As much as Puck wants to speed directly over to Burt and Carole’s house, he’s counting on Kurt’s desire to indulge Rachel’s dramatics to win out over rushing home immediately. Even if Kurt does go straight to Burt and Carole, there’s no way they could beat him, and maybe Burt and Carole would get caught up in apologizing for not telling Kurt all of the details.
All of that is why Puck orders them fresh drinks, so they’re not cold, and takes the time in the parking lot to run his hands over Finn’s neck and shoulders, kissing him slowly, and after that he texts the number he hasn’t called since March, Carole’s, with the simple message Coming to your house. Important.
Even if Kurt’s already there, Puck’s known Carole almost all of his life, and he thinks Carole would give Puck a chance to explain, which means Puck’s confident she’ll definitely give her own son a chance to talk without constant interruption. Puck leans over to the passenger seat and kisses Finn again before pulling on his seat belt.
“I promise you that by three this afternoon, everything’ll be okay, one way or the other,” Puck says.
“Okay,” Finn says. “I can do this.”
“Yeah, you can,” Puck agrees. “And hell, if you decide that you don’t want to come back here at all after this visit, I bet your mom and Jake would visit us at home. Okay?”
“Yeah, I hope so,” Finn says quietly.
Puck starts the car and pulls out of the Lima Bean lot, turning the radio on at low volume. “I know. So I don’t think we should get a car this big, do you?”
Finn shakes his head. “It’s kind of big, yeah.”
“Maybe one of those Toyotas. A Camry or a Corolla or something,” Puck says as he drives towards Burt and Carole’s. It’s not a very long drive, so he doesn’t have to keep Finn distracted for very long. “Or a Focus.”
Puck glances at Finn as they stop at a stop sign. “But purple or lime green’s fine for the color, right?”
“Yeah, that’s cool.”
“I’ll dye my hair to match.” Puck reaches over and rests his hand on Finn’s leg as he drives. “I love you. Your mom loves you. And I don’t think she’s going to punch you like I did. Which still wasn’t my finest moment, I guess.”
Finn puts his hand on top of Puck’s. “I deserved it.”
“No, you didn’t, but even if you think you did, you definitely don’t deserve anything more than that.” Puck flips his hand up and curls his fingers around Finn’s hand. “I…” Puck trails off, because what he really wants to say is that he likes to pretend in his mind that Finn left the dorm one day and they found each other in Joliet the very next day, but that’s not going to help Finn calm down.
Puck pulls onto the correct street and parks on the side, not pulling into the driveway, and he leaves the engine running for about thirty seconds before turning the car off and unlocking the doors. Finn squeezes Puck’s hand.
“I can do this,” Finn says.
“Yeah. We can do this,” Puck says, squeezing Finn’s hand back before dropping it to climb out of the car.
Once they’re out and the doors are shut, Finn looks at Puck over the top of the car. “I love you, Puck.”
“I love you, too. And no matter what happens in there, I’ll still love you, and we’re still going home to our apartment, which I admit I like more than I used to.”
“I like it, too,” Finn says. “It feels like home.”
“Yeah, it does.” Puck walks around the car and takes Finn’s hand again, then walks towards the front door. He angles himself in front of Finn as he rings the door, not out of any attempt to hide Finn, but in case Kurt answers the door or he’s gotten Burt mad.
Puck’s instincts seem like they might be correct when Burt opens the door, already red in the face, but once Burt looks up at Finn, he gets pale.
“Well, I’ll be damned,” Burt says. “You’re here.”
“Can we come in? We need to talk to Carole,” Puck says, squeezing Finn’s hand as he talks.
“Yeah, I can see that,” Burt says, stepping back from the door without taking his eyes off Finn’s face. Puck takes a step forward, tugging on Finn’s hand as he does. Finn follows Puck through the foyer and into the living room, where Carole is seated on one sofa, Rachel and Kurt on the other. All three look up when Puck and Finn walk in.
“Uh. Hi?” Finn says.
“Finn!” Carole exclaims, jumping off of the sofa and running towards him. “You’re alive, oh my god, you’re alive!” She bursts into tears, leaning against Finn’s chest, and Puck considers dropping Finn’s hand, but instead he moves closer, putting his free hand on Carole’s back.
“I’m sorry, Mom. I’m so sorry. I’m so sorry,” Finn repeats. He drops his head onto Carole’s, his face in her hair. “I’m so sorry, Mom.”
“You see?” Kurt says coldly. “I’m not crazy. He faked his death and left everybody here to grieve. I never thought Finn Hudson would be the kind of man to do something like that to the people who love him.”
“He didn’t do it on purpose,” Puck says over his shoulder, gritting his teeth, and then he turns back toward Carole and Finn. “I swear, Carole, he didn’t know. He thought he’d texted me. He didn’t realize.”
“He’s here, my baby’s here!” Carole says, still crying against Finn’s chest. Burt walks up to Carole’s other side, putting his hand on her arm.
