giggling with each other, and one of them looks over towards Puck and then nudges the other, pointing him out. Just one more weird thing amongst a lot weirder ones, Puck decides, taking another sip of his drink.
The Finn sound-and-look-alike walks over to Puck’s table, standing awkwardly next to the chair across from Puck. “Uh. Is it okay if I sit?”
Puck nods slowly, and he can feel his jaw clenching a little. “Isaac?”
The guy nods and pulls out the chair, sitting down. “Yeah.”
“Huh.” Puck studies him for a few moments, then shrugs. “Maybe you should get the baristas up there to stop laughing and call the nearest fucking mental hospital for me, instead,” he says, because Isaac looks like Finn and sounds like Finn and writes like Finn and, now that Puck’s up close, he even fucking smells like Finn, and Puck either is completely nuts or something very, very weird is going on.
Isaac slides his hand across the table top and rests it on top of Puck’s. “You okay?”
Puck snorts and then starts to laugh, even though it’s not really that funny. “Yeah, I’m so fucking okay, I’m in the fucking Sixth Sense.”
Isaac frowns—he frowns like Finn, too—and shakes his head, starting to stand again. “I shouldn’t have done this,” he says. “I’m sorry.”
“Don’t stop,” Puck says expectantly, wondering what Isaac will do next. He knows what he’s hoping for, but that’s probably too much to ask.
“You’re upset. I upset you. I shouldn’t have come here,” Isaac says.
“Yeah, ‘cause hallucinating, that’s not upsetting,” Puck says with a snort. “I keep hearing things and seeing things and this is what you’re worried about?”
“What do you see?” Isaac asks softly.
“Ghosts,” Puck says, even though it’s really just one ghost, one person who may or may not be standing right in front of him. Isaac looks about as disturbed as Puck feels.
“My name is Isaac Hansen,” Isaac says. “I work in construction. I swear I’m not a ghost.”
“Yeah, this isn’t normal, though,” Puck says, his fingers flexing as he tries not to crush his coffee cup.
“Can we—can we go somewhere else? Somewhere not here? And I’ll try to explain,” Isaac says.
Puck studies him for a few more moments, then nods and stands up, grabbing his phone off the table. “Where?”
Isaac makes Finn’s thinking face before answering, “I’m not too far from here.”
“Well, this would be a damn elaborate ruse just to kill me,” Puck concedes with a little shrug. “You want me to follow?”
“We can take your truck, if you want.”
“Uh-huh,” Puck says, side-eyeing Isaac until they’re outside. “What’s my name?”
“Noah Isaac Puckerman. Puck.”
“Okay.” Puck unlocks the truck and gets in, thinking. “Cancel the mental hospital, I’ll just stay crazy,” he adds as he starts the engine.
“You’re not crazy,” Isaac says.
“Nah, I’m pretty sure I’m crazy,” Puck argues. “Which way am I going?”
“Lemp and 20th.”
Puck heads up to Lemp and takes a left, then frowns. “The one with all the work being done?”
“Yeah, I’ve been fixing it up,” Isaac says. “It was kind of a mess when I first moved in, but I’ve been working on it a little at a time.”
Puck’s pretty sure he’s definitely going crazy, but he drives to the little house at Lemp and 20th and parks. “Like I said, I’ll just stay crazy,” Puck says, almost to himself, as he gets out of the truck.
“Watch out for nails,” Isaac warns, as he digs in his jacket pocket for a key. “I leave ‘em all over the place and I keep getting them stuck in my shoes.”
“You’ll get tetanus that way.”
“Nah, I got the shot,” Isaac says. He opens the door and waves Puck in. “I’ve only really got furniture in the kitchen and my room right now. You want me to put some more coffee on or something?”
Puck starts laughing again. “Most dead people don’t have furniture at all,” he says, shaking his head and staring at Isaac.
“I’m not dead,” Isaac says. “You should sit down.” He points to one of two chairs at the small table in the kitchen.
“Yeah, and yet, I’m pretty fucking sure I read your obit and went to your funeral,” Puck manages as he sits down, then keeps laughing.
“I’m sorry about that,” Isaac says. He reaches up into a cabinet and takes down a bottle and two glasses, pouring something from the bottle into both glasses.
“Oh, you’re sorry about that,” Puck says, shaking his head. “Right. Like every fucking dead person I know, you’re very sorry about the funeral.” He picks up the glass and then looks at Isaac. “You’re also not twenty-one.”
“My name is Isaac. I’m twenty-three. Drink your drink.”
“Uhhuh.” Puck eyes the glass skeptically before downing it in one gulp. “Is it drugged?” he asks. “‘Cause if it’s drugs doing this, just keep dosing me, I guess.”
“No, it’s vodka,” Isaac says. He pours more into Puck’s glass. “Don’t drink it too fast, okay?”
