"All right," Finn asked when Kurt stormed down the sidewalk. "What did I do?"
"Who says you did anything, Finn?" Kurt asked in a lofty, angry voice, which meant Finn totally did something and yes, he was supposed to know what he did. "Are you nursing a guilty conscience?"
"Well, yeah, but I don't know what I did to you," Finn said, and then narrowed his eyes. "You haven't been talking to Quinn, have you?"
"As a matter of fact, I have, but we have other things to talk about than you," Kurt scoffed. He picked up his pace, and Finn wondered how he was the one struggling to keep up when his legs were several inches longer than Kurt's. "But apparently, you and Rachel don't have better things to talk about than me."
Oh. Finn cringed. "Dude, about that…."
"What were you thinking, Finn? No, scratch that. Were you thinking?" Finn could tell that Kurt would have thrown his hands up if he hadn't been digging through his bag for his keys as they made their way up the driveway to their house. "A stake-out?"
"We weren't staking out you!" Finn protested. "It was Sam!"
"Like that makes it so much better," Kurt said, unlocking the door and pushing it open with his shoulder. "Because that- shoes, Finn!"
"I know! Give me a second to get inside the house before you nag me about it!" Finn toed off his shoes. "But if we're gonna talk about it, let's talk about it! What were you doing at a motel with Sam?"
"Since when is it your business?" Kurt asked, eyes flashing as he set his bag down by the stairs and hung his jacket up. Finn shrugged off his own jacket.
"It's not, but look, dude. I like Blaine. And you guys just got together."
"So?" Kurt started towards the kitchen. Finn followed, partly because Kurt wasn't getting away with this, and partly because the kitchen was where the refrigerator was. Kurt slammed the refrigerator door open and automatically handed Finn a soda as he got one out for himself, and Finn pulled out three slices of left-over pizza and two plates and put the pizza in the microwave.
"I know how it feels to be cheated on, okay? It's a deal breaker. And I don't want you to mess this up for yourself," Finn said. "It's concern. Brotherly concern."
"The kind that sends you spying on people."
"We didn't know we were going to be spying on you! It's not my fault you were down at a sleazy hotel with another guy!"
"Who you have always insisted is completely straight!"
"Well, maybe I was wrong!" Finn shouted. "Sure as hell looks like it! And you sure seemed certain that he was gay!"
"Because I can't be around another guy and not have it be about sex, is that what you're saying?" Kurt said, all offended. "Because the only thing Sam and I can possibly do together- despite us having three classes and glee together- happens between the sheets on a motel bed that is probably infested with chiggers and bedbugs." He leaned back against the counter, nodding angrily. "It's nice to know you think so much of me, Finn."
"That is not what I said," Finn said, fighting against the guilty feeling that always came up when Kurt pulled out one of those arguments. "But you were in a motel, Kurt." The microwave beeped and Finn turned around long enough to pull out the plates. He handed the one with one slice to Kurt and picked up one of his own slices and bit into it, ignoring the fact it was steaming hot. "People don't go down to that motel for anything but sex," he said around a mouthful. "What else would you do there?"
"Finn, for the last time, I am not having sex with Sam!" Kurt shouted. "And if you could possibly get it through your head that I can talk to another guy without wanting to deflower him in an orgy of debauched-"
"What the hell is going on, and why are you talking about orgies?"
Both boys jumped to see Burt glaring at them from the door of the kitchen, arms crossed, keys in hand. Right, Finn remembered. Deadliest Catch day. "We're not talking about orgies," Finn said, swallowing his pizza. "Kurt's just making a point."
"A point about orgies?"
"It's nothing, Dad," Kurt sighed, picking up his own slice and biting into it with an odd combination of defiance and delicacy.
"Doesn't sound like nothing. And you guys know dinner's in an hour."
"We know," both Finn and Kurt said. Burt's dirty glare this time had everything to do with the fact that they could get away with eating leftover pizza for a snack while he would have three people shouting at him if he tried the same trick. "We're just… talking," Finn said.
"Sounds more like you two were arguing," Burt said. He rummaged through the cabinets and came up with a bag of baked chips. "Do I need to break it up?"
"Good. Then keep the noise down," Burt said, making a gesture. Some distant part of Finn was still impressed that Burt could make a bag of chips look threatening. He frowned and turned to Kurt. "You're not cheating on Blaine, are you?"
"Didn't think so. Keep it down," Burt warned one more time, and then headed for the living room.
"See?" Kurt hissed at Finn, like Burt believing him proved everything.
"He doesn't know you came out of a motel," Finn grumbled.
Kurt rolled his eyes and finished his pizza in silence. "I'm going upstairs," he finally huffed. "I have homework, and oops- I forgot what my history assignment is. I'd better call Artie, unless us having a phone call means that we're having wild, torrid sex that would ruin his reputation." With that, Kurt flounced out of the kitchen.
"Hey," Finn muttered into his pizza, "I never said anything about Sam's reputation. I've gotten better, you know." But Kurt wasn't around to hear it. Finn sighed and sat down at the table. It wasn't like he was Kurt's boyfriend. He had no idea why he was getting so upset at Kurt, anyway.
"Pass the bread, will you, Finn?"
Finn picked up the bread basket and passed it to Burt. "You're awfully quiet tonight," Burt said, frowning. "Something up?"
"I'm fine," Finn muttered.
"You don't sound fine," his mother said, narrowing her eyes. "Did something happen at school today?"
"Nothing happened in school," Finn said with an impatient sigh. "Everything's fine."
Across the table, Kurt avoided looking at him. It wasn't really obvious; he was concentrating on cutting up his chicken. But if you knew Kurt, it was totally obvious, and it was pissing Finn off. He slammed his fork and knife down.
"How can you just sit there?" he demanded. "Eating?"
Kurt looked up. "That's what you do at dinner, Finn," he said dryly. "You sit there and eat. Preferably with your mouth closed."
"You're cheating on him!" Finn shouted, and Kurt rolled his eyes dramatically, huffed a sigh, and put down his silverware. "You are cheating on Blaine and you are just sitting there eating!"
"I don't have to listen to this," Kurt began, standing up.
"Kurt's not cheating on Blaine," Burt told Finn sternly.
"You always believe him," Finn complained. "And this time, maybe you shouldn't. He was in a motel with Sam. The American Family Motel," he added, his voice dripping with significance.
The name of the motel made Burt take it more seriously. He turned to Kurt. "That true, Kurt?"
Kurt didn't sit back down. He just raised his chin and put on what Finn thought of as his best martyr look. "Yes."
"What were you doing in that motel with a boy?"
"I'm not answering that right now," Kurt said, all wounded dignity.
"Yes, you are," Burt said.
Finn glanced quickly at his mother. She was watching the entire exchange with a tight expression, and Finn knew she was angry. But for some disconcerting reason, he had the impression he was angry at him.
"I'm waiting, Kurt," Burt said.
"I'm not answering that in front of Finn. It's not his business."
Burt and Carole exchanged glances, some sort of silent communication, and then Burt got to his feet and grabbed Kurt by the arm. "Fine," he said, dragging Kurt away. "You'll answer it in another room, then." Finn expected Kurt to fight or at least struggle a little, but he went with Burt.
"Nice, Finn," his mother said into the heavy silence that descended. "Really nice."
"Why is this my fault?" Finn wanted to know. "I'm not the one coming out a sleazy motel with someone I had a crush on!"
His mom's frown deepened and she rested her chin on her hand. "What I really want to know," she said slowly, "is how you know Kurt was coming out of a sleazy hotel with Sam."
"It's a long story," Finn began.
"I've got time," she informed him firmly.
"It was Rachel's idea," he said. "There was this article in the paper about Sam and Quinn." No answer. Just his mom staring at him. He sighed. "It said that they were at a motel together. So, me and Rachel, we went. To see."
"To see," she repeated. "Why did you need to see?"
Finn couldn't look at her, and squirmed in his chair. "I don't know," he said, feeling like a little kid again as he stared at his half-empty plate. "Maybe because… I don't know!"