“How did this happen?” Burt ask. “How did he make it look like he’d driven into the river?”
“I’m so, so sorry, Mom,” Finn keeps repeating.
“Hey, I’m going to pull Burt to the side,” Puck whispers to Finn. “Is that okay?” Finn nods. Puck squeezes Finn’s hand and then drops it, stepping around Carole and nodding at Burt, then towards the doorway. “Let me explain a little?” he asks quietly.
“What the hell is going on here, Puck?” Burt asks, keeping his voice low. “Kurt and Rachel show up screaming and crying about Finn faking his own death or maybe you faking his death, and now we come to find out Finn really is alive?”
“Yeah, running into them wasn’t the plan,” Puck admits, sighing heavily. “I ran into Finn at the beginning of the month. Literally. He didn’t fake his death intentionally. He had a breakdown or something, and he thought he texted me.” Puck sighs again, looking over at Carole and Finn. “It seemed like a good idea to make sure he was relatively emotionally stable before we came here, and we had to get days off at the same time.”
Burt nods, frowning. “But come on, Puck. You couldn’t have gotten on the phone and told us, at least? He’s been dead—we thought he was dead—for months. It seems cruel to make us wait another full month, almost.”
“Would you have believed me?” Puck counters. “C’mon, Burt. You’d have thought I had had the mental breakdown.”
“Maybe, but I still think you should’ve tried. Listen to her,” Burt says, gesturing subtly in Carole and Finn’s direction, where Carole is still sobbing and Finn is still apologizing over and over.
“Yeah, and it would’ve killed both of them for her to be crying over the phone and not on him,” Puck says, shaking his head. “Sometimes growing up I thought Carole liked me more than my own mom. I wouldn’t hurt her on purpose, but I had to put Finn’s mental health first.”
“And I have to put Carole’s first,” Burt says.
“Then I guess at least we understand where we’re each coming from, even if we disagree on the specific actions,” Puck says, glancing at Finn again. “But I promise you, he didn’t have a clue that we thought he was dead.”
“That’s a little hard to believe,” Burt says, shaking his head as he looks over at Finn, too. “A breakdown?”
Puck lowers his voice more, looking over at Kurt and Rachel. “The day after I ran into him, I took him to a psychiatrist. I don’t think he’d mind you and Carole knowing. Like I told him, if you think about it, it’s not the first time something like this happened, just the first time it got so big and out of control and serious.”
Burt nods. “Like that month he was hiking.”
“Yeah. If I’d known about it at the time…” Puck shrugs. “Anyway, it’s being treated and all of that, but it really was a breakdown or something. He thought he’d texted me that he needed to get away for awhile. Text didn’t send or something, I guess.”
“Do we have any assurance it won’t happen again? You’re not gonna wake up one morning and he’s gone?”
Puck grimaces and looks down. “Nothing’s guaranteed, is it? But he’s seeing someone, and he’s got a couple of prescriptions, and he and I can make sure there’s not a lot of chance of something triggering anything, right?” He shrugs and looks back up, avoiding Burt’s gaze and staring at Finn instead. “We’re doing as much as we can. That’s part of why now and not sooner.”
Burt nods again. “I guess that’s all any of us can do.”
“And I get that they’re upset,” Puck says, looking briefly at Kurt and Rachel. “Hell, I decked him once. But if they keep going, I’m leaving with him and we can meet you and Carole somewhere else later.”
“Alright. That sounds fair,” Burt says. “Though, I do think all of us have a right to be a little angry.”
“Angry’s not beating the dead horse, though,” Puck says, shrugging a little and then walking back over to Finn, putting his hand on Finn’s shoulder. “Hey,” he says softly.
“Hey,” Finn answer, lifting his head from Carole’s hair to look at Puck. His face is red from crying. Puck squeezes Finn’s shoulder, then slides his arm around Finn’s shoulders, putting his other hand on Carole’s back again.
“You were right earlier,” Rachel says loudly, presumably to Kurt. “They’re just rubbing our faces in it!”
Finn starts to slowly shake his head. “No. No. We’re not.”
“You don’t have some kind of claim over him,” Puck says, turning to look at Rachel. “That’s not how life works.”
“Finn and I were engaged once!”
“And they would’ve probably been back together by now, if this hadn’t happened,” Kurt adds. He won’t look at Finn directly, instead staring at Puck like he can somehow make Puck back down and give Finn to Rachel.
“Maybe,” Finn says, “but it wouldn’t have been good, for either of us. I never should have gone back up to New York, no matter what Santana said.”
Puck snorts, because he’s not totally sure what Finn’s talking about, but if Santana was involved, it probably wasn’t all that great. “Yeah, she totally deserved that jacket, huh, Kurt?”
“That’s rich, coming from the person who stole it,” Kurt says.
“I didn’t fucking steal it, and you were an asshole about it anyway,” Puck says, glaring at Kurt. “You two forgot the rest of us thought we’d lost him, too.”
“Please don’t fight,” Finn says quietly, but probably nobody but Puck and Carole hears him, because Kurt continues yelling.