“Yeah, that’s not real high on my list of concerns,” Puck says, tilting the glass up again. “Maybe I’m in some kind of weird coma.”
“You’re not in a coma. You’re not drugged, either. And you didn’t go to my funeral, Puck. I’m not dead. Finn Hudson is dead,” Isaac says. He sits in the other chair, across from Puck, watching him.
“Maybe it’s alien mind control,” Puck says, examining the glass of vodka. “Because none of this makes any fucking sense. No one’s supposed to even know that name.” He looks up at Isaac and narrows his eyes. “Show me your arms.”
Isaac nods slowly and, without arguing, removes his jacket, hanging it over the back of the chair, then proceeds to unbutton the cuffs of his plaid shirt and roll the sleeves up.
“Whole arms,” Puck says, eyes still narrowed.
Isaac nods again and starts unbuttoning his shirt, revealing a plain t-shirt underneath. He shrugs out of the plaid shirt and then leans forward, resting both forearms on the table. “Is that good?” Isaac asks.
Puck can see the lower half of a tattoo he’s seen exactly once before, and he shakes his head slowly. “Someone’d really have to have it in for me to get a tattoo just to make me lose my shit, is what I figure,” he says finally.
“It’s your number,” Isaac-Finn says. “I didn’t have any pictures.”
“Yeah, I know it’s my number,” Puck says, snorting quietly. “I just—why?” he finally asks, his voice cracking a little.
“I made a mistake. I made a stupid mistake,” Isaac-Finn says. He reaches out for Puck’s hand, but stops a half-inch away from it, his fingertips twitching slightly on the tabletop. “And then I couldn’t get out of it.”
“A mistake?” Puck repeats. “A mistake is forgetting your turn signal! Not turning up un-dead in Idaho.” He realizes, a little detachedly, that he has tears running down his cheeks.
“I couldn’t tell you. I couldn’t tell anybody. I couldn’t put any of you in danger,” Isaac-who-is-really-Finn says.
“I almost drove all the way to Eugene, asshole,” Puck says, because what really were the odds of him ending up in the same area of the same city in the entire fucking country.
“You weren’t supposed to find me. Nobody was supposed to be able to find me.”
“I would’ve helped. Or something. Instead you just faked your death somehow and left.”
“Dammit, Puck, I wasn’t allowed to bring you,” Finn says, through his tears. “And if I’d stayed, they might’ve killed you!”
“Huh?” Puck says. “Allowed? Did someone bring you here?” Absurdly, Puck pictures a very large stork dropping Finn off with a parachute and nothing else over Boise.
“Dude, I didn’t even know where Idaho was a year ago. Why would I go to Idaho?” Finn shakes his head, not bothering to wipe his eyes. “I’m in WITSEC. Witness protection, Puck.”
Puck shakes his own head, trying to figure out how Finn could possibly have seen something bad enough to end up fake-dead and living as Isaac in Idaho, and he can feel himself crying harder. “You could have asked,” he finally whispers.
“Spouses, partners, and kids. That’s the only people they let you bring,” Finn says. “Don’t you think I tried? I didn’t want to go to Idaho alone! They said no. Spouses, partners, and kids, and that’s it.”
“You could have lied!”
“Lied and told them what? They’re government agents, Puck! I think they could figure out if I lied about you being my partner!”
“You should have tried. I would’ve kept up the lie,” Puck says, frowning at the empty vodka glass and pouring himself more before drinking it. “And you didn’t disappear. You died. Dead.” Puck starts crying harder, shaking his head. “I was going to drive to Eugene. I overslept.”
“There wasn’t a lie to keep up. They check that stuff! We didn’t have a lease or kids together or bank accounts, none of that stuff,” Finn says. “I didn’t want to die! It wasn’t my idea, they just did it!”
“I overslept,” Puck repeats. “I fucking overslept, so I was going to have to pay for another fucking night at the motel. That’s why I’m in Boise, Finn. Because I’m a cheap bastard who overslept!”
“You can’t call me that! You can’t call me that name!” Finn insists. “If they find me, they find you, and I can’t let somebody take me away from you again!”
“Yeah, I kinda figured out the part where if they find you, I’m shit outta luck, too!” Puck says, shaking his head and rubbing his hands over his face.
“I never wanted any of this to happen. I was just so stupid.”
“I really hope this isn’t some weird dream I had after open mic,” Puck mumbles, staring at the table. “I swear to god if this is some weird dream, I’m going to have a breakdown at work or something.”
“It’s real. I swear to god it’s real,” Finn says. “Look, look at this right here.” He pushes his hair off his forehead. “That scar is from when you pushed me off the diving board and I cut my head on it. I had to get stitches, remember?”
“I didn’t push you, you tripped,” Puck retorts almost automatically, because they’ve had the argument so many times before.