"Because you don't trust her?" his mother said.
"Yes. No! I don't-" Finn sat back, frustrated. "I don't know," he said sulkily.
"She's your girlfriend," Carole said, but she said girlfriend with a voice that could cut glass. "Trusting her does not involve going down to a motel to spy on her."
"But I had reason to think-"
He was interrupted by Burt and Kurt returning to the dinner table, Kurt wearing a smug look of wounded innocence. Burt sat back down at his seat and pulled his plate towards him. "All right," he declared, "Kurt's not cheating on Blaine."
"So you believed him?" Finn asked indignantly.
"What's going on?" Carole asked at the same time.
"I'll tell you later," Burt told Carole, who nodded and went back to her dinner.
"I don't believe this!" Finn said. "You always believe him!"
"That's enough," Burt said.
"Mom!" Finn turned to his mother, who shrugged.
"Finn, let it go. It's not your business anyway."
Some logical part of Finn's brain told him that they were telling the truth. That Kurt was over at a motel with Sam for… for some other reason. Burt wasn't going to be fooled by a flimsy cover story, and Kurt was a lousy liar anyway. But Finn couldn't think of what possible other reason Kurt would have for coming out of that motel.
"I'm not hungry," he said, pushing his plate away. "I'm going up to do my homework."
"Finn," his mother began, but Finn tuned her out and stomped up the stairs.
At ten minutes after eleven, Finn realized why he was so antsy. Kurt usually came in at eleven with two mugs of warm milk. Some nights it was an annoyance, some nights it was fun, but Finn realized tonight he was never going to get to sleep without it.
When Kurt hadn't appeared ten minutes later, Finn went downstairs and made the milk himself. He carried the two mugs upstairs and knocked on Kurt's closed door.
Finn nudged the door open with his shoulder. "Hey," he said awkwardly, and then noticed Kurt was typing something on his laptop. "You forget?" he asked, holding up a mug.
He noticed Kurt didn't even look at the time. "I have an English paper due tomorrow," he said, not looking at Finn.
"Oh." Finn set Kurt's mug on his desk. Kurt nodded thanks, but continued typing. "So… I just…."
Kurt sighed heavily. "What is it, Finn? I really do have a paper due. Either apologize or get out."
"Um, I wasn't here to apologize," Finn said. He shifted to his other foot and eyed Kurt's bed. "I really kind of needed to talk."
"Unless it's an apology, I'm not interested," Kurt said. "Call up Rachel and have her listen to your paranoid fantasies where everyone oppresses you. Thank you for the milk, but I really do have work to do."
"Dude," Finn began, because it wasn't often that Kurt didn't drop everything for him, and didn't he get it? But when Kurt did finally look at him, his glare was so icy that Finn realized this was a lost cause. "All right," he said, backing out. "I get it."
"Good," Kurt said. "Shut the door on your way out."
Finn obeyed. Really, it wasn't fair. Of all the nights for Kurt to get in a snit…. Finn really wished that tonight wasn't the one.
But then, he told himself as he settled down at his own desk, he had no idea what he was going to say anyway.
The thing about Quinn wasn't just that she was hot. She was hot, but she was also smart, and she could be really funny, and she was nice. Most days. And most days it was really easy to remember that, to remember how she made Finn feel like he was all of those things, too.
Other days, it wasn't so easy. And this was one of them.
"Why would she say that thing about Sam not being gay?" Finn asked as he and Rachel sat in the car again, in a dark corner of the American Family Motel parking lot. "She was so sure about it."
"Well," Rachel said cautiously, "they did date."
"Yeah, but, the way she said it… there was something else going on. The problem with dating Quinn – besides the mood swings – is that she's so… protective about her feelings. You never quite know where you stand with her." What she thought. What she wanted. They'd been so close for such a long time, but there was a lot that Finn realized he didn't know about Quinn. It was not a comfortable revelation.
"Girls like that do that to keep their power," Rachel said, looking down.
"You never did that," he pointed out. "I always knew what you were thinking."
Rachel looked like she was going to say something more, but the movement of a door caught their eye. It was the same room as the previous night, Finn realized. And this time, Quinn came out.
He froze. He knew it. He knew it. Quinn rubbed her hands together, looking incredibly guilty, and then Sam followed her and they hugged. Finn watched, vaguely aware of Rachel's hand on his shoulder.
He knew it.
When he got home that night, Kurt's door was closed tight. Finn was glad, because if he had to see his step-brother's lying, cheating face, he was pretty sure he'd punch him.
He managed to avoid a conversation with his mother that morning by sleeping in late and just grabbing a bagel on the way out the door. But he could see that she was still angry with him. And Kurt had left the house early, which meant he was probably still angry with him.
Fine, he thought as he reached school. They could be angry. Finn had other things on his mind.
"What is with you?"
Finn snapped out of it to see Puck leaning against the lockers, smirking at him. "Nothing," Finn said, slamming his locker shut. Puck arched an eyebrow, and Finn sighed. "Quinn."
"What about Quinn?" Puck asked.
"Rachel and I went back to that motel last night," Finn said. "So did Quinn. She was there with Sam."
Puck whistled between his teeth. "First Kurt, now Quinn. Sam gets around."
"Figures you'd be impressed," Finn muttered angrily.
"I'm not. Okay, I totally am," Puck immediately retracted. "Quinn's a hot piece of ass and I guess Kurt is, too, if you're into that kind of thing. Which I'm not," he hastily clarified. "But unless things have changed, I'm betting you still haven't gotten into Quinn's pants." Finn didn't answer. "Yeah, that's what I thought. Not sure about Kurt, but-"
"He's not sleeping with Blaine yet, either," Finn said. "He told me."
"Right." Puck struggled for his flow again for a second. "But they're both doing Sam. What's Sam got going on that gets two uptight prudes to spread their legs for him?"
Finn sighed. "According to Kurt and Quinn, they aren't."
"Yeah, well, according to Quinn, you got her pregnant by coming in a hot tub," Puck pointed out. Finn stopped, because he'd been trying to avoid thinking about that, but Puck just shrugged. "I'm just saying, man. You know she lies about this shit. You can't trust her."
"Which, coming from you-"
"Hey. I've learned my lesson," Puck insisted. Finn rolled his eyes.
"Only because Lauren would beat you up if you even looked at another girl that way." Finn was glad when the bell rang for class. "I'll see you later," he said, shrugging Puck off and heading down the hall.
He didn't hear a word in his algebra class, because his mind was so caught up in replaying Quinn coming out of that motel with Sam last night. The way she turned to him, the way they hugged each other… it twisted something deep inside his gut, making him feel sick.
He tried to tell himself that it wasn't what he thought. Kurt swore up and down he wasn't cheating, and Burt believed him. Whatever Kurt was doing, Quinn was probably doing the same thing. But try as he might, Finn couldn't think of any reason why they would both be meeting Sam in a motel. Nothing made sense. Nothing fit. Except for the idea that they were cheating.
He was definitely getting a headache.
He was glad when class ended. Because he was going to find Quinn and sort this shit out, and make her admit that that was what she was doing. He lurched out of his seat and nearly ran for the halls.
"Finn!" Before he could find her, Quinn was coming down the hall, righteous fury written across her face. That made Finn stop, because for once, he hadn't done anything wrong.
"Wait, why are you storming?" he demanded. "I'm the one who should be storming."
Quinn raised an eyebrow, brandishing a cheap school paper. "Really? Because the way I see it, I should be the stormer and you should be the stormee. According to today's paper, 'Finn and Rachel were seen sitting closely together, laughing and talking intimately.'"
"We were on a stake out," Finn informed her. "What were you doing with him in that motel?"
"I'm not cheating on you. This time around, I haven't and I won't. You have to learn to trust me."
Right. "I can't trust you if you won't tell me the truth," Finn shot out.
"Well, what were you and Rachel doing together, huh?" Quinn asked.