“And then you got him back and didn’t even attempt to let the rest of us know, his actual family,” Kurt shouts. “Now he’s all yours, so I guess you’re welcome to him.”
“Kurt, that’s enough,” Burt says. “I know we’re all a little shaken up right now, but this doesn’t need to get ugly.”
“You’re right, Dad. It doesn’t. Please let me know when they’re gone, and I’ll come back over,” Kurt stands, offering a hand to Rachel. Rachel takes it and stands beside him, tossing her hair and lifting her chin.
“Sorry,” Puck whispers to Finn, turning away from them and not attempting to respond to Kurt’s latest. Finn shrugs faintly. The door slam a few seconds later, and Finn’s whole body slumps. Puck tightens his arm around Finn’s shoulders. “It’s okay. We’re okay. I love you.”
Finn barely nods. “Love you,” he mouths back silently.
Carole lifts her head up from Finn’s chest, staring at his face as she steps back and starts to take both of his hands. When she reaches for his right hand, he flinches and makes a soft noise. “Not that one,” Puck says quietly.
“What happened?” Carole asks, taking Finn’s wrist with her hand and lifting his hand up. “What’s wrong with it?”
“It’s okay. It’s fine,” Finn says. “It just got hurt a little, is all. In the crash.”
“And it didn’t heal quite right,” Puck adds. “I made him start taking those joint supplements for it.”
“He fusses over me a lot. He makes sure I take good care of myself,” Finn says.
“I don’t fuss,” Puck says, making a face at Finn, and Carole suddenly laughs.
“Oh, you always did,” Carole says. “Listen to you two!”
“So where is it that you two ran into each other again?” Burt asks. “Was it in Ohio?”
Finn shakes his head. “No. Joliet, Illinois. I work at the Harrah’s as an illegal Canadian.”
“Finn, you’re not Canadian!” Carole says. “Why on earth?”
“Well, nobody could prove I’m not,” Finn insists. “And I didn’t have my ID or anything. I kind of panicked. I didn’t says Canada, though. They did.”
“Once he has documents again, he can stop being Canadian,” Puck says. “At least he gets to work inside. I’m almost jealous.”
“You’re not working at the Harrah’s, too?” Burt asks.
“IDOT seasonal work,” Puck says as he shakes his head. “I just went in to the Starbucks. I like their Christmas coffee drinks.”
“I never even hoped for this,” Carole says. “Let me fix a big lunch for you.”
“Okay,” Finn says, nodding his head.
“Okay?” Puck whispers as Carole steps away from Finn and toward the kitchen. Finn shrugs again with a slight nod. “You want me to take you back to the motel after we eat?”
“Yeah. I think I need a break,” Finn say. “It’s okay if I have a break, right?”
“I think I’d be worried if you didn’t need a break,” Puck says, then kisses Finn, not sure if Burt’s still in the room and not really caring, either. “We’ll take a long break.”
Finn had forgotten how much being around people and having to act like everything is okay makes him tired, but now that he’s exhausted from smiling at his mom and Burt for two days, he remembers. They’ve eaten every meal at Carole and Burt’s house since that first afternoon, for a total of two lunches, two dinners, and a breakfast. After dinner the first night, Carole had begged them to stay for hours after, telling her everything about Joliet and the casino and the psychiatrist Finn is seeing. She asked them to stay again the second night, but Puck told her that his mom had asked them to stop by on the way back to the hotel.
“I’ll have breakfast ready at nine in the morning,” Carole says as she walks towards the door with them.
Finn can feel himself tensing, but he nods. “Okay, Mom.”
“We might need to sleep in in the morning,” Puck says. “Our schedules are kind of off. Maybe tomorrow we could do a brunch instead?”
“Oh, of course!” Carole says. “That’s a great idea, Noah. I’ll see you two between eleven and eleven-thirty, then?”
“Thank, Mom. I love you,” Finn says.
“I love you too, Finn.” Carole gives Finn a tight hug, then stands in front of the door as Puck and Finn walk towards the rental car.
“At least brunch is one meal instead of two?” Puck says quietly once they’re inside the car.
“Yeah,” Finn says. “I’m so tired.”
“Yeah, I know.” Puck sighs. “Maybe we should have planned on a shorter trip. It’s only the twentieth-eighth. Maybe we should turn the car in a day early.”
“I just feel so bad telling her no.”
“Which is why I’d be the one telling her we had to go back earlier than we thought. Maybe there’s a weather system moving in or something.” Puck starts the car and pulls out, heading toward the hotel, and then puts his hand on top of Finn’s. “What do you want to do, if you didn’t feel bad about it?”
“I want to go home. I’m tired and every time she cries, I feel like…” Finn sighs.
“Okay,” Puck says, nodding. “Then we’ll go home tomorrow. Can you do brunch and dinner tomorrow, if we’re heading home after dinner?”
“Yeah. I can do that. I don’t want to want to leave. I just feel if I don’t, I’m gonna, I don’t know. Bolt again or something.”