“And this one, that’s from the time we tried to break into the elementary school to steal all the chocolate milk, but I stabbed myself in the hand with the piece of coat hanger we thought we could pick the lock with,” Finn continues, holding up his hand to show a circular white scar on his palm. “I had to get a tetanus shot, and I told my mom I did it trying to climb a fence.”
“I think she still blamed me.”
“She always blamed you, ‘cause it was always your fault,” Finn says, laughing even though he’s still crying. “Except for this time, huh? It wasn’t your fault this time.”
“I should’ve noticed or something,” Puck says. “Was there anything to notice? I should have anyway. I’m supposed to take the rap, not you.” He shakes his head, crying even harder.
“I didn’t want you to notice, because I didn’t want you to get involved. I worked really hard to keep you from knowing.”
“My job,” Puck insists, crying and leaning his head against the table. “I almost drove to Eugene.”
“But you didn’t,” Finn says. “You found me. You’re here.” Puck can hear Finn’s chair pushing out, and then he feels Finn’s hand on his arm and hears Finn’s voice near his ear. “It’s okay now, Puck.”
Puck leans towards Finn, then falls sideways into Finn. Both of them are sitting on the floor, and Puck feels Finn’s arms wrap around him while Puck sobs against Finn’s shoulder, his tears soaking through Finn’s t-shirt.
Finn doesn’t know how long they’ve been curled up together on his kitchen floor, because he’s not about to let go of Puck for something as stupid as looking at a watch or a clock. He knows it’s been a while, because the whole front of his shirt is wet from Puck crying against his chest, but that’s okay, since the top of Puck’s head is pretty well soaked from Finn crying all over it. Finn rocks both of them in place while they cry, occasionally murmuring “It’s okay” and “I’m so sorry” into Puck’s ear.
An hour or more passes before Puck finally goes quiet, the sobs fading away into soft snuffling noises. Finn shhhs Puck and keeps rocking him in his arms, almost like a baby. After a little more time, Finn realizes his feet have started to go a little numb, and that they’d probably both be more comfortable not on the floor.
“Hey,” Finn whispers into Puck’s ear. “Let’s move to a better spot, okay?” Puck barely nods, but it’s enough for Finn to pull them both up to their feet. With his arms still around Puck, and Puck still pressed against Finn’s chest, Finn directs them into the bedroom, which, with a bed and a dresser, is the most furnished room in the house. He pulls Puck down onto the bed with him, lying with his head back against the pillow and Puck’s head against Finn’s heart, still wrapped in Finn’s arms.
“We can rest a little bit,” Finn says softly. “We’ll both still be here.”
Puck doesn’t respond, but after a few minutes he relaxes into Finn, and Finn can see Puck’s face smooth out. Finn keeps holding him tightly, resting his chin on the top of Puck’s head so he can look down and watch Puck sleep. He looks very young and very small in sleep, and Finn keeps watching him for a long time before finally dozing off himself.
Finn feels Puck startle against him, and Finn opens his eyes to look down at Puck again. Puck’s eyes are still closed, but he starts mumbling quietly. “If I don’t open my eyes, the dream won’t stop.”
Finn holds Puck tighter. “It’s not a dream. Puck, it’s okay. It’s not a dream.”
“September,” Puck adds. “I heard you.”
“Yeah, I’ve been here since May,” Finn says. “I didn’t know you were here until 13th Street.”
“I went to Toledo first,” Puck continues, his eyes still closed. “A month after, I guess. Then Cleveland for the summer. I threw a dart. I just stopped before Eugene. September 12.”
“I was in Toledo, too, for about a month. They kept me in a safe house,” Finn says. He starts running one of his hands slowly up and down Puck’s back.
“I kept hearing you. Seeing you. I thought I was the only one who could, at first.”
“I’m so sorry.”
“What do I have to do?” Puck asks. “What do you have to tell them?”
“I don’t know, but I’ll figure it out,” Finn says. “I promise I’ll figure it out. I’m not letting you go anywhere, and I’m not going anywhere without you.”
“Do I have to die? Or can I just change my name or something?” Puck frowns, his forehead wrinkling over his still-closed eyes. “What’s your last name?”
“Hansen. Like that band, only with an E instead.”
“Sounds Dutch or something.” Puck shrugs. “That works.”
“Yeah, I think it’s Mormon or something,” Finn says. “But no, usually nobody has to die. Fake-die, I mean.”
“Just disappear?” Puck nods. “Okay.”
“You’re okay with that? With nobody knowing?”
“Only two people even know I’m here now,” Puck says. “And one of them doesn’t care, and the other always asks how Iowa is.”
“Okay. I’ll call Agent Harris tomorrow morning,” Finn says. “You won’t like him, but he’s not so bad. He gave me good credit.”