"Staking out," Finn said, like it should be totally obvious. "That's what you do on a stake out."
"What were you talking about?" Quinn fired right back.
"Glee club, okay? She wants to do a duet with me. That's all. Trust me."
"Well, then, I guess we both have to learn to trust each other."
"I guess so."
"And I guess I know what song we'll be singing this week in glee club." With that, Quinn stalked off.
Finn wondered if you were supposed to hate your own girlfriend.
There was a knock on Finn's bedroom door. "Come in," he said dully, shooting another zombie and assuming it was Kurt. It wasn't.
"Got room for another player?" his mom asked.
Finn shrugged and reset the game, setting it up for two players. "Sure," he said, digging out the other controller and tossing it to her. "Know what you're doing?"
"It doesn't look that hard to figure out," she said dryly.
They played for a while, and Finn began to relax. He'd never, ever, ever tell anyone this, but his mom was one of his favorite video game partners. She wasn't very good at it, but Finn liked playing with her. For the first time all day, something uncoiled in him and he felt like he could breathe.
"I don't think I like this one," Carole said as they teamed up to go through a room of mutants. "It's not as good as Zombie Apocalypse."
"This is Zombie Apocalypse, Mom."
"Oh." Carole sighed. "Oh well. So what's going on, Finn?"
"Um, we're shooting zombies?"
"That's not what I mean," she said. "Why have you been impossible to live with the past few days?"
"I haven't," Finn said sulkily. His mother gave him that look and he sighed. "It's just… it's the Quinn thing."
"So I've gathered. Did something happen today?"
Finn fired particularly enthusiastically at an approaching zombie, riddling it with holes before he answered. "Yeah," he said, when the zombie thumped to the ground. "We sang a duet in glee."
"What song? Hey, look out to your left there, kiddo."
Finn got it just in time. "'I Don't Wanna Know' by Fleetwood Mac," he said.
He shrugged. "That wasn't what was bad. Rachel said something about how we should keep singing together, and Quinn got all up in our faces about how she doesn't want us singing any more duets together."
"Singing duets seems pretty harmless," Carole said carefully.
"Not always," Finn said. "In glee, a lot of times if you sing a duet together, everyone thinks that you're… you know. Together. It's musical chemistry or something."
His mom blinked at him for a long moment, only jerking her attention back when her character screamed horribly. "You do realize," she finally said, "that duets are sung by people who aren't together all the time."
"Yeah, but this is glee," Finn insisted. "Quinn's taking it personal."
"Well, how would she feel about you singing a duet with Tina? Or Santana?"
Finn shrugged. "She never said anything about them," he said. "Just Rachel. But I sound good with Rachel. If we're going to win Nationals this year, I have to sing a duet with her."
His mom shot two more zombies before she answered. "And none of the other guys can take the lead? It has to be you?"
Finn looked at her from the corner of his eyes. "You sound sarcastic," he said suspiciously.
"Good, because I'm trying to," she said. "Puck or Artie or Kurt-"
"I knew this was about Kurt!"
"It's not about Kurt," his mother said, setting her controller down. "It's about you. It's about how you've been acting these past few days- no, these past few weeks. You've been moody, whiny, and frankly, rather impossible to live with. And not just to Kurt, but to me and Burt as well."
"Sorry," Finn muttered, pausing the game.
"I don't know what's going on with you, Finn," Carole said. The words hung in the air for a long time.
"What?" Finn said, when she didn't continue. "Am I supposed to tell you?"
"I'm asking. What's going on, Finn? Something's obviously bothering you. What is it?"
"It's just a lot of pressure, okay?" Finn said, tossing down his controller and standing up to pace. His mom sat back on the bed, looking up at him. "Everyone's counting on me for Nationals, and Quinn really wants to win prom king and queen and has me campaigning like crazy, and Rachel wants to get back together with me, and we're still selling that stupid taffy. I don't… I feel like everybody's pulling me in a million different directions, and nothing I do is right."
"Well," she said carefully, when it became clear he was done. "You can't do anything about the taffy, and Burt and I have already pawned off as much of it as we can. But everything else… you have options. You can step aside and let one of the other boys carry the solos for Nationals, and you can break up with Quinn and not get together with Rachel."
"I can't," Finn insisted.
"Because… because… I don't know!" Finn sat down on his bed. "Because that's not what I want."
Carole sighed in exasperation. "Then what do you want, Finn?" He didn't answer. "Well, figure it out," she said, and stood up. "And try to be a little more pleasant while you do so." She folded a stray sock or two, waiting for Finn to say something more, but when she didn't, she gave him one last meaningful look and then left.
Finn picked up the controller again, but he found he didn't feel like playing. He tossed it away, turned off the Xbox, and flopped back on his bed, staring up at the ceiling.
And then it all came crashing down, and it turned out that Kurt and Quinn were telling the truth, and that Sam's problem was something a hell of a lot bigger than who was dating who.
Rachel walked home with Finn after school. He didn't ask her and she didn't offer; they just walked together in silence.
"I can't believe it," Rachel finally said when they were sitting at the kitchen table, drinks in front of them. "Poor Sam. We never had any idea…"
"It's not like he told us," Finn said.
Rachel caught his gaze. "He might have if we'd asked, instead of just accusing him."
There was a lot more that Finn felt like he should say, about Sam and Quinn and Rachel herself, but none of it would come out. They sat there in silence until the door opened.
"Well, well, well. If it isn't our very own Boris and Natasha," Kurt said, sauntering into the kitchen and opening the refrigerator door. "Have Moose and Squirrel escaped your fiendish plans once again?"
"Huh?" Finn said, and then sighed. "Never mind. I know you're insulting us, and frankly, I deserve it. I'm sorry, dude. I should have listened when you told me nothing was going on."
"Finn's right," Rachel immediately jumped in. Finn looked at her gratefully. "We should have known that the love between you and Blaine is too pure and beautiful to be sullied by someone else, even if he is conventionally attractive and maybe even a little taller than you."
"Something like that," Kurt said dryly. He poured himself a glass of juice, smug and superior. "You're forgiven."
"Already?" Finn asked suspiciously. "I really expected you to make us grovel."
"I didn't say I wouldn't take advantage of your guilt," Kurt pointed out with an evil smirk, and then softened. "But I am honest enough to admit that if I'd caught either of you coming out of that motel with Sam, I would have thought the same thing." He took a sip. "For a while, anyway," he hastily clarified, "because neither of you can keep a secret to save your life."
"Yeah, and about that," Finn said. "That was pretty cool. I mean, I was pissed and everything, but yeah. It meant a lot to Sam. You could tell."
"How did you find out, anyway?" Rachel asked.
Kurt sighed and finally came over to the table, pulling out a chair and sitting down gracefully. But his face dropped the smug expression. "I was at Dalton late one night," he admitted. "With a study group. We decided to order pizza, and when it came, I was the one that went for the door." He shrugged. "You know, I wouldn't have even thought anything of it, except Sam begged me not to say anything to you guys. Anyway, like most of New Directions, Sam's clothes are ridiculously out of fashion and horribly worn in the knees. We're about the same size, so I offered." The superior look came back. "I don't suppose that either of you have talked to Quinn."
Finn and Rachel exchanged guilty glances, and Kurt gave them a glare of daggers. "You could, rather than just taking all of your issues out on me," he told Finn. He looked at the clock. "If you both will excuse me, I have a Skype date with an incredibly attractive and vaguely Eurasian boyfriend." Finn didn't get the joke, but the glare Kurt gave Rachel and her subsequent flush made him think it wasn't aimed at him. "I'll see you both later." With that, he drifted out of the kitchen.
Finn watched him go feeling like a huge weight had been lifted off his shoulders. Kurt forgave him. It didn't make everything better, but at least being home would be tolerable again. He hadn't realized how much fighting with Kurt had been bothering him until now, when he wasn't.
"We should do something," Rachel said.
"Huh? You mean groveling?" Finn asked. "I thought so too, but he said-"
"No, Finn. I mean for Sam."