“Yeah. Yeah. When we get back to the motel, take one of your emergency pills, okay? And we don’t have to be anywhere for like… sixteen hours. I know you don’t need that much sleep,” Puck says, looking over and grinning at Finn briefly.
“If I take the emergency pills, I’ll fall asleep, though,” Finn says.
“Well, yeah, but I bet you’ll wake up with plenty of time before brunch.” Puck turns onto the street in front of the motel. “You want me to stop at Waffle House and get you a pop to take your pills with?”
“No, that’s okay. I can take them with water.” Finn puts his left hand on Puck’s thigh, squeezing it gently.
“Okay. Promise me something,” Puck says as he parks.
“If you wake up, and you feel the same, or you feel worse, tell me,” Puck says seriously. “I’ll tell Carole whatever I need to. I’m not going to make you stay here if it’s hurting you.”
“I’m okay,” Finn says. “I’m just tired.”
“Promise me,” Puck insists.
“I promise,” Finn says. Puck keeps looking at Finn for a few more seconds, then nods and climbs out of the car. He walks around and takes Finn’s hand as they walk to their room, and he manages to unlock the door and lock it behind them without letting go of Finn.
“You want to shower first?” Puck asks. “I can start packing some of our stuff.”
“Yeah. Thanks,” Finn says. He pulls Puck close for a kiss first, taking his time and wrapping his arms around Puck. Puck slides his fingers under Finn’s shirt, spreading them across his lower back and holding Finn in place.
“Let’s do that all day, day after tomorrow,” Puck says, his torso leaning away from Finn but his arms still around Finn’s waist.
“Okay. I like the sound of that,” Finn says. “I’m going to shower and take a pill now, I guess.”
“Okay.” Puck releases Finn with a little squeeze, stepping over to the spare bed where their suitcase is open, and he tosses a pair of clean underwear and a t-shirt to Finn. Finn catches them, setting them on the counter by the sink. He swallows one of his emergency pills and walks into the bathroom, shutting the door behind him.
As soon as the shower’s warm, Finn steps under the water. He braces his hand against the wall and lets his body slump forward. Keeping it together for his mom and Burt, and even for Puck, is a lot of work. He closes his eyes and leans into the water, letting it run over his face. What he really wishes he could do is put them back in the car right now with their bags and have Puck drive them back to Joliet, or anywhere but Lima, really.
Finn stays in the shower a little too long, waiting until he feels less frantic to turn the water off. After he towels off, he steps out of the bathroom and pulls on the t-shirt and underwear from Puck.
“Your turn,” Finn says.
“Go ahead and lie down,” Puck says as he passes Finn, kissing him briefly. Finn gives Puck a tired smile before climbing under the covers, which feel warm, like Puck had them by the heater for a while before Finn came out of the shower. He curl up on his side, listening to the shower start again, and is asleep before Puck ever comes out of the bathroom again.
Finn wakes up to a completely dark room. He squints at the clock—3:30—before rolling to face Puck, who is still asleep. Finn runs his hand through Puck’s hair and then across his shoulder and down his arm. When Puck doesn’t stir, Finn starts stroking his side, rubbing his thumb over Puck’s hipbone.
“Finn,” Puck says, almost sighing, but his eyes don’t open.
Finn pets Puck’s hip a few more times before moving his hand to Puck’s dick, slowly stroking him until he starts to get hard. Puck moves closer to Finn and sighs again.
“‘M awake,” Puck mumbles.
“You don’t have to be awake,” Finn whispers to him, pressing his lips softly to Puck’s. “You just have to be here.” He continues slowly stroking Puck until he’s completely hard, rubbing the pad of his thumb along the head of Puck’s dick. “I just love you so much, Puck.”
“But I wanna be.” Puck rubs his face against Finn’s, then against Finn’s neck. “Love you.”
“Do you want to be awake enough to be inside me?” Finn asks. “I think I really need you to.”
“Okay.” Puck kisses Finn’s neck, then lifts his head up and puts his lips to Finn’s. “You want to be on your side or what?”
“Side’s good, so I can feel your arms around me,” Finn says against Puck’s lips.
“Yeah. And so I can kiss your shoulders,” Puck says. “You like that.”
“Yeah, I love it,” Finn says. His hand tightens around Puck’s dick, moving a little faster.
“Roll onto your other side,” Puck says with another kiss. Finn rolls away from Puck, and Puck keeps one hand on Finn’s back while he stretches off the bed before resettling behind Finn. “Nice and slow?”
“Please?” Finn asks. He arches his back, pressing his ass back against Puck.
“Whatever you want, Finn,” Puck says softly, one hand between Finn’s shoulder blades. His other palm is on Finn’s hip, sliding down. “One or two at first?”
“Two?” Finn knows that it sounds like more of a question than an answer, but he also knows Puck understands.
“Yeah. Two,” Puck agrees, and he slowly presses two fingers inside Finn. “I love you. I love this. I love how you feel.”