Puck laughs a little. “Can he give me good grades in high school?”
“Yeah, I bet he can,” Finn says, continuing to stroke Puck’s back. “You like where you’re working? ‘Cause I bet he could get you something else if you wanted.”
“Hours are pretty good. I bussed tables for awhile, too, but then I signed up for classes at Western Idaho.” Puck’s face suddenly transforms into a grin. “Pretty good customers at the hardware store.”
“Yeah? I mean, you’ve gotta deal with guys like me,” Finn says.
“Yeah, that’s rough,” Puck says, deadpan, and then he barely opens one eye, squinting up at Finn. “Hi.”
“Hey,” Finn says.
“Your hair’s kinda stringy,” Puck says. “You need a more flattering cut if you’re gonna wear it long.”
“Says the guy who spent most of the last few years with a mohawk.”
“Which is why I know what I’m talking about,” Puck says, shifting his weight and lifting his head enough to open his other eye. He stares at Finn like he’s mulling something over.
“What?” Finn asks.
“Hmm?” Puck says almost absently, then leans in, pushing his lips against Finn’s hard. Finn’s eyes open wide, but then he closes them again, tightening his arm around Puck as he returns the kiss. They keep kissing, slowly and almost lazily, for a long time, their mouths and tongues moving against each other’s. Finn moves his hands down Puck’s arms and back, then up to the back of Puck’s head to hold him as they kiss.
The room starts to darken, and Finn realizes the sun is already setting, but he and Puck keep kissing for what feels like hours, with nothing rushed or frantic between them. Even though it’s still unfinished, and there isn’t any more furniture in it than there was just a few hours ago, Finn realizes the house suddenly feels full.
The agent probably thinks something’s wrong, Puck thinks as he sits at the tiny table in Finn’s kitchen. It’s three in the morning, and he and Finn are eating Ritz crackers and cheese from a single shared plate while wearing only sweatpants, and Puck understands why Finn wanted to go ahead and call. Puck fiddles with his own phone, putting in a reminder for them to go get Finn’s truck, and a reminder to himself to call the hardware store for the day off, or maybe a sick day. Puck puts his own phone down and stares across the table as Finn calls the agent guy.
“Yeah, it’s Isaac Hansen in Boise,” Finn says. “So, you said spouses or partners, right? Yeah, I need you to add one of those to my paperwork. Can you get somebody out here who can do that?”
Puck picks up another cracker-and-cheese sandwich while Finn listens to whatever the Agent is saying, popping it into his mouth as one bite.
“Well, yeah, but he knows me from Ohio,” Finn explains. After a pause, he says, “No, I didn’t. He just kind of moved here accidentally, and he found me at the bar.”
“And the hardware store,” Puck whispers. “You’re in there, like, once a week.”
“No, he’s got a job and all that, but I thought maybe we could maybe clean up his trail or something, you know? So nobody can find us,” Finn says.
“Don’t forget the grades,” Puck adds, eating another cracker and running his index finger down the righthand side of Finn’s tattoo.
“Yeah, can you maybe give him better grades?” Finn asks, grinning at Puck. “Yeah, any time this week is fine. I can take the time off.” He puts his hand over the speaker for a second and whispers, “They’re sending someone out here this week.”
Puck nods and hands Finn one of the cheese-and-cracker sandwiches. “I figured we’d call in tomorrow at least,” he says. “Maybe a few days.”
“Well, yeah, we’ve gotta get all your stuff,” Finn says, then speaks back into the phone again. “Yeah, we won’t, don’t worry. Okay. Sure, just let me know.” He ends the call and sets the phone down, taking the opportunity to put his now-free hand on top of Puck’s hand.
“What did you just tell the agent we wouldn’t do?” Puck asks.
“Tell anybody we met before Boise,” Finn says. “I figured that’s not hard. You didn’t meet Isaac until yesterday.”
“My roommates won’t even notice I’m gone until they have to pay a little more rent,” Puck says, shrugging. “The baristas even saw us acting weird.”
“Yeah, we should get some coffee there when we get my truck. I don’t have the stuff for peppermint mochas here.”
Puck grins. “I get coffee there every morning. You know the Starbucks runs out off-season.”
“Sounds good to me,” Finn says. He leans to kiss Puck lightly on the lips. “Want to go back to bed?”
“Yeah,” Puck agrees, standing up. “Gotta wake up in few hours to call in, if nothing else.” He waits until they’re back in bed before frowning. “Hey, what’d you witness, anyway?”
“It’s kind of a long story,” Finn warns, putting his arm around Puck and pulling him close, so Puck’s head is against Finn’s chest.
“Yeah?” Puck curls one arm around Finn’s side and wiggles a little to get comfortable before closing his eyes.
“Yeah,” Finn says. “So, it all started back last February, when I woke up to somebody pounding on our dorm room door...”