"Oh. Oh, yeah. Right," Finn agreed. "You're right. Come on," he said, standing up. "We owe him an apology, too."
Finn had apologized to Kurt, and he'd apologized to Sam. It didn't dawn on him until the next morning that he should apologize to Quinn. Well, he didn't let it dawn on him. Because Quinn hadn't been cheating, and it sounded like she'd helped Sam out a lot, and to admit that meant to admit just how wrong he'd been. And now that Finn had seen with his own eyes just how bad Sam's situation was, he felt bad about it.
But he still felt like Quinn owed him more of an explanation than she'd given him for why she'd been there in the first place.
He wasn't sure exactly what he was going to say to Quinn, but he didn't even have to think about it because she was waiting for him at his locker, a smile nailed to her face.
"I have these pens," she said, handing him a few boxes. "I want you to hand them out to all of the juniors. It will really increase our visibility and help our campaign."
Finn opened a box cautiously. The pens were pale blue and said Vote Quinn and Finn for Prom Queen and King! on them. "Um, great," he said. "Look, about the other day…."
Quinn's expression hardened for a moment- just a fleeting one- and then softened again. "It's all right, Finn," she said, in that voice where he couldn't tell if she meant what she was saying or if she was covering something up. "Look, I know it looked bad," she said, "but I do respect that I have a history with Sam, and that you are insecure about that." She laced her arm through his and steered him down the hall.
"Wait," Finn asked, confused, "so you're not going to make me grovel either?"
"Either?" Quinn asked, and there was ice on the edge of her eyes.
"Yeah. I apologized to Kurt last night, and he was cool about it, too."
"Oh. I see. Kurt," she said, like she thought that Finn had been talking about someone else. "I'm surprised Kurt didn't torture you more." She gave a little indulgent sort of laugh.
"Yeah, I was, too. But he said he would have thought the same thing, especially with you guys not telling us what was really going on."
"Mmm." Quinn was noncommittal. They walked past a few more lockers, and Finn became aware that Quinn was smiling. Not at him, but at everybody that passed.
"So why aren't you doing it?" Finn asked. "Not that I'm complaining," he added hastily. "But… it makes me feel like the other shoe is on the other foot or something."
"The other shoe is about to drop, you mean?" Quinn asked. She thought about it. "I don't know," she said finally. "Maybe because while we aren't so good at trust, we are awfully good at forgiveness."
"'You'd forgive your first love anything'," Finn said.
Quinn looked up at him sharply. "What did you say?"
"Oh, it's something that Ra- something I heard the other day," Finn said. "You'd forgive your first love anything. Maybe that's why we can do it. Be so good at forgiveness, I mean."
Quinn's face softened. "Maybe." She stood up on her tiptoes and kissed his cheek. "I have to get to class," she said, detangling her arm from his. "I'll see you later."
"Yeah. See you later."
Finn watched her walk down the hall, her blonde hair swinging and her figure perfect. She was still, without a doubt, gorgeous. And she'd forgiven him. He waited for that same light, freeing feeling that had surged when Kurt said he'd forgiven him.
It didn't come.
It was 11:58 on a Friday night. Finn knew, because Burt had just pointed it out.
"Stop muttering," Carole said. "I can't hear the movie." She was obviously enjoying it, but Finn couldn't understand why. It was stupid. And he didn't think that was just because he'd just walked in fifteen minutes ago and missed most of it.
At 12:00 on the nose, the front door slammed open, and Kurt burst into the family room, singing. "I could have danced all night, I could have danced all night…" He grabbed Burt's hands and pulled him to his feet, and then managed to twirl him around.
"I take it he said yes, then?" Burt asked. His words were gruff, but he was laughing.
Kurt nodded, but didn't stop singing. He let go of his father and pulled Carole to her feet. "I only know when he began to dance with me…"
"Dude," Finn said, unsure if he should draw attention to himself or if that would get him sucked into the whirlwind that was Kurt, "what happened?"
Kurt didn't answer right away, he just twirled Carole into his big finish of "danced, danced, danced all night!" and then flopped down onto the loveseat. "I asked Blaine to prom," he announced.
"Yeah. So?" Finn asked.
"He said yes, Finn," Kurt said, like Finn was stupid.
"Yeah, but he's your boyfriend," Finn pointed out. "I mean, was there really any doubt?"
"Has he always lacked this much romance?" Kurt asked Carole. "I mean, seriously. It's prom."
Finn looked at Burt, who rolled his eyes good-naturedly. Finn felt a little better. Because honestly, he thought as he looked at Kurt's flushed, glowing face, who got that excited about prom?
"Let's see, Finn," his mom called from outside the dressing room. Finn stepped out, adjusting the sleeves of his tux.
"You're not going to cry, are you?" he asked suspiciously when his mother just stared at him.
"No. No, of course not, honey." He couldn't tell if she was lying or not. She took a deep breath and smiled at him. "You look wonderful."
"Thanks. The sleeves aren't too short, are they?"
"No. It looks all right. Turn around." He obeyed, and she did something to the back of his jacket that made it more comfortable. As she did, Blaine stepped out of his dressing room.
"Mrs. H?" Blaine asked. "Could you help me with the bow tie?"
"I can try," she said. Finn watched, amused.
"Why didn't you get one of the clip-on ones?" he asked.
Blaine gave him a flat sort of look. "I'm going with Kurt," he said. "Would you wear a clip bow tie on a date with Kurt?"
"I see your point," Finn agreed. He studied Blaine more carefully. When Blaine had asked to come with them to get his tux, Finn had resigned himself to an afternoon of Blaine gushing like Kurt did. But instead, Blaine seemed reluctant about the whole thing.
"Prom, right?" Finn said with a roll of his eyes.
"Right," Blaine said, tilting his chin up further as Carole huffed in frustration with his bow tie.
"You don't seem very excited about the whole thing," Finn said in the tone of a fellow sufferer.
"Yeah, well." Blaine shrugged. "I'm not much on formal dances."
"Me either," Finn agreed. "The tux, the corsages, the pictures, the tickets…"
Blaine shrugged. "I don't mind any of that," he insisted.
"Oh. Then what's your problem with it?"
"Kurt didn't tell you?" Finn shook his head, and Blaine's face took on a soft glow. "I should have known he wouldn't," he said happily. But then he went serious again. "I just have… bad memories… with a dance."
"Ex?" Carole asked. Blaine shook his head. There was something in his face that made Finn think that whatever it was, it was big. But Carole just sighed. "Blaine, honey, I can't get this."
Blaine nodded. "I guess I'll just go with a straight tie, then," he said. Carole nodded and stepped away to get it, and Blaine undid the clumsy knot and pulled the rumpled bow tie off.
"It was bad, wasn't it?" Finn asked. Blaine looked like he was about to say he didn't want to talk about it, and Finn held up his hands. "No, you don't have to," he said. "It's just… why are you going, then?"
"It's just so important to Kurt," Blaine said. "He wants to go so badly, and… I just don’t want to let him down. I mean, he offered to skip it, but…" Blaine shook his head helplessly.
"Wow." Finn took that in. "That's… that's pretty amazing."
"What is?" Blaine asked.
"That you love Kurt that much to do that for him."
Blaine smiled in an abashed sort of way. "I haven't used the word love yet," he said, clearly embarrassed. "But yeah. He means so much to me."
"That's great, man."
"Well, you'd do the same, wouldn't you?" Blaine asked. "I mean, you're obviously not turning cartwheels about this whole thing, but you're going."
"Huh. Yeah. Never thought of it that way," Finn said as Carole handed Blaine the new tie she'd found. It was true, though. And it wasn't like and Quinn didn't say I love you all the time.
"Amazing what we do for the people we love, isn't it?" Carole asked.
Blaine blushed and smiled sheepishly, but Finn just stared at her. For some reason, her words left him feeling like a deer in the headlights. He stood frozen until she nudged him back to the dressing room.