Finn pushes back against Puck’s fingers, feeling how they slide inside him and let him know that Puck is right there with him, loving him and touching him. “I love you,” he tells Puck.
“I know.” Puck starts kissing Finn’s shoulders, his fingers moving in and out of Finn. “I could kiss you all day, like I said earlier, and then we could do this all night.”
“I want to do this all night. I already slept. We can do this until brunch,” Finn says.
“Yeah, that’s a really good plan,” Puck says, pulling his fingers all the way out and then pushing three fingers inside. “You’re so warm and tight.”
Finn doesn’t try to hold back the sounds he makes every time Puck moves his fingers. “You make me feel so good. I want more, I need more, I need you deeper.”
“I know. I know. You’re so fucking good, feel so good,” Puck almost whispers. “I want to be inside you now.”
“I want you to. Please, please, be in me,” Finn whines.
“Shh. It’s okay. I’m going to be.” Puck’s fingers pull away, and then his dick starts to push inside. “Oh, fuck, Finn, baby, you feel awesome.” He keeps moving until his dick is completely inside Finn, and then he stops moving, his hand stroking Finn’s upper arm and his lips on Finn’s back. “Better, yeah?”
“Yeah. Just stay there forever , okay?”
“Yeah, that’s the best idea. Maybe we’ll swap every once in a while,” Puck says. “Do you want me to move?”
“No. Yes. Both. Just stay inside me,” Finn says. “Just stay.”
“I’ve got you, baby. I’ve got you. We’re not going anywhere,” Puck says, his voice soft. “I love you.” He moves his hips slowly, then thrusts back into Finn. Finn cries out, pushing himself back on Puck’s dick. He reaches behind him for Puck’s hip, gripping it. “Yeah, I’m right here.”
“More, I need more,” Finn pleads.
“I can’t make my dick bigger,” Puck says teasingly, thrusting into Finn again. “You feel so perfect. We could keep doing this, too.”
“I don’t need bigger, I just need more,” Finn says. “Harder, more, something. Puck.”
“I know, sweet baby, I know,” Puck says, and he does thrust harder and just a little bit faster. “I love you. I love you.”
“Love you,” Finn says, rocking back against Puck. “Puck, Puck, I love you, I love you.”
“I know you do. Love you so much,” Puck says as kisses Finn’s back and shoulder blades. Finn lets out a low whine, closing his eye and feeling Puck inside him, Puck’s lips on his back. Before he realizes it, before he’s really even ready, Finn can feel himself about to come.
“Puck,” Finn says, his voice sounding almost frantic.
“What, baby?” Puck says, still kissing Finn’s skin.
“I’m— I don’t want to, I don’t want to come yet, I’m not ready, I don’t, I don’t—” Finn breaks off with a cry.
“Okay.” Puck stops moving, his lips still close to Finn’s back, and his hips are still. “Okay. Shit, that’s hot.”
“I don’t want to come without you,” Finn says, hearing the whine in his voice again. “I need to feel you coming with me.”
Puck lets out a low moan. “Yeah, that’s hot, too,” he says. “Shit, Finn, that’s going to make me come in a minute if you keep talking.”
Finn whines again, pushing back against Puck and intentionally tightening around him. “I want you to, I want you to come, I want to feel you.” He rocks back onto Puck’s dick. “I want you to come inside me.”
“You’re so hot, baby,” Puck says, thrusting hard up into Finn again, and he puts one hand on Finn’s dick. “You’re going to be a mess, shit, come now.”
Finn does come, yelling and thrusting into Puck’s hand, feeling Puck inside him, coming inside him, hard and hot. Puck keeps his hand on Finn’s dick, not moving it, and he stays pushed inside Finn long after they’re both completely still.
“I love you,” Puck says finally.
“I love you,” Finn says. “I’m so happy I’m with you.”
“Me too,” Puck says. “Me too. You want to stay like this?”
“Yeah. All night,” Finn sighs. He relaxes back against Puck, already feeling himself starting to drift off again, safe and warm.
Puck wakes up with a plan in his head for their last hours in Lima, and he hopes that Finn either doesn’t notice or doesn’t mind that Puck going to stick a little closer even than he did the day before. In Puck’s mind, there were only two things they had to accomplish on the trip: let Carole know, and get Finn’s birth certificate and other documents. If they’re back in Illinois on Monday with the day off, they can get Finn a driver’s license easily. Carole knows, which was the most important thing. Before they ate the first lunch there, Puck got the documents from Burt, who’d also let Puck know that Finn had never officially been declared deceased, and that makes all of the paperwork easier to deal with. Since those two things are both done, Puck’s perfectly willing to leave at any point.
While they shower and load the rental, Puck keeps up either a running commentary or almost constant touching, and he does the same thing while they drive over and during brunch, mostly his hand resting on Finn’s thigh or barely holding Finn’s right hand while they eat. At the beginning of brunch, Puck tells Carole that they have to head back after dinner, that with the cold and snow moving in, he’ll probably be called in and they might need extra people at the casino, too. Puck’s not actually sure if they need extra people at the casino when there’s bad weather or not, but it sounds believable to him and apparently to Carole and Burt, too.
There’s just a few more things to mention, to Puck’s way of thinking, so when they finish eating, he gives Finn a kiss and whispers that he should help his mom with the dishes, and then Puck looks at Burt, nodding towards the living room, and once Burt is in the room, Puck starts speaking quietly.
“At this point, I don’t think it’s a good idea for him to come back out here,” Puck says, holding up a hand to keep Burt from responding. “There’s technically a second bedroom in our apartment that’s empty right now, we could put a guest bedroom in there, or there’s some decent motels that aren’t too pricey about five or ten minutes from our apartment. If Carole starts talking about us visiting, can you redirect her so it’s you two traveling?”
“I’m not sure what the problem with visiting here is,” Burt says. “He seems fine.”
“But he’s not, because he’s keeping his shit together for his mom, and it’s not easy for him,” Puck says bluntly. “He doesn’t need to be using the emergency pills every day, and that’s what visiting out here would do.”
“It’s just a few day at a time, though. He can do that for his mom,” Burt says.
“No. He can’t. And I’ll have this talk with Carole if I have to, but I thought maybe you’d know how to be a little more gentle with her, phrase it better. Burt, he looks like he’s doing better than he is, the moment we leave here. Don’t you think she’d rather see him actually doing better, in an environment he’s comfortable in?”
Burt sighs. “I’m sure she would, but I’m worried about how well she’ll be doing once you and Finn leave. He’s not the only one barely keeping it together.”
“I don’t mean to be a smartass, but Carole’s not the one who has already had at least one severe mental breakdown,” Puck says. “I’ve known her a long time. It won’t be easy on her, but she’s not going to lose it.”
“Hopefully not,” Burt says. It sounds like a concession, at least.
“It probably isn’t forever,” Puck says, offering a slight concession of his own. “But for the foreseeable future. I think we’d all like Finn feeling more stable.”
“I agree,” Burt says. “I’ll try to explain it to Carole without upsetting her.”
“Thanks,” Puck says, and he heads into the kitchen again, putting his arms around Finn’s waist and resting his head between Finn’s shoulder blades. “Are you getting the dishes good and clean?” he asks lightly.
Finn nods. “Want to help me dry?”
“Help dry you? Sure.” Puck tightens his arms. “Where’d you get wet?”
“Keep it PG-13, Noah,” Carole says.
“The dishes, Puck,” Finn says. “Don’t traumatize my mom.”
“You heard her, as long as it’s PG-13, it’s okay,” Puck says, but he gives Finn a final squeeze and kisses the back of his neck before sliding to the side and picking up a dish towel. He picks up a plate and starts drying, bumping against Finn’s hip as he finishes each plate, and while he’s on plate number six, Puck hears a garage door opening.
He frowns and looks at Carole, who’s also frowning a little, and Puck forces his face back into neutral before he looks over at Finn. Finn looks excited or happy for a split-second before his face falls and he looks back down at the dishes, scrubbing them a little harder than necessary.
“Hello?” Kurt’s voice calls out. “Dad? I’m sorry, I didn’t realize they would be here.”
Puck finishes drying the plate, bumping against Finn’s hip again as he sets down the dish towel. “Stay here with your mom, okay?” he says softly, making eye contact with Carole until she nods. Finn nods without looking up, still scrubbing the same bowl. Puck kisses Finn’s cheek, then walks out of the kitchen, towards where he left Burt and where, presumably, Kurt is.
“I’ll come back later,” Kurt is saying to Burt, louder than he needs to, so obviously intended for Puck to overhear.
“Now son, you know that’s not necessary,” Burt says. “Just say. Maybe we can all work through this.”
“Not where Finn can hear,” Puck says, crossing his arms. “Let’s go outside or something.”
“That’s really not needed,” Kurt says.
“No, I think it is,” Burt says. “Do you want me in this conversation, too?”
“Kurt and I used to be friends. I’m sure we can handle it maturely,” Puck says, raising an eyebrow at Kurt. “Right?”
“Right,” Kurt says.
Puck smirks a little and goes to the front door, opening it and gesturing for Kurt to go through first. He suddenly remembers when he buttered the floor during junior year and Kurt fell, and he snorts a little as Kurt sweeps past.
“I’m glad you think this is so funny,” Kurt snaps at him.
“Just a memory,” Puck says, stepping onto the porch and closing the door behind him. “Is your problem really with Finn, or is it whatever crawled up your ass about me back in March?”
“My problem? My problem?” Kurt asks, his tone shrill. “Just because I’m not willing to play along with this ‘oh, Finn was dead for almost ten months, but now everything is fine’ big happy family—”
“Is it me, or him?” Puck asks again, interrupting Kurt. “And no one’s pretending everything’s fine, but you wouldn’t know that, because you can’t stop screaming.”