The word love had made Blaine grin like an idiot and Finn freak out. He had the funny feeling it should have been the other way around.
But when he picked Quinn up for the prom, he forgot all about any hesitation or reluctance. Quinn floated down the stairs, and Finn could only stare at her.
Because this was everything he'd ever wanted, this beautiful girl in blue, smiling at him like he was her hero. This was what he'd always envisioned, from the day he saw Quinn. This was how high school romances were supposed to go.
"You are the most beautiful girl I've ever seen," he told her, and he meant it.
Finn had known that Rachel was going to the prom with Sam and Mercedes, and he'd liked the idea. A lot, actually. It was nice to see the three of them having fun and being happy. What he hadn't liked was the idea of Jesse St. James joining their group.
He tried to keep his eyes away from them. After all, he was at the prom with Quinn Fabray. Pretty much any guy in the entire school (with the exception of Kurt) would give his left arm to be in his shoes.
So why couldn't he stop watching Rachel?
Quinn was in his arms and pressed against him, but he couldn't focus. Everything had an edge of unreality, like Finn was floating through some dream. It was a strange feeling.
But it broke when he saw Jesse St. James nuzzling Rachel's neck. Because this was Rachel. Rachel, who was vulnerable and trusting, Rachel who fell so hard and so passionately that her heart could be broken, Rachel who would put everything on the line for anything she wanted.
He couldn't stop himself from going over.
"Hey!" He pushed Jesse's shoulder. "Hey! Dude, keep it PG."
Jesse was obviously not happy at the interruption. "Dude," he mocked back, "it's not of YB. Your business."
"Well, this is my school, so it's my business."
"Well, this isn't your girlfriend, so beat it, MJ."
"Okay." Finn shoved him. Jesse shoved back. Finn couldn’t (and didn't want to) stop himself, he reached out and shoved harder. He was vaguely aware of Quinn yelling at him, but he didn't listen. He shoved again, and Jesse shoved back. Each time, the shoves got harder, and it felt good to finally let some of this out. And Jesse's smarmy, sneering face was right there, coming back for more, daring Finn to push harder, to up his game.
And when he threw that first punch and his knuckles connected with Jesse's face, something angry and vicious screwed up tight inside him, making him grit his teeth and making everything real. He wanted this- he wanted to pound this guy and make him bleed. But before he could follow through, Coach Sylvester was in between them.
"That's it!" she shouted angrily. "Prom is over for you, Sugar Ray! You too, Marvelous Martin! Let's go!"
She grabbed Finn by the arm and pulled both him and Jesse out of the gymnasium. Finn glanced back over his shoulder. He couldn't see Rachel, but Quinn was chasing after them, upset and crying, and saying something about them being nominated for prom king and queen.
Finn felt like punching someone again.
They were thrust out into the cool night air, and as soon as they were, Finn turned on Jesse. "You wanna finish this?" he growled.
Jesse's grin was slow and evil. "You'd better believe it."
Oddly enough, though, that exchange made Finn unsure where to proceed from there. He had no compunctions about wiping the smirk off Jesse's face, but it felt weird to actually announce it first. Planned fights weren't really his thing.
Both he and Jesse spun to see Kurt standing in the doorway, hands on his hips.
"What?" Finn asked.
"What the hell are you doing?" Kurt demanded.
Finn looked at Jesse, who shrugged. "Fighting," Finn answered simply. "I thought you were the brains of the family here."
"Family?" Jesse asked quietly.
"Well, what are you fighting him for?" Kurt said. "He didn't-"
"He was all over Rachel," Finn said. "It was-"
"Like Rachel minded, I'm sure," Kurt interrupted.
"Go back inside, Kurt," Finn snapped. Kurt opened his mouth to say something, but Finn beat him to it. "You've been talking about this all week. Go back inside and enjoy prom."
"Go. I won't kill him, all right?"
Kurt looked from Jesse to Finn again, and Finn felt kind of bad. He really didn't want to ruin Kurt's prom. Then it occurred to him after that that he'd already ruined Quinn's. Oh, shit.
Kurt nodded stiffly. "Don't get into any more trouble," he said, and then whirled, making his kilt flare as he flounced back into the school. As he left, all of Finn's rage drained with him, leaving a simmering anger and an overwhelming sense of fear and dread.
"Family?" Jesse asked again.
"Oh, yeah. I wouldn't expect you to remember, but Kurt's dad was dating my mom. They got married."
"Oh." Jesse seemed vaguely amused at that. "Well, congratulations."
Finn rolled his eyes.
Jesse looked back at the door. "I see very little about New Directions has changed. You're all so focused on the drama." He said it with a superior, smug air.
"Yeah, well, we care about each other," Finn snapped. "Don't tell me Vocal Adrenaline wasn't in each other's business all the time."
"I can't even remember their names," Jesse said happily. "You can't let anything distract you from the music."
"Right." Finn shoved his hands in his pocket. "Look, I'm out of here," he said. "This isn’t how I was going to spend my prom."
"What about Quinn?" Jessse shouted after him. "Want me to give her a ride home?"
"I'll come back," Finn shouted over his shoulder, and then trudged off.
Fucking Jesse St. James. This was all his fault. If he hadn't come back, Rachel would have gone to the prom with Sam and Mercedes, Finn would have never have had to watch her like that, and he would have just danced all night with Quinn. He'd probably be inside right now being crowned prom king, which was dumb and something he didn't care about at all because who cared about a stupid cheap crown? But it did mean a lot to Quinn, and she was right about it being the ultimate status symbol. And that mattered, in some way. Finn kicked angrily at the gravel, but it didn't really help.
He had a feeling this was going to be a long night.
His phone rang. Finn really didn't want to answer it, knowing it would be Quinn and he'd be getting an earful. But when he pulled it out of his pocket, the number that flashed on the screen was Artie's.
"Hey man," he said, picking up and feeling a lot better, "what's up?"
"You're not in the prom right now, are you?" Artie asked.
"No, I got kicked out for fighting with that asshole," Finn grumbled. "Quinn okay?"
"Er, yeah. I guess." Artie sounded uncertain. "She's upset, but…."
Something in his tone wasn't good. Finn's brown furrowed. "What's wrong?"
"Kurt? Is he okay?"
"Well, physically," Artie began.
Finn had the feeling this was going to be bad. He sat down on the hood of someone's car. "Okay," he said, bracing himself. "Tell me what happened."
When he pulled up, Kurt, Blaine, and Quinn were waiting for him. Kurt and Blaine were standing very close to each other, and Quinn was wearing Blaine's jacket. He got out and opened the door for her and she stepped into the car regally, the jacket still clutched around her. "Ice cream, Finn?" she asked softly. "Really?"
Finn shrugged. "I just want to make him feel better. Ice cream always works for me."
"You are so exasperating," Quinn said, and then looked out the window.
Finn sighed. He should be groveling right now, and he knew it. But he couldn't bring himself to say anything, especially with Kurt and Blaine in the back seat. He saw Quinn look back over her shoulder at them, too, and for a second their eyes met. Finn felt like there was a quiet truce being formed; no arguing in front of them right now. That was the thing about Quinn. They'd been together for so long that there was that unspoken connection there, and sometimes they could communicate without saying a thing.
He also didn't care what Quinn said- ice cream was a good idea. After living with Kurt for several months, Finn knew what his comfort foods were, and ice cream was number one with a bullet, even if Kurt didn't often eat it. And as they sat in the diner, Kurt and Blaine both began to relax, and even Quinn was smiling. Which was good, because the grown-up part of Finn knew he'd ruined her night. Ice cream wasn't Quinn's favorite consolation, but it was at least something… something better than how the dance had gone.
Finn had driven them all from the school to the diner, and then back to the school to get Blaine's car. Blaine looked around the car and cleared his throat. "I know it's not the most romantic thing," he said apologetically, "but Kurt… if you're all right with it… should I give Quinn a ride home? And let you and Finn get home together? They're in opposite directions, and it's getting late."