“It’s both of you!” Kurt says. “It’s him disappearing and letting us think he was dead. Rachel and I both had days we could barely get out of bed, the first few weeks after he died. I was the one who had to comfort Carole and my dad. Me. Not you! You just rode off on your motorcycle and left everybody else behind to grieve, and then you show up nine months later with Finn, and you’ve known for weeks he was fine, and you want to know if it’s him or you?” Kurt makes a frustrated noise. “It’s both of you.”
“I left after you had all made it perfectly clear I wasn’t welcome here, I wasn’t welcome in your secret circle of grief, I wasn’t welcome to think about my best friend since we were kids, so don’t fucking blame me for leaving. You had a problem with me before I left, and fuck it, Kurt! That’s why I left.”
“He’s my brother,” Kurt says.
“Yeah? He was mine first,” Puck says, arms crossed again.
“Which I guess is why it’s fine for you to keep him all to yourself and not let us know,” Kurt says.
“What would you have done, if it was Rachel you’d found, and she needed to see a doctor, and she was hurt? You wouldn’t have called her dads first thing, especially if you thought it might make her worse. You would have done the same thing,” Puck says. “You would have done the same thing, or you really aren’t the person I thought you were.”
“Oh, I think we both know the real reason you kept him to yourself,” Kurt says. “It’s just like the jacket, and you thinking you’re more entitled to him than the rest of us.”
“Yes, it’s the Jewish sex magic,” Puck deadpans. “That’s totally why. And yeah, I guess I do think I’m more entitled than, I don’t know. Santana. But you aren’t Santana. Don’t try to be her.”
“I’m just not sure I’m ever going to be able to forgive him, or you,” Kurt says.
Puck shakes his head. “I don’t know why you’re blaming him for having a breakdown of some kind, or me for taking care of him. I know it’s hard. I decked him, okay? But if I’d stayed angry…”
“We thought he was dead,” Kurt says softly, his eyes starting to tear up. “You didn’t see what it was like here. You didn’t see Carole falling apart. I think she was still in shock at the funeral. You didn’t have to go through his things and decide what memories to keep.”
“Yeah, I just got nothing because you’d already decided I was some piece of shit not good enough for your fancy New York shoes. You know what? Fuck you. I love Finn. I love Carole. I’m just going to have to hope you don’t fuck up Carole’s head too much, I guess. I never expected this from you.”
“I love Finn, too,” Kurt insists. “Or I loved the Finn we all thought he was.”
“You can’t just love someone if they’re being who you want them to be. You have to love them for who they are.” Puck shrugs and sighs. “I don’t think… I don’t know. I don’t know who you are now.”
“I think I could say the same thing about both of you.”
“I’m the same guy I always was,” Puck says with another shrug. “I’m not particularly complicated.”
“Make sure my dad or Carole know when you’ll be here. I’ll make sure to plan around it accordingly,” Kurt says, straightening his coat in a way that clearly indicates he considers the conversation over.
“Don’t worry about that. I’m not going to trigger another breakdown bringing him here. I already talked to Burt about it,” Puck says. “Try not to make Carole feel worse.”
“I’m not the one who makes her feel bad, Puck.” Kurt turns and walks back into the house.
“But you will be,” Puck says after the door closes. He stays outside for another thirty seconds or so before going back in, straight to the kitchen where Finn is now finished washing the dishes and is just drying them. Puck kisses him before Finn has a chance to react, pulling the glass out of Finn’s hand and setting it on the counter.
He keeps kissing Finn until he hears Carole clear her throat, and he pulls back just far enough to whisper “I love you” before pulling back farther. When he glances to the side, Carole’s watching them with a smile on her face, even if she also looks a little teary.
“I love you, too,” Finn says. “Is everything okay?”
“Yeah.” Puck glances at Carole and leans up close to Finn’s ear. “How about Friday?”
Finn tilts his head against Puck’s. “Yeah,” he says.
“What do you want to do until dinner?” he asks, then adds “You want to offer to take your mom and Burt out for dinner?” Finn nods. “Then we’ll go home.”
“Yeah,” Finn whispers. “Home.”
Puck kisses Finn again, then nods and picks up the same dish towel he’d been using. As soon as the last dish is put away, they arrange a time to meet Burt and Carole at Old City Prime downtown, and then they leave, Puck heading north up I-75 to the movie theater in Findlay. He can’t imagine anyone they know being in Findlay or at Old City Prime, which means everyone else is just going to have to hear about it from Carole or Facebook or something.
A tiny part of Puck feels bad for not at least messaging people personally, but it’s time and effort he really doesn’t feel like putting in, and who knows, they might all decide to yell at him, too. They watch The Wolf of Wall Street up in Findlay and then hang out at the Tim Horton’s next to the interstate until it’s almost time to meet Burt and Carole.
When they get off the interstate back in Lima, Puck does wonder a little bit how long it’ll be before they’re back there, if they will be at all. There’s not really a good reason to push Finn into coming back, and if they’re happy in Joliet, what’s the rush? After he finds a place to park, Puck leaves the engine running and the car locked, with the heat blowing on their feet, and he realizes that it’s good, just sitting in the same small space with Finn.