"As long as I get my goodbye," Kurt said, and the two of them got out of the car. Finn hated to admit it, but he was kind of glad. He'd been dreading the drive home and the moment that he dropped Quinn off at her doorstep. He looked at her. Quinn sat stiff in the passenger seat, Blaine's jacket still clutched around her shoulders.
"Um," he began.
"I don't want to talk about it, Finn," Quinn said.
Finn nodded and sat back. That was good, right? Maybe? Quinn wasn't breaking up with him right now. If Quinn didn't want to talk, that meant she wasn't sure what she was going to say. And that was definitely good, because right now, the possibility of losing Quinn again was very real, and it made Finn's hands feel clammy and his throat swell so he couldn't swallow.
"Look," he said, when Quinn's icy silence became too much for him to bear. "I know you don't want to talk about it, but I am sorry."
"What are you sorry for?" Quinn asked haughtily.
"For… for getting in a fight. For ruining prom for you. I know you wanted this to be perfect."
Quinn's profile was illuminated as they sat under the streetlight. Even about to cry, she was completely beautiful. Perfect. Finn wanted to reach out and touch her, to say-
Blaine knocked on the car window.
Quinn leaned over quickly and kissed Finn on the cheek, and then she was gone, and Kurt was in the car. The change happened so fast that it took Finn a minute to even process it. He watched Quinn go, climbing into Blaine's car with the grace of a princess. Finn watched as Blaine started the car and drove off, the taillights winking at them as they pulled out of the parking lot.
He looked at Kurt. Kurt must have decided that since Blaine was gone he didn't need to put on a brave face anymore and was slumped against the door. Finn firmly pushed thoughts of Quinn to the back of his mind, because right now Kurt needed him more.
The aftermath of the prom was deceptively quiet for a day or two. Sunday night, Finn came downstairs looking for something to snack on while he did his homework, only to be ambushed.
"We need to talk."
Finn's mom was sitting on a chair in the living room, and she pointed to the loveseat. Finn sighed and sat down obediently. He'd been expecting this.
Neither he nor Kurt had planned on telling their parents how the night went. They'd worked their story out together, and Finn wanted to believe that they'd done a good job of selling it to their parents. But both of them realized that their parents were going to hear eventually, thanks to a bunch of friends who couldn't keep their mouths shut to save their lives, and they'd broke down and told the truth. Finn had gotten off lightly during the conversation because they were both so concerned about Kurt. He should have known that wasn't the end of it.
"First of all, you're grounded," his mother said. "Until Nationals. Unless you can give me one good reason why I shouldn't."
"Was Rachel being assaulted? Was it clear that she didn't want Jesse kissing her?" his mom pressed.
Finn sighed heavily. "No."
"Then you're grounded," she repeated. "Really, Finn, what were you thinking?"
"I know. It was just… he was all over her! He wasn't respecting her!"
"Like you were respecting your own prom date?" Carole demanded, arms crossed.
"I wasn't slobbering all over her!"
"No, you were watching another girl, and interfering in her relationship. If Rachel was happy, you had no right to do that."
"But Rachel's my friend!" Finn protested. "You don't know this Jesse guy, Mom! He's really hurt her before. I don't want her to get hurt again."
"Rachel is a big girl," his mother pointed out. "And people get hurt in relationships. You can't do anything about that. Most of the time."
"You were there with Quinn, Finn. You owed it to her to not be staring at your ex-girlfriend all night."
"But you don't even like Quinn!" Finn said. "You haven't! Not since Sectionals last year!"
"No," Carole agreed, "I don't like her. But this isn't about Quinn. It's about you, and how you're treating the girls that you know. For all her faults, Quinn had the right to expect that prom would be you and her, not you fighting with someone over another girl. That says a lot about you, Finn. And I don't like what it says."
Finn squirmed on the couch. "But Mom-"
She gentled a little. Just a little. "Look, Finn. I watched how Quinn treated you last year, and I saw how hurt you were. And you were right to be hurt. Cheating… it's a hard thing to deal with. I know that, too."
"Darren," Finn remembered.
His mom ignored the interruption. "But honey, just because you were hurt doesn't mean you can go around treating people like this. It's one thing to break up with Quinn. It's another to string her along."
"What, so I need to figure out who I love more? Quinn or Rachel?" Finn asked.
Carole shook her head. "No. It's not who you love more, Finn. It's two separate questions. Do you love Quinn? That's what you need to figure out. Then once you know the answer to that, you can figure out if you love Rachel. Or if you love anyone right now. It's not a crime to be alone, you know. But the question is, do you love Quinn?"
"Do I love Quinn?" he repeated, sitting back against the couch. And it was strange to hear the words, because he'd always assumed he did. Quinn was beautiful and smart and nice and everything he'd ever wanted. Quinn was his first love. He should love Quinn. But when his mom asked him that, looking so serious… for once, Finn found he wasn't completely sure of the answer.
His mom seemed to think she'd gotten through. She stood up and patted him on the shoulder. "Put your grounding to good use, Finn, and figure this out," she said. "Please. Before you drive the entire house insane."
"I'm sorry," Finn told Quinn the next day. "I really treated you badly at prom, and I'm really sorry about that."
He expected her to still be angry, but Quinn just took a deep breath. "It's all right," she said. "It was a bad night, and a bad moment… but we'll get through this." She linked his arm through his. "If we want this relationship to work, we have to forgive each other.
"Yeah," Finn agreed. "We do."
First love, he remembered Rachel saying. You'd forgive your first love anything.
With a lot of good behavior and some bribery to get Kurt to go to bat for him, Finn was allowed to have Quinn over for a movie on Friday night. The two of them sat snuggled on the couch while Blaine and Kurt stretched out side by side on the floor, shoulder to shoulder. They whispered and laughed and made their comments to each other through the entire movie, while Finn and Quinn watched in it silence.
Finn remembered when he and Quinn used to act like that.
"Do you love him?" he asked Kurt later that night, when Blaine and Quinn had left, Blaine offering to drive Quinn home.
"What do you think?" Kurt asked, turning his shoulders and smiling in a smug, coquettish way.
"That's not a yes," Finn pointed out.
"And it's not a no, either," Kurt said.
"It's high school, man," Finn said, irrationally annoyed at Kurt's happiness. "He's probably not 'the one' or anything."
Kurt sighed impatiently. "No," he admitted, "probably not. But right now, he's everything I want. And that's more than I ever thought I'd have." He narrowed his eyes speculatively. "The way you feel about Quinn, right?"
"Er, right," Finn said.
It was because Kurt was dramatic, he told himself later that night. Kurt blew everything up to be larger than life, that's why he was all starry eyes and singing under his breath. He'd get over it, or he was just… embellishing.
But somewhere deep down, Finn knew he was only fooling himself.
"Hey Kurt," Finn said, pounding down the stairs a few weeks later. "Did you have time to look over my Spanish essay?"
"Look over?" Kurt asked. "Or rewrite?"
"Hey! I don't make you rewrite!" Finn protested.
"No, but I then have to help you with the mistakes and it might as well be a rewrite," Kurt complained, pouring orange juice for everyone. "And why didn't you ask me last night?"
"Because you were already asleep when I finished," Finn said. He sat down at the table. His mother was blearily sipping coffee and Burt was engrossed in the paper. He grabbed a banana from the bowl on the table. "Besides, it's not that long."
"Hey, Kurt," Burt spoke up. "What's the last name of that crazy cheerleading coach of yours?"
"Sylvester. Why?" Kurt asked, leaning over the paper. "What did she do now?"
"Nothing," Burt said. "Looks like her sister died."
"Coach Sylvester had a sister?" Finn asked, surprised.
Kurt nodded and edged in closer to his father, studying the page. "Yes," he said finally. "I remember her mentioning her once." He frowned. "She wasn't very old. Only in her fifties."
Silence descended over the breakfast table. Finn looked up and saw Kurt looking at him, and tried to smile. It didn't come out very good.
Kurt and Finn did the dishes together after breakfast. "How old was your mom when she died?" Finn heard himself asking.
Kurt didn't even flinch at the question. "Thirty-five. They had me late. How old was your dad?"
"Jean was fifty-eight," Kurt said quietly. "That's as long as your dad and my mom lived put together."
"Still seems short, though."
Finn put the dish he was drying away. "Maybe we should go see Coach Sylvester," he said.
"You want to come with me?" Kurt asked, surprised. "You could just send a card."
He should have figured Kurt would go see her. They'd been close- or as close as Coach Sylvester got to most students, anyway. "No," Finn said. "I know she's crazy and she's done some pretty crazy shit to us, but losing someone like that… losing a brother or a sister so soon…."
Kurt nodded silently. He finished washing the last dish and shut off the water. "If we hurry, we can stop at the florist before we go," he said. "We should take her some flowers or something."
"Yeah. That's a good idea."
"You should call Quinn."
Kurt looked at him evenly. "Because she was head cheerleader all last year. I know she's still mad at Coach Sylvester, but she'd probably want to know."
"Yeah. You're right." Finn felt guilty for not thinking of it himself. He went into his own room.
Quinn picked up on the second ring. "Hello," she said, sounding happier than Finn thought she would.
"Finn? Is something wrong?"
"Yeah. Have you seen the paper this morning?"
"Who reads the paper?" Quinn laughed. "Everyone gets news online."
"Yeah, well. Burt reads the paper," Finn said. "He found an obituary. Coach Sylvester's sister died."
"Oh." Quinn's humor faded. "That's too bad."
"Yeah." Finn fumbled with the words. There was a lot he wanted to say. Things that had nothing concrete to do with Jean and everything to do with his father. But nothing would come out.
"Finn? Are you all right?"
"Yeah. Yeah," he said, more confidently. "What about you? Are you all right?"
"Sure. It's sad," Quinn said, "but I don't really know what to say beyond that."
It wasn't bitchy. It wasn't angry. It was soft and sympathetic, and he could hear that Quinn really respected that this was a death. It wasn't anything Quinn was doing- Finn knew that.
But he couldn't bring himself to say another word.
Finn had been planning on walking home from school with Kurt, but Kurt had decided to stay after and practice for the audition, so Finn was on his own. He was lost in thought and trudging along when a car horn startled him.
"Hey, kid," Burt said, leaning out the window of his truck. "Want a ride?"
"Yeah, thanks," Finn said, getting in.
He didn't ride in the truck often, but he had to admit he always loved it when he did. It was old and the suspension wasn't the greatest and the seats were vinyl, but there was something so… Burt about it. It was completely different from the Navigator that served as the family car. Burt had the windows down and the radio station on classic rock, and Finn noticed but didn't comment on a rogue candy bar wrapper.
"You look like you've had a long day today," Burt said.
"Yeah," Finn agreed. He rolled his window down and sat back, resting his elbow on the window and lightly gripping the roof of the car. "Kurt and I went to see Coach Sylvester."
"Thought you guys might. You both looked pretty bothered about it when I told you."
"Yeah, well, we both know what it's like to lose someone."
"Yup. You do," Burt said. Finn liked the direct way he said that.
"I know it seems kind of crazy," Finn said, "to be thinking about it now. I mean, I didn't even know her sister, y'know? And I don't really like Coach Sylvester." Burt nodded. "But all I can think about is how much I miss my dad, and if I still miss him that much sixteen years later, how much she must be hurting right now." He frowned. "That's not, like, totally the wrong thing to say, is it? That I miss my dad?"
"I told you from the beginning that I'm not trying to be your dad, Finn," Burt said. "Just 'cause we're family now doesn't mean your dad's not still a part of that."
"You think my dad's a part of the family?" Finn asked incredulously.
Burt shrugged. "Well, yeah. I mean, I sure think Katherine is a part of my family. Don't get me wrong- I love your mom. I love her more than just about anything. But that doesn’t change what I felt for Katherine."
Finn turned that over in his mind and frowned. "Can I ask you something?" he said.
"If you could bring her… Kurt's mom… back, would you?"
"What do you mean by that?" Burt asked.
Finn shrugged. "What I said. If you could bring her back, would you? Do you want her back?"
Burt didn't answer for a couple of lights. He just drove, and Finn started to worry he'd said something terribly wrong. Finally, Burt rubbed his chin and sighed.
"If I could bring her back for a day, I would. Definitely. I'd want her to see Kurt, see the man he's becoming. There's a lot of things I'd like to say to her, things I'd like to ask her about… so yeah. For a day, I'd bring her back. No question.
"But if you're asking for a lifetime…. I loved Katherine. I loved her like I love the sun rising, you know? She was my everything. And if you'd asked me that back when she died, of course I would have said yes.
"But I look at where I am now, and I have to ask myself, what would have been different if she hadn't died? Maybe we wouldn't be happy like we were. Maybe I wouldn't have been as close as I am to Kurt. I probably would have stepped back and let her do it all. And maybe I wouldn't have been lonely all those years, but I never would have had another kid." He reached out and ruffled Finn's hair affectionately in a gesture that made a lump form in Finn's throat. "I loved that life with her. But I love my life now, too. And bringing her back… I don't know that it would be better. It breaks my heart that she died when she did, but the fact is, Finn, she did. Katherine's dead. And sometimes, the dead have got to stay dead. What's in the past belongs there, even if it was wonderful.
"So no, to answer your question. I wouldn't bring her back. Not for me. That answer your question, Finn?
"Yeah," Finn said, feeling something in his mind click into place. "It does."
Coach Sylvester had gone down to talk to one of the people who worked in the home about arrangements. Finn opened a drawer and began to sift through pajamas.
"God," Kurt said. "It feels so weird to be doing this."
"I know," Finn agreed. "But it's got to be worse for Coach Sylvester."
Kurt nodded silently and folded a blanket.
It was easy to work together, and they found themselves falling into a rhythm. It wasn't until he started sorting through VHS tapes that it hit Finn. "Whoa."
Kurt looked up. "What?"
"Do you realize," Finn said, very slowly, "that one of us is going to have to do this for the other?"
Kurt frowned. "What do you mean?"
"Well, I just got thinking," Finn said, "this is her sister. Unless we die in car accident together or get hit by lightning or something, one of us is going to die before the other."
Kurt's face showed his shock, and he set the blanket down gently. "Wow," he said softly. "That's…."
Kurt shook his head. "No. There will be… other people. Partners or wives or kids or something like that."
Finn shrugged. "You're probably right," he admitted. "But that doesn't change the point." The point that someday, one of them was going to die and the other was going to be left to deal with it, and it was going to hurt. One day, one of them was going to feel like Coach Sylvester felt right now, like they couldn't bear to be around anything that reminded them of what they'd lost, at least for a little while. One day, one of them would be in her shoes. Finn had the terrible moment of hoping that he died before Kurt, because he didn't want to be the one to have to do it. But he also knew they'd do this together again, when Finn's mom died, and when Burt died. Finn shook his head.
"You okay?" Kurt asked.
"Yeah. Just… Yeah." Finn looked at Kurt, who was watching him with concern. "I'm okay," he said. Strangely enough, he had that same feeling he'd had the other day in the car with Burt, that something- some important piece of information- had clicked into place, and he was that much closer to figuring some big mystery out. He pulled himself out of that thought. "I'm fine. Let's keep going."
Kurt just nodded.
"Finn? Can I ask you something?" Rachel asked him that night after they'd finished rehearsing for the funeral. They were alone in the choir room, and the sky was darkening outside.
Finn shrugged. "Shoot."
"Why didn't you audition for the solo for Nationals? You know that this club needs you, and Kurt, as good as he is, simply does not have your leading man appeal."
"Because there's no lead guy in this, Rachel," Finn explained. "And there's no lead girl. There's just a lead performer. And if we're gonna do it that way, and if it's going to be anyone, it should be you."
Her face lit up at that. "You really mean that?" she asked.