“Is there anyone else you feel the need to see in person before we blow this joint?” Puck asks quietly after a few minutes pass.
“No. Can we just go home?” Finn says. “I don’t want to see anybody after this, for months maybe.”
“Two, three hours tops, we’ll be gone,” Puck promises. “For good, if you want it that way.” Puck doesn’t think any of them that they’ve seen really understand how exposed Finn probably feels, and Puck doesn’t want to call attention to it by bringing it up, but he figures Finn probably feels raw and exposed, judged and under a microscope, and that, at least, is one thing Puck can protect him from by taking him out of Lima.
“I love you. Thank you for all of this,” Finn says.
“I love you too, but if I’d really been thinking ahead, I would have set up one of those Google Hangouts or something and taken you to a sterile-looking motel room, told ‘em all it was an undisclosed location,” Puck says, mostly joking.
“I think that’s what Kurt thinks you did,” Finn says.
Puck shakes his head. “I don’t know what happened to him. I know he’s hurt, and I get that he’s angry, but he doesn’t seem like the same person he was before New York, in a bad way.”
“He’s got a right to be mad at me, I guess,” Finn says. “I just wish he’d give me a chance.”
“Yeah, there’s mad and there’s whatever he is. Maybe he’ll figure it out with a little more time,” Puck says. “Ready to go eat some steak?”
“Yeah,” Finn say. He reaches for Puck’s hand, squeezing it.
“You could even get the surf ‘n turf,” Puck says, keeping his hand in Finn’s as long as he can as they climb out of the car.
“That’s really expensive.”
“We don’t have the time off to go out New Year’s Eve. Pretend it’s like… New Year’s Eve and whatever that thing’s called. Rehearsal dinner? Both of those.”
“Rehearsal dinner’s the thing you have the day before a wedding,” Finn says.
“Yeah, well, I figure we won’t have one of those, either, so go for it. If you want it, I mean,” Puck says.
“Maybe,” Finn sees. “I’ll decide when we get in.”
Puck takes Finn’s hand again as they head into the restaurant, squeezing it gently. “You let me know if you need anything, okay?”
Finn nods. “Yeah. I’m okay.”
“Actually, you’re pretty awesome,” Puck says as they’re seated, and he mentally congratulates himself for getting them before Burt and Carole. “You know what we could do tomorrow?”
“No. What can we do?”
“We could see how many consecutive hours we can stay in bed without falling asleep.”
Finn smiles, running his thumb over the back of Puck’s hand. “I like that idea.”
“You think the need to shower or the need to sleep will get us in the end?” Puck asks, smiling back at Finn.
“Sleep. I can go pretty long without a shower.”
Puck’s smile gets bigger. “That might depend on how many times I make you come.”
Finn’s cheeks are still pink when Burt and Carole arrive, but luckily for everyone, they don’t ask Finn why. The conversation is still a little stilted and awkward, but there’s not any crying, and no one else in the restaurant recognizes them. Puck tells Burt and Carole they should come out and visit in late March or April, and maybe time it so they can all go watch a baseball game, and that seems to make Carole pretty happy, which means that the hugging goodbye doesn’t take too long on her part.
When they finally get in the car, Puck points at the clock and pulls out of their parking spot. “See? Just under two hours.”
“I’m ready to be back,” Finn says.
“Yeah. I never thought when I rented that apartment that I’d be able to miss it this much,” Puck admits, heading up Elida so they can catch US-30 just before Delphos. “Now we can work on the important things on our list, right?”
Finn reaches over and rests his hand on Puck’s thigh. “Right.”
Puck puts his hand on top of Finn’s. “Happy New Year.”
“Happy New Year, Puck.”
“It’ll be a good one,” Puck says, and he grins over at Finn. “I think we’ll definitely make it home by midnight our time. Want to pretend tonight’s New Year’s Eve?”
“Yeah,” Finn says. “Whole new year. We can start over from scratch.”
“Just you and me,” Puck agrees. He notices out of the corner of his eye when they go past the ‘Lima City Limits’ sign facing eastbound traffic, and he can feel a little tension leave him. He wasn’t wrong the last two times that he left: he’s only got four people left in Lima. They don’t have to go back to Lima to see the people that are important to them, though, and that’s something Puck didn’t really get before.
They get back to Joliet with enough time to get sparkling grape juice, and Puck promises real champagne the next year, but either way, they’re home by the time the clock on the microwave says 11:45, and when it says 11:58, Puck pours two glasses of the fake bubbly and hands one to Finn.
“To you and me, baby,” Puck says with a smile.
Finn smiles back. “To you and me.”
Puck lifts his glass up, waiting for the microwave clock to change to twelve midnight, and he kisses Finn before they drink their fake bubbly. “I think it’s going to be a great one. You know what else?”
“I think it’s going to just be the first in a long, long line of great ones.”