Finn smirked at her. "You know I do, Rachel."
"Well, yes," she conceded. "It's the only logical conclusion." She bit her lip. "I just wasn't sure if… everything that Quinn said affected your decision."
"No," Finn said honestly. "She asked me the same question, actually."
"Yup." Finn piled his sheet music together.
"And what did you tell her?"
He sighed. "Rach…."
"No, I know," Rachel backtracked. "That was inappropriate of me. I apologize."
"Yeah, it was," Finn agreed, but without any heat. He sat down on the piano bench. "I don't know," he said finally. "I haven't felt much like singing. Not the kind of stuff they're looking for, anyway. It's just been a rough few days."
"Do you… do you want to talk about it?" Rachel offered.
The thing was, he sort of did. And Rachel was sitting there, willing to listen. But Quinn had been willing to listen, too. That was what confused Finn most of all- that she'd been willing to listen, and he hadn't been willing to talk.
"Not right now, Rachel," he said, mainly because the whole thing was just too much. "Maybe later."
Rachel smiled at him. "You can call me any time, you know."
"Yeah," Finn sighed. "I know."
There were a lot of people at the funeral. Coach Sylvester had said her sister was one of the sweetest people she'd ever known, so Finn wasn't that surprised. He'd been to a couple other funerals, but this was the first one he really got what was going on.
Quinn sat next to him, her hand on his. Her hand was cool and smooth. Kurt sat on the pew on the other side of the aisle, technically next to Artie but very much alone, although Finn knew it was voluntary. He didn't even have to look to know how stiffly Kurt was sitting. Sam was sitting on Quinn's other side, and Rachel right beyond Sam. That was another one where Finn didn't even have to look to know that Rachel was feeling the grief in the room. He could imagine her expression, empathetic and tear-streaked.
He had to look at Quinn's face though, because he wasn't sure how she was reacting.
He didn't understand why he kept looking. He knew Quinn. He knew that, despite her differences with the Cheerios, Quinn wouldn't wish a loss like this on anyone. He knew she'd sent a card and a small arrangement of flowers, along with Brittany and Santana. It was best, they decided, if it came from all three of them. He wasn't expecting anything but the compassion and grief he saw on Quinn's face. But he couldn't envision it unless he looked right at her.
He listened to the service. He'd expected it to be sad, but the worst was easily when Coach Sylvester tried to give the eulogy and broke down crying. That kind of pain, that kind of loss… he glanced across the pews, and then back down again to the end of his own. Just to make sure. Just to see that they were still there, even though he knew.
Quinn squeezed his fingers.
Mr. Schuester was reading the eulogy, but to Finn, he was hearing the words in Coach Sylvester's voice. He was hearing them in his own voice, down the road.
"When you love someone like I loved her, they're a part of you," Mr. Schuester read. "It's like you're attached by this invisible tether, and no matter how far away you are, you can always feel them. And now, every time I reach for that tether, I know there's no one on the other end, and I feel like I'm falling into nothingness."
He'd been feeling those little clicks, like little pieces kept falling into place. Like there was a puzzle he was meant to understand, but he couldn't make sense of it. When Will said those words, Finn felt those two pulls again, and he understood. Suddenly, everything made sense.
Finn had only loved a few people in his life. He'd said he loved more people than that, but deep down in his soul, love- true love, the kind of love that Coach Sylvester was talking about that- wasn't the word he'd use for everyone. He loved his mother, of course, and his father. And now, when those words were spoken, he knew without a doubt that he loved- truly loved- Kurt and Burt. That tether, that anchor to his soul… it was family.
He'd loved Darren, a long time ago. He'd loved Puck. He'd loved Quinn, and he'd loved Rachel.
But that tether sometimes broke. He didn't love Darren anymore- he hardly ever thought about him. He didn't have that connection with Puck. And sitting next to her, unable to picture the expression on her face unless he looked directly at her, he realized the truth. He didn't have it with Quinn.
He didn't love Quinn.
It was like a revelation, and an incredible lightness in his chest. It shouldn't feel that way, he knew, but it did. It did because it was understanding. He didn't love Quinn, and that was what he'd been trying to hide from himself for way too long. He wanted to love her, but he didn't.
He looked at her again. Her head was bowed and she was crying, and he'd never seen her look this beautiful. If he was ever going to love her, it should be right now.
But it wasn't there, and Finn knew with a sad, heavy certainty that it never would be again.
Funerals were endings. They were a way for the survivors to put the past to rest and move on to the future. The thought kept pounding through his head, and Finn knew what he was going to say long before Quinn climbed into the car.
"Sorry," she said. "Long line in the restroom. Everyone's fixing their mascara." She took his hand in hers, and Finn wanted so badly to feel something at her touch again. Especially when she said, "You did such a great job with the funeral. I'm so proud of you." But there was nothing. "Why are you crying?"
The words hurt. "Because I'm breaking up with you."
It took Quinn a minute to respond. "Because of Rachel?" she asked. "Because you still love her?"
He did feel that connection to Rachel. There was still something there. But that wasn't the right reason, and Finn knew it. He shook his head a little. "I shouldn't have done this with you," he said. "I thought that I could fix everything from last year, but I… I can't. I just can't." What's in the past belongs there, even if it was wonderful. "And that feeling that Sue was talking about in there? Of being tethered to someone? I don't… I don't feel that way about you."
"But you do with her," Quinn said. Finn couldn't answer. Quinn took a deep breath and forced confidence into her voice. "No," she said. "We're not breaking up. I can handle your confusion with Rachel until you get over it. We're gonna stay together. And next year we'll be prom king and queen, and-"
"Just stop it. Okay?" Finn cut her off. "I don't want that life." He huffed in frustration, that Quinn was still evading the knowledge he finally couldn't run from anymore. "Don't you feel anything anymore? This is real. This is happening."
Quinn bowed her head, and he realized that yes, she did feel. And this was real, and this was happening, and this was the final confirmation for both of them that this would never, ever happen. Ever again. And when Quinn looked up, she was crying.
"Are you happy now?" she asked. "Is this me feeling enough for you?"
"I'm sorry," Finn began. "I still love you-"
"Just don't touch me!" Quinn snarled, and got out of the car. Finn watched her go, then folded his arms on the steering wheel, buried his head in them, and cried.
He didn't go home right away. He went to the cemetery with everyone else and watched them lower the casket into the ground. He stood between Mr. Schuester and Kurt, and Quinn stood with Brittany and Santana.
He knew Kurt was going to linger in the cemetery. Finn gave him a questioning look, but Kurt shook his head. Finn didn't want to say it, but he was glad. Right now, he needed to be alone as well.
The cemetery was quiet and peaceful. Finn walked through each row, looking at the headstones. They varied from the small, flat service headstones like his father had to large ornate monuments that were taller than him. Each one representing a life ended, and somehow set into the brilliant green of the grass and trees. It was a beautiful cemetery, and a beautiful world.
He walked for a long time, until he came to the entrance, where he stopped and waited. He waited until Kurt came up the path, and then the two of them walked home together in silence.
"You look like you're in a good mood, Finn," his mom said when they all sat down to dinner.
"Not a good mood," Finn said. "Just… relaxed."
"Oh?" Burt asked, picking up the mashed potatoes. "What happened?"
"I broke up with Quinn."
Burt, Carole, and Kurt all stared at him, wary. And Finn understood why. He felt like himself for the first time in weeks. Months, maybe, even. Because he'd stopped forcing himself to be something he wasn't, stopped forcing himself to feel something he didn't, and started just letting himself be honest. Letting himself be.
Do you love Quinn? That's what you need to figure out.
But right now, he's everything I want. And that's more than I ever thought I'd have. The way you feel about Quinn, right?
What's in the past belongs there, even if it was wonderful.
They'd all known. They'd all tried to tell him. But Finn hadn't been listening- not really.
"You okay about it?" Burt asked him.
"Yeah," Finn said, and he smiled. "Believe it or not, I think I'm fine."